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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Obama Administration Wants to Party on the Internet Like It’s 1934

July 01, 2014, 10:37 AM

Eighty years ago.  The depths of the Great Depression.  Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt blindly flailing around, throwing ever more government-centric “solutions” at the growing list of problems.  Each new centrally-planned effort making matters worse – and the Depression last longer.

Remember, Ladies and Gentlemen, Hideki Tojo ended the Depression – FDR elongated it by more than a decade.

Begat in all of this failed government uber-action was the Communications Act of 1934.  The anniversary of which current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheelerjust decided to celebrate.

Eighty years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Communications Act of 1934, creating the FCC – so whats Chairman Tom Wheeler doing?  Hes throwing a party for all the past FCC chairs, commissioners and key staff.

We’ll move past the fact that the Barack Obama Administration is commemorating the creation of a now ridiculously overreaching entity that a great many people – including a former Commissioner or two – think should no longer exist.

Because there’s an even more bizarre dis-honorarium potentially afoot.  Chairman Wheeler is contemplating applying the woefully antiquated regulations of the 1934 Act – to the ultra-modern, state-of-the-art, constantly-evolving Internet.

In other words – the Chairman is considering Title II Reclassification of the the World Wide Web.

FCC’s Tom Wheeler Says He’ll Ask For Public Comment On Whether It’s Appropriate To Reclassify Broadband 


Putting it up front and center, and asking for public comment on the use of Title II reclassification (which would make broadband providers subject to common carrier rules) is a big deal. Wheeler…stated that he’s really committed to this….

Because the Chairman wants to party like it’s 1934.  Because certainly law and regulations written eighty years ago are apt and easily applicable to the 2014 fast-forward Web, right?

Why does Chairman Wheeler want to go back to the future – without the future part?  Because in true failed FDR fashion – he wants to throw a gi-normous government “solution” at a non-existent problem.

As an entrepreneur who started companies that offered new programs and services to cable companies, I was subject to being blocked from access to cable networks….

 Note the lawyerly wording – Wheeler was “subject to being blocked.”  Because he never actually was blocked.  No one ever has been.  Even the most ardent Title II Reclassification proponents begrudgingly admitted that.  To fix that factual problem, the Left warped and broadened beyond all recognition their definition of what “blocking” is.

To a very large extent, this experience has been the backbone of my long-time support for the Open Internet.

Note the lawyerly phrase change – “Open Internet” rather than Network Neutrality (NN).  Because we Internet defenders have now rightly defined Net Neutrality – so they had to come up with an alternative term.

Chairmen Wheeler’s Internet Reclassification Party will be very sparsely attended.  Most of even the most ardent of Leftists have long thought it to be aterrible idea.

302 members of Congress said No – a large bipartisan majority.

So did more than 150 organizations, state legislators and bloggers.

Seventeen minority groups (that are usually almost always in Democrat lockstep).

And many additional normally Democrat paragons.  Including several large unions:

&#8226  AFL-CIO

&#8226  Communications Workers of America (CWA)

&#8226  International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

Several racial grievance groups:

&#8226  League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

&#8226  Minority Media and Telecom Council (MMTC)

&#8226  National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

&#8226  Urban League 


And an anti-free market environmentalist group 


&#8226  Sierra Club

 So when you add in that we already know this:

Net Neutrality: The Kid Sitting By Himself in the High School Cafeteria

Is it any wonder that that kid’s dorkier, slower, fatter big brother – Title II Reclassification – is going to throw a party and no one is going to come?

The companies that have already invested trillions of dollars to build the Internet into the free speech-free market Xanadu we all know and love – certainly won’t attend.  They’ll take their massive coin and find much less inhospitable places to invest it.

And where will that leave us Web users?  Staring at Chairman Wheeler in his strap-on pointy hat – playing Pong on his Commodore ’34.

And praying for 28K dial-up.

Categories: On the Blog

Thorner and O’Neil: Part 2 – Surge as a Politically Opportune Moment?

July 01, 2014, 9:39 AM

Our current immigration rules outline acceptable reasons for border agents to follow, when deciding whether undocumented aliens can cross into the United States. What has and is continuing to happen with the unprecedented 60,000 currently asking for entry is an example of how our laws are being violated by “gaming the system”. The aliens were given a “cheat sheet” (see above), which has been found at the border, with prepared instructions on how to answer designated questions asked by border agents how to provide the right answers, which will in turn guarantee them entry.  One of the more important questions they are being asked is their reason for wanting to leave their country of origin.  The aliens were told to claim it was due to poverty and/or fear of their government or gangs. Those answers are the “triggers” or the “loop holes” in our immigration law, which were originally written and intended for specific purposes (such as preventing sex trafficking) and certainly not for qualifying half the world’s population for entry into America.

If this loophole is not quickly corrected, we can expect a steady stream of immigrants to invade our country, creating a disaster we are not equipped to handle, and which our established immigration law was enacted to avoid. There are some concerned that within a short period of time, the parents of these children will be allowed to join their children under family unification. We certainly suspect others who see the success of the masses already here, will be eager to try the plan themselves. Quick action to shore up the loopholes, and resolve this problem is required by our government, or the precedent created will cause great harm to America.

It has been suggested that President Obama and his “no borders supporters” might perceive this increase in child immigrants to be a politically opportune moment.  President Obama has pushed Congress to act on long-stalled proposals to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, and he has indicated the changes would ease requirements for illegals to gain citizenship.   Should immigration reform pass, the flood of those invading the U.S. will become even more massive, as the hope of amnesty entices them to make the difficult trip north.  That phenomena happened when President Reagan granted amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants in 1986.   Although closing the border was stipulated in that 1986 bill, the border security promise never kept.

While President Obama advocates for amnesty, it appears there are already those in place who will protest increased border security.  An Obama-appointed judge has recently ruled that a fence protecting the border is discriminatory against minorities!  Sadly, some in our judicial system are more concerned with citizens from other countries then they are in protecting our own.  According to liberals, sealing the border is bigoted and racist.  Apparently that opinion allows them to disregard our immigration laws and previous agreements to secure the border.   Agreements and promises are ignored, and the unprecedented onslaught continues.

For those who put compassion above all else, they should consider the dangers of transporting unattended children so far without their parents.  Some die before reaching their destination, due to the multitude of dangers they encounter.   Also, it is important that we discover who set up and financed those dangerous trips. Most parents were obviously not in a position to do so, and if they did do so, how then can the child claim poverty.  The costs of   How did they get through Mexico without passports and the right papers?  Mexico has much more stringent rules about authenticated passports. Yet, they breezed through Mexico.  There is much more to this story that we do not yet know, indicating serious mischief by top officials.  We are learning that these children rode what are called death trains, where it is common to jump on top of moving trains, and then struggle with hunger, illness and exposure to the elements as they ride a train 3,000 miles to our border.  Worse yet, Sen. Ted Cruz said the children are being placed in ‘unspeakable’ peril when the traffickers, known as ‘coyotes,’ take over. ‘We just heard stories of little boys and little girls, forced by these drug dealers to cut off the fingers or cut off the ears of other little boys and little girls, in order to extort money from their families,’ Cruz said – See more at:

Who will step forward with inconvenient facts?

Another problem not being discussed is that agents are now being pulled away from their patrol stations elsewhere along the border, resulting in dangerous gaps in coverage, and thus allowing drug traffickers to exploit the situation.   While we are caring for citizens here illegally from other countries, we are harming American citizens by inadvertently allowing an increase of illegal drug supplies and criminals into our country.

Will this tragedy be just one more example of a liberal media effectively protecting the Obama administration from the full extent of a White House involvement?  Will they turn this horrendous situation into some kind of a humanitarian effort in which our government is to be applauded?  Too often the “spin” effectively hides important facts with irrelevant fluff.  Will the media investigate or sufficiently explore the impact this mass immigration will have on our population, such as the exorbitant costs to taxpayers who will now be responsible for the immigrants’ expenses, their education, their very lives?

Will the use of this immigration crisis open the door to universal citizenship for illegal aliens

There are good reasons for our immigration laws; they protect our citizens.  Our porous southern border is harming Americans due to the importation of drugs, sex trafficking, criminals, and contagious illnesses, including one known case of swine flu in San Antonio, directly linked to the border surge.

What is not being discussed is that due to the unprecedented number of immigrants in America, our Country’s demographics are changing too.  One example of America’s future can be seen in what has happened in Santa Ana, CA, which is the county seat of Orange County.  Fifty years ago Hispanics made up barely 15% of Santa Ana’s population, which were mostly farm workers.  Today, Hispanics make up 79% of Santa Ana’s population and Whites now are a mere 10%.  If the current lack of immigration enforcement continues, Santa Ana will not be an exception.

Democrat officials have done very little to stop this invasion by illegals, which many attribute to the fact Hispanics vote for Democrat candidates by large percentages.  It has been said that Democrats don’t see people, they see voters. Republicans see overcrowded classrooms, higher taxes to support the massive welfare programs needed to support them, and cultural changes due to the problem Hispanics do not assimilate.  They remain loyal to their birth country, and send much of their money to Mexican relatives.  Santa Ana schools have even used Mexican textbooks in their classes; books that are favorable to Mexico, not the United States.

The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBPO) made some interesting observations about the border crisis, saying:  “Congress must take immediate action to protect our homeland from this invasion. The orchestrated surge exposes a crises in leadership which by design fosters lawlessness which is bound to end in anarchy. The humanitarian issue is a false argument put forth by the administration which is very likely the reason the administration will not allow interviews of the minors by the press.  The administration does not want the truth to get out.  The truth would dispel the deception.  Whatever America does, whatever NAFBPO does, should protect American and Americans first to the maximum extent possible.  That means consequences for the lawbreakers to stop the invasion and return the invaders to their home country.  Period!  Anything less is political posturing.”  Possibly their most potent statement was this: “America is undergoing the most intensive campaign of political deception ever launched against Americans by her political leaders.” 

It is incomprehensible why all of America isn’t absolutely demanding that all the children be returned to authorities in their home country, and stop this potential precedent that has more potential to harm instead of help America.  They should not just be returned to their parents, but to their respective government officials so that they will have the burden of and responsibility for locating parents and reuniting these families. No asylum, no amnesty, no sheltering them in our cities.  This is a critical national security issue.  We urge all concerned citizens to ask their Congressional representatives to take immediate action to protect our homeland from this invasion, by demanding this of their elected officials.

University of California Professor Darrell Y. Hamamoto, a Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis, warned on June 25 that “the influx of illegal immigrants into the United States through mass uncontrolled illegal immigration is part of a plan to create a new underclass of people who can be re-educated from the ground up in order to create a subservient underclass who can be controlled much more easily.”

Hamamoto’s warning is noteworthy given his position at one of the most liberal institutions in the United States. He has received backlash from his vocal stance against the mass influx of unaccompanied children across the border.  Even so Professor Hamamoto’s concerns are so profound that he has had no reservations in going public.

Many concerned citizens are recognizing another potential aspect of the recent wave of “Unaccompanied Alien Children”, claiming it is one more application of the left’s long-championed Cloward Piven strategy, which has been used multiple times in the past to accomplish liberal goals.  It has been suggested that Obama is using the hordes of unaccompanied children sent to our southern border as pawns to implement his goal of universal citizenship for illegal immigrants, by referencing the intentionally created crisis as a humanitarian one.

The big question which everyone must consider is whether the liberal’s goal to help other country’s citizens will be realized or whether American citizens will refuse to be influenced by emotions, and instead be motivated by logic and wisdom.  America is $17 trillion in debt, with a myriad of problems that will take great efforts to correct, including security concerns and continuous problems with a significant jobless rate and homeless population.  Close to 50 percent of Americans are on some type of financial assistance program.  We simply cannot take on the “needy” of this world, without soon suffering a similar fate ourselves.

Thorner & O’Neil: Part 1: Surge of immigrants: humanitarian issue or political deception?

[Originally published at Illinois Review]


Categories: On the Blog

Overreaching federal government makes strong men weak

June 30, 2014, 2:07 PM

I saw tears in the eyes of ranchers. These were tough men; men who could scrape a good living out of the rock and tumbleweeds in the harsh New Mexico deserts. But when asked about passing on the ranch to their children, a ranch that may have been in the family for generations, eyes grew moist, jaws quivered, and grown men became so choked up they couldn’t speak.

Carolyn Nelson, who teaches kindergarten through third grade in a one-room school house in Catron County, New Mexico, while her husband handles their ranch, held the camera crew spellbound as she told her story. She stated: “The federal government has taken away jobs; they’ve taken away hope. Shame on them.”

