For weeks now the buzz about Fisker Automotive, the latest Department of Energy-funded clunker, is that two China-based automotive companies – Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (which owns Volvo) and Dongfeng Motor Corp. (which is state-owned) – were in bidding negotiations to buy an ownership stake of an unknown size. The speculation was that Fisker was following a similar path as stimulus-financed A123 Systems, which supplied the batteries for Fisker and was recently bought by Sino-owned Wanxiang Group.
But what seemed like the inevitable has been halted if a Wall Street Journal report (subscription-only) from Tuesday is to be believed. Apparently Fisker’s management still thinks it can access the remainder of a $529-million DOE loan, which it had received a portion of ($193 million) before its shortcomings forced the feds to say “no mas.” According to one of the newspaper’s sources, Fisker negotiators proposed to the Chinese that they draw the remainder of the loan as part of a deal, which they say (at least in part) scuttled Geely’s and Dongfeng’s interest in the company.
Why? Because as a condition of the DOE loan, Fisker would be required to manufacturer its next model – the Atlantic – at a refurbished General Motors plant in The First State that had been closed for years.
“The Delaware plant is big, old and expensive,” the Journal reported, citing an unidentified source, “and the Chinese balked at the U.S. loan because they don’t want to be compelled to build cars there.”
And according to another report by Reuters, Geely totally withdrew its interest in Fisker because of the DOE’s Delaware requirements.
“Those obligations are too complicated to handle and seem too risky,” said a Reuters source. “The plan’s footprint was too big. It would take a long, long time to fill up the plant with products and restore employment there.”
Whoa! So the communist Chinese – who haven’t met a government-mandated “green” project they can’t subsidize and love – won’t do a deal with Fisker, even though the U.S. government has deemed the Delaware plant worthy of taxpayer “investment?” How are these Far East entrepreneurs missing the Obama administration’s keen vision and business acumen?
After all, this was the plant where Vice President Joe Biden made a personal appearance in October 2009 to announce how the future of electric cars – sparked by the know-how of founder Henrik Fisker and investment from the Recovery Act – was going to burst forth from the remnants of that shuttered GM factory on Boxwood Road in Wilmington.
“While some wanted to write off America’s auto industry, we said no,” Biden said at a ceremony that also featured Democrat Gov. Jack Markell, Democrat Sen. Tom Carper, and Republican Rep. Mike Castle. “We knew that we needed to do something different – in Delaware and all across the nation. We understood a new chapter had to be written, a new chapter in which we strengthen American manufacturing by investing in innovation. Thanks to a real commitment by this Administration, loans from the Department of Energy, the creativity of U.S. companies and the tenacity of great state partners like Delaware – we’re on our way to helping America’s auto industry reclaim its top position in the global market.”
Sounded like a can’t-miss plan, right? According to the 2009 White House press release, $359 million of the DOE loan was going to “revive manufacturing at the Boxwood Plant.”
“This is proof positive that our efforts to create new jobs, invest in a clean energy economy and reduce carbon pollution are working,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the time. “We are putting Americans back to work and reigniting a new Industrial Revolution that is paramount for the economic success of this country.”
And yet somehow the Chinese are missing it. But Geely and Dongfeng may also have been put off by the internal dissent between Henrik Fisker and CEO Tony Posawatz. According to another Reuters report, the two executives disagreed over the continued pursuit of DOE funds, which is reportedly favored by Posawatz and understandably opposed by Mr. Fisker. After all, the initial $193 million in taxpayer support was a magnet for media scrutiny and resultant additional headaches. So because of what Mr. Fisker called “several major disagreements” with executive management over direction, he quit as chairman of his own company last week.
“What happened after Solyndra obviously has shifted unfortunately the discussions — rather than talking about … that everybody wants America to be the leader in new technology, it shifted to being more political focused,” Fisker told The Detroit News after he resigned. “That’s a situation everyone’s going to have to deal with.”
Everyone will except Geely and Dongfeng, who don’t need Fisker as much as Fisker needs them. Besides the financial considerations and the Delaware burden, the Anaheim automaker also has a trunk-load of excess baggage. Fisker has suffered a series of publicity blunders including recalls, a breakdown of its Karma model at Consumer Reports’ test facility, layoffs, a SEC investigation of its primary venture capital raisers and subsequent punishment of them by an arbitration board. Not surprisingly, Consumer Reports in September pegged the Karma as the worst luxury sedan on the market, and fourth-worst sedan overall. During the review process the publication reported it had to send its model back to the dealer for repeated problems such as frequent instrument, window and radio glitches, and recurring warning lights.
And the perception that the Delaware plant is too big and old isn’t the only problem there, either. The state made a $21.5 million incentive agreement with Fisker as well, and according to The Delaware News Journal, Gov. Markell says the state must continue to make payments under the deal he arranged. The state has paid at least $6 million for the company’s grant already, and as of last August Delaware taxpayers were stuck paying more than $400,000 (presumably more now) in utility bills, even though the factory is vacant.
Considering all these factors, maybe it is presumptuous to think China would bite on the “opportunity” to buy Fisker anyway, Delaware or no Delaware. And even if they did, it might be assuming too much to think the U.S. government would go along with Chinese ownership (although it didn’t raise much objection with the bankruptcy sale of Fisker’s battery maker, A123 Systems).
But then again, being in the electric vehicle business means never having to prove yourself. The Obama administration has taught us that you only have to presume you will succeed.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.
[First published at the National Legal and Policy Center.]
The March 26 edition of The Wall Street Journal has a special section titled “Environment” presenting excerpts and features from the Journal’s latest ECO:nomics conference. While the opening essay by John Bussey [subscription required] tells us the green bubble has burst, the rest of the section presents the usual pleas for more subsidies and regulations from the Baptists and bootleggers of the renewable energy movement.
According to Bussey’s opening essay, the annual ECO:nomics conference brings together “top entrepreneurs, thinkers, companies, investors, and environmentalists who define the intersection of business and the environment.” That’s only partly true. He left out the part about the “top entrepreneurs” being those who are most successful at winning government subsidies or benefiting from regulations that handicap their competitors.
The “top … thinkers” at ECO:nomics are only those who unquestioningly embrace the latest myths and hype from the environmental movement. Most corporate CEOs at the conference are just trying to paint themselves and their firms a fashionable shade of green to please the liberals in their public relations departments. And the environmentalists who show up are of the liberal/Democrat/alarmist stripe and rarely or never of the free-market variety.
Many years ago, economist Bruce Yandle (himself a pioneer of free-market environmentalism) coined the phrase “Baptists and bootleggers” to describe the unholy alliance of true-believers in an apparently noble cause and those out to make a buck off the laws and programs adopted in the cause’s name. The classic example is the Baptists’ campaign to ban alcohol and the huge profits delivered to bootleggers during Prohibition and later in “dry” counties and cities. Today, the best example of Baptists and bootleggers is the partnership between radical environmentalists trying to ban fossil fuels and the renewable energy industry eager to sell its over-priced, intermittent, and unreliable products.
Nowadays economists refer to bootleggers as “rent-seekers,” defined as individuals or parties who profit off rules and regulations that limit competition and consumer choice. And instead of referring to true believers as Baptists, who after all may be entirely right in their religious beliefs, we might follow the example provided by the Soviet Union’s KGB and call the true believers “useful idiots.”
Anyway, once a year The Wall Street Journal hosts a garden party for the useful idiots and rent seekers and then prints a series of puff pieces about the folks who attend. It isn’t good journalism or even entertainment, more like a very boring People Magazine feature about the speeches delivered at a PETA fundraising event in Beverly Hills. This year’s edition generated full-page ads from Shell Oil and FedEx and a few smaller ads, which one assumes is the main measurable output of the endeavor.
This year’s write-up, though, reported a skunk at the party. Bussey’s brief opening article contains these marvelous lines:
“Large parts of green-tech investment look like the torched and salted fields left behind by Roman conquerors; barren, lifeless – and bereft of a return on capital. Put another way: In some areas, if you aren’t already investor road kill, you’re likely the hedgehog in the headlights about to join your maker.”
After saying not all is lost, he returns to the story about the skunk:
“But it was undeniable that waning investment in the green side of the energy spectrum was the other dominant theme. A range of factors have [sic] scared off capital: poor returns on existing investments; the failure of big solar efforts like Solyndra; shrinking government budgets; the impact of state-subsidized Chinese competitors; and indeed, the advance of cleaner shale gas, which has undercut momentum toward some alternative energy sources.”
It’s a nice list, but he might have added that 16 years without any global warming, the collapse of foreign carbon trading markets, the Climategate 3.0 and Fakegate scandals, the rise of “energy poverty” as a major political issue in Europe, and growing skepticism about the ability of scientists to predict future climate conditions all have damaged the standing of the useful idiots at the conference, causing rent seekers to look for other targets to whom to attach themselves.
Might this be the last ECO:nomics event? One can only hope so. But human nature being what it is, another event will quickly take its place. The Wall Street Journal’s advertising department is surely making plans for the next big thing. A suggestion: How about something to do with investing in real businesses producing viable products?
“Man bites dog” is news, runs an old adage, but “Dog bites man” is not. Yet “Democrats pass 1st budget since ‘09” still made headlines over the weekend and it is hard to tell into which category it fits.
It should go without saying that in a two century-old republic the government passing a budget should not be news. Doing so should be the first duty of a financially responsible legislature; living within it should be the second. But this is the first time in the current administration that the United States Senate – the self-styled “world’s greatest deliberative body” – has taken the first step, and it will likely never take the second.
For the bad news about this “budget” is everywhere else: it passed with a bare 50-49 majority at 4:38 a.m. on a Saturday morning in March, with no Republicans in favor and five Democrats defecting; it will never be reconciled with the considerably different budget that a Republican House passed earlier this month; and even if enacted it would authorize higher taxes and a record $3.7 trillion in spending.
Yet even in a nation staggering under record debts and deficits, Senators somehow found the money to pay for carry-out in pizza (for the Democrats) and barbecue (for the Republicans) for their all-night session and to hire cars to drive them home.
So man bites dog, or dog bites man, and the era of irresponsible spending and continuing resolutions continues. One wonders: how long?
The redesign of The Heartland Institute’s Somewhat Reasonable blog is now live! Its designed to be prettier; faster; better-organized; easier to read, navigate and search; more visually dynamic, more fun to share with friends, and easy to find and visit other sites in Heartland’s digital presence. Keeping tabs on the commentary of Heartland’s staffers, fellows, and policy advisors is now a better experience than ever.
