Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor, while not a household name, has been recognized by the scientific community many times over the years. The metric system unit for magnetic field strength, for example, is known as the tesla. Tesla made many contributions to various sciences over the years, including pioneering work in magnetic fields, induction motors, and electricity. In recent years, various communities on the Internet have sought to lionize Tesla’s life and to expand knowledge of his scientific achievements. This goal is a noble one, as Tesla’s life is frequently reduced to the position of footnote in science histories. But these communities have also engaged in a very wrong-headed pursuit: trashing the reputation of Thomas Edison.
The reason for Tesla’s latter-day advocates’ attacks on Edison is understandable: They see Edison as an opportunistic (even evil) businessman masquerading as a scientist who stole the ideas of other real scientists, particularly Tesla. Edison is singled out in particular because it is believed by Tesla’s fan club that he deliberately tried to destroy Tesla’s career and reputation, and whitewashed history to suit himself.
The Hero Tesla and the Villain Edison
The story Tesla’s fans tell is that he was a visionary who designed extraordinary machines and technology so far ahead of its time that we still have not completely caught up with some of his inventions. It is a story with a clear hero, Tesla, who embodies all the qualities of the enquiring mind. It also has a villain in the form of Edison, who opportunistically exploited Tesla and then tried to destroy his life and reputation for personal gain.
The most frequently cited example of this conflict is the case of the Current Wars, when the world was debating the relative merits of alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). Tesla’s supporters say Tesla invented AC, which was a superior and safer form of electrical transmission than DC. DC systems were refined by Edison’s laboratories and he made big financial bets on the success of DC. Tesla was ruined by a smear campaign orchestrated by Edison.
Another example was Tesla’s pioneering work in radar, which he tried to submit for military application during World War I (ie. one world war before the radar was actually used). Again Tesla was thwarted by the nearsightedness of the Naval Consulting Board, of which Edison was a member, which did not see the practical applications of Tesla’s invention and rejected it out of hand.
Yet another example of the conflict, was Tesla’s claim to have devised a way to broadcast unlimited free electric power through the air, removing the need for wires and rendering obsolete most of the world’s power companies. The application of this invention was only stopped by the machinations of business leaders, led by Tesla’s old nemesis Thomas Edison.
The Simple Truth
The main problem with all of these claims about Tesla is that they are all utter rubbish. The Current Wars were a brutal business affair, with reputations and fortunes bet on the outcome. Edison was protecting his investments and his business by playing rough in the marketing of his product. His opponents gave as good as they got, as his main rivals were other business interests. Indeed, Tesla was barely a minor player in the Current Wars and was barely on Edison’s radar throughout the conflict. Furthermore, Tesla did not even invent AC. He did some work to refine it, but it was not the product of his individual invention.
As for radar, Tesla’s supporters usually fail to mention that Tesla’s proposal to the Naval Consulting Board were simply conjecture. He did not have a working prototype (and he did not invent the radar), just an idea. Spit-balling to a military commission preoccupied with developing actual existent technologies was never going to be smiled upon. Even if he did have a prototype, the Board still would have rejected it because Tesla’s whole aim was to make it applicable to submarine warfare. Anyone with a basic grounding in how radar works will understand that such an idea is a complete nonstarter. The signals would be so disrupted by the water as to make them useless. The military did invest in developing sonar, which we still use today.
When it comes to Tesla’s Holy Grail, the promise of free and limitless energy, we again see that the scientist has no clothes. Did Tesla ever build a prototype? No. Did he ever show anyone his designs? No. Could anyone find his designs or notes on the subject after his death? No, because they supposedly burned up in a fire.
In all, Tesla was a good scientist and competent tinkerer. He might even be described as a visionary futurist. But as an inventor of world-shaking technologies decades ahead of his time, he comes up more than a little short.
Why All the Love and Hate?
It is strange, given all these facts that are readily obtained, that Tesla continues to hold a certain mystique with a large crowd on the Internet. The impact has been so great as to make Edison a virtual pariah online while Tesla is venerated to the point of deification.
One explanation is that people like to support the underdog and, when combined with a story of futuristic mad science, the promise of Tesla becomes irresistible. There is probably some truth in that. It is fashionable these days to reject the “mainstream history” in favor of the stories of the oppressed and disenfranchised. When Tesla can be portrayed as a visionary, and not just as a pretty good scientist, he can become a powerful symbol.
There is probably also some truth in the fact that people like simple narratives with clear good guys and bad guys. That is why, once people are primed with the idea that Tesla was a genius deprived of his rightful recognition by a grubby businessman like Edison, that they can turn on Edison as some sort of embodiment of all that is evil.
Why So Anti-Business?
Another, more worrying sentiment is also present in the vilification of Edison and lionization of Tesla, namely that of hatred of business. The criticisms of Edison often revolve around his not being a real inventor, but instead exploiting the minds of others for his own profit. Tesla is portrayed on the opposite hand as being out to serve the good of all through invention with only secondary thought toward remuneration.
But what’s so wrong with being a businessman? Edison brought together brilliant technicians, engineers, and inventors into a laboratory that produced many of the most important innovations of the 20th century. The light bulb is just one of many inventions that were the product of Edison’s visionary leadership. His greatest strength was making people’s inventions usable in a practical mass-market setting. Tesla was a tinkerer whose ideas rarely met the rigorous standards of practical applicability.
Few people live without doing things wrong. That is especially true for people who dare to do great things. There is no doubt that Edison stepped on a lot of toes and was a fearsome competitor in the business sphere. But there can also be no doubt that the weight of scientific and practical contributions he and his laboratories produced was amongst the most important in the 20th century.
The idea that capitalist ambitions, the desire to prosper and compete in the market, are somehow lesser to more airy pursuits is a poisonous one. America’s scientific achievement is the product of a free market, of ideas and works. Treating the profit motive like a villainous trait is what will spell the end of our scientific and technological advantages in the world.
By all means celebrate the achievements of Tesla. Just don’t pretend he was a super genius with godlike scientific powers. And please try to recognize the very real debt we all owe Thomas Edison for his vast achievements in both science and business.
During the week of July 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held hearings in four cities: Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington. DC. The two-day sessions were to allow the public to have their voice heard about the proposed rules it released on June 2 that will supposedly cut CO2emissions by 30 percent. Many, including myself, believe that these rules are really an attempt to shut down coal-fueled electricity generation and implement a cap-and-trade program that the Administration couldn’t get through Congress in 2009, when cap-and-trade’s obvious allies held both houses of Congress.
If the EPA’s plans were clear, direct, and honest, the public would likely revolt outright. Instead, the intent is hidden in pages of cumbersome language and the messaging becomes all about clean air and water—and about the health of children.
Because I was in the area—speaking a few hours from Atlanta on Sunday—I took advantage of the proximity and signed up to speak at the hearing. When I first attempted to sign up, day one was already full. The EPA had so many people who wanted time to share their opinions, a second day was added, and I was put on the schedule.
The first day, Tuesday, July 29, included competing rallies held in near-record low temperatures for Atlanta in July. Supporters of the EPA’s plan—many of whom were bussed in from surrounding states—gathered in Centennial Olympic Park. I spoke at the rally, made up of plan opponents, that was organized by Americans for Prosperity’s Georgia chapter held at the Sam Nunn Federal Center—where the hearing was originally scheduled (before a power outage forced a move to the Omni Hotel).
I spent the rest of the day at the hearing. It had a circus-like atmosphere. With tables of literature, people carrying signs, and many of the plan’s supporters identified by their matching pale-green tee shirts emblazoned with:
Protect our communities
CLIMATE ACTION NOW.
Once I had a taste of what to expect the next day, when I was to present my comments in the five minutes allotted, I prepared what I wanted to say. The following is my original text—though I had to edit it down to get it within the allowed time frame. For presentation here, I’ve also enhanced my comments with some additional insights from others. The verbiage that is not a part of my original testimony is included in italics.
* * * *
I was here yesterday and earlier today. I’ve listened to the well-intentioned pleas from many who have begged you, the EPA, to take even stronger action than this plan proposes. One even dramatically claimed: “You are the Environmental Protection Agency. You are our only hope. If you don’t protect us no one will?”
I heard a teary-eyed, young woman tell a tale about a man she knows who is dying of cancer, supposedly, because he grew up near a coal-fired power plant—he couldn’t be here, so she told his story. She also said: “I am fortunate enough to have not been around in the 1960s when there was real smog.” Her father has told her about it.
One woman claimed her neighbor had gotten asthma from global warming.
Another addressed how she gets headaches from emissions. She told how lung tissue could be burned. And, how particulates are why people can no longer see the mountain in her region.
An attorney’s testimony told about seeing “carbon pollution” every day from his 36th floor office “a few blocks from here” from where he looks “out over a smog-covered city.”
The passion of these commenters supersedes their knowledge as none of the issues I’ve mentioned here, and there are many more, are something caused by carbon dioxide—a clear, colorless gas that each of us breathe out and plants breathe in.
Dave Bufalo is a retired civil engineer who attended and testified at the EPA’s Denver location. He told me he had a similar experience: “I was only able to stay for about an hour but I did hear about 10 testimonials. They were all in support of the EPA’s proposed regulation. I don’t believe that anyone had really read the proposal prior to testifying. Their testimonies seemed to lack an understanding of the chemical nature of CO2. One elderly woman could only state that she thanked the EPA for insuring that she had clean air and water. One gentleman was clearly pushing for the sale of his company’s solar panels.”
James Rust, PhD, is a retired professor of nuclear engineering from Georgia Tech. In his testimony in Atlanta, he referenced thousands of peer-reviewed papers showing carbon dioxide emissions had a negligible effect on climate change. He pointed to the stack of documents from the Heartland Institute called Climate Change Reconsidered I and II that contained these peer-reviewed articles. It was at that point, that a man in the front row shouted out “Liar!” Rust told me: “This is the typical type of response from the mob that promotes this climate change scare. They use ad hominem attacks and don’t debate the real issues because they have no experimental data that backs up what they are proposing.”
Carbon dioxide is a natural, and essential, part of the environment—with massive, unknown, quantities of carbon dioxide emitted each year from natural sources, such as volcanoes. Were you able to eliminate carbon dioxide from every industrial source in the United States, it would have virtually no impact on global carbon dioxide emissions.
I understand the concerns over true smog and pollution. I grew up in Southern California—graduating from high school in 1976. At that time, we had made a mess of our environment. We had polluted the air and water. Cleaning up our collective act was an important public policy issue. San Bernardino, California, where my family lived, is in a valley, surrounded by mountains. It was not uncommon for a family to move into the area in the summer, when the smog was the worst, and not even know the beautiful mountains existed. In the fall, when the winds came in and blew the smog out to sea, newcomers where amazed to discover the mountains.
But that pollution, that smog, has largely been cleaned up. Utilities have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on scrubbers, and other highly technical equipment such as SCR’s, electrostatic precipitators, and bag houses, to, successfully, remove the vast majority of the particulates. People often see a billowing white cloud coming from the stacks at a coal-fueled power plant and confuse it with pollution when it is really H2O—water in the form of steam. Depending on the time of year, or the time of day, it may be more, or less, visible. The weather conditions may make it settle like fog until the sun burns it off. And this, I believe, is mistaken for pollution.
If you haven’t seen Randy Scott Slavin’s Bird’s-Eye-View of New York City, I encourage you to check it out as it shows an amazingly clean city—despite the more than 8 million people living in those compact 469 square miles. New York City is one of the most populated places on the planet, yet its air is sparkling.
This rule is not about pollution. It is about shutting down coal-fueled power plants and killing jobs and raising electricity rates—both of which punish people who can least afford it. But plenty of others have addressed the economic impact so I won’t take more of my time on that topic.
Dozens of members from a variety of different unions were present in Atlanta to speak out against the plan. Skip Howard, Business Manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 421 in North and South Carolina, explained: “Although Nuclear Power is a clean, renewable source of energy and not affected by fluctuating oil-and-gas prices, energy from Coal-fired Plants is cheaper and helps keep the cost of electricity affordable to consumers. Coal-fired Plants are reliable and cheaper to build than a Nuclear Plant. Coal-fired plants are now designed to be a safe and efficient source of energy that supports grid systems, helping to avoid blackouts. New clean coal technologies create many thousands of new high-wage jobs across our country, helping our economy grow.”
Several of the union members who testified in Atlanta assailed the EPA representatives because the hearing locations were far from where those most impacted—the coal miners—live.
