On the 40th anniversary of the first televised U.S. Senate hearing into the Watergate scandal, it’s both disturbing and amusing to watch the wheels coming off the Obama “Hope and Change” wagon.
As President Obama’s narrowly-won second White House term begins with revelations of scandals that reek of abuse of power, the incumbent executive inevitably invites unfavorable comparison to Richard Nixon, the only U.S. President to resign from office under threat of impeachment and removal from office: secret wars; privacy violations; cover-ups; vendettas against the press; refusal to release internal emails; and politicizing the IRS. (“I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons,” Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden in the rain on Thursday, May 16. “You can read the history and draw your own conclusions.”)
It’s amusing because this time, unlike during Watergate, the press has been on the side of the White House and until recently thought that the White House was on its side, too.
It’s disturbing because the major lesson the Executive Branch seems to have learned in the past forty years is how more effectively to stonewall, to cover up, and to attempt to manipulate the press and the public.
You can – and we trust have – read elsewhere in detail about the Obama administration’s attempts to cover up the fact that al Qaeda-related attacks took place or were broken up on the anniversaries of the September 11 attacks and of the killing of Osama bin Laden; the administration’s chilling investigations of the Associated Press; the IRS’s efforts to stifle opposition to the Obama re-election campaign; and the Holder Justice Department’s Nixonian refusal to turn over the functional equivalent of the Nixon White House tapes in the form of unredacted emails Congress has requested.
Suffice it to say that – four decades after Watergate – nothing much has changed when it comes to the abuse of Executive Branch power, and the famous dictum of Lord Acton remains true: power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
It’s been said that in a democracy the people get the politicians they deserve, so cynics may argue that the millions who voted to re-elect Barack Obama’s after seeing him in office for four years deserve what is now coming home to roost. But the nearly equal number of people who voted otherwise can only recall with wistful sadness the response of Benjamin Franklin to the passerby who asked back in Philadelphia in 1789 what kind of new government the framers of the U.S. Constitution had come up with: “A Republic, madam – if you can keep it.”
Joseph Bast, President of the Heartland Institute and Dr. Herbert Walberg, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Heartland Institute discuss their book Education and Capitalism: How Overcoming Our Fear of Markets and Economics Can Improve America’s Schools on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the book’s release.
Their book argues unless myths surrounding capitalism go unchallenged, American society will not achieve meaningful education reform. Since Education and Capitalism was published, all states have charter schools, totaling 5,000 nationwide, 10
states have tax tuition credits, several states are developing school voucher programs, and even more are considering Parent Trigger legislation. However, there is still a lot of work to do. We are paying astronomical costs for sub-standard education in a country that is supposed to have the greatest schools and universities in the world. Privatization is a solution to high school costs because it increases competition, which enhances performance, and also accommodates for personal choice. There are many obstacles in the way of this solution, including: the power of special interest groups, public distrust of capitalism, and the fear of a painful or disorderly transition. Unless these challenges are addressed, meaningful change cannot be made.
Uber, a tech start-up and on-demand transportation service, is under attack by anti-innovation regulation in Washington DC. In December 2012, the DC City Council passed legislation that would allow Uber to operate in the capital city without intervention from unelected regulators, but they are now facing opposition from the DC Taxi Commission that will force them to discontinue their taxi services starting June 1st.
If the DCTC has its way, Uber will no longer be able to collect digital payments from DC residents, and they will have to hand over customer ride data to the DCTC, compromising privacy. Perhaps most ridiculously, the Toyota Prius will be banned from the Uber fleet. I’m not a fan of the Prius either, but these obstacles could prevent Uber from operating altogether in the District, costing jobs, eliminating consumer options, and making taxi drivers miss out on the extra business they gain from the app.
Mayor Gray’s appointee is doing a lot of damage to transportation options and ease in DC with these regulations. I enjoy the Uber app because it allows me to pay seamlessly by credit card, and brings reliable transportation to wherever I am. Uber TAXI is Uber’s low cost option, and it is a popular service because of this. It benefits consumers and also independent taxi drivers, who can earn a little extra money by picking up Uber ride requests.
Fans of Uber are taking to Twitter to voice their dissatisfaction. Check out #UberDCLove.
Health policy economists are puzzled by a persistent slowdown in the growth of health care spending that seems to have started in mid-2005, and accelerated since then. The Wall Street Journal summarized it on Monday, saying, “The health [spending] growth rate has flattened out at about 3.9% over the last three years — a record low since the 1960s and down from the old normal of 6.2% to 9.7% in the 2000s.”
Economists thought at first that the slowdown in spending was due to the recession, when people didn’t have the money to continue to increase health care spending as much as in the past. But new papers published in the journal Health Affairs last week provide “evidence that the moderation [in rising health spending] is durable, and that it is structural — the result of permanent changes in the health system itself rather than the business cycle,” as the Wall Street Journal further explained on Monday.
These papers indicate a sharply reduced role for the recession in slowing the rise in health spending, and indicate a greater role for market choice, competition, and incentives. But even these folks don’t have the full story.
The Health Savings Account Revolution
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were enacted into law in December 2003. Traditional, old-fashioned insurance involves a nominal deductible, leaving the insured to pay only the first $100 or $250 each year, with the rest covered by the insurance, perhaps with a modest, limited, co-insurance fee above the deductible. That structure creates the “third party payment” problem. With the insurance company paying for virtually all the bills, neither the patient nor the doctor bears any incentive to control costs. But they both decide between themselves what and how much health care to consume, and bill the insurer. Naturally, that makes health insurance very expensive.
The concept behind HSAs is to greatly reduce the cost of the health insurance with a high deductible, in the range of $2,000 to $6,000 a year, or more. The savings from that lower expense is then kept in the HSA to be used to pay for health care costs below the deductible. Whatever the patient does not spend from those HSA funds on health care he or she gets to keep, for future health care expenses, or anything in retirement. That creates full market incentives to control costs for all non-catastrophic health expenses, because the patient is effectively using his or her own money for such costs. Since the patient is now concerned about costs, the doctors and hospitals will compete to control costs.
The insight of the godfather of HSAs, John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, was that the health insurance savings from a deductible in this range would be almost enough to finance all expenses under the deductible for the year. After one healthy year, the insured would have more than enough in the HSA to pay for all expenses below the deductible.
Moreover, patients with HSAs would enjoy complete control over what health care to spend their HSA funds on. They don’t need to beg for the approval of a health insurance company to spend their HSA funds on the health care they want.
These are the reasons why the sick as well as the poor would still prefer HSAs. The sick would have complete control to spend their HSA funds on the health care they prefer. The poor would be fully covered and could pay themselves out of the health care savings they gain with HSAs.
Such HSAs and their incentives have proven very effective in controlling costs in the real world. Total HSA costs, including the savings to fully fund the HSA savings account to cover the deductible, have run about 25% less than the costs for traditional, old-fashioned insurance. Annual costs increases for HSAs have run more than 50% less, sometimes with zero premium increases for years.
These are the reasons why HSA accounts soared by 22% in 2012 alone, to over 8 million. Total savings and assets in the accounts zoomed by 27% to $15.5 billion. That is expected to increase by nearly three-fourths to almost $27 billion by 2015. That booming growth has continued since HSAs were adopted in 2003.
According to the National Health Interview Survey of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one fourth of the privately insured population is covered by HSAs, similar Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs), or other high deductible plans, which probably exceeds HMO enrollment by now. About half of those with private insurance obtained outside employer plans are covered by such high deductible plans.
The proof is in the pudding. As HSAs and similar plans have soared in the private market, health spending growth has plummeted. That is the result of market competition and incentives.
Obamacare: Somewhere Between High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Most who support Obamacare do so because of a principled belief that everyone should have access to essential health care. But even the Washington Establishment CBO, still dominated by career Democrats, projects that 10 years after full implementation, Obamacare will still leave 30 million uninsured.