New features of the redesigned Somewhat Reasonable include:
- A “slider” at the top of the blog that features up to five posts of our choosing.
- Much faster load times on the “front end” for the reader, and the “back end” for the bloggers.
- Links in the menu bar below the masthead sorted by the same categories as at Heartland.org and at the Heartlander digital magazine for consistency and easy reference/research.
- A right sidebar that is a lot cleaner and more functional than on the old blog.
- A cleaner and more attractive “Heartland on YouTube” feature in that right sidebar.
- A search bar right where people look for it – top right of the page – that works quickly to find what you want via keywords.
- Social media buttons that are discreet, but noticeable and useful, embedded into the masthead.
- Links at the very top of the page that send people to Heartland.org and the Heartlander digital magazine – as well as a drop-down of “Reasonable People” to quickly find everything written by author. (One can also use the “Reasonable People” links prominently featured in the right column.)
- A “most popular this month” feature that lets you see the hottest posts at Somewhat Reasonable at a glance.
- A “tag cloud” at the bottom of the right sidebar so folks can see at a glance what keywords are used the most.
I hope you all like the new Somewhat Reasonable blog as much as we do.
Your college tuition covered only a fraction of the cost of your education, you are told, and whatever success you’ve had in life is a result of the knowledge you gained and the people you met while in college. And surely you use in your daily life what you learned in important classes like “The Psychology of Deviant Social Behavior” and remember the great times you had in late-night bull sessions, your first sexual conquest or finding your one true love, and drinking with your buddies until you passed out? (In the last case, probably not; after all, you did pass out.)
These are all good reasons, I’m sure, to remember those halcyon days with fond nostalgia and to forget what a nuisance it was to be paired with a freshman year room-mate whose politics, personal hygiene (or lack thereof), and choice of music you couldn’t stand, or to have to fly Mohawk Airlines into Ithaca, New York, in the dead of winter after spending all night sleeping on the floor of LaGuardia Airport because you got “bumped” from your student stand-by flight. But with college alumni fever at a seasonal high here at NCAA basketball tournament time, here are ten top reasons not to give to your college alma mater:
10. They don’t need the money as badly as you do.
As of 2012, sixty-nine colleges and universities, from Amherst to Yale, from Notre Dame to Yeshiva, had endowments of at least one billion dollars each. That’s one billion, with a “B.” Topping the list is Harvard with over $30 billion in the bank, but Yale, Stanford, and Princeton all exceeded $15 billion and every school in the Big Ten but Iowa makes the list – and that state makes up for it with tiny Grinnell College at roughly $1.4 billion. The combined total of all college endowments is probably not quite enough to pay off the national debt, but it’s a lot more than you will ever have in your 401(k).
9. The president of your college makes more money than you ever will.
Okay, not everybody goes to Yale, but former Yale President Rick Levin recently retired after twenty years with a salary that topped out at over $ 1.6 million. (In 2010 alone, according to Bloomberg Business Week, Levin received a 6.4% raise from 2009 to $1,627,649 following a year in which Yale’s endowment fell nearly 29%, from $22.87 to $16.33 billion, and many Americans got no raises at all.) That same year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 36 private-college presidents received salaries of more than $1 million each.
8. College didn’t teach you anything really useful.
Unless you majored in accounting or engineering, your college major and most of the courses you took probably didn’t do anything for you that you couldn’t or didn’t do for yourself. Most of the world’s knowledge is not in the heads of professors and their graduate students but in the world’s great books: from Plato and Jane Austen to James Joyce and J. D. Salinger, the world’s great writers and thinkers are out there for all of us to discover and you don’t need a college professor to find them.
7. Faculty don’t really teach very much.
One reason you didn’t learn much from your college professors is that many of them actually teach very little. Most of the nation’s great universities have become research institutes and business incubators, living off government grants and private donations and turning the knowledge they gain into profitable technologies they then license or around which professors build private businesses. That’s all well and good in a larger sense, but it’s a heavily subsidized process unrelated to actual teaching. What teaching does go on is heavily handled by graduate assistants barely out of college themselves who are hoping that someday they, too, will lead the life of a professor, which is necessarily nicer than yours. In short, you don’t need college professors as much as they need you.
6. That’s because they’re too busy travelling – at someone else’s expense.
I’m all in favor of world travel for the simple reason that, scenery aside, meeting people from other lands and finding out they’re just like you makes it less likely that some day you’ll want to kill each other. But in perusing travel brochures that arrive in the mail I can’t help but notice that college alumni tours escorted by one (or two) faculty members always seem to cost more than comparable tours not sponsored by colleges. The reason: You pay for the faculty members’ trips.
5. You pay taxes that they don’t.
You also pay taxes that your college professors and administrators don’t. Sure, they pay taxes on their reportable income, along with sales and gasoline taxes and the like. But your college president probably lives rent-free in a nice house, if not a mansion, for the value of which she or he pays no taxes, and professors have lots of tax-free perks – like travel. And so long as they remain “not for profit” institutions (despite their enormous wealth), colleges themselves pay no taxes on the property that they increasingly pull off the property tax rolls in that land that surrounds them, leaving a larger tax burden for the rest of us.
4. You work twelve months per year; they work eight or nine.
If you’re lucky enough to have a full-time job in the private sector then you likely work year-round. Sure, you get some weekends and holidays off – and maybe even a few weeks’ vacation if you can find the time to take it – but college professors and administrators get the same weekends and holidays plus “winter break,” spring break, and summer vacation. Don’t even try to get in touch with a college professor between May and September; they’re too busy travelling, likely at someone else’s expense.
3. Sex week.
Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, and a few other schools – perhaps no longer including the University of Tennessee – now offer a week of programs devoted to how to have more, better, and/or kinkier sex by yourself or with others of whichever (trans)gender you may prefer. Oh, sure, this sounds like a great idea and you’re wishing they had offered it when you were in college instead of having to figure it out on your own. But do you really want your hard-earned dollars subsidizing porn stars and prostitutes showing college kids how to have kinky sex?
2. Health care coverage for sex-change surgery.
Along with sex week, an increasing number of colleges are providing full medical coverage for sex-reassignment surgery. (No, we’re not being homophobic, bigoted, or anti-LGBT here; one of our favorite causes is the Human Rights Campaign.) But college kids who aren’t mature enough to stop drinking beer when they’ve had enough ought not to be encouraged to make such life-changing decisions as changing their gender. (They should at least leave that to graduate school.)
1. And the Number One Reason Not to Donate to Your College Alma Mater: You are responsible for your own success.
Yes, our president may tell us we “didn’t build that” and the more erudite John Donne put it more poetically: “No man is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.” But the real reason your school was good, or great, or even moderately mediocre is because YOU were there. Graduates of Harvard, Yale, and the University of Notre Dame don’t tend to lead more productive lives because they attended those schools (although the connections they made there didn’t hurt) but because those schools attracted people like you: bright, personable, hard-working, and highly motivated.
Come to think of it, helping to put all good people in touch with one another might be a good reason to give after all!
As of yet, disgraced scientist Peter Gleick has not appeared in public to receive the award the enviro-left would like to give him for his willingness to commit crimes in the service of destroying all who present real science.
Honestly, I find it amazing that some wacko leftist outfit hasn’t already re-jiggered a bowling trophy with Gleick’s name on it to laud him for ratting out apostates of the religion of climate alarmism. Pity. He’ll just have to settle for his creation of the Fakegate scandal as a legacy.
As for the “major award” for Gleick, word comes that the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards gave him and the Pacific Institute a “Lifetime Achievement” Water Conservation Award. By bestowing this “honor” on Gleick, the organization has sullied any good reputation it might have enjoyed. Peter Gleick’s actions are an affront to science, and a disgrace the Pacific Institute shares.
The Heartland Institute sent not just one letter to the board of directors of the Pacific Institute, but two. The letters asked the board to at least look into and respond the crimes to which Gleick admitted. To date, a little more than a year later, Heartland has received no response.
The first letter, sent on February 29, 2012, noted that the Pacific Institute had opened an investigation into what Gleick had done and asked for results. Heartland asked this:
The Heartland Institute’s staff, directors, donors, and other victims of Mr. Gleick’s crime look forward to reviewing the outcome of your investigation. Please confirm that you intend to make public the results of your investigation.
I hope that you and the firm you have hired will pay special attention to the documents I have enclosed:
- The emails Gleick exchanged with Heartland prior to committing his crime, in which he was respectfully invited to debate Heartland Senior Fellow James M. Taylor on the issue of climate change at Heartland’s anniversary benefit event in August. In these emails, Gleick is informed of Heartland’s policies regarding the confidentiality of its donors and why we adopted that policy. Gleick declined the invitation to debate.
- The emails Gleick used to steal documents intended to be read only by members of Heartland’s board of directors. Gleick falsely assumed the identity of a member of Heartland’s board on the same day (January 27) that he declined the invitation to debate climate change with Taylor.
- The forged memo Gleick included with the stolen documents and falsely represented, in his message accompanying the documents to 15 allies and journalists, to have come from The Heartland Institute. I have highlighted the forger’s own words, as opposed to text that was copied and pasted from the stolen documents, and included my own analysis of this fraudulent document.
- Gleick’s partial confession, in which he admits to having stolen the documents but claims that the memo, which he previously said came from The Heartland Institute, came “in the mail” from an anonymous source. He claims he stole documents because “a rational public debate is desperately needed,” a debate he had just declined to participate in. He offers his “personal apologies to all those affected,” presumably including people he knew his actions had put in harm’s way. He does not say or offer to do anything that would limit or undo the harm he caused.
I hope you will tell me, as you review these documents, if you recognize the author of the highlighted text of the forged memo, and if you believe Gleick received it from an anonymous source, and if you believe Gleick has shown any personal remorse for what he has done.
Finally, please pass along the following questions to the “independent” firm you hired to investigate Gleick:
- Did Gleick use Pacific Institute computers to establish the Gmail email account under the name of a Heartland board member?
- Did Gleick use Pacific Institute computers to establish the Gmail email account under the name of “email@example.com,” which he used to send the fake memo and the stolen documents to 15 media outlets?
- Does the investigative firm intend to examine whether Gleick is the author of the fake memo?
- Does the outside firm have access to all of the personal computers Gleick may have used to write and send the emails or to write the forged memo?
- Is the fake memo or any trace of it on Gleick’s personal computer(s)?
- Is the fake memo or any trace of it on the Pacific Institute’s computer system?
- Is there evidence (as a blogger says) that the fake memo was scanned into a PDF document on a scanner at the Pacific Institute?
