Somewhat Reasonable

Syndicate content Somewhat Reasonable | Somewhat Reasonable
The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
Updated: 40 min 21 sec ago

A Rational Look at Global Warming Defies Hype and Conjecture

December 31, 2013, 12:33 AM

It was on September 27 that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered to massive media coverage an unsettling message: Climate change is real, humans are the main cause of it, and unless we stop the warming of the planet, in 50 years life as we know it will be no more.

A little more than a week before, on Sept. 18, a dueling climate change report was issued (published by Chicago’s Heartland Institute) by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science.

The NIPCC report, in keeping with past precedent, was not accorded the same fanfare as received by the UN’s IPCC report upon its release. To the contrary, media attention for Heartland’s NIPCC report was practically nonexistent as was observed at the Sept. 18 press conference held by Heartland in Chicago to announce the release of its report.

As a skeptic of global warming, a welcome mat does not exist in Chicago for The Heartland Institute as its message goes against the accepted media message of the Chicago Tribune, etc., that global warming is man-made with CO2 as the main culprit.

A slew of scathing reports followed the release of Heartland’s NIPCC report, such as this from Climate Science Watch:

The discredited Heartland Institute is attempting to present its new NIPCC report, Climate Change Reconsidered, as a legitimate alternative authority to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  But the NIPCC report is not a credible scientific undertaking, and the Heartland Institute has no credibility, scientific or otherwise.

To protect the stellar credentials of The Heartland Institute, President Joseph Bast offered the following essay:

We urge the public to compare and contrast these two reports on what is probably the most important public policy issue of our age. The NIPCC report was produced by a team of independent scientists with no agenda other than to find the truth. . . .  The IPCC study, in contrast, is produced by a government agency, part of the United Nations. That agency’s mission is to find a human impact on climate. . . .

The NIPCC report finds the human impact on climate is very small, and as a result, any warming that may be due to human greenhouse gas emissions is likely to be so small as to be invisible against a background of natural variability. The authors of the NIPCC study do not believe man-made global warming is a crisis, or that scientists know enough about how the climate works to make policy-relevant recommendations to the world’s government leaders.

Without question President Obama and his administration are in lock step with the UN’s highly flawed report that calls for action now to fight climate change before time runs out.  Accordingly, it’s full steam ahead for Obama and his administration.

On November 1, Obama offered a presidential directive to “enhance climate preparedness and resilience.”  The directive calls for an interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience in partnership with state, county, local and tribal governments, by which Obama aims to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020 from 2005 levels.  Even the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline hinges upon a determination of what will be the net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate.

But what do the American people think?  Might they be seeing through the story they are being fed by the mainstream media? According to the Pew Research Center’s policy priorities survey, this year the American public ranked dealing with global warming at the very bottom of 21 listed priorities. Even so 35% of Republicans, 53% of independents, and 75% of Democrats believe there is solid evidence of rising temperatures on earth.

According to Michael Bastasch, the American people should be holding their champagne glasses high this holiday season as the end of 2013 marks the 17th year without global warming. Explaining away the 17-year hiatus in global despite the setbacks noted below, can be achieved only if political ideology is permitted to trump proven scientific facts.

The following top seven global warming alarmist setbacks of 2013 were posted on December 20 by Mr. Bastasch from content compiled by The Daily Caller News Foundation:

1) Studies show that the world was warmer than it is today during the Roman Empire and when the Vikings were plundering Europe and North America. In fact, even in the 19th Century, there were discussions surrounding the fact that the Vikings could settle the northernmost reaches of Greenland and North America because there was less ice coverage.

2) During the second week in December, the U.S. saw more than 2000 record low temperatures and record snowfalls, according to the National Weather Service and HamWeather records center. There were 606 record low temperatures, 1,234 low maximum temperatures and 285 record snowfalls across the country. In the meantime there were only 98 high temperature records and 141 high minimum temperature records.

