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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Another Big Lie from Obama, This Time Over Mass Shootings

June 13, 2014, 6:41 PM

President Obama has spewed a lie so brazen, so easily debunked, it’s hard to believe a man supposedly so smart — and in such a high position of power — can speak so recklessly.

But here he is just a couple of days ago, speaking of mass shootings and saying:

We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens.

A 10-second Google search shows the United States is by no means alone. Incidents like these are happening and have been happening around the world, including in countries where they have strict gun control laws and none of the so-called “gun culture” that Obama and his ilk so often deride to slander America.

This timeline of mass shootings around the world since the 1980s through 2012 includes these incidents:

SOUTH KOREA – A police officer went on a drunken rampage in Sang-Namdo with rifles and hand grenades, killing 57 people and wounding 38 before blowing himself up.

BRITAIN – A 27-year-old gunman rampaged through the English town of Hungerford, killing 16 people and wounding 11 before shooting himself.

FRANCE – A French farmer shot and killed 14 people including members of his family in the village of Luxiol, near the Swiss border. He was wounded and captured by police.

CANADA – A 25-year-old war movie fan with a grudge against women shot dead 14 young women at the University of Montreal, then killed himself.

NEW ZEALAND – A gun-mad loner killed 11 men, women and children in a 24-hour rampage in the seaside village of Aramoana. He was killed by police.

FRANCE – A 16-year-old youth ran amok with a rifle in the town of Cuers, killing 16 people and then himself after an argument with his parents.

BRITAIN – A gunman burst into a primary school in the Scottish town of Dunblane and shot dead 16 children and their teacher before killing himself.

AUSTRALIA – A gunman unleashed modern Australia’s worst mass murder when he shot dead 35 people at the Port Arthur tourist site in the southern state of Tasmania.

NEPAL – Eight members of the Nepalese Royal family were killed in a palace massacre by Crown Prince Dipendra who later turned a gun on himself and died few days later. His youngest brother also died later raising the death toll to 10.

GERMANY – In Erfurt, eastern Germany, a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at a school, killing 12 teachers, a secretary, two students and a policeman before killing himself.

FINLAND – A student opened fire in a vocational school in Kauhajoki in northwest Finland, killing nine other students and one staff member, then killed himself.

GERMANY – A 17-year-old gunman dressed in black combat gear killed nine students and three teachers at a school near Stuttgart. He also killed one other person at a nearby clinic. He was later killed in a shoot-out with police.

BRITAIN – A gunman opened fire on people in towns across the rural county of Cumbria. Twelve people were killed and 11 injured. The gunman then killed himself.

NORWAY – A gunman blew up a government building in Oslo and then opened fire at a youth summer camp of Norway’s ruling political party, on the holiday island of Utoeya, killing 77 people.

There’s also this list of shootings around the world, which includes many of the above incidents as well as these:

— March 11, 2012: Sixteen Afghan villagers, including nine children, are killed during a predawn attack in which Army prosecutors have charged Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39.

— April 30, 2009: Farda Gadyrov, 29, enters the prestigious Azerbaijan State Oil Academy in the capital, Baku, armed with an automatic pistol and clips. He kills 12 people before killing himself as police close in.

— Nov. 7, 2007: After revealing plans for his attack in YouTube postings, 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen fires kills eight people at his high school in Tuusula, Finland.

Not only are there mass shootings around the world, there are mass stabbings. In August 2012, a teenager in China killed eight persons and wounded five others in a knife attack. On December 14, 2012, the same day as the infamous shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, a man in China stabbed 22 school children and an adult. In 2010, nearly 20 children were killed and 50 injured in knife attacks at schools in China.

President Obama declares:

“Right now, it’s not even possible to get even the mildest [firearms] restrictions through Congress, and we should be ashamed of that.”

I’m old enough to remember when the Sears Christmas catalog was filled with firearms a person could buy through the mail. The firearms didn’t need to go through a federally licensed firearms dealer because there was no such thing as a licensed dealer. There was no Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. There were no background checks or waiting periods. There were no age limits. Nearly every little hardware store sold guns and ammo that a person could buy, no questions asked.

I’m old enough to remember when many public schools had shooting teams. Many Scout groups also had them.

How is that school shootings were almost unheard of when there was no age limit to buy guns, no licensing of gun dealers, and no such thing as a background check or waiting period? Could the problem be people and not guns, which, after all, are inanimate objects? Do knives compel us to stab? Do baseball bats compel us to bludgeon? Do pills compel us to poison?

But this gets us into an area that many people, especially on the left of the political spectrum, don’t want to get into because they don’t like pointing fingers – unless those fingers are pointed at the overwhelming majority of peaceful sportsmen whose hobby they detest.

I live in suburban Chicago. Within five miles of my house there are at least eight gun stores and three shooting ranges. The last firearms-related murder in my town occurred in 2001. Why does my little hometown, filled with gun stores and shooting ranges, go decades at a time with no firearms-related murders?

There are no gun stores or shooting ranges in Chicago, yet parts of the city are a shooting gallery. Notice I said parts. Some parts of the city are as safe as any place else. The laws against shooting and killing people apply equally and everywhere in Chicago. The laws regarding possession of firearms apply equally and everywhere. Why are some parts of Chicago dangerous and others safe?

The Heartland Institute is based in Chicago. President Obama lived in Chicago. The Mayor of Chicago used to be on Obama’s chief of staff. Surely someone in Chicago could send this article to the president. I’d love for him to answer my questions and respond to my refutation of his laughable claim that “We’re the only developed country on Earth” where mass shootings happen.

Categories: On the Blog

The Long Term: Metro America Goes From 82% to 86% Suburban Since 1990

June 13, 2014, 2:59 PM

www.newgeography.com

The major metropolitan areas of the United States experienced virtually all of their overall growth in suburban and exurban areas between 2000 and 2010. This is the conclusion of an analysis of the functional Pre-Auto Urban Cores and functional suburban and exurban areas using the Demographia City Sector Model.

The City Sector Model

The City Sector Model classifies zip code areas in the major metropolitan areas based on urban form (Note 1). These include four classifications, one of which replicates the urban form and travel behavior typical of the pre-World War II urban cores. These areas were typically higher density and dependent on transit and walking. The City Sector Model has three other classifications, Pre-Auto Urban Core, Auto-Suburban: Earlier, Auto-Suburban: Later and Auto-Exurban.

For simplicity the City Sector categories are referred to as urban core, earlier suburban, later suburban and exurban. The City Sector Model is described in a previous article, and illustrated in Figure 1, which is also posted to the internet.

The model makes it possible to analyze metropolitan areas based on smaller area functional classifications, rather than on jurisdictional (historical core municipality) borders, which among other things, mask as core large areas of suburbanization.

Suburbanized Core Municipality Examples: San Jose and Charlotte

This suburbanization in the historical core municipalities is illustrated by examples like San Jose and Charlotte. The City Sector Model indicates that neither of these metropolitan areas has a pre-auto urban core. This is because neither metropolitan area has a large enough concentration of houses with a median construction date of 1945 or before or sufficient area of 7,500 population density per square mile (2,900 per square kilometer) with a transit, walking and cycling work trip market share of at least 20 percent. As a result, virtually all of both metropolitan areas is automobile oriented suburban, including virtually all of the core municipalities.