I spent two days with a film crew from the For the Record (FTR) television show that airs on Glen Beck’s Blaze TV.

A year ago, FTR did a show on border security. For the “Borderless” episode, the
crew met with ranchers in southern Arizona’s Cochise County. After working with the ranchers there, when Nevada’s Bundy Ranch story broke earlier this year, the producers knew there was more to the story. Why would people from all over the West show up, en masse, to help defend a rancher they’d never met, against the excessive force of the Bureau of Land Management? For answers, the FTR crew reached out to the friends they’d made in Arizona, who steered The Blaze team to Joe Delk New Mexico.

The team spent three days in New Mexico—June 23-25. I was with them for two.

My first day was spent in the blazing sun on Steve Wilmeth’s Butterfield Trail Ranch. After an hour’s drive from Las Cruces, that included interstate highway, dirt roads, and rocky cow trails, we gathered on a bluff overlooking arid land dotted with cattle. The Organ Mountains, the subject of Tuesday’s shoot, could be seen in the distance.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. I cited numbers such as the 600,000 acres the monument encompasses when the private property is included; 1906 when the Antiquities Act—which allowed President Obama to sign the national monument proclamation—became law; and 95—the number of families who’d receive direct negative impacts from the designation. Now the numbers had faces. I heard their stories. I saw the tears. I felt their pain.

What surprised me the most was the vastness of the space. Even though we could barely see the Organ Mountains, and we’d driven miles on a combination of private and federal lands, this distant locale was still part of the “monument.”

Many of these ranchers’ families had cared for this land for generations—long before the federal government claimed it. They had an “allotment”—meaning they owned the right to graze their cattle on the, now, federal lands. Most ranches contained a mix of private lands and allotments. Yet, with one stroke of a pen, and talk of protecting a distant mountain, their property, their livelihood, is threatened.

Each rancher interviewed by FTR, had already seen friends give up and quit as a result of the increasing federal regulations that made it harder and harder to support their families and the families of the ranch hands—and harder and harder to feed America the quality beef they raised on their lands. The new National Monument designation was just one more layer that may be the last straw. Though the final management plan for the monument will take years, each impacted ranch faces uncertainty as to how it will be affected. But they know the history, and they know it won’t be good.

Each story was powerful. But, perhaps, the most compelling was that of Jim and Seth Hyatt. The father and son work together on the ranch. Jim was interviewed first. He told about the ranch history—the Hyatt family has ranched in the area continuously since the 1890s—and about the joy of working with his son and passing the ranch on. Next, came his son Seth, who shared how the ranch was in his blood. His brother, he said, didn’t take to it. He lives in Dallas. Then Haize, Seth’s two-year-old son—wearing cowboy boots and hat, and jeans held up with a belt and a big silver buckle—climbed up into his dad’s lap. (When I commented on Haize’s cowboy outfit, I was corrected: “That’s not a cowboy outfit; that’s how he dresses every day.”) Seth turned somber when he told how he’d like to teach ranching to his son, like his dad did for him, but now, because of the monument designation, that was in doubt.

Wes Eaton, was the youngest rancher. His family had ranched for most of his life on the other side of the mountains in Carlsbad. A year ago, an opportunity came up for him to manage a ranch. He jumped at the chance.  However, a large portion of the ranch falls within the monument designation. He doesn’t know whether or not he’ll be able to continue to live his dream.

These ranchers spent eight years going to meetings, providing public comment, doing studies—anything they could to stave off the proposed monument; eight years where they were distracted from their actual job of ranching. All for naught.

When asked if they felt their government listened, the answer was universal. Not only did they feel unheard, they were confident that the goal was to drive them off the land.

Each rancher interviewed on Tuesday faces imminent expulsion as a result the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. On Wednesday, the villain was different, but the end game was the same.

The recording session started on Wednesday with Catron County Commissioners Glyn Griffin and “Bucky” Allred. In Catron County, they don’t have a monument designation, but ranchers in the region were being chased out by the reintroduction of the Mexican grey wolf—which the Fish and Wildlife Service, cooperating with environmental groups, insisted on bringing back to the region despite the direct threat they pose to humans and livestock. Both commissioners talked about the declining tax base in Catron County and how hard it was to provide basic services to residents.

Griffin talked about feeling as if he were fighting his own government. Allred said: “Our towns are dying because of the federal governmental agencies and the gang green organizations.” He continued: “I call them gang green because they are like a poison, a death.”

Both pointed out how listing the spotted owl, as an endangered species, had caused economic devastation in Catron County. Logging was stopped and family sawmills were shut down. Next, came the wolf reintroduction—promoted by the Center for Biological Diversity—which has made ranching even harder.

Paul Decker has spent his entire life in livestock, but he said: “It’s been especially tough the past five years in Catron County since dealing with the wolf issue.” Decker told The Blaze producers that the ranch he manages is 20,000 acres. In the past five years, they’ve lost 150-175 calves due to the wolves that need ten pounds of meat a day to survive. In ranching, Decker explained, there is one payday a year when the calves are sold for about $1000 each. If the wolves kill 50 percent of your calves, you lose 50 percent of your pay. But there’s more. Many cows have lost several calves. They fight off the wolves and try to protect their babies, but the wolves win. Some cows are so emotionally shattered by their babies being eaten by the wolves, they become stressed and won’t breed. Ranchers who kill a wolf threatening their livestock on an allotment, face huge fines and may go to jail.

If a wolf attacks a calf on private land, it can be killed—but the rancher had better hope that there is evidence. The calf needs to have teeth marks as proof of the attempt. Even then, the family protecting their property faces months of stressful investigation where they are assumed guilty until proven innocent.

One couple told about shooting a wolf on their private property. They are required to report the wolf’s presence to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) within 24 hours—but they called a lawyer first. Apparently, news of the shooting was leaked from the FWS to the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife. Threats from animal rights activists were posted online: “When I find out who did this, I’m going to shoot his kids.”

Others told about their children encountering wolves in their yards and at their schools. Children waiting for the school bus in Catron County sit in a cage to protect them from the wolves.

Once the ranchers give up, wealthy people buy the property as a “retreat” or hobby ranch that they visit a few times a year—further hurting the tax base.

Ranchers in Catron County who are actually trying to earn a living, like those within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument designation, feel that they are being chased off the land; that environmental groups want to turn the entire region into a “wilderness area”—without human beings. They feel bullied by the U.S. Forest Service and the FWS, who are being driven by fear of lawsuit from the environmental groups. They feel their government doesn’t listen, doesn’t care.

It turns out, what these ranchers are feeling is real. Environmental groups do want them off the land—them and their cattle. The effort is called theWildlands Network. The ranchers are quick to point out how they protect the land and how the deer and the elk are present because of the water and infrastructure they put in place for the livestock. “If you don’t take care of the land, the land won’t take care of you,” was a frequently heard sentiment.

Jerry Schickedanz, Dean Emeritus of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University, told me: “The environmental groups subscribe to the idea that natural ecosystem are superior to human altered ones. Anything man has been involved in is considered to be degraded and they have pushed the idea that human alteration is a bad thing—all humans, and evidence of humans, must be removed. I see this ideology as the underpinning of the Wildlands Network.”

Is there any hope for these ranchers? Are they destined to be bullied by the federal agencies and the environmental groups or can they continue to ranch the lands of their forefathers? Stories like those I heard along with The Blaze team are what prompted the level of outrage at government overreach expressed at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada. It wasn’t about Bundy; it was about bullying.

Allred believes they must fight for the transfer of federal lands to the states as was originally planned by the Enabling Act. He shook his head as he sighed: “We’ve become the weakest generation.”

Last week, I, too, would have sighed. But that was before the Supreme Court shot down the Obama Administration for its overreach. Perhaps House Speaker John Boehner can include these land abuses in his lawsuit against the Administration for its abuses of executive power. We can hope the Supreme Court would hand down its decision before the good folks I met are chased from their family ranches.


The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

Categories: On the Blog

Why a New Constitutional Convention

June 30, 2014, 10:15 AM

The federal government has been expanding for decades.  More laws, more spending, more regulations.  More executive actions and judicial decisions that enlarge the role of government. Everybody knows this, but nothing is done about it. Why?  Because the corrections cannot be made under the system that now exists.  If they could, they’d have been made before now instead of successively adding to the problems. The system has been corrupted to facilitate growing the problems rather than solving them.  Sending new faces to Washington will not correct the problems; the system itself must be corrected.

Take the problem of balancing the budget. In 1978 Congress enacted a law sponsored by Sen. Harry F. Byrd that stated: “Beginning with fiscal year 1981, the total budget outlays of the Federal Government shall not exceed it receipts.” What happened? Nothing

Then there was the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, officially titled the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.  It was supposed to balance the budget gradually over six years through a series of spending cuts.  Six years later the deficit was larger than before.

Now there are several members of Congress talking about another balanced budget act.  That is a waste of time. It would be no more effective than the two I have just mentioned.  Congress isn’t bound by laws of previous Congresses.  It can change them whenever it wants.  It doesn’t even need to go through the formality of changing a law or repealing it.  All it needs to do is pass a bill that doesn’t obey the law—and that then becomes the law.  So legislators can get credit for passing a budget-limiting bill when that is politically popular, and then quietly ignore it when spending benefits their reelections.  This is why a balanced-budget amendment must be produced by a new constitutional convention called for by the states, as specified in Article V of the Constitution.

Another example is earmarks, by which federal politicians obtain political benefits by specifying local pet projects in appropriation bills.  After public outrage over wasteful budget items like the infamous “bridge to nowhere,” Congress agreed to ban earmarks in 2011.  Now, however, there is a movement afoot to bring them back.  That is why earmarks must be eliminated by a constitutional amendment.  Senator Tom Coborn, who is opposed to earmarks, says the pro-earmarks movement includes lawmakers on both sides of the isle.

Another much-needed amendment would require the dollar to be backed by gold.  Obviously Congress would never pass such an amendment because it would drastically reduce government spending.  So this, too, would have to be an amendment produced by a new constitutional convention.

The above amendments, along with several others, are discussed in my book The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold.  I’m not going to recite all the others here, but I do want to mention one more.  We need a constitutional amendment reaffirming that the federal government has no power for any purpose not specified in its enumerated powers in the Constitution.  For instance, there is no mention of agriculture anywhere in the powers granted to the federal government; therefore, according to the Tenth Amendment, any such power was reserved to the states or the people. The fact that this plain language has not been honored by Congress, the Supreme Court or the executive branch makes it necessary to correct this situation with another constitutional amendment as I have described.

Jefferson observed that government always has a tendency to expand.  Here’s how the unconstitutional assigning of federal authority to agriculture led to its expansion far beyond agriculture.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture  has about 93,000 employees in the U.S. (not counting USDA employees in foreign countries), but only about 25 percent of them are engaged in farm programs.  The rest are involved in such far-ranging activities as electric power production, telecommunications businesses, commercial loans, rent subsidies for housing projects, forestry management, economic research, and subsidized food and nutrition programs, such as school lunches and food stamps.  The food stamp program cost $550 million in 1979, $56 billion in 2009, and $80 billion in 2014.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court precedent for empowering government to intervene in agriculture was not limited to the USDA.  Other federal agencies enjoyed the extension of the same power.  According to the Government Accountability Office, the federal government in 2009 had six different agencies operating “about” 26 separate food and nutrition programs in the U.S.  As of October 20, 2011, the USDA even had more than 90 foreign offices covering 154 countries.

Is Congress or the USDA going to cut back the federal role in so-called “agriculture”?  Of course not.  The agency’s role has grown with every possible excuse that could even remotely be somehow connected to the word “agriculture.”  The same thing has been happening in other fields outside the enumerated powers delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.  William A. Niskanen, a former assistant director of the Office of Management and Budget and member of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, has noted most of [federal spending]was for programs for which there is no explicit constitutional authority.” (Italics added.)

Thus we need another constitutional convention.  Article V of the Constitution provides that Congress “on the application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments,” which shall then require ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Categories: On the Blog

What Economic Recovery?

June 30, 2014, 10:06 AM

You have to know that the Obama administration has run out of excuses for destroying the U.S. economy when it starts to blame it on the weather.

According to the Commerce Department, the economy based on its Gross domestic product–the value of its goods and services–fell at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9% in the first quarter of this year. That was the largest recorded drop since the end of World War II in 1945!