But it is going to be much higher than that. Under the perverse incentives of Obamacare, tens of millions will lose their employer provided insurance because of the perverse incentives under the program. CBO reported in February that at least 7 million, and as many as 20 million, will lose their employer coverage. CBO estimated then that “in 2019 [5 years after Obamacare is implemented], an estimated 12 million people who would have had an offer of employment-based coverage under prior law will lose their offer under current law [aka ‘Obamacare’].”
That is because of a second problem caused by Obamacare. Obama promised us that Obamacare would reduce the cost of health insurance by $2,500 a year. But it has already increased those costs by $3,000 per year. That is because of the new mandated benefits and other regulatory burdens of Obamacare already coming online. Obamacare will also increase health care costs by driving up demand but reducing supply, and through new taxes applying to health insurance and health care.
For these reasons, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said last December that Obamacare (as Investor’s Business Daily later put it) “will likely cause premiums to double for some small businesses and individuals.” Former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimated in a study for the American Action Forum of 5 major cities that premiums would climb there under Obamacare by an average of 169%.
Many employers will prefer to pay the fine for not providing coverage than bear these cost increases. Moreover, employers can give their workers healthy raises plus Obamacare health insurance subsidies if coverage at work is dropped. That is why Holtz-Eakin estimated in another study for the American Action Forum that more than 40 million workers would lose their employer coverage under Obamacare. So much for another Obama promise that “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. No one is going to take that away from you.”
Employer desperation to avoid the added costs of Obamacare will cause chaos in the labor market as well. To avoid the employer mandate that applies only to companies with 50 or more full time employees, employers are already replacing full time employment with part time employment paying lower wages and no benefits. Small businesses with less than 50 employees are already freezing hiring, and those just above 50 employees have already begun layoffs. Moreover, Obamacare’s employer mandate does not require employers to cover the family dependents of their workers. So employers have already begun a trend towards terminating that coverage as well.
President Obama told us during his State of the Union address earlier this year that “A growing economy that creates good, middle class jobs — that should be the North Star that guides all of our efforts,” and he has repeated that numerous times since then. But all of these labor market effects and the soaring costs of Obamacare will just mean still more declining real incomes for the middle class and for working people, and fewer good, middle class jobs, which have been the actual hallmarks of Obamanomics. That means another central promise by President Obama, repeated over and over, will continue to be violated, more and more.
The young and healthy will also take steps to avoid the high costs of Obamacare’s individual mandate. Under Obamacare’s regulation, any insurer they choose must take them no matter how sick and costly when they sign up, and charge them no more than anyone else. Consequently, many, including myself, will refuse to buy any insurance until they are sick with some costly condition such as cancer or heart disease. Then they will sign up for full coverage at no extra charge, until they recover.
The individual mandate, as well as the employer mandate, was supposed to prevent this. But individuals, like employers, can just skip the insurance and pay the penalty, at a savings of thousands of dollars a year. But why even pay the penalty? When it was put to a vote in Congress, your double talking, unserious representatives denied the IRS the authority to enforce the penalty by garnishment or seizure.
So the end result will be still millions more uninsured under Obamacare, probably in the end even more than there were without Obamacare. But as the young and healthy drop out of insurance pools, that will drive up the costs for those that remain still more, driving still more out, in a financial death spiral for private insurers. So if you like your health plan, you can keep it, until Obamacare drives your insurer out of business. At best, that will leave you only with a government monopoly, like the Post Office, for your health care.
Obamacare will soon be teaching seniors on Medicare what that means. While Democrats and President Obama talk a good game about Republicans wanting to throw grandma over a cliff by slashing Medicare, it is the Democrats and President Obama who have already done that, through Obamacare.
Obamacare already has slashed $716 billion over the next 10 years from Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals for the health care they provide to seniors, growing into trillions in future years. By the end of the decade, Medicare will be paying less for health care for seniors than Medicaid will pay for health care for the poor. That already often leaves the poor without access to essential, timely care, with many suffering worse health outcomes as a result, including premature death, as recent studies have shown. Seniors, do not ask for whom the bell tolls! As John Goodman recently explained on his health policy blog at ncpa.org, “One out of seven hospitals will leave Medicare in the next seven years, say the actuaries, and beyond that things just get worse and worse. Access to care will become a huge issue as waiting times to see doctors and enter hospitals grows…. From a financial point of view, seniors will be less attractive to doctors than welfare mothers.”
In other words, the government monopoly of Medicare will become an official, institutionalized means of denying health care to seniors, just like the government monopoly of Medicaid has become for the poor. And that is what the coming government monopoly of Obamacare will be soon enough, an official, institutionalized means of denying essential health care to everyone, just like socialized medicine in every other country.
Universal health care, indeed. Just another “progressive” delusion, if not outright lie. In a recent paper for the NCPA, John Goodman and I explain how universal health care for all can be assured through Patient Power, free market reforms, without Obamacare, no individual mandate, no employer mandate, at a savings of $2 trillion or more for taxpayers.
As Jon Roland of the Constitution Society has recently shown, the constitutional grounds for impeachment, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” really means violating your oath of office, especially by lying to the American people. Impeach Obama for Benghazi, for Nixonian IRS abuse, for illegal wiretaps of the press? No, impeach him for Obamacare, and the thoroughly wasted, trillion dollar, so-called “stimulus,” which are the biggest lies told in U.S. history.
[First published by The American Spectator]
The reason that only one Black advocate has come before the Supreme Court since October is not racism – it’s simply that there aren’t many Black lawyers in America to begin with. This, however, hasn’t stopped those on the left from writing about the fact that in the 75 hours of oral arguments heard by the Supreme Court since October, only one of the advocates was Black. The point that they seem to be trying to make is, as one blogger put it, that “the Supreme Court rules over Black people, it doesn’t see or listen to them.”
While the number 1 is easy to latch onto for those seeking to preserve the perception of liberals as “friends” of the minority groups of America, in this context, it is statistically irrelevant.
Since October, a total of 120 different advocates have appeared before the Supreme Court. Of those, 108 were White, 4 were Hispanic, 7 were Asian, and, as we all know by now, only 1 was Black. In other words, in the October term, 90% of the advocates that appeared before the Supreme Court were White; 3% were Hispanic, 5% were Asian; and .8% were Black.
There are (according to the ABA) about 1,245,205 licensed attorneys in the United States. About 88% are White, which seems rather proportional to that particular group’s representation among the advocates heard by the nation’s highest court since October.
I’m afraid that pundits have been found reaching as to the meaning (if there is one) of this particular situation. The fact of the matter is that of the 1,245,205 lawyers in America, only 120 (.009%) had the privilege of arguing before the Supreme Court of the United States. It is incredibly unlikely that any attorney – even a great one – will ever get to argue in front of those nine justices. The fact that only one Black advocate came before the Court in the last term is irrelevant.
Of the approximately 1,095, 780 White lawyers in America, only .0099% of them appeared before the Court. When compared to the .0017% of the approximately 59,769 Black lawyers in America, the difference is quite trivial. Actually, a larger percentage of Asian attorneys (7 out of approximately 42,336) appeared before SCOTUS last term than that of any other race; but that wasn’t the headline.
The fact that people are trying to turn this number into an illustration of institutional racism is both troubling, and sad. But if the left really wants to take it up with someone, they should start with the current administration, seeing as how a large chunk of the attorneys who appeared before our Supreme Court were with the office of the Solicitor General – and not one was Black.
A May 14 New York Times article by Eduardo Porter titled “For Insurers, No Doubts on Climate Change” has been getting quite a bit of play lately, judging from how often we’ve been pinged on Twitter about it. Correcting errors in the NYT’s coverage of global warming (alias “climate change”) would be a full-time job, but this one deserves to be called out.
Porter tells readers it is somehow important or significant that property and casualty insurance companies are repeating the unscientific claims and predictions of environmentalists about global warming. He mentions that those companies stopped funding The Heartland Institute because of our stand on the issue… though he doesn’t report that they only stopped last year when their identities were revealed by Peter Gleick as part of the Fakegate scandal. Did they oppose our stand before then? Apparently not.