3) Satellite data shows that the polar bears have at least one reason to be happy this year – Arctic sea ice coverage was up 50 percent over last year’s record low coverage. Contrary to Al Gore’s prediction that there would be no polar ice cap by this year, sea ice coverage spanned nearly 2,100 cubic miles by the end of this year’s melting season, up from about 1,400 cubic last year.

4) Global cooling is on the way, according to an increasing number of scientists. German scientists have predicted that based on declining sunspot activity and natural climate oscillation the world will cool over the next century. Temperatures will eventually drop to levels corresponding with the “little ice age” of 1870.

5) Other scientists have also been coming around to the global cooling side of things. The BBC reported that Professor Mike Lockwood of the Reading University predicts that at the current rate of decline in solar activity, another “Little Ice Age” could envelope Northern Europe.

6) The United Nations climate bureaucracy’s latest global warming report was called “hilarious” by a leading scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Richard Lindzen said the UN’s report “has truly sunk to level of hilarious incoherence” because they continue to proclaim with ever greater certainty that mankind is causing global warming, despite their models continually being wrong.

“Their excuse for the absence of warming over the past 17 years is that the heat is hiding in the deep ocean,” Lindzen said. “However, this is simply an admission that the models fail to simulate the exchanges of heat between the surface layers and the deeper oceans.”

7) The Senate testimony of Dr. Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado completely undercut environmentalists and Democrats trying to claim that global warming was causing “extreme weather.”

“It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally,” Pielke said. “It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.”

The other witnesses on the panel did not refute Pielke’s data.

Will the Dec. 28 saga of a dramatic spectacle of climate researchers trapped in Antarctic ice (which has expanded massively during 2013) help free the mainstream media of the false global warming ice narrative?  A Chinese ice breaker sent to rescue climate researchers who became trapped in ice on Christmas Day is now itself waiting and is hoping to push aside some of the ten foot thick ice preventing it from reaching the trapped researchers. An Australian ice-breaking ship got stuck in the ice, too.

Hardly so, because the story doesn’t fit the unflinching template held by the mainstream media, just as the same has disregarded John Coleman (founder of The Weather Channel) and various other critics who have called the theory that human use of carbon-based fossil fuels will lead to catastrophic global warming or climate change a hoax, despite an added warning that purposeful deception to mislead might be criminal.

Even if more adults do see through the hoax that is global warming, what about our youth?

The Common Core Science Curriculum teaches children that humans are dangerous to the planet, that man made global warming is an accepted incontrovertible fact even though it is not, and that government action is required to fix global warming even though the taxes the Obama administration would like to impose on carbon dioxide producers would have a negligible effect on global warming but would have a devastating effect on a crumbling economy.

Are parents in the know up to countering the false propaganda being taught their children? And what about the many parents who have no idea or little interest in what their children are being taught in the public schools by way of the new Common Core curriculum.

Only time will tell, but the situation doesn’t offer much hope.

Categories: On the Blog

Don’t Fear ‘Deflation,’ Unless Caused by Government

December 30, 2013, 10:34 PM

Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, and his designated successor, Janet Yellen, have defended the central bank’s $4 trillion monetary expansion over the last five years as a necessity to fight recession and prevent deflation. The only problem is that booms and recessions are caused by central banks, and deflation is “bad” only when it is the result of government policy.

It was the five years of easy money policy and interest rate manipulation between 2003 and 2008 that created the unsustainable housing, investment, and consumer spending booms that finally came crashing down in 2008 and 2009. The Federal Reserve’s 50 percent increase in the supply of money and credit in the banking system between 2003 and 2008 generated the illusion that people could do more and spend more than the scarce resources of the society could actually fund and cover.

The recession was a symptom that numerous sectors of the economy had been thrown out of balance during the years of easy money, and that markets needed to rebalance to restore sustainable full employment and long-term wealth-enhancing growth.