This is true in Charlotte despite its development of one of the most impressive new central business districts in the nation, with high employment densities. Yet at the same time the  core city of Charlotte itself is very low density (2010), at 2,500 per square mile (950 per square kilometer), less than the suburban area average for large US urban areas (2,600 per square mile or 1,000 per square kilometer). Charlotte, however, could develop the equivalent of a pre-auto urban core if its central population density rises enough and enough commuters use transit, walking and cycling.

The core city of San Jose is far more dense than Charlotte, at 5,800 per square mile (2,200 per square kilometer). However, it is less dense than the suburbs of Los Angeles (6,400 per square mile or 2,500 per square mile). Like Charlotte, the core city of San Jose is virtually all automobile oriented suburban and has a transit work trip market share a full third below the major metropolitan area average.

Overall Population Trend: 2000-2010

These phenomena reflect national trends, All major metropolitan area growth between 2000 and 2010 (100.9 percent) was in the functional suburbs and exurbs.

Between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of major metropolitan area population in the urban cores declined from 16.1 percent to 14.4 percent. The urban cores lost approximately 140,000 residents (a loss of 0.6 percent), despite strong gains very close to the centers of the historical core municipalities. Consistent with these findings, Census Bureau analysis showed that the focused gains in the cores of the urban cores were more than negated by losses in surrounding urban core areas (described in: Flocking Elsewhere: The Downtown Growth Story).

The earlier suburban areas gained only modestly, adding 280,000 new residents, for a 0.4 percent increase. These areas have median house construction dates between 1946 and 1979. The largest increase was in the later suburban areas, which added the most new residents, 11.4 million, for a gain of 33.4 percent. The later suburban areas have median house constructions of 1980 or later. Exurban areas added 5.0 million residents, for a gain of 21.3 percent. Exurban areas are located outside the principal urban areas (Figure 2).

Overall, the later suburban and exurban areas gained 16.4 million residents, compared to the combined gain of 130,000 in the urban cores and earlier suburban areas. Thus, more than 99 percent of the population growth in the major metropolitan areas was in the later suburban and exurban areas (Figure 3).

During the decade, the exurban areas overtook the urban cores in population, rising from 15.4 percent of the major metropolitan area population to 16.8 percent (Figure 4).

Contrast with 1990-2000 Population Trend

Despite all of the talk of an urban core renaissance, the 2000 to 2010 decade was less favorable for urban cores than the 1990 to 2000 decade. In the earlier decade, the urban cores (as defined in 2010) added 960,000 residents, for a growth rate of 4.0 percent. This compares to the 140,000 urban core loss between 2000 and 2010 (Note 2).

Virtually all of the difference was attributable to urban core population trend reversals in New York, Boston and Chicago, which combined experienced a drop in growth of 1.1 million. Between 1990 and 2000, the urban core of New York added 779,000 residents, far more than the 190,000 added between 2000 and 2010. Boston’s 1990-2000 urban core growth was 296,000, but fell to 27,000 in the last decade. Chicago’s urban core dropped from a gain of 139,000 to a loss of 175,000.

Over the past twenty years, the population of urban cores has diminished relative to that of major metropolitan areas. In 1990, the urban cores represented 18.1 percent of the population, but fell to 14.1 percent in 2010. Auto-oriented areas (suburban and exurban) have increased their combined share from 81.9 percent of the major metropolitan area population in 1990 to 85.6 percent in 2010 (Figure $$$).

Summary of Individual Metropolitan areas

In 30 of the 52 major metropolitan areas, all or more of the population growth was in suburban and exurban areas between 2000 and 2010. This includes the metropolitan areas that do not have Pre-Auto Urban Cores.

Chicago had the largest share of suburban and exurban population growth, at 148 percent. This occurred because of the substantial urban core population losses. The suburbs and exurbs of Providence captured 131 percent of its growth, slightly more than the 126 percent suburban and exurban share in St. Louis. Baltimore, Rochester and Milwaukee had more than 110 percent of their growth in the suburbs and exurbs. Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Kansas City rounded out the largest suburban and exurban growth shares, all over 105 percent.

Despite the substantial decline in its urban core growth in the last decade, New York had the lowest share of population growth in the suburbs and exurbs (meaning that it had the highest share of population growth in the urban core). The suburbs and exurbs of New York captured only 69 percent of the metropolitan area growth, well below second place, Virginia Beach – Norfolk (81 percent). Boston was next at 83 percent, followed by San Francisco – Oakland, at 88 percent. The bottom 10 in suburban and exurban growth share also included Seattle, Washington, Philadelphia, Richmond, Hartford and Portland. Even so, each of these six metropolitan areas had more than 90 percent of their growth in suburban and exurban areas (Figure 6).

Jurisdictional Analyses: Suburbs Masquerading in Cities

The functional analysis based on urban form and behavior reveals substantially different trends compared to the conventional jurisdictional analysis that compares historical core municipalities, principal cities or primary cities to the balance of metropolitan areas. For example a jurisdictional analysis shows that core municipalities added 1,290,000 residents between 2000 and 2010. In contrast, the urban cores, as indicated in the functional analysis, lost 140,000 residents. This indicates the extent of to which municipal boundaries can mislead in the analysis of urban form within metropolitan areas. The expansive city limits of most core cities masks the substantial automobile oriented suburbanization within their own borders.

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Note 1: The City Sector Model is generally similar to the groundbreaking research published by David L. A. Gordon and Mark Janzen at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario (Suburban Nation: Estimating the Size of Canada’s Suburban Population) with regard to the metropolitan areas of Canada. Gordon and Janzen concluded that the metropolitan areas of Canada are largely suburban. Among the major metropolitan areas of Canada, the Auto Suburbs and Exurbs combined contain 76 percent of the population, somewhat less than the 86 percent found in the United States.

Note 2: Changes in zip code definitions and boundaries could result in minor differences in comparability between the three censuses.

—-

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Photo:  Later Suburbs in New York Urban Area (Morris County, New Jersey), by author

Originally published at newgeography. 

Categories: On the Blog

Google Skybox Spy-Satellites: Big Brother Inc. Always Watching

June 13, 2014, 12:28 PM

Who does Google think they are fooling?

Google just bought Skybox Imaging for $500m to gain access to its capability to take real-time, high-resolution satellite images/videos of the whole world daily. Last week Google sources told the WSJ that Google was planning to spend $1-3 billion on “180 small, high capacity satellites at lower altitudes than traditional satellites” to enable two-way Internet access. In April, Google bought Titan Aerospace – which makes solar-powered, high-flying drones that Titan calls “atmospheric satellites” — for Internet access to remote areas and for disaster relief. And in March Google CEO Larry Page shared his ambitions that Project Loon “could build a world-wide mesh of these balloons that can cover the whole planet.”

Google’s Cover Story

Google’s public rationale for all these recent endeavors has been altruism, to supply Internet access to the two-thirds of the world that is not online. About Skybox, Google said: “Skybox’s satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery. Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in.”

Never mind that Google Inc. was caught secretly wiretapping hundreds of millions of Gmails before they were delivered for three years without anyone’s knowledge via an NSA-PRISM-like device called Content One Box.

And never mind that Google was also caught secretly wiretapping the personal WiFi signals of tens of millions of households in 33 countries over three years.

