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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
Updated: 13 min ago

Warren Buffett Knows Less Government Means More Economic Activity

4 hours 11 min ago

Remember the “Buffet Rule?”

The Buffett Rule is part of a tax plan proposed by President Barack Obama in 2011.  The tax plan would apply a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on individuals making more than a million dollars a year.

Remember for whom it’s named?

The Buffett Rule is named after American investor Warren Buffett, who publicly stated in early 2011 that he believed it was wrong that rich people, like himself, could pay less in federal taxes, as a portion of income, than the middle class, and voiced support for increased income taxes on the wealthy.

Remember what Buffett 2012 said – in his New York Times editorial?

Suppose that an investor you admire and trust comes to you with an investment idea. “This is a good one,” he says enthusiastically. “I’m in it, and I think you should be, too.”

Would your reply possibly be this? “Well, it all depends on what my tax rate will be on the gain you’re saying we’re going to make. If the taxes are too high, I would rather leave the money in my savings account, earning a quarter of 1 percent.”

But he has to know that potential investors do exactly that all the time.

Untaxed US Corporate Profits Held Overseas Top $2.1 Trillion

Foreign profits held overseas by U.S. corporations to avoid taxes at home nearly doubled from 2008 to 2013 to top $2.1 trillion, said a private research firm’s report….

Well, flash forward to Warren Buffett 2014.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is expected to help finance Burger King’s pending acquisition of Canadian doughnut-chain Tim Hortons.

The deal will allow Miami-based Burger King to claim Canada as its new legal home for tax purposes….

And why is Canada a more favorable tax locale than the U.S.?  Because everywhere on the planet is.

U.S. Corporate Tax Rates Are the Highest in the Developed World

Buffett’s corporate tax move is called an “inversion.”

Tax inversion, or corporate inversion, is the relocation of a corporation’s headquarters to a lower-tax nation, or corporate haven, usually whilst retaining its material operations in its higher-tax country of origin.

Does Buffett 2014 know this?  He’s not a dumb guy.  But here’s your Joke of the Day: He ludicrously claims:

…(T)he deal was not about taxes, saying that the combined company would be based in Canada because of Tim Hortons’ “strong roots” north of the border.

Of course in May Buffett said:

“I will not pay a dime more of individual taxes than I owe, and I won’t pay a dime more of corporate taxes than we owe. And that’s very simple.”

Indeed it is very simple.  And you can’t blame Buffett 2014 for the sentiment.  But you may certainly blame Buffett 2012 for his contradictory sentiment – and for wishing to impose its inanity upon us all.

So the Buffett Rule fails the Reality Test – per Buffett his own self.  Just as do all the Left’s attempts at reverse engineering the economy and human nature.

This is just and yet another example of (at least) a couple of empirical facts.

1) The greater the government involvement in the marketplace – the more warped and damaged the marketplace becomes.

2) The private sector’s wealthiest members will always outsmart, outpace and outdistance whatever the oft-talentless government hacks try to throw at them.

The government damage is instead done to those who can least afford to absorb it.

The Buffetts already have theirs.  But the tens of millions of Americans looking for work and new opportunities desperately need the Buffetts parking their $2.1 trillion overseas to bring it on home.

And until the government makes it more attractive to do so – those tens of millions of Americans will continue to suffer.

While the Buffetts jet set – and Buffett Rule champion President Obama golfs.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

America, Our Debt-Ridden Nation

7 hours 52 min ago

Let’s look at just some of the latest news about the U.S. economy:

# According to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Services, the federal government paid $2,007,358,200,000—over $2 trillion—in benefits and entitlements in the 2013 fiscal year, October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013. Most of the benefits, 69.7% came from non-means tested government programs that provide them to recipients who qualify regardless of income. That would include Medicare, Social Security, unemployment compensation, veteran’s compensation, and railroad retirement, to name a few.

# The total federal government spending in 2013 totaled $3,454,253,000,000—over $3.4 trillion—encompassing defense, highway and transportation costs, public education, immigration services, and government worker salaries, to name a few.

# An astonishing amount of that spending constitutes wasted taxpayer money. In July the Government Accountability Office (CAO) testified before Congress that federal agencies made more than $100 billion in improper payments in 2013. That is an amount comparable to the combined total budgets of the Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, Border Patrol, Secret Service, and the Federal Emergency Agency, et cetera. Improper payments result when people collect money from government programs for which they are ineligible.

# By August, the total U.S. federal debt had increased to more than $7 trillion during the five and a half years since Barack Obama has been President. That is more than the debt increased under all U.S. Presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton—combined! More debt than was accumulated in the first 227 years from 1776 through 2003.

# During the time President Obama has been in office the number of unemployed reached 37.2%, a 36-year high for those 16 or older who do not have a job and are not actively seeking one. From December 2013 through May of this year, the labor participation rate had been at 62.8%. The last time the labor participation rate was that low was February 1978 when Jimmy Carter was President.

# As the nation sank deeper into debt by the end of 2012 there were 109,631,000 Americans living in households that were receiving one or more federally funded “means-tested programs”, more generally referred to as welfare. Combined with those receiving non-means-tested benefits and it added up to 49.5% of the population.

It is always tempting to blame everything on the President and, despite the usual rebound from a recession that has occurred in the past, it has not occurred during his first term, nor into his second at this point. In fact, the latest data reveals that the U.S. economy shrank at a 2.9% annual rate during the first quarter of 2014. Its long-run average rate of growth has been 3.3%, but the highest since Obama took office was 2.8%.

According to the World Bank, in 2013 the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, the value of its goods and services, was $16,800,000,000,000. The federal, state and governments took their share via taxation on income and/or property. The rest was saved or spent by those either holding a job or receiving government benefits; very nearly half of the population old enough to be employed if there were jobs for them.

The problem that affects all of us is the imbalance of the U.S. budget where more money is going out than coming in. The difference is deemed the “deficit.” In order to pay bills, Congress has to agree to raise the limit on how much the nation can borrow.

Nick Dranias, the constitutional policy director for the Goldwater Institute, has come up with a proposal,“The Compact for a Balanced Budget”, and it was been published by The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, in July.

As Dranias points out, “The U.S. gross federal debt is approaching $18 trillion. That figure is more than twice what was owed ($8.6 trillion) in 2006, when Barack Obama was a junior U.S. Senator from Illinois and opposed lifting the federal debt limit.” It represents more than $150,000 per taxpayer.

“What if states could advance and ratify a powerful federal balanced budget amendment in only twelve months, asks Dranias. His proposal is “a new approach to state-originated amendments under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

Two states, Georgia and Alaska, are expected to establish a Balanced Budget Commission, an interstate agency dedicated to organizing a convention—before 2014 ends—to propose an amendment to achieve a balanced budget. The amendment would put “an initially fixed limit on the amount of federal debt.” It would ensure Washington cannot spend more than tax revenue brought in at any point in time, with the sole exception of borrowing under the fixed debt limit. It would force Washington to reduce spending long before borrowing reaches its debt limit, preventing any default on obligations; something threatening many other nations as well.

Suffice to say, the proposed amendment involves some complex elements and, if the Compact does not receive sufficient support from many more states than just the two that have signed on, it won’t see the light of day.

What the rest of us understand, however, is that federal spending is out of control at the same time as the amount of money it takes in is more than what it “redistributes.”  Add in a sluggish economy, not growing at its usual rate, and you have a recipe for a lot of trouble ahead.

Republicans are usually credited with being more financially prudent. If true, we need to elect a Congress controlled by the GOP in November and a Republican President in 2016. If we don’t, all bets are off.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Categories: On the Blog

Illinois Forum Celebrates 25 Years Banding Together Freedom Lovers

8 hours 51 sec ago

The Illinois Forum celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a banquet on Saturday, August 23rd, at the Round Barn Banquet Center in Champaign, Illinois. The Illinois Forum was founded by Robert S. Redfern and U.S. Congressman Dan Crane in 1989 as a statewide grassroots coalition of nonpartisan political activists.  Since 1989 Illinois Forum has become one of the largest citizen groups in the state working to promote a smaller state government, to restrain spending, and to encourage tax cuts.

Redfern continues to serve as Chairman of Illinois Forum, with Daniel Crane as its Board Chairman. Additionally there is a Board of Governors consisting of 19 additional individuals from various parts of Illinois. The Hon. Phil Crane (Wauconda) is a member of the Board of Governors.  Heading the the list of eleven pledges cited in the Illinois Forum Pledge for Better Government is “Term limits for Illinois constitutional offices.”

Illinois Forum, first group to issue a proposal for term limits in Illinois

Following the “Pledge of Allegiance” and the Invocation, Robert Redfern, as Chairman of the Illinois Forum, welcomed those gathered, with comments on the issue of term limit.  It was only the day before, Friday, August 22, that Bruce Rauner was dealt a blow when the IL Supreme Court rejected Rauner’s request.

It was in 1989 when Robert Redfern called together 60 individuals to create the Illinois Forum as a non-partisan group to get something done in Springfield.  The first project put together by the newly formed group, and the first group to do so in the state, was a term limits proposal limiting service in either the House or the Senate to 10 years.  The 10-year time limit was retroactive.  Anyone who had already served 10 year had to leave.

The term limits referendum Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner wanted to appear on the November 4 ballot would not have been supported by Redfern, as it reduced Senate Districts from 59 to 41.  Furthermore, the initiative didn’t even kick in until January 1, 2023!   As such Rauner’s proposal was not good for the people of Illinois.  It would have been especially devastating for those living in downstate Illinois where constituents many times would have been 100 miles or more away from their state senator.

In speaking with Robert Redfern by telephone after the event, Thorner was informed that four years ago a petition initiated by Illinois Forum was to change the General Assembly from meeting every year to every two years, with a budget to reflect the two-year period. This would cut down immeasurably on the 7,000 bills now advanced in committees every session, and, most importantly, on the amount of taxpayer money spent.

Robert Redfern then invited Jim Tobin to join him at the podium.  Jim Tobin, president of Tax Payers United for America, presented outrageous facts about IL State Pensions.  Click on the link noted on the left side of this Tax Payers United of America website to hear Jim Tobin speak about IL State Pensions on a CBS Chicago WBBM News Radio program aired 4/30/14.  Per the annual April, 2014, report issued by the Taxpayers Unit For American, there are 78,000 state pensioners who receive more than 50,000 a year and 11,000 who receive more than 100,000.  Larry Flemming, a retired educator was noted as a pensioner who is projected to receive an 11 million lifetime payout.  Yearly payment amount to $258,163, yet Mr. Flemming paid in only $326,000 or 2.8% of his estimated lifetime pension payments.  Handed out by Jim Tobin was a sheet containing State of Illinois Top 200 Government Pension as of April 1, 20l4. Remarked by Tobin is how unfunded pensions in IL went from $100 billion to $200 billion even after the income tax hike by Quinn.

Fair.Tax Nation  was represented by Marilyn Rickert.  Although Ms. Rickert didn’t speak, literature was handed out.  Its mission is to Replace All Federal Taxes on Income with the Fair Tax Act , HR 25 and S 122. Visit this site for grass roots participation information

Comments were heard from three Illinois candidates, all who advanced conservative values and policies.  Unfortunately all three are unknowns outside of their own districts.

  • Dianne Harris is running for state legislator in Will County, 86th District.  As a staunch conservative, Dianne wants to serve but never be self-serving.
  • Julie Fox (Juliefox2014.com) is a candidate for state Comptroller as a Libertarian Party candidate. She’s both an accountant and a CPA, and believes that all elected Comptrollers should first be accountants.  Being a Libertarian, Ms. Fox would not be beholden to either major party.
  • Mark Smith is running for governor.  He is a Christian with a firm belief in God, who believes that God must be put back into government.  Mark will take God with him into office. Mark gave up his job in the U.S. Postal System to campaign for governor.

Introduction of Joe Walsh as Featured Speaker

Rick Biesada, co-founder of the Chicago Minuteman Project, introduced Joe Walsh as a Walsh supporter since Joe’s congressional campaign in 2010.  Biesada noted that the Republican establishment and the media were 100% against Joe. What prompted Biesada to throw his support enthusiastically behind Walsh was when the media reported that Walsh had his house foreclosed on him.  At this point Biesada knew that Walsh was his man, for this made Walsh just like an ordinary average person.  A prudent comment made by Rick Biesada is how the Republican and Democrat Party are but one party with two wings.  A bit of humor took place when Mr. Biesada, after finishing his remarks, forgot to extend a welcome for guest speaker Joe Walsh to advance to the podium.