I spent some time on Tuesday talking with many of the union representatives. David Cagle, Marketing Representative for the Plumbers, Pipefitters, and HVAC/R Service Technicians Local Union 72 based in Atlanta, told me: “I appreciate your interest in helping our country to be able to continue to provide economical electric energy and well-paying jobs to America’s families and businesses.” He, then, offered me this brief history of what the coal-fired electric energy industry means to his family:
After World War II my father worked in one of the first large coal-fired powerhouses built in the state of Georgia. That well-paying job allowed him to help his parents pay off the mortgage on their house and also to start saving for a down payment for a home of his own one day.
My father worked on several coal-fired powerhouses throughout his career in the piping industry. These well-paying jobs provided a decent standard of living for his family.
The powerhouses that my father helped build are still providing well-paying jobs for the people who run them and the workers who do the maintenance on them. Hundreds of thousands of construction workers have benefited from the well-paying jobs in the construction and maintenance of these facilities. They are also still providing low-cost electrical power to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of customers.
Beside my family benefiting from the coal-powered electric generation industry, I can tell you firsthand what coal does for our country across the continent.
I lived in Campbell County, Wyoming for two years in the mid-90s. Campbell County Wyoming is the Energy Capitol of the United States. Thousands of families would lose a very good way of living, if the coal mines in Wyoming were shut down. The coal mined there is very low sulfur and produces some of the cleanest electricity on earth. I also know many people from West Virginia who depend on coal to be able to make a decent living.
I fully understand the devastating effects the Obama administration’s new EPA rules on coal-fired powerhouses would have on people on a fixed income. My parents are in their late 80’s and early 90’s. They are on a fixed income and in poor health. The last thing they need are large power bills that would destroy their budget and force them to rely on their children to help pay their power bills.
My whole family are outdoorsmen. We have all been raised to hunt and fish and respect and protect our environment. My family would be the first to embrace a low-cost environmentally sound alternative to coal-fired powerhouses. The problem is, there is no alternative economically viable source available at this time.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) covered a union protest that took place at the Pittsburgh hearing. Itstates: “Unions opposing the proposed rule argue that U.S. workers will pay the price for lowering emissions domestically while other countries—most notably China, where coal usage has grown rapidly—will continue to burn coal and emit carbon dioxide.” The WSJ reported: “unions focused their efforts on Pittsburgh, sending busloads of unionized miners, utility workers, railroad workers and others from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama and other states.”
But, I do want to address the constitutionality of the proposed plan, as it does exactly what the Supreme Court admonished the EPA about on June 23. Justice Antonin Scalia, for the majority, wrote this about the Tailoring Rule decision: “Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule, we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers… The power of executing laws…does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice.” Yet, this is exactly what this proposed plan will do.
Later in the decision, Scalia says: “When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate ‘a significant portion of the American economy’ . . . we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism. We expect Congress to speak clearly if it wishes to assign an agency decisions of vast ‘economic and political significance.’”
I believe on these grounds, this plan must not go forward. It is one more example of executive overreach.
I fear that if it does, America will pay a dear price. This hearing was scheduled to take place down the street at the Sam Nunn Federal Center. However, it was moved due to a power outage. Note: business cannot be done without power. You were able to move this hearing. In a reduced-power environment businesses will move to places where they have access to energy that is effective, efficient, and economical. They will move, as many have already done, to places with far-looser environmental policies and the perceived gain will be lost.
Thinking that what we do in the United States will have a serious impact on global carbon dioxide emissions is like thinking that declaring a “no pee” section in the swimming pool will keep all the water urine free.
I’ll end with a quote from the smog-viewing attorney who closed with: “I am hopeful that my new grandchildren, who will live into the 22nd century, will enjoy a world that my grandparents, born in the 19th century, would recognize.” If this plan is passed, he may get his wish. His grandparents’ world contained none of the energy-based modern conveniences or medical miracles we consider standard and essential today—let alone those yet to be developed or discovered by the 22nd century. In his grandparents’ day, life expectancy in the U.S. was estimated at 45 years. By 2000, this had increased to 78 years—mostly due to our expansion of cost-effective electricity throughout the nation.
Remember, the countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are those with the highest energy consumption. America needs energy that is abundant, available and affordable.
* * * *
While the public hearings are over, you can still give the EPA your comments online. Please add your voice to the debate. http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/how-comment-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule
[Originally published at Red State]
In a desperate effort to keep the global warming hoax alive even though it is now called “climate change”, the meteorologically challenged print and broadcast media is now declaring all weather “extreme” these days.
The Media Research Institute recently analyzed broadcast network transcripts between July 1, 2004 and July 1, 2005, along with those between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014. What it discovered was the network coverage of “extreme weather” had increased nearly one thousand percent!
As Sean Long reported, “during that time, extreme weather was frequently used by the networks to describe heat waves, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, and winter storms, and they often included the phrase in onscreen graphics or chyrons during weather stories.”
Thanks to Al Gore who continues to lie about global warming despite the fact that the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for seventeen years, the news media, print and broadcast, now substitutes its latest reincarnation, “climate change”, when reporting the weather. It’s worth noting that the weather is what is outside right now wherever you are and climate is something that is measured in decades and centuries.
The one thing you need to keep in mind is that every form of weather has been around for much of the Earth’s 4.5 billion years. Long before humans were blamed for causing it, they developed ways to adapt and survive, but tornadoes, hurricanes and floods, among other events, still kill humans with the same indifference to them that Mother Nature has always demonstrated.
Gore became a multi-millionaire based on the global warming scam and, along the way; the U.S. wasted an estimated $50 billion on alleged “research” whose sole purpose was to give credence to it. Too many scientists lined their pockets with taxpayer dollars and many government agencies increased their budgets while falsifying their findings.
The entertainment media got into the act by producing films such as Showtime’s “documentary series” called “Years of Living Dangerously.” It has received two nominations for “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series and Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming.” Its executive producer, Joel Bach, said “Every day, more Americans are experiencing the devastating impacts of a warming world and we had to tell their story.” Except that the world is NOT warming.
The Showtime series featured those noted climatologists and meteorologists, Harrison Ford, Jessica Alba, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Matt Damon among others. The final episode featured President Obama whose climate lies rival Al Gore’s. “Science is science”, said the President. “And there is no doubt that if we burned all the fossil fuel that’s in the ground right now, that the planet’s going to get too hot and the consequences could be dire.”
The real dire consequences people around the world are encountering include frostbite and freezing to death.
In a June article in Forbes magazine, James Taylor, editor of The Heartland Institute’s Environmental & Climate News, noted that “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s most accurate, up-to-date temperature data confirm the United States has been cooling for at least a decade. The NOAA temperature data are driving a stake through the heart of alarmists claiming accelerating global warming.” The latest data support the longer cooling cycle that began around 1997.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently announced that “The growing consequences of climate change are putting many of the country’s most iconic and historic sites at risk”, citing Ellis Island, the Everglades, Cape Canaveral and California’s Cesar Chavez National Monument. The UCS said that “we must work to minimize these risks in the future by reducing the carbon emissions that are causing climate change…” This is utter rubbish.
Called a “pollutant” by the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide is, along with oxygen, a natural gas that is vital to all life on Earth as the “food” on which all vegetation depends.
William Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University, told the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that “Our exhaled breath contains about 4% CO2. That is 40,000 parts per million or about 100 times the current atmospheric concentration. Our own primate ancestors evolved when the levels of atmospheric CO2 were about 1000 parts per million, a level that we will probably not reach by burning fossil fuels, and far above our current level of about 380 parts per million.”
The Earth would benefit from more, not less, CO2.
How concerned is the public? Not very. In May, a Gallup poll noted that Americans consider unemployment/jobs, government corruption, and the economy as the three “most important” problems facing the nation. “Just 3% of those surveyed listed the environment/pollution as America’s most important problem. From a list of thirteen problems, it was number twelve.
The news media will continue to misrepresent the weather and/or climate and those determined to keep us from accessing and using the USA’s vast reserves of coal, oil and natural gas will continue to lie about it. The good news is that a growing portion of the public no longer believes the three decades of lies.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
[Originally published at Warning Signs]
The myriad executive branch Departments, Agencies, Commissions and Boards have been in omni-directional fashion vastly exceeding their authority – doing things that are clearly the Constitutional purview of (amongst other others) the legislative and judicial branches.In so doing, these many Leviathan tentacles leave unattended the things they are actually supposed to do.
The examples of proactive overreaches and attending abrogations are nearly without limit.
The executive branch Administration is supposed to enforce existing immigration law. They are not. They are instead pretending to be the legislative branch and making up out of whole cloth brand new law. And are now threatening to do so – even huge-er – yet again.
This Administration signed into law the Affordable Care Act. It has since unilaterally rewritten it forty-two times. They have been so focused on illegally re-doing Congress’ job over and over again that they fundamentally fumbled the parts of the law they were actually supposed to handle. Like the ObamaCare website. On which they have wasted (thus far) $840 billion – and which still doesn’t work.
When the Administration isn’t pretending to be Congress, it is taking on the role of the Supreme Court –unilaterally declaring unConstitutional things like the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Administration won’t even keep its myriad wings on task – or in their respective lanes. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has just about given up on manned space flight. And is instead prioritizing…boosting Muslim self-esteem – and pushing global warming andgeneral Leftist activism.
The Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is no less distracted by wander-power-lust.
The FCC is supposed to operate within the confines of the 1996 Telecommunications Act – the last time the legislative branch laid out the FCC’s parameters. Does the law need a rewrite? To be sure. But Congressional gridlock is not a green light for President Obama or his FCC to exceed existing authority.
The 1996 Act intentionally left the Internet almost completely unregulated – which is why it has become the free speech-free market Xanadu we all know and love. Why on Earth would we want to increase government control of the Internet? We shouldn’t – and most of us don’t.
But of course Obama’s FCC does. Without any actual legal authority, it is working tirelessly to dramatically increase government imposition on the Web.
They are looking to steamroll the laws of twenty states – who do not want any more uber-failed government broadband – to jam more government broadband down their throats. Which will be bad money after bad money after bad. We wasted $7.2 billion in federal coin on government broadband in the 2009 “Stimulus” bill – after the states themselves wasted on it a billion or two and the entirety of the 2000s.
Meanwhile, the very few things on which the FCC is supposed to move – aren’t moving. Key amongst these is identifying and mapping government-controlled wireless spectrum – so as to prep it for sale to the private sector.
Private wireless service is hurtling heroically forward – getting routinely, exponentially faster and ever more accommodating of ever more data. But video use is exploding – and video is a gi-normous bandwidth hog. The wireless revolution has been and is amazing – but it needs more spectrum to deal with the ever increasing video and data use and continue its phenomenal-ness.
Spectrum is a finite resource – and not all spectrum is equal. Think of it as a Monopoly board. Some of it is minimally useful Baltic and Mediterranean Avenue, some of it premiere Boardwalk and Park Place – and the rest exists all around the board.
The federal government holds about 60% of all spectrum – much of it of the higher and highest quality. And they are using it woefully inefficiently (shocker). And they have no idea exactly what they have (shocker) – which is where the FCC is supposed to come in.
The FCC has been promising for years to map government’s spectrum, clear as much of it as possible – and get it out the door for private sector use.
But they haven’t been doing their actual job – because they’ve been far too consumed with doing everyone else’s.
The FCC – the entire Obama Administration – needs to get back to their legitimate, legal parameters.
And their actual tasks at hand.
[Originally published at RedState]
The NSA and Big Data may also, since they are relying on many of the same outdated legal assumptions as Google.
In the last few months, both the U.S. Supreme Court and European authorities have made new baseline privacy decisions that have greatly strengthened individuals’ right to privacy. As a result, they’ve also exposed and heightened Google’s massive privacy liabilities.
Contrary to tech-driven conventional wisdom, privacy is not dead. It’s being resurrected by SCOTUS in the U.S. and by various European authorities in the EU.
This post-Snowden change is real and profound. The next twenty years will be different than the last when it comes to privacy.
Some may have heard of some of these individual privacy decisions, but most have missed the new big trend — that people actually do have a legal right to privacy.
Google is the focus of this privacy discussion because of its pervasive, invasive collection of private data, and its uniquely defiant legal and operational assumption that people have “no expectation of privacy” when Google acquires their private data.
Let’s start in the U.S.
Last month SCOTUS refused to hear Google’s appeal in “Google v. Joffe,” which declared Google Street View’s mass-collection of millions of homes’ unencrypted WiFi signals as illegal interceptions, or wiretaps, of private communications — not legal collection of public communications, as Google tried to argue.