Google now wants us to believe that Google will not be doing any secret surveillance, spying or illegal data collection when it builds a new worldwide, high-capacity, satellite grid with two-way, tracking, monitoring, and high-resolution video capabilities?

And the company that has long maintained publicly that any broadband access with less than Gigabit speeds are inferior, is now claiming it wants to offer inferior, slow-speed, satellite Internet access to the whole world?

Even if one believes Google’s incredible cover story for a moment, that they will use their world-wide satellite network primarily to supply internet access where there is none, what does one surmise that Google Inc. will do with the unused surveillance capability in all the many geographies where there is already superior Internet access and where all Google’s monetize-able customers routinely operate? And wouldn’t it be more profitable and make more business sense to densely pack more satellites over-top of where most of Google’s users and devices are?

Acquiring Military-Grade Capability

Importantly, SkyBox’ produces dual-use technology that can be used for both military and civilian purposes. More importantly, SkyBox’ technology offers military-grade capability. “No one outside the military has ever been able to access data like this: Theoretically, one could follow individual people from spaceper Business Insider.

SkyBox’ cutting edge SkySat satellite circuitry is phone book size and uses the power equivalent of a ~100 watt light bulb. The satellites also provide real-time high resolution video images. SkyBox current commercial value proposition is selling satellite surveillance of foreign company logistics to help estimate when certain business activities will occur. Interestingly, the Economist reports the prices for chipsets for nanosats like SkyBox’ SkySat satellites are approaching just $25 a piece.

In a post-Snowden world, expect the rest of world to have big concerns about the growingmilitarization of Google as a leading DOD contractor for mapping analyticssoldier-roboticsartificial intelligence and now satellite production, operation and application.

Google’s Superstate Ambitions

As the Internet’s lone superpower, will Google’s latest big move into military-grade satellite services make foreign governments and foreigners think that Google will become more valuable to, and a closer partner and technology supplier to NSA and the U.S. intelligence community than before?

Will Google’s eye-in-the-sky ambitions make those who fear that Google has become an unaccountable “digital superstate”  even more fearful that Google is becoming all-powerful and effectively digitally colonializing the world’s data and private/secret information on Google’s terms?

Could Google Big Brother Inc. covet the surveillance potential of a Google-owned-and-operated satellite network that could fill in the gaps where Google currently cannot yet surveil, watch and track people in real-time, because Google does not yet have a fully omnipresent satellite capability that is potentially real-time, continuous, high-resolution, and targetable to tracking individuals or groups of individuals’ movements at any time?

That outcome is not what Google Chairman Eric Schmidt would have people believe. On CNBC April 30th Mr. Schmidt reassured the world that Google does not spy or surveil: “We actually don’t track people. We are very very careful to respect people’s privacy. We disclose exactly what we do.”

Google’s Eye-in-the-Sky, Sky-Eye, or Sky-Spy YouTube Channels?

As almost always, Google is way ahead of everyone here. Long term Google sees the potential for Google Earth and Google Maps to meld with its satellite capability to immediately film in real-time for YouTube any event of interest in the world, whether it be a natural disaster, terrorist attack, plane/train/car crash, boat sinking, political demonstration, battle/war-in progress, crime-in-progress, shooting, hostage taking, car chase, concert, sporting event, celebrity island wedding, etc.

What Google realizes that others do not is the commercial and business dominance value of being the only entity that can constantly surveil, spot, and then immediately respond with a live video feed in real-time to any breaking development or news of interest to some or many of its users.

One can imagine that many foreign governments will not be thrilled with Google having the new capability to broadcast live via YouTube a foreign government’s dirty laundry via its soon-to-be constant aerial surveillance videos of their country, or to choose to give what it finds secretly to the NSA or another foreign government. The editorial, political, and military power of this dominant commercial surveillance capability could be staggering.

Like Google dominates mapping with Google Earth, StreetView, and Maps, a Google owned-and-operated satellite network integrated with all of Google’s other dominant surveillance services: search, data, advertising, mobile, video, browser, etc. provides Google with the opportunity to globally dominate aerial surveillance as well.

SkyNet?

In closing, it is telling that Google’s latest satellite investment binge discussed above coincides with a another Google buying binge of eight military robotics companies several months ago, and also a targeted hiring and acquisition effort to bolster Google’s leadership in artificial intelligence just a few months ago; (Google bought ethics-concerned, DeepMind, an acquired company that scarily-required Google to establish an Ethics Board as a condition for Deepmind being bought by Google.)

On top of this creepy predicate, Google’s Head Futurist, Ray Kurzweil, told the Guardian in February that he had long thought the ‘singularity’ — the time when computers’ artificial intelligence will overtake human thinking — will be 2029, and that “by 2045 computers will be a billion times more powerful than all of the human brains on Earth.”

Fans of science fiction, and the Terminator movies in particular, will surely see the creepy parallels between Google’s concentrated efforts over the last several months and the dystopian “Terminator movie future” where a satellite-enabled, artificial-intelligence named “SkyNet” becomes “sentient,” i.e. smarter than humans, and then proceeds to see humans as a threat, and then proceeds to try and wipe out the human race.

Google’s purposeful determination and actions over the last several months indicates that Google may be anticipating Kurzweil’s “singularity” and wants to be sure that any future SkyNet artificial intelligence and robot army is Google owned, programmed… and controlled.

Forewarned is forearmed.

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Politicians Do Not Deserve Privacy

June 13, 2014, 11:18 AM

The right to privacy is enshrined in constitutions and law around the world. But does it have limits? The United States Constitution does not provide for any general right to privacy, though it is a right recognized with varying degrees of power in federal and state laws. Politicians frequently claim this right, contending that the public has no right to know about their private affairs. Is that a fair request?

Given their proclivity for diminishing the rights of citizens generally, as well as the peculiar power and trust placed in them, there is a strong case to be made that politicians should not be free of personal scrutiny.

Stepping into the Spotlight

When an individual seeks elevation to public office, he or she must accept that the role is a special one in society. As the representative of the people, the politician is more than just the holder of a job appointed by the people, but is the elected servant, whose duty is to lead.

Leadership includes leading by example as well as simply directing policy. It is a strange relationship, and it is one that demands the utmost confidence in the holder. But confidence can only be developed through increased scrutiny and transparency. This means understanding the private life of the politician, since it so often informs their public life. Thus, when citizens place their political power in the hands of an elected representative, they gain the reciprocal right over that representative to have his or her life and character laid bare for their approval. This is the only way true representativeness may be achieved.

The Right to Know

It is also important to understand the nature of representatives as stand-ins for the citizens who elect them. Politicians are basically surrogates. Their duty is to represent the people in public life across all issues and policies. Yet it is impossible to ascertain the desires of the citizens on all issues in the course of an election campaign.

Even harder is to understand political decision-making in a context that had not existed at the time of the election. For example, if a war was to begin suddenly in a country that had not expected any conflict and had not elected representatives on the basis of how they stood on fighting this war. But that is exactly why politicians are elected as much for who they are as for what their avowed policy aims are.

We elect politicians who we believe will act best under such changing conditions; the ‘3 am phone call’, how a candidate will react in a crisis, is often a major issue in U.S. presidential elections and temperament is often the only way to judge this. Understanding the personal lives of politicians allows voters to elect one who best represents them in the sense of being able to act in their name in a changing world. Thus it is critical for the good electoral decision-making that the right to privacy of politicians be overruled.