Undaunted and in his usual spirited way, Joe Walsh, now a talk show radio host on AM560, didn’t miss a beat as he bounded to the front of the room to inform attendees with his booming voice that a podium or a microphone weren’t for him. Emphasized by Walsh is that he considers himself a Tea Party member, not a Republican. Elected in 2010, Walsh spoke of the promises he had made while campaigning and which he then honored when sent to Congress to represent the 8th District. Among them were:  He would never vote to increase the size of government; he would sleep on the floor of his office; he would not take his health care or pension benefits; he would face the pubic by holding open town hall meetings, and he would limit himself to six years in the U.S. House.

While campaigning, Walsh faced skepticism over his campaign promises, even from one of his most ardent supporters, Rick Biesada.  But what kept Joe in line with every vote when in Washington, D.C. was knowing that Rick Biesada would not be at all happy with him if pledges were broken.  As it was, Walsh held 363 town meeting, more than any other legislator in Congress. All were open to the public.  Walsh likewise voted against every single budget bill Congress tried to pass that raised taxes. Unfortunately, Walsh was sent home after two years.

Joe Walsh rips apart Common Core AP History course

Joe Walsh went on to explain that we have somewhere between four and five years remaining to change the direction of this nation, a nation that is fast progressing toward Socialism with atheism as the norm.  It doesn’t help that U.S. History will take a drastic left turn this fall.  The AP History course, which will be taken by the nation’s best and brightest high school students, rewrites America’s past, cutting out the Founding Fathers.  George Washington is only given a quick, passing nod; our founding document, the “Declaration of Independence”, merits only two brief mentions.  What is more, children are taught a hatred for their country.  Not surprising is that David Coleman, Common Core’s architect, is responsible for writing the new AP History standards.

As related by Walsh, it’s no longer a free country when the government takes 60 cents of every dollar; when its citizens  can’t carry a firearm wherever they go for protection; and when government can force a Catholic priest into jail if he doesn’t do what government wants him to do.

Regarding the Ferguson shooting, according to Walsh most of America just doesn’t get it.  The Ferguson shooting of a black teenager by a policeman had nothing to do with race or the victim Michael Brown.  Rather, it has only to do with one man’s innocence or guilt.  Eric Holder’s entrance onto the scene, served to stoke the already burning fire of the felt hostility of blacks against white cops.

While in Congress Joe Walsh was blunt and forceful in his rhetoric, not unlike the tone of his remarks before the Illinois Forum gathering.  There was, however, a difference.  The Republican Party didn’t wish to hear what Walsh had to say.  Joe Walsh went on to say that he considers House Speaker John Boehner clueless as to what to do and even in understanding what is presently going on in this country.

Joe Walsh on Republicans and Amnesty with hint of a third party threat 

Concerning amnesty, Walsh knows why Democrats want amnesty.  It is for the votes, 19 million of them.  But what about Republicans?  Congressional Republicans are scared to death if they don’t support amnesty.  Out of the 233 Republican representatives in Congress, only twenty-eight agree with Joe’s stance against amnesty.  All others want to pass an amnesty bill after November.  It Republicans do pass amnesty, warned Walsh, this will end the Republican Party.  It isn’t what Walsh wants to happen, but this would so rile the Republican conservative base that a new party would surely emerge.  It can truly be said that most Republicans are not adverse to big government, just as they are convinced amnesty would benefit this nation.  Is it any wonder why this nation is in the trouble it is in today?  Even with Obamacare, which represents 1/6 of this nation’s economy, and which passed in the dead of night with a purely partisan Democratic vote, little is heard from House Republicans about repealing it.  Much of the talk involves nibbling around the edges of a bill which is still evolving and which can’t be fixed.

Walsh believes we have not been so close to losing our nation since the Civil War, and that presently we are going through a revolutionary period of time. Many Americans have no clue as to what was created by our Founding Fathers as the foundation upon this nation was built, as embodied in the “Declaration of Independence” and the “Constitution.”  As a nation we are close to losing it if we don’t do what it will take to preserve it.  The Republican Party is our only chance to take this country back.  If the party refuses to fight in the next six years, it’s goodbye for America.  It took 100 years for this nation to get to the point she is now at: morally and financially bankrupt.  i.e.: While all seniors are taken care of under Medicare, only seniors who are really needy should be afforded this type of care.

Joe Walsh bemoans what has become a stupid country

Obama was an accidental president, as reflected by a nation which has morphed into a stupid country.  Inform your elected representatives in no uncertain terms, that if they don’t start straightening up to change what is happening, then you will go elsewhere.  Even should Republicans miraculously begin to understand the urgency to change policy, it might take an election or two to get government out of our lives.  Our Founding Fathers would be appalled to see what has happened to a nation conceived with such hope and promise. Yet today there is more government tension and control in our lives than what our Founding Fathers were escaping from in the Old World.

Here in Illinois and at the federal level a false belief exists that if Republicans are elected here and there all will be fine.    History tells us that most great nations last only 264 years.  We are now somewhere in the middle of the 4th quarter.  Time is of the essence.  There is no time to lose if we care about what succeeding generation of Americans will inherit from us.  Are you willing to allow what was once a proud and prosperous nation to slip into the dustbin of history?

An addendum to Joe’s remarks

A hand was raised after Joe Walsh finished his comments, comments that were received very warmly and with hearty applause.  The hand belonged to David Crane, a practicing Indianapolis lawyer and psychiatrist, and a brother of Dan and Phil Crane.  His comments were worth noting, as they were in line with the concerns of the writer.

  • American is doomed.  It took 100 years for the liberal take over to happen which started in 1910.  We have blown it during the past 100 years, doing nothing to stop the liberal advance. Why should it take less time to take our nation back?

Robert Redfern has the last say

Precincts must be filled to get the vote out.  Young people must be trained.  50% of precincts are empty in Illinois.  The Republican Party in Illinois has all sorts of excuses as to why it can’t win, but had Bill Brady obtained 2 or 3 more votes in each Illinois precinct, he would now be governor instead of Pat Quinn.

  • Illinois ranks 49th in the loss of personal rights.
  • In speaking about FDR, the only area of agreement is that organized labor shouldn’t have any place in government.  Other than that, FDR has helped place this nation in the shape it is in today.

 WE CAN’T AFFORD TO SIT OUT THIS ELECTION CYCLE!.  GET TO WORK TO SAVE THIS NATION!

Categories: On the Blog

NetCompetition’s FCC Comments – Don’t Preempt State Muni Broadband Laws

8 hours 11 min ago

There are two core reasons the FCC should not try to preempt State muni-broadband laws.

  1. The Supreme Court has already indicated it would be unconstitutional.
  2. It would be anti-competitive, the opposite of the FCC’s statutory purpose and legal mandate.

I.  Why FCC Preemption of States Rights would be Unconstitutional

First, the Supreme Court already has decided this issue effectively in favor of state rights. InNixon v. Missouri Municipal League (2004) the Supreme Court rejected federal preemption of state prohibitions on telecom services. It specifically rejected the use of the FCC’s Title IIsection 253(a) authority to preempt state prohibitions of localities offering telecom services on constitutional federalism grounds.

If clear FCC Title II statutory language was insufficient to overcome states constitutional rights, it is hard to see how the FCC’s new-found, balsa Section 706 authority would be sufficient to trump the Supreme Court’s defense of state’s rights in the Constitution.

This Supreme Court precedent presents a high bar for the FCC to overcome because the core constitutional issue is largely-settled and because Chevron Deference does not apply to the Supreme Court’s decisions.

Second, municipalities are legal creations of the state, not the Federal government. States have clear sovereign economic and fiscal responsibilities to the citizens and taxpayers of their state. The construction and operation of broadband networks in a local community clearly is an in-state activity not an inter-state activity that generally can afford the FCC jurisdiction.

In sum, if the FCC preempts state prohibitions of community broadband capital projects, the FCC essentially would be asserting that it, not the states, is the ultimate approving authority for community broadband capital projects, by effectively pre-approving all potential community broadband projects in advance, by denying the state its right to prohibit them.

II. Why FCC Preemption would be the Opposite of Promoting Competition

Governments do not “compete” with companies; Governments tax, limit, police and judge companies.

So when governments try and offer a similar service that private companies have long provided consumers, these governments effectively are opposing and undermining private companies in the marketplace — not “competing” with them.

Why is muni-broadband anti-competitive?

First, Congress in the 1996 Telecom Act made promoting communications competition the law of the land. To forward that goal the FCC ruled broadband was an interstate service under Federal regulatory jurisdiction.

Nowhere in that law did Congress define or conceive a government to be a potential “competitor.”

Second, everyone knows the old adage, “you can’t fight city hall.” Well a private company certainly cannot compete with their regulator who controls their business’ livelihood — access to public rights of way underground, on poles, or on wireless towers.

Moreover a company can’t compete with their tax assessor, permit-grantor, police force, etc. — no more than a citizen can “compete” with the powers of a policeman, prosecutor, and judge.

Third, a private company cannot compete with a municipality that can compel taxpayers to subsidize the municipality’s overbuild broadband network even if they don’t vote for it or sign up for it; or if they want to use a private company service. That’s not competition; that’s a rigged game.

Fourth, who thinks Government can deliver complex technology better than private companies?

Building and operating a broadband network is much more than digging trenches and laying fiber. It is a very complex and difficult systems integration and management endeavor to do competently, economically, and responsibly.

Moreover, Governments are well known to vastly underestimate the complexity and degree of difficulty in delivering successful systems integration.

Americans learned this lesson only too well last year when the HealthCare.gov website managers failed to anticipate that one needs to not only test individual systems, but also how all the different subsystems work or don’t work together – under most all circumstances.

Provisioning and operating advanced technology networks is a job for professional technologists and experienced systems integrators who have successfully done it before, not municipalities which have neither the core competency, nor the experience to do it.

Sadly, this is why so many municipalities have run up large broadband infrastructure debts that can’t be repaid. It is why they have failed in creating economically sustainable and operationally proficient broadband networks.

Fifth, municipalities building opposing networks create a predatory and hostile market environment that unnecessarily and unfairly chills much needed private capital investment to best serve consumers.

Lastly, what about all the obvious privacy and surveillance conflicts? Who thinks it is a good idea for the mayor or the police to have access to local voters’ emails and web surfing histories?

In short, municipalities building broadband networks are not “competition,” they effectively are Governmental opposition to the existence of private broadband networks.

In conclusion, the FCC should not attempt to preempt state muni-broadband laws because it would be both unconstitutional and anti-competitive.

Categories: On the Blog

Forget Economic Patriotism—It’s Time for Economic Freedom

August 28, 2014, 12:12 PM

Political rhetoric in the United States, particularly on the right, has a strong tendency to focus on the incomparable economic freedom of Americans and American businesses. They portray the rest of the world as more socialistic and the American system as the closest thing to a free market economy operating in the world. Yet that is far from the truth. In fact, America is swiftly being supplanted as a preferred place of business by many other countries in the rich world.

The reason for America’s declining business attractiveness is a matter of simple economics: The US corporate tax rate is ruinously high, and the tax compliance system is mind-bogglingly byzantine. While the average corporate income tax in the OECD, a club of rich countries, is 25 percent, the US federal corporate tax rate is 35 percent. Add state corporate taxes on top of that and the average corporate tax rate in the United States comes out to a whopping 39.1 percent. Even the socialist playground of France has a tax rate of 34.4 percent. America’s bizarrely high corporate tax rates are largely the product of standing still in the face of changes in the global marketplace. European countries have long been skeptical of the free market, yet they have slowly adopted many market precepts over the past few decades. In order to maintain and expand high qualities of living, these countries had no choice but to embrace the market and make doing business easier. Their relatively small economies could not survive with high barriers to doing business in the face of growing emerging market competition.