This is a big decision — the court effectively rejected Google’s longstanding data-collection presumption that if communications are not encrypted and Google can technically, easily, or cheaply intercept them, then Google can deem them public instead of private.
Google’s routine records interception of communications from Google and non-Google users involving Gmail, Glass, YouTube, Android, etc. represents the company’s broad legal presumption of “implied consent.”
The seriousness here for Google is two-fold. The first discovery was in the Gmail class action case “Fread v. Google,” which exposed Google’s secret install of a “Content One Box” to intercept, read and analyze all emails prior to reception from 2010 to 2013, according to Bloomberg.
In the case Federal District Court Judge Lucy Koh ruled Google was not exempt from wiretap law, and that creating personal advertising profiles by reading people’s email is not an “ordinary course of business.” Koh went to say that “accepting Google’s theory of implied consent… would eviscerate the [wiretap] rule against interception.”
That means Google secretly, and without reasonable consent from users, intercepted three years of email communications from more than one hundred million Americans and just as many Europeans for commercial purposes.
It is very likely the largest illegal commercial wiretap in history.
In the court’s “Riley v. California” decision last month, the court ruled unanimously that a person has a right to privacy over the content of their smartphone, and that police must get a warrant to search it.
According to the court, “modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all that they reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life.”
The decision marks a revolutionary and transformative privacy precedent.
Google and the NSA have justified their omni-interception and collection of people’s data on the pre-digital 1979 SCOTUS precedent “Smith v. Maryland.”
At the time the court ruled that checking a third party’s phone logs was not a search, and thus people had “no expectation of privacy” if a third party gained possession of someone’s private information.
Anyone who reads the unanimous “Riley v. California” decision can’t help but realize that the court, for the first time since 1979, has effectively updated and changed its fundamental legal take on the constitutional right to privacy, and what a digital search constitutes today.
Apparently technology may change, but one’s constitutional right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment does not.
Google and Big Data undoubtedly have taken note concern, because if the circumstances require the government to get a warrant, third parties will be expected to get reasonable consent from users to obtain their private data for commercial purposes.
According to the court “more substantial privacy interests are at stake when digital is involved,” and “cell phones differ in both quantitative and qualitative sense from other objects.”
The court was unanimous in recognizing four big privacy changes: the breadth of “many distinct types” of private information that reveal much more in combination,” the vast “capacity” of data involved, that information can “date back for years,” and that “the data viewed… may be stored on a remote server.”
Now consider that Google combines orders of magnitude more information about more people than any cellphone, stores an unimaginable amount of data about people, stores it largely indefinitely and does it all on remote servers.
If the court applies this new Internet-age logic and digital data reality to future privacy cases involving Google, the NSA or Big Data, they’re logically going to come to a different conclusion than SCOTUS did in 1979.
Big change is afoot for privacy in the U.S., and even bigger in Europe.
In March the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted 621-10 for stronger data protection laws in its first update to European privacy law since the advent of the Internet in 1995.
That same month, the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling for the suspension of the US-EU data protection Safe Harbor that lets U.S. firms self-certify as being in compliance with EU privacy law in a 644-78 vote.
The EU is asserting sovereignty over the European Internet, so European data will be subject to EU law and stored in the EU. The law also grants EU citizens the right to demand erasure of their online data for the first time.
In May a high-profile court decision by The Court of Justice of the European Union quickly enforced Europeans’ “right to be forgotten” by requiring search engines like Google to remove links to irrelevant or outdated information on regular citizens based on their right to privacy.
“The ruling confirms the need to bring today’s data protection rules from the ‘digital stone age’ into today’s modern computing world,” EC Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said.
The ruling eviscerates Google’s claim that it has an absolute right to free speech in organizing search results, and that no outsider can legitimately request a change in the Google search algorithm. The legitimization of the right to be forgotten will lead to more exemptions for privacy, copyright, etc.
The development that may signal the biggest privacy liability for Google may be a recent decision by the Italian data protection authority, which could be the first of such national decisions to come from France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands and the U.K. — countries that previously have banded together to enforce privacy law against Google.
“Google would not be allowed to use the data to profile users without their prior consent and would have to tell them explicitly that the profiling was being done for commercial purposes,” the Italian ruling said, according to Reuters. “It also demanded that requests from users with a Google account to delete their personal data be met in up to two months.”
To the extent that European privacy authorities enforce European data protection law, Google will have to revolutionize the way it treats Europeans’ privacy and data.
Europe is essentially calling Google’s bluff.
Now the company that has long boasted of its innovation and superiority in targeted advertising and personalized services on a global basis will be expected by European privacy authorities to, in turn, personalize European users’ real control over what information Google collects on them and how it monetizes it.
The more the privacy authorities learn, the more they will realize that Google has broken users’ private data eggs and scrambled them for their own convenience and profit maximization.
Undoing this mess of Google’s own making is going to be very costly for Google. It will take many years and constant regulatory vigilance by the EC and EU member nations to accomplish.
Other Big Data companies have privacy liabilities, but none on the scale, scope and seriousness facing Google going forward.
Justice Roberts poignantly wrote that “privacy has a cost” in the recent “Riley v. California“ decision.
“Privacy has a cost” because privacy is valuable.
It appears the tech assault on privacy rights of the last twenty years may have bottomed out, and the legal obligation of respecting individual’s right to privacy is beginning a long climb back.
Google is on a collision course with SCOTUS and the EU — Google will either be forced to respect people’s privacy, or the two will surrender their sovereignty to Google’s exceptional market power over private information.
[Originally published at the Daily Caller]
[This article was co-authored by Elizabeth Clarke]
An an Education Reporter article published July 2007, William A. Borst wrote:
The public schools have become the new Marxist laboratories for social engineering. The average public schools is mired in a sociological swamp of pornographic sex education, declining test score, violence and speech codes. . . They have created what David Kupelian calls [in his book, "The Marketing of Evil"] an “Alice in Wonderland environment.” where small boys are dosed with Ritalin to contain their natural restlessness while others are suspended for playing Cowboys and Indians. . . One of the greatest casualties of progressive education has been literacy. The progressives abandoned traditional phonics, the sounding out of words, which necessitates the memorization of each individual word.
Phyllis Schlafly in her Eagle Forum article of November 15, 2006, Public Schools Define American Culture, relates the significance of Sidney Simon’s 1972 book “Values Clarification.” Simon’s book sold nearly a million copies and was widely used to teach students to “clarify” their values, such as casting off their parents’ values and making their own choices based on situation ethics. This was followed by the public schools welcoming Kinsey-trained sexperts that espoused diversity to sex-in-marriage.
Few will dispute that public schools guide the morals, attitude, knowledge and decision-making of most American children. The countless billions spent every year, which are forcibly taken from us in taxes, are spent by the public school establishment under what amount to a thin veneer of accountability to school board members elected in government-run elections.
Those who attended public schools prior to the 1960′s did quite well. Teachers accepted their role in defining the culture of the children under their supervision. Some of you might remember using a McGuffey-Reader-style curriculum through which children learned not only the basics but also values such as honesty and patriotism, while immigrant children assimilated into the American culture by learning our language and culture.
How then did schools become, as described by William Borst, “new Marxist laboratories for social engineering?” The origin can be traced back to Karl Marx and his theories developed in association with philosopher Friedrich Engels, which include:
- All historical change was caused by a series of class struggles between the bourgeoisie “haves” and the proletariat “have nots.”
- Capitalism was the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” Like previous socioeconomic systems, capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system:socialism.
John Dewey’s role at Columbia University
Marx’s philosophy was embraced by Humanist John Dewey. Dewey, born in Vermont (1859 – 1952), was a confirmed socialist. He is viewed today as the “Father of Progressive Education.” Dewey put into practice what he saw happening in Russia during the 1920′s when a professor of philosophy at Columbia University while working at the Columbia Teachers College on the side. Dewey was mesmerized by the Soviet ideal of a world without capitalists, traditional families, or religion.
John Dewey taught at Columbia for 25 years from 1904 to 1930. But it was while John Dewey was a teacher and researcher at the Columbia Teachers College that his influence in American education was unparalleled. W.F. Ward (George Novack) relates in his article, “John Dewey’s Theories of Education”:
Dewey’s theories blended attention to the child as an individual with rights and claims of his own with a recognition of the gulf between an outdated and class-distorted educational setup inherited from the past and the urgent requirements of the new era.
By the early 1950′s Columbia was producing a third of the nation’s largest school system’s principals and superintendents. As such Dewey’s education philosophy set in motion a progressive education movement (learning by living) which spawned many experimental educational programs.
It was not until the 1960′s, however, when the turning point for education occurred, resulting from Dewey’s past influence and his Columbia Teachers College acolytes who argued against objective truth, authoritative notions of good and evil, and religion and tradition. During the same 1960′s era Columbia likewise earned its reputation as a hotbed of academic progressive radicalism, which exists to the present day by means of a network of Open Society Foundation (OSF) funding. Founded in 1993, known as the Open Society Institute until 2011, the OSF is a grant making operation of George Soros, well-known as a supporter of progressive-liberal political causes.
Cloward/Piven as 1960 acolytes of Dewey at Columbia
Richard A Cloward, born in 1926 as the son of a radical Baptist minister, is defined as a sociologist and social activist who was an architect of the welfare rights movement. Cloward earned both his master’s and doctoral degrees at the Columbia University School of Social Work before joining the Columbia faculty in 1954. He served as a faculty member at the Columbia University from 1954 until his death in 2001 at age 74. While at Columbia, Cloward won numerous awards for his teaching and academic work
Frances Fox Piven was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1932. A daughter of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Piven was married to Richard Coward. Having outlived her husband who died in 2001, Piven, at 82, remains a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (Communist Party), as was her late husband, and serves as one of the eight honorary chairs of that organization.
Piven remains active as a Socialist agitator. During an interview early in 2000, Fox Piven praised socialism as a movement founded on “the values of equality and fraternity and democracy.” She further added: “That tradition has a future. It’s the only future that’s possible.” By Piven’s reckoning socialism would be instituted in the U.S. by means of an incremental rather than a revolutionary process (and its happening!).
In 2011 Fox Piven rang in the New Year with renewed calls for a revolution. In an editorial published in The Nation, “Mobilizing the Jobless,” Piven called on ‘”the jobless to rise up in a violent show of solidarity and force with language that was dripping of class struggle,” the same language she and her late husband Richard Cloward had made popular in the 60′s. In October of the same year, Piven gave a speech of protest at an Occupy Wall Street rally. Listen here.
The 1966 Cloward-Piven strategy
During the 60′s while husband and wife Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Pivenwere both political activists and professors of sociology at the Columbia University School of Social Work, they produced a political strategy for which they are most remembered. It called for the overloading of the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a national system of “a guaranteed annual incomeand thus an end to poverty”. The strategy, known as the Cloward-Piven strategy, was formulated in a May 1966 article in the liberal magazine, The Nation, titled “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty.” The article helped to foster the emergence of a more militant welfare rights movement, including the occupation of welfare offices in many cities and other acts of civil disobedience.
Cloward and Piven believed that many Americans who were eligible for welfare were not receiving benefits, and that a welfare enrollment drive would strain local budgets, precipitating a crisis at the state and local levels that would be a wake-up call for the federal government, specifically the Democratic Party, to take federal action to help the poor (In 1966 Democrats controlled both the presidency and both houses of the United States Congress.).
Cloward and Piven were likewise the impetus for the Motor Voter law of 1993. In 1983 Piven and Cloward co-founded HUMAN SERVE, an organization that sought to register voters at social-service agencies and Departments of Motor Vehicles. This organization foreshadowed the so-called “motor voter” law of 1993, which would prove to be a breeding ground for election fraud. Bill Clinton invited Cloward and Preven to the White House at the bill signing ceremony.
Cloward-Piven strategy as applied today
Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, both lifelong members of the Democratic Socialists of America, drew many of the ideas outlined in their Cloward-Piven strategy from Saul Alinksy, who we know as Chicago’s notorious revolutionary community organizer.
It is not an overstatement to say that President Obama, instead of trying to lead America to recovery, prosperity, and strength, is doing just the opposite. His strategy, sometimes called the Strategy of Manufactured Crisis, is akin to the Cloward-Piven methodology which David Horowitz described as such
The ‘Cloward-Piven Strategy’ seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.