Instead of leaving markets alone to find their own levels for that rebalancing of supply and demand, the Federal Reserve continued to pump in even more money into the financial markets – over $4 trillion more into the banking system – and the federal government went on an even larger than usual deficit spending binge – over $4.6 trillion worth between 2009 and 2013.

Rather than assisting a post-recession recovery, these policies – plus other market-harming government interventions, regulations, and manipulations including ObamaCare – have made this the most sluggish recovery, especially in terms of employment, in the entire period since the end of World War II in 1945.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve leadership has argued that its “quantitative easing” policies were necessary to prevent the economy from experiencing any significant “deflation,” defined by the monetary authorities as a sustained and continuing fall in the general level of prices.

This is what is behind the unofficial Federal Reserve policy of aiming for a “target” of two percent price inflation, that is a sustained and continuing rise in the general level of prices.

What is considered to be so “damaging” in a general decline or fall in prices throughout the economy? For many economists, including, seemingly, those at the helm at the Federal Reserve, falling prices is considered a sign of economic “bad times.” After all, how can businessmen be making profits and maintain employment if their selling prices are going down?

It is possible to distinguish at least three causal reasons behind any observed general fall in prices, or “price deflation,” and it is worth understanding the affects of each one.

Supply-Side Deflation

A general decline in prices may accompany significant expansions in output resulting from productivity increases and cost efficiencies. One of the competitive forces in the market economy is the never-ending drive of entrepreneurs to bring better and less-expensive goods and services to market for the consuming public.

New technologies and cost-saving innovations introduced within business enterprises enable more goods to be manufactured and sold at lower per-unit costs. Sellers, in one sector of the economy after another, increase their supplies offered on the market, and competitive pressure results in a lowering of the prices of those goods to reflect their lower costs of production. The cumulative effect is that the general level of prices will decline over a period of time.

In the period between the end of the American Civil War in 1865 and 1900, the general level of prices in the United States declined by about 50 percent. While the American economy did experience short periods of economic depression during those years (mostly due to the federal government’s manipulation of the monetary standard), this nearly half-century period was the time of America’s Industrial Revolution, and it saw a dramatic rise in standards of living even though accompanied by an expanding population.

An open, free-market system tends to foster the incentives and profitable rewards for capital investment and innovation that bring forth increasing prosperity. Greater output at falling prices provides people with higher real income as each dollar they earn now buys a larger quantity of goods and services in the marketplace. Supply-side deflation, therefore, is an indication of a growing and dynamic market system that is improving the economic conditions and opportunities of the general population.

For that reason, such supply-side price deflation has often been called the “good deflation.”

Price-Wage Rigidity Deflation and Keynesian Economics

All economic change brings with it shifts in market demand-and-supply conditions. Continuous adjustment and balance within the market requires those affected by change to adapt to the new circumstances. In a world of constant change, the demands for some goods increase while other demands decline.

Innovations and technological advancements as well as changing resource availability bring with it shifts in the demand and supply of various forms of labor and capital. The information about these changes and the incentives to appropriately respond to them are provided to people in the market through changes in the structure of relative prices and wages.

Any failure of prices and wages to correctly reflect the new patterns of market supply and demand only generates distortions, imbalances, and maladjustments between the two sides of the market. Under the influence of Keynesian economics, for most of the last 75 years, the resulting unemployment and falling output due to price and wage rigidities have been called “aggregate-demand failures.”

The presumption has been that the level of total demand for goods and services in the economy in general falls short of the total supply of goods and services available for sale at prices equal to their costs of production. The problem, it is said, is not that prices and wages are “wrong” on the supply side but rather that aggregate spending is “too low” on the demand side. The policy presumption has been that government and its monetary authority must increase total demand, either through government deficit spending or the central bank’s printing money and providing it for private investment and other purposes.