America, on the other hand, has not faced those same pressures. Thanks to its size and centrality in the global economic system, the United States was able, throughout the Cold War and the two decades after its conclusion, to maintain a particular cachet that attracted businesses to its shores in spite of the erosion, and ultimate inversion, of its tax advantages. Business leaders were (and many still are) willing to pay the tax premium for being incorporated in America where they would be protected by its size, and would be able to trade principally in the dollar, which is still the world’s reserve currency (though for how much longer remains an open question). That willingness to put up with America’s tax regime is beginning to dissipate.

The American business climate is confronted with two market forces that threaten to tear it apart. On the one hand, the marketplace has become ever more choked with regulations which has made doing business harder every year. For example, American-based businesses could balance the relatively high taxes against a more fluid labor force. That advantage has been clogged up by red tape. On the other hand, the perks of being based in the United States have diminished in comparison to the rest of the world. As other countries have slashed corporate tax rates and made their labor forces more adaptable, America has marched resolutely in the opposite direction, toward greater state control of the economy.

America is finally starting to pay the price for its broken corporate tax regime. The recent increase in so-called tax inversions, in which American corporations seek lower tax rates via mergers with companies based in foreign countries. Tax inversions result in American firms effectively becoming foreign businesses, something many politicians on the left have come to fear and despise. At least 47 American tax inversions have occurred in the last decade, but it was not until this month that they started making serious headlines. When the American pharmaceutical firm Abbvie announced it would be taking over the Ireland-based Shire corporation in a $57 billion deal, major figures in the Obama administration and in Congress began to lash out at such corporate maneuvers. Jack Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury, wrote a letter to Congress arguing for “a new sense of economic patriotism, where we all rise and fall together.” Lew’s comments hold frightful echoes of the statists Ayn Rand describes in Atlas Shrugged, officials and bureaucrats who would shackle the productive power of individuals to what they perceive to be the “public good.”

Even Warren Buffett, erstwhile champion of Obama’s higher tax agenda, has gotten in on the inversion action. He is helping Burger King take over Canada’s Tim Horton’s, which will move the headquarters north of the border.

The answer to America’s problems is not more restrictions on businesses, or denying them the ability to leave the country. The answer is to transform the business environment so that companies want to come and stay in the United States. That is the only way to end the flight of firms from America’s shores. America is in dire need of economic freedom, not economic patriotism.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Comments on Gov. Jindal Suing Federal Government Over Common Core

August 27, 2014, 5:17 PM

Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a lawsuit today in federal court that accuses the Obama administration of violating the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by illegally usurping state control over education policy. The federal government does this, the suit says, by awarding billions in federal grant money only to states that adopt Common Core education standards.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge.

The following statements from education policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org and 312/377-4000.

“It’s about time a governor has stepped up to the plate to bat for his citizens instead of the federal government. It’s clear Gov. Jindal is looking at a presidential run in 2016, but it is also clear that his aspirations in that regard have keenly attuned his ears to what voters of all political persuasions are concerned about. And his lawsuit is right on the merits: In pushing, funding, and evaluating Common Core and its tests, the federal government has stepped right into nearly every American child’s classroom. This is both illegal and a bad idea, and polls show most Americans agree.”

Joy Pullmann
Research Fellow,
Education
The Heartland Institute
jpullmann@heartland.org

“Like everything Gov. Jindal has said about Common Core since he began to oppose it, this is going to be viewed as a political ploy being used to win points in the event that he runs for president. But I’ve spoken to several parents in recent months who believe that Jindal’s change of heart regarding Common Core is genuine.

“The reason they believe that, and can accept that as a possibility, is because they have had the same change of heart themselves. Not all parents who are questioning Common Core started out against the standards. As time has gone on, some have come to learn what the standards will mean. They fear teachers being forced to teach students only one way of doing things under the guise of teaching better critical thinking skills – and, of course, not all children learn the same way. They have learned that not all their children’s teachers feel ready to teach these standards. They have learned that they can’t help their children with their homework because they do not understand it.

“Meanwhile, states are finding how hard it is to get out of Common Core once you sign up. Even states that leave are struggling to come up with replacement standards as quickly as they are required to, and the saga is going to continue in Louisiana. Everyone will continue to sue everyone regarding Common Core, and there is no way to tell whether the state education board and Jindal’s hand-picked education superintendent, John White, who continue to support the standards, or Jindal, who has changed his opinion on the matter, will prevail.

“That said, I do not think Jindal will win this lawsuit. Here’s why: Jindal is suing the U.S. Department of Education for violating federal law and the 10th Amendment of the Constitution by essentially forcing states into Common Core through the Race to the Top program. The suit alleges that states had to, ‘enter binding agreements to adopt and fully implement a single set of federally defined content standards and to utilize assessment products created by a federally-sponsored “consortia.” ’ But the federal Race to the Top program was voluntary. Forty states were awarded millions of dollars to make voluntary, not compulsory, changes to education policy, including adopting Common Core.

“Only a handful of states opted not to accept that federal money. The argument can be made that states and officials did not know what they were getting themselves into, and I think that is a fair point. I just don’t believe the courts will be convinced and compelled enough to care. It doesn’t matter how right Jindal may be about Common Core; this lawsuit does not seem to be the best tactic, though it seems to prove the point that he is willing to use any means necessary to win this fight.”

Heather Kays
Research Fellow,
The Heartland Institute Managing Editor,
School Reform News
hkays@heartland.org

The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

Categories: On the Blog

Enter Here to Win School Choice Weekly’s Anniversary Prizes!

August 26, 2014, 8:48 PM

No, this isn’t a missive from Nigerian scam artist. Next week is School Choice Weekly’s first anniversary, and to celebrate, we’re handing out prizes for readers who share our free weekly education e-newsletter with friends you think would be interested in a weekly education news roundup from a pro-liberty perspective.

The prizes: A pair of tickets to Heartland’s benefit dinner on September 12, 2014, featuring columnist Michelle Malkin; and two copies of the new book, Rewards: How to Use Rewards to Help Children Learn (And Why Teachers Don’t Use Them Well), by Joseph Bast and Herbert Walberg.

How to enter? We’re running the competition on the honor system. There are two ways to enter. For the first, email the SCW email or this entire post to five friends. They can subscribe, completely free, by entering their email address and checking the “School Choice Weekly” box at this link. After you forward, register that you’ve done so by commenting on this blog post. Just leave a comment. It can say anything (okay, keep it G-rated), but make sure to include your email address in the commenter box, or we cannot contact those who win.

In two weeks, SCW will use a random number generator to pick three numbers among the number of comments on the post. The three winning numbers will be matched to their corresponding comment numbers, and SCW will email the winners to get their mailing addresses for prize shipping.

Wait! It gets better. Here’s the second entry method, perhaps more appropriate to this blog post. If you post the subscribe link, with an explanatory message, on your Facebook profile, you may post two comments on the entry page, for two chances to win. Sample Facebook message: “Interested in liberty-loving education news, and having someone else sift and deliver it to your email each week, free? Join me in subscribing to School Choice Weekly.”

Okay, sales pitch out. Get forwarding and posting, then comment to enter our drawing!

Categories: On the Blog

Forbes/Ames Talk Monetary Wisdom and Common Sense

August 26, 2014, 3:20 PM

One-hundred-twenty fellow lovers of liberty signed up to attend an evening with Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames at the historic Union League Club in Chicago on Wednesday, August 13, for a special edition of The Heartland Institute’s Author Series to hear Forbes and Ames discuss their new book, “Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy, and What We Can Do About It.”

Steve Forbes is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller “Power Ambition Glory” and the Wall Street Journal bestseller “How Capitalism Will Save Us.” He is also Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media. In 1998 Steve Forbes was a Republican candidate for president.

Elizabeth Ames is a communications executive, and has written two previous books with Steve Forbes, “How Capitalism Will Save Us” and “Freedom Manifesto.”

What prompted the Forbes/Ames book collaboration?

The intent of the authors is to covey that money is a simple, basic subject that all can understand.  Much education is needed on the subject, which becomes apparent when individuals respond in many different ways when questioned about money.  Even among intelligent, self-confident and very capable people, the subject of money is often beyond their comprehension.  Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames are counting on those who take the time to read their book to become better versed about money than most people are today in the highest government positions.

Introduction of Ames and Forbes  

Joe Bast, president and CEO of The Heartland Institute (visit Heartland’s Web site), described the purpose of Heartland for those in attendance who were unfamiliar with the Chicago-based free market think tank “as a 29-year-old Chicago based think tank promoting public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, and free markets.”  In remarks prior to introducing Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames, Mr. Bast spoke of four public policy areas of utmost importance which pose immediate challenges to this nation’s prosperity:

1) Out-of-control government spending at the national, state, municipal, and local levels of government, with special emphasis on the City of Chicago;

2) Obamacare, with its extensive regulations and control over the healthcare system;

3)  Common Core, a curriculum not created by the states and which does not prepare students for college, but instead represents a politicized curriculum imposed upon the states, sight unseen, via Obama’s Race to the Top program, sight unseen, which shamefully teaches a distorted history of this nation. This article by Stanley Kurtz, published July 10, 2014, presents a shocking account of the new history standards under Common Core  “New War Over High School U.S. History” .

4) Global Warming, which 10 years ago became of prime interest to The Heartland Institute   For as mentioned by Joe Bast, the issue was too important for conservatives and libertarians not to touch just because they were not scientists. Since its involvement with Global Warming, The Heartland Institute has produced many reports that counter the reports put out by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change), which show the inaccuracies of climate models used by the IPCC, and further expose contradictions made through observation.  With China and India not willing to reduce their CO2 levels, might the U.S. be expected to reduce her CO2 levels by 120% so world standards can be met?  An unrealistic goal, indeed, and one that would raise the cost of all purchased goods, destroy this nation’s economy, and give the government power of control over everything.

Forbes and Ames in agreement over a stable monetary system and the gold standard

Both Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames agree that stable money is the only way to a true recovery and a stable and prosperous economy.  In shopping for groceries, noticeable is that the cost of meat, coffee, cocoa and other essentials are reaching record high.  For this Forbes and Ames lay blame at the feet of Federal Reserve Chairman, Janet Yellen, for believing that a little inflation is harmless and even a good thing.  Ms. Yellen, along with others of the Washington establishment, view price increases as mere background noise against an economy that is on the road to recovery.  As Forbes remarked, “The Fed hasn’t learned anything.”  According to Steve Forbes, Yellen seems not to recognize how reckless sending over decades have given way today to this nation’s unstable, ever-weakening dollar. Instead of experiencing a recovery that the American people can believe in, the Obama/Bernanke/Yellen Federal Reserve and its unstable dollar policies have resulted in what is a feeble recovery at best, and perhaps the start of hyperinflation brought on by the Fed’s historic money printing via quantitative easing. Regarding Janet Yellen’s confirmation hearing and her remark that more inflation is needed to stimulate the economy, Steve Forbe’s expressed astonishment that not one senator asked Yellen how asking taxpayers to pay $1,000 more or so a year for goods and services through inflated money would stimulate the economy!

An article written by Ralph Banko at the time the U. S. Senate was moving toward the confirmation of Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve System, reflects on what John Maynard Keynes and Nicolas Copernicus had to say about social order and government when money is debased. Further shared are Lenin’s view on the practice of debasing money(of lowering the value of currency.).

The best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, buy they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Another area of expressed agreement by Forbes and Ames is in their belief that a true recovery and a prosperous economy can only be achieved through the gold standard as a measure of value.  Why gold?  Because gold keeps its value better than anything else.  Nevertheless, Forbes recommends against investing more than 5% to 10% in gold and then only for the purpose of serving as monetary policy insurance.

This nation’s monetary system based on fixed exchange rates ended in the 1970s, when under Nixon this county went off the gold standard to today’s system of fluctuating “fiat” money. This move has proved disastrous for the U.S. and the global economy.

In the more than four decades since abandoning the gold standard, the U.S. dollar has dramatically declined in value. Furthermore, U.S. economic growth has been below historic standards.  According to Forbes the housing meltdown and the turmoil that followed would never have occurred with stable money.

Summary of Elizabeth Ames’ remarks

Ms. Ames based her remarks on Chapter 5 of her collaboration with Steve Forbes: Money and Morality: How Debasing Money Debases Society. According to Ames, the malaise created by unstable money afflicts not only the economy but all of society.  In addition to being a yardstick of value, money is a vital facilitator of social trust in that it expresses the priorities of a society.  When money is unstable it acts as a catalyst for disorder. Monetary debasement to the extreme happened under Hitler when money became almost worthless.  Ames attributes the destruction of money as a key reason for the recent rise of political polarization and unrest in this nation.

