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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Gary Becker, R.I.P.

May 05, 2014, 9:37 AM

Gary Becker, a leading proponent of free markets and limited government, passed away over the weekend. He was 83.

Prof. Becker was one of the main figures in the Chicago School of Economics, a group of scholars based mainly at the University of Chicago who helped economics avoid a take-over and take-down by the left that would have been similar to what occurred to nearly every other academic discipline beginning in the 1960s. He vigorously defended economics and its tools, in particular methodological individualism, from those who misrepresented it. He demonstrated how economics explains social phenomena seemingly far removed from marketplaces.

He won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1992 and another rather less prestigious prize, the Heartland Liberty Prize, in 2002. He graciously accepted our modest award and delighted the audience of our anniversary benefit dinner that year with a long and thoughtful acceptance speech. He was a long-time policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, participated in the peer review of our publications, and frequently spoke at our events.

A great teacher as well as thinker, he leaves behind thousands of former students who understand how to think like economists, a skill that immunizes whose who have it against all manner of wrong thinking on public policy.

He will be missed.

Categories: On the Blog

The Evolving Urban Form: Philadelphia

May 05, 2014, 9:22 AM

Philadelphia was America’s first large city and served as the nation’s capital for all but nine months between the inauguration of George Washington as the first president in 1789 and the capital transfer to Washington, DC in 1800.

Before the early 1900s, the United States Census Bureau had not developed a metropolitan area (labor market area) concept. However, the website peakbagger.com has attempted to define earlier metropolitan areas based on concepts similar to those used today. In the case of Philadelphia, this is important because it was somewhat unique in having virtually adjacent, highly populated suburbs that make comparisons of municipal populations (the only population data available) misleading.

The Nation’s Largest City

According to municipal population data, New York had become the largest municipality in the United States by the time of the first census, in 1790. Philadelphia was ranked second. However, a list of the top 24 urban places in 1790 shows two Philadelphia suburbs, Northern Liberties and the Southwark district. When peakbagger.com includes these suburbs, Philadelphia rises as the largest city (metropolitan area) in the nation in the 1790 and 1800 censuses. The New York metropolitan area is shown as rising to number one in 1810, a position it is held for 200 years and may last for much longer in light of the much slower growth rate recently for Los Angeles.

Soon the Nation’s 9th Largest City?

Those were the glory days. In the years since 1800, Philadelphia has been falling in population rank. The Philadelphia metropolitan area was displaced first by Chicago in 1900, according to the metropolitan district estimates of the US Census Bureau. In 1940, Philadelphia was demoted to fourth place by Los Angeles. Philadelphia held fourth position until 2006, when Dallas-Fort Worth raced past it. Then just a few years later (2010), Houston knocked Philadelphia down to 6th place. The downward trend could accelerate rather quickly. At current growth rates (2010 to 2013), Philadelphia would be passed by Washington and Miami by the time of the 2020 census. The Atlanta metropolitan area would also pass Philadelphia if its population growth rate is restored to pre-Great Recession rates. Philadelphia should start the next decade as either the 9th or 10th largest metropolitan area in the nation.

Population Growth in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area

The Philadelphia metropolitan area is unusual in being divided between four states. The core city of Philadelphia is located in Pennsylvania. Directly across the Delaware River are the suburban counties of New Jersey. Wilmington, formerly the largest metropolitan area in Delaware has been incorporated into the Philadelphia metropolitan area (New Castle County). Maryland’s Cecil County is also included in the metropolitan area.

All of Philadelphia’s population growth since 1950 has been in the suburbs. In that year, the city of Philadelphia peaked at 2,072,000 residents. This was a healthy increase from the 1,930,000 in the 1940 census. However, this represented a decline from 1,951,000 in 1930 and shadowed massive population losses that would follow after 1950 (Cleveland and St. Louis also lost population between 1930 and 1940).

By 2000, the city’s population had dropped 27 percent to 1,518,000. This could prove its modern low, as the population recovered to 1,526,000 in the 2010 census and was estimated by the Census Bureau at 1,553,000 in 2013.

The suburbs of the metropolitan area as presently defined added nearly 2.6 million residents between 1950 and 2013. However, the metropolitan area only grew by 2.1 million residents because of the more than 500,000 loss in the city of Philadelphia. The inner ring suburbs, counties abutting Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania and New Jersey gained 1.8 million residents, while the outer suburbs gained nearly 800,000 residents (Figure 1).

Domestic Migration

Philadelphia has continued to lose domestic migrants to other areas of the country. Between 2010 and 2013, approximately 50,000 net domestic migrants left the Philadelphia area. Of this, 22,000 left the city of Philadelphia and 28,000 left the suburbs. The rate of domestic migration loss was 0.8 percent in the metropolitan area, 1.4 percent in the city of Philadelphia and 0.6 percent in the suburbs (Figure 2).

Employment

Within the metropolitan area, the commercial primacy of the core city of Philadelphia also has been reduced. Philadelphia has long been known for having one of the largest central business districts in the United States. The most recent census tract data from the CTPP indicates that Philadelphia has the sixth largest business district in the United States, with approximately 240,000 jobs. This represents only 8.7 percent of the metropolitan area employment, a figure slightly above the 8.4 percent average of the 52 major metropolitan areas (those with more than 1 million residents).

The development of Philadelphia’s “center city” business district may have been stunted by city regulations that prohibited buildings to exceed the height of City Hall, topped off by a statue of city founder William Penn. At nine floors and approximately 550 feet (165 meters), City Hall was briefly the tallest building in the world in the early 1900s. City Hall remained a dominant feature of the skyline until the late 1980s, when One Liberty Place, with its 61 floors rose to 945 feet (290 meters). There are now 8 buildings taller than City Hall. Construction will soon begin on a new office and hotel tower , which at 1,120 foot tall (340 meters), 59 floor building would be the tallest building in the United States outside New York and Chicago (and taller, by 20 feet than Wilshire Grand now under construction in Los Angeles).

Transportation

I have described the city of Philadelphia as a “transit legacy city,” which along with New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington account for 55 percent of all the transit commuting destinations in the United States. This is nearly 10 times the share of jobs that are located in these six municipalities (not metropolitan areas).

Philadelphia, like the other five other transit legacy cities has an extensive urban rail system. Philadelphia has commuter rail lines extending outward to suburban locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. There are also two Metro lines (subway lines) and electric trolley lines. This transit system delivers 44 percent of commuters to “center city” jobs. This represents more than 40 percent of the transit commuting in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Transit’s market share to work locations outside downtown is relatively small at 6.0 percent.

The nation’s first long intercity tollway (the Pennsylvania Turnpike) passes through the Philadelphia metropolitan area. This route, in connection with the New Jersey Turnpike, the Ohio Turnpike, the Indiana Toll Road and the Chicago Skyway provided freeway equivalent access between the New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago metropolitan areas in the middle 1950s, before the interstate highway system was authorized.

Philadelphia’s stagnant population growth is typical for the Northeast, which continues to lose domestic migrants to the rest of the nation. It seems likely to continue. In the two decades following 2020, Phoenix and Riverside-San Bernardino are projected by the US Conference of Mayors to pass Philadelphia. This would push Philadelphia down to 12th place, compared to the 4th ranking it had at the beginning of the 21st century. Quite a ride down for the City of Brotherly Love, and its surrounding region.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Supreme Court Helps the EPA Shut Off Electricity in America

May 04, 2014, 10:40 AM

April seems to be the month in which the Supreme Court devotes itself to decisions that have no basis in real science and can do maximum damage to the economy. Invariably, the cases are brought against the Environmental Protection Agency and are decided in its favor.

In April 2007, the Court decided that carbon dioxide, the second most essential gas for all life on the planet was “a pollutant”, the definition the EPA had applied to it in order to regulate it. Now comes word that the Court had concluded that the EPA may regulate power-plant emissions that blow across state lines as per a 2011 regulation, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Not content having put nearly 150 or more coal-fired power plants out of commission, the Court’s rule now gives them the authority to do the same thing to about a thousand power plants in the eastern and western regions of the U.S. that will have to adopt new pollution controls or reduce operations.