Porter makes a key admission in this article that exposes the lie:
“And insurers can raise premiums or even drop coverage to adjust to higher risks. Indeed, despite Sandy and drought, property and casualty insurance in the United States was more profitable in 2012 than in 2011, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.”
No kidding! Everybody knows property and casualty insurers can raise rates and make more profits if they exaggerate the threat of global warming, and they do. Their reports aren’t science, they are advertising. Greenpeace might actually believe its propaganda on this issue. Insurers almost certainly don’t. How does a reporter not get this? Is Porter just stupid?
Do you believe, as this administration wants you to, that our leaders don’t have a clue as to what is happening unless it appears as a trending topic on twitter? According to White House press secretary Jay Carney, President Obama and friends have become aware of major scandals through the media, just like anyone else.
“I would only say broadly that the idea behind that thinking suggests that there was some grand plan behind the Fast and Furious program when, in fact, everyone knows the President did not know about this tactic until he heard about it through the media; the Attorney General did not know about it.”
Jay Carney at a May, 14 2013 Press Conference
“Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the Associated Press,” Carney announced.
The president “found out about the news reports yesterday on the road,” he added.
“Carney also said during his briefing that no one in the White House was had “knowledge” of the alleged targeting of tea party and other conservative groups until the White House counsel’s office was informed of the probe late last month. Later, the lines got a bit blurrier, as he said the White House was “not aware” of the IRS conduct.”
Jon Stewart wrote a Daily Show sketch about Obama’s blissful ignorance, joking that he probably found out that Osama Bin Laden was killed by watching his own address on TV.
As silly as that image is, how can anyone take the White House’s claims seriously? This administration seems to know more about health care than private insurers or doctors, or more about guns than law-abiding firearm owners, but when it comes to the inner workings of their own government programs, they don’t know a thing.
Revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative, libertarian, and constitutionalist groups for tax auditing could cause so much backlash that many aspects of Obamacare operations may be delayed or rolled back. So says Dr. Keith Kantor, CEO of natural foods company Service Foods, who led a U.S. House of Representatives advisory committee on health care. Many of the committee’s recommendations were approved by the House but blocked in the Democrat-controlled Senate.[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.]
The Minnesota Legislature may have finally agreed on how much solar power the state should be forced to use.
According to Minnesota Public Radio,
The Minnesota House and Senate have agreed to an energy bill that includes a 1.5 percent solar energy standard for investor-owned utilities.
The House version of the bill originally wanted investor-owned utilities to provide at least four percent of their power through solar generation, while the Senate bill wanted one percent.
The bill with the 1.5 percent compromise now goes back to the House and Senate for final votes.
But really, any percentage of solar generation decided on politics, rather than markets, is likely to have economic consequences. Given how extraordinarily expensive solar power is compared to traditional energy sources, and how it’s expected to be for a long time, it’s unfair to force people to purchase it.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the levelized cost of electricity using solar photovoltaic technology is estimated to still be about 234% higher than the cheapest source by 2016, and that percentage is even higher for solar thermal. Although that’s an improvement, it actually comes in spite of the renewable energy mandates, not because of it.
As one green-energy executive explained, government subsidies (including mandates) allow companies to focus less on reducing cost. In this case, putting off the year the true cost of solar is competitive with traditional energy sources.
The free market is widely known to benefit both consumers and taxpayers. But if Minnesota’s solar industry truly aspires to scale-up and be an economically competitive alternative to fossil fuels, they too, should consider opposing this mandate.
It has been a difficult time for newspapers. The industry has experienced serious challenges due to multiple factors going back at least to the early 1960s when the three major television networks began their extensive and widely popular evening news programs, with the likes of Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.
The rise of the Internet over the last two decades has posed a much larger challenge. More people were able to access more interactive news sources, including the Internet editions of major newspapers, nearly all of which were free in the beginning. Then there was Apple, with its ground-breaking iPad which made accessing news sources more user-friendly. Newspapers competed hard to design their own applications, which often required paid subscriptions. Of course, Ipad has competitors now and many newspapers have implemented paid firewalls for their Internet sites.
However, the Great Recession may have dealt the most important blow to the print edition. The collapse of the housing market brought a catastrophic decline in real estate and help wanted classified advertisements, a key source of revenues. Added to this was a drop in overall business, which also reduced advertising revenues.
Some large newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal,and The New York Times claim they have gained circulation. However, looking beneath the gross numbers provided by the Alliance for Audited Media, it is clear that virtually all of the gains are in online editions, while print editions continue to decline. Even the online gains may be overstated, because a print edition subscriber who is also an online edition subscriber gets counted twice for the same newspaper.
Smaller Press Runs
A review of the change in circulation in the nation’s 20 largest newspapers since 1998 indicates the depth of the losses. The year 1998 is chosen because newspaper circulations remained at high levels and the losses to Internet editions and other media sources has not yet occurred.
From 1998 to 2013, the 20 largest newspapers lost more than 5 million of their 13.4 million weekday print subscribers, a loss of nearly four out of ten subscribers (39 percent). At the same time, there were substantial differences among the top 20 papers in their losses (Table).
Top 15 Newspapers in 1998: 1998-2013 Print Circulation Newspaper 1998 2013 % Change The Wall Street Journal 1,740 1,481 -14.9% USA Today 1,653 1,424 -13.8% The New York Times 1,067 731 -31.5% Los Angeles Times 1,068 433 -59.5% The Washington Post 759 431 -43.2% New York Post 438 409 -6.6% Chicago Tribune 673 368 -45.3% New York Daily News 723 360 -50.1% Arizona Republic 435 286 -34.3% Newsday (Long Island) 572 266 -53.5% Houston Chronicle 551 231 -58.0% Minneapolis Star Tribune 335 228 -32.0% The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer B. 382 216 -43.4% The Denver Post 342 214 -37.5% San Diego Union-Tribune 378 194 -48.7% The Dallas Morning News 480 191 -60.3% The Philadelphia Inquirer 429 185 -56.9% Chicago Sun-Times 486 185 -62.0% Newark Star-Ledger 407 180 -55.7% The Boston Globe 471 172 -63.5% Total 13,389 8,185 -38.9% In thousands Source: Alliance for Audited Media & predecessor
Losers and Catastrophic Losers
All of the newspapers lost subscribers, but some lost many more than others. The New York Post, a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, posted the smallest loss, less than 30,000 of its 1998 subscriber base of 438,000.
USA Today, Gannett’s unique national general-interest newspaper, experienced the second smallest loss, at 13.8 percent. USA Today, also the newest newspaper on the list (1982), is the nation’s second-largest newspaper and fell from a circulation of 1.65 million in 1990 to 1.42 million in 2013.
Another Murdoch title, The Wall Street Journal, purchased in 2007, did a third-best in holding onto its print readership. The Journal retained its position as the largest daily newspaper in the nation, with circulation dropping from 1.74 million in 1998 to 1.48 million in 2013. This amounted to a small loss compared to other newspapers (14.9 percent). The 260,000 loss in actual subscribers was larger than the total current daily circulation of 10 of the top 20 US newspapers (such as the Houston Chronicleand The Boston Globe).
The nation’s third largest newspaper, The New York Times, lost nearly one-third of its print circulation between 1998 and 2013. Even so, this was less than the loss rate of all but three newspapers (The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today).
The largest relative circulation loss was atThe Boston Globe, which saw a departure of nearly two-thirds (63.5 percent) of its subscribers. This was more than double the losses by its owner, The New York Times.
Two other newspapers lost 60 percent or more of their readers between 1998 and 2013. The Chicago Sun-Times experienced a loss of 62 percent while The Dallas Morning News saw 60 percent of its subscribers flee. This huge loss is particularly notable, given that the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. For example, in Phoenix, which has also grown very rapidly, the Arizona Republic lost only one third of its readership, having taken advantage of the rapidly expanding market.