The Boons of Scrutiny

When politicians see themselves constantly under the lens of public scrutiny, they are essentially forced to dedicate themselves wholesale to their duties as representatives. They are disincentivized in the extreme to pursue any transgressive or hypocritical activities behind closed doors, resulting in more energy dedicated to legislating, and less to lining their pockets or chasing interns, since the added risk of being discovered increases the cost of trying to conceal their foibles.

Having a culture of scrutiny of politicians’ private lives will mean those who most see their work as a public service and so will be dedicated to it will be the ones who seek to become politicians. Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lurid sex life, for example, threw light on the sexual misconduct rife in French politics and has actually sparked a major effort to reform the system and a change to a more demanding culture towards politicians. Politicians are human, after all, and susceptible to the base human urges that power unchecked is wont to accommodate.

A powerful probe into politicians’ private lives can only serve the cause of better governance.

Categories: On the Blog

Yes, Eric Cantor, There is a Virginia

June 13, 2014, 11:12 AM

It seems fitting that after such a momentous political evening, the Washington, D.C. area woke early this morning to the thundercrack of a summer storm, with a furious arrival and just as quickly faded and gone. The crushing and unexpected defeat of Eric Cantor – the first defeat of a sitting House Majority leader since 1899, which also happens to be the creation of the position – is sending ripples through a Republican Party which will have ramifications for this cycle and beyond.

In media terms, Cantor’s loss wrecks the established narrative about the nature of this cycle (the establishment either crushes or learns to live with the remnants of the Tea Party); in policy terms, it wrecks the likelihood of immigration reform as anything taken up by Republicans under the Obama presidency; and in political terms, it wrecks the longstanding work of many in the business and donor community who have spent years cultivating relationships with Cantor as the presumptive next Speaker of the House, opening up a new contest for leadership in the party which will serve as a proxy battle over the speakership and the most prominent role on Capitol Hill.

I wish that as a Virginian I could have shared some particular advance insight on the nature of this loss – and indeed, there had been rumblings late last week that Cantor’s challenger, Randolph-Macon economics professor and Princeton Seminary grad David Brat, was keeping things close – but you dismiss such things as noise when contemplating the possibilities of such an historic upset. He has since the beginning of his career been a man motivated by sheer ambition, and it is this double-edged sword which best explains his loss yesterday.

The narrative today was supposed to be amazement at how Lindsey Graham, one of the most patient political survivors in Washington – who worked hard to get where he is, and dedicated his days over the past several years to undermining or compromising his potential challengers – prevailed easily over weak opposition in South Carolina. Instead, Graham’s victory and Cantor’s loss provide a good contrast in the crippling danger of complacency in politics. And that’s becoming the real lesson of the 2014 primary season: good candidates win, bad candidates lose – and the difference is often as simple as recognizing who you represent is not the collection of interests inside the beltway but the people who actually pull the lever back at home.

While Cantor has been gunning for the speakership now for several years, his ladder-climbing ambition leading him to attempt to position himself as all things to all people, he lost sight of the frustrations back home in his “real Virginia” district. Rob Tracinski, who has lived in Virginia’s 7th for two decades, relates this story:

At the Republican Convention in 2008, I approached Cantor after an event, introduced myself as a constituent, and told him where I lived. It’s a tiny place, more of a wide spot in the road than an actual town, so this was partly a test to see how well Cantor knew his own district. I turns out that he did recognize the town, and to prove it, he started to tell me about how he had worked on getting us an earmark for a local Civil War battlefield park. An earmark, mind you, just after Republicans had officially renounced earmarks in an attempt to appease small-government types. Cantor suddenly realized this and literally stopped himself in mid-sentence. Then he hastily added: “But we don’t do that any more.”

The insulating power of money or incumbency is still significant – but Cantor outspent Brat to the tune of more than five million to less than 200k, and it still wasn’t enough. You can see why when you see what Cantor was doing with it – money for consultants, pollsters, travel, steakhouses, and ads like this:

Of course, most people inside the Beltway will view this outcome through the lens of the policy scrum over immigration, where advocates on both sides have done themselves no favors, even to the end:

In the room of downcast Cantor allies, a new energy suddenly erupted — but not the kind they wanted on election night. A group of immigration activists stormed the ballroom, screaming and waving a flag. “What do we want? Immigration reform! When do we want it? Now!” A few Cantor supporters tried to block the protesters’ entrance into the ballroom, and pushing and shoving ensued. And before they reached the microphone, one Cantor supporter threw his glass of wine at a female protester. She swore at him in return.

The more hackish journalists will deploy this as a harbinger of GOP doom in 2016. But I’m unconvinced that in a field without a single prominent immigration hardliner (Ted Cruz, perhaps?) that this is the case.

And immigration policy is just one aspect of this. For years, the impression has been forming in Virginia that Cantor’s priorities were with K Street and the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable – not with the people who actually elect him:

The central theme of Brat’s campaign is that Cantor is beholden to business — specifically the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

“If you’re in big business, Eric’s been very good to you, and he gets a lot of donations because of that, right?” Brat said at the meeting. “Very powerful. Very good at fundraising because he favors big business. But when you’re favoring artificially big business, someone’s paying the tab for that. Someone’s paying the price for that, and guess who that is? You.”

Cantor’s allies say that is exactly the type of rhetoric that has left the state party struggling for cash.

So immigration mattered, yes – but it was just one piece of that broader narrative, a narrative which painted Cantor as a two-faced power broker whose priorities were elsewhere:

It’s true that Cantor enjoyed a strong relationship with business, especially with Wall Street. The industry that gave him the most campaign contributions was the securities and investment sector. Individuals from the private equity firm Blackstone were his biggest financial supporters. Cantor went to bat for the industry repeatedly over politically unpopular issues, including the taxation of income at private equity firms at the lower capital gains rate.

That’s no surprise: for decades, the GOP and big business have worked closely together to build a political alliance that until recently appeared airtight. But now with Tea Party activist groups charging the traditional wing of the GOP with “crony capitalism”—and Cantor’s loss—the balance of power is creeping away from the pro-business faction of the Republican Party.

After spending so many years framing himself as the all things to all people future of the party, Cantor now serves as a walking cautionary tale for the dangers of ambition which becomes out of touch with the priorities of the people back home. Cantor has used his YG Network in recent months to recast himself as a reform conservative. Along with Mitch McConnell, he’s nodded in the right direction toward Main Street priorities and the like, but the sincerity of such interest was always a question among those who viewed Cantor as an unctuous faux conservative climber. Now it’s a moot point – you can’t chart an agenda if you can’t get re-elected – and Cantor risks becoming the American version of Michael Portillo.

This race was not about the Tea Party – Dave Brat may have been backed by voters sympathetic to the Tea Party, but not by any significant organization, money, or groups. It was instead about the question of whether a politician can serve two masters – big business and the people – and get away with it. The answer is yes, but only if you are very good at politics. Lindsey Graham is. Eric Cantor wasn’t. And that made all the difference.

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[Originally published at The Federalist]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Activists Try to Take the Joy out of Summer for Children and Adults

June 13, 2014, 10:05 AM

 National Center for Public Policy Research Risk Analysis Director Jeff Stier is responding this week to a range of stories bubbling up in the news and in social media recently that have one common denominator, according to Stier: “ideologically-driven scares.”