Crowning achievements of the Cloward-Piven Strategy prior to the election of Obama, as noted by James Simpson in his American Thinker article, “Cloward-Piven Government,” was the creation of the radical reform organization ACORN which exploited our electoral system and the passing of the already mentioned Motor Voter law of 1993. Motor Voter opened up registration to a vast number of illegal immigrants who then reliably vote Democrat.
With the election of President Obama in 2008, the Cloward-Piven Strategy was ramped up on a scale never seen before. Since then this nation has been flooded with a tidal wave of poisonous initiatives, orders, regulations, laws, and executive orders. It was Rahm Emmanuel who famously said as Obama’s Chief Advisor during Obama’s first term, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
Upon reflection, the ultimate goal of the health care legislation, of attempts to enact cap-and-trade, and of the massive stimulus package, was to rip the guts out of our private economy and transfer wide swaths of it over to government control. Through the deliberate enactment of a flood of legislation that seems never ending, many Americans are becoming so discouraged, demoralized and exhausted that they are have given up or have become too distracted to fight.
Might it be because of the brazen way in which Piven has been making her intentions known since 2000 with no fear of retaliation, that the current administration has been given a license to brazenly undermine the “Constitution” to initiate polices that are in opposition to the basic concepts of freedom and liberty? Despite the Obama administration’s violation of countless laws that do quality for action under the provisions of our Constitution, too many Americans remain oblivious to what is happening around them, while the mainstream media harbors the same socialist philosophy held by Leftists. The Left, feeling comfortable given the political climate, are not hesitant to express their views openly, freely, and unabashedly without fear.
Every citizen who cares about this country should be spending every minute of their spare time lobbying, organizing, writing and planning. This is not too much to ask to save our Republic and our democratic way of life. Destructive initiatives must be fought, as is now happening as countless Americans are rising up against the massive surge of illegal immigrants from Central American countries.
We are up against an evil force. It is critical that we root out evil in November by electing competent and principled leaders who are willing to defend our “Constitution.” If not what has been set in motion will be too entrenched to change, and this once proud and strong nation will cease to exist.
[Originally published in Illinois Review]
For nearly six years, now, you have declared your intention and desire of being my Nanny-in-Chief. Your original campaign slogan of “Hope and Change” was really a promise of “Control and Command.” Well, Mr. President, I have a request: Mind your own business.
Let me start out with some simple questions. How do you know what is right and good for me? Have we ever met? Do you know anything about me as a real, living distinct individual? Have you the slightest idea about the goals and purposes, and hopes and dreams I’ve had about my life? What do you know about the experiences I’ve had or the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years as the guides and tools for deciding what I consider best for my family and me?
The answers to these questions and countless others like them are: You don’t know a damn thing. Yet you have proposed, implemented and enforced legislation and regulations that imply that you possess the knowledge, wisdom and, most importantly, the right to tell me how I should live, work, and act.
Your attitude and statements suggest a hubris and arrogance concerning your own superiority, along with those who work for you, that borders on a serious and dangerous elitist complex.
For someone who often refers to the dignity of the ordinary American against presumed powerful special interests, your own outlook and behavior manifests a disbelief in and contempt for the individual person as a free, responsible human being.
A Life of Hopeless Dependency on Government
In your world, Mr. President, everyone is a dependent child needing a paternalist government to take care of him or her from cradle-to-grave. Remember your “Life of Julia” story that you hailed as a model for the future world of triumphant “hope and change.” From her entry into kindergarten to her time in college, through her work life to final retirement, not one aspect of “Julia’s” life was considered possible without the “helping hand” of government to provide education, job security, financial support, and a guaranteed old age pension.
Years ago, singer Helen Reddy may have sang of independent women who could say, “Hear me roar.” But in the world you envisage every woman is presumed not able to stand on her own two feet, and to compete and succeed in a society of equal individual rights for all men and women.
No, she is clearly a “weaker sex” that cannot make it on her own without lifelong and unending safety nets and financial and regulatory supports from a government that is viewed as the “adult” who always has supervision over the eternal female adolescent.
Is this how you view your own daughters’ future, Mr. President, never free of a political Daddy that takes care of his “little girls,” because the governmental Daddy cannot imagine them growing up and being on their own?
Hubris of Presuming How I Should Live and Choose
Let’s talk about your signature legislation, ObamaCare. Set aside the embarrassing disaster that followed the initial opening of the website or the shock and the anger among millions of people who discovered the loss of their health insurance and the higher premiums they were now faced with under your “affordable” health care act.
The underlying premise behind ObamaCare is that you and those manning the bureaucracies in government know what every American needs and should have in terms of health insurance and medical care.
How do you and your “experts” know this, Mr. President? What makes you think you know enough about every one of the nearly 320 million Americans in terms of what would serve their health care needs and requirements?
The collectivist mindset that clearly guides your view of people and society reduces the entire population of the United States to a homogeneous and interchangeable mass that if not confined exactly to one size fits all, then to a rather narrow range of options from which the citizens of the nation are to be allowed and commanded to select.
Each of us, Mr. President, has our own circumstances, our own family needs and preferences, our own judgments about trades-offs between coverage, premiums and deductibles. Plus, our personal situations and evaluations about these and many other related matters change over time.
Do you sit at our dinner tables after the plates have been cleared when husbands and wives decide what they can afford, what is the best alternatives based on their estimates about what will serve their and their children’s health care requirements?
Do you not think that your attitude demonstrates a degree of hubris that you would find presumptuous if I or any other individual American were to mandate what you and your family should be allowed and coerced to have for your possible medical needs?
The Mentality of the Meddler
I don’t know your daughters or your wife or you, Mr. President. For that very reason I would not presume to tell you how to plan your family’s health care and insurance, or how to raise your children, or where to vacation, or how to spend your money, or how to manage the domestic “ups” and “downs” of any marriage between two unique individual human beings over the course of their lives together.
I would be considered a busy body, a meddler, a know-it-all, or an arrogant and irritating pest if I were to put my nose into the business of your personal and intimate affairs of everyday life. So why, Mr. President, do you presume to do just that through the rules, regulations, controls and commands that you say you are willing to us your pen and phone to impose on me?
I only ask that you show me the same respect as a free and self-responsible human being that you would expect from me if we were simply neighbors living next door to each other in any city, town or small hamlet across the United States.
The Arrogance of Presuming What I’m Worth
Finally, Mr. President, how do you know what my skills and abilities are worth to me or anyone else in terms of the salary I may earn in the marketplace? To be honest if someone had asked me whether I thought a person who had never worked in the business world, had never held any truly senior management and administrative responsibilities, and only had a few years of elected governmental office should be President of the United States and be paid $400,000 a year, I would have said, “I don’t think so,” and quiet separate from that person’s political views.
But there you are, Mr. President, sitting in the White House, holding your finger on the nuclear button, while having that pen and phone in your other hand. And with plenty of time to go golfing and flying off on Air Force One for Hawaiian vacations and fund-raising trips around the nation. Only in America! What a country!
So how do you know that the minimum wage that I should be paid is not less than $10.10 an hour? Why not $9.99 or $11.11? While we are at it, why not $20.20? The last one, after all, might match my eye vision. That seems pleasantly symmetrical.
The fact is that what anyone is worth in terms of services they might render to others in the market is dependent upon a whole variety of combined circumstances about which you and others in the government know absolutely nothing.
Each person’s background, education, personal and workplace experience and skills have certain distinct qualities and characteristics different from many others in the type of complex and diverse modern society in which we all live.
At the same time, what particular skills, knowledge and abilities possible employers are looking for from employees in the context of the products or services they offer and sell to consumers, given the potentially every-changing demands those buyers demonstrate in an on-going competitive market, should make it very clear that it is absurd for you or anyone else to sit in your governmental offices in Washington, D.C. and dictate what people may be worth in terms of an hourly wage.
Have you ever given any thought to the fact that your minimum wage policy might price some low or unskilled workers out of the market, because you’ve legally priced them above what many possible employers may think that are actually worth? Have you taken the time to reflect that you might be preventing someone from ever getting that entry-level job that may pay little at first, but over time provides them with the on-the-job experience that can make them more valuable to that or some other employer in the future?
Only Paying What You Think Something is Worth
Before you had government employees to serve you hand-and-foot in the White House, there was a time, Mr. President, when you, no doubt, went food shopping, or bought a car, or purchased a pair of shoes, or spent money on an anniversary gift for your wife.
You had a certain income that constrained what you could buy and how much of the various things you would have liked to have. In other words, there was a time when you were closer to being, well, like the rest of us.
Did you ever pay more for anything than you thought it was worth? Did you not sometimes hesitate or decide not to buy something or not of the quality or in quantity you might have desired, because to do so would have left you with too little money left over out of your limited budget to purchase something you considered to be more important to you or your family?
If you think back and remember such a time, then why do you think it is any different for the rest of us now? Say that a person may not be paid less than $10.10 per hour, and anyone that a prospective employer or customer does not consider to be worth this amount will not be hired.
Plundering for Political Power
Sitting in the White House, such a minimum wage may make you feel good, that you’ve imposed a salary floor that you consider “fair,” “socially just,” or every person’s entitlement “right.” But that will not help the poor individual left without a job, prevented from getting his foot on the bottom rung of the ladder of lifetime employment opportunity, and now dependent on the redistributive largess of paternalistic government.
But perhaps that is what you want. If others in society will not give people what you think they should pay them, then you’ll just tax the rest of us to pay for this unfortunate person’s welfare safety-net programs. And, besides, the government-supported unemployed and unemployable will feel so grateful to those who care for and feed them at other’s expense that they will show their appreciation by keeping those who think and act like you in political office.
Plunder some so you can pander to others to maintain the political power you cannot imagine your life without.
Individual Freedom Instead of Collectivist Control
Mr. President, this is not the America that the Founding Fathers of our country wanted for themselves, for their children, or the future generations for which they signed a Declaration of Independence or constructed a Constitution that was meant to restrain government and leave each individual free to be a self-governing human being responsible for his own life, and respectful of the equal freedom and rights of every other unique person in society.
I have a simple but profoundly important request, Mr. President: Mind your own business and leave me and everyone else alone. I don’t want you managing and controlling my life.
Do I always make the right choices and decisions? No, I do not. Just ask my wife!
But I do not want to be controlled by a political collective possessing coercive power to tell me what I may do or not do, or with whom I may associate and on what terms. I am not your slave, I am not your government ward, I am not some helpless or hopeless “Julia” who needs you to serve as my lifelong Nanny.
I declare that I am a thinking, reasoning human being. I am a free person with inalienable rights to my life, liberty and honestly acquired property. I insist upon my right to live for myself, guided by my own purposes and goals, and free to interact and exchange peacefully and voluntarily with all others, with the only essential moral principle behind my conduct toward them being that I respect their life and liberty just as I insist that they recognize and respect mine.
You, of all modern presidents, should be most sensitive to the dangers and immorality of making some men masters over others who are to be coerced and commanded as slaves.
The master-slave relationship is equally unethical and perverse whether the master is a private person owning other human beings on a plantation, or a “democratically elected” set of masters who use the power and force of the government to make some others obey their commands under the threat or use of political violence.
Mr. President, I ask you to mind your own business, and I promise not to put my nose into your life, in turn. If not, at least admit the truth that you arrogantly believe that you should be the head master on the political plantation that your vision of “hope and change” has really always been about.
[Originally published at Epic Times]
It seems that when Chief Justice John Marshall was preparing the opinion for McCulloch v. Maryland he tapped into an eternal truth. “The power to tax is the power to destroy,” he wrote on behalf of a unanimous Supreme Court. Those words are no less true in 2014 than they were in 1819. Taxation appropriates money from one person or group of people in order to give it to others. There is no way to escape taxes. But there is a way to make taxes somewhat fairer. One way is to make taxes flatter and expand the tax base.
Soak the Rich Taxes
If the power to tax is power to destroy, then the power to tax progressively is the power to destroy some and buy off others. A state with power over a progressive taxation system can put the middle class and the wealthy in effective thrall, and use them to benefit its own ends. This is exacerbated by exploitation of the tyranny of the majority which can lead the majority of less wealthy and have-nots to demand more and more services and paying for them by inflicting ever more onerous taxes on the wealthy while diminishing their own burdens.
Furthermore, so long as the tax burden is disproportionately leveled on the few, no one can see the growing size of the state. When a citizen outside the tax base, or on a low rung of a progressive tax system, experiences an increased income through expanded redistribution from wealthier citizens, they only experience the net benefit and not the cost. That creates the perverse incentive to support further redistributions. On the other hand, with a flatter and broader tax, everyone feels the growth of government spending. They can also better understand the costs associated with it, driving them to have more realistic preferences and to make more rational demands of the state rather than treating the rich as a perpetual piggy bank.