In effect, the Court has just agreed to a regulation that represents a major increase in the cost of electricity in 28 states deemed to be polluting the air in those around them. The EPA’s claims that this will save lives they attribute to the alleged pollution is as bogus as all the rest of their claims, the purpose of which is to undermine the nation’s economy in every way it can.

James M. Taylor, the Heartland Institute’s Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy said of Tuesday’s decision that “It is a shame that the U.S. Supreme Court continues to empower EPA to issue nonsensical interpretations of statutes with the primary goal of amassing more money and power.”

Every day the press is filled with reports of environmental groups suing to ensure that no new providers of electricity can be built. The Environmental Protection Agency has instituted all manner of regulations intended to shut down coal-fired plants and they are based on the total lie that carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” are causing the Earth to warm. The science cited is entirely without merit and the Earth is cooling, not warming, and has been for the past seventeen years.

As winters grow colder, it is putting a tremendous demand on the nation’s electrical grid. In a recent commentary, Steve Gorham, the author of “The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania”, quoted Philip Moeller, Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, “the experience of this past winter indicates that the power grid is now already at the limit.”

“EPA policies,” said Gorham, “such as the Mercury and Air Toxics rule and the Section 316 Cooling Water Rule, are forcing the closure of many coal-fired plants, which provided 39 percent of U.S. electricity last year. American Electric Power, a provider of about ten percent of the electricity to eastern states, will close almost one quarter of the firm’s coal-fired generating plants in the next fourteen months. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of the power scheduled for closure was needed to meet electricity demand in January. Not all of this capacity has replacement plans.”

Before Obama was elected, coal-fired plants provided fifty percent (50%) of the nation’s electricity.

What is the Obama administration’s response to this? It is pouring billions into the wind and solar energy sector that provides barely one percent of all the electricity used in the nation and can never begin to replace traditional plants.

In an April 25 letter from the American Energy Alliance, joined by thirty other organizations, to the House Ways and Means Committee, opposition to the Wind Production Tax Credit was expressed: “The PTC has been a failure for taxpayers and ratepayers. In exchange for tens of billions of dollars in handouts to wind producers, the states with the highest wind production have seen their electricity rates increase nearly five times faster than the national average. In fact, states with at least 7 percent wind power have seen their electricity rates increase at an average of 17.4 percent over the last 5 years compared to an increase of only 3.5 percent for the U.S. as a whole” Why, indeed, are taxpayers being required to sustain providers of wind power that would not be able to stay in business otherwise?

In addition to the fact that you cannot manufacture anything without the use of electricity, a deliberate effort is being made to ensure that vast sections of the nation will not be able to receive electricity to warm homes and businesses in the winter and cool them in the summer. Simply put, people will die for lack of the warmth and coolness needed, not from the phony pollution the EPA cites.

This is the heart of an environmental agenda that views the human population as “a cancer” that needs to be vastly reduced. This agenda is directed from the United Nations and its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that falsely claims that humans have a vast impact on the climate. They do not. Human activity barely, if at all, affects the climate. What does? The Sun! Add in factors that include the Earth’s oceans and volcanic activity, and it should be obvious that everyone is being targeted for extinction.

In an article, “The EPA’s Science Problem”, Arnold Ahlert, noted in early April that “In a stunning admission, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy revealed to House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) that the agency neither possesses, nor can produce, all the scientific data used to justify the rules and regulations they have imposed on Americans via the Clean Air Act. In short, science has been trumped by the radical environmental agenda.”

The Obama administration has done everything in its power to restrict and slow down access and use of America’s huge energy reserves, enough to ensure all the electrical power we will need for hundreds of years to come. The same policy applies to transportation’s petroleum needs. Oil and gas production on federal lands is down 40% compared to ten years ago.

According to the Institute for Energy Research notes that “North America has enough oil to fuel every passenger car in the U.S. for 430 years, enough natural gas to provide the U.S. with electricity for 575 years, and enough coal to provide electricity for about 500 years.” And that’s based on known reserves. They are, however, of little use if the Obama administration continues its efforts to restrict access to them.

In an August 2013 Washington Times commentary, Ben Wolfgang warned that the EPA, the Energy Department, and other agencies’ “working group” quietly raised “their estimated social coast of carbon from $21 per ton of emissions to $35 per ton”, noting that “The dramatic increase greatly alters cost-benefit analyses offered by the EPA when floating rules, allowing the agency to claim that billions of dollars will be saved over a period of decades as a result of proposed limits on power plant emissions, tougher fuel economy standards and other steps.”

The “social cost” is a complete invention, a fiction without any basis in fact. It is a device to further restrict access and use of all fuel sources.

Americans had better wake up to the fact that their government—the Obama administration—is doing everything in its power to cut off the provision of electrical power and access to transportation fuel that it can. And the Democrats in Congress, particularly Harry Reid the Senate Majority Leader, is doing everything to advance this agenda by blocking any legislation generated in the House to counter this agenda.

In November, the midterm elections offer an opportunity to elect enough Republicans to secure control of the Senate and increase its strength in the House.

Let me end with the good news. Despite what the enemies of energy are doing, the energy sector—coal, oil, and natural gas—in the decade ahead is going to grow, going to generate many new jobs, and is going to help dig us out of the huge government debt that too much borrowing and spending has generated.

 

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Political Psychopath Test: Paul Ryan vs. Barack Obama

May 04, 2014, 9:50 AM

A recent article by Paul Rosenberg in Salon contends that Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin and erstwhile running mate of Mitt Romney, exhibits many of the hallmarks of a psychopath. Rosenberg claims that Ryan is “arrogant, manipulative, deceitful, and remorseless.” Whether Ryan is guilty of any or all of these sins or not, they seem to fit the bill of another prominent figure in Washington, DC: Barack Obama. Is the president a psychopath?

The president certainly has shown arrogant tendencies. In the days after his first inauguration he spurned the Republicans and tried to transform the healthcare industry from the White House. Heck, he didn’t even ask for all that much input from the congressional leadership of his own party!

Obama’s arrogant behavior hardly ended in 2009. In his last State of the Union, the president proudly declared that he had “a pen and a phone” and that he would go over the head of the Congress whenever it got in his way. If that isn’t arrogance, I don’t know what is!

Barack Obama has also proven to be a capable manipulator. He has a firmer control over his media image than most politicians in recent memory. As an article in Politico describes, “President Barack Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.”

The president has likewise become known for deceit. We can hardly forget his promise that, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

For remorselessness we need go no further than that same promise. When confronted with his lie, the president tried to get out of it by saying, “What we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.” Apart from that second statement being a lie in itself, it shows a clear lack of remorse for his shameless misleading of the American people.

Does any of this prove Barack Obama is a psychopath? Rosenberg answers this question himself when he admits that “it’s impossible to clinically diagnose someone from a distance.” Yet Rosenberg is perfectly confident to assert in the very same breath that he believes, “a good case can be made that Ryan has exhibited classic signs of psychopathic traits.” Well, the same, if not a better, case can be made that Barack Obama has exhibited those same classic signs.

But there’s another name for a person who obfuscates issues, goes back on promises and positions, and behaves opportunistically and manipulatively: a politician. What Rosenberg describes isn’t psychopathy, it’s politics in action. All calling such people psychopaths accomplishes is giving one more dirty name to an already dirty business.

The problem Rosenberg suffers from is not uncommon among the torchbearers of the fire-breathing political left: he believes that the people who disagree with his political views are essentially, to use some of his own words, “racists” and “con artists.” He sees evil intention where there is, in fact, just honest disagreement of opinion.

Perhaps Rosenberg should ask real questions, rather than resort to name-calling. Who knows, people might even start to take him seriously.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Madhav Khandekar Talks Climate Change on the Progressive Radio Network

May 03, 2014, 6:49 PM

On April 29, renowned climate scientist, Heartland Institute policy advisor, and external reviewer of the IPCC Madhav Khandekar appeared on “The Infectious Myth” show on the Progressive Radio Network. “The infectious Myth” focuses on addressing medical and scientific issues for which “the simple story we are told” is in fact untrue. Dr. Khandekar seeks to do just that for the issue of man-made climate change.

Dr. Khandekar discussed the findings of his decades-long research program into the effects of CO2 emissions on global climate and temperature. According to that research, the sun, not humans, is the primary driver of climate change:

“I think there was no change in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 during the Little Ice Age. So quite possibly, and quite definitely as most solar scientists feel, it has something to do with the low sun [activity] at the time, what is known as the Maunder Minimum.”