The June 20 edition of The Wall Street Journal’s article, “Economy Shrank Rapidly in First Quarter” led off by reporting that “Weather disruptions at home and weak demand abroad caused a contraction in the U.S. economy in the first quarter, renewing doubts about the strength of the nation’s five-year-old recovery.”

What recovery? When the economy stays in the basement for five years you are looking at an on-going stagnation based on too much government interference with growth, the decline of the nation’s middle class, the lack of new start-up businesses, and the reluctance or inability of consumers to spend money, if they have any to spend.

In May, writing on his blog, Economic Collapse, Michael Synder pointed to “27 Hugh Red Flags for the U.S. Economy” noting, for example, that according to government numbers, “everyone is unemployed in 20 percent of all American families.” The other indicators include:

# Sales for construction equipment were down 13% in April and have been down for 17 months in a row.

# During the first quarter of 2014, profits at the office supplies giant, Staples, fell by 43.5%

# Foot traffic at Wal-Mart stores fell by 1.4% during the first quarter of 2014.

# It is being projected that Sears will soon close hundreds more stores and may go out of business altogether.

# Existing home sales have fallen for seven of the last eight months and seem to repeating a pattern witnessed back in 2007 prior to the last financial crash.

# The home ownership rate in the U.S. has dropped to the lowest level in 19 years.

You do not have to be an economist to understand that President Obama’s economic policies are flat-out failures that include a “stimulus” that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars without stimulating the economy, nor that having a $17 trillion debt means anything other than a nation teetering on a massive economic collapse.

In May, CNSnews reported that “A record 92,594,000 Americans were not in the labor force in April as the labor force participation rate matched a 36-year low of 62.8 percent, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

This is not my definition of a “recession” although we are told that it ended in 2009. This is a “depression” for millions of Americans. The labor force participation rate has gone from 63.5% to 63.3%, the lowest since 1979, but the Obama administration keeps telling us that it is “improving.”

Consumer spending is down. Exports are down. Employment is barely increasing. The only thing that is up is inflation.

Edward C. Prescott, a 2004 Nobel Laureate in Economics and Lee E. Ohanian, a professor of economics UCLA, writing in the June 26 edition of The Wall Street Journal, noted that the declining GDP rate was “the worst productivity statistic since 1990. And productivity since 2005 has declined by more than 8% relative to its long-run trend. This means that business output is nearly $1 trillion less today than what it would be had productivity continued to grow at its average rate of about 2.5% per year.”

“Lagging productivity growth is an enormous problem because virtually all of the increase in Americans’ standard of living is made possible by rising worker productivity.”

The Obama administration would have you believe that the economic decline in the first quarter was due to a harsh winter. They will be blaming it on a hot summer come autumn.

This is an administration whose main theme these days is the threat of “climate change”, but it has nothing to do with the climate and everything to do with vast government spending and borrowing, an explosion of regulations that have slowed or stopped the creation of new businesses, a “war on coal” that is forcing a decline in the production of electricity, and a widespread perception that the President is the worst to have held office since the nation began.

There is no recovery. There is a return to the factors that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that bought up all the sub-prime mortgage loans and packaged them as assets are still in business. Credit card companies are reaching out to sub-prime users, signing them up. Nobody seems to learn anything from the past, even if it is the recent past.

If the control of the U.S. Senate cannot be wrested away from a Democratic Party led by Harry Reid and a GOP increase in the U.S. House that was led by Nancy Pelosi until the 2010 elections cannot be achieved in the forthcoming November elections, the President’s continued attack on the economy—which includes a massive increase in illegal immigration—the nation’s economy will remain tenuous.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Thorner & O’Neil: Part 1: Surge Of Immigrants- Humanitarian Issue Or Political Deception?

June 30, 2014, 9:38 AM

Since October of last year 52,000 – 60,000 unaccompanied children have arrived at our border with Mexico with an expectation of being allowed into our country. They came mostly from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador, based on information they received promising America had relaxed their immigration laws and if they managed to reach our borders, they would be allowed entry, especially the children.

Among the hundreds of children apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol it is alarming that some were infants and toddlers, but also that the average age was about fourteen, and many of them were in the unaccompanied category. Shocking images have been captured of young faces pressed blankly up against thick glass panes and hundreds of children huddled under aluminum-foil blankets on concrete floors behind chain fences and barbed wire. Obviously, the pictures tear at our hearts, and cause us to think emotionally about the situation, rather than with rational logic. Could that be the intent of those who helped initiate the mass immigration we are seeing?

Few deny it has become a crisis of epic proportions, as immigration officials and their facilities have been overwhelmed with the flood of arrivals. They are taxed with finding equitable ways to manage the unprecedented invasion. But many questions remain as to how all this happened, why it happened, and what our government plans to do about the problem now, as well as long term solutions.

Resettlement rather that Deportation

It is perceived that the Obama administration’s plan is more about resettlement than deportation for the unaccompanied migrant children. Therefore, it is important for everyone to examine current laws that have been enacted on the subject. The current crisis involves a massive amount of children who are coming from Central America, rather than Mexico. That makes a difference in procedures. Central American children must be taken into US custody, while Mexicans of any age can be turned back at the border. This is the result of a series of laws passed by Congress and signed by President Obama that set in place a particular process for unaccompanied child migrants, as a way of fighting human trafficking. These laws reinforced a 1997 government lawsuit settlement that set certain standards for care.

Most of this process was codified by Congress under the Homeland Security Act of 2002; Congress added some additional protections under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, in 2008.

Under those laws, the Border Patrol is required to take child migrants who aren’t from Mexico into custody, screen them, and transfer them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (a part of the Department of Health and Human Services), which is tasked with either finding a suitable relative with whom the child can be released, or putting the child in long-term foster care. The current system was built for 8,000 kids — not 50,000. There are not beds in HHS facilities to handle the number of Central Americans. So this is unprecedented, and because the decisions now being made could set a precedence for the future, it is exceedingly important that citizens keep a close watch on the issue and hopefully offer their well-thought-out advice to elected officials, ICE, and Homeland Security.

Surge anticipated by Obama administration?

There are reports that the Obama Administration anticipated the surge of children that would be crossing the southern border illegally way back in January. It was then that the Obama administration placed an advertisement for contractors to “help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resettle 65 thousand illegal children”, months before the border crisis began. So, why is President Obama and other officials acting surprised by the thousands who made their way here?

In this video clip, documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch warns that the invasion is only beginning.  As stated by Lynch, “It’s about to get worse.  Entire villages are emptying and coming from Central America through Mexico to the United States. They’ll be hitting the border within the next few weeks. What you are seeing right now is the tip of the iceberg.”

In an act that speaks of desperation, on June 19, the federal government posted yet another help wanted advertisement as a solution to the explosive increase of children illegally crossing the southern border, namely:

The Department of Homeland Security is seeking “Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children,” or UAC, as juveniles entering the United States are called. 

How has the public responded to this Administration’s pleas for American citizens to “adopt” these immigrants into their communities?

Residents of Lawrenceville, Virginia succeeded in thwarting plans to shelter 500 of the children at a defunct college located in Lawrenceville, St. Paul’s College, which authorities saw acceptable as a refugee camp for junior illegal aliens.  Concerns mentioned as to why the residents declined the immigrants included:  fear of “communicable diseases, such as drug resistant tuberculosis, and potential gang violence from the “teenagers.”  Known gang members, some sporting gang tattoos, are among the children storming the U.S. border. Of immediate concern is that a case of swine flu has been confirmed at a shelter for unaccompanied minors

Another site crossed off the list of potential sites by HHS (the same agency that botched the ObamaCare rollout) was a former monastery located in Olympia Fields, a south Chicago suburb, due to a strong social media outcry.

The White House official statement about the immigration crisis is that it is an “urgent humanitarian situation.”   Recently Democrats have sought to re-frame the deepening crisis by identifying the immigrants as “refugees”, to coincide with the different rules and laws that apply to people with that label. That is one reason critics believe Obama’s intention is to find a way to keep all 60,000 plus immigrants here permanently.  Be prepared for the possibility of our president suggesting a good-will gesture to bring the children’s families to the United States too.  That would add another potential 200,000.

Will rule of law and nation’s well being trump the emotional factor?

Yes, Americans feel sorry for others’ misfortunes and lack of quality of life based on where they were born, most certainly when children are involved, but if we allow a flow of 60,000 minors to enter the U.S.A., with a steady stream to follow, that will adversely affect and impact our own citizens.  That is wrong. A law should never injure one person’s life to make another one’s better.  That simply is unfair!  We may need to remind our government that USA citizens must be their top priority.  We simply cannot rescue everyone all the time, especially when we currently have a 17 trillion dollar debt and a continuing job crisis problem.

How will keeping the 60,000 immigrants injure anyone? The immediate problem is that due to the huge numbers needing to be processed, the usual health checks, background checks, and investigating for potential criminal records, cannot always be completed on everyone.  Many have already been shipped away to other areas of the country.

For decades, American officials, at the highest level of our government, have refused to enforce established immigration laws, causing our immigration system to become horrendously inefficient, overburdened and in desperate need of a correction.  Yet is seems the new laws enacted tend to escalate rather than decrease problems.  In 2002 a law was enacted to protect childrens’ welfare, so that thousands of immigrant minors crossing alone into the United States would be able to attend public schools and possibly work in America for years without consequences.  This fact is known throughout Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and thus enticed even more children to make the dangerous trip, believing they can remain in the U.S for years, before facing even a moderate risk of deportation.  And the longer the immigration process goes on, the less likely .a child will be returned home.  In recent years as many as one-quarter of the immigrants ordered to report to courts have failed to appear.   Because of the massive number of children involved, it will take years before the unaccompanied minors have their cases heard.

We, the taxpayers, are paying for the care of immigrants who illegally cross our borders.   We have allowed ourselves to be responsible for the arriving 60,000 too.  They currently need housing, care, and ways to transport these illegal aliens to parents, relatives, or warehouses in the United States. The White House has projected a staggering cost of $2.28 billion to care for and resettle child migrants from Central America; some say that figure is low.   They are asking for another $1.4 billion to keep the children here.  Incredibly, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. announced that the Obama administration would pay for 100 lawyers to help these underage illegal aliens remain in the United States, thus begging the question:  “why”?  Has our government become more concerned about foreigners rather than our own citizens?

Part 2 will discuss the surge as a politically opportune moment for the Obama administration in its use of the crisis to open the door to universal citizenship for illegal immigrants, which represents yet another application of the left’s long-championed Cloward Piven strategy.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]


Categories: On the Blog

The Myth of the Climate Change ’97%’

June 30, 2014, 6:20 AM

Secretary of State John Kerry recently warned graduating students at Boston College of the “crippling consequences” of climate change. “Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists,” he added, “tell us this is urgent.”

Where did Mr. Kerry get the 97% figure? Perhaps from his boss, President Obama, who tweeted on May 16 that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Or maybe from NASA, which posted (in more measured language) on its website, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”

Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.

One frequently cited source for the consensus is a 2004 opinion essay published in Science magazine by Naomi Oreskes, a science historian now at Harvard. She claimed to have examined abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and found that 75% supported the view that human activities are responsible for most of the observed warming over the previous 50 years while none directly dissented.

Ms. Oreskes’s definition of consensus covered “man-made” but left out “dangerous”—and scores of articles by prominent scientists such as Richard Lindzen, John Christy, Sherwood Idso and Patrick Michaels, who question the consensus, were excluded. The methodology is also flawed. A study published earlier this year in Nature noted that abstracts of academic papers often contain claims that aren’t substantiated in the papers.

Another widely cited source for the consensus view is a 2009 article in Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, and her master’s thesis adviser Peter Doran. It reported the results of a two-question online survey of selected scientists. Mr. Doran and Ms. Zimmerman claimed “97 percent of climate scientists agree” that global temperatures have risen and that humans are a significant contributing factor.

The survey’s questions don’t reveal much of interest. Most scientists who are skeptical of catastrophic global warming nevertheless would answer “yes” to both questions. The survey was silent on whether the human impact is large enough to constitute a problem. Nor did it include solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists or astronomers, who are the scientists most likely to be aware of natural causes of climate change.

The “97 percent” figure in the Zimmerman/Doran survey represents the views of only 79 respondents who listed climate science as an area of expertise and said they published more than half of their recent peer-reviewed papers on climate change. Seventy-nine scientists—of the 3,146 who responded to the survey—does not a consensus make.