Stier warns that as we begin the summer, “we should remember that it is important not only to stay safe while having fun, but to not let agenda-driven scares interfere with how we spend the warmer months.”

Stier believes that “narrow-interest activists are using the onset of summer to make former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg look like a libertarian by comparison.”

A school district in Texas won’t allow children to bring in sunscreen without a doctor’s note. ABC affiliate KSAT in Austin reports this month that North East Independent School District spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said that, “Typically, sunscreen is a toxic substance, and we can’t allow toxic things in to be in our schools.”

The news item continued, “Chancellor said if parents know their child may be outdoors, they should come to school fully covered in sunscreen. At this time, she said, sunscreen can’t be brought by students to school campuses.”

Of course, Stier reminds us, sunscreens should be reapplied at least every two hours, longer than the school day, according to the Food and Drug Administration, so rules of government-run schools are conflicting with the government’s own advice.

As children finish school for the summer, and they may again be allowed to use sunscreen, others warn parents about letting the kids have too much fun, at least in “bounce houses.” Time magazine says the inflatable activity-boosters are causing an “epidemic” of injuries. “‘Epidemics’” almost always precede another phenomenon,” says Stier, “regulations.”

“Activists aren’t only trying to regulate us to protect children,” says Stier. “Adults who consume beer are also the subject of consumer warnings.” Going Viral on Facebook is an article titled “8 Beers That You Should Stop Drinking Immediately.” Stier says, “The Buzzfeed-worthy headline shouldn’t cause you to put down your brew, but rather to raise your level of skepticism.”

“Indeed,” says Stier, “the story is a click-generating piece meant to advance big government agendas including anti- genetically modified food warning label campaigns, chemical bans (BPA), and ingredient restrictions (caramel colorings).

Stier has a warning of his own: “Buy into these warm-weather scares at the risk of helping the left expand the regulatory chokehold on not only businesses, but consumers.”

National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour, a mom, says some warnings do make sense; for example, advice to put purses or briefcases on the backseat with the baby so you don’t accidentally forget to drop the baby off at daycare on your way to work. “But unfortunately,” she said, “there are so many unnecessary warnings out there, the good advice parents can actually use gets drowned out by pointless warnings about everything from feeding kids genetically-modified foods or letting them bounce. Really. Kids are going to bounce.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, three percent from foundations, and three percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

[Originally published at Jeffstier.org]

Categories: On the Blog

A Lawless Administration: Andrew McCarthy at the Heartland Institute

June 12, 2014, 3:44 PM

Author and former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy joined the Heartland Institute on June 12th to talk about his new book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment, with a packed and lively crowd of Heartland supporters. McCarthy was incisive and exceptionally convincing.

McCarthy began his talk by bemoaning the fact that an author must eventually stop writing and submit a book for publication, which means that events occurring between the final draft’s submission and the actual publication cannot be included in the text. This fact means that his book is “two or three impeachable offenses behind.” Even still, the list he presents in Faithless Execution is enthralling and terrifying.

The talk then turned briefly to the subject of Bowe Bergdahl, whose release has stirred up tremendous controversy in Washington and across the nation. McCarthy explained that the focus in Congress was all wrong, and that the issue was not really about the violation of the statute requiring the president to talk to Congress 30 days before the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Rather, the issue of concern is the fact that releasing five Taliban leaders represents a clear case of replenishing an enemy that is still fighting the United States, which is an “irresponsible dereliction of duty of a commander-in-chief.”

McCarthy explained that, despite the focus going awry, the Bergdahl case has had two positive effects. First, it was perfectly timed to publicize his book. Second, it had finally led mainstream politicians to start using a word they have constantly avoided: impeachment.

Impeachment has ceased to be muttered behind closed doors alone and is now being spoken openly. “Even Lindsey Graham is comfortable uttering it,” McCarthy said.

The Obama administration has been, according to McCarthy, deliberately “overloading the system,” engaging in a cascade of scandals that takes advantage of ordinary people’s finite ability to deal with crises. McCarthy gave the example of how the new EPA regulations that may have profound impacts on the health of the economy have barely been discussed, sandwiched as they are between the Bergdahl and VA hospital scandals.

It is because of these scandals and persistent abrogation of duty that McCarthy proposes the process of impeachment. McCarthy explained to the audience that, “Impeachment is a political remedy, not a legal one.” In other words, despite the trappings of the courtroom, impeachment proceedings are not about assessing criminal liability. Rather, the “high crimes and misdemeanors” to which the Constitution refers are concerned with breaches of fiduciary duty and violations of the public trust. McCarthy stated that he could identify many such breaches committed during Obama’s tenure.

Chief among the president’s impeachable offenses, McCarthy explained, is his failure to execute laws faithfully. The president is the only federal official under the Constitution required to take an oath to execute the laws faithfully and to defend the Constitution. McCarthy cited Obama’s unilateral amendments of Obamacare and his selective and arbitrary enforcement of certain laws to benefit his allies and harm his opponents as evidence of unfaithful execution.

Another offense McCarthy identified was Obama’s dereliction of duty. He identified the atrocities committed to Americans in Benghazi and the previous unauthorized military actions in Libya as clear examples of this offense.

After outlining these offenses, McCarthy turned the discussion to the political climate and the prospects for impeachment. McCarthy was adamant that impeachment must not be a frivolous exercise. After all, it takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict, which is only possible if there is wide bipartisan support for the proceedings both among legislators and in the public.

McCarthy then pointed out that there is no appetite in the American people for impeachment. He pointed to Bill Clinton’s impeachment as a clear example of the dangers of impeachment when there is no popular will for it. When an impeachment fails, the media can paint it as an endorsement of the very actions under censure.

What McCarthy proposed, in his book and during the talk, is a concerted effort to change the political environment so that the issue of lawlessness is front-and-center in the public discourse. Changing that environment would likely push Obama to actually execute the laws faithfully and to act within the bounds of the Constitution.

Failure to change the discourse could have serious negative effects for the future of the American republic, as McCarthy deftly explained. He described how the accretion of presidential power erodes citizens’ liberty, and that this is “not a conservative issue, not a Republican issue, it is an American issue.” Unless something is done about it, the powers Obama takes for himself will belong to his successors, of whatever party.

McCarthy explained that he was still hopeful for the republic’s future, a hopefulness he expanded upon during the Q&A session after his talk. When asked about what people can do if impeachment is not yet possible, he said, “Let’s make a big issue out of lawlessness.”

It is that issue that must be won before the imperial presidency can be stopped. Andrew McCarthy’s magisterial book will go a long way to winning it.

Categories: On the Blog

Should the Government Define the American Dream?

June 12, 2014, 10:27 AM

I have not written anything of significance about the YG Network’s Room to Grow agenda, but Ross Douthat writes a piece here about an aspect of it, the child tax credit expansion, which I have criticized in the past, along with Scott Lincicome. It also provides a glimpse of an interesting underlying question about the motivations of reform on the right.