- Does the Pacific Institute have possession of the hard copy of the fake memo or the envelope in which it was supposedly sent?
- What steps does the Pacific Institute plan to take to preserve these and other documents relevant to the investigation?
As noted above, The Heartland Institute has yet to receive any answer. Nor has the Pacific Institute revealed anything about its “independent” investigation — as opposed to The Heartland Institute, which has been open about everything from the start.
Heartland sent a second letter to the Pacific Institute on April 30, 2012, after the results of many truly independent investigations of what Gleick admitted to doing — and to which he has not credibly explained or admitted. That second letter asked:
Since that letter was sent, several new pieces of evidence pointing to Gleick as the author of the fake memo have emerged:
■ A computer analysis conducted by Juola & Associates, the premier provider of expert analysis and testimony in the field of text and authorship, concluded “it is more likely than not that Gleick is in fact the author/compiler of the document entitled ‘Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy,’ and further that the document does not represent a genuine strategy memo from the Heartland Institute.”
■ Anthony Watts, host of WattsUpWithThat, widely considered the world’s most popular and influential Web site on climate science, commented: “It seems very likely then, given the result of this analysis, plus the circumstances, proximity, motive, and opportunity, that Dr. Peter Gleick forged the document known as ‘Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy.’ The preponderance of the evidence points squarely to Gleick.”
■ A thorough forensic analysis of Heartland’s computers (and those owned by Heartland’s president and his spouse) by Protek International concludes “the Memo was not created on Heartland’s computer systems and never existed there, or within Heartland’s email systems, prior to its posting online on February 14, 2012.”
All three documents are enclosed, along with a background document about Fakegate that we are circulating widely.
Gleick has been widely condemned for his serious breach of ethics. For example, New York Times columnist Andrew Revkin wrote, “One way or the other, Gleick’s use of deception in pursuit of his cause after years of calling out climate deception has destroyed his credibility and harmed others.” Revkin went on to write, “The broader tragedy is that his decision to go to such extremes in his fight with Heartland has greatly set back any prospects of the country having the ‘rational public debate’ that he wrote – correctly – is so desperately needed.”
On February 27, 2012, in response to Gleick’s confession, the Pacific Institute announced the Board of Directors had agreed to Gleick’s “request for a temporary leave of absence” and installed Elena Schmidt as “acting executive director.” The institute also announced it had “hired an independent firm to review the allegations” because it was “deeply concerned” about Gleick’s unethical and possibly criminal conduct that has done great harm to The Heartland Institute.
Since that date, however, no member of the Pacific Institute’s board has even attempted to distance the Pacific Institute from Gleick’s behavior, and there has been no announcements regarding the results of the “review.”
Even more alarming, there has been no indication that Gleick’s “leave of absence” has interrupted his work for the Pacific Institute. On March 8, just 10 days after the institute accepted his “leave of absence,” Gleick delivered the opening plenary remarks at the California Water Policy conference in Los Angeles before an audience of 300 people. The conference Web site and media reports identified Gleick with his “president” title intact.
On April 16, Gleick took part in the International Water Security Conference in Oxford, England. Gleick was, again, part of a high-profile plenary panel and listed in the program as “President and Co-founder, Pacific Institute.” A news report by Reuters of the conference quoted Gleick extensively and identified him as a “leading water expert and head of the U.S.-based Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.”
On April 24, Gleick spoke at the Oxford Amnesty Lecture – apparently part of a scheduled tour. The organizers of the lecture also identify him with his Pacific Institute affiliation and refused to cancel his speech after The Heartland Institute informed them of his theft and fraud.
Since February, Gleick and the Pacific Institute have been silent about every aspect of this matter, save a brief statement from each party. The Heartland Institute has spent countless hours and scarce financial resources publicly fighting to restore its reputation in the press, with the public, and with donors. It is long past time for the Pacific Institute to answer for its role in Peter Gleick’s scandal.
In light of the above facts, please respond to the following specific questions for the Pacific Institute:
1. Does the Pacific Institute think a punitive “temporary leave of absence” of just 10 days is sufficient in light of its board of directors being “deeply concerned” about Gleick’s actions?
2. If Gleick’s “temporary leave of absence” was over after 10 days, why has the Pacific Institute not publicly announced that Gleick was reinstated to his post as president?
3. If Gleick is still on a “temporary leave of absence,” does the Pacific Institute endorse his speaking tour under the organization’s name?
4. It has been two months since the Pacific Institute said it had hired an independent firm to investigate Gleick’s theft and fraud. When can The Heartland Institute and the public expect to see the results and an announcement of action by the Pacific Institute?
5. Does the independent investigation include examination of computers and other office equipment owned by the Pacific Institute?
The Heartland Institute requests prompt answers for the sake of the Pacific Institute’s reputation, and for our organization to better understand the nature of Gleick’s harmful acts of theft, fraud, and deceit.
Since no member of the Pacific Institute’s board replied to my previous letter, you can understand why this letter is being posted online at fakegate.org and blind copied to all of the Pacific Institute’s major donors.
All of these questions are yet unanswered by the Pacific Institute and Gleick himself. Until they are, anything the Pacific Institute or Gleick does should be discounted as the work of thieves, cowards and frauds.
One of the funniest writers in the land of zeros and ones is Jon Gabriel — known to his happy Twitter fans as ExJon. He blogs for FreedomWorks these days, and his take on today’s Earth Hour (8:30 to 9:30 in your time zone) is required reading.
Jon notes that the “gimmick” of Earth Hour “is designed to make people feel like they’re accomplishing something instead of actually accomplishing something.”
But what does Earth Hour actually accomplish? Higher carbon emissions, it turns out:
Consider the activists’ recommendation of replacing electric lights with candles for an hour. Candles are made from paraffin, i.e., refined crude oil, and are far less efficient than electric bulbs — even those dastardly incandescent light bulbs our government is so helpfully seizing from us. You would need about 40 candles to match the light produced by a 40-watt bulb, but just one candle cancels out any theoretical CO2 reduction.
Then there’s the effect of a mass off-switch/on-switch across an electrical grid. Power companies still pump the same amount of energy despite a brief dip in consumption. But when a large number of people simultaneously increase consumption at the end of Earth Hour, a surge often requires engineers to fire up additional coal- or oil-fueled resources.
And liberals claim that conservatives are anti-science.
What really chafes is the flamboyant hypocrisy of Earth Hour advocates. “Let’s turn off our lights, then upload millions of tweets, photos and videos using our smartphones and computers!” Because where’s the fun in saving the planet if you can’t use electricity to brag about it every three minutes?
The facts show that Earth Hour is just another exercise in progressive posturing and self-congratulation. If conspicuous non-consumption saved the planet, we’d be able to run our cars on self-righteousness and moral preening.
Read the whole thing.
Meanwhile, our friend Tom Harris over at the International Climate Science Coalition suggests celebrating “Energy Hour” one hour earlier. Tom quotes Terry Dunleavy’s great take on this silly exercise:
“It’s important not to waste energy, and to generate it as economically as possible in terms both of cost and depletion of natural resources. Those are the right reasons for mass gestures like Earth Hour. However, it is a mistake to promote such initiatives as ‘saving the planet’ by reducing emissions of CO2 when so many qualified scientists do not support the hypothesis that man-made CO2 can or does cause dangerous global warming. As the public come to realize that they have been misled about the reasons for Earth Hour, much of the incentive to engage in constructive behaviour will evaporate.”
Yes. That will happen. But enviro-lefties get to preen about “doing something” to “raise awareness.” That’s obviously more important.
Nine states have sent dossiers on students — including names, Social Security numbers, hobbies, addresses, test scores, attendance, career goals, and attitudes about school —to a public-private database, according to Reuters. Standardized tests are beginning to incorporate psychological and behavioral assessment. Every state is also building databases to collect and share such information among agencies and companies, and the U.S. Department of Education has recently reinterpreted federal privacy laws so that schools and governments don’t have to tell parents their kids’ information has been shared.
Promises of researchers’ and governments’ good intentions are not enough to justify this, especially when tax dollars are involved and government entities are helping invade students’ privacy without parents’ or even school officials’ knowledge.
Very few U.S. citizens want to see their government even slightly imitate that of China, which keeps dossiers on all citizens’ performance and attitudes. These records influence work, political, and school opportunities. Because “everything they do will be recorded for the rest of their life … the dossier discourages any ‘errant’ behavior,” says Chinese professor Ouyang Huhua. This is not to say big databases equal communist oppression. But we do things differently in the United States because we trust our citizenry and we believe in self-rule.
Any researcher or organization wanting to plumb data – perhaps to help kids learn more, faster – can do so without trampling individual rights. First, the historic and accepted practice with student records has been to keep them anonymous when shared outside of schools. Researchers and government accountability gurus don’t need to know that Sally Smith failed Algebra I, even if her parents and teachers do. Researchers do not need personally identifiable information such as names, Social Security numbers, and addresses. They just need to know, for example, whether lots of students are failing Algebra I. Schools and states should check these privacy firewalls.
Second, students and their guardians should have full access to their own records, with the ability to correct false information. They also should be informed of and able to opt out of all data-sharing involving their records. Schools need parent consent to give children so much as an aspirin. They should get consent to share a student’s psychological evaluations or test performances.
Third, agencies should be required to explain exactly how they will keep the sensitive information in their hands from being hacked or exposed. The more people and organizations have access, and the bigger a treasure trove these databases become, the more likely security breaches become. Hundreds of thousands of people were put at risk of identity theft in 2012 because of security breaches in government databases, including one affecting three-quarters of South Carolinians. And child identity theft is often not discovered until adulthood, which makes youngsters’ records even more attractive to thieves.
Because the U.S. Department of Education has unilaterally knocked down federal privacy protections, lawmakers need to rebuild that wall. Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, New York and Oregon are a few states considering such legislation. They should act swiftly, and so should others.
[First published in the Washington Examiner.]
Today’s the three year anniversary of the final House vote on Obamacare. It is one ugly toddler, and its first steps are turning out to be disastrous. But is it here to stay?
From the beginning, there were three ways to replace Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. The first and best option was that you could replace it by winning an election – and it would have to be a definitive win, not just the White House but the Senate, too. Republicans utterly failed to do this. Second, you could count on the Supreme Court to gut its central support mechanism, the individual mandate.