Perhaps most disastrous has been the decline at the Los Angeles Times. For more than two decades, the LA Times had been the nation’s third or fourth largest newspaper, following The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and sometimes The New York Times. This ranking was not much changed in 2013, as the LA Times was the fourth largest newspaper.
However, over 15 years, the LA Times lost nearly 6 out of every 10 of its subscribers. In 1998, the LA Times had 1,000 more subscribers than The New York Times, at 1,088,000. By 2013, print subscriptions at LA Times had fallen to 433,000. Over the period, The New York Times managed to secure a stranglehold on third position, opening a nearly 300,000 subscriber lead over the LA Times. Should the losses at the LA Times continue at this rate, it could be passed by both The Washington Post and the New York Post within a couple of years (Figure).
In raw subscriber numbers, the LA Times losses were the most precipitous by far at 635,000, compared to second largest loss at the New York Daily News at 363,000. The Daily News continues a long slide, having been the nation’s largest newspaper for decades to the 1970s. It is now the third-largest paper in the three paper New York City market, having been passed by the New York Post some time ago. The Daily News, however, still leads the suburban Newsdayand Newark Star-Ledger.
Even Bigger Losses
Some of the larger declines in newspaper circulation are not evident in the latest data. For example, The San Francisco Chronicle experienced a drop of 65 percent in its circulation from 1998 to 2012 (2013 data not available). The spectacular decline of Detroit’s two metropolitan dailies has outstripped all of the others over a longer period of time. In the middle 1980s, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News each had circulations of approximately 650,000. By 2012, the Free Press had fallen to approximately 135,000 and the News to under 80,000. These drops were much larger than the city of Detroit’s population loss. Now, the two papers offer home delivery only three days of the week (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), while subscribers are encouraged to use internet editions on other days.
Of course, over the last 15 years, a number of familiar titles have been closed, such as the Rocky Mountain News (Denver), the separate Atlanta Journal and Constitution (now combined as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and the Cincinnati Post. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer took the intermediate step of shutting down its print edition, but retaining an Internet edition, which has remained a strong presence online.
Where from Here?
There have been other changes as well. Virtually all of the US broadsheets (the wide, familiar print format) are now printed in more compact editions, having been reduced from approximately 15 inches wide to 12 or even 11 inches wide (28, 30.5 and 38 centimeters). There are international format changes, as well. The Times of London (weekday edition) converted from broadsheet to tabloid in 2004, while The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s uniquely named The Age switched to tabloid format in March.
The communications business has changed over the past two decades. Newspapers have been trying to cope, but it seems unlikely that print editions will experience any resurgence. The open question is whether the newer online strategies will save them from oblivion, but that’s hard to predict.
[First posted at New Geography]
No wonder the national debt is at nearly $17 trillion—and ticking higher every day. Polls repeatedly show most Americans believe that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority, yet policy gets in the way of democracy and prevents practical solutions.
I’ve previously participated in, and reported on, various public meetings and hearings where the local citizens rally to draw media attention to their plight and plead with the government agencies that control their economic future.
Some of these stories include the Otero County Tree Party where hundreds of residents of a small mountain community, who live in fear of fires fed by overgrown forests—due to management designed to save the habitat of an endangered species—gathered to force the Forest Service to stop fighting them and start cooperating. I was honored to play a part in the Tree Party. They’ve had success! County Commissioner Ronny Rardin told me it would have never happened without the public outcry. Using a newly created County Compliance Program, non-violent people charged with a misdemeanor avoid jail time and do community service by cutting down selected trees and thinning the forest—saving money for both the county and the Forest Service, while saving the community from a wildfire’s devastation.
Hundreds of people gathered in an airplane hangar to protest the endangered-species listing of the sand dune lizard that could have severely hampered oil and gas extraction and ranching in the region and killed the economic base of local communities. I was one of the speakers at the rally. At the post-rally hearing, people waited into the night for the opportunity to express their opinion to the bureaucrats from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). After an 18-month battle, the answer came back from Washington, DC. The sand dune lizard escaped listing, oil and gas development and ranching activities continue in the Permian Basin region of Texas and New Mexico.
Now, the people in the Permian Basin are joined by those in Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma to fight the proposed listing of the lesser prairie chicken—which would wreak similar economic havoc as the sand dune lizard listing (this time to a larger region). In February, I emceed the hangar-held rally and attended the public comment session manned by FWS staff. The comment period was cut off before everyone who wanted to could voice their opinion—leaving angry, unheard, citizens. Pressure has been put on Senators, as their constituents inundated their offices with calls asking them to use their weight to stop the lesser prairie chicken listing. As a result of the effort, on May 9, Senator Tom Udall’s (D-NM) office released a statement supporting the plan to prevent the listing of the lesser prairie chicken: Senator Udall “believes that the Five State Plan, if done correctly, can be a win-win solution resulting in habitat protection and regulatory certainty for the farmers, ranchers, and the oil and gas industry. Senator Udall continues to be engaged with the Administration to ensure the Five State Plan receives proper consideration and has every opportunity to succeed in its goal.”
On May 8, I drove 2.5 hours to attend a public meeting about a new management plan for federal lands in three New Mexico counties—it was the last of three such public meetings. The plan was outlined, but attendees were not allowed to ask questions or comment during the presentation. Maps lined the room’s perimeter. In short, myriad acts and laws have to be taken into account in the management of public lands including the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)—just to name a few. By the time all of these layers of regulation are applied to nominated portions of federal lands, virtually all economic activity is prohibited or severely limited—including ranching/grazing, mining, and oil and gas extraction. Even recreational uses, such as off-highway vehicles (OHV), can be banned or severely restricted.
After the 2-hour session, I felt agitated and frustrated. In the brief public presentation, we were told that they were holding these meetings because NEPA requires public participation. However, unlike the other public meetings I’ve attended, no public comment was allowed at the meeting. Additionally, when attendees were instructed on how provide written comment, we were told that we were to offer only “substantive comments” on the data and/or the science—not to vote in favor of, or opposition to, the Resource Management Plan (RMP).
Following the meeting, I spent time with Bill Childress, the District Manager for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the Las Cruces office and Dave Wallace, the Assistant District Manager. I pointed out that their format discourages public comment, as no average person is ever going to read the 500+ page document—or be able to offer comment on the science or the data. “That’s the way it is,” was the response.
Regarding the BLM’s comment process, Joanne Spivack, an activist fighting the closure of roads and trails to motorized use, told me: “The only thing that matters are comments that specifically challenge how the RMP analysis is being done. That’s what ‘substantive’ means. 99.999% of the public don’t understand what that means. It takes a firm understanding of the NEPA process to write a comment that can challenge the agency and lead to an appeal (and lawsuit). The only things we can submit that can be used for our appeals, or in a lawsuit, are our formal comments submitted by the deadline. Those comments must be based solely on what is in the written Draft RMP and its associated documents.”
With Childress and Wallace, another meeting attendee and I discussed the known oil and gas resources and the potential presence of rare-earth elements. The TriCounty RMP designates several ACECs (Area of Critical Environmental Concern)—which are essentially managed as “wilderness areas,” though ACECs are not designated by Congress. Childress and Wallace explained that the process of creating ACECs is at the discretion of the Bureau; it is qualitative not quantitative, and subjective. They told us that generally conservation groups nominate the ACECs. Spivack noted: “There is no place or time in the process for the public to oppose the ACECs.”
Surprise! The Wilderness Society’s website offers their “Wish List for the BLM in 2013”—which includes: “Designate Otero Mesa as an ACEC in the TriCounty RMP and initiate an administrative mineral withdrawal for the area to protect its innumerable natural and cultural resources.”
The proposed 198,511-acre ACEC for Otero Mesa includes the following potential resource-use limitations:
Exclusion and limitations of new rights-of way,
Closure to mineral sales and geothermal leasing,
Closure to vegetation sales, and
Limitation of vehicle use to designated routes.