The politics of dramatically expanding the child tax credit entitlement (and yes, it is an entitlement) just don’t make all that much sense to me. Consider the landscape of America today, where more people are staying single longer and having fewer kids of their own volition, as they pretty much always do all over the world as cultures become more highly educated. These are not recent developments:

“Between 1970 and 2012, the share of households that were married couples with children under 18 halved from 40 percent to 20 percent. The proportion of one-person households increased by 10 percentage points between 1970 and 2012, from 17 percent to 27 percent. Between 1970 and 2012, the average number of people per household declined from 3.1 to 2.6.”

I understand that the people behind this agenda think this is a bad thing, and I largely agree (from a more libertarian perspective, intact families are the greatest hedge we have against the expansion of government, as it rushes in to do the things that intact families do). But why is it conservative or even an example of limited government to use tax policy to essentially reject that steady decision-making over the course of decades? Is it because there are too many young people voting for Republicans? Isn’t there something better that could be offered to single people 18-34 – a disturbing portion of whom are still living with their parents – without suggesting that they’re pursuing the wrong American dream if they’re unmarried or don’t have children?

How about instead cutting taxes for working Americans broadly by getting rid of the payroll tax entirely? You could even create big tax advantaged savings accounts attractive for families and for single people who don’t have retirement accounts through work – like Canada did, but perhaps with a large HSA component. If you assume that people still want to get married and have children, but are simply too burdened financially to do it… shouldn’t the obvious limited government policy solution here be about removing government-imposed burdens, not expanding an entitlement that subsidizes one portion of society and alienating those outside of it?

What is good for society may be good for the soul, but government policy ought to set that aside and instead focus on the idea that what is good for your wallet is good for society. This is something that Wall Street recognizes, where smart people are increasingly concerned about the consumer expenditure side of stagnant wages and slow family formation:

“The problem is that new jobs often pay less than the ones destroyed in the recession, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, which manages $66 billion in Chicago. “New jobs are coming through at lower wages. Collectively, people have fewer dollars in their wallets even though they have jobs again,” he said. That helps explain why consumer spending fell in April for the first time in a year, according to a May 30 Commerce Department report. Weak wage gains also are making it hard for the housing market to return to normal, Mr. Ablin said. He calculates that new single-family home construction is running at less than 500,000 a month. Demographics say it should be twice that, he said. “People are waiting longer to get married and they are having fewer kids,” Mr. Ablin said. That is making them delay home purchases. “It is certainly making us a little more cautious on the economy.”

The answer to this challenge is that we ought to reform the tax code just as we would seek to reform regulations and redistributive subsidies: to lower burdens on everyone so that they can make choices for themselves absent the market-warping force of government, not to merely reform to help people who live a certain way. Eliminate the ability to offer the carrot and the stick and just see what people do.

If you do this, people have the flexibility to pursue their own path – and many of these people who want families and homes but just can’t afford to go down that path (from their risk averse perspective) will start them and purchase them. Using the alternative approach amounts to slapping Band-aids over existing problems, and future administrations can always warp policies to help people who live the way they prefer (such as buying houses and college educations even if they can’t afford them or don’t need them). And back and forth and back and forth … and that’s how we got here in the first place.

This argument reminds me of a George Will quote cited in a little disagreement concerning Will’s evolution away from his book Statecraft As Soulcraft. Pete Wehner at the time wrote in defense of laws which more aggressively “shape the dispositions and habits of the polity”, which is just a nice way of saying it forced them to do or not do things that Wehner believes improved the country. By comparison, Will today is making the case for a different view, one which Jonah Goldberg found to be a positive development:

“And these [natural] rights are the foundation of limited government – government defined by the limited goal of securing those rights so that individuals may flourish in their free and responsible exercise of those rights. A government thus limited is not in the business of imposing its opinions about what happiness or excellence the citizens should choose to pursue. Having such opinions is the business of other institutions – private and voluntary ones, especially religious ones – that supply the conditions for liberty.”

Between the old Will and the newer, the latter seems like the better approach to reform in general, but particularly in the arena of taxation. And in the tug of war between those who favor an approach which “shapes the dispositions and habits of the polity” and one which does not impose its opinions about what happiness or excellence the citizens should choose to pursue, I suspect the limited side is winning the argument.

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[Originally published at The Federalist]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Evidence Trumps the Phony Consensus

June 12, 2014, 9:27 AM

 

zpolitics.com

We are lectured monotonously about the “consensus” that carbon dioxide produced by human activities is “highly likely to cause dangerous global warming”. The alarmist computer models are all based on this assumption, with predicted warming multiplied by also assuming strong positive feedbacks.

A consensus of opinion never determines a scientific question – real proof depends on evidence and logic. Consensus is a tool of politics and a guidepost for lemmings.

The so-called “Greenhouse Effect” depends entirely on the known property of carbon dioxide gas to intercept radiant heat in certain wavelengths. This process starts operating as soon as the extra gas enters the atmosphere.

If this influence is strong enough to drive “dangerous global warming”, its effect should be noticeable even in the short term, with Earth’s surface temperature increasing in step with increasing carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing for over a century, but global temperatures have fluctuated in broad cycles decades long, and there has been no warming for the last 17 years.

This evidence suggests that increasing carbon dioxide is not a major driver for dangerous global warming, no matter what the consensus says – even if a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.

We may still get natural global warming, as the vast restless oceans roll over or the solar cycles change, but man-made carbon dioxide is not driving these processes. Moreover, a bit of warming is not our greatest risk – history shows that ice ages extinguish more species and habitats than warm eras.

The consensus of alarmists is trying to lynch an innocent party.

Categories: On the Blog

President Obama’s Plan To “De-develop” America Shifts Into High Gear

June 12, 2014, 9:16 AM

President Obama’s own Administration officially reports that the U.S. economy DECLINED by 1% in the first quarter of this year. That follows 1.9% reported total annual growth for all of 2013.

The U.S. economy sustained a real rate of economic growth of 3.3% from 1945 to 1973, and achieved the same 3.3% sustained real growth from 1982 to 2007. Before President Obama, it was only during the stagflation decade of 1973 to 1982, reflecting the deeply misguided reigning intellectual leadership of the time, that real growth fell to only half long term trends.

This 3.3% long term economic growth trend line is the minimum standard by which to judge President Obama’s economic performance. That sustained 3.3% real economic growth was the foundation for America’s world leading, post World War II, economic and military dominance, not battlefield victories 70 years ago (ok, those did help for a while too). As Brian Domitrovic explained in Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply Side Revolution and Restored American Prosperity, “The unique ability of the United States to maintain a historic rate of economic growth over the long term is what has rendered this nation the world’s lone ‘hyperpower.’”

But President Obama should have done better than that, precisely because the economy was in recession when he entered office! That is because the American historical record is the deeper the recession the stronger the recovery, as the economy grows faster than average to catch back up to the long term trendline. That observation originally stemmed from Milton Friedman, the greatest economist of the 20th century. So it comes by way of a top pedigree.

It certainly worked that way under President Reagan. After the 1981-1982 recession that greeted him soon after entering office, the economy took off on a boom that lasted 92 months without a recession, until July, 1990, when the tax increases of the 1990 budget deal killed it. That set a new record for the longest peacetime expansion ever, the previous high in peacetime being 58 months.

During those 7 years, the economy grew by almost one-third, the equivalent of adding the entire economy of West Germany, the third largest in the world at the time, to the U.S. economy. In 1984 alone, real economic growth boomed by 6.8%, the highest in 50 years. President Obama has not had a year of economic growth even half that large.