Unemployment as a Supply-Side Pricing Problem

The free-market economist William H. Hutt gave a refutation to this Keynesian reasoning in his two works “A Rehabilitation of Say’s Law” (1974) and “The Keynesian Episode” (1979). Hutt argued that when the Keynesians refer to excess aggregate supply and an apparent weakness of aggregate demand to purchase that supply, they are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

There cannot be an “aggregate” excess supply of everything unless there is a super-abundance of all resource inputs and consumer-demanded outputs, at which point there would no longer be an “economic problem” because there would no longer be scarcity. Why bother whether all are employed when the society has reached the point where it is so rich in all desired things that there is no longer any work left to be done?

What can exist is an oversupply of particular goods relative to the demand for them at the prices at which they are being offered for sale. What is preventing the buying of more of these goods is not that the aggregate demand is “too low” but rather that the particular prices for these goods are set too high, given the consumer demands for them.

In other words, the sellers of these goods or labor services are pricing themselves out of the market. It is the unwillingness of resource owners to price their products and services at levels commensurate with consumer demand that Hutt said were the cause of prolonged depressions.

When a supplier is unwilling to lower his price or wage to induce greater sales when demand for his particular good or service turns out to be less than he had, perhaps, expected, then a part of his supply remains unsold and a portion of the labor services available for hire remains unemployed.

The loss of income due to producers or workers maintaining their supply prices too high relative to actual market demand results in a decrease in their ability to purchase the goods and services of others being offered on the market.

If the suppliers of those goods and services, in turn, refuse to adjust their prices and wages downwards, given the now-lower demand for their output, then the circle of unsold products and unemployed labor starts to expand. A “cumulative contraction” of output and employment may develop in the face of such a network of relatively rigid prices and wages.

Hutt also emphasized that whenever a price or wage that is too high is lowered closer to its equilibrium or market-clearing level, suppliers of those goods and services increase their sales and potentially earn higher income. Their higher incomes from pricing their goods and services more correctly, in turn, enable them to increase their demands for other goods and services and thus start a process of expanding the circle of employment and production opportunities in the market. Market-guided pricing puts the unemployed back to work and releases the flow of demand for a growing circle of goods in the economy.

Monetary Deflation

A general decline in prices can also be brought about by a monetary deflation. A contraction in the supply of money and credit reduces the amount of money in people’s hands with which they can demand the various goods and services they wish to buy in the market. With less money to spend, there invariably results a downward pressure on prices and wages in general in the economy

If there are price and wage rigidities, as just discussed, then the process of restoring balance between market supplies and demands at a required lower scale or level of prices can be dragged out and punctuated by “recessionary” unemployment and lower production.

Under central banking, monetary contractions are government-made. There have been instances when governments have intentionally contracted the money supply. The British government did so after the war with Napoleon in the early 19th century and then again after the First World War in the early 1920s.

Other times it has happened as a result of the central-bank-managed fractional-reserve system, under which outstanding bank liabilities are a multiple of the actual reserves to meet all depositor obligations. In the early 1930s, bank loans went bad, depositors withdrew their funds out of fear of bank closings, and the amount of bank credit outstanding contracted as a multiple of the reserves withdrawn by depositors.

But as we saw, for practically the entire 21st century, so far, the Federal Reserve has been greatly increasing the supply of money and credit to the banking system, both during the “boom” years between 2003 and 2008, and even more “aggressively” during the recession and recovery years between 2008 and 2013. So no monetary deflation or contraction has threatened the U.S. economy.

A Non-Inflationary Free Market Banking System

What we should want is a non-inflationary monetary framework for the United States, through severe restraints on the ability of the Federal Reserve to expand the supply of money and credit, and through an eventual shift away from central banking to a gold, or some other commodity-based, private competitive banking system.

A free, competitive market economy is always rewarding successful entrepreneurs with profits for having made new, better and less expensive goods to earn consumer business. Thus, the normal trend in a free, competitive market is a world of gently falling prices as innovative businessmen bring improved and less expensive goods to consumers.

A truly free market economy, therefore, is one that tends to have the “good deflation,” and we should look forward to it, if only government intervention and central banking would get out of the way.