According to Dr. Khandekar, the world may in fact be moving in the coming decades toward another Little Ice Age thanks to an approaching decline in solar activity.

Dr. Khandekar acknowledges some amount of increased temperatures, but this he says is very limited and has largely been beneficial to humans:

“The small warming we have experienced is beneficial to world humanity. It has helped increase grain yields, especially in the developing world of South Asia and South America, as well as Africa.”

The evidence surrounding climate change and global warming remains hotly debated in scientific circles, despite the efforts of some to quash the discussion as violating a “consensus.” But scientists like Dr. Khandekar continue to fight for attention for their alternative views. The fact he was invited to speak on the Progressive News Network might well suggest that their calls for attention are starting to be heeded.

Categories: On the Blog

Common Core Debate: Heartland’s Joy Pullmann on Fox News

May 02, 2014, 12:59 PM

Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann told Fox News viewers on Tuesday why Common Core is a terrible idea and must be defeated state by state. Her opponent for the April 29 debate was Michael Brickman of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation — who did his best, but Joy definitely got the better of him. Brickman spent a lot of time swinging and missing at Heartland and Joy instead of making a positive argument for his side.

Watch the video below, and for a lot of  information about Common Core, visit Heartland’s “Fight the Common Core” page and a search of Common Core at PolicyBot.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s College Rating Plan

May 02, 2014, 11:18 AM

Last year, President Obama announced that he would create a plan to measure colleges based on access, affordability, and student outcome. On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan appeared before a Senate subcommittee to discuss the education budget. Mr. Duncan states the initiative will move forward with or without the requested 10 million dollars, although the money would be beneficial.

Ignoring that the administration is requesting 10 million dollars they do not need, Congress should not fund the college rating plan because it will not fix the problem of college affordability. A recent study done by the American Council on Education states the President’s plan is “well-intentioned but poorly devised.” The rating plan is intended to help low-income students, but they will likely be the most ill-served. Obama’s ratings are expected to be based off of data that will misrepresent community colleges and four-year comprehensive institutions. The efforts of institutions that largely serve low-income students will be ignored and students will have access to misleading information.

More so, college rankings do little good for institutions of higher education. Although the Obama administration has gone through exhaustive efforts to differentiate ranks and ratings, they are both numbers universities can manipulate. Over the past three years, I have watched my institution manufacture numbers and tout statistics in order to climb one rank in U.S. News and World Report. As my school brags about admission rates, diversity, and test scores, the students still experience a lack of commitment and investment by the university. The numbers look good, but students have reaped little benefit from manipulated numbers and a U.S. News and World Report ranking of 12 as opposed to 13. It is only a matter of time before universities find a way to manipulate their affordability, access, and outcome to help themselves and not the students they allegedly serve.

The rating plan also ignores that students, especially low-income, don’t actually care about college ratings/rankings. Low-income students are more likely to choose colleges close to home or based on financial aid packages. We need to be directly helping low income students access higher education—not giving money to institutions that achieve a good rank (based on inaccurate data) and hoping they will put the federal money towards improving affordability. The rating plan does not address the root of the actual problem we face.

Congress should not give the Department of Education the 10 million dollars it may or may not need. Obama’s college rating plan will not help low-income students, but instead, perpetuate universities to obsess over rates and rankings. College affordability is an amazingly important issue that greatly affects students. We need to change, but Obama’s plan is not the place to start.

Categories: On the Blog

Duke Energy’s Clean Coal Plant Coughed, Wheezed in February

May 02, 2014, 11:15 AM

After the global warming-battling Edwardsport coal gasification power plant used more power than it generated during the September-to-November time-frame, earlier this month information filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission showed the Duke Energy facility operated at less than 1 percent of capacity in February.

As Duke wants to recover $1.5 million in costs related to the plant, the state office that advocates for its customers – the Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor – wants IURC to more closely scrutinize why Edwardsport’s operation has been such a miserable failure. The much-delayed and fought-over plant had a $1.4 billion cost overrun and as a result is adding an average 16 percent increase to Hoosier State customers’ electric bills.

“The ratepayers of Duke Energy should not be mandated to bear the risks and most of the costs of this boondoggle,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, to the Indianapolis Star. Olson’s organization has been a longtime critic of Duke Energy and the Edwardsport project specifically.

Duke has argued that it would need 15 months for the plant to become fully operational. According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, after the three-month blunder late last year, power production “slowed to a crawl” in January due to mechanical problems. The company claimed it moved up planned routine maintenance to February, which extended its period of diminished activity.

“It’s a large, complex project, and it has taken time to work out technical issues,” said Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere to the IBJ.

For the customers there is a huge difference between attaching the cost of Edwardsport’s “issues” to its initial construction costs vs. charging for ongoing maintenance. A settlement limited the costs of the build-up of the plant for customers to $2.6 billion, while Duke’s shareholders are responsible for $900 million. But now that Edwardsport is officially “online,” critics fear that repairs and maintenance that should be charged against the original design of the plant, will instead be added as new costs for customers under ongoing upkeep.

Those representing the grassroots of Indiana don’t appear to want to cut Duke any slack. Olson has been unrelenting, and in early 2012 the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor sharply criticized the utility as “a company that, through arrogance or incompetence, has unnecessarily cost ratepayers millions of dollars and has set back the public’s trust in our regulatory process.” An OUCC official testified, “There appears to be a lack of responsibility or accountability on the part of those causing these multimillion-dollar cost overruns.”

Another ugly aspect of Edwardsport/Indiana appears to be drawing to an end. As the saga played out over who would be responsible for cost overruns, David Hardy – the chairman of the IUCC appointed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels – was revealed to have been meeting with Duke secretly to discuss problems at the power plant. Daniels fired Hardy after it was also disclosed that he knew that an IURC administrative lawyer was discussing a job with Duke while he participated in cases regarding Edwardsport. Hardy was indicted in 2011, but last year a judge ruled his actions no longer amounted to a crime, and yesterday the state Court of Appeals confirmed his decision despite the fact that they applied a law to Hardy’s situation that wasn’t passed until a year after his actions,according to the Star.

The track record for holding Duke Energy and government officials accountable for carelessness, ethics breaches and outright performance failures is not inspiring – especially in Indiana. The same Court of Appeals dumped the bulk of the Edwardsport costs also on its blameless customers. Meanwhile government know-nothings and former Duke CEOJames Rogers pushed for an ill-conceived project all for the purpose of reducing life-giving carbon dioxide, which is blamed for global warming.

Undoubtedly such folly would not have happened – or at least have been tolerated – in a truly competitive free market. Instead we have a monopolistic industry that thrives as much on crony favoritism from government as it does from the actual sales of its product.

 

[Originally published at National Legal and Policy Center]

Categories: On the Blog

Renewable Energy in Decline, Less than 1% of Global Energy

May 02, 2014, 10:24 AM

The global energy outlook has changed radically in just six years. President Obama was elected in 2008 by voters who believed we were running out of oil and gas, that climate change needed to be halted, and that renewables were the energy source of the near future.

But an unexpected transformation of energy markets and politics may instead make 2014 the year of peak renewables.

In December of 2007, former Vice President Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize for work on man-made climate change, leading an international crusade to halt global warming. In June, 2008 after securing a majority of primary delegates, candidate Barack Obama stated, “…this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…” Climate activists looked to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference as the next major step to control greenhouse gas emissions.

The price of crude oil hit $145 per barrel in June, 2008. The International Energy Agency and other organizations declared that we were at peak oil, forecasting a decline in global production. Many claimed that the world was running out of hydrocarbon energy.

Driven by the twin demons of global warming and peak oil, world governments clamored to support renewables. Twenty years of subsidies, tax-breaks, feed-in tariffs, and mandates resulted in an explosion of renewable energy installations. The Renewable Energy Index (RENIXX) of the world’s 30 top renewable energy companies soared to over 1,800.

Tens of thousands of wind turbine towers were installed, totaling more than 200,000 windmills worldwide by the end of 2012. Germany led the world with more than one million rooftop solar installations. Forty percent of the US corn crop was converted to ethanol vehicle fuel.