Thanks to John Roberts, this also failed, but not utterly, since the surprise 7-2 decision allowed states the freedom to block the Medicaid expansion, a massive entitlement increase which made up the bulk of the coverage increase under the program. But after both of these failures, the general chorus in the media is that the right has to give up on repealing Obamacare altogether – that it should accept it and work to implement it. See the recent complaints from Nita Lowey and others about the lack of funding for implementation, who will certainly cite this as the reason for a clumsy launch of the online systems this fall.
They seem to have forgotten about the third path: the right can replace Obamacare if it fails. And thus far, it gives every indication of failing. It has contributed to growing premium costs. Its budget impacts have been revised only in a negative direction (indeed, the only positives have been from fewer states implementing the Medicaid expansion). It has already been stripped of one mathematically and actuarially unsound entitlement. Most Republican governors have no interest in helping implement a program they believe to be ill-thought from its inception, and even Democrats don’t want their fingerprints at the state level on exchanges and Medicaid expansions their systems can’t handle.
The tea leaves from the implementers are not optimistic at all. Consider the latest lines from Henry Chao at CMS: “Chao was frank about the stress and tension of the compressed time frame involved in setting up the exchanges. “We are under 200 days from open enrollment, and I’m pretty nervous,’’ he said. “I don’t know about you,” he added, to murmurs from the insurance industry audience. Members peppered Chao and Cohen with many questions about the format for the health care policies they will submit to HHS for approval so the plans can be marketed in the exchanges.
Chao said the main objective is to get the exchanges up and running and signing up the uninsured. “The time for debating about the size of text on the screen or the color or is it a world-class user experience, that’s what we used to talk about two years ago,” he said. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.” You’ve had three years and billions of dollars to work with, and you’re talking about being fearful of a “third-world experience” in the exchanges?
Part of the problem is how much the Obama administration counted on the states to do the implementation job. Instead, you have 33 states where the administration must run the insurance exchanges in whole or in part. And this extends to Medicaid expansion as well: the primary motivation for the Arkansas compromise endorsed by HHS, for instance, was not just the coverage expansion – it was that Arkansas’ own health department staff, in a Democratic administration, said that they couldn’t handle the sheer bureaucratic lift of adding a quarter of a million people to a program already rife with problems.
Laughably, today Bloomberg’s editors came out today against the Arkansas approach to Medicaid reform – because they apparently believe: “Medicaid is efficient, delivering a high standard of care at rock-bottom cost.” The divide between the national conversation and those at the state level is absurd on this score, and it’s one reason why the amount of balking at “free money” surprised so many people who don’t spend much time working with legislators.
So implementation is going to get messy, and in ways that will impact people’s lives far more directly than the instability of the early days of Medicare Part D. We’re not just talking about getting you a drug, keep in mind – we’re talking about births, limbs, surgery, transplants, life and death. That’s one reason Democrats have already shown themselves willing to be far more critical post-2012. They think this is fine because the law appears secure. But it’s also still very unpopular, with Democratic support dropping substantially since the election. Removed from the conflict of electoral politics, Obamacare requires less ideological fealty, and pointing out its flaws becomes less an act of betrayal than an admission of the obvious.
The central problem here is that Obama promised too much, and Obamacare will deliver too little. The Repeal Coalition will continue to work to undermine it at every opportunity, and the nature of its passage means that there is no foreseeable avenue for the normal bipartisan fixes and tweaks to make a sweeping law work better. Instead, Republicans are likely to seize on every sad story as justification for dramatic changes – and in 2016, mount campaigns designed to replace the system in whole or in part with plenty of material to use in their cause. It’s very possible, perhaps even likely, that moderate Democrats will run in 2014 promising to “fix Obamacare” in one sense or another.
Democrats privately admit they’re worried about implementation, but they are counting on government largesse to insulate them. They figure once the funding for Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies goes out the door in 2014, they’ll be just fine. Perhaps. But Americans dislike dramatic shifts in experience and disruption – one reason Obama promised, ridiculously, that if you like your plan and doctor you can keep them – and Obamacare is nothing if not disruptive.
Confidence that it will endure beyond 2016 in its current form requires believing that it will work, that it will become more popular, and that premium costs will not continue to rise. If that happens, it will endure. If not, within a few years, it will be reformed in part or replaced entirely.
[First published at RealClearPolitics.]
If this were about fairness, the law would demand every retailer obtain every customer’s name and address. Every retailer would then have to determine the sales tax for where each customer lives, collect that amount, and then send the money to the appropriate tax jurisdiction. Every retailer would have to submit to audits from every tax jurisdiction in the country. But the Marketplace Fairness Act does not require this of all retailers. It requires this only of online retailers.
Surely the bricks-and-mortar stores could install the computer systems necessary to determine what the sales tax is where every customer lives. Surely it would be no problem for cashiers to ask every customer’s address, verify it, and enter that information into the computer system, which would determine the correct sales tax. Surely the bricks-and-mortar stores would have no problem using their computers to track this information and send the proper payments to the appropriate taxing jurisdiction for each customer. Surely they would have no problem submitting themselves to audits from tax jurisdictions across the country.
Surely fairness demands this. Surely bricks-and-mortars retailers would have no problem with true marketplace fairness.
In recent weeks, Illinois legislators have considered several major pension reform proposals. Several pieces of legislation were considered by legislators that attempted to take some positive steps towards controlling costs and increasing worker contributions, but many of them came woefully short of the comprehensive reform that is needed to ensure the long term solvency of the plan.
Nekritz-Biss Bill Fails in Senate
The piece most seriously considered recently was Senate Bill 35, sponsored by Reps. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Dan Biss (D-Evanston). This bill, which failed in the Senate 23-30, would have increased the amount teachers, university workers, state employees and lawmakers paid toward their retirement accounts, limit cost of living increases while placing a cap on the size of pensionable salaries.
In a January 10 Heartlander article, I examined several of the pension proposals being considered, including the Nekritz-Biss bill:
“Their bill would have frozen cost-of-living increases for all state workers and retirees. After the freeze ended, cost-of-living increases would have applied only to the first $25,000 of pensions. Adjustments for inflation would not have been awarded until a worker reached the age of 67. Most government workers in the state retire much before reaching 67 years old and receive annual pension increases right away.
The Nekritz-Biss bill would have gradually increased the amount employees would have contributed to their pensions, increasing by 1 percentage point the first year and 1 percentage point the second year. The proposal also would have placed a cap on the size of the pensionable salary with two standards: a worker’s current salary or a level based on a Social Security wage base, whichever is higher.”
An Alternative Proposal Attacks the Problems
The Nekritz-Biss bill is not the only pension reform bill receiving attention. Today the House will be holding a hearing on House Bill 3303, sponsored by Representatives Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) and Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton). Based on a model from the Illinois Policy Institute, this proposal would cut the states’ unfunded pension debt in half, move new hires into a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan while protecting already-earned benefits for government workers.
Under a defined-contribution plan, employers pay a fixed amount during the course of a worker’s career, this amount is then deposited into a personal account which the workers controls and manages, This allows the worker greater control over their retirement and the ability to customize it to their own needs. These plans not only give worker’s more control over their own money, but give more budget certainty to taxpayers.
Scott Reeder of the Illinois Policy Institute outlined in a Daily-Journal article several key points in the proposal:
Reduces the fiscal year 2014 unfunded liability by $46 billion, a 46 percent reduction. This brings the unfunded liability down from $101 billion to $55 billion.
Reduces fiscal year 2014 state contributions to $4.7 billion, a nearly 30 percent drop from $6.7 billion under current law.
Protects constitutionally guaranteed benefits already earned by retirees and current workers.
Empowers current workers to control their retirement savings going forward with 401(k)-style plans modeled after the existing State Universities Retirement System’s 401(a) plan.
Reduces the state’s annual pension contribution by more than $2 billion in the first year and eliminates the state’s unfunded liability by 2045. Ends the repayment ramp and instead moves to level annual payments.
Freezes cost-of-living adjustments until retirement systems return to healthy funding levels.
Aligns the retirement age with Social Security’s retirement age while still protecting workers who are nearing retirement under current law.
Promotes accountability and fiscal responsibility by requiring local governments to pay the employer share of their employees’ retirement savings plans.
Makes government workers’ retirement savings plans portable, giving workers more flexibility and freedom to move their plan from job to job.
In a statement on his proposal, Morrison argues that in order to maintain pension benefits in the long run, workers need additional control over their retirement funds.
“This bill reforms pensions in a constitutional way,” commented Morrison. “It protects the pension benefits workers have earned to date. The pension formula will simply apply to their current service and their current salary. They will receive a basic pension as if they had left government employment today. But in order to fully protect those benefits, we have to change how future benefits are earned. And while we’re making those changes, let’s do it in a way that empowers workers with real control, rather than keeping the power in the hands of this legislative body.”
Any efforts to reform Illinois’ pension system is made more difficult by the states’ constitution: Illinois’ constitution prohibits fundamental reform of pensions for existing public-sector employees. It is likely that any pension reform bill that makes it through the General Assembly will be challenged in court.
The legislature’s inability to reach agreement on any form of pension reform is troubling. Without an overhaul of the current, unsustainable pension system, Illinois taxpayers will continue to be burdened by substantially higher taxes to bail out the state for its imprudent policies. If state workers and union representatives cannot accept sensible changes to the pension system, more state workers will be laid off, taxes will increase, and the state’s economy will decline even further.
The Morrison-Ives proposal takes many of these steps that the state needs to manage its’ pension obligations while managing costs. Illinois legislators should give the bill serious consideration.
The mainstream media are reporting in breathless fashion about a new paper claiming current temperatures are their warmest in 4,000 years. Already, however, objective scientists are reporting serious flaws in the paper. The media may wish to paint a picture of runaway global warming, but the science tells a completely different story.
Recently graduated Ph.D. student Shaun Marcott has published a paper claiming he compiled a proxy temperature reconstruction indicating current temperatures are their warmest in at least 4,000 years. Proxy temperature reconstructions require careful scrutiny because the proxies are not direct temperature measurements, but represent other data and factors that may or may not have a close correlation with past temperatures.
Some proxies are better than others. Also, an agenda-driven researcher can easily cherry-pick certain anomalous proxies that support a predetermined conclusion while ignoring a much larger set of proxies that tell a different story.
Perhaps the most notorious of agenda-driven proxy reconstructions was published by global warming alarmist Michael Mann. As a young, relatively unknown recent Ph.D. graduate, Mann attained wealth, fame and adulation among global warming alarmists after assembling a proxy temperature reconstruction that he claimed showed global temperatures underwent a steady, roughly 1,000-year decline followed by a sharp rise during the 20th century. The media reported on the Mann hockey stick reconstruction as if it settled the global warming debate, but objective scientists pointed out several crucial flaws that invalidated Mann’s claims. Eventually, Congress commissioned distinguished statistician Edward Wegman to review and report on Mann’s methods and conclusions. After assembling a blue ribbon panel of experts to study Mann’s temperature reconstruction, Wegman reported the criticisms of Mann’s reconstruction were “valid and compelling.”