[First published at Epic Times.]

Categories: On the Blog

Swirling the Bowl: An Administration Goes Down the Drain

December 29, 2013, 5:08 AM

If you accidentally dropped your most treasured piece of jewelry into the toilet just as you were flushing, you’d scream, you’d cry, and you might tell a sympathetic friend . . . unless you were just too embarrassed.

Among President Obama’s formerly greatest champions — minorities, unions, so-called journalists and young voters — the swirling-into-oblivion administration has engendered a remarkable sullen silence, given their loss, as they passively give up on recovering their once-loved gem, now sullied by this government’s own political excrement.

Covered with the stench of debacles including Obamacare, the NSA, Syria, Benghazi, the IRS, and the AP, while demonstrating a level of incompetence so great that it must give pause to all but the most committed members of the cult of unlimited government, few liberals will be willing to dig through the muck to reclaim their once-prized possession.

While the media like to focus on Tea Party froth and Republican infighting, the key to the 2014 and 2016 elections is the effect of the Obama flush on his key supporters’ desire to vote for Democrats, or to vote at all.

Several recent polls point to 2014 as having the potential to be a Republican landslide. This is not because the GOP has found a coherent message or a compelling messenger but because Obama’s base has lost that lovin’ feelin’.

A poll released on Monday by Pew Research says that while 90 percent of liberal Democrats still profess approval of how President Obama is doing his job — more than double his approval in the population overall — the percentage who say they “strongly approve” has plunged to 54 percent, down almost 20 percent from just six months ago.

Compared to George W. Bush at the same point in his presidency, Obama has more total support from his base (90 percent of liberal Democrats versus Bush’s 82 percent support among conservative Republicans) but far less “strong support” (54 percent to Bush’s 65 percent). A strong supporter is a likely voter; any other supporter could just as easily stay home on Election Day.

In the 2006 midterm elections, the Bush analog to the upcoming 2014 midterms, with more strong support for President Bush than Obama has now among their respective bases, Democrats picked up 31 seats in the House of Representatives, ending a Republican majority and installing Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Speaker of the House.

In the Senate, Democrats picked up six seats by defeating Republican incumbents.

In the 2006 elections, as Wikipedia notes, “no Congressional or gubernatorial seat held by a Democrat was won by a Republican.”

Six years later, it was no accident that most of Barack Obama’s traffic-snarling trips to key swing states during the 2012 election cycle were visits to universities in Colorado (he visited CU three times in 2012), North CarolinaIowaOhio and elsewhere, offering platitudes about college affordability. Obama was dependent on young, idealistic, and naïve young adults to win re-election.

poll just prior to the election showed that college students preferred Obama to Mitt Romney by 30 percentage points, with an even larger gap in swing states where Obama focused most of his campaigning. And these young adults turned out in much larger numbers than the pundits had expected, with an estimated 50 percent turnout among voters ages 18 to 29, making up 19 percent of the electorate.

One study of the 2012 election concludes that “without young people, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania would have flipped from blue to red,” giving the election to Romney. You don’t need to go that far. If a moderate fraction of young voters were disinclined to participate in an election, or, even more impactfully, switched from Democrat to Republican, it could completely change American elections, many of which are decided by small single-digit percentage changes in voter preferences.

Among young adults those preferences are changing dramatically: A recent Harvard survey of 18- to 29-year olds shows plunging approval of Obama, down to 41 percent (from 52 percent last year), and now tracking with older Americans’ views. Along with a substantial decline in Democratic Party self-identification by 18-24 year olds, 52 percent of that group says they would recall President Obama if they could. And with more recent data, Fox News reported on Wednesday that Obama approval among registered voters under the age of 35 is down to 37 percent, lower than any other age group.

For conservatives, the good news here is substantial. By demonstrating not just incompetence but overt lies the Obama administration is undermining the faith of an increasingly libertarian millennial cohort in the Nanny State and its Democratic pied pipers.