Ms. Ames compared unstable money to Carbon Dioxide.  Both are ordorless and colorless.  Weak money helped to create the foreclosure crisis (housing bubble) of 2010 and likewise triggered the depression of 2008.  Ames emphasized the importance of trust existing in a monetary system. When money is corrupted unrest develops from a lack of trust between effort put forth and just reward.  According to Elizabeth Ames, a loss of trust in the monetary system was a factor in destroying McCain’s 2008 candidacy for president. During the foreclosure crisis a definite shift in attitude was noted by Ames when instead of trying to make good on a debt, it was not considered immoral to simply walk away. With an unstable dollar, there is more of both corruption and crime. While the media is focusing on the social unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, it is folly to ignore the community’s poor economic conditions as a contributing factor.  For without an education, a job, and a bleak future, individuals are prone to exploit situations and turn to criminal activities for personal gain.

Summary of Steve Forbes’ remarks

It was touch and go whether Steve Forbes would be able to arrive in time to fulfill his speaking engagement, having experienced a delay in his flight to O’Hare.  Fortunately for all, Forbes arrived at the Union League Club as Elizabeth Ames was finishing up with her remark.

Needing little introduction, Steve Forbes advanced to the podium and immediately plunged into the topic at hand, that of money, cautioning that if the money issue isn’t handled properly in an economy nothing else ultimately matters. The result will be an economy that is undermined.  As related by Forbes, wealth is created through conducting transactions with one another. It is money that makes transactions possible and easy to do, in contrast to when bartering was used to acquire goods and services.  But money in itself is not wealth.  Wealth is created by people engaging in transactions with one another. It is the use of money that enables individuals to figure out what something is worth.  Accordingly,money works best when it has a fixed value.  If the value of money is not known risk goes up, bringing with it economic chaos.  Consider what occurred in the 1970′s when people poured money into oil and farmland wrongly believing that increases in price must mean there was a shortage of both which necessitated increasing supply. When the price of oil and farmland crashed, however, prior investments made in farmland and oil went south.  Even though oil and farm land have both increased in value during the last decade, how much of the added value is real and how much is inflation?

As to why this nation must get back to pegging our currency to gold standard, Forbes used familiar measurements of time and distance to explain the devastating and disrupting consequences of a constantly declining in value of an inflationary “fiat” monetary system.  Currency to work is like having sixty minutes in an hour or 12 inches in a foot.  These are fixed value so when you make an exchange, do a trade, or buy and sell, it is known what each party is receiving.   Forbes further noted that nothing over thousands of years has kept its value as well as gold. Investors need to know that they are not going to be left with devalued dollars.

Asserted by Forbes is that had Nixon not completely unpegged the dollar from the price of gold in 1971, and had this nation maintained the growth rates that she had experienced for the previous 180 years before the dollar was unpegged — despite boom times, depressions, and everything else — the size of the economy today would be 50% larger than it now is

With tongue firmly implanted in cheek, Forbes remarked that if we returned to the gold standard, one-world socialist currency manipulator George Soros “would have to find another line of work.”

When questioned about the future of Bitcoin, Forbes described it as a high tech cry for help in response to the unstable dollar, further remarking that Bitcoin is still in its infancy and has not yet been able to achieve stability so it is trusted.

Past and Present

Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames were with Heartland at the Union League Club in November, 2012, to talk about their book collaboration “Freedom Manifesto.” Listen to Forbes’ talk about the book in this video.

Save the date of Friday, September 12, 2014, to attend The Heartland Institute’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Dinner with Michelle Malkin as Keynote Speaker.  For more informationvisit Heartland’s Web site or call 312/377-4000.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Reveiw]

Categories: On the Blog

U.S. Government Releases Predators Against its Own People

August 26, 2014, 11:57 AM

Many times the sound of howling and yelping coyotes awake me from a sound and cozy slumber. I sit bolt upright in my bed as my sleep-filled brain tries to calculate where my critters are and whether or not they are safe. The dogs on the floor beside me, the cat on the foot of the bed, I roll over and go back to sleep.

In the years that I’ve lived in the mountains outside Albuquerque, I’ve lost three cats and three ducks to coyotes. I know they are natural predators and if my pets are outside, there is a chance they’ll fall prey. I hear the coyotes, but I hardly see them. They don’t generally come close to humans. They are after the squirrels and rabbits—and an occasional cat or duck.

But that could all change due to a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) plan to expand the area for the Mexican grey wolf reintroduction. The current plan calls for virtually all the southern half of New Mexico to become wolf habitat—but wolf advocates at a hearing about the plan, held in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, on Wednesday, August 13, repeatedly declared that Southern New Mexico wasn’t enough. They want the wolf introduced north of I-40—which would include Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Some called for wolves to be released in the Grand Canyon and the Four Corners area.

Wolves are master predators—and they are enemies of coyotes. Wolves attack bigger prey: deer and elk, horses and cattle—but are known to carry off a dog or cat as well. The wolves that are a part of the reintroduction program are not afraid of people and will come right up to a house if they are hungry.

Supporters of the expanded plan, plead for people to “open their eyes and hearts to wolves, to remove boundaries.” One claimed: “The big bad wolf isn’t so bad after all,” and added, “there’s no proof a wolf has ever harmed a human.”  “Wolves are demonized” and “wolves don’t hurt humans” were reoccurring themes throughout the evening hearing—where 70 people spoke (48 for the expanded plan, 22 against). Not everyone who wanted to be heard was given the opportunity. The hearing was conducted with precision—cutting people off midsentence at the two-minute mark—and ended promptly at 9:00PM.

Most of the 22 against the plan live in the areas already impacted by the current wolf reintroduction—the Gila National Forest on the New Mexico/Arizona border.

One woman told of growing up on her family’s ranch. She remembers being able to play by the stream without fear. But now, with wolves around, it is a different story for her grandchildren. They came to visit one day. They brought their new puppy. As they bounded out of the car, toward the house, two wolves emerged from the creek and snatched the puppy as the shocked children helplessly watched. They are now afraid to go to grandma’s house. They have nightmares.

Another told how she felt when a wolf was spotted less than 35 feet from her children. Her husband was away. She grabbed the children and, along with the dogs, stayed locked in the house—only to see the wolf on the front porch with its nose pressed against the window pane. She has reported on the incident: “Throughout the evening my border collie whimpered at the front door, aggressively trying to get out. Both dogs paced on high alert all night.” The next day wolf tracks were found all around the house—including the children’s play yard. The wolf was euthanized on private property within 150 yards of the house. She concludes her story: “It’s difficult to describe the terror of a predator so fearless and eager to get into my home.”

Others told similar stories. Children, waiting for the school bus, have to be caged to be protected from the wolves. Nine ranches in the current habitat area along the New Mexico/Arizona border, have been sold due to wolf predation—too many cattle are killed and ranchers are forced off the land.

Had I been allowed to speak—and I did sign up, I would have addressed the lunacy of the plan. After huge amounts of effort and resources have been invested to save the sand dune lizard and the lesser prairie chicken in and around the oil patch of southeastern New Mexico, they now want to introduce a master predator that will gobble up the other endangered species? After all, as many proponents pointed out, “wolves don’t have maps.” They don’t stay within the boundaries on the FWS maps, they go where the food is—just ask the families living in the current range.

As I listened to the presenters, I wondered: “Why do they do this?” People and their property need to be protected. Instead, supporters whined that capturing wolves and moving them away from communities “traumatizes” them. What about the harm to humans; the traumatized children? Does human blood need to be shed to consider that they have been harmed?

Perhaps the answer to “why?” came from one wolf supporter who opened with this: “I am from New York. I don’t know anything about ranching or wolves.” And then added: “Ranching will be outdated in 10-15 years. We can’t keep eating meat.”

State Senator Bill Soules, from Las Cruces, supports the new, expanded plan. He said: “I’ve had many people contact me wanting wolves protected. I’ve had no one contact me with the opposing view”—perhaps that is because neither phone number listed on his New Mexico Legislature webpage takes you to a person or voicemail.

Calls to our elected officials do matter. Contact yours and tell him/her that you want people protected, that humans shouldn’t be harmed by an expanded wolf reintroduction territory.

I wrote a short version of my experience at the hearing for the Albuquerque Journal because I wanted people there to be aware of the plan to introduce wolves into close proximity to the Albuquerque area. Myop-ed in the local paper generated a vitriolic dialogue on the website—with more than 90 comments at the time of this writing. Many said things like this one, supposedly from a woman in Concord, New Hampshire: “If you don’t like it move to the city it is their home and you moved into it so either deal with it and stop your whining or move back to the city.” Yeah, that will work really well for the ranchers who earn their living and feed America by raising livestock.

This story is about New Mexico, Arizona and the Mexican grey wolf. But similar stories can easily be found in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana where the Canadian grey wolf was reintroduced nearly two decades ago. The wolf population has grown so rapidly that they have been known to aggressively kill livestock and cause millions of dollars of loss to ranching families—with the Idaho record being 176 sheep killed in one night. In Wyoming, the Wolf has been removed from the endangered species list and ranchers can now kill the wolf and protect their herds without fear of punishment from our government. Even the U.S. FWS is removing and euthanizing the wolves that were intentionally introduced into the region. As recently as August 21, 2014, wolves are wreaking havoc, killing sheep just 50 miles outside of Spokane, Washington—where the U.S. FWS has authorized a rancher to kill the wolves and, much to the dismay of environmental groups, state wildlife agents are killing wolves to protect people and property.

Environmental groups have been pushing to bring the wolf back to Colorado through the Rocky Mountain National Park.

While the public hearing regarding the expanded introduction of the Mexican Grey Wolf is over, the U.S. FWS is accepting written comments on the proposed revision to the Nonessential Experimental Population of the Mexican Wolf through September 23. Please add to the discussion—though they don’t make it easy as to be accepted, comments must be substantive, related to the proposed alternatives, or scientifically valid, and something not yet considered.

People shouldn’t lie awake in fear for their families and property because our own government introduces a predator amongst us.

[Originally published at Red State]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Taxpayers, Beware – of Big Wind’s Latest Deceitful Ad Campaign

August 25, 2014, 1:45 PM

If you watch much mainstream TV, you’ve probably seen Siemens’ new multi-million-dollaradvertising blitz  to sell the American public on industrial wind. Why the sudden ad onslaught?

The wind business abroad has taken a huge hit of late. European countries have begun slashing renewable mandates, due to the ever-broadening realization that renewables cost far more than industrial wind proponents have led people to believe: economicallyenvironmentallytechnically, and civilly.

Siemens’ energy business took a €48m hit in the second quarter due to a bearings issue with onshore turbines, and a €23m charge due to ongoing offshore grid issues in Germany – on top of subsidy and feed-in tariff cutbacks, recent articles have pointed out.

As Siemens’ tax-sheltering market dries up in Europe, its U.S. marketing efforts are clearly geared toward increasing its income and profits via wind’s tax sheltering schemes in the United States. The company stands to make millions, so Siemens ad campaign is obviously part of an overall pitch to persuade Congress to extend the hefty wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), more accurately called“Pork-To-Cronies.” As Warren Buffett recently admitted, “We get tax credits if we build lots of wind farms.  That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

Taxpayers and ratepayers, beware!

President Obama often says he intends to “close corporate loopholes,” but his PTC and other policies continue funneling billions of taxpayer dollars to his wealthy corporate insiders and campaign contributors – while we continue to rack up unconscionable debt for our children and grandchildren.

Increasing public awareness of the wind energy scam has led to increased opposition to extendingany more corporate welfare to Big Wind via the PTC and energy investment tax credit (ITC). Enter another bureaucratic end-run around once clear statutory language by this Administration.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the increasingly politicized IRS recently relaxed the definition of “commence construction” to the point where the definition bears no resemblance to the actual words.  During a hearing by the House Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements subcommittee last October, Curtis G. Wilson of the IRS admitted that developers can now game the system to the point where projects built years in the future could still meet the eligibility requirement for “commence” now.