The Marcott proxy reconstruction shares much in common with the Mann hockey stick. Marcott is a young, recently graduated Ph.D. student whose asserted temperature reconstruction has launched him out of obscurity into media fame. As was the case with Mann’s hockey stick, objective scientists quickly pointed out serious flaws in the Marcott reconstruction. Also similar to the Mann hockey stick, the media is ignoring the devastating critiques of the Marcott reconstruction and misleading the public into believing that we finally have a study showing essentially the same thing that Mann claimed before his hockey stick was discredited.
Although objective scientists have had little time so far to dig into the meat of Marcott’s data, methods and conclusions, their initial observations are devastating. Don Easterbrook, geology professor emeritus at Western Washington University, has published two papers available here and here summarizing and documenting many of the already discovered flaws in Marcott’s reconstruction. Easterbrook reports that at least one more such paper is on the way, as he and other objective scientists find more and more flaws and areas of concern in Marcott’s reconstruction as they continue to analyze it.
Easterbrook points out that 80 percent of the data used by Marcott reflect oceanic data, not atmospheric temperatures. “Thus, they may reflect temperature changes from ocean upwelling, changes in ocean currents, or any one of a number of ocean variations not related to atmospheric climates,” Easterbrook writes. Given the opportunities for cherry-picking anomalous data to support a predetermined conclusion (such as objective scientists found regarding the Mann hockey stick), Marcott’s heavy dependence on oceanic rather than atmospheric proxies “in itself means that the Marcott et al. temperatures are not a reliable measure of changing atmospheric climate,” Easterbrook reports.
Easterbrook also notes that Marcott recycled Mann’s proxies to help compile the small portion of Marcott’s land-based proxies. Discredited proxies by any other name are still discredited proxies. Perhaps most damaging, Easterbrook observes that many other published studies and data, including analysis of extremely reliable Greenland ice core data, completely contradict Marcott’s asserted proxy data.
When many temperature studies, including studies presented by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, indicate current global temperatures are cooler than the vast majority of the past 4,000 years, and then an outlier study with quickly identified serious flaws claims exactly the opposite, one would think the media would make note of the discrepancies. Unfortunately, the media has demonstrated little interest in doing so. There are several reasons for this.
First, the news media is prone to overhype the news events of the day. Hype sells newspapers and attracts viewers. This is the case for all news topics and certainly applies to global warming.
Second, fear captivates people. This is one of the reasons why television and print news contains so much bad news and so little good news. A single breathless report of impending global warming doom is going to rope in more viewers and readers than a whole collection of reports explaining that current temperatures are actually quite cool in historical perspective.
Third, it is no secret that the media drifts left on many issues, and drifts left on environmental issues in particular.
Combine these three factors and you have a textbook recipe for yellow journalism; a perfect storm representing all the reasons why people no longer trust the mainsteam media to be fair, balanced and accurate.
The scientific record shows quite clearly that current temperatures are significantly cooler than the 4,000-year average, yet the media uses a seriously flawed study to claim the opposite. Global warming alarmists put their trust in the media, while global warming realists put their trust in the science.
[First published at Forbes.]
In addition to my interesting conversation with EPA Advisor Bob Sussman which was covered in a separate post here, there were a number of other interesting findings that emanated from various meetings with federal government personnel. Among them were the following:
- Most federal agency representatives and Congressional staff personnel did not foresee any significant issues with fracking regulations that would impair the continued boom in oil and gas production from plays like the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Permian Basin formations.
- Regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, all government officials we spoke with, even Democrats, believed that it would be difficult for the president to turn down the latest initiative to move forward with the construction of the pipeline given the latest favorable EIS from the State Department. The fact that Canada will pursue expansion of oil sands production regardless of the administration’s decision on Keystone XL, appears to undermine the environmentalists’ argument. At the same time, some officials recognized that an agreement to move forward could come at a cost to his support from the green lobby. With that thought in mind, some government spokespeople believed that this might cause the president to make a bolder pledge to advance on the climate change regulation front.
- In reference to such a pledge to double down on efforts to effect climate change regulations, some government representatives believe that the president will be looking for legal maneuvers that will allow him to bypass Congress and the Senate should legislators fail to honor his request. Some believe that the president could find language within the Clean Air Act that would, at least in his view, justify his unilateral action on the issue.
- Coincidentally, two new appointees were named to key federal agencies the day the D.C. conference began. Ernest Moniz was named as Department of Energy Secretary while Gina McCarthy was named as the president’s appointee for the vacated top EPA position. The early read on Mr. Moniz is that while he may be more supportive of an “all of the above” strategy for pursuing a national energy policy, he appears to be a staunch believer in AGW. Likewise, Ms. McCarthy appears, based on past testimony during her work with the EPA, to be cut from the same cloth as other alarmist ideologues.
- On a final note, a different issue that just came to the fore in energy industry circles has to do with the needed purchase of blending credits by many domestic refiners. Because the EPA set the 2013 quota for ethanol blending last year at levels that now require blending beyond the 10% “blendwall” (beyond which refiners do not want to accept the risk for engine damage from ethanol blending), refiners may be required to make up the difference by purchasing credits (or RINs – renewable identification numbers). The perverse ramifications of this EPA requirement are that: 1)domestic refiners will be incentivized to export more gasoline and oil products, 2) there will be a disincentive for exporting gasoline to the U.S. given the added cost of the RINs and 3) domestic refiners will be otherwise likely to pass along the cost of RINs to consumers. Estimates are that gasoline could cost $.05/gallon or more in coming months as a result of the issue, notwithstanding other secondary effects mentioned above.
The competing budgets released last week by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) definitively define the growing differences between the two parties.
The bottom line on Ryan’s Republican budget is that it restores federal taxes and spending back near the long term, stable level as a percent of GDP that prevailed for 60 years after World War II, from 1948 to 2008. Federal spending during that time hovered around 20% of GDP, and federal taxes hovered around 18% of GDP. Ryan’s budget achieves balance by basically splitting the difference, with federal taxes and spending both settling in at 19.1% of GDP after 10 years.
The Democrats have attacked Ryan’s budget claiming it is “extremist” and “radical.” But these poll tested epithets cannot apply to a budget that merely restores the long term postwar trendlines for taxes and spending, which makes it “traditional,” rather than “extremist” or “radical.” Contrary to the extremist, abusive, Democrat rhetoric, Ryan’s budget can be criticized for not reducing federal spending and taxes below the long term postwar trendlines, which would be consistent with Republican rhetoric and promises about reducing the size of government.
However, Ryan’s budget does reduce federal spending to less than it would be otherwise, cutting spending by $4.633 trillion over the next 10 years (from the continuing spending increases). That reduces federal spending from today as a percent of GDP by 18%, which means the size of the federal government relative to the economy would be 18% smaller than today. That also means the size of the federal government today is nearly 20% bigger than it was during the 60 years after World War II, when America prospered as the richest nation in world history, with resulting, unprecedented, global military dominance.
Ryan’s budget also reduces spending to far less than Murray’s Senate Democrat budget. The Senate Democrats propose to increase current obese spending by an additional $2.1 trillion per year by 2023, when they propose to spend $733 billion more in that one year than Ryan proposes to spend. Senate Democrats propose to spend $5.7 trillion in 2023, which would be the highest government spending in one year by any government in world history, almost double Bush’s $2.983 trillion in 2008. Over the next 10 years, the Senate Democrats propose to spend $46.4 trillion, increasing annual spending by $10.4 trillion during that time compared to this year’s already wildly bloated spending. So which is the extremist, radical budget?
In fact, the Senate Democrat budget involves zero net non-defense spending cuts, even from spending increases, let alone from current spending levels. Senate Democrats propose to cancel the domestic sequester spending cuts, because they cannot bear even to cut 1% of government spending even from the increase in spending, and replace those sequester spending cuts with still another $480 billion tax increase. They also propose to increase the spending allowed under the spending caps adopted as part of the 2011 debt ceiling deal. Together, these proposals would increase domestic spending by close to $1 trillion. Moreover, the Senate Democrat budget proposes a further $100 billion spending increase for “infrastructure,” after the nearly $1 trillion, 2009 stimulus bill providing for the same, and failing to stimulate anything, except for federal spending, deficits, and debt
The Democrat budget claims $975 billion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, even though it actually increases spending dramatically as described above. But besides phantom savings over the next 10 years from supposedly ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (was anyone ever planning to be spending as much in 2023 fighting those wars as during the height of the War on Terror years ago), or from eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse,” the Democrat Senate budget also claims health care spending cuts producing “$275 billion in savings by further realigning incentives throughout the system, cutting waste and fraud, and seeking greater engagement across the health care system.”
Who ever thought so much could be saved by “seeking greater engagement?” Actually, what this involves is further reductions in Medicare payments to the doctors and hospitals providing health care for seniors, on top of the more than $700 billion in such cuts already adopted under Obamacare. This ploy has gone on in Congress for roughly 15 years, where such cuts to Medicare docs and hospitals are solemnly adopted in budget documents supposedly making the “tough” decisions. But then they are always cancelled when about to go into effect, and Congress is forced to recognize that if the docs and hospitals are not paid seniors are not going to get the health care they have come to expect from Medicare.
The Senate Democrat budget actually touts the Medicare cuts they enacted in Obamacare as “reducing health care spending.” But under those cuts, by the end of the decade seniors will be lined up behind welfare mothers in seeking health care, as what Medicare pays the doctors and hospitals will actually be less than what Medicaid pays them. And studies have already documented that Medicaid does not pay enough for the poor on the program to get timely and effective health care, and so they suffer worse health outcomes as a result, including premature death. The Democrat Obamacare policy on Medicare is like a national defense policy that seeks to achieve savings by just refusing to pay the manufacturers of the Navy’s ships, the Army’s tanks and bullets, and the Air Force’s planes.
Federal Taxes and Tax Reform
On taxes, Ryan’s budget makes exactly zero changes in the federal revenues expected under current law and policies, as reflected in current CBO baselines. That can be criticized for ratifying in the Republican budget the enormous tax increases just adopted on January 1, including supposedly $1.1 trillion for Obamacare, and $600 billion for the termination of the Bush tax cuts for the nation’s job creators, investors, and successful small business (aka “the rich”). (Let’s see how close the real world comes to these fanciful projections after the negative economic effects of those tax increases become apparent in the real world.) But it cannot logically or honestly be called “extremist” or “radical.”