In 2010, William R. Love Anderegg, then a student at Stanford University, used Google Scholar to identify the views of the most prolific writers on climate change. His findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Mr. Love Anderegg found that 97% to 98% of the 200 most prolific writers on climate change believe “anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for ‘most’ of the ‘unequivocal’ warming.” There was no mention of how dangerous this climate change might be; and, of course, 200 researchers out of the thousands who have contributed to the climate science debate is not evidence of consensus.

In 2013, John Cook, an Australia-based blogger, and some of his friends reviewed abstracts of peer-reviewed papers published from 1991 to 2011. Mr. Cook reported that 97% of those who stated a position explicitly or implicitly suggest that human activity is responsible for some warming. His findings were published in Environmental Research Letters.

Mr. Cook’s work was quickly debunked. In Science and Education in August 2013, for example, David R. Legates (a professor of geography at the University of Delaware and former director of its Center for Climatic Research) and three coauthors reviewed the same papers as did Mr. Cook and found “only 41 papers—0.3 percent of all 11,944 abstracts or 1.0 percent of the 4,014 expressing an opinion, and not 97.1 percent—had been found to endorse” the claim that human activity is causing most of the current warming. Elsewhere, climate scientists including Craig Idso, Nicola Scafetta, Nir J. Shaviv and Nils- Axel Morner, whose research questions the alleged consensus, protested that Mr. Cook ignored or misrepresented their work.

Rigorous international surveys conducted by German scientists Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch—most recently published in Environmental Science & Policy in 2010—have found that most climate scientists disagree with the consensus on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and computer models. They do not believe that climate processes such as cloud formation and precipitation are sufficiently understood to predict future climate change.

Surveys of meteorologists repeatedly find a majority oppose the alleged consensus. Only 39.5% of 1,854 American Meteorological Society members who responded to a survey in 2012 said man-made global warming is dangerous.

Finally, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—which claims to speak for more than 2,500 scientists—is probably the most frequently cited source for the consensus. Its latest report claims that “human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems.” Yet relatively few have either written on or reviewed research having to do with the key question: How much of the temperature increase and other climate changes observed in the 20th century was caused by man-made greenhouse-gas emissions? The IPCC lists only 41 authors and editors of the relevant chapter of the Fifth Assessment Report addressing “anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing.”

Of the various petitions on global warming circulated for signatures by scientists, the one by the Petition Project, a group of physicists and physical chemists based in La Jolla, Calif., has by far the most signatures—more than 31,000 (more than 9,000 with a Ph.D.). It was most recently published in 2009, and most signers were added or reaffirmed since 2007. The petition states that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of . . . carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

We could go on, but the larger point is plain. There is no basis for the claim that 97% of scientists believe that man-made climate change is a dangerous problem.


Mr. Bast is president of the Heartland Institute. Dr. Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

[First published in the Wall Street Journal on May 27, 2014.]

Categories: On the Blog

Senator Thune, Commissioner Pai Advocate Telecom Policy Reform

June 28, 2014, 11:00 AM

I am grateful that Senator John Thune, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai spoke at the Free State Foundation’s June 25 seminar, “Reforming Communications Policy in the Digital Age: The Path Forward.” And because it is such a pivotal time for communications policymaking, I am especially grateful that each used the occasion to deliver such important, substantive addresses.

Among those engaged in the debate, there are divergent views concerning the proper path forward for communications policy – in essence, one view embodies a pro-regulatory vision and the other a free market-oriented one. At the Free State Foundation, we work hard, based on our research and analysis, to articulate, on a principled basis, the case for the less regulatory, free market-oriented vision.

Senator Thune’s and Commissioner Pai’s Free State Foundation addresses constitute important contributions to the ongoing discussion concerning reform of our nation’s communications laws and policies. I urge you to review the full texts of their speeches hereand here. But, in the meantime, please do take a few minutes right now to read the excerpts immediately below.


While some pro-regulatory advocates claim our communications sector is dominated by monopolies and duopolies, the evidence in the marketplace doesn’t support that view.  Monopoly markets are typically characterized by a lack of investment, a lack of innovation, no new entrants, and excessive profits. 

Since 1996, the private sector has invested $1.2 trillion into building and constantly upgrading our nation’s communications networks, including about $60 billion annually in capital investments over the last few years.  Regarding market entry, we have already seen rampant intermodal competition in the telephone and video markets.  Not to mention efforts by companies like Google and DISH Network who are committed to becoming serious new broadband players.

As for excessive profits for communications providers, again, there’s little evidence.  Former Clinton Administration Official, Everett Ehrlich, found that Fortune 500 broadband companies had an average profit margin of just 3.7 percent.  The average profit margin for Fortune 500 Internet companies who offer services on top of the broadband infrastructure?  A whopping 24 percent.  As Ehrlich points out, “this sizeable difference makes clear that providers of broadband connectivity are not extracting undue profits from broadband users.” 

Why does this all matter?  Because painting a picture of a dysfunctional communications and broadband marketplace is central to the efforts of pro-regulatory advocates who claim more government intervention into the online world is needed to fix a “broken system.”  Many of those who seek to regulate the Internet are using mistruths and hyperbole to scare both the public and policymakers into restricting economic and individual liberty. 

* * *

The last time Congress significantly updated our communications laws was in 1996.  Back then, you had to pay for the Internet by the hour, and going online meant tying up your home’s telephone line.  There were only 100 thousand websites in 1996, and Google and Wikipedia had not been created yet.  Today there are nearly 900 million websites.

The bipartisan and deregulatory Telecommunications Act of 1996 encouraged intermodal competition and provided a light regulatory touch for information services.  Bipartisan leadership at the FCC reinforced the light touch for the Internet when implementing the law.  All of this fostered an era of convergence and innovation in the communications space.  Cable companies started to compete with telcos, telcos got into the cable TV business, and everyone started offering Internet access. 

The Telecom Act was far from perfect, but it got the job done.  Even so, it is best to view the Telecom Act as a transitional law for a transitional time, rather than as a permanent statute that will last 62 years without major revision, like its predecessor, the Communications Act of 1934.  The original Communications Act was designed for an era of actual communications monopolies; the Telecom Act was designed for the transitional era that took us from monopoly to competition; and now, we need a new policy framework for today’s converged, competitive, and Internet-powered world.

This, of course, is much easier said than done.  Modernizing the laws governing the communications and technology sectors is no small task, which is why I am glad my colleagues in the House of Representatives have already begun examining the regulation of the communications industry. 


* * *

Now, I’m not saying that the Internet should be a lawless frontier free from any government oversight.  That is the sort of straw-man accusation leveled by those who want to avoid doing the hard work of justifying regulations for the Internet ecosystem.  Even so, policymakers must be careful to preserve the light-touch regime, first implemented by the Clinton Administration, that has been so successful in making us the digital envy of the world.

Some people, however, want to completely upset that regime and instead want to see the Internet shackled with Title II of the Communications Act.  Title II is certainly not a “light touch,” not with its burdensome rate regulation, property valuation, and discontinuance provisions, along with many others. 

Traditional wireline telephony now makes up just 22 percent of the 443 million phone lines in America, and that rate continues to decline each year.  When consumers are rapidly abandoning traditional Title II services, it makes little sense to apply Title II regulations to today’s new technologies and business models.  Even Google seems keen on avoiding the morass of Title II-the Internet giant has specifically chosen not to offer telephone services with its Google Fiber broadband product because it wants to avoid the regulatory burdens that come along with it. 

Another reason I oppose Title II reclassification is because regulating an industry as if it were a public utility monopoly is the surest way to guarantee the industry will become a monopoly.  As I discussed earlier, the evidence in the marketplace makes it clear that our broadband market is dynamic and competitive-not at all like the early days of Ma Bell that Title II was intended for.  Public utility regulation traditionally is intended to do two things-protect the public from the harms of a monopoly, while simultaneously protecting that monopoly.  Since the broadband market is demonstrably not a monopoly, regulating it as a public utility would only make the industry less competitive and less innovative.  Or, in other words, make it more like a monopoly.


I don’t mean to suggest that our nation’s broadband policy has been perfect. It hasn’t. There’s certainly more we should be doing to clear out the regulatory underbrush that deters infrastructure investment and broadband deployment. But when it comes to our fundamental choice of a regulatory model, the United States has gotten it right. 

Of course, there are those who disagree, and their voices have become louder of late. Many are now claiming that the only way to protect the Internet from ruin is to reclassify broadband as a Title II service. In other words, they want to end the minimal regulatory environment for broadband and replace it with rules based on 19th century railroad regulation.

This makes no sense. The common-carriage rules of Title II were designed to control one company that had a monopoly on long-distance telephone service, not the 1,712 companies that now compete to provide broadband service to the American consumer.

And beyond the sloganeering, there are any number of complicated questions to which I have yet to hear an answer. How much would consumers’ broadband prices go up to pay for the universal service charges all carriers must contribute? Why should we apply anti-consumer rules like tariffing to the broadband world? How would the Part 36 separations process apply to apportion the various components of the network between the several states and the FCC for regulatory purposes? And why should we open the door to actual access charges, imposed on edge providers, content delivery networks, and transit operators without their consent?

* * *

 This means that uncertainty will hang over the marketplace for a long time. How many years would it take us to decide which parts of Title II merit forbearance? How many provisions must we even examine? When we still haven’t collected data in the special access proceeding, about a year-and-a-half after authorizing that collection, how could we possibly expect to timely gather data to handle the wider broadband market? And in a rapidly changing industry, how enduring would a particular FCC snapshot of the marketplace, upon which critical investment decisions would rely, really be?

But aside from the mechanics of implementing Title II, we need to ask a more basic question. Where would Title II regulation lead? One good indication is to compare the results produced by the American regulatory model to those of a more intrusive regulatory model: Europe’s. Rather than taking a light-touch regulatory approach to broadband, the European model treats broadband as a public utility, imposes telephone-style regulation, and purports to focus on promoting service-based (rather than facilities-based) competition.

The results of the public-utility model speak for themselves. Eighty-two percent of Americans (and 48 percent of rural Americans) have access to 25 Mbps broadband speeds. In Europe, those figures are only 54 percent and 12 percent, respectively. And these figures aren’t skewed by less developed countries; in France, the figures are 24 percent and 1 percent, respectively. Similarly, American broadband companies are investing more than twice as much as their European counterparts ($562 per household v. $244), and deploying fiber-to-the-premises about twice as often (23 percent v. 12 percent). Small wonder, then, that the European Commission itself has said that “Europe is losing the global race to build fast fixed broadband connections.”

* * *

 NOTE: There also was an excellent panel discussion at the event with John Bergmayer, Public Knowledge; Scott Cleland, Precursor LLC; and Adam Thierer, Mercatus Center at George Mason University. A transcript of that session will be published in due course.

Categories: On the Blog

James Madison: The Indispensible Founder

June 28, 2014, 9:24 AM

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents. … If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one. …

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. … The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general.

Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government. … There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

James Madison

When people are asked to name the Founding Fathers of the nation, they usually reel off Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, the first, second and third Presidents in addition to their earlier role in guiding the Revolution to success.

Occasionally, someone who, like myself, loves history will add Madison, the fourth President, but Lynne Cheney’s new biography of Madison rightly identifies him as the man most responsible “for creating the United States of America in the form we know it today.” It was Madison who guided the process by which the Founders arrived at the Constitution, contributing the fundamental principles it incorporated and writing the Bill of Rights, amendments that ensured its ratification by the original states.

Cheney’s biography, “James Madison: A Life Considered” ($36.00, Viking) benefits not only from her scholarship, but from her facility with the written word, making it a continual pleasure to read for a book of 563 pages, including its notes, bibliography, and index. If you were to set aside the summer to read just one book, this would be the one I would recommend.

If Cheney’s name rings a bell, it is because she is the wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, but she is also a Ph.D. who has been studying Madison since 1987 when she was a member of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution. These days she is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The Cheney’s reside in Wilson, Wyoming. She is making the rounds of radio and television shows to promote her book and, most notably, interviewers tend to ignore her book in order to pry an opinion out of her about current events and politics. One gets the feeling that most did not read her book.

Those short in stature and, compared to the other Founders, quite young, all who came to know him swiftly developed a profound respect for his intellect and his knowledge of how governments were structured with some succeeding while others failed. When Madison spoke, they listened. There were in those days “factions” (which today we call political parties) that opposed his and the other Founder’s views.