U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers are doomed when, instead of allowing the markets to work, crony-corruptocrats are picking the winners and losers in the energy marketplace, using such nefarious tactics.

Sadly, most people don’t even know the difference between energy and power. This reality has built the framework for the biggest swindle ever perpetrated on citizens worldwide.  Many have bought into the alarmist argument that “we have to do something” to stop “dangerous manmade global warming.” Enter the wind industry sales department, primed to capitalize on public fears and alarmist hype.

Siemens also needs to convince the 80% of U.S. citizens who live in suburbia that industrial wind factories are “environment-friendly,” and everyone loves them. Thus, as usual for these disingenuous ad campaigns, a sprawling wind facility is pictured among green fields, with no homes anywhere to be seen, no birds are being slaughtered, while a happy Iowa leaseholder smiles and says she loves wind.

A drive out Route 20A in Wyoming County, western New York State, however, tells a far different story. The western side of Wyoming County – which used to be some of the most beautiful countryside in New York State, has been industrialized with 308 giant, 430-foot-tall towers, and their 11-ton, bird-chopping blades spinning overhead, only hundreds of feet from peoples’ homes and roadways. There’s no doubt that Siemens won’t be showing you this reality in any of their TV ads!

Unfortunately for the residents of Orangeville in Wyoming County, greed at the top in Washington, DC determined their fate. The sole reason Invenergy went ahead with its plan to build its 58-turbine project was that, in the early morning hours of January 1, 2013, the PTC was added as pork for companies sucking at the wind welfare teat.

Ever appreciative of the handouts, Invenergy owner Ukrainian Michael Polsky rewarded President Obama by holding a $35,000 a plate fundraiser at his Chicago mansion. Mr. Obama is so committed to Big Wind that he’s even legalized 30-year eagle kill permits just for the wind industry. Anyone else harming an eagle, or even possessing a single bald eagle feather, is penalized with an iron fist.

There you have it – corporate cronyism in all its glory, with bird murder as its crowning achievement.

Word of impending lawsuits lingers in Orangeville. It remains to be seen if disenchanted leaseholders will end up suing Big Wind, as others have. In the meantime, we’re hoping we don’t have any 11-ton blade breaks that throw shrapnel for thousands of feet, or any airplanes crashing into wind turbines during fog, as occurred in South Dakota earlier this year, killing all four on board. (I’ll bet you won’t be seeing any of these facts in Siemens’ ads, either.)

Our elected officials need energy literacy. Even a small dose would help.

What’s most frustrating, when attempting any kind of correspondence regarding these energy issues with many elected officials, is the kind of response I received from Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)  when I wrote him a letter about ending the Wind PTC. Senator Schumer never even mentioned the PTC in his response. Instead, he rambled on about the need to “reduce foreign oil imports,” and increase “efficiency” – neither of which has a thing to do with wind-generated electricity.

Mr. Schumer recently feigned alarm following complaints by citizens about soaring electric rates – demanding answers about it, while simultaneously supporting yet another Wind PTC extension (plus other rate-increasing “renewable” projects). Senator Schumer’s hypocrisy is outrageous, and unacceptable.

Perhaps it’s time for U.S. ratepayers and taxpayers to demand that their elected officials first pass an energy literacy exam, before they pass such cost-exorbitant, “green” boondoggles on to consumers.

Congress is on vacation through Labor Day, which makes this the perfect time to approach your senators and representatives while they’re home.  Attend town hall meetings and in-district fundraisers. Remind your representatives that we put them in office, and that we can also vote them out!

Since energy plays a pivotal role in our national economy – impacting the cost of absolutely everything else – candidates should have “energy” listed on their “issues” webpage.

Good candidates will support an All of the Sensible” energy policy, as opposed to the “All of the Above” energy policy which President Obama has been pushing on behalf of the “green” movement. “Sensible” alternative energy options are those that are backed up by scientific and economic proof that they provide net societal benefits. Industrial wind fails this test miserably!

For more information, refer friends and elected officials to Robert Bryce’s excellent book, Power Hungry: The myths of “green” energy and the real fuels of the future.

Continue to call and write their offices, and encourage them to oppose any extension of the PTC and ITC! Write letters to your local newspapers, copy their district offices, and post information on their social media pages (e.g., Face Book & Twitter).

We must demand accountability from elected officials, or vote them out! Reliable, affordable energy is what has made America great. We need to keep it that way.

Categories: On the Blog

Calling for a Different Approach to Tobacco and Nicotine Regulation

August 25, 2014, 1:32 PM

Cigarette smoking is the most harmful form of tobacco use. Alternatives to smoking that supply users with, yes, addictive, but not particularly harmful nicotine, are significantly less dangerous.

Examples of lower risk products include smokeless tobacco such as swedish style snus, increasingly popular e-cigarettes, and next generation products such as Philip Morris International’s HeatStick, (which heats but does not burn tobacco), due out in cities in Japan and Italy later this year. British American Tobacco is engaged with regulatory agencies around the world as they prepare to roll out a variety of lower-risk products. And small innovators around the world are developing better e-cigarettes, almost daily. Each of these products come with some degree of risk, but those risks pale in comparison to the well-established and overwhelming harm that comes from smoking cigarettes.

United States law allows companies selling lower risk products to point to that difference in risk. Those wishing to make the claim must first prove to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the product is not only less harmful to the individual user, but to the population as a whole. At the heart of this regulatory approach is adherence to rigorous science. This approach promises to significantly reduce the harm from tobacco by giving consumers accurate information that could prompt them to switch to lower risk products, even if they don’t (or can’t) follow the best advice: quit all forms of tobacco.

Yet regulators in much of the rest of the world eschew the scientifically rigorous approach in favor of grandstanding, anti-business rhetoric, and bizarre theories that seek to punish tobacco companies rather than help smokers.

The harm reduction model works in Sweden, the only European country where snus is legal and widely used by men instead of cigarettes. Not coincidentally, Swedish men have strikingly lower rates of tobacco-related disease than other Europeans.

Last month, Swedish Match applied to the FDA for permission to tell users that it’s snus isn’t as harmful as smoking. The proposed language would accurately and simply state, “no tobacco product is safe, but this product presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes.

The company backed up the “modified risk tobacco product” claim with some 120,000 pages packed with the very type of peer-reviewed research the law requires and that the FDA requested. That’s approximately 119,999 pages more than necessary to prove that cigarettes are more dangerous than a non-combustible product like snus.

A positive decision from the FDA would open the door to similar claims from other companies and spur investment in new lower-risk alternatives to smoking. This would be a win for public health. And by “public health,” I mean the health of the people we should be trying to help, not the activists who have co-opted the term and regularly oppose tobacco harm reduction.

Yet sadly, regulatory bodies in much the rest of the world are rushing to cut off long-existing products like snus, new products like e-cigarettes, and future products that are being developed using cutting edge science meant to deliver more satisfaction and less harm. Activist opposition to these newest products makes it evident that their problem isn’t with the harm, it’s with the satisfaction. If that’s the case, they aren’t advancing public health, they are advancing a form of public puratinism.

In the EU, with the exception of Sweden, snus is already banned as part of the Tobacco Product Directive. Now, according to reporting by the Financial Times, elements within the World Health Organization are trying to classify e-cigarettes as “tobacco: under the Framework Convention on Tobacco control (FCTC), which has 168 signatories. E-cigarettes contain nicotine derived from tobacco, but do not contain tobacco. Such a move would mean that the same strict advertising restrictions, public use bans, and possibly even sin taxes that apply to cigarettes, would automatically be applied to less harmful products, without any review of the scientific justifications or consideration of the unintended consequences of such rules.

Why would regulators treat dramatically less-harmful e-cigarettes the same way they treat actual cigarettes? They are reportedly concerned that the use of e-cigarettes will “normalise” smoking, according to published reports?

E-cigarettes “could result in a new wave of tobacco epidemic,” said top FCTC official Dr. Haik Nikogosian, in a meeting to set the agenda for a full FCTC gathering in Moscow in the fall. Dr. Nikogosian subscribes to the bizarre and undocumented theory that non-smokers will see former smokers now using e-cigarettes, and as a result from seeing it, decide themselves not only to start using e-cigarettes, but to start smoking cigarettes. This type of twisted thinking, if it finds its way into policy, is sure to inhibit smokers from switching to e-cigarettes, ironically doing the opposite of what countries who signed the FCTC wanted to accomplish, which was reduce smoking rates.

In fact, there’s a growing body of evidence that shows that e-cigarettes are helping smokers quit. In a study published this spring in the journal, Addiction, Professor Robert West found that e-cigarettes are 60 percent more effective than nicotine replacement therapies at helping smokers achieve their goal of quitting. Perhaps the FCTC should encourage more private sector investment in harm-reduction products. It could do so, in part, by establishing rules, much like those in place in the U.S. (not a party to the FCTC), where innovators know what scientific standards they’ll be held to.

The WHO approach is facing stiff opposition from scientists. In May, 53 leading researchers urged the WHO to think twice (or even once) about the wisdom of it’s ant-harm reduction approach. They wrote that “The 1.3 billion people who currently smoke could do much less harm to their health if they consumed nicotine in low-risk non-combustible form.”

They added that “we have known for years that people ‘smoke for the nicotine but die from the smoke…There are now rapid developments in nicotine-based products that can effectivelysubstitute for cigarettes but with very low risks.”

The EU, the WHO, and other bodies would serve the public well if they could garner the fortitude to put aside any preconceived notions about products of the private sector, and simply follow only the science.

The FDA should follow that science and apply already existing common sense regulations by swiftly approving Swedish Match’s application. Doing so would not only encourage smokers to quit, but it would give industry enough confidence in the regulatory system so that the private sector will continue to invest in other harm reduction approaches. As far as public health is concerned, the more non-cigarette options available, the better.

 

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

The Libertarian Moment Can’t Just Be A Moment

August 25, 2014, 9:45 AM

Robert Draper’s piece on The Libertarian Moment in the New York Times magazine has been receiving a great deal of attention over the past week or so. Much of this attention has just illustrated that critics of the idea of a “libertarian moment” are misunderstanding a great deal about this movement, where it came from, and what it means for the future.

A friend in political science was recently asking me about this, and he echoed critics like David Frum and Paul Krugman, who have pointed to poll data which illustrate that Millennials are more liberal than ever.

“Aren’t Millennials just a bunch of socialists?” he asked.

“Of course!” I responded. “They’re that, and more libertarian, too.”

He seemed very confused for a moment. “Uh, what?”

How can this be? Well, I think that should be pretty obvious, as both political poles are responses to the same social trend: the atomization of the American people. One represents a populist reaction that demands more equal personal liberty; the other, a call to the ruling elite to enforce equality by solving the problems they claimed they would address. And which path the majority of Millennials choose will likely dictate the direction of our political scene for several decades to come.

Let’s dispense with Frum and Krugman first: I don’t think they understand what’s being argued here at all. The argument that a libertarian moment is happening is essentially an argument that there are more Millennial libertarians than there were in prior generations. Of course there are. We’re talking about the largest generation in American history here, dwarfing the Baby Boomers. There’s more of just about everything in it. No one is arguing that a majority of Millennials are libertarian – they’re arguing that there are more libertarians among the Millennial cohort. And there are probably more socialists, too (generations – how do they work?).

It is absolutely ludicrous to argue that the momentum in our political sphere among the younger generation is not more libertarian. It’s obvious to anyone who’s paying attention to politics on the ground. Why is that? Well, it’s not because of the Libertarian Party. It’s because there’s a host of younger people, the children of George W. Bush voters or Bush voters themselves, who realized that libertarianism speaks more to their worldview than modern day conservatism. It’s because Ron Paul worked to build an army of volunteers and took the message of libertarian ideas to a generation of voters, with a focus on slowly taking over the Republican Party. It’s because the views of Ron and Rand, Mike Lee, Justin Amash, and other libertarian-leaning Republicans on the issue of abortion made them more palatable to a Christian audience (as opposed to someone like former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who takes the opposite view on the abortion issue). Why is the Token Libertarian Girl, pro-life Christian Julie Borowski, not just a typical Republican? The Pauls evangelized libertarian ideas to a young audience ready to hear them and eager to make them a reality; and then, with the rise of the Tea Party, they expanded that appeal beyond the youngsters, too. That’s why.