But what Ryan’s budget does propose to enact is very good tax reform that will be central to reviving Republican political prospects in upcoming elections. Ryan proposes to overhaul the tax code leaving just two rates for the personal income tax, 10% for families making under $100,000 a year, and 25% for families making more. For corporate taxes, Ryan proposes to reduce the federal corporate tax rate from 35%, where it places U.S. corporate tax rates at the highest in the industrialized world, to 25%.
Ryan proposes to make such tax reform revenue neutral by closing loopholes, deductions and credits both for the personal and the corporate income taxes. What assures that this feasible, despite the mocking from commentators on the Left, is that these are the average effective rates that are paid at these income levels. That is why Ryan chose them. That means there are enough loopholes to close to achieve these rates on a revenue neutral basis, which is why Ryan sticks to no change in revenues from current law and policies in this budget.
Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) has the responsibility to carry out this tax reform. And he is already well under way to doing that, on track to report out of committee a bill that the entire House can pass this year. That achieves numerous advantages for the Republicans. One is that the lower rates in this tax reform bill would be the most powerful pro-growth measure on the agenda in either house this year. Second is that the rates are very populist, clearly not tilted towards “the rich.” Thirdly, financing those rates by closing loopholes, and special interest deductions and credits, will perfectly counter Democrat demagogues assailing Republicans for failing to address unworthy tax preferences that benefit “the rich.”
Camp, in fact, will probably make his tax reform bill a net tax cut for the middle class, the first since the last significant tax cut for the middle class first adopted by the Republican Congress in 2001 (virtually all Congressional Democrats at the time voted against that tax cut bill). What Camp needs to recognize is that what is most important is passing a very good tax reform bill through the House that will promote economic growth, and not compromise that away trying to chase the butterfly of Democrat support to pass a bill in this Congress. Passing a top notch, model, tax reform bill through the House will frame the issue to greatly stir support at the grassroots in coming elections, and lay down a marker for what tax reform should be when the political pendulum swings back.
In contrast, what the Senate Democrats propose on taxes is still more tax increases, on top of the $1.7 trillion in tax increases already going into effect just this year. As the Wall Street Journal observed on March 15, “Democrats are demanding these new taxes even though the Congressional Budget Office projects that under current law revenues are expected to double to $4.96 trillion by 2023 from $2.45 trillion in 2012. But that is not enough.” Democrats propose another $1.5 trillion tax increase on top of these burdensome new revenues.
The bottom line on the Senate Democrat budget is that it constitutes a Big Government breakout beyond the stable levels of federal spending and taxes as a percent of GDP that prevailed for 60 years after World War II. It increases spending and taxes permanently beyond those levels, on a path to soar further beyond this 10 year budget window. Again, which is the extremist and radical budget?
The Senate Democrat budget does that primarily by refusing to consider any real entitlement reform, instead content to irresponsibly mischaracterize Ryan’s careful reforms, under which in my opinion not one senior, not one poor person, and not one member of the middle class will be hurt in any way. Indeed, as I have argued before and will again, seniors, the poor, and the middle class would enjoy better benefits and incomes under Ryan’s reforms. The Journal pointed out the folly of Democrat absence from the entitlement reform agenda, further saying on March 15, “Though Medicare and Medicaid are expected to double in cost by 2023, Senator Murray’s budget gives them a pass.”
Indeed, while Obamacare is now projected to impose soaring costs on the budget, nearly $2 trillion over the next 10 years, double the mistaken and misleading projections when Obamacare was passed, the Senate Democrat budget continues to tout those outdated original projections. CBO now says that almost 10 years after implementation Obamacare will still leave 30 million uninsured. But as I carefully explained with John Goodman in a NCPA publication last year, “Health Care for All Without Obamacare,” alternative market health care reforms would assure health care for all, with no coercive and counterproductive individual mandate and no job killing employer mandate, while saving taxpayers $2 trillion over the next 10 years.
While Ryan’s budget plan balances the budget in 10 years without any further tax increases, the Senate Democrat budget after 10 years, and another $1.5 trillion in tax increases, leaves America with a deficit of $566 billion in 2023. That is the highest in American history, except for the annual trillion dollar Obama deficits so far, higher even than Bush’s former record of $458 billion in 2008, in the depths of the recession. While Ryan’s budget after 10 years reduces federal debt held by the public to a manageable 54.8% of GDP, that debt after 10 years under the Senate Democrat budget is still 70% of GDP, which is only going to rise thereafter with no entitlement reform.
Finally, as the Journal correctly observed on March 13, “But the folks who put a balanced budget above economic growth have their priorities upside down. The important goal is promoting fast enough growth, and enough spending restraint, that debt falls from its current heights over time.” Ryan’s budget takes some recognition of that with his tax reform proposal. But the Republicans would achieve far more if they also recognized the even more critical need for monetary policy reform, and fundamental change at the Fed.
The Senate Democrat budget, however, does not even follow good Keynesian economics. They tell us preposterously, like Obama, that spending cuts would be bad for the economy, but tax increases wouldn’t (contrary to Keynesianism). They propose an infrastructure program to promote the economy, but finance it with a tax increase that removes at least an equal amount of aggregate demand. The Democrats will tell us anything they think will justify what they really want, which is explosive taxes, spending, and deficits to keep down the short term political costs of all that spending.
If that is what you want, you should be voting for the Democrats. If not, then you should not be, because that is what you will get.
[First published at Forbes.]
The scene at CPAC was of a movement at a point of transition – the old Reagan coalition doing battle with a new more libertarian rising generation. Whenever great transitions come, the existing hierarchy does its best to preserve the existing order of things. In this case, that order is unlikely to be preserved for long, for a whole host of reasons out of the control of any faction.
Still, the problem remains: even accepting or adapting toward their views on marriage, immigration, foreign policy, national security, marijuana and more, are the challengers to the still-dominant viewpoints on the right likely to bring Republicans any closer to electoral viability?
The answer is almost certainly not. What is most troubling about the clashes on the right at the moment is not their ferocity or their insignificance, but rather how little they have to do with the issues Americans actually care about. The persistent inability of the right – conservatives, libertarians, and the Republican Party as a whole – to adapt a message that matches up with the shifting interests and focuses of huge swathes of the American people is a defect shared across all the warring factions.
During the coming wilderness years, the right needs to set aside their hopes for a common sense approach to tax reform, fiscal restraint, and entitlement reform – none of which are possible under the auspices of this White House, and few of which have popular support. Instead, they should apply real ingenuity to the challenge of presenting a message and a set of policies which rebut the dominant themes of the left. They should start by addressing the “War on Women”, the apotheosis of President Obama’s strategic approach: find and highlight as many wedge issues as possible that serve to naturally excite his base and pit factions of the right against itself. This is a strategy that will survive Obama, and that the right must mitigate or even turn to its benefit.
The economic decline of the past few years has led to a rising number of “1099 Moms” or “Etsy Earners” – women who’ve started home businesses or found contracting work to make ends meet and to stay engaged in their careers in the longterm, recognizing they’ll have to go back to full-time work as soon as they are able. The overall 1099 portion of the economy has grown dramatically – Houston alone has seen about a 12% increase since 2009. What are some ways conservatives could approach reaching these women and other work-from-home professionals?
Here are five general approaches to policy areas that can serve as a starting point for crafting an Etsy Earner agenda.
TAXES: Start with a push to end the massive tax penalties on self-employed work. Self-employed Etsy Earners pay 15.3% out of pocket on payroll taxes, and are penalized if they don’t cut a check every 3 months (rather than having it deducted out of your count, and your employer paying half of it). To add insult to injury, those who are married also suffer from a dramatic marriage penalty: they are taxed at their spouse’s marginal rate even if they’re making a fraction of what he earns.
HEALTH CARE: Consider the creation of a Health, Education & Retirement account or accounts that combines the functions of HSA, 529, and 401(k). A HER Account would streamline the process for saving toward key life needs and recognize that these costs are more persistent in the new economy. Republicans already talk about why individuals should get the same tax treatment for health care as their employer, ensuring portability. But they should reboot the issue by creating a carveout for the self-employed, framed as giving them the same benefits corporations get. The left’s use of birth control politics will continue to trouble the right, but they should begin posing Bobby Jindal’s question: Would you rather be able to buy your birth control over the counter, without having to go through an unnecessary doctor’s appointment, tax free through your HSA, just like (used to be able to, before Obamacare) with Aspirin?
EDUCATION AND CHILDCARE: School choice is the great white hope on the right, but they should expand their normal conversation about it to include the parent trigger and education savings accounts which can be used toward Pre-K or toward child care. The current deductibility limit for child care expenses comes nowhere near the annual cost for most families, which particularly hurts single moms, who have no option but to work and put their kids in homecare or daycare. It also creates a huge incentive to dump kids into Head Start, a failed program which drives up costs for every other type of child care. Either make every penny of childcare expenses deductible, or create a tax-free childcare/education savings account, perhaps framed more broadly as Childrearing Accounts. The right should look to the example of Arizona’s Empowerment Savings Account program, where in addition to school tuition, the money can also be used for home-schooling and other qualifying expenses.
HIGHER ED: The right has a grab bag of ideas when it comes to challenging the existing paradigm of public higher ed institutions—whether on the creation of a $10,000 degree, credentialing process, loan process reforms, or other areas. To address Etsy Earners, Republicans should advocate making all student loan interest deductible to offer some relief for people saddled with loans as a reward for the responsible: you get the expanded deduction if you’re current on all your payments. But they should also embrace the forward-looking proposal from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a college dropout himself, who has spearheaded the University of Wisconsin flex degree. In an era where a diploma is more about credentialing for work than a liberal arts experience, a system which tests for competency from home in a family friendly manner which equips you with a top tier degree from a state institution is extremely friendly to working moms.
GAS AND GROCERIES: Regardless what the Fed or the Bureau of Labor Statistics tries to tell you about the lack of inflation, costs are hitting the middle class hard in these key areas. Republicans need to have a gas and groceries agenda. Just looking at ads from late 2008 and early 2009 illustrate the hit to the wallet that the lower and middle classes are feeling when they feed their families. Instead of simply attacking food stamps, Republicans should combine a series of policies into a gas and groceries package – one which would include policies to slow inflation, eliminate incentives for energy companies to turn corn into gas, provide tax credits to families to help them cope with rising grocery bills, and generally target the government policies which drive the prices people see every day which impact family budgets the most.