“Jefferson,” wrote Cheney, “would later say that it was a wonder that Madison accomplished so much as he had, given that he faced ‘the endless quibbles, chicaneries, perversions, vexations, and delays of lawyers and demi-lawyers’” and Madison himself was often struck “by the way that ‘important bills prepared at leisure by skillful hands’ were treated to ‘crudeness and tedious discussion’, and he had seen legislative tricks of the most blatant sort.” So the politics of Madison’s time was not unlike much of today’s.

After the Constitution was written to replace the failed Articles of Confederation it needed to be vigorously defended. America benefited greatly from the fact that its population was highly literate and it was the Federalist papers, a series of essays mostly written by Madison was the way its principles and protections were explained to the public. Chaney notes that the Federalist essay that would eventually become most famous was the first one Madison wrote.

“In Federalist 10, published November 22,1787, he set forth the failures of ‘our governments’ (rather than ‘our states’ where, after all, the Constitution would be ratified), noting the instability and injustices that had caused good citizens across the country to increasingly distrust those governments and feel ‘alarm for private rights.’”

These alarms are reflected in our times by concerns that the President is bypassing Congress to govern by executive orders, is failing to enforce laws with which he disagrees, and that we have a Department of Justice and an IRS that cannot be trusted to apply laws fairly, acting against groups and individuals with whom they disagree such as the Tea Party movement and other conservative organizations. A rogue agency such as the Environmental Protection Agency is so out of control that Congress must at some point exert powerful restraints on it.

What is remarkable about Madison’s time was the fact that he, Jefferson is lifelong friend, and Adams, all lived long lives unlike the bulk of the population. Madison would devote his life to the creation of our extraordinary government and, throughout the early presidencies including his own, to ensuring the existence of the new nation, challenged as it was by Great Britain, first during the Revolution and then in the War of 1812.

On his last day as President, Madison vetoed an improvements bill, “arguing as he had since the days of The Federalist that the general government did not have general powers. It had specified powers, and recognizing its limits was essential to ‘the permanent success of the Constitution.’”

Cheney wrote that Madison understood that “if the limits the Constitution imposed on government were unrecognized, ‘the parchment had better be thrown into the fire at once.”, but Madison was all about protecting the Constitution and the new nation. For that he is owed the gratitude of all the generations that have followed him.

It is now our responsibility to protect it because freedom and liberty always have domestic and foreign enemies.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Who Should Benefit from State-Funded Art?

June 28, 2014, 8:22 AM

A creative commons license is a kind of copyright license that gives people the right to use, share, and expand upon a creator’s work whether this is an art work, a piece of literature, or a scientific or academic material. It offers a significant protection against accusations of copyright infringement and is believed by some to offer artists a degree of flexibility they may desire. It is also in the interest of citizens to see that the artwork they pay for through government funding for the Arts is made available for their benefit in some fashion. Mandating creative commons licensing for all state-funded artwork would accomplish that goal.

Government Funding for the Arts

Work for government is almost by definition being carried out for the people in one form or another. So should all work done by government have a creative commons license making it open to those people?

The state engages in a lot of work that is licensed; it funds art, and culture (usually only in part), as well as scientific and academic research, the creation of significant amounts of software, and the creation of large data resources. Creative commons licensing could apply to all.

Some governments, such as the United States already go part way towards making work they fund available to the public. Any “government [that] work is prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties” is in the public domain. This means they are similarly open to reuse and reproduction as if they were in the creative commons. However it is notable that this does not apply to works produced by government contractors or by institutions that are largely or fully funded by government such as the Smithsonian

Taxpayers Should Own What they Pay for

Everyone benefits and is enriched by open access to resources that the government can provide. A work is the province of its creator in most respects, since it is from the mind and hand of its creator that it is born. But when the state opts to fund a project, it too becomes a part-owner of the ideas and creation that springs forth. The state should thus seek to make public the work it spends taxpayer money to create. This is in exactly the same way that when an employee of a company creates something, the rights to that work go to the company and not the employee.

The best way to get the most out of government-funded art, if it is going to exist at all, is through mandating that all such works be made publicly available. This allows the work to be redistributed, re-explored, and to be used as springboards for new, derivative works.

The right of the people to the fruits of their tax dollars is hampered by either the creator, or the government, retaining stricter forms of copyright, which effectively entitles the holder of the copyright to full control of the work; work that would not exist had it not been for the largesse of society. If state-funded work is to have meaning it must be in the public sphere and reusable by the public in whatever form they wish. Simply put, the taxpayers paid for it, so they own it.

Categories: On the Blog

Chicago Should Not Use Phone Taxes as Slush Fund

June 27, 2014, 3:49 PM

Chicago faces a significant, and growing public pension problem. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago’s four pension plans (including for teachers and public safety workers) face a combined debt of around $20 billion, a number that, without reform, is likely to continue to grow. In order to fill this gap in pension funding, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed several new or expanded taxes to cover the growing debt.

After a proposed property tax hike was rejected by the Chicago City Council, Mayor Emanuel turned to another source of revenue, telephone bills.  Emanuel’s proposed plan would increase the current taxes both wireless and land lines by 56 percent. The hike from $2.50 a month to $3.90 a month would be the maximum allowed by state law. 36 of Chicago’s 50 aldermen co-sponsored the tax hike. The Illinois Policy Institute criticized the tax hike and noted that the increase would place Chicago’s wireless tax rates higher than all of its regional neighbors.

“Illinois’ cell phone tax rate already is higher than all of the state’s neighbors. Residents in nearby states pay an average of 6 percent less in taxes on their phone bills.

On top of paying an effective federal tax rate of 5.82 percent and a 7 percent state of Illinois telecom excise tax, Chicago wireless consumers already pay a 7 percent municipal tax to the city and a $2.50 per line wireless 911 fee.”

John Nothdurft, Director of Government Relations at the Heartland Institute argues that the new tax hike is only the most recent in a series of tax hikes that has made Chicago one of the most overtaxed municipalities in the country.

“The City of Chicago is about to have another Number 1 ranking when it comes to high taxes. Mayor Emanuel’s proposed $50 million increase in the city’s phone tax would give Chicago the highest tax of its kind in the nation. The city already boasts the nation’s highest cigarette tax, which the city raised just last year, and is knocking on the doorstep of having the highest sales tax, property tax, and meal tax, to name a few,” commented Nothdurft. “Sure the city might not raise property taxes this year, but unless the cities spending and unfunded liabilities are addressed in a significant manner then it won’t be long before Mayor Emanuel comes back for more.”

Sam Karnick, Director of Research at the Heartland Institute agrees, and cautions Chicago taxpayers that these new taxes do not preclude significant tax hikes down the road.

 “Mayor Emanuel is desperately looking for a solution to pension problems he didn’t create, but certainly would have, based on his record and party affiliation,” argues Karnick. “Given that any property tax hike is off the table for only one year, his and Gov. Quinn’s obvious goal is to get through the next state and local elections without raising property taxes or suffering further credit downgrades. If the mayor and governor have their way, Chicagoans will ultimately get two tax hikes out of this, and one-party rule will continue. It’s the very opposite of fiscal responsibility.”

Wireless taxes have quickly become the latest slush fund irresponsible governments are seeking to use to fund their out-of-control spending. In many states, wireless tax rates have already reached all-time highs. Almost half the states nationwide now impose a wireless tax above 10 percent (the national average is more than 16.3 percent). Even as revenue earned per wireless phone falls, taxes and fees climb. Many of these taxes, like Mayor Emmanuel’s, are being used to fund programs and services that are in no way related to telecommunications.

Critics of the tax hike have argued that the city phone tax was designated for the 911 call center and should not be used for other purposes. Raiding 9-1-1 funds, vehicle taxes, or any dedicated revenues for reasons other than their intended purpose is bad public policy.  Public safety groups have criticized states for using 9-1-1 funds for other purposes. The National Emergency Number Association, National Association of State 911 Administrators, and 9-1-1 Industry Alliance called these sweeps “less than honest” and stated the diversion of funds places the nation’s 9-1-1 systems at risk while breaking “the trust established with the public.”

In addition to the public safety problems these fund raids create, taxpayers also should be concerned about how their tax dollars are being managed. When states are allowed to raid dedicated funds and divert those taxes from their stated purpose, these dedicated revenues become de facto slush funds and additional phone taxes will likely be tacked onto phone users’ bills. If a dedicated 9-1-1 fund builds up “extra” revenue, lawmakers should reduce the tax to a more reasonable level and not raid the fund for other expenditures.

Steve Stanek, the Managing Editor of Budget & Tax News contends that the 911 fund as it currently exists has not been used properly.

“The phone tax was supposed to fund a 911 call center that should have been paid for years ago, but isn’t because of huge cost overruns,” argued Stanek. “The tax was never to be used for government pensions. What’s next? Phone taxes to pay patch potholes and plow snow?”

High wireless taxes are a drag on both consumers and the wireless market, deterring innovation and infrastructure improvements, while disproportionately affecting minority and low-income populations. Before these taxes spin out of control, making wireless services less accessible for everyone, measures to stop it need to happen. One possibility is the implementation of a moratorium on these discriminatory tax hikes like the Wireless Tax Fairness Act, which would benefit both the economy and consumers.

Categories: On the Blog

Chelsea Clinton Is The Perfect Millennial And That’s Why Hillary Could Lose

June 27, 2014, 3:22 PM

“We don’t care about money here.”
“Well, that’s because you have it.”
“Would you repeat that?”
“You don’t care about money because you’ve always had it.”
—“The Aviator,” 2004

This Telegraph interview with Chelsea Clinton reveals a number of facets of the once and future first daughter which make her the perfect representative of her Millennial generation. She has the fickle but sincere flightiness over everything from career to diet, the waywardness of the overeducated and underchallenged, the comfort of comprehensive knowledge of the new sins, the inner child of Bart Simpson, the gluten allergy … but of course the gluten allergy.

“Fried chicken is my husband’s favourite food,” she divulges in her office at the Clinton Foundation in Manhattan, where she lives in a 10 million dollar apartment. The first time her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Marc Mezvinsky visited Little Rock, she whisked him off to her favourite childhood fried-chicken hole. In New York, she explains, he’ll now “gorge himself on fried chicken”. Chelsea insists she would too, were it not for an allergy to gluten. “I was a vegetarian for 10 years, a pescatarian for eight. Then I woke up one day when I was 29 and craved red meat,” says Chelsea, now 34, who recently announced she is expecting her first child. “I’m a big believer in listening to my body’s cravings.”

The primary difference between Chelsea and most of her fellow Millennials, of course, is that she has the luxury of having enough money to not care about money. She lives in a 10 million dollar apartment, had a 3 million dollar wedding, and gets paid 600,000 dollars a year to spend most of her time not working, and when she does work, it’s on camera… which, if you think about it, is pretty much the Millennial dream. Her career track reads like the resume of someone with more connections than she knows what to do with:

For a decade after graduating from Stanford in 2001, Chelsea experimented with the world beyond the Clinton machine. In peripatetic bursts, she tried out international relations, then management consulting, then Wall Street, then a PhD. She even signed on as an NBC News “special correspondent”. She rationalises this career promiscuity as a hallmark of being just another Millennial, experimenting until she figures out her professional purpose. But, of course, she’s not just another Millennial. She’s political royalty. And now, finally, she has decided to join the Clinton family business.

Yes, she’s now vice-chair of that little non-profit, the “recently rebranded” Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Why did she choose to ditch the glamour of the go-go business life for the relative quiet of philanthropic endeavors?:

“It is frustrating, because who wants to grow up and follow their parents?” admits Chelsea. “I’ve tried really hard to care about things that were very different from my parents. I was curious if I could care about [money] on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t. That wasn’t the metric of success I wanted in my life. I’ve talked about this to my friends who are doctors and whose parents are doctors, or who are lawyers and their parents are lawyers. It’s a funny thing to realise I feel called to this work both as a daughter and also as someone who believes I have contributions to make.”

Within this conversation with Chelsea, meant to be little more than a puff piece, you see all the reasons for why Hillary Clinton lost the youth vote in 2008, and how she could lose the whole thing in 2016. How could her daughter’s generation have fallen for the inexperienced Barack Obama over the wiser, more tested woman? And how could a generation of wayward slackers once again pass on the opportunity to break that last glass ceiling? Chelsea shows us how. A fickle generation making up a sizable portion of a party’s voting base (and an expected third of voters in 2016) paired with an out of touch one percent candidate who hasn’t run for anything in eight years is looking like a worse deal all the time.