Spivack explains it this way: “The RMP doesn’t have specifics about what will be banned, why or where. There are no facts, no analysis and no proof that an ACEC is needed. But the RMP lays the groundwork for future lock-downs, by creating ‘conceptual’ frameworks such as ‘desired conditions’ and by creating new designation areas like ACECs. The RMPs have vague wording about future restrictions, which could be imposed in order to ‘protect the values’ of the ACEC. The ACEC is a way of creating management ‘goals’ which trump multiple use. The ACEC is a blank check and can be used restrict any activity under any excuse they want to cook up.”
The Otero Mesa portion of the BLM managed lands has the potential for oil and gas resources, and rare-earth elements. Due to existing land-use restrictions—before the proposed RMP is even implemented—a company interested in developing the rare earths was required to do its minimal-impact exploration with 19th century technology: horses and hand tools. When the exploration was complete, a hand rake was used to erase the footprints and restore the land. A company executive reported: “The RMP has the potential to adversely impact future mineral development.”
Commissioner Rardin and all his fellow county commissioners in Otero County are excited about the potential economic benefit the rare-earth mining project could bring: $25 million in the first year alone. Rardin believes one of the goals of the RMP is to stop the mining project. He told me: “The BLM is taking away our ability to make a living. As long as I am commissioner, I will challenge them and look to properly use our lands.” In Otero Country—a county as big as the state of Connecticut with 62,000 residents, only 12% of the land is taxable. The potential for mineral extraction, including oil and gas, is important for the community—and the people want it. Locking up the resources constitutes a government taking.
Ranchers in the region feel the same way. Steve Wilmeth, a rancher from southern New Mexico whose family came to New Mexico beginning in 1880, wrote about these attacks on the culture and customs of the West: “Increasingly, Westerners are governed not by laws, but by policy and regulations. Local governance isn’t planning or crafting solutions for communities. Rather, local governance is defending itself against the latest project being driven by conservation cooperation agreements.” Regarding the policies to be instituted and policed by the agencies, Wilmeth, in The Westerner, writes: “There is no grassroots land planning in this debacle. This is an end-run legislative proxy. It is being engineered by the environmental brokers.”
Addressing the proposed ACECs, Wilmeth’s comments echo Spivack’s. He told me: “The BLM, by FLPMA authority, can designate ACECs. In the draft, you will notice they are intending to manage the Nutt Grassland ACEC (newly declared) as a Wilderness Study Area, as if it is being prepped for “Wilderness” status. FLPMA does not make that a mandatory action. So, we might not be immediately forced out of an ACEC, but the BLM, in their conservation cooperative action with environmental groups, is shaping and managing toward de facto wilderness without Congressional authority.”
In addition to his dawn-to-dusk ranching responsibilities, Wilmeth, representing the Council of Border Conservation Districts, the New Mexico Coalition of Conservation Districts, and the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District; County Commissioners such as Rardin; oil and gas companies with a stake in the outcome; and OHV organizations are each working through the Draft RMP to address their opposition to this latest federal land grab and will have their comments in by the July 11 deadline. Will you join them? This may seem like just a New Mexico issue, but the same thing is happening in many locales throughout the West—where most states have a high percentage of federally managed land. I am sure readers could tell me similar stories from the surrounding states.
When the ranchers hate it; the county commissioners oppose it; the OHV folks are fighting it; and the miners and oil and gas companies can’t stand it—but, the environmental organizations in cooperation with the government agencies are for it—you know you’ve got a project that will stop all potential economic input. Once again, policy trumps growth and economic potential.
When Americans have to fight their own government for their economic survival, you know something has to change.
[First published at TownHall]
In an opinion piece, published by the Huffington Post, Professor Alex Glashausser attacked the position that banning so-called ‘assault weapons’ would infringe the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The professor points out that while “Prisoners have a right to food… the menu options… are meager,” so as to illustrate how “it is not unusual… for a right to be confined.” The Professor goes on to assert that “a citizen has no greater claim to a machete than a prisoner has to spaghetti.”
The problem with this analogy, of course, is that law-abiding citizens are not prisoners.
The professor then accuses the pro-gun lobby of defacing the Constitution in order to claim an unfettered right to keep and bear any kind of weapon they please, asking “Do ‘Arms’ include AR-15s? ICBMs? How about grenades…?” Glashausser finally asserts that the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms would remain in tact “as long as people are permitted some weapons — say, simple pistols, or maybe even stun guns.” Stun guns? Really?
Look, no one is saying that citizens should be allowed to walk the streets with a nuclear trigger in hand – that would be crazy. Gun owners simply want the freedom to own firearms that are within the scope of reason.
No, our first Amendment rights do not extend to the protection of slanderous statements, because slanderous statements can cause serious, sometimes irreparable injury. So the question becomes: What injury to innocent persons justifies the ban of an entire class of firearms from the homes and hands of law-abiding citizens? Now, before readers start screaming about mass shootings, let me point out that in 2011 (the most recent statistics available), rifles in general were only used in 323 of the 8,583 firearm homicides. That’s .03%. In fact, more than double that number (728) were punched and kicked to death in that same year. American citizens rightfully have a hard time believing that the motivations of gun control advocates are anything other than scoring political points, and gaining control over another aspect of civilian life. If loss of innocent life were truly the motivation of gun control advocates, they’d go after handguns, seeing as how they are used in the overwhelming majority of firearm homicides. But, that would be unconstitutional. In fact, the Supreme Court indicated in the Heller case that weapons “in common use” for the purposes of self, and home-defense may very well be outside the scope of what Congress can prohibit. The fact is that the likelihood an innocent person will be injured or killed with a so-called ‘assault weapon’ is slim by any standard – let alone the standard that should be met before interfering with the freedoms of American citizens. Given the numbers, it would be quite hard to see how an ‘assault weapons’ ban could have a significant impact on gun crime and homicides. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 2002 that its task force on Community Preventive Services found “insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws (including the 1994 assault weapons ban) or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes.”
There’s no denying that gun violence is a problem. But an ‘assault weapons’ ban won’t fix it. More aggressive prosecution and mandatory minimum sentences, however, would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Just about every type of extreme weather event is becoming less frequent and less severe in recent years as our planet continues its modest warming in the wake of the Little Ice Age. While global warming activists attempt to spin a narrative of ever-worsening weather, the objective facts tell a completely different story.
New Records for Lack of Tornadoes
New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show the past 12 months set a record for the fewest tornadoes in recorded history. Not only did Mother Nature just set a record for lack of tornado activity, she absolutely shattered the previous record for fewest tornadoes in a 12-month period. During the past 12 months, merely 197 tornadoes struck the United States. Prior to this past year, the fewest tornadoes striking the United States during a 12-month period occurred from June 1991 through July 1992, when 247 tornadoes occurred.
The new tornado record is particularly noteworthy because of recent advances in tornado detection technology. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is able to detect more tornadoes in recent years than in prior decades due to technological advances. Even with such enhanced tornado detection capability, the past 12 months shattered all prior records for recorded tornadoes.
NOAA posted a list of the five “lowest non-overlapping 12 month counts on record from 1954-present.” Notably, each of these low-tornado periods occur since 1986, precisely during the time period global warming alarmists claim global warming is causing more extreme weather events such as tornadoes. According to NOAA, the lowest non-overlapping 12 month counts on record from 1954-present, with the starting month, are:
197 tornadoes – starting in May 2012
247 tornadoes – starting in June 1991
270 tornadoes – starting in November 1986
289 tornadoes – starting in December 2001
298 tornadoes – starting in June 2000
On a related note, a new record for the longest stretch of consecutive days without a tornado death occurred during 2012 and 2013.
New Records for Lack of Hurricanes
Hurricane inactivity is also setting all-time records. The United States is undergoing its longest stretch in recorded history without a major hurricane strike, with each passing day extending the unprecedented lack of severe hurricanes, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data.