Taxation should not be about trying to engineer a more equal society. The purpose of taxes is to furnish necessary services people need to become competitive free agents in the economy. Overly progressive taxes take unduly from some to give to others in the hope of fostering greater social equality. Yet such efforts can only be harmful, as they breed resentment from rich toward the poor for taking undue amounts of their wealth for their consumption, and feelings of entitlement from the less well-off who feel the wealthy owe them the money they pay (and thus feel happy to levy ever more odious taxes from them).
Society is best served by promoting a system of taxation that fosters equality of opportunity, by providing essential services to which everyone contributes in accordance with their ability to pay. This is better serviced through a system of flatter taxes (even if they are still a bit progressive). That would promote a system of proportionality in taxation, rather than progressive taxes that focus unduly upon the contributions of the few to the many.
How obscene is it for a Florida jury to award $23.6 billion to the widow of a man who died of lung cancer in 1996? She sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company by asserting that her husband had been “fooled” into starting the smoke at age 13. Apparently he had never heard cigarettes referred to as “coffin nails”, a slang term that has been around since the last century. And how come all those patches, chewing gum, and other means to stop smoking had no effect, if used by her late husband?
This isn’t justice at work. There are more than 40 million smokers in the U.S. today. Smokers, let alone cigarette manufacturers, however, haven’t had the benefit of equal or fair-minded justice since 1984 whenU.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called for “a smoke-free society” by the year 2000.
There was a time when it was perfectly okay to smoke cigarettes. As a youth in the mid-1950’s I began to smoke them to look sophisticated. Producers advertised that as part of their appeal. Hollywood film actors like Ronald Reagan, as well as characters in films often smoked. And, yes, actors John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart both died from lung cancer. Others did too. It wasn’t a secret, so if you smoked, you knew the risk.
That’s where personal responsibility collides with nanny-government, forcing people to forego something they enjoy in the name of what the government deems inappropriate behavior.
As reported by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., in “Who’s the Real Cigarette Monopolist?” the so-called Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 on cigarette manufacturers was arrived at “when Florida and other states sued them for Medicaid costs of people supposedly fooled by cigarette advertising.” The operative word here is “supposedly” because few smokers are unaware of the risk factor.
“A cigarette pack today fetches roughly $2.50 at the factory gate,” wrote Jenkins, “on which the government collects $3.80 on average in state and federal taxes” as well as the payments due from the Medicaid rip-off scheme. Twenty years ago, the average pack of cigarette would have cost about $1.75. Today it is in excess of $5.00.
With prices more than twice as high than in the past and smoking bans everywhere, there are less cigarette smokers. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. adult smoking rate has plunged to below 20% from more than 40% half a century ago.”
A survey by the Centers for Disease Control found that 18% of U.S. adults or about 42 million are cigarette smokers. For those who want to stop, only about one in twenty in any given year actually succeed according to various surveys.
And the government is not done yet interfering with the right of people to smoke. Steve Stanek, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of its monthly Budget & Tax News, recently reported that “E-cigarettes have no tobacco smoke but that hasn’t stopped the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from proposing rules to treat e-cigarettes much like tobacco-based cigarettes. The draft regulations also cover cigars, pipe tobacco and other tobacco products that have not been regulated like cigarettes.”
Greg Conley, a Heartland Institute research fellow with a specialty in tobacco policy, points out that “By requiring the manufacturer of every single electronic cigarette product on the market to file a ‘new tobacco product’ application, the FDA has all but guaranteed the closure of tens or hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses with no connection to Big Tobacco.”
Giving the Okay to Pot
Significantly, producers of “medical marijuana” are not subject to the rules affecting cigarettes and, as it dawns on federal regulators that there could be a lot of tax revenue from this market, I wonder how long it will take for the legalization of all marijuana use to fatten government coffers?
Probably not long at all. On July 26, a New York Times editorial opined that marijuana should be legalized, removing the federal laws prohibiting its sale and use. “After a great deal of discussion, the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization.” But it’s stillsmoking!
Playing it safe, the Times’ Editorial Page Editor, Andrew Rosenthal, told ABC’s “This Week” that “We’re not urging people to smoke pot any more than we are for them to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. It’s just that making it illegal was creating a social cost for the country that was absolutely unacceptable.” Yeah, sure.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is blasting the FDA for its “job-killing” regulations on the premium cigar industry, citing the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, a 119-year-old family-owned cigar business based in Tampa, as the primary loser if the FDA institutes new regulations regarding the nicotine content of the wrappers used.
“We have gone through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Cuban trade embargo, smoking bans, excessive taxation and competition from low-wage countries,” co-owner Eric Newman told The New York Times, but the FDA may put it out of business. That, like the $23.6 billion award cited above is an obscenity too.
The excessive taxation is clearly discriminatory, along with all the other regulations and bans affecting smokers. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “It will take sizable tax increases, on the order of 100%, to decrease adult smoking by as much as 5%,”
One is reminded of the failure of Prohibition, an earlier “public health” measure embraced by the U.S. government. People wanted to drink alcoholic beverages then just as now. And some people drink too much and die from alcoholism. Just as some people smoke too much. It is private, personal behavior that should not be regulated beyond the need for public safety, i.e., drinking and driving, nor discriminated against.
More and more, “progressive” government is taking the joy out of life. By its very nature, it must control everyone and everything they eat, drink, or enjoy.
[Originally published at Warning Signs]
Given the successive scandals and monster laws like Obamacare that have been imposed on Americans, the federal government’s efforts to control and determine what you eat doesn’t receive the attention that it should. The ultimate question is whether the government should tell you what to eat and then seek to enforce their views about it? The answer is no.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is one of those federal entities that should have no role in determining what is on your plate, but among its recommendations is the promotion of “a plant-based diet, reduced meat consumption, and only eating fish after reading up on which are good for you.” Meanwhile the food police have been warning against the natural element of mercury in fish even though it is so small as to constitute no health threat.
Hanns Kuttner, a senior research fellow at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C. domestic and foreign policy think tank, says that the working premise of the committee is that a “good diet would increase consumer’s costs and imply the end of entire sectors of American agriculture—all in an effort to regulate behavior that has nothing to do with nutrition.” The committee, since 2010, “has not included a member who has any knowledge of food production and food regulation.”
The committee reflects the United Nations global campaign to encourage the consumption of insects. If you love dining on bugs, the UN wants this to be a part of everyone’s diet. According to Eva Muller, the director of Food and Agricultural Organizations Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division, bugs “are nutritious, they have a lot of protein and are considered a delicacy in many countries.”
It should come as no surprise that Michelle Obama is leading the food police at this point. A program of the U.S. Agriculture Department announced new rules in 2013 to remove high caloric food and drink items from cafeterias and campuses of schools around the country. As of this year, sodas, sports drinks, and candy bars are banned. Only diet drinks, granola bars, and fruit are acceptable.
This is Big Government at work, but no one expects that kids will go along, nor are shoppers likely to embrace a U.S. Department of Agriculture report that wants to steer them toward more fruits and vegetables and away from sugar and fat-laden items. The new guide was written for the 47 million Americans who participate in the food stamp program. Yes, 47 million!
Michelle Obama also favors costly–$30,000 each—grocery carts that are color-coded to “help” consumers selected approved food items. This kind of intrusiveness is obnoxious.
Victor Skinner of the Education Action Group noted in early July that “The federal government’s attempt to force public school students to eat ‘healthier’ lunches is falling apart at the seams.” The New York Times News Service reported that the School Nutrition Association (SNA) which initially welcomed the bans is now lobbying Congress to dial back on the “overly prescriptive” and expensive changes.
“Congress is listening,” reported the Times, “and is considering legislation to delay the nutrition regulations for a year, some of which have already gone into effect.” The SNA is pointing out that many students are throwing away the additional fruits and vegetables included in their lunches, amounting to $684 million in food waste every year—or roughly “enough to serve complete reimbursable school lunches to more than 228 million students.” Moreover, the “nutritious” federal lunch menu is also proving costly for many school districts that are now forced to purchase more expensive foods to comply with the regulations.
We have reached the point where some schools are banning birthday cakes or cupcakes in classrooms where such celebrations have gone on for decades. Meanwhile many parents have noticed that their children just skip lunch at school and wait to come home to eat instead.
For as long as I can remember Americans have been told that something they eat or drink is dangerous to their health, even though Americans now enjoy the highest life expectancy since such data has been studied. Almost everything we have been warned against has turned out to have some beneficial aspect to it.
In March, the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine published a study that concluded that “Saturated fat does not cause heart disease.” Nina Teicholz, writing in the Wall Street Journal in May noted that “One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s…instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we’re eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes.”
“The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin, a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat…excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity, but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease.” Thanks to Big Government dietary guidelines and regulations, “the U.S. population (is) growing sicker and fatter while adhering to official dietary guidelines has put nutrition authorities in an awkward position.”
The latest group to join the Food Police are those opposed to food grown with genetically modified organisms (GMO), calling for the labeling of them. This is intended to boost the sales of “organically” grown crops that allegedly do not use pesticides or herbicides. It is pure propaganda because, as Mischa Popoff, a former organic farmer and USDA-contract organic inspector, and the author of “Is It Organic?” recently noted in a Daily Caller article that “A whopping 43% of all certified-organic food sold in America now test positive for prohibited pesticides.” And, of course, “organic” food items cost more.
Simply put, crops need to be protected against insects and weeds. Always have and always will. There is no evidence that the proper use of insecticides and herbicides pose a health hazard. As one farmer told me, “My family eats what I grow. Do you think I would do anything to harm them?” Popoff notes that “The GMO industry is now well-established, with 35 years of science and over 20 years of commercial success behind it.”
The government has no business telling Americans what they should eat. It too frequently offers bad science and almost always propaganda. In the home of the brave and land of the free this is yet another intrusion in the lives of Americans. What you eat and even how much is an individual freedom and choice.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
[Originally published at Warning Signs]
When legislators debate severance taxes, it is seldom about making sure localities have enough resources to deal with the increased traffic, and consequent wear and tear on the roads and other public infrastructure, or greater environmental protection enforcement designed to protect the people closest to the impacted area.
More often, the taxes are an estimate of how much money government officials can take from one group, typically job-creators that harvest natural resources, without completely removing their incentives to do business in the state. That makes it possible for politicians to fund their pet projects or popular measures in election years with general-fund monies at the expense of local communities and business owners.
Pennsylvania provides an interesting case because instead of a severance tax, it has an impact fee, which is assessed on every well drilled in the Marcellus Shale formation. The fee is based on natural gas prices and the Consumer Price Index; companies drilling natural-gas wells in 2013 paid the state government $50,000 for each new well.
This fee has brought in $630 million since 2011, with 60 percent of the impact fee revenues staying at the local level, used by counties and towns hosting wells, and the other 40 percent going to fund government agencies involved in regulating well-drilling and to a fund set up to improve infrastructure around the state.
Even though the impact fee has contributed more than half a billion dollars in revenue for local governments, Democrats in the Pennsylvania legislature are now pressing for a severance tax, arguing Pennsylvania is the only major natural gas-producing state in the nation that does not have one. Although this is technically true, this statement makes it seem as if gas companies are not paying their “fair share,” a claim that could not be further from the truth because in addition to the impact fee, the natural gas industry must pay all the normal taxes that other businesses pay.
This includes Pennsylvania’s already second-highest-in-the-nation corporate income tax, royalty payments to state and local governments for drilling on public lands, and income taxes landowners pay on their royalties.
A similar series of events is unfolding in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich is advocating a 2.75 percent severance tax on oil and gas producers in the state, with 15 percent of the revenue going to local governments and the remainder getting sucked into the state’s general fund. Although these new taxes are supposed to fund a statewide income tax cut, it’s easy to foresee politicians raising the latter again in a couple of years while keeping the new tax on the books. Pennsylvania’s severance tax advocates provide a perfect example of such convenient amnesia.
Hitting up the fossil fuel industry for more money makes for great election-year politics with some constituencies, but it is bad tax policy. Some Ohio legislators are claiming the severance tax would “bring certainty” to oil and gas producers in the state: The one thing those producers can be sure of is that they’ll get rolled again the next time there is a statewide election and politicians are on the lookout for someone to “pay their fair share” to finance out-of-control government spending.