The right mocked Julia when they met her – but she is the rising model for life, and that means the right needs a message for her, too. The left’s answer is particularly uninventive: the offer of more benefits, doubling down on 1970s-style employer requirements, without mention of cost. This leaves a wealth of opportunities for the right to turn the left’s strategy back on it. All it takes is recognizing these opportunities when they arise, and engaging in a proactive strategy to highlight the gap between the left’s stale solutions and ones adapted to the realities of the new economy.
[First published at RealClearPolitics.]
The United States Navy has embraced climate change ideology. In an interview with the Boston Globe on March 9, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the Navy’s top officer in the Pacific, stated that climate change was the biggest long-term threat in the Pacific region and “probably the most likely thing that is going to happen…that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.”
It’s troubling that the top officers of our Navy have accepted the misguided theory of man-made climate change.
Admiral Locklear continued:
“Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”
Unfortunately, the admiral is only looking at part of the tropical storm picture. While 2012 was an active year for typhoons in the Pacific, global tropical storm activity continued to be at a low level for the seventh year in a row, according to storm expert Dr. Ryan Maue. Further, satellite data shows no increase in tropical storm frequency or strength over the last 30 years.
Not only is the Navy concerned about climate change, they are attempting to do something about it. Both the Navy and the Air Force have established goals to use a 50/50 blend of biofuel and petroleum-based fuel for planes and ships. Navy plans call for establishment of a “Green Strike Group” task force by 2016, fueled by the biofuel blend, and for alternative fuels to power half of all energy consumption by 2020.
In 2011, the Navy and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture publically committed to invest $510 million to create an “advanced biofuel industry” based on algae. Algae-based biofuel will be purchased for the “bargain price” of $26 per gallon, or more than six times the price of current petroleum-based fuel. But, according to a 2011 study by the Rand Corporation, “…the use of alternative, rather than petroleum derived, fuels offers no direct military benefits.”
So why does the Navy want to fly fighter jets on algae-based fuels? If domestic sourcing was the reason, fuel could be produced from US coal at much lower cost than from algae. It’s to reduce emissions of those nasty greenhouse gases, of course. US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus makes this clear:
“We’re gonna be using American produced, American energy that…will make us better environmental stewards because we will be contributing less to climate change and burning much cleaner fuel.”
Admiral Locklear is also concerned about sea level change, stating in the interview:
“You have real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level…If it goes bad, you could have hundreds of thousands or millions of people displaced and then security will start to crumble pretty quickly.”
It is true that sea levels are rising. According to NASA, ocean levels have risen about 390 feet since that last ice age 20,000 years ago. Levels rose about 7‒8 inches during the last hundred years. But no scientist can tell when natural sea level rise ended and man-made sea level rise began. Nor is there any empirical evidence that sea level rise is accelerating. The 20-foot sea level rise predicted by some for the year 2100 is highly unlikely.
On March 5, Admiral Locklear told Congress that the automatic budget cuts from the sequester that went into effect on March 1 are already impacting his operations. He warned of cuts to aircraft flight hours, pay levels, and civilian jobs. He told the committee that the sequester cuts limit the ability of the Pacific Command to deter, assure, operate, and maintain its forces
But the admiral did not mention impacts to the Navy’s algae-based biofuel program during his testimony. Could it be that futile efforts to stop climate change are a higher priority than the readiness of the United States Navy?
[First published in The Washington Times.]
The subject matter of his presentation and the ensuing discussion revolved largely around potential EPA actions regarding fracking, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and LNG exports, but also included commentary on climate change regulation initiatives that were likely to proceed from the administration.
My question was as follows:
Paul Crovo: “Despite claims by many such as Al Gore that the subject of man-made climate change is settled, there is a substantial and credible body of within the scientific community that has published hundreds of peer reviewed studies that bring such claims into question. Does the administration take dissenting views into account when it formulates its policy decisions on potential climate change regulations?”
Before we get on with it, let me say this: I was expecting the question to elicit a well-reasoned response from Mr. Sussman. But the answer that was given was, frankly, barren of facts and not very well supported. The advisor first took a few steps back by stating that he was not a climate change scientist, so as to apparently qualify his limited knowledge of the science.
He then proceeded to cite studies from the National Academy of Sciences as reasoning enough to support the idea that climate change was being driven by man-made actions. He then concluded by saying he believed that “the debate on the science was largely settled.” I followed up with a question on the president’s State of the Union speech in which he articulated some “facts” that he felt offered proof of anthropogenic global warming. Ok, on with it:
PC: “So you would concur with the President’s claims regarding climate change that he mentioned in his State of the Union Speech?”
Sussman: “What claims are you referring to?’
PC: “Record high temperatures and extreme weather events…”
Sussman: “Again, I am not a climate scientist, but….”
In short, I guess I came away a little surprised that a senior advisor to the EPA, even one who may not specialize in climate change, would be so reluctant to offer any of his own defense of the AGW argument and would be so quick to fall back on NAS studies. Frankly, as someone who is by no means an expert, but has done his share of reading on the subject over the last four years, I came away believing I knew more about the subject than Mr. Sussman.
This little experience actually made me wonder how many people at the EPA actually know that much about the science the agency claims as support for their regulatory efforts.
Central banks bought 534.6 tons of gold during 2012, the largest amount in 48 years. Interest is clearly growing in gold as an international monetary asset as more countries have participated. Many have specifically stated their intent is to diversify away from U.S. dollars.
China is the world’s largest gold producer, by far. It produces 40 percent more than second-place Australia. But since 2009, China’s central bank has not reported gold purchases even though it is known to be buying gold directly from its own mines—including from foreign companies mining gold in China—and also from international gold markets.
Though China’s doesn’t report its central bank purchases, the World Gold Council reports investment demand for gold in China was up 24 percent in the fourth quarter 2012, compared to the previous quarter, and jewelry consumption was steady at 137.0 tons. China is second only to India in consumption of gold for jewelry. (Every year India buys four times as much gold as all of North America.)
Countries are shifting away from the dollar because the massive increase in U.S. government spending has undermined confidence in its future. In his first term of office President Obama added more to the national debt than all prior presidents from George Washington through George W. Bush combined. Everyone knows Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are going broke, but Obama has made no effort to address those problems. Instead, he tries to further increase spending. The Fed has been accommodative by “quantitative easing”—printing money. Now in the fourth round, QE4, the Fed creates $85 billion every month by simply writing checks for that amount to buy treasury bonds and mortgages. Over a year, that’s another $1 trillion.
The monetary expansion is being done in the name of stimulating the economy, but the results are very unsatisfactory. The recovery from the recession has been far slower than from previous recessions which had no such stimulus measures. The Obama administration claimed its original stimulus program (over $800 billion) would keep unemployment below 8 percent. Instead, it not only rose above 8 percent but remained there for more than 40 months. It rose even higher than the administration predicted would occur without the stimulus! The effect was the exact opposite of what the administration intended, despite adding QE2, QE3, and more than a year of QE4.
The recession triggered by the housing/banking bubble in the U.S. led to economic contractions in Europe compounded by revelations of financial weaknesses in certain euro-zone countries. The result was a series of bailouts and a flood of new money in the form of massive expansion of credit by the European Central Bank to hundreds of banks in the various countries. This was to prevent an immediate liquidity crisis, but it was also intended to stimulate economic growth, which it failed to do. The euro-zone’s economy shrank last quarter at the fastest rate since the worst of the recession in 2009. It has now contracted for three straight quarters, and the European Commission expects it to worsen in 2013. Euro-zone unemployment at11.7 percent is now the highest in its history, and the rate is 26 percent in Greece and Spain.
The European Commission expects Portugal’s unemployment rate to reach 17.3 percent in 2013. Countries are failing to meet their targets for deficit reduction; Spain has obtained a two-year extension, and Portugal says it, too, will need an extension. France lost its triple-A credit rating in November, and Moody’s stripped the United Kingdom of that prized rating in February. A Moody’s spokesman said, “We expect the country’s debt will continue to grow in coming years …[and not] stabilize until 2016.”
Printing more money lowers the value of a currency in relation to others. Therefore, a weak currency is seen as a way to improve the economy by increasing exports to other countries, who find them less expensive. Of course, other countries may then retaliate and devalue their currencies in order to remain competitive in international markets. If that happens, no country has an advantage; all the currencies will simply have gotten cheaper. That is what happened in the 1930s in a series of destructive devaluations that came to be known as “beggar thy neighbor” policies. It is happening again today as an expedient to evade unpopular but necessary reforms on fiscal and budgetary matters. At the same time, the uncertain and depreciating paper currencies have led to distrust of their value as monetary reserves, making gold look better and better as a monetary asset.
The U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have led the way in printing money. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has stated he will continue to pursue easy money policies until the economy improves. ECB president Mario Draghji has said he will supply any amount of money that is necessary to save the euro. Like the Fed and the ECB, the Bank of England has also been pursuing quantitative easing as a remedy for past spending excesses and to stimulate the British economy. Lack of results has led to larger doses of the same failed medicine.
Now Japan, the world’s third largest economy, has joined in with larger doses of the same prescription for its stagnant economy. In the recent election, Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister in large measure because of campaigning for monetary easing through “unlimited” or “open ended” purchases of government debt by the Bank of Japan. He said, “Countries around the world are printing more money to boost their export competitiveness. Japan must do so too.” He called for more aggressive action along the lines of the Fed and the ECB.
The idea that government spending would stimulate the economy can be traced to John Maynard Keynes. He claimed government spending produced a multiplier effect, a chain reaction of additional spending in the economy. But in my new book, The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold, I point out that the Keynesian multiplier is always less than 1.0. That means the money that is spent over and over again in the private sector from the government spending is always less than the cost of the programs. If it weren’t, the U.S., Greece, and other spendthrift countries wouldn’t be going broke—they’d be getting richer the more they spent! My book supports this conclusion by citing impressive academic research as well as actual historical examples, including Japan’s own experience.
No nation has more completely and energetically put Keynesian policy into practice for longer than Japan, and the results have been disastrous. Two decades of economic stagnation. Japan had ten stimulus programs between 1992 and 2000. It spent massively on infrastructure, building bridges, roads, ports,airfields—even sidewalks—as well as supplying huge subsidies to the biotech and telecommunications industries.