If the Drug War made Generation X more libertarian than the Boomers, the War War has made Millennials even more libertarian than both. That doesn’t mean that the generation is libertarian as a whole, it just means it has more libertarians in it – libertarians who, given their parentage and lifestyle and churchgoing patterns, might have been expected to have more conventional views. They rejected the idea that the Republican Party was any less hypocritical than the Democrats, that the Ruling Class knew best about which direction to take the country, and accepted the idea that the Compassionate Conservative approach to policy has failed. In place of all these, they accept a view that liberty is better than paternalism from the left or right – even paternalism applied with good intentions.

The Ruling Class And The Administrative State

The engine of this paternalism predates both the Millennials and their parents, of course. It was created by the Progressives and Woodrow Wilson, reinvigorated by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and reached its fulfillment with Lyndon B. Johnson. The Administrative State, constructed as an arbiter and implementer of social equality and expediency, was created to insulate the non-political and presumably superior academic and policy leaders from the vagaries of politics. The legislative branch was largely happy to assent to this, as it turns the process of legislation into one of delegating the power to decide things as opposed to having to decide them yourself (decisions being little more than political vulnerabilities, after all).

This Administrative State was also built on a new conception of rights, and the relationship of government to the citizenry. As Frank Goodnow, founding president of the American Political Science Association, put it:

“The rights which [an individual] possesses are, it is believed, conferred upon him, not by his Creator, but rather by the society to which he belongs. What they are is to be determined by the legislative authority in view of the needs of that society. Social expediency, rather than natural right, is thus to determine the sphere of individual freedom of action.”

Government must therefore adapt in order to seek the needs of society, as opposed to protecting the rights of individuals to freely associate, speak, and govern themselves. Wilson was even more clear about his perspective on what must be done: “All that progressives ask or desire is permission—in an era when “development,” “evolution,” is the scientific word—to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.” The expansion of the state, in this view, was designed to protect a people who did not know what was best for themselves.

So much for James Madison’s description that “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined… exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce”. The message here was that you need a powerful and infinitely adaptable state to protect the people in a time when they cannot trust business or the marketplace to serve their interests. A full 62 years before his reincarnation as Elizabeth Warren, Wilson wrote in 1887:

“The socialist does not disregard the obvious lessons of history concerning overwrought government: at least he thinks he does not. He denies that he is urging the resumption of tasks which have been repeatedly shown to be impossible. He points to the incontrovertible fact that the economic and social conditions of life in our century are not only superficially but radically different from those of any other time whatever. Many affairs of life which were once easily to be handled by individuals have now become so entangled amongst the complexities of international trade relations, so confused by the multiplicity of news-voices, or so hoisted into the winds of speculation that only powerful combinations of wealth and influence can compass them. Corporations grow on every hand, and on every hand not only swallow and overawe individuals but also compete with governments. The contest is no longer between government and individuals; it is now between government and dangerous combinations and individuals. Here is a monstrously changed aspect of the social world. In face of such circumstances, must not government lay aside all timid scruple and boldly make itself an agency for social reform as well as for political control?”

The problem, of course, is that the Administrative State has failed – not just in the War on Poverty, but in so many of its other promises in seeking to benefit American lives. Instead, it has turned into a Nanny State – one which is the real arbiter of rules and regulations on how we live, not our elected representatives (who spend an inordinate amount of their time complaining about the administrated outcomes of the authority they delegated).

No wonder Americans just don’t trust the government that has mismanaged wars and intelligence, emergency response and transportation security, spied on American citizens and invaded our privacy, violated our trust, lied to our faces, and dictated what we can and cannot eat and drink and smoke. And all the while, it has seized more control and power for itself in the name of the public good. It’s little wonder that four decades after Watergate, trust in the U.S. government is at an all-time low – in fact, trust in government is even lower than the business barons Wilson once railed against.

“Just 13% of Americans say the government can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time, with just over three-quarters saying only some of the time and one in 10 saying they never trust the government, according to the poll. “The number who trust the government all or most of the time has sunk so low that it is hard to remember that there was ever a time when Americans routinely trusted the government,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “But polls conducted by the University of Michigan consistently found a majority of Americans in the 1960s and early 1970s saying that the government could be trusted all or most of the time – until Watergate. In 1972, 53% said they trusted the government always or most of the time. By 1974, that figure had plummeted to 36%, and except for a brief period of patriotic sentiment immediately after the 9/11 attacks, it has remained under 50% ever since,” Holland added. The survey indicates that skepticism doesn’t stop at the White House and Capitol Hill: Only 17% of Americans believe that big business can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time.”

This is what happens when you have a Ruling Class and an Administrative State insulated from the people they are supposed to represent. As Dave Corbin and Matt Parks note:

“Progressive ideology requires the centralization of power in federal and then executive hands–not to protect rights, but to right (perceived) wrongs. The ruling class, divided only between intentional (generally Democratic) and accidental (generally Republican) Progressives, naturally assimilates with the culture and power structure of the City of Government.”

The typically insightful Alexander Hamilton predicted that this would not matter: “It ought also to be remembered that the citizens who inhabit the country at and near the seat of government will, in all questions that affect the general liberty and prosperity, have the same interest with those who are at a distance, and that they will stand ready to sound the alarm when necessary, and to point out the actors in any pernicious project.” Well, not so much. It took him a long time to be wrong, but now, he is wrong.

There is more than one understanding of insulated. The general sense among many Americans is that too many in Washington and on Wall Street live in a different country from the people they supposedly serve. And that’s right: there are two Americas, one where tenure and bailout and cartel and capture and contract make you unfirable and eliminate your ability to fail, and one where none of that is true. But in a far more important and dangerous sense, the word insulated really means “immune to judgment.”

The way our republic is supposed to work is that our would-be Ruling Class can neither seize power nor wealth, nor keep it, except by the active, ongoing consent of the people. So the congressman who goes native loses, the CEO who approves New Coke gets fired, and so on. The secret sauce of American exceptionalism is that in every sector of life, success depended on service, mostly service to each other. But today the elites have figured out how to mercantilize the economy, and deployed the Administrative State as a paternalistic substitute for civil society. Look at any law, and you’ll find that the Ruling Class consistently benefits, directly or indirectly, by severing the links between the elites’ success and public approval.

What Republicans have forgotten, or never really knew, is that the free market and constitutional republicanism and federalism (localism) were all specifically designed to empower the little people over the big. They can’t get it through their heads that, yes, the point of the Constitution and of America was to reject the remnants of mercantile feudalism and all its side effects. The point of America is not that a single mom in Nevada and a mechanic in Ohio are just as important as Harry Reid and John Boehner, but in the ways that matter most, they are more important. It is by their consent that they are governed, not the other way around.

Toward a Coherent Millennial Politics

This is what the “libertarian moment” speaks to in ways its critics do not fully appreciate. The Millennial generation has not yet achieved a coherent political narrative, in part because the experiences of the older and younger Millennials are so different. For those born in the 1980s, social media has largely been a professional phenomenon – others were making YouTube videos when they were twelve. For some, 9/11 was a defining moment; for others, a vague memory, and the deaths of their friends all the more nonsensical. Some feel betrayed by Obama’s broken promises about the economy; others have never known an economy that was better than this.

You see that in the recent Reason-Rupe YouGov survey on Millennial attitudes toward politics, which indicates the degree to which they are struggling with this reality. While Millennials may endorse the general vague idea that cutting taxes and regulations and increasing government efficiency would help the economy, a majority are also completely opposed to basic policy aims of fiscal conservatives. According to the poll, 57 percent of Millennials say they favor a smaller government with less services… but 74 percent think it’s government’s job to feed and house every single person in the country. (So the 57 percent is basically lying: they want less services only in the sense that those services don’t go to a sympathetic group.) As for other policy positions: 71 percent of Millennials favor raising the federal minimum wage to 10.10 an hour and 68 percent favor a government-mandated “living wage”; 69 percent say it is government’s responsibility to provide everyone with health care insurance (though only half approve of Obamacare); 66 percent say raising taxes on the wealthy would help the economy; 63 percent say spending more on job training would help the economy; 58 percent say the government should spend more on assistance to the poor even it means higher taxes; 57 percent favor spending more money on infrastructure; and 53 percent want government to guarantee everyone in America gets a college education.

Needless to say, this is not Rand Paul’s fiscal agenda, or even Chris Christie’s. The majority of Millennials may claim they would support a fiscally conservative and socially liberal candidate: the problem is that they’re describing Hillary Clinton. That’s why the “libertarian moment” is also about more than just ditching social conservatism. If a mere nine percent more Millennials are self-identified fiscal conservatives compared to the number of social conservatives, becoming socially liberal doesn’t help you much at all. And these two questions alone put the lie to that social liberal/fiscally conservative message: “Government should promote traditional values in our society: 38% Government should not favor any particular set of values: 47%” vs. “Government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest: 46% Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good: 37%”.

Now, this could change as Millennials get older – or, rather, as they grow up, which is a different proposition entirely – and get married, and buy houses, and have kids (something they have delayed to a greater degree than prior generations, for both economic and social reasons). And as I said, I’m absolutely convinced there’s a higher percentage of libertarians in this generation and a rising skepticism about government which animates a not-insignificant portion of Millennial voters, and a higher portion than in prior generations. But what this poll indicates is the potential danger for Millennials who have not heard an alternate message about government and its promises and its relationship with us. This lack of an alternative message is entirely in the interest of the progressives and the Administrative State, of course: it was not enough that birth control was cheap and accessible everywhere – it must beguaranteed as a human right. Think of James Poulos’s Pink Police State as the logical end of SandraFlukism: what is government but the thing that keeps us safe, warm, and happy? What is the price of tampons but a patriarchal tax on femininity?

The Millennial motivation to provide equality for all can have a solution in more freedom or in more government. This “moment” could turn into something that accepts the permanent atomization of individuals via the Pink Police State model or something similar (see Mexico’s societal breakdown and acceptance of a Hobbesian leviathan as noted by Jorge Castañeda) – which trades individual freedom for the government guarantee of health and safety by new agencies and powers – or one which empowers individuals by returning to them power seized by the Ruling Class and the Administrative State.

The Hopefulness of Liberty

Our future politics is going to depend on this decision: whether we reject the solution of the state and instead turn with confidence toward the natural communitarianism of freedom. This is the case for liberty and federalism based on an understanding of the value of self-government, that the best policy is locally grown in your community, made for you and by you, not by the Ruling Class or the Administrative State, not by the elites of Wall Street or the Ivory Tower or the Beltway Bureaucrats who actually run things.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote frequently about the challenge of the atomized populace in a democracy, bereft of the ordered understanding of aristocracy, and he was clear on what offsets it: “Local freedom, then, which leads a great number of citizens to value the affection of their neighbors and of their kindred, perpetually brings men together, and forces them to help one another, in spite of the propensities which sever them.” The question we don’t have any kind of answer for yet is how a generation totally immersed on online life as the definition of community will come to understand and define all of these terms. But there are positive signs. One of my favorite Millennial writers, Gracy Olmstead, cites this Tocqueville quote and compares the civil society of the past to the farmer’s market of today:

So where do we congregate? How can we gather across party lines, in a way that helps us flourish as a community? How can we rebuild the “severed chain”? There probably isn’t one perfect answer—there are a variety of associations that, hopefully with time, will begin to cultivate a wider array of community attention and support. One hopes that churches will discover new ways to build rapport amongst their communities. Maybe tools like Facebook can actually draw citizens back to town meetings and civic involvement, by connecting them in a way they understand and identify with.

But when I attend the Saturday market—eat my breakfast alongside newfound friends, buy heirloom tomatoes and homemade granola at Becky’s recommendation from other vendors, pet friendly dogs and admire newborn babies—I get a taste of a community that I once thought was fading, something that seemed antiquated and rare in modern society. I wonder whether the private associations of the future may look different from the ones of our past. But that doesn’t mean they’re going extinct—we just have to look for them, nurture them, and even sacrifice our own comforts to keep the rituals alive.