Hillary may, of course, cruise to the White House over a Republican Party that can’t decide what it is. Two months ago, she looked like a solid presidential candidate, with all the wind at her back and the clearing assistance of a generation of women in media dedicated to her advancement. But after the past few weeks of the contours of a crash-and-burn scenario are now in pretty clear view. She could still pull it off, of course – but the possibility of disaster, once so foreign to the conversation, now seems more feasible.

There’s something that Democratic leaders don’t seem to understand about Hillary now versus Hillary in 2008 or 2000. We’re a country that overwhelmingly caters to the biases of the youngest voters – terrified of growing old, we’re always chasing after the whims of the young. And it is going to be difficult to do so with a candidate who is so “old”. This has nothing to do with her age, mind you: it’s that her cultural apex came over a decade ago. It’s not that she’s decrepit, it’s that she’s terribly uncool. Shepard Fairey can’t do anything with this that won’t come across as a nostalgic meme. It’d be like rebooting Friends or trying to bring back slap bracelets. If the Hillary of 2000 was Seinfeld, the Hillary of 2016 is the Seinfeld Super Bowl commercial.

In the American past, experience, stability, and reliability in the public square was viewed as a virtue, something you wanted in a president. But presidential contests don’t look like that any more. The stable, solid, and familiar is just boring. A contest between old and busted versus new hotness is no contest at all. The kid glove questions which Hillary experiences when being interviewed by fawning female reporters are a far cry from what happens when someone asks her an actual, you know, questionLooking at how Hillary struggled with the gay marriage question is just a part of this. That’s an issue she was on the opposite side of in her electoral career because of the context of the times – but where she apparently expected that to play in her favor, it doesn’t at all for a generation of listeners for whom there is no history prior to Google. Hanging around TED, Gstaad, and the Aspen Institute, where Hillary is all women, no one’s going to be rude about it – but we’ll see what it’s like out on the trail.

What could that look like? There’s a hilarious little moment in Louis CK’s show where he’s trying and failing to hit on a nineteen-year-old NFL cheerleader who’s performing on a USO tour with him. He asks her about music, and she says she loves all kinds – he promptly names a series of prominent rock bands, none of which she’s ever heard of. When he asks about Aerosmith, he adds that the lead singer is Steven Tyler. Oh no, she says, as if correcting him – you mean The American Idol judge. That’s all she knows him as, and she has a hard time believing he was ever a singer.

Yes, Hillary Clinton could still get in touch with this generation. But the more her campaign resembles a fond resurrection of nineties nostalgia, the more it forces the “remember how great Windows 95 was” conversation, the more it reveals the dreadful truth that Hillary Clinton is quite possibly the least cool thing in American pop culture right now. The Clintons are morphing into Tom Wolfe characters before our eyes – except for the special unique snowflakes of Chelsea’s generation, Wolfe is 83 years old now, and his last book bombed.

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[Originally published at The Federalist]


Categories: On the Blog

Aereo Blasted for Copyright Violation

June 27, 2014, 10:22 AM

As announced yesterday, Aereo, a streaming broadcast TV company, was found to be violating copyrights on programming it was providing, given that the almost live broadcasts it made available represented a public performance of the content and hence was illegal under copyright law. In plain speak, Aereo’s entire business model was to take that which didn’t belong to it and sell it. Try selling access to your neighbor’s guest room on AirBnB, or taking your neighbor’s otherwise unused car to use for your own Uber sideline, and see how things work out.

But the innovative service apparently was appealing particularly to cord cutters, suggesting that if done legally it might be a legitimate marketplace success. In recognition of not impacting innovation the Supreme Court wisely narrowly tailored its ruling where technologies are concerned even while protecting intellectual property rights. Innovation and creators both saved!

As Madery Bridge guest writer Stevan Mitchell wrote earlier this year, “There is no question that an appropriate balance must be struck to preserve incentives for creators. The easier it becomes to replicate, transmit, record and re-experience a work the more this proposition holds true. Our overarching policy preferences may be best served, and the right balances most cleanly and predictably struck, however, by analogies that more closely resemble today’s bit stream communications and how they are used. The alternative is to continue to retrofit and stretch yesterday’s physical world analogies.”

[Originally published at Madery Bridge]

Categories: On the Blog

Interconnection is Different for Internet than Railroads or Electricity – Part 55 FCC Open Internet Order Series

June 27, 2014, 9:21 AM

Some things are way too important to let slip by uncontested.

The FCC has asserted a foundational regulatory premise that warrants rebuttal and disproving, given that the FCC is considering if Internet access, and Internet backbone peering, should be regulated like a utility under Title II telephone common carrier regulation.

In an important speech on Internet interconnection last month to the Progressive Policy Institute, the very able and experienced Ruth Milkman, Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Chief of Staff, asserted that “communications networks are no different” than railroad and electricity networks when it comes to interconnection. “… At bottom… the fact is that a network without connections and interconnections is one that simply doesn’t work. Disconnected networks do not serve the public interest.”

The grand asserted regulatory premise here is that because communications networks are “no different” than railroad or electricity networks, they should have proscriptive government regulation to ensure that they are, and remain, interconnected to ensure that the public is protected.

If this sweeping assertion is accepted at face value without challenge, the FCC could have unfettered incentive and justification to begin regulating Internet backbone peering for the first time.

The facts are that this FCC foundational assertion about communications interconnection being no different than railroad/electricity interconnection — is fundamentally untrue.

Internet communications networks are completely different than railroad and electricity networks and the Internet backbone has worked successfully and almost flawlessly for two decades without FCC regulation.

How are Internet networks completely different than railroad and electricity networks?  

First, railroad and electricity interconnection is place-dependent, Internet “interconnection” is not place or physical-location-dependent.

This is a huge difference as physical-place-dependency can create a physical interconnection chokepoint in railroads or electricity. In contrast there are no physical-place-dependent chokepoints for the Internet because one can access/connect to the Internet from many different places, through many different entities, and via many different technologies, e.g. electrically via wires like copper or coax, optically via different fiber configurations, or wirelessly via many different licensed and unlicensed frequencies and providers.

Choice of place, facility, provider, and technology mean multiple dimensions of competition and no lasting chokepoints because if one encounters a temporary congestion problem in one part of the Internet, one has the choice to take their traffic and business elsewhere. No chokepoints mean no need for proscriptive regulation of Internet peering arrangements.

In the Netflix example, Netflix has a wide variety of choices (by place, facility, provider, or technology) to connect to any other Internet network, whether it be one of many CDNs or transit providers, or directly with a network provider. Netflix’ complaint is not over a chokepoint interconnection problem, but that it does not want to pay anything to ISPs for the costs of sending 34% of the Internet’s downstream traffic.

Netflix maintains, under its self-serving re-imagination of “net neutrality” that the FCC mustpermanently mandate a price of zero for Netflix traffic so users are forced to shoulder the entire cost burden of Netflix’ 34% of downstream Internet traffic.

Second, railroad and electricity interconnection is hardware-dependent, whereas Internet interconnection is software-dependent.  Railroads and electric networks require one universal physical standard of wheel gauge and axle width, or physical electrical transformers and wall plugs, to interconnect to these respective networks. In contrast, the software design and protocol of Internet connections make interconnection hardware-agnostic, seamless and automatic, and hence inherently competitive and choice-rich.

Simply, the genius of Internet packet-technology networks is that they do not require any interconnection, permission, or negotiation points, because inherent in Internet Protocol is that packets are automatically routed seamlessly between different internet networks to their destination by design. Inherently Internet packet technology makes the concept of telephone interconnection obsolete because the technology supplants what used to require hardware and regulation to achieve. Most simply, Internet protocol innovation inherently obviates an FCC role for regulating Internet backbone regulation.

Third, railroad and electricity interconnection involved analog technology, whereas Internet interconnection involves digital computer technology. Importantly, railroads required a setcontinuous physical path or circuit from point A to point B. Electricity networks require acontinuous electrical circuit from origin to destination.

In contrast, digital technology in general, and Internet packet technology in particular, isdiscontinuous – the antithesis of a telephone or electrical continuous circuit. It is this inherently discontinuous digital innovation that enables Internet networks to be place-agnostic and hardware-agnostic, and hence inherently competitive and choice-rich.

More specifically, the innovation of digital IP packet networks subdivides information into many small packets to enable more efficient transmission. The packets get individually routed unpredictably and comingled with other packets to minimize bandwidth waste. At the ultimate destination, the packets get immediately reassembled by any device anywhere. Internet Protocol is inherently a competitive technology, made even more competitive inherently by Moore’s law, which ensures that digital networks continually enjoy rapidly declining computing costs.

In sum, the Clinton Administration knew when it privatized the Internet backbone twenty years ago that it did not require FCC involvement, and that it should not be subject to Title II common carrier regulation of prices, terms and conditions.

Twenty years of phenomenal success — where the competitive Internet backbone continually adapted exceptionally to handle the exponential growth of Internet traffic without material or lasting incident — is overwhelming evidence that the place-agnostic, software-driven, digital Internet backbone does not need any type of utility interconnection regulation.

Don’t let anyone assert unchallenged that Internet interconnection is no different than railroad or electricity interconnection. If that patently untrue assertion – that interconnection will not happen without government — is unchallenged, it enables regulators to justify unnecessary, unwarranted, and unjustified regulation of the Internet backbone.

The FCC does not need to regulate or intercede in Internet peering disputes, because if a company like Netflix does not like the prices, terms or conditions, offered by an ISP, they have the competitive choice to negotiate with any number of CDNs or transit providers to deliver their traffic to users.

So since there are so many CDN and transit choices, by definition a peering dispute at a particular place on the Internet cannot result in the “disconnected network” problem FCC Chief of Staff Milkman apparently feared in her recent speech on the subject.

The success and growth of the unregulated model for the Internet backbone peering marketplace has been nothing short of phenomenal in enabling and ensuring everyone reasonable connection to the Internet.

The Internet backbone peering marketplace works near perfectly. As the old adage says; “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”


FCC Open Internet Order Series

Part 1: The Many Vulnerabilities of an Open Internet [9-24-09]

Part 2: Why FCC proposed net neutrality regs unconstitutional, NPR Online Op-ed [9-24-09]

Part 3: Takeaways from FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regs [10-22-09]

Part 4: How FCC Regulation Would Change the Internet [10-30-09]

Part 5: Is FCC Declaring ‘Open Season’ on Internet Freedom? [11-17-09]

Part 6: Critical Gaps in FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regulations [11-30-09]

Part 7: Takeaways from the FCC’s Open Internet Further Inquiry [9-2-10]

Part 8: An FCC “Data-Driven” Double Standard? [10-27-10]

Part 9: Election Takeaways for the FCC [11-3-10]

Part 10: Irony of Little Openness in FCC Open Internet Reg-making [11-19-10]

Part 11: FCC Regulating Internet to Prevent Companies from Regulating Internet [11-22-10]

Part 12: Where is the FCC’s Legitimacy? [11-22-10]

Part 13: Will FCC Preserve or Change the Internet? [12-17-10]

Part 14: FCC Internet Price Regulation & Micro-management? [12-20-10]

Part 15: FCC Open Internet Decision Take-aways [12-21-10]

Part 16: FCC Defines Broadband Service as “BIAS”-ed [12-22-10]

Part 17: Why FCC’s Net Regs Need Administration/Congressional Regulatory Review [1-3-11]

Part 18: Welcome to the FCC-Centric Internet [1-25-11]

Part 19: FCC’s Net Regs in Conflict with President’s Pledges [1-26-11]

Part 20: Will FCC Respect President’s Call for “Least Burdensome” Regulation? [2-3-11]

Part 21: FCC’s In Search of Relevance in 706 Report [5-23-11]

Part 22: The FCC’s public wireless network blocks lawful Internet traffic [6-13-11]

Part 23: Why FCC Net Neutrality Regs Are So Vulnerable [9-8-11]

Part 24: Why Verizon Wins Appeal of FCC’s Net Regs [9-30-11]

Part 25: Supreme Court likely to leash FCC to the law [10-10-12]

Part 26: What Court Data Roaming Decision Means for FCC Open Internet Order [12-4-12]

Part 27: Oops! Crawford’s Model Broadband Nation, Korea, Opposes Net Neutrality [2-26-13]

Part 28: Little Impact on FCC Open Internet Order from SCOTUS Chevron Decision [5-21-13]

Part 29: More Legal Trouble for FCC’s Open Internet Order & Net Neutrality [6-2-13]

Part 30: U.S. Competition Beats EU Regulation in Broadband Race [6-21-13]