Indeed, in the 11 post-Depression recessions before President Obama, the economy recovered all the GDP lost during the recession within an average of about a year (4.5 quarters) after the recession started. But it took Obama’s recovery 16 quarters, or 4 years, to reach that point. And the economy has bumbled along in slow growth stagnation since then. By sharp contrast, at this point in the Reagan recovery, the economy had boomed by over a fifth.

Great Depression Food Line (Photo credit: Kevin Burkett)

In fact, that Reagan recovery grew into a 25 year boom, from late 1982 until the end of 2007, with just slight interruptions by shallow, short recessions in 1990 and 2001. As Art Laffer and Steve Moore wrote in their book, The End of Prosperity,

“We call this period, 1982-2007, the twenty-five year boom – the greatest period of wealth creation in the history of the planet. In 1980, the net worth – assets minus liabilities – of all U.S. households and business…was $25 trillion in today’s dollars. By 2007.…net worth was just shy of $57 trillion. Adjusting for inflation, more wealth was created in America in the twenty-five year boom than in the previous two hundred years.”

Similarly, Steve Forbes wrote in Forbes in 2008,

“Between the early 1980s and 2007 we lived in an economic Golden Age. Never before have so many people advanced so far economically in so short a period of time as they have during the last 25 years. Until the credit crisis, 70 million people a year [worldwide] were joining the middle class. The U.S. kicked off this long boom with the economic reforms of Ronald Reagan, particularly his enormous income tax cuts. We burst from the economic stagnation of the 1970s into a dynamic, innovative, high tech-oriented economy. Even in recent years the much maligned U.S. did well. Between year-end 2002 and year-end 2007 U.S. growth exceeded the entire size of China’s economy.”

In other words, the growth in the U.S. economy from 2002 to 2007 was the equivalent of adding the entire economy of China at the time to the U.S. economy.

The Hopeless President

So what is President Obama doing to inspire a real, booming recovery for the American economy at long last, now in the sixth year of his Presidency? On June 2, the EPA unveiled a new blanket of regulations (645 pages) that will only further smother economic growth and opportunity in America. The regulations would require the states to adopt policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) by 30% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

The states could each choose the policies to achieve that goal, such as a new tax on “carbon,” or “cap and trade” which means paying for limited permits for CO2 emissions, which come from burning fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, coal, and gasoline. This is what Obama meant when he privately told supporters at the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board in 2008, “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity costs would necessarily skyrocket.”

These regulatory burdens would be like a new tax further squelching the economy with additional, artificial costs. In the 1970s, the Washington Establishment told us the bad economy was due to the oil price spikes caused by Arab oil embargoes. Now the Washington Establishment, which wildly supports shutting down the American economy, because the vast riches it can produce morally embarrass them, is telling us we have to do the same thing to ourselves.

David Rothbard, President of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, correctly explained the ultimate results of such regulatory madness in his column on June 3, writing, “Millions of Americans will endure lower quality of life and be unable to heat or cool their homes properly, pay their rent or mortgage, or save for college and retirement….As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) points out, ‘A lot of people on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum are going to die.’” Manchin should be preparing to run for Senate Majority Leader next year, as a Republican.

The Wall Street Journal further explained on June 3, “Consumers may not realize how these regulations will affect their daily lives. Groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Brookings Institution support a policy known as ‘direct load control’ that would manage when you are allowed to run the air conditioner or washing machine.” Big Brother is here, watching you. Check out Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism.

Rothbard cites President Obama saying, “the costly regulations are needed to reduce ‘carbon pollution’ that he claims is making ‘extreme weather events’ like Superstorm Sandy ‘more common and more devastating.” But no honest, educated person can use the term “pollution” to refer to carbon dioxide emissions. For the easily manipulated, low information voters out there, carbon dioxide is not some toxic industrial gas. It is a natural substance essential for the survival of all life on the planet. Plants need CO2 to grow and conduct photosynthesis, which is the natural process that creates food for animals and fish at the bottom of the food chain.

Moreover, there is no demonstrated connection anywhere in what passes for “science” these days between CO2 emissions and Super Storm Sandy. As Rothbard accurately explains in regard to this whole global warming scare behind the regulations,

“[A]verage global temperatures have not risen in almost 18 years. We have now gone over eight years without a category 3-5 hurricane hitting the United States – the longest such period in over a century. Tornadoes are at a multi-decade low. Droughts are no more frequent or intense than since 1900. There were fewer than half as many forest fires last year as during the 1960s and 1970s. Sea levels rose just eight inches over the last 130 years and are currently rising at barely seven inches per century. There’s still ice on Lake Superior – in June.”

Sea levels have been rising, in fact, since the end of the last ice age, 12,000 years ago! But there has been no acceleration in the rate of that sea level rise for at least 200 years. There also is exactly zero real science to back up wildly manipulative claims that CO2 emissions cause asthma attacks or even heart attacks.

The Journal also correctly explained, “The irony is that all this [economic] damage will do nothing for climate change. Based on the EPA’s own carbon accounting, shutting down every coal-fired plant tomorrow and replacing them with zero carbon sources would reduce the Earth’s temperature by about one-twentieth of a degree Fahrenheit in a hundred years.”

Green v. Blue

Politically, all of this involves an historic, dramatic change of course for the Democrat Party, as the Journal further observed on June 4: “The [EPA’s] mammoth rule is an important political moment because it shows that national Democrats have come down decisively on the side of modern environmentalists over the working class voters who were once their base. The richer coasts dominated by gentry liberals now trump the union jobs of the Midwest.” In other words, Democrats have chosen green over blue. This opens up the same huge opportunities Reagan so successfully exploited to win over millions of Reagan Democrats. As Reagan used to say so often, “I didn’t leave the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party left me.”

When I began studying the concern over potentially catastrophic global warming years ago, I was shocked at how weak the argument for it was. It is basically broad theory which does not specify how much warming and when. And it is 73 climate models collected by the U.N. projecting catastrophic warming on our current course long term. But these models, which have never been validated, meaning they cannot even predict the past, are diverging farther and farther from real world temperatures. Global temperature records do not remotely track anywhere near rising carbon dioxide emissions over time, especially throughout the 20th century to today. The cyclical up and down temperature patterns track much more closely instead with the natural cycles of ocean churning currents, as cold water from the deep cycles up to slightly cool the planet for a couple of decades at a time, and cycles of sunspots and other solar activity.

The argument for ultimately catastrophic, man caused global warming has been corrupted by political correctness, political ideology, the special interest of governments in expanded power and authority, and billions in overwhelming government money paying to get the results desired. Bottom line: there is zero chance that the possibility of ultimately catastrophic, man caused global warming is greater than zero. The real world cannot bear trillions in artificial costs to satisfy the scientific equivalent of Lysenkoism.

Yes, you can cite scientific societies that have disgracefully sold out to this Lysenkoism. But in not one instance have the politically correct bureaucracies running those societies reached that conclusion by canvassing their members. Instead, in at least one instance a rebellion among the rank and file has forced the leadership to reevaluate by appointing worthy competing rival committees of alarmists versus skeptics to conduct an investigation of the issue. Following the results of that real debate will be highly illuminating.