It has been more than 2,750 days since a major hurricane struck the United States. This easily smashes the prior record of less than 2,300 days between major hurricane strikes.
Although global warming activists and their media allies often claim global warming is making extreme weather events more frequent and severe, virtually all extreme weather events are becoming less frequent and less severe as our planet gradually warms.
Droughts, Wildfires, Etc.
Pretty much all other extreme weather events are becoming less frequent and less severe, also. Soil moisture is in long-term improvement at nearly all sites in the Global Soil Moisture Data Bank. Droughts are less frequent and less severe than in prior, colder centuries. The number of wildfires is in long-term decline despite a recent change in wildfire policy that no longer actively suppresses wildfires. Just about any way you measure it, extreme weather events are becoming quite rare.
Anecdotes vs. Objective Data
Despite all this good news, a growing number of people believe global warming is causing an increase in extreme weather events. This is no accident. Fully aware of the objective facts, global warming activists are doing everything they can to distract people from the truth. Although extreme weather events are becoming less frequent, the Earth is a big place with a dynamic climate. There will always be some extreme weather events, even as they become less frequent and less severe. Global warming activists can always highlight some extreme weather event occurring somewhere on the planet and paint a false narrative that global warming must be to blame, even though extreme weather events are becoming rarer as the planet gradually warms and returns to pre-Little Ice Age norms.
Major hurricanes struck the U.S. Northeast on a fairly regular basis during the first half of the 20th century when temperatures were cooler. Now, as our planet warms, hurricanes of any sort almost never strike the U.S. Northeast. As a result, when even a minor hurricane like Sandy strikes the Northeast, it is a seemingly unheard of weather event. We can thank global warming for the fact that even a small hurricane like Sandy is a rare event in the U.S. Northeast. The same applies for tornadoes, droughts, etc.
Thank goodness science is conducted according to objective facts rather than activist propaganda!
[First published at Forbes]
“Constitutions are checks upon the hasty action of the majority. They are the self-imposed restraints of a whole people upon a majority of them to secure sober action and a respect for the rights of the minority, and of the individual.”
William Howard Taft wrote that in 1911 to impress upon the people of Arizona that their constitution should reflect the undeniable fact that “the unabridged expression of the majority… converted hastily into law or action would sometimes make a government tyrannical and cruel.”
How many times, after the Senate’s recent gun control vote, did you hear politicians and commentators regurgitate the statistic that ‘90% of the American People’ supported an expansion of background checks or some other gun control measure? Gun control advocates from the President on down to Piers Morgan were incensed by the fact that they couldn’t turn 90% into 60 votes. The Left went on and on about how the Senate, and, by implication, the political process had failed the 90%. They wanted, no – they demanded an explanation. Well, here it is: The Constitution!
What too many people seem to have forgotten is that the Constitution was supposed to keep majorities at bay. It was designed to protect a minority of voters from having to live under the thumb of a political majority. In what is perhaps the heyday of government overreach, the Constitution is still fighting for us, serving one of its most important purposes – protecting the liberty of the few against the tyranny of the many.
Here’s the deal: The government gets its power from the people. But, the majority is its biggest enabler. The Founders knew this, and dedicated their brilliance to designing a government that would counteract the evils of majoritarian rule. In Federalist No. 10, James Madison said this:
“Complaints are everywhere heard… that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”
Why shouldn’t the majority always get what they want? Well, there are a ton of reasons; but, in the interest of brevity, we’ll stick with two. First, the minority matters. Remember in high school when all the “cool” kids sat at that long table in the center of the lunchroom, and the “nerds” were over at the small table in the corner? If the lunchroom was a polity, how often do you think the “cool” table would ever vote with the interests of the “nerd” table in mind? Exactly. Second, what may sound like a good idea in the heat of the moment may not actually be one after you’ve cooled off. In fact, shortly after the Senate’s gun control vote, polls showed that public support for a new gun control bill had dropped to 49%. In other words, the public’s post-Sandy Hook outrage dissipated, and by the time the Senate got around to voting, that 90% that everyone kept talking about was no longer.
The point is that our Constitution was built to protect individual rights from whatever democratic majority may come about at a given time. The fact that 90% of the public may support a particular piece of legislation at a given point in time doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea, or that the 10% should be forced to yield the wishes of the greater number.
Some people on the left called the Republican filibuster of the gun control bills “shameful.” For me, it was a welcome reminder that the most beautiful document sitting in the National Archives – our Constitution – still works.
Your paper states atmospheric carbon dioxide has reached 400 parts per million, a level that “has not been this high for at least 3 million years.” But 90,000 (!) measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide were made between the years 1812 and 1961 and published in 175 technical papers. These measurements were made by top scientists, including two Nobel Prize winners, using techniques that are standard textbook procedures.
Ernst Georg Beck made a monumental compilation of these carbon dioxide measurements and graphed five-year averages, which smooth irregularities and show trends rather than an individual year that might be an anomaly. His work shows an average of 440 ppm carbon dioxide for the years 1820 and 1940.
Furthermore, ice cores show over 400 ppm in 1700 A.D. and 200 A.D., as well as 10,000 years ago. Samples from Camp Century (Greenland) and Byrd Camp (Antarctica) range from 250 to nearly 500 ppm over the last 10,000 years.
There is abundant other evidence that global warming alarmism is false, but you won’t print:
The above is based on sediments from the Sargasso Sea. It shows the earth was much warmer 500 and 900 years ago and that there were even warmer times 500 BC and 1000 BC. All of these times had no factories or automobiles. They also had far smaller human populations, who devoted much less land to agriculture and cut far fewer trees. Note, too, that now we have barely reached the average temperature for the last 3,000 years. The chart also shows the current warming trend began more than 250 years ago, before the Industrial Revolution. It was a natural recovery from the Little Ice Age.
This puts “global warming” (the slight upturn in the lower right) in perspective with the last 4,000 years of temperature in Greenland.
This intriguing chart by J. Oerlemans shows records of 169 glaciers. It shows they have been receding since 1750, with the trend accelerating after about 1820. The electric light bulb and the telephone hadn’t been invented yet. (Thomas Edison wasn’t even born.) The first commercial electric power plant was not built until 1881-82. Henry Ford began assembly line production in 1913, but by then half of the glacier loss from 1800 to 2000 had already occurred. And 70 percent of the glacier shortening occurred before 1940.
Siberia’s Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest lake. It contains more water than all five of North America’s Great Lakes combined. Fed by over 300 rivers and far from the moderating effects of any ocean, it offers a pristine, uninterrupted sedimentary record that permits a highly accurate reconstruction of temperatures over a broad area.
Anson MacKay, author of the study, says: (1) “Warming in the Lake Baikal region commenced before rapid increases in greenhouse gases;” he dates the warming from around 1750 A.D.,, long before industrial development led to the increase of greenhouse gases. (2) The warming trend began from one of the coldest periods in the last 800,000 years. (3) These coldest periods in the past were always followed by sharp, large temperature increases that couldn’t possibly have been caused by human activity. (4) The latest warming is puny compared to the many much warmer periods in the past.
You newspaper never prints any of these scientific facts—but has plenty of room for the latest propaganda about global warming and carbon dioxide.
[First published at American Liberty.]
Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr was interviewed by the “Today Show” on NBC on this morning to talk about the “milestone” of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hitting 400 parts-per-million (ppm). Dr. Lehr was the “skeptical” voice in what was mostly a story of panic.
As is typical in a story such as this, the non-alarmist side got 9 seconds of air time in a 3-minute segment. Better than nothing, I suppose. Heartland, actually, is flattered that when one of the most important morning news programs in the country needs to find a “skeptic,” it reaches out to us first.
Watch the video below.