But at the same time, an unexpected energy revolution was underway. Using good old Yankee ingenuity, the US oil and gas industry discovered how to produce oil and natural gas from shale. With hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, vast quantities of hydrocarbon resources became available from shale fields in Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania.

From 2008 to 2013, US petroleum production soared 50 percent. US natural gas production rose 34 percent from a 2005 low. Russia, China, Ukraine, Turkey, and more than ten nations in Europe began issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing. The dragon of peak oil and gas was slain.

In 2009, the ideology of Climatism, the belief that humans were causing dangerous global warming, came under serious attack. In November, emails were released from top climate scientists at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, an incident christened Climategate. The communications showed bias, manipulation of data, avoidance of freedom of information requests, and efforts to subvert the peer-review process, all to further the cause of man-made climate change.

One month later, the Copenhagen Climate Conference failed to agree on a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. Failures at United Nations conferences at Cancun (2010), Durban (2011), Doha (2012), and Warsaw (2013) followed. Canada, Japan, Russia, and the United States announced that they would not participate in an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

Major climate legislation faltered across the world. Cap and trade failed in Congress in 2009, with growing opposition from the Republican Party. The price of carbon permits in the European Emissions Trading System crashed in April 2013 when the European Union voted not to support the permit price. Australia elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the fall of 2013 on a platform of scrapping the nation’s carbon tax.

Europeans discovered that subsidy support for renewables was unsustainable. Subsidy obligations soared in Germany to over $140 billion and in Spain to over $34 billion by 2013. Renewable subsidies produced the world’s highest electricity rates in Denmark and Germany. Electricity and natural gas prices in Europe rose to double those of the United States.

Worried about bloated budgets, declining industrial competitiveness, and citizen backlash, European nations have been retreating from green energy for the last four years. Spain slashed solar subsidies in 2009 and photovoltaic sales fell 80 percent in a single year. Germany cut subsidies in 2011 and 2012 and the number of jobs in the German solar industry dropped by 50 percent. Renewable subsidy cuts in the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom added to the cascade. The RENIXX Renewable Energy Index fell below 200 in 2012, down 90 percent from the 2008 peak.

Once a climate change leader, Germany turned to coal after the 2012 decision to close nuclear power plants. Coal now provides more than 50 percent of Germany’s electricity and 23 new coal-fired power plants are planned. Global energy from coal has grown by 4.4 percent per year over the last ten years.

Spending on renewables is in decline. From a record $318 billion in 2011, world renewable energy spending fell to $280 billion in 2012 and then fell again to $254 billion in 2013, according to Bloomberg. The biggest drop occurred in Europe, where investment plummeted 41 percent last year. The 2013 expiration of the US Production Tax Credit for wind energy will continue the downward momentum.

Today, wind and solar provide less than one percent of global energy. While these sources will continue to grow, it’s likely they will deliver only a tiny amount of the world’s energy for decades to come. Renewable energy output may have peaked, at least as a percentage of global energy production.


[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog

Major Arctic Sea Ice Story Lurking, But Is Anyone Watching?

May 02, 2014, 12:01 AM

There is a huge event being forecasted this year by the CFSV2, and I don’t know if anyone else is mentioning this. For the first time in over a decade, the Arctic sea ice anomaly in the summer is forecast to be near or above normal.

While it has approached the normals at the end of the winter season a couple of times because of new ice growth, this signals something completely different. That multiyear growth means business – and it shows the theory on the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) is likely to be on target.

Once it flips, this red herring of climate panic will be gone. Global and Southern Hemisphere anomalies are already unmentionable since the former is well above normal and the latter is routinely busting daily records.

The biggest minimum anomalies are in the summer since this flipped, and the only peaks came very close to the height of winters once this melting was underway.

Now look at what the CFSV2 forecasted for 2012.

The brief positive anomaly hit early, but for the summer it’s well below normal. In 2013, it’s the same, though not as far.

But this year it’s forecast to be around normal in August!

This is only with a yearly AMO back off. I don’t think this is the real deal of the flip yet. But it makes the point that one can correlate the ice in the Arctic with the Atlantic cycle.

If we look at the cold AMO years we can plainly see why this is going on.

The Jamstec model is forecasting water temps this summer to be much colder in the north Atlantic than the map above. but still not cold enough to say this is the permanent flip. It is, however, a sign of what is to come.

It should be obvious as to who is the boss here, and with the warm AMO in its waning years, the Arctic sea ice hysteria will wind up where so many agenda driven items do – on the ash heap of history.

This, if correct, is going to be a huge story. It would be the first summer where Arctic sea ice returned to near normal, indicative of the increase in multiyear ice and what a turn to the colder AMO in the future means! Let’s see if anyone else picks up on it.

By the way, this same kind of evolution through the fall and into the winter would lead to another harsh U.S. winter.

Categories: On the Blog

Stop the Waste of Tax Dollars by the EPA

May 01, 2014, 8:37 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency sent out this news release April 30 asking for public comment supporting their efforts to promote renewable energy solar and wind as replacements for fossil fuels in electricity production. (The release is also pasted below.) This is in support of EPA programs to stop fossil fuels use by declaring carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels as a catastrophic air pollutant.

I can assure you this news release was sent to assigned representatives of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, etc. which will generate possibly hundreds of thousands of comments to support this program. EPA used this approach to obtain one million letters of support for its ruling to stop use of coal for generating electricity in future power plants.

The EPA was charged with seeing the nation had clean water and air back in 1970. It is not an agency to promote energy policy. Give them a dose of their own medicine by submitting comments denouncing their actions to cleanenergy@epa.gov. Share this blog post with friends who have similar thoughts.

————

CONTACT:
Enesta Jones (News Media Only)
jones.enesta@epa.gov
202-564-7873
202-564-4355

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2014

EPA Solicits Public Comments on Action Plan for RE-Powering America’s Land

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comments on the draft action plan for its RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative. The plan guides EPA’s efforts over the next two years to encourage renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills and mine sites when such development is aligned with the community’s vision for the site. The cleanup of contaminated land and the production of renewable energy will provide long-term improvements to air quality in communities, while protecting public health.

In 2010, the RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative published its first management plan to provide a useful framework to engage stakeholders on the potential to site renewable energy on contaminated lands and track progress. This second action plan, Action Plan 2.0, identifies activities planned for the next two years.

The agency will solicit comments for 30 days. Comments on the proposed plan are due by Friday, May 30.To submit a comment, please send to cleanenergy@epa.gov

A copy of the draft Action Plan 2.0: http://www.epa.gov/oswercpa/action_plan.htm

Categories: On the Blog

Fake Journalist Lee Fang Foiled Again

April 30, 2014, 5:11 PM

Topless Facebook model Lee Fang

Earlier this month, sometime Democratic Party activist and topless Facebook model Lee Fang (rhymes with “bong”), claimed to be a reporter and approached Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast after a speech about climate change in Colorado. He proceeded to ask a series of questions about an essay titled Five Lies About Tobacco that Joe wrote back in 1998. Joe stands by it, and rightly maintains it gets better with age.

Fang, who was wearing a shirt while interviewing Bast, has now released a video of his attempted ambush at something called “Republic Report.” I’m not linking to it, because Fang is a fake journalist.

From a July 31, 2012 piece at the Washington Free Beacon by Adam Kredo:

One of the Nation magazine’s newest hires, Lee Fang, is a far-left Democratic operative with a history of publishing error-riddled and misleading reports.

As Fang begins his stint at the historic left-wing publication, questions still surround a series of half-baked reports that were filed during his time as a writer for the Center For American Progress Action Fund’s Think Progress blog, and for the Republic Report. Both organizations advocate for greater transparency in politics, even as neither fully discloses its donors….

As an investigative blogger for CAPAF’s Think Progress blog, Fang took a hit for secretly coordinating his coverage with Democrat-aligned special interest groups. Fang continued his questionable reporting methods after joining the Republic Report alongside convicted felon Jack Abramoff soon after his release from prison.

Fang is laughably incompetent, producing the dumbest story about Koch Industries ever written. (And that’s a fierce competition!) When still at Think Progress, Fang  wrote “How Koch Industries Manipulates the Oil Market for Profit.” You can read the story for yourself, but you really only need to read one of the funniest breakdowns of journalistic incompetence I’ve ever read: “Contango Confusion” by Powerline’s John Hinderaker.