Now, libertarian political scientist Charles Murray may have a reply to Gracy Olmstead on this front. Who goes to farmers markets, after all? Who has thus far navigated the reality of Ruling Class and Administrative State governance and found new ways of expressing and maintaining communitarian bonds? To put it bluntly: upper class white Americans. Why is this? Because, as Murray has noted for years, the problem of the nanny state is that rich and talented people can still find ways to pursue happiness and live lives of meaning without church, neighborhood, family and kids, and the other traditional outlets. They are happy to leave the lower classes to their better Soma, engulfed and managed by the Administrative State, so long as they can pursue their own ends.

The warning of responsible conservatives against the libertarian moment is that this movement will perpetuate and reinforce the current stratification and bifurcation of “coming apart.” Imagine a decade from now, when rich cognitive elites are still marrying like Ozzie and Harriet and communitying it up like Little House on the Prairie with a Tesla while the unwashed masses sit in Walmart parking lots at midnight on the first day of the month waiting for their food stamp debt cards to replenish (with Citi taking their cut, of course!), with doors locked, afraid of being jumped on the way back to the car. There will be many words to describe such a moment, but “libertarian” will not be one of them.

That’s why the connection between federalism, localism, civil society and personal happiness is so important, something that the Founders understood. Even though Americans’ lives were locally based, they were grateful for a national government that enabled them to enjoy lives like that. As Murray notes in In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, just as food is a resource necessary to meet the human need for nourishment, challenge is a resource to meet the human need for happiness. The Administrative State seeks to remove this challenge, as they do all challenges, from life, and in doing so inculcate an understanding of the relationship between the citizen and the state which leads to an unending series of damaging outcomes. For the high school graduate trying to find a job who discovers government will pay him not to work, gives his girlfriend and his child money and housing, and treat his public education as a disability, it’s not surprising how his life will turn out. And the Ruling Class and Administrative State are perfectly content with that.

This is the last thing the critics of the “libertarian moment” are missing: that this is a fundamentally hopeful message, based on a higher view of what free communities can achieve in the absence of the Administrative State. This massive generation has more individuals friendly to liberty and also more who are open to socialism. If the progressive view prevails, the “libertarian moment” will only be a moment – it will be crushed by the call by a permanently atomized people for government mandated equality via the Administrative State, at the behest of the Ruling Class. But if the view that favors human liberty prevails, it will be more than a moment – and we could be on the cusp of an amazing resurgence of the very values that made America exceptional in the first place. David Frum believes that the rise of libertarianism amounts to an expression of hopelessness and despair on the part of conservatives, that it amounts to surrender in the battle over “competing to govern the state”. No, it’s not – it is merely an acknowledgement that the policies he favors have failed, and that the next generation would rather try something different. It is driven by an understanding that as dangerous as it sounds, there is nothing better than when free people govern themselves.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Big Fat Lies About Fat

August 24, 2014, 9:09 AM

Americans are obsessed with fat; either with eating it or being it. We’ve been told that we’re too fat and we’re told that eating fat is bad for you. Being fat is your own business. You’ll feel better if you lose a few pounds, but you will enjoy your next meal if it has a fat content rather than being a bland cereal…which explains why so many cereals today have some sugary covering or content.

The fact is you can eat almost anything you like and remain a healthy weight if you just don’t eat too much of it. It’s not rocket science.

For politicians, however, controlling what we eat has become an obsession. A demented Democratic Representative, Rosa DeLauro, from Connecticut, has proposed a bill—the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act—SWEET for short, that would penalize people one-cent for every teaspoon of sugar used in their drink of choice. It’s none of her business, let along the government’s, what you want to drink.

This obsession with what we eat has been personified by First Lady Michelle Obama who championed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kinds Act that overhauled nutrition standards affecting more than thirty million children in schools around the nation.

It authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set standards for all food and beverages sold during the school day. The law includes vending machines, snack cards, and daytime fundraisers. That now means that campus bake sales, the most popular fundraiser, now has to pay heed to a federal law that forbids selling cakes, cupcakes, or cookies.

Laws like this are a perfect example of how intrusive into the ordinary lives of Americans of all ages are laws that are slowly killing the concept of personal choice and personal freedom. They also demonstrate how wrong such laws are when they are written and passed by people who are clueless about nutrition.

A recent Gallup poll on “consumption habits” revealed that “Nearly twice as many Americans say they are actively trying to avoid fat in their diet (56%) as say they are actively avoiding carbohydrates (29%). However, fewer Americans are avoiding fat now more than a decade ago.”

Over the years as a book reviewer and avid reader, I have read “You Must Eat Meat” by Max Ernest Jutte, MD and Frank Murray, and “The Cholesterol Delusion” by Ernest N. Curtis, MD. Both books authoritatively debunk what Americans have repeatedly been told about meat and cholesterol, but my earliest advisor on these and other food related topics was Rebecca Caruba,my Mother, who taught gourmet cooking for three decades in local adult schools and who authored two cookbooks. She was a keen student of nutrition and early on warned students against margarine, telling them to use real butter and to enjoy all manner of meats, cheeses, and other foods we are constantly told are not good for us.

At this point I want to add Nina Teicholz to the list of heroes like my Mother and the authors of the two books mentioned above. A skilled journalist, she has written a 479-page book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet” ($28.99, Simon & Schuster). The fact that it includes nearly 140 pages of tiny, single-spaced notes regarding every detail in the book tells you why it took some nine years to write it.

Simply stated, everything Americans think they know about our diets is wrong, the result of a deliberate campaign to convince us that eating fat is bad for us when, in fact, creamy cheeses and sizzling steaks are the key to reversing the obesity, diabetes, and heart disease that affect too many Americans.

As William Davis, MD, author of “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health” said, “A page-turner story of science gone wrong…Misstep by misstep, blunder by blunder by blunder, Teicholz recounts the statistical cherry-picking, political finagling, and pseudoscientific bully that brought us to yet another of the biggest mistakes in health and nutrition, the low-fat and low-saturated fat myth for heart health.”

The myth began in the 1950s with Ancel Benjamin Keys, a biologist and pathologist at the University of Minnesota. He was searching for the causes of heart disease. The nation was extremely fearful about it and the heart attack that President Eisenhower had while in office only added to their fears. Keys concluded that cholesterol was a major factor, but as Teicholz points out “It is a vital component of every cell membrane, controlling what goes in and out of the cell. It is responsible for the metabolism of sex hormones and is found at its highest concentration in the brain.”

Keys and other researchers, however, noting that cholesterol was the primary component of atherosclerotic plaques, assumed it to be “one of the main culprits in the development of coronary disease…This vivid and seemingly intuitive idea,” says Teicholz, “has stayed with us, even as the science has shown this characterization to be a highly simplistic and even inaccurate picture of the problem.” Keys would devote his life to advocating his misinterpretation of cholesterol and fat.

The problem with the word “fat” is that it has two very different meanings. One is the fat we eat and the other is the fat on our bodies. A book worth reading is “Fat: It’s Not What You Think” by Connie Leas, published in 2008 by Prometheus Books. As Ms. Teicholz notes, “A large number of experiments have since confirmed that restricting fat does nothing to slim people down (quite the reverse, actually), yet even so, the idea that there could be such a thing as ‘slimming fat’ will probably always seem to us like an oxymoron.”

I know that few will read Ms. Teicholz book, but you will surely welcome knowing that “saturated fat has not been demonstrated to lead to an increased risk of heart attacks for the great majority of people, and even the narrowing of the arteries has notbeen shown to predict a heart attack.”

The problem for all of us is that the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health both adopted the incorrect analysis of Keys et all, institutionalizing the diet-heart hypothesis and thus are setting the nutrition agenda.

My Mother cooked the most wonderful meals every day and more so on Sundays. She lived to 98 and my Father to 93, eating all manner of meat dishes along with fish and other choices. We all ate cheeses with gusto. And, yes, we loved pasta and Mother’s fabulous home baked breads and desserts. I am coming up soon on age 77 and my diet reflects what kept them alive and disease-free for all of their years.

If you or someone you know is seriously obsessed with their weight and health, recommend “The Big Fat Surprise” to them. I recommend it to you!

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Progressives Want Everything Locally Grown Except Government

August 24, 2014, 8:53 AM

Peter Blair has a piece at The American Interest on the anti-statist alliance that wasn’t. It’s worth a read:

Perhaps sensing an opportunity, social conservatives have used these libertarian fears to make the case for strengthening local communities. They argue that the disappearance of strong neighborhoods and towns created a void into which the overbearing hand of the state has entered. In this way, a roughly overlapping vocabulary of concerns has developed between the two groups. … Social conservatives are right to point out that traditional forms of social trust and community have eroded. There is a real sense of loss and tragedy to all this. But one shouldn’t let a desire to construct a bigger tent for Americans concerned about the growing power of the state lead one to the unwise conflation of two different views of human flourishing.

I am not convinced by Blair’s argument, which strikes me as premature. The overlap of civil libertarianism and the modern libertarian and federalist perspective on limited government is not merely due to shared vocabulary, but to an increasingly shared perspective on the encroachments of life under the ever-expanding scope of a nationalized and unrepresentative government. People with a shared understanding of government’s outsized power can absolutely be at odds over what a good American life looks like. City mice and country mice can both love liberty and understand the appeal of local government over the rule of distant administrators.

Today, progressives want everything locally grown except government. Why is this? In part, it’s because self-government proves the failure of the Administrative State. As a rule, responsible self-governing neighborhoods and communities thrive and foster virtues which lead to close-knit communities and strong civil institutions. Ideally, they turn into little Lake Woebegons, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average. The urban elites may mock the little pink houses with their picket fences, the soccer moms making grocery runs in the SUVs, the Vacation Bible Schools … but these are the communities where people actually live good wholesome American lives. The stronger these communities are, the more they form a hedge against the encroachments of government.

Consider the death of the suburbs, which has been predicted eagerly (and inaccurately) by the left for decades. Today just one out of ten Americans live in a square mile of more than 10,000 people. And while just a third of Millennials are the heads of their own households and only 1 in 4 are married, they overwhelmingly say that they want to get married and have a family – 70% for men and 78% for women. The desire of Millennials to own their own home is actually stronger than prior generations. And having a kid accelerates that desire even more, with the cohort with young children the likeliest to move to the suburbs or to small towns. Why is this? Because of the incentives of economy and community – the obvious benefit of neighborhood and homeownership and good schools and churches and community. Many Millennials won’t choose this life, but many more will. The presence of Yelp does not eliminate the lure of this approach.

The progressive left and the technocratic right want the whole world to look like the political machines they know and love. They cannot tolerate the idea that self-governing communities outside their approach to dealmaking and spoils-centered politics could give people an attractive alternative. That’s why it’s so essential to them that the major decisions about our economy, policing, health care, education, transportation funding, and more be made in Washington, where the order they seek to impose on people’s lives can be dictated by administrators beholden to no one except the stakeholders, the political and business interests who have a seat at the table.

The appeal of the self-governing community, which can decide for itself what is encouraged or discouraged, what is banned or made legal, is one directly at odds with this approach. The issue is not whether we all agree about the definition of the life well-lived. The issue remains, as Ronald Reagan framed it a half-century ago, “whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Sinestro Theory of The Administrative State

August 23, 2014, 9:39 PM

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a decline in the level of trust in government, and a rise in distrust, to levels unprecedented in American history. But to think this is an entirely new phenomenon is a mistake: trust in government has steadily declined since the Great Society and the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson.

This graph from Pew with data running through the fall of 2013 shows how people answer the question: “How much of the time do you trust the government in Washington?” The answer is pretty clear: not much at all.


There are many reasons that this phenomenon has accelerated despite the promises of one presidential candidate after another to restore our faith in government. But there is one reason in particular which runs through the political stories of the past year – the IRS scandals, the unanticipated failure of Obamacare’s implementation, the broad expansion of the administrative discretion and “the-secretary-shall” lawmaking, executive actions on amnesty and DACA, deleted emails right and left, and, most recently, the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for vetoing funding for a unit of legal bureaucrats after it became obvious they were headed by a drunk driver who refused to resign. On the whole, it presents a picture of how far the Administrative State is willing to blatantly ignore any checks on their ability to enact their whims.