Part 31: Defending Google Fiber’s Reasonable Network Management [7-30-13]

Part 32: Capricious Net Neutrality Charges [8-7-13]

Part 33: Why FCC won’t pass Appeals Court’s oral exam [9-2-13]

Part 34: 5 BIG Implications from Court Signals on Net Neutrality – A Special Report [9-13-13]

Part 35: Dial-up Rules for the Broadband Age? My Daily Caller Op-ed Rebutting Marvin Ammori’s [11-6-13]

Part 36: Nattering Net Neutrality Nonsense Over AT&T’s Sponsored Data Offering [1-6-14]

Part 37: Is Net Neutrality Trying to Mutate into an Economic Entitlement? [1-12-14]

Part 38: Why Professor Crawford Has Title II Reclassification All Wrong [1-16-14]

Part 39: Title II Reclassification Would Violate President’s Executive Order [1-22-14]

Part 40: The Narrowing Net Neutrality Dispute [2-24-14]

Part 41: FCC’s Open Internet Order Do-over – Key Going Forward Takeaways [3-5-14]

Part 42: Net Neutrality is about Consumer Benefit not Corporate Welfare for Netflix [3-21-14]

Part 43: The Multi-speed Internet is Getting More Faster Speeds [4-28-14]

Part 44: Reality Check on the Electoral Politics of Net Neutrality [5-2-14]

Part 45: The “Aristechracy” Demands Consumers Subsidize Their Net Neutrality Free Lunch [5-8-14]

Part 46: Read AT&T’s Filing that Totally Debunks Title II Reclassification [5-9-14]

Part 47: Statement on FCC Open Internet NPRM [5-15-14]

Part 48: Net Neutrality Rhetoric: “Believe it or not!” [5-16-14]

Part 49: Top Ten Reasons Broadband Internet is not a Public Utility [5-20-14]

Part 50: Top Ten Reasons to Oppose Broadband Utility Regulation [5-28-14]

Part 51: Google’s Title II Broadband Utility Regulation Risks [6-3-14]

Part 52:  Exposing Netflix’ Biggest Net Neutrality Deceptions [6-5-14]

Part 53: Silicon Valley Naïve on Broadband Regulation (3 min video) [6-15-14]

Part 54: FCC’s Netflix Internet Peering Inquiry – Top Ten Questions [6-17-14]

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Why We Should Not Ban Landmines

June 27, 2014, 8:37 AM

The recent meeting in Mozambique of the signers of the Ottawa Convention, which bans the use of landmines, has brought the subject of landmines back into the spotlight. To date, 161 countries have signed the treaty, and its aims were included as official United Nations policy in 1999.

Long a vocal opponent of landmine proliferation and usage, President Barack Obama opened a review of America’s landmine policy in 2009. He has yet to take a major action, but many Obama-watchers fear he will soon take action to sign the treaty. He would be wrong to do so.

A time may come when landmines are no longer useful to the security of nations, but that time is not now. Whilst armies still depend on conventional weapons and movement – moving tanks and large infantry groups –the defensive tactic of landmines is highly useful and appropriate: it is cheap, affordable, and maintains borders. Their existence can slow or stop an advance by breaking up an attack and forcing attackers to go certain routes, delaying or even halting conflict.

Mines can even deter invasion in the first place. This has been the case in South Korea. The defense of South Korea from North Korean aggression depends upon the thick belt of landmines that lines the demilitarized zone. Without it, North Korea’s million-man army could easily cross into South Korea and take Seoul before sufficient defenses could be marshalled. South Korea is a key ally of the USA and to join in the ban on landmines would be to betray that ally. The failure of the Ottawa Convention to grant an exception for the Korean peninsula was the key reason for USA non-participation in the first place.

The convention also fails to adequately distinguish between different kinds of landmines. The US military has developed mines that can deactivate themselves and can even self-destruct. America only manufactures smart mines, and since 1976 the USA has tested 32,000 mines with a successful self-destruction rate of 99.996 per cent. The ban also fails to distinguish between responsible and irresponsible users. Under American deployment, only smart mines are used, and they are used responsibly, being set and removed in a methodical manner.

Another issue with a landmine ban is that it is easily circumvented by state and non-state actors alike. Landmines are merely a convenient way of providing what can be rigged in many ways – an explosion triggered when movement occurs in a particular area. Without landmines being legally available, soldiers and fighters will improvise landmines – they will wire up pressure plates and hand grenades and trip wires and high explosive charges, with much the same result. These tend to be much more difficult to disarm as they will not have a standard design and they may also have much more explosive power. This behavior was widespread in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The only differences are that these weapons are less efficient, and more dangerous to the user who prepares them.

It is not in America’s interest to ban landmines. Our ally relies on them and they still represent a valuable weapon system. Obama should not attach the United States to yet another treaty that diminishes our independence and denies us a tool for our defense and the defense of our allies.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Free Markets Uber Alles?

June 26, 2014, 4:37 PM

Convenient transportation has become a staple in today’s society, however, convenience is no longer enough. People need to have access to a ride in real time.

Every transportation service is coming up with apps so customers can track their busses and trains to better plan their trips. Unfortunately, delays and construction still plague the public transportation systems and are still not as reliable as it could be. Difficulty hailing cabs, in addition to their prices, have turned many away from using taxis. Having access to a ride at a moment’s notice is something that had not been perfected. Then, four years ago, Uber came along.

Bret Swanson, president of Entropy Economics LLC, recently joined our Jim Lakely, on The Heartland Daily Podcast to discuss Uber. He explained how Uber taps into the transportation market by offering drivers to people looking for a ride. The app gives customers access to Uber drivers in the area who can come pick up and drive them wherever they need to go.

Uber drivers who are online will show up on maps of customers and Uber will connect you with the closest driver. Riders have the choice of a Uber SUV, sedan, black car, or even regular taxi cab.  Unlike with taxis, customers do not need to worry about cash or credit cards because payment is all taken care of through the app. Customers can also request a quote prior to requesting a ride or split their fare with a friend, all through the app. The best part of Uber: its about 50 percent cheaper than taxi cabs.

Uber was launched in San Francisco and in four years, it has expanded to not only 72 cities in the United States, but 39 countries. The company has also become wildly popular with investors, is now valued at $18.2 billion. Last summer, Uber even launched a service to request ice cream trucks in a select number of cities. Despite its popularity, the company is constantly offering discounts and promotions to continue to encourage people not only to get the app but actually use the service. Uber’s approach provides safe, convenient and cheaper options for everyone. However, there is one party that would disaggree: taxi cab drivers.

Taxi drivers all over the country have staged protests against Uber, arguing that their fares should be the same as those of taxis. Though Uber allows customers to request taxis through the app, most opt to select an Uber vehicle instead. Uber’s fares are calculated on a basic supply-and-demand algorithm. The more demand for drivers rises during the day, the more prices go up. Uber surcharges, but not always at rush-hour times like taxi cabs do. Some  days you may only have to pay an extra 5 percent during rush hour, but have to pay an extra 25 percent at 2 p.m. The whole system utilizes the free market and weighs the value of each ride by how in demand it is at the time.

Listen to the podcast in the player above.

Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.

Categories: On the Blog

Hillary’s Literary Flop: Another Reason for Democrats to Hate Free Markets

June 26, 2014, 3:16 PM

Hillary Clinton’s memoir, Hard Choices, has failed the one test even the Obama White House cannot rig (or simply chose not to do): book sales numbers. Although the legacy media have commonly characterized sales of her book as lukewarm so far, the numbers are significantly worse than that, considering her name-recognition and public prominence.

As the Washington Examiner reports, sales of Clinton’s book have been less than one-quarter of what Sarah Palin achieved with her book, Going Rogue: An American Life, when the latter was released while the former Alaska governor was enduring near-universal scorn from the mainstream media.

Palin’s book hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list. The performance of Clinton’s book is best described as underwhelming. The Washington Examiner story notes the contrast:

Palin’s book, which was released the same year President Obama moved into the White House, sold approximately 496,000 copies in its first week of release, according to figures cited by theNew York Times.

That’s almost half a million copies in one week.

In contrast, Clinton, with all her softball interviews and a massive amount of free publicity from an excited press, sold only 100,000 copies from its Tuesday release through Saturday, Politico reported.

Mrs. Clinton, of course, will keep the massive advance her publisher chose to pay her. The politician will thrive, and the business will suffer: how typical of contemporary American life.


[Originally published at The American Culture]

Categories: On the Blog

President, Business Groups Defend Money-Losing Export-Import Bank

June 26, 2014, 1:10 PM

Rarely do some of the nation’s most powerful politicians and businesspeople laud banks that report big profits when in fact they have lost billions of dollars.

But we’re witnessing this spectacle on behalf of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which for many decades, and for good reason, has been called by its critics “The Bank of Boeing.” Its charter expires September 30, and a battle over its possible extension is brewing between the political establishment and reformers.

The Export-Import Bank got its start in 1934. It’s a Great Depression-era relic that has always favored the largest and most politically powerful companies.

Here’s how establishment defense of the Export-Import Bank has become: In 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama correctly declared the Bank is “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” Now that he is President Obama, firmly seated atop the federal government, he defends the Bank.

At the opposite end of the political spectrum but also near the center of the political establishment sits the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose lobbyists were among those who worked a “lobbying day” event for the Bank last month.

President Obama and other Export-Import Bank defenders have been claiming the bank makes a “profit” for America’s taxpayers.

The Congressional Budget Office recently debunked this claim in a report that finds, under proper accounting standards, the Bank costs U.S. taxpayers an average of $200 million a year in losses.

The CBO explains this by noting the Export-Import Bank does not account for “market risk,” the danger that borrowers will become delinquent in repaying their loans or stop repaying them. Private banks have to account for market risk. The CBO report says the Bank’s current accounting standards “do not provide a comprehensive measure of what federal credit programs actually cost the government and, by extension, taxpayers.”

The largest beneficiaries of the Export-Import Bank have been huge companies, with Boeing standing out in this regard. Boeing’s customers include both domestic and foreign airlines. Because of the loans and guarantees the Export-Import Bank gives to overseas buyers of Boeing airplanes, those overseas airlines often end up paying less for Boeing planes than domestic airlines pay. In helping Boeing, the Export-Import Bank can end up hurting domestic airlines.

Boeing in 2012 received more than 80 percent of the Export-Import Bank’s largesse. Virtually every year, at least 40 percent of Bank backing aids Boeing.

Boeing’s revenue tops $80 billion annually. Other huge companies that show up on the list of companies receiving Export-Import Bank backing include General Electric Co., Caterpillar Inc., and even Pemex (the Mexican government-owned oil company). In most years, 10 companies receive at least 75 percent of the Bank’s backing. Some years it’s more than 90 percent.

All of these companies have smaller competitors, and those companies often receive little or no support from the Bank. It’s another example of Big Business being in league with Big Government.

The billions of dollars of Export-Import Bank backing go to less than 2 percent of total U.S. exports. And there is every reason to believe that sliver of exports would have happened without the Bank.

The United States exported $2.27 trillion of goods and services in 2013, a $61 billion or 2.7 percent increase from 2012. Yet Export-Import Bank loans actually declined by $8.5 billion in 2013. So U.S. exports grew even when Bank loans declined.

Congress should heed the words of our president when he was a candidate who stood for something: The Export-Import Bank is “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”

End it, especially now that the Congressional Budget Office has shown us the bank’s dodgy accounting has been covering up hundreds of millions of dollars of annual losses.

Categories: On the Blog

Primary Musings from Oklahoma, Colorado, and Mississippi

June 26, 2014, 11:27 AM

With a surprisingly wide margin of victory, Congressman James Lankford won the Oklahoma Republican U.S. Senate primary, defeating former Speaker of the State House of Representatives T.W. Shannon by 23 points and avoiding a runoff election. Lankford now becomes the prohibitive favorite to replace outgoing Senator Tom Coburn, who is retiring with two years remaining in his current term.

This was a very different race from the one taking place in Mississippi. Despite negative ads run against Lankford by conservative groups, the Oklahoma contest was not an example of an “establishment” Republican or RINO versus a Tea Party candidate. In short, both Lankford and Shannon are credible, likeable conservatives, both are qualified for higher elected office, and both are likely to be on the scene in the future—to Oklahoma’s credit.

A former Baptist minister (or is a Baptist minister, like a Marine, never “former”?), Lankford directed a large Christian youth camp for more than a decade before winning election to Congress in 2010 in the Tea Party tsunami.