The projected revenue for Ohio, which is estimated at between $34 million and $220 million a year, will create higher costs for job producers that will ultimately be passed along to their consumers, hurting most those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Instead of enforcing a severance tax to pay for projects outside the drilling area, Ohio should adopt a narrowly targeted Pennsylvania-style impact fee that would ensure local governments have enough resources to handle the increased use of local services while allowing businesses to continue to create high-paying, family-supporting jobs.
Isaac Orr (email@example.com) is a research fellow for energy and environmental policy at The Heartland Institute.
There is a strain of thought in the American pro-liberty movement that argues for what is essentially a return to a policy of isolationism. That is the attitude typified by former Representative Ron Paul and his adherents, who have spent years calling for the withdrawal of the United States from many of its foreign treaty and institutional obligations, including the United Nations. There is a certain attractiveness to this position, especially in light of the recent exhausting and expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The claim that the War on Terror and other interventions in various countries’ affairs have created more enemies than they vanquished holds no small amount of truth.
It is true that America has pursued an overbearing and damaging foreign policy in the past two decades. But it is also true that a policy of isolation would be even more damaging.
The United States occupies a unique position in the history of the world; it is a superpower with the ability to project military power to all corners of the globe and economic capacity dwarfing all other states. Never has a state been so dominant and without rivals for global preeminence. In terms of security, its great power has given the United States the ability to serve as an ersatz world police, allowing it to guarantee the security and stability of the international system, as well as the security of its own citizens, which has resulted in an unprecedented era of peace reigning in the world.
Wars in this era of American preeminence have been intermittent and localized, nothing akin to the vast conflicts of empire that marked the 18th and 19th centuries, or the cataclysmic world wars of the first half of the 20th century. This has largely been thanks to the United States’ presence as a leader on the world stage. Were it to withdraw from its international activities, the security of the world would be in doubt. With no dominant power helping to maintain order, the whole system could break down, precipitating wars, as has occurred in previous centuries when the international landscape was marked by the power dynamics of multi-polarity.
In terms of economics, the United States is deeply coupled into the system. The United States withdrawal as guarantor of the system would be disastrous not only in terms of upsetting the international financial system, but also in terms of its position as provider of the world’ reserve currency. Without the dollar, the entire international financial system would be in jeopardy, and could even collapse. Without the United States actively involved on the international stage the world will become a more dangerous and economically volatile place.
The Indispensable Nation
Much of the world looks to the United States for leadership. Its moniker “leader of the free world” is not merely grandstanding on America’s part, but actually how many nations view it. In terms of maintenance of the present international order, of which America was the chief architect and guarantor, the United States remains the “indispensable nation.”
When the Berlin Wall fell it was to the United States that the budding democratic movements looked for inspiration. Its upholding of values such as freedom of expression and of religion, as well as its adherence to democratic values and free markets have served to shape the fabric of the international order. Since the United States became a major leader in the world, after World War II, it has helped to make the soil of the international landscape become more receptive to the growth of democracy and free market capitalism, not only as a major form of government, but as the predominant one.
Should the United States abandon its place of leadership in international relations, it would pave the way to destruction of the international order it has striven to build. I have previously written about the problems of America’s failure to establish an international order that would survive its decline. A policy of isolation like some on the libertarian-right wing of American politics would only hasten that erosion of international norms. The Obama administration’s rudderless foreign policy leadership should be viewed as a chilling prelude to a world without American leadership. It is a world that should be avoided at all costs.
A Way Forward
The United States is too important to the international system to abandon it. Doing so could result in all manner of catastrophe, not just for other countries, but for the United States as well. The problems of world cannot simply be sealed off from America’s shores, especially if free trade is to still be upheld.
It is in America’s interest, and in the interest of the world, that the United States pursue a foreign policy that continues to promote the norms it has sought to inculcate in international relations. The task is not complete, and has seen setbacks in the past few years. But failure is not an option.
[The following is the testimony of Prof. Herbert "Bud" Weinstein to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Power. This hearing, held on July 24, was on the subject of "Laboratories of Democracy: The Economic Impacts of State Energy Policies."]
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, my name is Bernard Weinstein and I am the Associate Director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and an adjunct professor of business economics at SMU’s Cox School of Business. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today.
I want to address two topics today: first, the ongoing “War on Coal” and its implications for electric power costs and grid reliability; and second, the contrasting economic performance of those states that have embraced energy development with those that haven’t.
The War on Coal
President Barack Obama, in pursuit of his “Climate Action Plan,” has been using his executive power in an effort to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from both new and existing power plants, further increase fuel economy standards for motor vehicles, and provide additional incentives for the development of renewable energy sources. Among these initiatives, the potentially most damaging to the economy are those related to power generation.
Electricity drives our economy, and nearly 40 percent of the electrons on the grid still come from coal-fired power plants, which will be most affected by mandates to reduce CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases (GHG). Coal’s contribution to the electricity mix has been slowly declining in recent years, mainly because of a sluggish economy and comparatively cheap natural gas prices.
According to projections by the Energy Information Administration, by 2016 we’ll see a capacity decline of 42 gigawatts, or 14 percent, in the nation’s coal-fired generating capacity since 2012. Without question, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed GHG standards for new and existing coal-fired power plants will accelerate plant closures. Indeed, these standards are so restrictive they will likely block the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Texas and elsewhere unless they utilize novel and expensive technology to capture carbon. The newest and most advanced coal-fired generators in Texas, and the rest of the nation for that matter, can’t meet the proposed emissions limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour for new power plants.
The consequences, in terms of higher energy costs and compromised grid reliability, could be serious. The new standards could also derail America’s nascent industrial revival while eroding the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk—not a happy prospect in an economy that’s barely growing five years after the Great Recession with 9.5 million workers currently unemployed and millions more underemployed or discouraged from even looking for work.
Policy-makers and regulators must keep in mind that a one percent increase in economic output necessitates a 0.3 percent increase in energy use. By extension, any combination of policies that serves to increase the price of electricity or reduce the reliability of energy sources will have a negative impact on economic growth. Higher power costs can be especially detrimental to manufacturing industries, who consume proportionately more electricity than other sectors of the economy. Five million manufacturing jobs were lost during the Great Recession, and relatively few have come back during the recovery. But manufacturing still matters because of its strong linkages with other sectors of the economy. About one in eight private sector jobs relies on America’s manufacturing base.
We can ill-afford to risk undermining the availability of power in the U.S., placing electricity reliability in jeopardy and risking catastrophic economic impacts. Coal-fired plants cannot be replaced overnight by natural gas plants, and they certainly cannot quickly be replaced by alternative energy facilities. The time it takes to install pipeline and other infrastructure necessary even to begin the conversion of an old plant or construction of a new one is considerable. Accordingly, if EPA regulations accelerate the closure of coal-fired power plants, that, in turn, will increase the probability of an insufficient supply of electricity at times when demand peaks, such as during hot weather, or when there are unexpected problems with electricity generation or transmission.
EPA should not be developing long-term energy policy through environmental regulation. The improper regulation of GHG’s could drastically reduce the diversity of this country’s energy sources, particularly by minimizing coal-fired power generation, and hold the nation hostage to volatile natural gas prices and intermittent renewables like wind and solar for the next fifty years.
For example, proponents of the EPA’s proposed GHG rules contend they will incentivize renewable energy in states where such resources are a possibility. But we know from recent experience that the fastest growing form of renewable power is so-called rooftop solar, a form of distributed generation. The business model for this expansion is likely to be third-party leases for periods of 20 years or more, where available subsidies are transferred to third parties and where the leases are eventually securitized and sold as financial instruments on Wall Street.
There are a number of issues that must be resolved before federal rules encourage the transfer of affordable, reliable fossil-fuel base load electric power for leased rooftop solar. Since rooftop solar depends on the use of the electric grid for backup and for sales of excess power, net metering policy must take into account a fair allocation of the costs necessary to maintain grid integrity. Without doing so, relatively wealthy solar households or Wall Street investors will essentially be subsidized by lower income base load customers. Further, replacing reliable power sources with intermittent ones can have profound negative impacts for overall system reliability.
These risks must be taken seriously. As the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has stated, “a reliable supply of electricity is more than just a convenience, it is a necessity; the global economy and world’s very way of life depends on it.” IEEE further observes that “Even minor occurrences in the electric power grid can sometimes lead to catastrophic ‘cascading’ blackouts. The loss of a single generator can result in an imbalance between load and generation, altering many flows in the electricity network.” The direct costs to high-technology manufacturing in just the San Francisco Bay Area during the California blackouts alone ran as high as one million dollars a minute due to lost production. The relatively brief Northeast blackout of 2003 cost business about $13 billion in lost productivity.
The administration and Congress must also acknowledge that America, by itself, can do little to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, GHG emissions in the United States today are at a 20-year low, even though the economy is more than 50 percent larger. The only effective way to significantly reduce global GHG emissions is through a coordinated strategy involving all of the planet’s major economies. Otherwise, any marginal reductions in America as a result of shuttering coal plants will be more than offset by rising emissions in China, India, Brazil, and other fast-growing economies around the world.
Energy development and economic growth: a contrast among the states
As is generally well known, America is in the midst of an oil and gas boom unlike anything we’ve seen since the 1920s, thanks largely to the technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the various shale plays around the country. Domestic oil production has jumped 40 percent since 2010 and is now above its peak in the mid-1980s. By 2016 at the latest, the U.S. will have reclaimed its crown as the world’s number one oil producing country. Natural gas output has also climbed dramatically, up 33 percent since 2010, pushing us ahead of Russia to become the planet’s number one gas producer.
Five years ago, the oil and gas industry accounted for only 3 percent of America’s economic output. Today, it’s more than 10 percent. Employment in the oil and gas industry is up nearly 30 percent since 2008 while total U.S. employment has just returned to its pre-recession level. Because of higher domestic production, oil imports have dropped from 50 percent of consumption to 30 percent in just five years, helping to lower our trade deficit and improve America’s global competitiveness.
Contrary to the commonly-held belief that only a few states are in the energy business, the Energy Information Administration reports that 24 states are currently producing commercial quantities of coal, 31 are producing crude oil, and 33 are producing natural gas. What’s more, current and prospective shale plays are found in most part of the U.S.
But the shale revolution has not been embraced by all of the states who are situated above the shale formations. In those states that have chosen to pursue energy development, output and jobs have grown faster than in most other states while their unemployment rates are well below the U.S. average of 6.1 percent. For example, Texas, which has aggressively developed its shale fields, has witnessed a 100 percent increase in oil production since 2010 and currently records an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent. By contrast, New York State, whose southern tier sits atop one of the “sweet spots” of the Marcellus Shale, has imposed a ban on hydraulic fracturing with the result that oil and gas production has plummeted in recent years while the state’s unemployment rate is currently at 6.7 percent, with some upstate counties as high as 7.5 percent.
- Texas v. California: Two large energy states pursuing different paths
Last year, Texas led the nation in job creation for the fourth straight year, adding 323,000 workers to payrolls. Through June of this year, another 225,000 jobs have been created and the state currently boasts the lowest unemployment rate (5.1%) of any large state. More incredibly, Texas has accounted for almost 35 percent of the nation’s job growth since 2000.
Without question, the tremendous growth in oil and gas production resulting from the “shale revolution” has accounted for much of Texas’ superior economic performance. The state now accounts for more than 25 percent of America’s oil and gas and would rank as the 14th-largest producer in the world if we were a separate nation.
Texas’ economic fortunes can also be attributed to a positive business climate and sensible, cost-effective regulation of energy and other sectors of the state’s economy. Contrary to assertions by some environmental activists, Texas is not a toxic wasteland. We care greatly about the quality of our air, water and land. But we make sure our regulatory environment is predictable and effective so that the costs of compliance aren’t burdensome to the point of discouraging new investment.
California’s economy has recovered somewhat from the Great Recession, though total payroll employment growth since 2008 has been a mere 322,100—about the same as Texas’ gains last year. Had the state been more supportive of energy development, especially in the huge Monterey Shale, California would likely have posted much faster job gains and its unemployment rate wouldn’t be 7.4 percent, the highest among the 10 largest states with the exception of Michigan.
According to some estimates, the Monterey Shale, which runs from Los Angeles to San Francisco, contains approximately two-thirds of America’s total shale oil reserves, or 15 billion barrels. Unfortunately, hydraulic fracturing has been roundly opposed by the state’s influential environmental community as well as many state and local government officials. Consequently, oil production has been falling rapidly in California for more than a decade while output in Texas has skyrocketed.