Yet the 1990s are known as Japan’s “lost decade,” when it had the lowest productivity rate of any industrialized nation. Instead of boosting economic growth, government spending ballooned the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio to 235 percent, the highest in the world, compared to 65 percent in 1990. Japan now has an even worse national debt problem than the U.S. Oblivious to his nation’s last two decades of experience, Prime Minister Abe is embarking on a more aggressive application of the same policies that have brought trouble to both nations.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has long stored monetary gold for foreign central banks, not only for security but, in times past, as a convenience for some international operations. Following World War II and the onset of the Cold War, Germany stored a large quantity of its gold in the U.S. against the possibility of a Soviet invasion.
Now Germany says it will repatriate 300 metric tons of its gold from the New York Fed and all of the 374 tons stored at the Banque de France. Disappearance of a threat from the Soviet Union was given as the reason for the transfers, but many view them as defensive moves against collapse of the euro. While minimizing the issue, officials at the Bundesbank acknowledged that the moves are “preemptive” in case a “currency crisis” hits the European Monetary Union. Germany several years ago repatriated 940 tons of its gold from the Bank of England. It now has possession of 31 percent of it gold and wants to raise that to at least 50%.
Venezuela, Libya, and Iran have repatriated their gold holdings. The question now is who will be next? It might be Switzerland. In March 2012 four members of the Swiss Parliament began an initiative to bring Switzerland physical possession of all of its 1,040 tons of gold. The measure now has 90,000 supporters. If 100,000 is reached, parliament must take up a referendum on the issue.
There is talk of the Netherlands repatriating its gold, and Azerbaijan is already doing so. The Netherlands has only about 10 percent of its 612.5 tons of gold at home. Azerbaijan began its repatriation of gold in January 2013 with one ton transferred from London to the new storage facility of the central bank in Baku. In the future all gold will be transferred there. The country expects to double its gold holding this year to 30 tons because of oil revenue. The State Oil Fund (SOFAZ) has been buying 10,000 ounces of gold every week since February 2012.
The repatriation movement is gaining momentum, along with the trend of increased gold buying by central banks. An increasing number of private institutions and individuals are thinking like the banks, especially in the East, where gold is soaring in popularity. Brinks tripled its precious metal storage capacity in Singapore in 2012 and is building a warehouse in Shanghai for precious metals and other high-value goods. Malca-Amit has gold storage sites in New York, Zurich, Hong Kong and Singapore. It’s facility in Singapore has a capacity of 600 tons of gold and is almost full.
Its recently opened vault in Hong Kong can hold 1,000 tons of gold. Joshua Rotbart, executive director of the company, said some Asian investors storing gold in the U.S. and Europe are keen to move it closer to home as more storage space becomes available.
[First published at American Liberty.]
In his first energy speech of his second term, “President Barack Obama tried to move past partisan fights over energy policy on Friday with a modest proposal to fund research into cars that run on anything but gasoline.” The “modest proposal” is what he introduced in the State of the Union Address: an Energy Security Trust (EST)—which is a central part of his economic strategy.
The idea for an EST was developed by a collaboration of high-volume oil consumers and military leaders concerned about US energy security—put forth through a report titled “A National Strategy for Energy Security: Harnessing American Resources and Innovation.” The unique backgrounds of the advocates garnered attention from both sides of the aisle. However, a key component of the Trust was omitted from the President’s Friday speech: increased domestic energy development—the piece that, according to one of the idea’s developers, was designed to win bipartisan support and “keep both sides engaged.”
In response to Obama’s presentation of an EST—which would set aside royalties from oil and gas extracted on federal lands and direct them toward research and development for transportation technologies that reduce our dependence on oil—House Speaker John Boehner’s office says: “For this proposal to even be plausible, oil and gas leasing on federal land would need to increase dramatically. Unfortunately, this administration has consistently slowed, delayed and blocked American energy production.”
Once again, Obama’s speech touted America’s growing “energy future:” “We produce more oil than we have in 15 years. We import less oil than we have in 20 years. …We’re producing more natural gas than we ever have before.” This is true, however Boehner is correct. A new report from the Congressional Research Service “confirms what many have known to be true.” Marc Humphries, the government specialist in energy policy who authored the “U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production in Federal and Non-Federal Areas” report, says: “All of the increase (in oil and natural gas production) from FY2007 to FY2012 took place on non-federal lands, and the federal share of total U.S. crude oil production fell by about seven percentage points. … In general, the regulatory framework for developing resources on federal lands will likely remain more involved and time-consuming than that on private land.”
Increasing resource development on federal lands is one of the key features of the EST. In fact, the idea is that the funds set aside for the trust would come solely from new development. Yet, Friday’s speech never mentioned that—despite media reports stating: “the new program…would be paid for through royalties generated by offshore drilling of oil and gas development of the outer continental shelf.”
I had a post-speech conversation with Sam Ori, Director of Policy for Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE)—the organization responsible for the Energy Security Leadership Council (about which Obama spoke) and the idea for the EST. While SAFE is pleased that its policy proposal has been picked up by the Administration, Ori wouldn’t comment on the President’s cherry-picking approach to the plan. He did, however, say: “The speech is not the final place. If the EST doesn’t offer new oil and gas development on federal lands, the Republicans won’t sign on.” Ori emphasized that in order for the EST to be a success, it needs to have something that is “attractive to both sides.” The alternative energy research is the carrot for the left and the increased drilling is there for the Republicans. Ori also pointed out—as did Robbie Diamond, Founder, President and CEO of SAFE, during our December conversation—that the EST is for research and development of technologies that will lesson our dependence on oil, not deployment of said technologies.
Somehow, in a time when deficits and government spending are front-page news stories, Obama wants to “divert” revenues already coming into the US treasury into “a dedicated slush fund for alternative energy.” In Friday’s speech, he pointed to SAFE’s proposal when he said: “let’s take some of our oil and gas revenues from public lands and put it towards research that will benefit the public so we can support American ingenuity without adding a dime to our deficit.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski disagrees. Robert Dillon, spokesperson for the Senator told me: “The president hit on a good idea when he called for a trust fund to promote energy innovation. But unlike Sen. Murkowski’s proposal, he would not enable new energy production to pay for it. The president says he wants to divert a share of the royalties from offshore production that has already been factored into the budget, which could mean either deficit spending or less funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. More likely, the president’s real plan is to raise taxes on oil and gas. There’s a better way that not only funds investment in research, but also addresses our need for affordable and abundant energy. It’s Sen. Murkowski’s plan. We hope the president will embrace it.”
Forbes writer, Christopher Helman, takes it one step further. He believes that “this Energy Security Trust could well serve as the tip of a wedge that could some day lever open a new carbon tax.” According to Helman, Connecticut Congressman John Larson, said “that the very purpose of the Energy Security Trust fund was to serve as a conduit for the collection of carbon taxes.” True, Larson does have a proposal from 2006 that is all about a carbon tax, and his proposal bears the same name—but the similarity of the plans stops there. SAFE has never advocated a carbon tax. Because Obama favors a carbon tax, connecting the two plans with the same name is a logical leap, but it misrepresents the current plan.
If Obama was truly “seeking to build some common ground on energy,” he should have included both sides of the equation; incorporating both increased drilling and R & D “investment.” Instead, in his “first energy speech of his second term,” he continued to put partisan considerations before the national interest.
The speech included some populist themes:
- “Our top priority as a nation” should be “reigniting the true engine of America’s economic growth.”
- “Few areas hold more economic promise for creating good jobs and growing our economy than how we use American energy.”
- “What most Americans feel first when it comes to energy prices—or energy issues are prices that they pay at the pump.” And,
- “We’ve worked with the auto companies to put in place the toughest fuel economy standards in history.”
Yet, he omitted any solutions that would help American’s today. The only mention of a pipeline was this: “as long as the pipeline for research is maintained…” No mention was made of the “good jobs” that could be created if he’d quickly approve the Keystone pipeline—something Dave Mallino of the Laborers’ International Union specifically chastised him about on the air with Neil Cavuto.
Regarding fuel economy standards, as we’ve seen with cellulosic ethanol, just because government mandates it, doesn’t make it so.
Friday’s speech didn’t address expanded access to America’s natural resources. It did, however, threaten that the “so-called sequester” would cut into the “muscle and the bone.” Obama claimed that “because of this sequester, we’re looking at two years where we don’t start new research.”
The speech, which was reportedly about freeing “our families and business from the painful spikes in gas prices,” did suggest “more solar power, more wind power”—neither of which do anything to touch “spikes in gas prices.”
SAFE’s EST, which aims to bring both sides together for “energy security,” is admirable, and Ori hopes “that we can be successful.” If shuttling some of the funds from new development—that the government already collects (not a new tax)—toward R & D will cause this administration to finally “stop being an obstacle,” I am all for it. However, I hate that we have to bribe them to do what they should have been doing all along. If this “first energy speech” is any indication, I can’t say I share Ori’s optimism.
I have to agree with Helman. He says we already have an EST. “It’s this: the hard work and innovation of the tens of thousands of engineers at American oil companies who have unlocked a plentiful supply of energy that will keep the nation moving and growing for decades. And all without taxpayer handouts.”
[First published at Townhall.]
Joy Pullmann, education research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of School Reform News, has been all over the Common Core beat. Her research and reporting of this latest ham-fisted federal imposition on what should be a local matter is second to none.
Joy’s work drew the attention of nationally syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. She cited Joy in her latest piece titled “Common Core as Trojan Horse: It’s time to opt out of the creepy federal data-mining racket.”
Last week, I reported on the federal government’s massive new student-tracking database, which was created as part of the nationalized Common Core standards scheme.
The bad news: GOP “leadership” continues to ignore or, worse, enable this Nanny State racket. (Hello, Jeb Bush.)
The good news: A grassroots revolt outside the Beltway bubble is swelling. Families are taking their children’s academic and privacy matters out of the snoopercrats’ grip and into their own hands. You can now download a Common Core opt-out form to submit to your school district, courtesy of the group Truth in American Education.
Parents caught off guard by the stealthy tracking racket are now mobilizing across the country.
Malkin quotes Joy’s piece in the March 11 Orange County Register op-ed titled “Data Mining Kids Crosses the Line” that outlines some of the more creepy aspects of the Common Core agenda — shocking features most parents, and Malkin, were unaware of until Joy exposed it:
Research fellow Joy Pullmann at the Heartland Institute points to a February Department of Education report on its data-mining plans that contemplates the use of creepy student-monitoring techniques such as “functional magnetic resonance imaging” and “using cameras to judge facial expressions, an electronic seat that judges posture, a pressure-sensitive computer mouse and a biometric wrap on kids’ wrists.”