For decision-makers in government and business who need to be sure and make responsible decisions, the full truth of the issue is completely and thoroughly discussed in the thousands of pages of Climate Change Reconsidered II, authored by dozens of serious, top scientists serving on the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), and published this year in ultimately 3 volumes of thousands of pages each by the Heartland Institute. Those volumes are “double peer reviewed,” in that they discusses thousands of peer reviewed articles published in scientific journals, and are themselves peer reviewed. Last year, the Cato Institute published a thorough, comprehensive refutation of the publicly released draft of the National Climate Assessment, The Missing Science from the Draft National Assessment on Climate Change, by Patrick J. Michaels, et. al. You can learn more by attending the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, to be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, July 7-9, with more than 1,000 scientists from around the world (where I will be speaking).

The scientific truth of the matter will be determined not by counting how many scientists or their professional societies take on side or another, but by counting the real world data on the issue, which intelligent laymen can judge by reading the sources above.

The bottom line is that when June, 2016 rolls around, when states are supposed to submit “compliance” plans to the EPA for approval, Governors should send letters explaining that they and their legislatures decided not to trash the economies of their states with unjustified “carbon taxes” or cap and trade burdens designed to ensure that their “electricity costs would necessarily skyrocket.” And if the EPA thinks that is not acceptable, the state will see them in court. Because under the Constitution, neither the EPA, nor the entire federal government, nor his majesty Barack Obama, have any authority to impose any penalty on any state if the state does not adopt some tax or costly, crippling regulatory burden.

This issue should be affecting now state political races between Democrats and Republicans for Governor, the legislature, and all other state offices. Let Democrats say vote for us and we will impose on you carbon taxes and cap and trade burdens under which your electricity costs will necessarily skyrocket. And let Republicans say vote for us and we will tell the Feds they can go to Hades.

Obamanomics: The De-development of America

It should be no surprise to anyone that President Obama’s economic policies have all but terminated any economic growth and opportunity in America. Because every one of those policies has been decisively anti- growth.

Obama has led increases in the top tax rates of virtually every major federal tax — income taxes, capital gains taxes, taxes on corporate dividends, death taxes, even payroll taxes. The only marginal tax rate he has not increased, the federal corporate tax rate, is already the highest in the world.

Obama has led massive increases in regulatory costs, burdens and barriers, from health care to finance to energy to see above.

Obama and his Administration have cheerled the Fed to pursue wild, zero interest rate monetary policies, buying up most national debt, for years now, laying the foundation for the future return of inflation.

The only pro-growth policy has been the sequester, and other cuts in spending, imposed on him, by the Republican House majority. But Obama is working mightily to reverse that, proposing to restore wild-eyed spending in every budget, and speech relating to the subject.

Some commenters have asserted that President Obama has failed to produce economic growth because Congressional Republicans refuse any compromise with him. But name any policy President Obama has proposed that would lead to more economic growth and jobs that Congressional Republicans have refused to support. You can’t, because there isn’t one. Some of you are so easy for professional politicians to fool.

The real explanation for what is going on here with Obamanomics was actually revealed years ago by the President’s Science advisor, John Holdren. Holdren said, “A massive campaign must be launched to…de-develop the United States…bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation….We must design a stable, low consumption economy in which there is a much more equitable distribution of wealth.”

And that is what you have with the President’s economic policies, a massive campaign to de-develop the United States. Even I have to say, if that is what the President’s plan is, it’s working.

For any other President engaged in this, we would have to impeach him for pursuing such a war on his own people. But in this case, Obama just represents the true heart and soul of his own party, which protects and enables him in this foolish endeavor. So the conclusion to take away: don’t blame President Obama, blame the Democrat Party, which you have a clear chance to do this fall.

Categories: On the Blog

Why is the U.S. Government in the Mortgage Loan Business?

June 11, 2014, 3:50 PM

It is often truly astonishing to me the harm done by the way the federal government was expanded well beyond its constitutional limits during the 1930’s New Deal era. One dramatic example is the government’s role in the housing mortgage loan marketplace.

I recently read a commentary by Steve Stanck, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, whose title was “Don’t Replace Fannie and Freddie; End Them.” He began by pointing out that “For every 100 mortgages being sold in the United States these days, at least 94% of them have government backing.”

Fannie is shorthand for the Federal National Mortgage Association and Freddie is short for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Both are referred to as “government sponsored enterprises” and Stanck points out that “The housing market was nearly ruined several years ago, and the government’s involvement is a big reason” because, before the 2008 financial crisis, both “were bundling mortgages into mortgage-backed securities and selling them to investors”, primarily banks.

Still largely unknown to the public, the financial crisis was triggered on September 15, 2008 when the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous drawdown of money market accounts in the U.S. amounting to $550 billion dollars in the matter of an hour or two. This was revealed in a 2008 congressional closed door session and later reported by Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania. Had the Federal Reserve not closed down the accounts by 2 PM that day, the entire economy would have collapsed, followed by the world economy a day later.

To this day, the identity of those who initiated the withdrawal has not been revealed, but the banks that were heavily invested in Fannie and Freddie’s bundled mortgage-backed securities were most at risk. Those securities were regarded as a safe investment precisely because both are, as noted, “government-sponsored enterprises”, implying that they were backed by the government—taxpayers.

When the housing bubble burst in 2008, the federal government put Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship “and handed them $188 billion to stay afloat. The actions of both entities had artificially lowered mortgage interest rates in order to increase home buying and required lenders—banks—to loan money to riskier borrowers.

As Brian M. Carney noted in a July 26, 2010 Wall Street Journal editorial opinion, “The official version of the housing boom and bust, and subsequent panic and recession, tells us that greedy bankers took unacceptable risks, assumed too much leverage, made irresponsible loans, and left the government to clean up the mess. The causes of the crisis, in this version, include banker bonuses, deregulation ideology and predatory lending. Most of this is nonsense.”

Carney noted that “There’s simply no room in this story for two giant government-sponsored enterprises that distorted the housing and credit markets…” Those would be Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Stanck notes that there is a bill in Congress to “wind down Fannie and Freddie. This is good. But they want to replace those organizations with private mortgage bond issuers who would each have government guarantees back by a new entity called the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation. This is bad.”

It is bad for the same reason that Fannie and Freddie are bad. The government needs to get out of the mortgage loan business. The bill barely squeaked through the Senate Banking Committee on May 15 with minimal support.

The new entity that the bill would create would charge fees to the private mortgage bond issuers—“fees that would be based on how many people in ‘underserved’ demographic groups receive mortgages” leading to “more of the subprime lending that played such a big role in the most recent housing mortgage collapse.” It is nothing more than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a new name.

Stanck sensibly says “Let borrowers and lenders strike their own deals without government meddling. In that way, mortgage interest rates would better reflect true risk, there’d be almost no way for legislators to inject corruption and cronyism into the system, and taxpayers would not be at risk of shelling out more hundreds of billions of dollars.”

You may read or hear that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are returning to solvency, able to turn a profit in the first quarter of 2014 and this is true. Those profits are going straight into the U.S. Treasury to resolve their debt incurred when they were bailed out. When they pay it back, they should, as Stanck says, be ended, not replaced.

So long as they exist, another housing boom and bust, and another financial collapse will repeat what occurred in 2008.

Categories: On the Blog