If California were to adopt more accommodating energy policies and regulations, the state could realize huge economic benefits. According to a recent study conducted by the University of Southern California and the Communications Institute, a Los Angeles think tank, development of the Monterey Shale would generate 500,000 direct and indirect jobs within three years and 2.8 million direct and indirect jobs within a decade.
- David v. Goliath: North Dakota slays New York
Two years ago, North Dakota passed Alaska to become America’s number two oil producing state. In just a few years, production has jumped from 10,000 barrels per day to more than one million barrels per day.
North Dakota is unique in that very few states sit atop formations like the Bakken Shale. But in addition to its resource base, the state’s business-friendly policies have helped grow its energy sector. Unlike New York, which prohibits the use of hydraulic fracturing, North Dakota offers an accommodating and supportive business and regulatory climate that encourages new investment in oil and gas production. Since 2008, North Dakota has created jobs at a faster clip than any other state and currently records the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, 2.9 percent.
Could New York replicate the experience of North Dakota? As mentioned earlier, the southern tier of New York is one of the “sweet spots” of the Marcellus Shale, the largest gas field in the continental United States. But because of the fracking ban, thousands of potential jobs and millions of new tax revenues are being forfeited. For example, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that at least 25,000 new jobs would be created quickly if the state lifted the ban, and that figure doesn’t include the indirect and induced employment that would follow. Another study, prepare d by Michael Orlando of the University of Colorado, estimates that drilling and producing activities could support 39,000 new jobs in New York State within three years and 69,000 jobs within ten years. And the Manhattan Institute recently projected that with shale development, total employment in upstate New York by 2020 would be 54,000 higher than without shale development.
- Economic performance of other energy states
Other states that have encouraged their energy sectors have outperformed the U.S. averages for job creation and economic growth in recent years. But it’s important to note that the economic benefits from energy development are benefiting the entire nation, not just those states producing oil and gas. The shale boom has helped to revive America’s industrial base, boost our exports, and reduce our reliance on imported oil while creating hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs. At the same time, cheap and abundant natural gas is reducing electricity and heating costs for millions of American households and businesses.
In the same way Americans are discovering that the Cold War that was waged from the end of World War Two until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is not over, Americans continue to be subjected to the endless, massive, global campaign to foist the hoax of global warming–now called climate change—on everyone.
The campaign’s purpose to convince everyone that it is humans, not the sun, oceans, and other natural phenomenon, and that requires abandoning fossil fuels in favor of “renewable” wind and solar energy.
“It is not surprising that climate alarmists, who desire above all else blind allegiance to their cause, would demand all school teachers toe the ‘official party line’ and quash any dissent on the subject of man-made global warming in their classroom,” says Craig Rucker, the Executive Director of co-founder of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). “What is absurd is that any teacher or free-thinking person for that matter would listen to them.”
These days when I am challenged regarding my views about global warming, climate change or energy I send the individual towww.climatedepot.com and www.energydepot.us, two constantly updated websites filled with links to information on these topics. Both are maintained by CFACT.
It’s not just our classrooms where Green indoctrination goes on. It is also our news media that continue to distort every weather event to advance the hoax. Guiding and feeding them is a massive complex of organizations led by the United Nations—the International Panel on Climate Change—that maintains the hoax to frighten people worldwide in order to achieve “one world order.”
On September 23, heads of state, including President Obama, will gather in New York City for what the Sierra Club calls “a historic summit on climate change. With our future on the line, we will take a weekend and use it to bend the course of history” to save the world from “the ravages of climate change.” This is absurd. Suggesting that humans can alter the climate in any way defies centuries of proof they do not.
One of the leading Leftist organizations, the Center for American Progress, focused on the July 14 Major Economics Forum in Paris, offered four items for its agenda. Claiming that “the Arctic is warming two times faster than any other region on earth”, they wanted policy changes based on this falsehood. They blamed climate change for “global poverty” and wanted further reductions in so-called greenhouse gas emissions from energy use. The enemy, as far as they were concerned was energy use.
Mary Hutzler, a senior research fellow of the Institute for Energy Research, testified before a July 22nd meeting of the Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, that due to Europe’s green energy (wind and solar) policies, industrial electricity prices are two-to-five times higher than in the U.S. and that, by 2020, 1.4 million European households will be added to those experiencing energy poverty.
There are lessons to be learned, for example, from Spain’s investment in wind energy that caused the loss of four jobs for the electricity it produced and 13 jobs for every megawatt of solar energy. In Germany, the cost of electricity is three times higher than average U.S. residential prices. Little wonder that European nations are now slashing wind and solar programs.
Billions Wasted to Combat Global Warming
In the U.S., the Obama administration used its “stimulus” to fund Solyndra—$500 million dollars—and fifty other Green energy projects that have failed or are on their way to failure. Undeterred with this appalling record, on July 3 the Energy Department announced $4 billion for “projects that fight global warming.”
But there is no global warming. The Earth has been in a cooling cycle for seventeen years and it shows no indication of ending anytime soon. This is the same administration that has waged a war on coal, forcing the closure of many plants that produced electricity efficiently and affordably, and had throughout the last century.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2014 weather highlights showed that, from January to June, the temperature in the U.S. has risen by a miniscule 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit compared with the average temperature for the 20th century. NOAA also noted that recorded temperatures for the first half of 2014 are the coldest since 1993 when the cooling cycle began. The exception to this has been California.
Brainwashed for decades about global warming, 20% of likely voters, according to a July Rasmussen poll, still believe that global warming is not over, colder weather or not, 17% were not sure, but fully 63% disagreed!
The results of a Pew Research Center poll in June revealed that 35% of Americans say there is not enough solid evidence to suggest mankind is warming the Earth while another 18% says the world has warmed due to “natural patterns”, not human activity. Pew found that liberals remain convinced that humans are to blame, but the bottom line is that 53% disputed the President’s claims.
That means that a growing number of Americans are now skeptics.
In the months to come we will see marches and meetings intended to further the global warming lies. The good news is that fewer Americans are being influenced by such efforts.
[Originally published at Warning Signs]
Recently while discussing the political knowledge, or lack thereof, of the average U.S. citizen, a thought occurred to me. Ideally, this is how it should be. Government in America was designed to be small, very limited and irrelevant to the day-to-day life of the average American.
Government work is supposed to be boring. With the Constitution severely limiting the responsibilities of the government, the role of the public sector was intended to be constricted and narrow. When the branches of the federal government were being formed, our founders envisioned citizen statesman that would serve in government for a short amount of time before returning to their farms or trades. What was not expected was the rise of the career politician. Government work has since become an industry.
The growth in all facets of the government has created a leviathan out of the public sector. Politicians seek constant reelection, move from office to office and stay in politics as lobbyists. These politicians become policy experts which is now required do to the complex matters now under the umbrella of government responsibility.
The issues debated in government today are so convoluted and intricate; the layman cannot possibly stay properly informed. For example, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was nearly 1,000 pages long. This bill was also filled with jargon, specific terminology and references to other statutes. How could the average person develop an opinion on this legislation without relying on third or fourth party sources? No wonder Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” The length of the ACA bill was not unique. Plenty of bills reach the 1,000 page mark. Many other bills including yearly budgets, the stimulus bill and others extend well beyond 1,000 pages.
For the person who follows politics closely, reads the legislation and stays informed on all the important topics, only one thing can be going through his/her head, ‘Why am I not getting paid for this?’ It is simply impossibly for the average person to stay up to date and comprehend all of the issues and proposed legislation up for debate.
In the ideal scenario, government would be small and not of concern for the average person. The state would have little impact on the constituents’ everyday life. This would free up the citizen’s time to focus on their trade or whatever they deem necessary or important. There would be no reason why someone should not develop a niche expertise in whatever they find interesting while staying only moderately informed on the actions of the government. As of now however, we are far from this ideal. We have to stay informed on these issues that affect the entire nation and strive to reduce the size of the government to something more manageable.
In rural areas, there is often a heated debate over economic development that essentially boils down to a choice between industrial jobs and tourism jobs. Both come with advantages and disadvantages, but to pit these two sectors against each other in an either-or discussion is a false dichotomy. My hometown provides a good example of how industry and tourism can coexist.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Waupaca, Wisconsin. For those industry buffs out there, Waupaca is home to the Waupaca Foundry, the largest producer of gray, ductile, austempered ductile, and compacted granite iron in the world, melting more than 9,500 tons a day. For those of you planning your next vacation, Waupaca has the Chain O’Lakes, a beautiful series of interconnected lakes that is one of the state’s top tourism destinations.
The debate over industry versus tourism is heated in Waupaca, an economic profile of which can be described as the three Fs: farming, foundry, and FIBs (an unflattering term for tourists from Illinois). It’s a debate common to small towns, with the alternatives seen as being a focus on increasing tourism or promoting development of industrial, blue-collar jobs. The truth is, our town needs both.
I lived a stone’s throw from the Waupaca Foundry (don’t ask me how I know that), which employs more people than any other employer in Waupaca County. Some days the air smelled bad, so bad I didn’t want to be outside, especially when there was a wagon full of hay that needed to be put up in the barn. Fewer people had more exposure to the unappealing externalities of the foundry than my family and I.
Although things did not always smell like roses at my house, Waupaca is a small town surrounded by smaller towns, and the wages paid by Waupaca Foundry are a big reason we have a little movie theater, two grocery stores, and three car dealerships, which the surrounding towns don’t have. The foundry also helped some of my friends pay for college.
Starting wages at the foundry are around $12 an hour, but with piece work and incentives, people can start at $15 to $18 an hour. Jobs paying more than $37,000 a year are hard to come by in our part of the state, but that is what workers at the foundry make with only a high school diploma.
On the other side of town we have the Chain O’Lakes. Many of my friends worked there, too. These first jobs provided valuable real-world experience, and my friends who served as hostesses, servers, dish washers, and cooks at local restaurants learned interpersonal skills, the art of conversation with strangers, how to be amazing short-order cooks, and other useful skills.
Tourism provides a boost for the small businesses on Main Street that see their margins dwindle in the winter as their main customers stay home for the cold months. But tourism jobs are usually minimum-wage jobs, and they leave with the tourists after Labor Day.
Thus both these sources of income are important to the local economy, and they can coexist peacefully. In too many cases, environmental activists who advocate for a tourism-based economy frame this discussion as an economic Sophie’s Choice, when they should instead look for environmentally responsible ways to promote both manufacturing and tourism.
Unfortunately, the false dichotomy that pits industry against tourism is not confined to the little town where I grew up; it rages in areas all over the country. This debate is especially destructive now, as more than 800,000 people dropped out of the labor force in April alone, partly because so many of them became frustrated and stopped looking for work entirely. Voters and lawmakers in small towns should be looking for all ways to create more good-paying, family-supporting jobs—as should those in bigger cities. If anyone asks you whether you are for industry or tourism, remember: The correct response is “both.”
Isaac Orr (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research fellow for energy and environmental policy at The Heartland Institute.
Want to know why capitalism will always triumph over collectivism? It responds to people’s desires, even those who would consider themselves enemies of capitalism. A case-in-point is the ubiquitous Che Guevara t-shirt.
Anyone who has spent any time walking down a city street will have come across at least one young person wearing Che’s famous likeness. Some leftists have argued that the sheer pervasiveness and popularity of the image is proof of the enduring principles of which Che has sometimes been seen as a symbol. Yet that is not the case.
The Che Guevara t-shirts actually represent the ultimate power of capitalism, the power to transform the most potent symbols in opposition to it into commodities that can be bought and sold in the marketplace. The market does not care about what the symbol “represents.” All that matters is that the symbol can be bought and sold. That is the ultimate neutering of socialism and radical leftism, when the young people who Che might in another time have tried to galvanize to violent rebellion tacitly accept the capitalist system. When Che and his ilk became fashion symbols rather than political symbols, they were finally defeated. That is the real beauty of the free market: its ability to transform an enemy into harmless kitsch.
Supporters of liberty and the free market might understandably be irritated by the nation’s youth running around with the image of a monomaniacal war criminal blazoned on their chests, but they should bite back their bile. Indeed, they should rejoice. As Che has become a popular image, the image has lost all the symbolic power it once might have claimed.