Unfortunately, young Mr. Fang has neither the business experience nor the intelligence to understand the issues about which he writes. The result is that nearly every sentence is a howler. Among other things, while a contango market is the main subject of Fang’s post, he doesn’t know what the phrase means.

Fang labels Koch Industries as “oil speculators.” But, explains Hinderaker, Koch Industries is not really in the oil speculation business.

“Koch buys and sells physical oil; it transports oil; it refines oil. It does some unhedged trading too, but in that field it is a minor player compared to, say, Goldman Sachs. If Think Progress wants to attack petroleum speculators, Goldman Sachs should be in the dock–except that Goldman Sachs is a top contributor to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.”

Koch has little business in the extraction process. Instead, Koch focuses on shipping crude oil, refining it, distributing it to retailers — then speculating on the future price. With control of every part of the market, Koch is able to bet on future prices with superior information.

Huh? Koch sells oil to retailers, and “then” speculates on the future price? Isn’t that a little late? One wonders whether these people even read what they write before publishing it.

And what is this about “control of every part of the market”? Fang just made that up. The oil business is highly competitive, and Koch Industries is, in international terms, a small player. Let’s take refining: the U.S. Energy Information Administration publishes data on America’s biggest refineries. Koch owns three of the 141 largest refineries in the United States; its biggest weighs in at number twelve. So how, exactly, does Koch “control every part of the market”?

Young Mr. Fang continues:

In 2008, Koch called attention to itself for “contango” oil market manipulation. A commodity market is said to be in contango when future prices are expected to rise, that is, when demand is expected to outstrip supply.

This is incorrect. “Contango” is not “market manipulation.” On the contrary, it is the natural state of most markets. It simply means that at a given time, the price of a forward or futures contract is trading above the present spot price. This is what you would expect, given the time value of money. Occasionally, for various reasons, this usual condition may not hold; then we have what is called “backwardation.” A contango market has nothing to do with any expectation; rather, if the futures price is higher than the spot price, as is normally the case, it is a contango market. It is quite remarkable, really, that anyone would try to write a blog post about a contango market without even knowing what the term means.

Hinderaker goes on and on about Fang’s economic incompetence, and it’s worth reading every word of that post – and discounting every word Fang has ever written.

Categories: On the Blog

VIDEO: The Organic Food Certification Racket

April 30, 2014, 1:13 PM

Mischa Popoff is one of the most formidable opponents of the organic food industry, as this video of his speech to the Far West Agribusiness Association clearly shows. The simple fact that he is carrying to the masses is that the organic industry, particularly the organic certification industry, is a big racket.

There was once a time, decades ago, when organic farming was about increasing consumer choice. The organic farmers chose to compete in the free market and sought to carve a niche in the marketplace for higher-end, organic produce.

But the farmers were hijacked by hardline activists. “Activists took over from the farmers…their first stop was with Big Government in the 1990s under the Clinton Administration, “ Popoff explains, “This is the same activism that led to ethanol subsidies, windmills, and solar power.”

Those activists were, and still are, unconcerned with science, sustainability, or actually feeding the hungry multitude. For them it’s all about pushing their radical agenda. And because they cannot do this in the world of public information, they had to turn to sowing disinformation and to pushing their agenda in government. “You can do anything in Washington,” says Popoff, “The science, the public backing for it, none of that matters. Just go to Washington and talk to the right people.”

The radical activists have transformed the organic food movement from a pro-choice, free market enterprise, into a state-run racket. As Popoff says, “It’s no longer about choice.”

The organic industry has become an extorter of government rents at the expense of the taxpayers. This is particularly true of organic processors, which, like organic farms, must be certified. Popoff shows that the ludicrously large number of these processors in North America far exceed the capacity of the whole organic production industry of the continent.  But surely, for these processors to stay in business they need to fill their capacity. How do they do this?

The answer is simple. They import “organic” produce from the rest of the world. There is nothing inherently evil about importing foodstuffs, organic or otherwise. But when the government subsidizes those businesses with taxpayer money, then there is reason for outrage. That is exactly what happens with these processors, which grow fat on subsidies at the expense of we, the people.

The sham that is the organic food industry needs to be fought at every level. It is critical that people stand up to the racketeers and deny them the ability to continue their corrupt shenanigans.

Categories: On the Blog

The Right Needs a New Message on Income Inequality

April 30, 2014, 10:06 AM

Few French economists have achieved the kind of adulation Thomas Piketty has experienced recently from the media and the left. Within the context of the American political scene, Piketty’s dour predictions for the future of capitalism and his call for a “utopian” global wealth tax fit perfectly with the left’s frame of an inequality message.

This political frame glosses over much of the subtlety of Mr. Piketty’s book, but it plays to the strengths of the old-school class-warfare terminology used by Paul Krugman and others. It’s a message that ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos suggested this weekend is catching conservatives “flat-footed.”

But the left faces several challenges to its message on income inequality: First, the Democratic Party largely owns the current regulatory system and the relationship between government and Wall Street (not just with Dodd-Frank but with a host of policies under President Barack Obama); second, the left offers few politically realistic answers to the inequality challenge it frames (proposals to raise the minimum wage and enact crushing, anti-growth taxes on high earners and inheritances are provocative but unlikely to go anywhere); third, their most public champion after the coming election cycle is not the populist Elizabeth Warren but Hillary Clinton, a presidential candidate as closely tied to America’s 1% as, well, Mitt Romney.

And when it comes to measuring the health of America’s economy, the truth is that income inequality is simply not a significant problem.

Several recent studies have shown that U.S. economic mobility is very good: Most Americans will move up and down the income ladder over the course of their lives, reflecting little to none of the class stratification and inheritance concerns warned about by inequality mavens.

But as a political matter, it’s certainly possible that Republicans could be flat-footed in responding to these charges.

What the right should learn from the Piketty pother is that it needs an updated economic message that speaks to the challenges of the times. For decades, the GOP economic agenda has amounted to “lower taxes” – but for many Americans, high taxes are less of a concern than anti-growth economic policies. Those on the right should be prepared to make the case that the warped relationship between Wall Street and Washington needs to be fixed, that socialized risks and privatized profits are fundamentally unfair, and that Mr. Piketty’s equality-focused policy solutions, and those of the left, would hurt income mobility and systematically destroy wealth and growth.

There is an enormous opportunity here for a message of free-market fairness — if the right has the wherewithal to seize it. Otherwise, Republicans could slide into the trap of debating new entitlements and renewed redistribution, the kind where the left will always outbid them. As Friedrich Hayek wrote, “There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.” The former, not cheaper versions of the latter, represents the way forward for the right.

[Originally published by the Wall Street Journal]

Categories: On the Blog

The Lower Cost of a Truly Limited Government

April 30, 2014, 10:00 AM

A demonstration of just how far the United States has moved from its original founding principles is seen in the fact that in all the jousting over ObamaCare, the general rise in “entitlement” spending, and the burden of government regulation over American enterprises, there is one question that seems rarely to be asked: What should be the size and scope of government, and what would it cost if government were cut down more to the size delineated in the original Constitution?

Whenever, occasionally, this question is asked, the answer seems to be very far from what the Founding Fathers had in mind, if one is in anyway familiar with their conception of limited government and individual liberty.

Thinking the Clinton Years were “Limited Government”

For example, in 2012 two books appeared by “conservative,” free market-oriented economists who were clearly trying to influence the terms of the political debate during that presidential election year.

For example, in 2012 two books appeared by “conservative,” free market-oriented economists who were clearly trying to influence the terms of the political debate during that presidential election year.

They were, “First Principles: Five Keys to Restoring America’s Prosperity” by John B. Taylor and “Why Capitalism?” by Allan H. Meltzer. John Taylor is a professor of economics at Stanford University and a highly regarded monetary theorist who is generally critical of Keynesian “activist” fiscal and central banking policy. He served in President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors and as Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs.

Allan Meltzer is a professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University, and an internationally acclaimed expert on the history of the Federal Reserve, as well as one of America’s leading monetary theorists who, also, has long been critical of “easy money” policies by America’s central bank.