The Chronicle of Higher Education tells us the median salary of public university presidents rose 4.7 percent in 2011-12 to more than $440,000 a year. This increase vastly outpaced the rate of inflation, as well as the earnings of the typical worker in the U.S. economy. Perhaps, most relevant for this community, it also surpassed the compensation growth for university professors.
Moreover, the median statistic masks that several presidents earned more than double that amount. Pennsylvania State University’s Graham Spanier, best known for presiding over the worst athletic scandal in collegiate history, topped the list, earning $2,906,721 in total compensation. (He was forced to resign in November 2011 and was indicted in November 2012 on charges related to the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.)
Spanier’s package will get the attention. But the outrage should be spread around. University presidents are becoming ever more plutocratic even as the students find it harder and harder to pay for their studies. University leaders claim institutional poverty as they enrich themselves. A perennial leader of the highest-paid list, Gordon Gee of Ohio State University (more than $1.8 million last year), paid $532 for a shower curtain for the presidential mansion.Unclear Standards
There appears to be neither rhyme nor reason for vast differences in presidential pay. David R. Hopkins, the president of Wright State University — an unremarkable commuter school ranked rather poorly in major-magazine rankings — makes far more than the presidents of the much larger, and vastly more prestigious, University of California at Berkeley, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, or the University of Wisconsin.
The four-year graduation rate at Wright State is 18 percent, whereas at Berkeley it is 71 percent. The president of my college (Ohio University), Roderick McDavis, has seen the school’s US News & World Report ranking fall considerably in his tenure of almost nine years. But he made more in 2011-12 than Berkeley’s Robert J. Birgeneau, who stepped down in 2012 after nine years as chancellor of the school ranked first in the US News list of public universities.
My associate Daniel Garrett analyzed the relationship between presidential compensation and academic performance for 145 schools, using the Forbes magazine rankings of best colleges. (Full disclosure: My Center for College Affordability and Productivity compiles those rankings for Forbes.) Adjusting for enrollment differences, no statistically significant relationship was observed between academic quality and presidential pay.
I informally asked five college-educated friends: What criteria should be used in determining college presidential-salary increases? I got five different answers. One said that those most successful in fundraising should be rewarded the most (the argument often used to justify Gordon Gee’s lavish pay and perks). Another friend stressed the postgraduate performance of students. A third’s answer was that it is all about reputation – - if you improve in the U.S. Newsor Forbes rankings, you should get a nice salary increase. Still another friend stressed retention and graduation rates.
In short, there is no consensus. Among competitive free-enterprise companies, profits, share price and competitor chief-executive-officer pay are considered the metrics upon which compensation decisions should be largely determined. But what is the bottom line in higher education? Did the University of Virginia have a good year in 2012? How would you know?Lacking Comparisons
We know little about some fundamental questions. Are the students at the University of Colorado learning more than those at the University of Kansas? Are they learning more now than five or 10 years ago? These and other schools are either clueless as to the answer, or if somewhat knowledgeable, they typically keep the findings a secret. Public comparison with peer schools is considered bad form by the university presidents I know. Trustees are usually part-time cheerleaders for the institution, not hard-nosed representatives of the public demanding accountability, efficiency and transparency.
University enrollments fell in the closing academic year nationally for the first time in more than a decade. More and more individuals are questioning the value of American higher education as it now exists — the benefits seem to be stagnating, while the costs are rising.
Some new university leaders get this, and believe higher education needs to be leaner, more adaptive to change and include performance-based rewards for achievement. The best example is Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University. While still governor of Indiana, Daniels chatted with me about how to devise a presidential contract that tied compensation to achievement of goals. The Purdue board adopted such a system, cutting Daniels’s pay compared with his predecessor’s, yet including provisions allowing the president to earn significant performance bonuses. Daniels has already frozen tuition fees for two years — and also has frozen salaries for most administrators.
Universities are nonprofit institutions that get special privileges, such as government subsidies and tax exemptions, based on the assumption that they are good stewards of the public trust. Big corporations pay their leaders more, but those institutions pay taxes that partially benefit universities. They have a bottom line as well as stockholders and corporate boards that often fire leaders who perform poorly.
University presidents aren’t corporate executives. If higher education wishes to maintain its privileged position in American society, it needs to contain its spending. A good place to start is at the top.
[First Published by Bloomberg L.P.]
San Jose State University faculty recently decided the best way to address scientific criticisms of alarmist global warming theory was to burn the books containing such criticisms. Pierre Gosselin, administrator of the No Tricks Zone website, pointed out disturbing parallels between the book burning at San Jose State and book burnings in Nazi Germany.
Last week marked the 80th anniversary of a massive book burning event in Nazi Germany. The book burning, conducted by people affiliated with German universities, was designed to purge what the book-burners called un-German literature.
“Literary and philosophical works that did not conform to the ideological standards of the Nationalist Socialist Party were collected from prestigious university libraries and burned in public. They included some of the greatest works ever written. Much of the burning was zealously carried out by students and academics,” Gosselin explained.
After noting the recent book-burning at San Jose State, Gosselin observed, “Recently a University of Graz professor called for the execution of climate science skeptics. Aren’t the parallels eerie? This ought lead us to pause and reflect deeply for a moment.”
On Friday, senior IRS official Lois Lerner offered an apology of sorts after nonprofit organizations that were applying for tax-exempt status were targeted for IRS audit if the groups’ names included “Tea Party” or “patriots.” Lerner said she had learned of this activity only last year.
Few places seem less likely to find humor than a New York Times article about rogue IRS agents, but this line from Friday’s article was laugh-out-loud funny: “[Lerner] insisted that the move was not driven by politics.” Nearly as ridiculous was Lerner’s assertion that the behavior was little more than the activity of overzealous low-level employees and that more senior IRS officials were unaware of the “absolutely inappropriate” behavior.
Lerner did herself no further favors during a subsequent conference call with reporters in which she couldn’t calculate one quarter of 300, saying “I’m not good at math.” Then she and her staff complained about “repetitive” questions, prompting liberal Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston to say, according to a Washington Post report (entitled “The IRS’ public relations disaster”), that “it was because they weren’t answering the questions.”
One wonders whether anybody, even New York Times readers, believed that the actions were only those of low-level IRS employees in Cincinnati. If so, they couldn’t believe it for long: Barely 24 hours later, the Associated Press revealed that a draft of an IRS inspector general’s report shows, contrary to lying Lerner’s assertions that the Tea Party-targeting was confined to 2012, that senior IRS officials including Lerner learned of the targeting no later than June 29, 2011.
While the report says that Lerner ordered an immediate “change” regarding how groups would be flagged for audit, that should not be read as an immediate “stop” to political targeting. According to the AP story, “On Jan, 25, 2012, the criteria for flagging suspect groups was changed to, ‘political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement,’ the report says.”
USA Today adds that extra scrutiny was given to groups that “had a goal of educating the public via advocacy or lobbying to ‘make America a better place to live’” or that had “any statements in the case file critical of how the country is being run.”
Part of the targeting of Tea Party groups included requesting donor lists, a clear threat to anyone willing to contribute money to anti-Obama or simply pro-limited government organizations.
It is unclear how far up the IRS food chain this rot goes, though it probably did not reach the very top since the IRS commissioner at the time, Douglas Shulman, was an appointee of George W. Bush. In March 2012, Shulman testified before Congress that “there’s absolutely no targeting.” Unlike lying Lerner, it is more likely that Shulman was simply kept in the dark by pro-Obama officials in his organization.
Still, whether or not Shulman knew, the fact remains that even the liberal media, including even MSNBC and CBS News, recognize how damning it is for the IG’s report to implicate “senior Internal Revenue Service Officials” in using one of the most feared government agencies to target organizations due to the political views of those groups’ members.
Apologists suggest that the IRS’s “shortcuts” were an effort to prevent tax-exempt status for “sham” groups which either wanted to misuse the tax code or keep their donor lists secret.
This is the United States of Alinsky in its full glory.
The IRS’s actions are something one would expect in Venezuela or Cuba, where the central government considers it a proper function to kneecap any opposition.