A couple of generations ago, radical socialism was a common part of the zeitgeist of the American youth, with college campuses forming the primary advocates and apologists for the totalitarian regimes of Cuba and the Soviet Union. Today, a lot of leftishness is still there, but it has been beaten down to a softer kind of socialism or social-democratic philosophy. People on the political right often rail against the liberal bastions of academia, and they are not completely wrong to do so. To be sure, the political products of the academic world, such President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren, serve as cautionary tales to voters thinking about giving real power to cloistered professors. But they are nowhere near as threatening as the sorts of firebrand spokespeople produced by the hallowed halls of academia only a few decades ago.
Socialism in America, and around the world, has had to respond and adapt to the overwhelming power of the free market. In the marketplace of ideas, socialism is outdated and doomed to go out of business. In response, socialist thinking has shifted, softened, and come to accept at least parts of the capitalist system as essential to maintenance of prosperity. We should call that a tentative victory for liberty, if not a total one.
The youth of today are not as susceptible to the radicalization of the 1960s and 1970s because capitalism is the only serious game in town. The aspects of it that still adhere are just empty or deflated symbols, like t-shirts featuring half-forgotten political dissidents. Young people represent a fertile marketplace for sellers of the ideas of liberty, perhaps more so than any time in the past 40 years. Before the forces of socialism mutate into yet another dangerous ideological strain, proponents of freedom and liberty ought to claim the territory.
And then, despite there being 400 ppm of the dreaded “global warming gas” in the atmosphere, the temperature plunged 25 ℃ to zero by the next dawn.
Yet learned people are being paid by governments to scare us into suicidal energy policies they say will save us the horror of possible man-made global warming of maybe 1-2 ℃ per century.
Do these people ever go outside? Do they ever feel the powerful life-giving warmth of the sun? Do they notice that all life celebrates spring? Have they read some climate history – of the abundance during warm eras and the bleak starvation of the ice ages? Do they know there has been no global warming for 17 years? Are they aware that the sun has gone ominously quiet and we may face global cooling, just at the time their disastrous energy policies leave us shivering in the dark?
It’s time for some common sense on energy and climate.
[Originally published in the American Thinker]
The other day, a nonprofit called The Institute of Art and Ideas interviewed Benny Peiser, a prominent British global warming skeptic. IAI, according to its website, “is committed to fostering a progressive and vibrant intellectual culture in the UK.”
Judging by its fair and thorough interview of Dr. Peiser, they are genuinely interested in fostering better understanding of important public policy issues — in this case, climate change. I recommend you keep an eye on IAI.
IAI focused its interview on Peiser’s view of the BBC’s recent decision to no longer allow climate “skeptics” be a part of their news and commentary. Peiser, who spoke at the first two of The Heartland Institute’s nine International Conferences on Climate Change, did not think much of that decision.
In short, Peiser said the truth: The BBC’s new policy is anti-science, misunderstands what’s important about the climate debate, and is doing a disservice to its audience — which will be ignorant of vital facts about climate change and what we can (or should) do about it.
IAI should be applauded for reaching out to Peiser, and let’s hope enough Brits get wind of this interview to reverse the BBC’s flat-earth policy on the climate. Some excerpts from the interview, a printed Q&A, are below. A quick overvirew of what Peiser addresses:
- His concern about the global warming discussion mindlessly cleaving on a left/right divide.
- How “green energy” mainly helps countries like China, that produces solar panels in some of the dirtiest coal-fired plants in the world.
- How without the government-pushed and unneccesary alarm about a climate crisis, “we would not have wind and solar energy; we would not have the need for renewable energy.”
- How “there is a difference between evidence and people saying, ‘if we don’t act now then in 50 or a 100 years time we will face mega catastrophe.’ That’s not evidence, it is speculation.”
- How “if you want to decide what to do about climate change then the climate scientists are really the least likely to understand what policies or alternatives there are.”
- How the BBC is “digging its own grave by annoying half of the population who are known to be sceptical about the alarmist claims which are not substantiated, which are not founded on any evidence. They are only based on on some kinds of computer modelling, which is not scientific evidence.”
Read the whole IAI interview with Benny Peiser, but below are some key Q&A excerpts:
Q: Do you think there is such a thing as a unanimous scientific consensus about climate change today?
A: I think this is irrelevant. I mean, there is a general agreement on CO2 and greenhouse gas: that we are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere and that this will have a warming effect. This is agreed by everyone so that is not the real issue. Even the sceptics agree to that. So, this is a red herring, because no one denies the basic physics, no one denies the basic facts.
And that was not part of the discussion at the BBC anyhow. It was about the flooding this winter and whether it was caused by climate change, as well as what to do about climate change. And, of course, there is no consensus about these issues. So, the BBC is using a red herring to deny critics of climate policies and climate alarmism a forum.
Q: So do you think that, when it comes to the media, it is a one-sided kind of alarmist perception of risk that comes into question?
A: Of course, because they are well-known for pointing out everything that is alarming and being silent on reports that show it is not as alarming. So you have a bias in favour of alarm, and a kind of ignoring any evidence that suggests that it might not be that alarming.
It’s about people who think we are facing doomsday, and people who are thinking that the issue of climate change is exaggerated. And if you deny anyone sceptical of the apocalyptic doomsday prophecies, then you get in a position where the BBC is so biased that MPs are beginning to consider cutting the license fee, or abolishing the license fee altogether, because people are beginning to be upset by the BBC’s bias.
This is a self-defeating policy; the BBC is digging its own grave by annoying half of the population who are known to be sceptical about the alarmist claims which are not substantiated, which are not founded on any evidence. They are only based on on some kinds of computer modelling, which is not scientific evidence.
Q: In the press, the argument has been put forward quite regularly that sceptics or critics are already over-represented in media coverage, which is said to be misleading the public. Is that a fact? Or do you think the BBC should give more air time to climate change critics/ sceptics?
A: Well they haven’t in the past. Take Lord Lawson. That was the first time ever that he’s been interviewed on climate change. And if you think about the hundreds of reports over the years by the BBC, climate sceptics are a very and increasingly rare species.
Climate sceptics are definitely not under-represented, but simply absent when it comes to the number of media outlets. However, because there is that bias in the BBC and other news organisations, they are finding their own outlets. The climate-sceptical bloggers are increasingly popular and have huge readerships, and a number of newspapers can see that there is a real market for more balanced views.
Take for instance the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. These newspapers have realized that the BBC and others are ignoring alternative views and so they are providing the half of the population who are sceptics an opportunity to have more balanced reporting. They can see the big opportunity that the BBC is ruling out.
As I said, from surveys, more than half of the British public is sceptical, so if the BBC alienates more than half of the population then they only have themselves to blame if the British public don’t anymore want to pay for the BBC.
Q: Do you think there might also be a confusion created by separating people in two strict camps: either you are a sceptic or you are a firm believer in climate change? Perhaps there could be a more constructive critic of authoritative knowledge or prevailing rhetoric?
A: When the BBC interviewed the sceptical scientists like Professor [Bob] Carter they also got complaints from those who said it was wrong, so it’s not about knowledge or because you are not a climate scientist. They don’t even interview scientists who are sceptical, and on the very rare occasion – once every two years – that they perhaps have an interview with a sceptical scientist, they also get complaints. So this is not about people not being knowledgeable, it’s that people don’t want to listen to any critics. That is as simple as that, they do not want to, or do not like the idea of a debate on this issue. …
Q: So it is rhetoric of risk?
A: At the end of the day there is a big industry behind this campaign, let’s not forget. There’s a huge green energy industry which relies on billions of subsidies on government policy. All the people who own wind farms and solar panels and bio-fuel lands all rely on government support. Without the alarm there would not be that much money going into their pockets. So there are big industrial claims behind this campaign who make hundreds of millions of pounds on the back of this alarm.
Q: How could the discussion about climate change be improved in the media more generally? How could we make the discussion more constructive?
A: Well, it is difficult. By and large you improve it by making it as factual, as objective, and as balanced as possible. Also, moving away from the basic scientific issues to focus on the real, big divides and problems which have to do with what we are going to do about climate change. That is where the big question mark remains. And, as you may have noticed, it is much more difficult and more complex than the simplistic way the BBC portrays the controversy.
Do visit the IAI site and read the whole thing.
For an exhaustive argument supporting what Peiser was talking about, visit the archive site of Heartland’s nine International Conferences on Climate Change. At the home page of the conferences archive site, you will see more than 100 presentations at our confernce July 7-9, 2014 in Las Vegas. In the menu bar, you can access hundreds more presentations from previous conferences, what we call the ICCC.
You can also check out the latest peer-reviewed science disputing a global warming catastrophe at the Climate Change Reconsidered site. It contains years of academic work and nearly 10,000 pages of science in several volumes from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) — the fact-checkers of the United Nations’ IPCC.
The Heartland Institute is internationally known for its excellent, science-based work countering the idea that human activity is causing a climate crisis. Learn more about that work by subscribing to Heartland’s newsletters: Climate Change Weekly, NIPCC Update, and Environment & Climate News. Heartland also covers a lot of other ground, so sign up for those newsletters at this page, as well.
Immediately below is a video that gives an overview of what was discussed at Heartland’s Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. Below that are Benny Peiser’s presentations at Heartland’s ICCC1 and ICCC2.
By exercising even a little of the critical thinking the pushers of these national standards claim to want mandated in all classrooms, consumers can learn a big, valuable lesson about polling that seeks to shape public opinion rather than honestly gauge it.
The one constant in the spate of polls being taken as CC heats up as a political issue is that a sizable portion of the population still knows little or nothing about how these curricular guidelines were developed or what they do. To some prominent pollsters, the knowledge gap is an opening to feed respondents an entirely positive portrayal and then ask them leading questions likely to elicit pro-CC responses.
A recent example was a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll done June 11–15, purporting to find support exceeds opposition to Common Core by almost a 2–1 margin. But first, the pollsters found almost half their participants said they had seen, read, or heard zilch about the national standards. So then WSJ/NBC “educated” them with the following description:
“The Common Core standards are a new set of education standards for English and math that have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every state for students in grades K through 12.”
That is a grossly misleading description. It utterly ignores serious scholarly findings about weaknesses of the math and English standards and their lack of comparability to the best in the world. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge heavy Obama administration pressure to get states signed up, or the growing number of states now bailing on CC testing and CC itself.
In a June 18 Cato at Liberty blogpost, Cato Institute education analyst Neil McCluskey likened the WSJ/NBC approach to failing to tell people that pufferfish are poisonous, then telling them “pufferfish are delicious and nutritious,” then finally asking, “would you like to eat some pufferfish?”
The first week of May, a survey by Republican pollster John McLaughlin used similar pufferfishy questioning to convert an almost equal split of opinion on CC (35 percent approval, 33 percent disapproval, 32 percent don’t know) to a whopping two-thirds level of support, by feeding respondents what it called a “simple, neutral” description. Again, it was anything but objective. It was CC puffery.
The political takeaway from McLaughlin was that Republicans should beware of opposing Common Core, because national standards will have a big upside with swing voters in the general election. Scribes from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nominally conservative think tank, then sought to drive home that point with commentary warning Republican candidates that criticizing Common Core is a losing issue.
It would have been reasonable for media reporting on all this to have noted the McLaughlin Poll was commissioned by the Collaborative for Student Success, recipient of heavy funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars both creating Common Core and now purchasing support for it. And Fordham also does PR for the Gates people.
Someone might ask Oklahoma state school superintendent Janet Barresi how much being a red-hot supporter of Common Core in a deep-red state helped her. Despite reportedly putting more than $1 million of her own money into her campaign, she lost in a landslide to CC opponent Joy Hofmeister in the June 24 GOP primary. In fact, Barresi finished third with just 21 percent support.
Here and there, some polls are beginning to reflect the growing anger of citizens over undemocratically imposed nationalized standards they like less the more they find out about them. A little-noted University of Connecticut poll conducted the last week of April found just that: Opposition was highest among people who said they were most highly informed about CC.
Now, one of the polling heavyweights, Rasmussen Reports, has done a straightforward survey (June 21–22), using no leading or trick questions, and finds support for Common Core plummeting among parents with school-age children. Only 34 percent of those parents favor schools nationwide having to meet the so-called Common Core State Standards, a drop of 18 percentage points since a Rasmussen survey last November.
Citizens should closely scrutinize all public-opinion surveys for embedded bias. A critical assessment of the accumulating data indicates a growing proportion of parents who have brought themselves up to speed independently on Common Core—as opposed to being pollster-led—oppose this top-down imposition of shoddy, one-size-fits-all standards and subjective testing on their children.
Robert Holland (email@example.com) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.