They both believe strongly in the value and importance of a competitive economic system that fosters entrepreneurship, innovation, and rising standards of living. They also don’t think that government has the knowledge, wisdom or ability to direct a complex market order.

Their books contain insightful and wise analysis of how and why America has gotten into its present dismal situation. Plus, as “insiders” in the halls of Washington, D.C. at one time or another, they have many interesting examples of the manipulation, corruption and inefficiencies to be found in American politics.

So what, in their views, should the current size of government be cut back to? Since they were both writing “political” books in an election year, perhaps they were fearful of seeming to be too “radical” in a more limited government direction. But the fact is that for both of them it seems that getting government cut down to its dimensions during the 1980s and 1990s would more or less set everything straight.

For many of us who lived in the 1990s during the presidencies of the older Bush and then Bill Clinton, however, government taxing, spending, and regulating all seemed to be far too high and extensive, given an older conception of what a free America could and should be like.

In other words, two prominent and respected market-oriented economists made the case for using as a benchmark of having a freer America the interventionist-welfare state of merely twenty years ago.

A More Reasonable Benchmark for Judging “Big Government”

So from a more clearly classical liberal perspective, what might be used as a more reasonable standard or benchmark of a limited government and freer market society in judging the size and scope of government today?

The first edition of The World Almanac was published in 1868. The entire federal government fit on one page in that first edition; half of that page was taken up with listing the names of the U.S. ambassadors to foreign countries.

The executive branch of the federal government included only seven departments: Treasury, State, War, Navy, Interior, Attorney General, and the Postmaster General. And this was after the significant growth in the federal government during the recently fought American Civil War (1861-1865)!

Today, the listing of all departments, bureaus and agencies of the federal government takes up at least seven or eight pages of very small print in The World Almanac. The administrative units of the federal government that regulate, control, supervise, plan and oversee virtually every aspect of American life now number in the hundreds. The United States government has sometimes been portrayed as a giant octopus whose numerous tentacles are wrapped around everything that any American does in the market, social, or personal spheres of life.

The Cost of a More Constitutionally Downsized Government

Let us suppose that government were to be “downsized” to what it was in 1868, as listed in that first edition of The World Almanac. What would be the cost of government and the tax burden on the American citizenry? In making such an estimate, let us recall that the departments of war and the navy are now part of one Department of Defense. Let us also presume that the government’s post office monopoly is abolished and all forms of mail delivery are fully left to private competitive enterprise, so there is no longer a Postmaster General.

That would leave five executive level departments comprising the entire federal government: defense, justice, interior, treasury, and state. In terms of their combined expenditures in 2013, together the cost of the federal government would come to about $900 billion, if that was all for which Washington was responsible.

Of course, this presumes that in a more limited government America, the current activities of these departments would not be radically reduced to be more consistent with the “original intent” of the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.

If we add the interest paid on the national debt in 2013 ($233 billion) to the cost of this smaller government, the total then would be $1.1 trillion, or less than one-third of what the federal government actually spent in fiscal year 2013.

The Washington spent over $28,200 per American household in 2013. If government were to be reduced to its 1868 size, that dollar spending per household would shrink to $9,800.

Approximately 140 million Americans filed tax returns in 2012. Median household income in 2013 was about $51,000. If the current progressive income tax were transformed into a flat income tax with a rate of about 16 percent, then the average tax burden per taxpayer would be around $8,000. (Repeal of the federal income tax might also be introduced at some point, of course!)

Plus, there would be no budget deficit, and no other taxes of any sort would have to be imposed to cover the costs of running this very much smaller federal government.

Limited Government Means Ending the Welfare State

Of course, the first reaction to these numbers is, no doubt: But what happens to all that other government spending, especially the “entitlement” programs (Social Security and Medicare, in particular) that in the 2013 fiscal year ate up about 50 percent of the government’s nearly $3.5 trillion of total spending?

Clearly, these programs would have to be phased out, privatized, “denationalized,” removed from the controlling and redistributing hands of government. Even if there were the political will to move in that direction, it would no doubt take some time to remove them from the functions of a truly constitutionally limited federal government.

But the point of this seemingly unrealistic exercise is precisely to mark off that point on the political horizon that should be the goal towards which friends of freedom should want to see America move.

This may seem terribly “fantastic” to many in America today. How could government ever be, well, that small?

In fact it was, and only one hundred years ago. In 1913, the year before the beginning of the First World War and the introduction of the federal income tax amendment to the Constitution, all levels of government – federal, state, and local – taxed less than 8 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. In other words, 92 percent of all income received remained in the hands of those who had earned it in the private sector market place.

There was no welfare state, no “entitlement” programs. Americans took it for granted that helping those who had fallen on “hard times,” and who were in “need” and “deserving” of such assistance would receive it through private philanthropy and voluntary community charity. A careful reading of the history of that earlier time shows that the private benevolence of free individuals worked very well.

Freedom Means the “Let-Alone Principle”

It is also worth recalling that there was a time when most Americans did not think that government was supposed to be responsible for them. The vast majority of Americans viewed themselves as self–governing and self-responsible individuals.

Simon Newcomb (1835-1909) was a prominent American astronomer and noted free market economist who taught at Johns Hopkins University in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1870, he published an article in which he summarized what he took to be the common-sense ideal of what he called, “The Let-Alone Principle.” Newcomb said:

“That each individual member of society should be left free to seek his own good in the way he may deem best, and required only not to interfere with the equal rights of his fellowmen . . .

“The let-alone principle may be regarded either as a declaration of rights or as a maxim of political policy. In the first case, the principle declares that society has not the right to prevent an individual who is capable of taking care of himself from seeking his own good in the way he deems best, so long as he does not infringe on the rights of his fellowmen.

“In the second case, the principle forms the basis of a certain theory of governmental policy, according to which the political system is most conducive to the public good in which the rightful liberty of the individual is least abridged . . .

“It needs only a consideration of first principles to make it plain that the main object of government is the protection of minorities, especially those most powerless minorities, individuals . . . It makes little difference to the minority or to any particular individual whether [his] rights are disregarded by a despot, a highwayman, or a majority of his fellow-citizens, wielding the powers of government . . .

“The real point in dispute between the friends and the opponents of free government and individual liberty is simply this: Is man a being to be taken care of, or is he able when protected in his rights to take care of himself better than any governing power – congress, king, or parliament – can take care of him? The advocates of universal freedom claim that, if each individual is protected in the enjoyment of his individual rights as a responsible member of the community, he can take care of himself, and manage his own affairs and his share of the public affairs better than any other one else can do these for him.”

Simon Newcomb added that government “interference is so apt to lead to unforeseen complications, – that the best course for a government to follow is, to adhere to the let-alone policy as a matter of principle.”

Losing Sight of the Value of Self-Responsible Freedom

The danger, therefore, was drifting into the false and dangerous belief that individuals could not and should not be self-responsible, and that government could and should take paternalistic responsibility for people, instead.

Another prominent American free market economist who expressed this in the late nineteenth century was J. Laurence Laughlin (1850-1933), who founded the economics department at the University of Chicago. In 1887, Laughlin warned:

“Socialism, or the reliance on the state for help, stands in antagonism to self-help, or the activity of the individual. That body of people is certainly the strongest and the happiest in which each person is thinking for himself, is independent, self-respecting, self-confident, self-controlled, and self-mastered. When a man does a thing for himself he values it infinitely more than if it is done for him, and he is a better man for having done it . . .

“If, on the other hand, men constantly hear it said that they are oppressed and down-trodden, deprived of their own, ground down by the rich, and that the state will set all things right for them in time, what other effect can that teaching have on the character and energy of the ignorant than the complete destruction of all self-help? They think that they can have commodities that they have not helped to produce. They begin to believe that two and two make five . . .

“The danger of enervating results flowing from dependence on the state for help should cause us to restrict the interference of legislation as far as is possible, and should be permitted only when there is an absolute necessity, and even then it should be undertaken with hesitation.”

Laughlin added, “The right policy is a matter of supreme importance, and we should not like to see in our country the system of interference as exhibited in the paternal theory of government existing in France and Germany.”