Additionally, the Obama propagandists are — remarkably for people so effective with Facebook and Twitter during the last two presidential elections — showing a strangely off-putting social media aesthetic.

Their latest and perhaps greatest fail is “pajama boy,” an effete plaid-wearing cocoa-sipping geek, as their face of the generic young adult who should sign up for Obamacare.

Appropriately snarky reactions from the Twitterverse include Dana Loesch’s “All-natural birth control right here, ladies” as well as dozens of hilarious mash-ups and photo manipulations.

What typical guy would take guidance from a character whose most common descriptive seems to be “douche”? For that matter, what young woman would?

As Reason magazine’s Nick Gillespie points out, “If you think the latest bid to reboot the public image of Obamacare is absolutely godawful, disturbing, pathetic, you name it (I know I do!), I’ve got news for you: You’re probably not the audience for it.”

But the problem for Democrats everywhere is that if the “hipster douchitude on a cracker” is the left’s “in-group,” that is a very thin reed on which to attach a political campaign. Getting the majority of graduate students in the Department of Comparative Lesbian Eskimo Literature isn’t going to win Senate elections, especially in competitive upcoming races in states like Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, and West Virginia. (Boulder is another story.)

But it’s not just young people who are abandoning the false promise of “hope and change.”

Gallup poll released earlier this month shows massive declines among all of Obama’s core base groups, led by a stunning 23 percent drop in Obama’s approval among Hispanics since last December. Among those earning less than $24,000 a year, the plunge was 18 percent. Nonwhite support of Obama fell 17 percent (though it still remains high at 65 percent). Support among moderates fell 16 percent and among 18-29 year-olds tumbled 15 percent, both resting under 50 percent with groups Democrats must have to win.

And so the Obama presidency circles the drain.

Union members are furious about the impact of Obamacare on their “Cadillac” health plans. In August, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which has over 40,000 members in the United States, dissolved their ties with the AFL-CIO based in large part on the AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka’s active role in helping Obamacare become law.

Several other large labor unions are now suffering buyer’s remorse over the ironically named Affordable Care Act. Union dissatisfaction with the Obama administration has become intense enough that even the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein was compelled to report on it.

Among reporters, however, it’s more of a Silver Blaze situation: notable for the lapdogs not barking. Some are reluctantly recognizing that what little credibility they and their profession have left requires telling today’s political stories with near-honesty rather than serving as Obama’s human shields.

Of course there are holdouts: The slavishly pro-Obama NBC News begins a story about the president’s 38 percent job approval in Iowa by saying, “Not that he’s running for anything again.” I’m sure that makes the reporter feel better.

That’s par for the “journalistic” course among the usual old-line news outlets whose J-school-graduate employees are inconsolable as the legacy of their “historic” president swirls in the bowl like Tuesday’s pot roast, substantially less appealing after being fully digested.

And while the Hollywood celebrity elite try to stand their ground, the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan believes that “New York’s Democrats, to the degree they ever loved the president, don’t love him anymore, and have moved on. They are not thinking about what progress he might make in Washington next year, they’re talking about what Hillary might do the year after that.”

Yet all this talk about President Obama obscures a larger point, though one not lost on likely-to-be-ex-Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) and other vulnerable Democrats — or on the declining Mrs. Clinton herself: The flush isn’t just sucking away Obama’s last measure of relevancy, but the relevancy of his party and his philosophy, and the morale and commitment of their supporters.

The last remaining glimmer of Obama’s political capital and personal appeal, and thus his ability to help vulnerable Democrats in the 2014 elections and beyond, is flowing into the septic tank of Progressive history.

As of now, President Obama is to Democratic contenders what an accidentally flushed necklace would be to a woman trying to impress a date — if she pulled it out of the muck and put it around her neck without first washing it off.

Some things you just have to let go.

[First published at the American Spectator.]

Categories: On the Blog