The left is not trying to hide from a story they know they can’t hide from. The ACLU is condemning the IRS, with the chief of staff at their Washington Legislative Office saying, “Even the appearance of playing partisan politics with the tax code is about as constitutionally troubling as it gets.” And Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) said on NBC television on Sunday that “I think we have to understand why” the IRS “would give extra scrutiny” to conservative groups. Not exactly righteous indignation, but not the stonewalling we’ve come to expect from Democrats when it comes to Obama administration failures.
Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots (cruising for double-extra IRS scrutiny with that organization name) put it succinctly: “The IRS lied.” The group’s website says, “We reject a simple apology that does nothing to alleviate the danger of this happening again. Only immediate and public actions on the part of the IRS and the president will suffice.”
They are exactly right. In her first “apology,” Lois Lerner said that the IRS agents who took part in this behavior — which likely cross from the unethical into the criminal — have received no punishment or disciplinary action.
Furthermore, according to the Post story, “Lerner said she disclosed the information because someone asked her about it Friday morning — indicating that she had no plans to release the information publicly, despite the confirmed wrongdoing. When asked how they found out about the wrongdoing, Lerner said the investigation stemmed from media reports about conservative groups claiming that they were targeted, not from any internal review.”
It is frightening that the most powerful domestic arm of the federal government has become an untrustworthy pawn of Obama administration partisanship. One need not expect White House involvement to see the danger to civil society when high-ranking bureaucrats think that targeting citizens based on political views would be approved of and desired by their superiors. The erosion of the last shreds of governmental ethics bodes ill for our Republic, especially if not harshly punished.
IRS employees involved in this scandal should be fired and charged with crimes — but only after giving as many low-level agents as possible the chance to earn immunity (but not to keep their jobs) if they turn state’s evidence against their bosses. With an Obama Justice Department run by people too unconcerned with the rule of law to get jobs in Venezuela or Cuba, such prosecutions are unlikely.
Liberal media outlets, anxious to avoid reporting anything which would reflect badly on the Obama administration, were hungry for a story they could cover instead of Benghazi. Unfortunately for them, this story may even be worse for the Obama administration and for Democrats more broadly — and the details are so understandable to the ordinary citizen that even the most left-leaning outlets have been compelled to cover it.
The Obama administration has stunk of incompetence, corruption, and hyper-partisanship throughout its feckless reign. It is not surprising to see officials of the Obama IRS targeting the president’s political opponents; after all, absolutely everything is viewed through the most political lens by the Obama crew, from the top down. And sadly, it is not surprising that it took this long for the slightly-weakening-in-their-Obama-fealty media to turn up the story.
But better late than never.
Despite the fact that the Benghazi cover-up and the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups seem to have nothing in common, they are about to have one critical similarity: desperation by the administration to insulate the highest levels of the Obama administration, whether former Secretary of State Hillary “What difference does Benghazi make?” Clinton, former Treasury Secretary Tim “TurboTax” Geithner, or President Barack “I must have been golfing when this happened” Obama himself.
How far up the ladder will the story climb? Will it reach a cabinet secretary? That’s not as likely as with the Benghazi cover-up. TheWall Street Journal reports that “a government official said the report will note that IRS officials told investigators that no one outside the IRS was involved in developing the criteria the agency now acknowledges were flawed.”
But the fact that the notoriously uninterested-in-foreign-policy public now has credible news of the federal government using the hated tax man to target Americans for their political beliefs may, even without implicating those at the highest levels of the administration, have a substantial political impact.
The petty tyrants at the IRS have added to the distrust, even dislike, of government by many Americans — not just committed conservatives or Tea Party activists. It will make every attempt to increase the size and intrusiveness of government — including the implementation of Obamacare which requires many thousands of regulatory “trust me’s” and a large role for the IRS — much harder to sell. And it will equally make those politicians who support such programs more difficult to sell to a skeptical electorate.
One legislative canary in the coalmine is the horrendous “campaign finance” measure known as the Follow the Money Act, co-sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (RINO-AK), which would require onerous registration and reporting requirements for any group spending or receiving over $10,000 in “independent federal election related activity” during an election cycle. As the Center for Competitive Politics puts it, “If enacted, this bill would dragoon the IRS into a role as political campaign enforcer, a role the IRS is ill-equipped for and does not want.”
One measure of the impact of the IRS’s current “public relations disaster” will be seen (or, more precisely, not seen) if this latest “protect the (liberal) incumbents” bill does not come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate.
We are in the early days of this scandal; we have more questions than answers. Watching Jay Carney twist in the wind trying to insulate his boss will make for satisfying viewing for many Tea Party activists. But much more must be done. In the short-term, expect a tsunami of complaints and lawsuits to be filed by aggrieved conservative (and pro-Israel) groups, and others who were unfairly targeted by the IRS.
In the longer-term, expect those very targets to use these events as Exhibit A in their arguments against expanding the size and power of our federal Leviathan.
[First Published at The American Spectator]
Late last week we learned that the Barack Obama Administration’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was subjecting conservative non-profit organizations to ridiculous levels of additional, extra-legal scrutiny.
The Administration’s immediate, reflex response was to lie about it.
The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.
Except just “targeting” – may not be true.
Except just “during the 2012 election” and just “low-level employees” – isn’t true.
Did the Administration tell the truth back then? Not so much.
In (then-IRS Commissioner Douglas) Shulman’s responses, he did not acknowledge targeting of tea party groups. At a congressional hearing March 22, 2012, Shulman was adamant in his denials.
“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said at the House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing.
These sorts of things are why my late, great Grandfather called the IRS “The Assassins” – and wouldn’t let you call them anything else.
This is one fundamental part of why we who want less government want less government – the less government there is, the less there is to be used against us.
The IRS is one of the most powerful agencies in the federal government, with fearsome powers that the Department of Homeland Security can only dream of having. (Does DHS subject Americans to mandatory annual questioning about their personal lives, family arrangements, finances, business practices, travel, etc.?)
It has a history of being used as a tool of political retaliation, not only by the Nixon administration but at least as far back as Franklin D. Roosevelt. An agency with that kind of power, with access to sensitive information on every individual, business, church, charity, and school in the country, must conduct itself according to the very highest standards. The IRS does not.
So this is great news:
All of which casts a sinister pall on this:
The better for Big Government to eat you with, my Dears. And will the Leviathan contain its overreach to the IRS? Of course not.
Because Congress in many areas hasn’t yet addressed the gaping hole of protecting our data from Big Government, we are left exposed and subject to hay-yuge, illegal power grabs.
Like President Barack Obama’s illegal Network Neutrality order. Which gives the government access to the Internet’s spine – and with it every website there is and all the data contained therein….
Like President Barack Obama’s illegal Cyber Security Executive Order. The amount of data compiled in Cyber Security execution is massive – and Big Government wants at it:
Part of the reason lawmakers have not passed even voluntary cyber reforms is that businesses and many Republicans fear optional measures eventually could become mandatory.
The executive order did not allay those fears… (T)he Republican head of the House Homeland Security Committee expressed misgivings about the policy’s potential for mission creep.
Another “good start” towards ever growing Big Government grabs.
A privacy section in the documents outlines steps agencies must take to protect personal information while carrying out these activities. When private sector information is collected and shared with the government, concerns often arise that customer information will be exposed or abused.
Like the Obama Administration shutting down bailed out car company dealerships based upon campaign contribution data. Like local governments in New York turning over for publication gun registration data. Like then-President and First Lady Bill and Hillary Clinton’s illegally obtained 900 FBI files getting him out of an impeachment conviction.
And now the IRS’ panoply of assaults.
And does anyone seriously think that all of this is all there is?
Oh – and when the Leviathan isn’t taking our information, it’s using our coin to purchase it:
You want reform? Reduce the size, scope and sphere of influence of government – and they won’t have the juice to do most of these sorts of things.
[First published at PJ Media.]