T.W. Shannon, the first black Speaker of the House in Oklahoma and a member of the Chickasaw Nation, has worked for former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts and current Rep. Tom Cole (who won his primary on Tuesday and will seek a 7th term in Congress). He is a business consultant with a law degree from Oklahoma City University.

Although it makes life a little dull for reporters, the two candidates were exceptionally similar in their positions on issues. This made the race about retail politics, framing the opponent, and eventually about the perhaps back-firing impact of out-of-state and PAC money spent trying to influence the race.

Shannon was boosted by an Tea Party blitz, drawing support from Senator Ted Cruz representing the Senate Conservatives Fund. FreedomWorks PAC also endorsed Shannon, calling him “a principled leader…He has blocked ObamaCare implementation in Oklahoma, signed a pledge to fight Common Core, founded the first States’ Rights Committee to protect Oklahomans from overreaching federal regulation, and consistently voted for lower taxes and more individual freedom.”

The Sunlight Foundation, a campaign finance watchdog group, argues that “dark money” was “the key factor driving Oklahoma’s Senate battle,” referencing especially a group called Oklahomans for a Conservative Future which spent $1.3 million, mostly attacking Congressman Lankford.

But primary voters are better informed than the electorate overall, so attacks against Lankford for “voting with liberals to raise the debt ceiling twice”—despite the fact that both Tom Coburn and Oklahoma’s other conservative Republican senator, James Inhofe, also voted for the debt ceiling measure—landed with a thud. Instead, it seems that Oklahomans took minor offense at being told what to do, including by groups that consistently support conservatives but whose mailing addresses are within spitting distance of Capitol Hill and therefore little more than possibly-well-intended interlopers.

This result was predicted five months ago by Congressman Tom Cole, who said in an interview with Roll Call that “Groups coming from outside the state, coming to try and set the agenda, sorry. You are welcome to come, but you ought to look at your track record.”

Oklahomans should hope that T.W. Shannon runs for office again in the future. That said, nothing in James Lankford’s two terms in Congress should have made him unappealing to Sooner voters. And they were not going to let negative ads, whether by outsiders or even Oklahomans, fool them.

A similar story played out in Colorado’s Republican primary for governor, in which former Congressman Bob Beauprez eked out a victory in a four-man field. The race ended up far more competitive than most elections with a handful of candidates: Beauprez received 30 percent in victory, beating former Congressman Tom Tancredo (26.5 percent) and Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler (23 percent), while former State Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp came in fourth with nearly 20 percent. It was as tight a four-person race as I have seen, with Gessler and Kopp outperforming many people’s expectations.Beauprez, who lost a prior race for governor by a wide margin to Democrat Bill Ritter in 2006, never abandoned a vision of himself returning to office. Seeing what he perceived to be a weak field encouraged him to throw his hat into the ring; with Tuesday’s victory, Beauprez faces a difficult challenge in defeating incumbent Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper who, despite angering many Coloradoans with attacks on gun rights, refusing to execute a mass-murderer, and supporting radical environmentalist plans to increase electricity costs (through increased renewable energy mandates) in rural Colorado, remains a fairly popular figure in the state.

The media has already reported the Colorado result as “establishment” win. While Bob Beauprez is reasonably characterized as an Establishment candidate, the others were hardly Tea Party representatives.

Given his outspoken opposition to both illegal and legal immigration, Tancredo is a breed unto himself. To be fair, he has principled constitutional and libertarian leanings that I admire, and I belatedly endorsed him in 2010. But I believe that his reputation as a one-trick pony would not only have made him unelectable, but also would have poisoned the ticket for other Republicans, particularly Congressman Cory Gardner, whose race to unseat Senator Mark Udall is winnable.

There was very little public polling done in Colorado in recent months. Earlier in the campaign, the front-runner appeared to be Tancredo, who lost a three-way contest for governor in 2010 when he switched to the American Constitution Party after the Colorado GOP nominated an unelectable candidate in a bit of misdirected Tea Party mania. Why did Tancredo, whose name recognition is roughly equal to Beauprez’s (both of whom are better known than Mssrs. Gessler and Kopp) lose his early lead? In part, similar to what happened in Oklahoma, because political ads backfired.

One of the first widely run ads in the campaign accused Tancredo of being “too conservative for Colorado” because of his strong opposition to Obamacare. This transparent ploy to make Tancredo more appealing to Republican primary voters by pretending to criticize him was paid for by a Democrat-affiliated 527 group called Protect Colorado Values. Clearly the Democrats perceived Tancredo’s potential negatives the same way I did, but their obvious involvement was a major miscalculation.

The same Democrats ran an ad accusing Bob Beauprez of supporting an individual health insurance mandate—which in fact he “reluctantly” did in 2007, though it never translated into support for Obamacare and he later changed his view. But despite Beauprez’s imperfect record (which is no worse than most other Republicans who served during the George W. Bush years) nobody who follows Colorado politics believes him to be anything but a solid conservative.

Again, as primary voters, who tend to be better-informed than the population overall, took umbrage at the transparent attempt at manipulation.

Republicans also ran unfair—and almost certainly ineffective, despite Tuesday’s results—ads against Tancredo, such as one supported by the popular former Senator Bill Armstrong that suggested Tancredo would legalize heroin and other hard drugs. In fact, Tancredo has taken a bold position for marijuana legalization and had said he would consider legalizing other drugs (mostly in the interest of reducing violence caused by gangs protecting drug profits), but the ad was so hyperbolic that its effect was likely minimal.

The outspoken social conservative Mike Kopp campaigned aggressively on opposition to marijuana legalization, but Colorado voters were not overwhelmed with a backward-looking message on an issue where the people have spoken.

Perhaps with the memory of Republicans’ enormous mistake in 2010 of nominating an unelectable small businessman whose personal story was, to put it kindly, exaggerated, and perhaps because many voices (such as on my radio show) urged GOP primary voters to consider first and foremost the candidate most likely to win in November, Bob Beauprez came from behind to earn his second shot at the Governor’s Mansion. While I think it will be a serious challenge to beat John Hickenlooper in November, Beauprez’s victory is welcome news to Republican senate candidate Cory Gardner and other Republicans down the ticket. My suggested motto, borrowing 1,500-year old wisdom, for participants in Tuesday’s primary: First, do no harm. By selecting Beauprez, they’ve heeded that advice.

In an under-the-radar local election in Loveland, Colorado, voters rejected by 52 percent to 48 percent a moratorium on fracking, despite an onslaught of misleading ads from liberal opponents of energy development. Voters may have noticed that Weld County, which Loveland borders, produces most of the oil in Colorado and, according to a pro-energy development group, “had the largest percentage increase in employment in the US in 2013.” Fracking bans, many disguised as measures supporting “local control”—the backing of which by Democrats should make anyone suspicious since liberals always want political power to be as far from the people as possible—may be on many other ballots across the state in November. Thus, Tuesday’s result is a welcome potential harbinger of sanity when it comes to one of Colorado’s most important industries.

Just a few comments on Mississippi (which my colleague Matt Purple is covering here): Thad Cochran represents everything that is wrong with the Republican Party; if that weren’t already clear, the fact that John McCain campaigned for him should have been the final necessary proof.

Pork king Cochran won his race by using Mississippi’s unfortunate election rules—which allow Democrats to vote in the Republican primary if they haven’t already voted in the Democratic primary—to win support from the opposition party by unashamedly promising more federal spending for his state. A typically inept mainstream media analysis was provided by CNN’s Gloria Borger who suggested that the GOP could learn something from Cochran’s winning coalition of establishment Republicans and Democrats since many of those Democrats had never before in their lives voted for a Republican. The problem is that approximately none of those Democrats will ever again vote for a Republican. In the meantime, Cochran’s supporters unsubtly played up the worst (e.g. racist) stereotypes of Tea Party candidates.

Republicans like Thad Cochran are the raison d’être for the Tea Party and candidates like the unsuccessful Chris McDaniel. A Republican senator who wins a primary election on the strength of Democratic support by making promises that should come from Democrats and other proponents of redistribution, pork, wasteful spending, and fundamentally unlimited government is the very definition of been-there-too-long. (Cochran has been in Congress, including the House, for more than 40 years—and it shows.) The GOP and every Republican who supported Cochran should feel something between slight embarrassment and outright shame.

A final note: One has to wonder how Thomas Carey feels today. Carey was the third Republican candidate in the original Mississippi primary race. He had no business in the race and no chance to win. Yet his presence almost certainly cost McDaniel the outright win on June 3, forcing the run-off election and allowing Cochran the time to organize Democrats to hold on to the seat he uses to buy votes with our money. Mr. Carey owes the nation an apology.


[Originally published at The American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

There’s Only One Meaningful Metric That Will Determine Obamacare’s Future

June 26, 2014, 10:11 AM

Since the end of the initial open enrollment period, there has been a marked rise in the frequency of a certain type of argument – an argument which I hear with regularity inside the Acela corridor, but almost never outside of it. The argument goes something like this: regardless of the political toxicity of Obamacare, it is here to stay, and the laws opponents and Congressional Republicans need to wake up to that fact, or else.

The “or else” could be anything, and is essentially interchangeable. The most common prediction is of electoral doom; less so are predictions of revolutionary protests in the streets, turning to violence in defense of their Medicaid benefits, or losing broad swathes of traditionally red states in the Senate contests this year, or most recently, a prediction that Republicans will lose 90 percent of women voters in 2016. And yes, I’ve heard all of these and more in recent weeks.

This argument has a milder version which is repeated in the more sensible press. These observers concede that yes, Obamacare is still very unpopular, and yes, premiums are still going up, and yes, it’s signed up fewer uninsured than we expected and even those newly insured are barely favorable of it… but still, they insist, talk of repeal and replace is just politicians irresponsibly playing to the more radical elements of their conservative base. Forget the polls – Obamacare is here to stay.

I think this is a mistaken view of the political realities at play here. Perhaps this is driven by the drumbeat of “good news, everyone” which has been put forward by supporters of the law. But in an era when wonks are so plentiful, data journalists fall fully ripened from the trees, and explainers flower with the glorious frequency of endless summer, it’s easy to lose sight of the simplicity of factors which will determine whether policies maintain their permanence or are dramatically reformed.

It’s a mistake to assume there is a magic number, a point of uninsured who gained insurance, a statistic of Medicaid signups, or a percentage of average premium increases which will mark the point where Obamacare is safe from Republican assault. The average American voter and policymaker is not watching these factors – they are aware of Obamacare’s performance primarily through how it impacts their livelihoods, costs, and constituents. The opponents of the law are far louder and more motivated than its supporters. And that is very unlikely to change any time soon.

This is why I do not understand the assumptions of inevitability on the part of the law’s supporters. The Republican Party has put the repeal of President Obama’s signature law at the center of its agenda for years. It has taken repeal vote after repeal vote and made pledge after pledge. As a matter of partisan priority, there is nothing greater. And one more year of Obamacare will not change that.

Every single feasible candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination will loudly declare their support for repealing the law. Most will also offer a policy replacement, culled from the various technocratic and free market think tanks or from the legislation currently introduced in Congress. Whoever Republicans choose as their nominee, their favored replacement will become the de facto alternative Republican plan which party leaders and elected officials will all be expected to defend. And should the Republican candidate win, it is inconceivable that they will not have run on making the replacement of Obamacare a top priority for the first 100 days in office.

Republicans are not going to back off their efforts for repeal. It is a top priority for their national base, for their donors, and for their constituents. If Republicans have the Senate, it becomes that much easier – but even without it, the margin will be narrow, and the possibility for dealmaking outranks the likelihood that every single Democratic Senator will toe the line and pass on the opportunity to help remake health policy as they see fit. And while the election of Hillary Clinton or another Democrat would prevent this circumstance and protect Obamacare from assault, assuming that such an election is inevitable is really what you’re saying when you say Obamacare is here to stay.

The political legacy of Obamacare and the 2012 election is a vindication of monopartisan governance. Great domestic policies are no longer achieved via bipartisan give and take or the leadership of careful compromisers – they are rammed through with the support of your party and your base when you have the power to do so. I fully expect to see Republicans attempt to do that should they retake the White House.

So what are we to do in the time until November 2016? Well, in the meantime, we can discuss the other factors and outcomes of this policy in the ways they impact America’s insurers, hospitals, drugmakers, and industries. But we should not lose sight of the fact that it is this political outcome, and this outcome alone, which will determine whether Obamacare survives or not. It’s just not that complicated.

Categories: On the Blog