Unfortunately, America did import the theory and policy of political paternalism from the collectivist trends then growing stronger in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Europe. They became the basis and rationale for a far bigger government in the United States beginning in the Progressive Era in the early decades of the twentieth century and accelerating in the New Deal days of the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s.They have continued ever since, up to our own time, under both Democrats and Republicans.

But the ideological wind is out of the sails of the interventionist welfare state. It continues to exist in America and indeed around the world not because most people really believe that government can solve all their ills and make a paradise on earth, but more out of pure political inertia due to a lack of rightly reasoned principles for a rebirth of a philosophy of individual rights that would logically lead to and necessitate a truly limited government.

Our task, however daunting it may seem at times, is to offer a new vision of a free society grounded in the concept of individual rights that can once again capture the excitement and confidence of our fellow citizens. When that is accomplished the size and cost of government, over time, will be reduced accordingly. And Americans will live in and value a far freer and more prosperous country.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

Time for Organic Activists to Stop Spreading Lies

April 30, 2014, 9:38 AM

Wouldn’t making it in America be easy if you could just pass laws to put your competition out of business? That’s precisely what’s being attempted by anti-GMO organic activists across America today. Rather than win one consumer at a time in the market, attempts are being made to either label foods containing genetically-modified ingredients like a pack of cigarettes, or to simply ban them outright.

For the campaign to ban GMOs outright, we turn to Dr. Lanita Witt, an organic farmer in Oregon. And for the campaign to label GMOs – in spite of the complete lack of evidence that they cause any harm to humans, animals or the environment – we turn to Senator David Zuckerman, an organic farmer and state legislator from Vermont.

Activists like Wit and Zuckerman never tire of pretending that genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) pose a threat to organic farms and the very health of the American public, citing “alarming impacts on industrial agriculture” along with concern “about the long-term health of our nation’s soils, water, flora and fauna.”

But, stop and think. If there was any chance whatsoever that GMO crops might put organic farmers like Wit and Zuckerman at risk, why didn’t organic stakeholders like Wit and Zuckerman say so in their standards for organic production? And why has there never been a single organic farmer who was de-certified, let alone faced disciplinary action, for alleged “contamination” of his crops by GMOs?

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) makes no mention whatsoever of GMOs contaminating or in any way undermining the organic integrity of organic crops. Full stop. Either people like Dr. Witt and Sen. Zuckerman are ignorant of the actual rules of organic production in America, or they are willfully ignoring federal laws on organic production that were written, edited and finalized by American organic stakeholders during the Clinton Administration.

There is no basis to Wit’s claim that GMO crops “put our family farmers at risk,” or that they endanger, as Zuckerman claims, the “health of our nation’s soils, water, flora and fauna.” In fact, such statements could very well be interpreted as defamatory being that they are based neither upon science nor, as mentioned, the very laws for organic production that organic stakeholders like Witt and Zuckerman helped write! Such statements are, at the very least, a form of false advertising for the tax-subsidized American organic movement.

The organic industry has grown exponentially over the very same time as the use of GMO crops on American farms has grown. So why lie and pretend GMOs pose some sort of risk? Clearly if there was any threat posed by GMOs to organic farming in America, the American organic industry wouldn’t today be worth more than all of Major League Baseball combined. If anything, it would appear that the existence of GMOs is good for the organic industry.

As Zuckerman himself admits, campaigns to force the labelling of GMO foods, alongside attempts to ban them outright, are “all, for lack of a better word, organic.” Ha ha — how droll, Mr. Zuckerman. But in all seriousness, is this really what being organic in America has come to mean? Attacking technologies that you disagree with?

The organic industry is really just a federal marketing system, as Clinton’s Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman stressed: “Let me be clear about one thing. The organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.”

On behalf of the hundreds-of-thousands of American farmers who choose to grow GMO crops, Dr. Witt and Sen. Zuckerman should stop spreading fear over this perfectly-safe and highly-beneficial form of agricultural technology.

Instead of attacking their competition with misguided and decidedly unscientific political gambits, Witt and Zuckerman should quietly return to tending to their organic crops, and stand on their own merit. Who knows? They might even enjoy not being so darn negative all the time.


[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Ben Carson: I Never Thought I Would Live Past Age 25

April 30, 2014, 1:29 AM

Dr. Benjamin Carson was the latest guest of The New York Group, which is run by Mallory Factor, a friend of The Heartland Institute via his “Shadowbosses” presenation and the Heartland Daily Podcast. If you haven’t bookmarked the New York Group site, do so. They have great guests who provide excellent conversations about proper and practical ways to think about our liberty.

In the latest discussion — which you can see below — Dr. Ben Carson talked in his opening remarks about he hated beign poor, how he rejected that mindset, how reading as a child pulled him away from povery, how he earned his way to Johns Hopkins, how innovated surgery, the immoral selfishness of a $17 trillion, national debt, how he refuses to “submit to the PC police,” how pop culture affects the lives of Americans in a negative way, and many more topics.

After his opening remarks, Carson took questions from a panel of intellectuals.

David Webb: Asked about education and Carson’s education scholarships. Carson talked abou the scholarship programs he gives to underprivileged kids, and why conservatives have to put “wheels” behind such privately funded programs.

Peggy Noonan: Asked what is the most misunderstood aspect about conservatism. Carson’s answer: The great compassion of conservatives — and, yes, even during the “robber baron” era.

James Taranto: Asked was the Supreme Court right to affirm a right to bear arms in DC, Chicago, and other urban settings? Carson says he has “evolved” on this over the years. People need to defend themselves. Full stop.

David Webb: Asked about Carson’s rough upbringing in Detroit. Carson answered: “God has a sense of humor” and turned the knives he was threatened with in his youth into the scalpels of his life as a surgeon.

Audience question: What about pop cultre? Carson said: I’ve spoken to the makers of pop culture and hip-hop. What if you told young ladies that if they get pregnant early, they end their education? And that’s a terrible thing. Put that message in your music.

There’s much more, including Carson’s urging for folks to visit: carsonscholars.org and SaveOurHealthcare.org

Watch  below:

Categories: On the Blog

Repeal Jones Act Before Exporting Oil

April 29, 2014, 10:17 PM

For the past 40 years, in response to the OPEC embargo of 1973, crude petroleum exports from the U.S. have been severely restricted. Back then, we referred to oil as “liquid gold” and felt we needed to hoard our limited supplies. But because of the “shale revolution,” U.S. oil output is at its highest level in more than 25 years. In 2013 alone, production jumped by more than 1 million barrels a day, and output is projected to jump another 1 million in 2014.

This newfound abundance has come primarily from the application of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the many shale plays currently under development, most notably the Eagle Ford in South Texas and the Bakken in North Dakota. In response, recent months have witnessed a virtual explosion of debate and commentary about the United States getting into the business of exporting crude oil.

Some politicians and pundits claim that exporting oil will divert us from the path toward “energy independence.” Others argue that exporting oil will weaken our energy security since we’re still a net importer. Still others claim that keeping domestic oil at home will help lower gasoline and diesel prices. These arguments are baseless.

What’s more, it’s hard to envision a political scenario that would result in our inability to import oil. Over the past year, we’ve seen political unrest in Iraq, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and other petroleum exporting countries, but there has been little change in oil prices.

But removing the ban on oil exports will be a pyrrhic victory for consumers unless the Jones Act is repealed as well. A section of The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act requires that any ship carrying goods or commodities in U.S. waters between U.S. ports be built, registered, owned and crewed by American citizens or permanent residents. Though originally intended to improve the nation’s maritime security, today the Jones Act is simply a form of protectionism for America’s shipping industry and seafaring unions.

More important, the Jones Act distorts the allocation of America’s crude oil resources, increases our dependence on imports, and drives up energy prices for businesses and households in the Northeast. For example, today we have a glut of “light sweet crude” being produced in the Eagle Ford play of South Texas because Gulf Coast refineries are geared principally to processing heavy grades of crude oil. Unfortunately, because there are no crude oil pipelines connecting the Gulf Coast to the Northeast, where most refineries are designed to process sweet crude, those facilities must rely on imported oil that is typically more expensive. East Coast refineries are also receiving light crude from the Bakken by rail tank car, a costly and risky way to move oil over long distances.

In theory, crude oil could be shipped by Jones Act tankers from the Gulf to the Northeast. But the cost would be prohibitive, about $4 per barrel. By contrast, shipping oil by foreign-flagged carriers would cost only about $1.20 per barrel.

Repealing the Jones Act would generate a broad range of economic benefits, not only for residents of the Northeast but for all Americans. Refineries on the East Coast would have access to cheaper domestically-produced crude oil, which would lower the cost of gasoline, diesel and fuel oil for households and businesses. The resulting drop in imported oil would enhance U.S.’ energy security while at the same time improving our balance-of-payments.

Boosting the demand for domestic oil will also help sustain the energy boom that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in recent years against the backdrop of a less-than-robust economic recovery from the Great Recession. Should repeal of the Jones Act be accompanied by, or followed by, the removal of restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports, the positive economic impacts would be magnified.

The U.S. has become a global energy powerhouse. Let’s start acting like one by removing anti-competitive and anti-growth relics like the Jones Act and the ban on crude oil exports.

[First published at the San Antonio Express-News.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Experts React to Supreme Court Ruling on EPA Air Pollution Rule

April 29, 2014, 9:43 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled 6–2 to affirm the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability via the so-called “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule” to regulate power-plant emissions when those emissions have the potential to hurt downwind air-quality. The ruling in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation will affect about 1,000 power plants in 28 states.

The following statements from environment policy and legal experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org.

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“Through geographical luck, emissions from East Coast states like Connecticut and Massachusetts drift over the Atlantic Ocean where there are no states demanding abatement or compensation. Then, hypocritically, these same East Coast states complain about emissions crossing into their state borders from upwind states. EPA is all too happy to take advantage of these hypocritical complaints as an excuse to expand the agency’s power through new rules and restrictions.

“It is a shame that the U.S. Supreme Court continues to empower EPA to issue nonsensical interpretations of statutes with the primary goal of amassing more money and power.”

James M. Taylor
Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy
The Heartland Institute
jtaylor@heartland.org

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“The Supreme Court’s ruling is very unfortunate. The justices are not scientists at any level and cannot imagine how totally unscientific, and in fact erroneous, are the EPA standards required for air quality. If they held a modicum of reasonableness from a scientific standpoint, the court’s decision would not be terrible. The dispersion of chemicals in the air is such that at any reasonable distance that could be harmful to human health — a few hundred yards away — is clearly innocuous a few miles away.

“The justices optimistically believe that EPA knows what it is doing. Actually, the EPA does know what it is doing — which is to do the bidding of environmental extremists who wish at every level to stifle economic progress in the name of public health.

“It is a sad state of affairs that the extreme alarmists, without a scientific leg to stand on, are winning for now. Hopefully, the day will come when an administration will fill EPA with scientists instead of anti-progress greens.”

Jay Lehr
Science Director
The Heartland Institute
jlehr@heartland.org

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“Clean air and clean water are, of course, good things, but so are constitutional government and the rule of law. Agree or disagree with today’s decision, it is probably best encapsulated by some thoughts from the first and last paragraphs of Justice Scalia’s dissent:

“ ‘Too many important decisions of the Federal Government are made nowadays by unelected agency officials exercising broad lawmaking authority, rather than by the people’s representatives in Congress. With the statute involved in the present cases, however, Congress did it right. … EPA’s utterly fanciful ‘from each according to its ability’ construction sacrifices democratically adopted text to bureaucratically favored policy. Addressing the problem of interstate pollution in the manner Congress has prescribed … is a complex and difficult enterprise. But ‘[r]egardless of how serious the problem an administrative agency seeks to address, . . . it may not exercise its authority’ in a manner that is inconsistent with the administrative structure that Congress enacted into law.’ Brown & Williamson, 529 U. S., at 125 (quoting ETSI Pipeline Project v. Missouri, 484 U. S. 495, 517 (1988)).’ ”

David L. Applegate
Policy Advisor, Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
media@heartland.org

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“April seems to be the month in which the Supreme Court devotes itself to decisions that have no basis in real science and can do maximum damage to the economy. Invariably, the cases are brought by the Environmental Protection Agency and are decided in its favor.

“In April 2007, the court decided that carbon dioxide, the second most essential gas for all life on the planet was a ‘pollutant,’ the definition the EPA had applied to it in order to regulate it. Now comes word that the court had concluded that the EPA may regulate power-plant emissions that blow across state lines as per a 2011 regulation, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

“Not content to put nearly 150 or more coal-fired power plants out of commission, the court’s rule now gives the EPA authority to do the same thing to about a thousand power plants in the eastern half of the U.S. that will have to adopt new pollution controls or reduce operations.

“In effect, the court has just agreed to a regulation that represents a major increase in the cost of electricity in 28 states. The EPA’s claims that this will save lives they attribute to the alleged pollution is as bogus as all the rest of their justifications, the purpose of which is to undermine the nation’s economy in every way it can.”

Alan Caruba
Founder, The National Anxiety Center
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
acaruba@aol.com

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The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

Categories: On the Blog

Two Cheers for Illinois Taxpayers!

April 29, 2014, 1:55 PM

Monday, April 28, 2014, purportedly marked Tax Freedom Day for Illinois taxpayers.

Coming thirteen days after state and federal income tax returns were initially due, Tax Freedom Day, according to the Illinois Policy Institute’s Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst Benjamin VanMetre,  marks the point in the year when Illinoisans have worked long and hard enough in the aggregate to cover their share of state, federal and local taxes “and can start keeping their hard-earned money.”  About a third of Illinois residents’ efforts this year – 118 days’ worth out of the calendar year’s 365, in other words – went just to paying taxes.

Like all statistics, though, even if technically accurate, this one is misleading.

Due to differences in income, home ownership, and spending habits, no two Illinois taxpayers likely pay the same percentage of their income in taxes.  (Put otherwise, no “average taxpayer” actually exists.)  Low-income renters pay relatively (and nominally) less in income and property taxes and possibly relatively more (but nominally less) in sales taxes.  High-income homeowners likely pay both relatively and absolutely more in income and property taxes and possibly relatively less (but nominally more) in sales taxes.  They aren’t likely simply to average out.  Many people pay a whole lot more, and thus effectively longer.

As in the federal system, a relatively smaller number of higher-income working individuals pays a disproportionate share of total taxes.  These taxes fund not only reasonably necessary government services but also wealth-transfer programs including pensions to former state officials, teachers, and other public employees who once arguably provided government services but no longer do so.  A relatively larger number of lower-income taxpayers pays a smaller percentage of total taxes and, in some cases, receives net payments from the government, therefore being effectively taxed at a negative tax rate.

Putting aside for a moment how their money is spent, things are about to get worse for Illinois taxpayers.  The – ahem! cough!  cough! – “temporary” 67% increase in the state’s flat rate income tax of a couple of years ago from 3% to 5% of adjusted gross income is about to take one of two directions:  a drop to a flat 3.75% effective January 1, 2015 – still 25% higher than its 3% predecessor – or, more likely, a change to a “progressive” income tax system for persons who earn income in Illinois.

The “progressive” tax increase being sold as a solution to Illinois’ increasingly desperate financial straits is likely only to exacerbate them.  If enacted, it would decrease the Illinois income tax rate from the scheduled reduced 3.75% to 2.9% of adjusted gross income only for those making the pathetically small amount of $12,500 per year or less; increase the rate to 4.9% for those making up to $180,00 per year; and hike the rate on those above $180,000 to 6.9%.

Why 2.9% and 4.9% instead of 3% and 5%, respectively?  Because that way the politicians in Springfield can cynically claim they’ve “reduced” tax rates for a majority of Illinois taxpayers even though everyone making over $12,500 per year in Illinois will be paying more than they were three years ago.  (Those in the 4.9% bracket will pay 63.33% more than they did before the “temporary” tax increase, and the fortunate few earning over $180,000 will pay nearly two-and-a-third times as much.)

Fortunately, this proposal would require an amendment to the Illinois constitution, and is drawing fire even from some perhaps unlikely quarters like the teachers’ unions.   Still, don’t be surprised to see some sort of personal income tax increase in Illinois come 2015, even as the state continues to refuse to rein in wasteful spending.

On second thought, make that only one cheer for Illinois taxpayers.

Categories: On the Blog