Government has always been frustrated by any checks on their power. The Founders believed that you can check that power with the mob, either democratic or anarchic, for only so long before government would turn to despotism. So their solution was to deliberately balance the forces of power against each other, to tie the governors’ hands via limited, enumerated powers of national government. The Constitution made the action of government – in nearly all areas outside of waging war – deliberately difficult, and that was on purpose. It was supposed to be hard to pass new laws, not because the Founders were opposed to new laws, but because they wanted to make it impossible for those laws to oppress the people.

What the Founders did not anticipate was the degree to which those invested by the Constitution with the power to make law would find it politically advantageous over the course of a century to steadily cede their power to unelected governmental bodies of vast size and with an ever-enlarged mission. Representative government, it turns out, is very difficult. Better and wiser to shift the responsibility for such decisions to someone else – to tell the frustrated citizen that it is beyond your control to address their concern, and isn’t there an agency for that? This new unchecked branch of government has seized the power it wants along the way: the power to reward friends and grant waivers and special privileges to people and firms who they like or who play by their rules, to abuse their power in the course of punishing those who they don’t, the power to live large and cover up mistakes without that difficult legislative process.

That’s why they are so willing to go to such great lengths to hold on to their jobs. When bad things happen in the real world, heads roll. But in the world of the Administrative State, resignation is the worst possible thing you can demand of someone. So political appointees are given taxpayer funded vacations, cops who break the law are put on leave, and district attorneys who drive out-of-their-minds drunk demand they keep their job. Life in the bureaucracy is too sweet to lose, no matter what – and those who hold those positions know how good a deal they have and won’t give it up under any conditions.

What we’re talking about here is really just human nature, of course. Government employees want just what everyone else wants. The only difference is they think they have the power to make good on their whims. Consider this the right’s corollary to the Green Lantern theory of the presidency. In the era of the Administrative State, big government has been giving out too many rings to too many would-be Sinestros. And when it comes to trust in Washington, it’s the fact that this power is centralized in the Administrative State, rather than localized via federalism, which creates the special class of modern ringbearers. It allows them to work together in common purpose, as the progressives intended, as opposed to balancing and checking each other, as the Founders always understood to be essential.

The progressive view that checks and balances must be eliminated, that things should be organized by wise neutral administrators and we should just make things easier for the government to get things done (even Nuclear Option style), is motivated by the belief that the government can then make things a lot better for the people. But of course, in reality, the Administrative State is most interested in making things better for the people in government. And that’s where little things like trust start to break down.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Urgent Call for citizen action to rein in EPA

August 22, 2014, 9:57 AM

On June 2nd of this year the Obama administration announced new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a goal of reducing carbon emissions over the next 15 years. These goals as outlined by the EPA in the Clean Power Plan impose significant restrictions on power plants already in existence, even natural gas plants. Power plants are cited by the EPA as the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for roughly on-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

The reasons given by the EPA for its new regulations are in keeping with blaming man’s emission of CO2 as the cause for runaway global warming, yet the global temperature has remained flat over the past 17 years. History tells us that natural climate variability has happened over the centuries; i.e. the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than today. In 2009 some prominent alarmists are on record saying that if temperatures remained flat for 15-20 years, the scientific community needs to re-evaluate the theory. Three years later in 2012 a report in the UK Daily Mail revealed the following from a quietly released Met Office report:

The figures reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012 there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures

  • This means that the ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996

It’s 2014 and we’re now near the twenty-year time frame to re-evaluate the theory of global warming, but will it be possible to stop the new EPA regulations with the powerful force of government behind them?

According to the EPA, its Power Plan proposal will put Americans to work, make the U.S. electricity system less polluting and our homes and businesses more efficient, and shrink electricity bills by 8% in 2030.  If this sound too good to be true, it is!  According to an article by Katie Pavlich, “What you need to know about Obama’s new EPA regulations,” the regulations will negatively impact the economy in the following ways:

-New regulations will kill 226,000 American jobs.

-New regulations will cost the U.S. economy $51 billion per year.

-Even with new regulations, carbon is only expected to decrease by 1.8 percent by 2030.

-Despite EPA claims new regulations will reduce the cost of power, electricity rates are expected to go up, as coal-fired plants, the dominant source of cheap power, shut down in response to environmental regulations, further making new coal power plants impossible to build.

Later this year the EPA will decide whether it should tighten the air-quality standard for ground level ozone. In 2008 the EPA set ozone standards for air quality at 75 parts per billion (ppb).  Even before states have fully implemented the 2008 standards, the EPA is expected to propose revising it to as low as 60 ppb.  A new study for the National Association of Manufacturers by NERA Economic Consulting, finds that “the new ozone standard could cost Americans $170 billion annually, put millions of jobs at risk, and drastically increase energy prices for consumers and manufacturers.”

The Heartland Institute is circulating a “Citizen’s Petition to Rein in the Environmental Protection Agency.” You can read and sign the online petition below, download a hard copy of the petition, or contact The Heartland Institute at 312/377-4000 and ask that a petition be sent to sign, or for multiple copies to distribute to your family and friends.

Thorner first learned about Heartland’s call to action petition to reign in the EPA when receiving it as a handout at the The Ninth International Conference on Climate Change  which took place from July 7-9, 2014 in Las Vegas.  Some 650 scientists, economists, policy experts, and guests attended the ICCC9 conference, all willing to question whether man-made global warming is a problem worth addressing.  The ICCC9 schedule can be viewed here.  Videos (and PowerPoint presentations, when available) from every presenter can be seen here.

The nine statements in The Heartland Institute’s petition are capsules of knowledge gained through hard scientific data and observations as documented through published reports by the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), which counter the reports put forth by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change).  Given the devastating consequences of the proposed EPA regulation, an urgency exists for deep cuts in the size, power and cost of the EPA.  Below are the nine petition statement, each of which is proceeded by “Whereas”:

1.  For decades an unprecedented campaign has been waged to scare the American people into believing their health, safety and even survival was at stake because of manmade global warming.

2.  We were told that CO2, which makes up less than one-half of one-tenth of one percent of our atmosphere, is acting like a blanket, keeping the heat in, and it was going to cause the baking of the Earth.

3.  The hard scientific data now show that the predicted rise in global temperatures just plainly did not happen.

4.  Sea ice in the Arctic is rebounding and continues to expand in the Antarctic, despite predictions of the opposite, polar bears are thriving, and sea levels are not rising.

5.  Deaths due to extreme weather are radically declining and global tropical cyclone activity is at near record lows.

6.  It is now clear that the global warming alarmists are wrong and a large majority of Americans now understand it was a hoax.  It’s false that man reducing CO2 emissions — especially the U.S. virtually alone — will have any effect on the global temperature.

7.  Regulators at the EPA, having lost their war to scare America into giving them legislation that would allow them to seize control of virtually all energy production and use, are perverting the Clean Air law to give themselves unprecedented powers to regulate American society.

8.  The toll the EPA is now taking on this country is staggering, putting hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work.

9.  The only way a new president or a new Congress will undo the terrible damage being inflicted by the EPA after the election is if we make it a major issue NOW, BEFORE THE ELECTION, so that after the election even those who support the EPA’s reckless regulations will understand it is political suicide to support them.

First revealed at The Ninth International Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas in July, was a plan by Jay Lehr, Ph.D, science director at The Heartland Institute to replace the EPA.  Dr. Lehr’s plan, “Replacing the Environmental Protection Agency,” was posted on July 15 at Heartland as a policy document.  Click to read the full text of this document59.97 KB

In Congress Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) has called for legislation that would ban the EPA from issuing rules through the proposed EPA’s Waters of the United States program, which would wreak havoc on farmers and possibly drive up food prices.

The E.P.A. says the new rules are needed to clarify which bodies of water it must oversee under the federal Clean Water Act.

The EPA has outlived its usefulness.  Don’t delay by downloading and signing The Heartland Institute petition as a citizen concerned about the overreach of the EPA and its proposals which point to economic disaster for this nation.

Categories: On the Blog

EPA Pesticide Bans Threaten You and the Economy

August 22, 2014, 9:46 AM

When Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring”, was published, filled with totally false claims about DDT, the Environmental Protection Agency looked it over and concluded she had used manipulated data. They concluded that DDT should not be banned, but its first administrator, William Ruckleshaus, overruled the agency and imposed a ban.

Ruckleshaus was a lawyer, not a scientist. He was also politically connected enough to hold a variety of government positions. He got the nod for the EPA job from John Mitchell, Nixon’s Attorney General who later went to jail for his participation in the Watergate cover-up.

Wikipedia says, “With the formation of EPA, authority over pesticides was transferred to it from the Department of Agriculture. The fledgling EPA’s first order of business was whether to issue a ban of DDT. Judge Edmund Sweeney was appointed to examine the case and held testimony hearings for seven months. His conclusion was that DDT “is not a carcinogenic hazard to man” and that “there is a present need for the essential uses of DDT”. However, Ruckelshaus (who had not attended the hearings or read the report himself) overruled Sweeney’s decision and issued the ban nevertheless, claiming that DDT was a ‘potential human carcinogen.’” In 2008, having returned to the practice of law, he endorsed Barack Obama.

I cite this history from the 1970s because most people believe that the EPA operates on the basis of science and, from the beginning, that could hardly have been less true. It has evolved over the years into a totally rogue government agency issuing thousands of regulations with the intent to control virtually every aspect of life in America, from agriculture to manufacturing, and, in the case of pesticides, the effort to ban them all, always claiming that it was to protect public health.

Not killing pests, insects and rodents, is a great way to put everyone’s health in jeopardy. New York City announced a new war in May against rats and will spend $600,000 to hire new inspectors to deal with an increased population. Lyme disease and West Nile Fever are just two of the diseases that require serious insect pest control. A wide variety of insects spread many diseases from Salmonella to Hantavirus. Termites do billions in property damage every year.

Thanks to the EPA ban on DDT and the nations that followed the USA action, an estimated 60 million people have died from malaria since 1970 because it was and is the most effective way to control the mosquitoes that spread it, particularly in Africa. In the West, malaria had been eliminated thanks to the use of DDT before the ban.

In the 1980s I worked with the company that produced an extraordinary pesticide, Ficam that was applied with nothing more than water. Although it had gone through the costly process of securing EPA registration, the agency told the manufacturer it would have to do so again. Because the cost could not justify re-registration it was taken off the market in the USA, but continues to be used successfully for malaria control in more than sixteen nations in Sub-Saharan Africa and against the spread of Chagas, a tropical parasitic disease in Latin American nations. Ficam can be used to control a wide variety of insect pests. But not in the USA.

In 2000, the EPA, during the Clinton-Gore administration, announced that “a major step to improve safety for all Americans from the health risks posed by pesticides. We are eliminating virtually all home and garden use of Dursban—the most used household pesticide in the United States.”  It was widely used because it did a great job of controlling a wide variety of insect pests, but the EPA preferred the pests to the human species it allegedly was “protecting.” The ban was directed against chlorpyrifos which the EPA noted was “the most commonly used pesticide in homes, buildings, and schools.” It was used in some 800 pest control products.

Recently I have been receiving notices from Friends of the Earth (FOE) announcing “a new effort to help save bees. “We need to ban bee-killing pesticides now!” says one of their emails, claiming that “A growing body of science shows that neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides are a key contributor to bee declines.” This is an outright lie. As always, FOE’s claims are accompanied by a request for a donation.

Dr. HenryI. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, was a founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology. Recently he disputed the White House’s creation of a Pollinator Health Task Force and a directive to the EPA to “assess the effect if pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate.”  This is the next step—a totally political one—that will deny one of the most important pesticides to protect crops from being used. “This would have disastrous effects on modern farming and food prices,” warns Dr. Miller.

“Crafted to target pests that destroy crops, while minimizing toxicity to other species, neonics,” said Dr. Miller, “are much safer for humans and other vertebrates than previous pesticides…there is only circumstantial or flawed experimental evidence of harm to bees by neonics.”

“The reality is that honeybee populations are not decline,” noted Dr. Miller, citing U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization statistics. If anything is affecting bee populations worldwide it is the increasingly cold weather than has been occurring for the past 17 years as the result of a natural cooling cycle which is the result of less solar radiation from the Sun. The other threat to bee is Varroa mites and the “lethal viruses they vector into bee colonies.”

“A ban on neonics would not benefit bees, because they are not the chief source of bee health problems today.

But the Friends of the Earth who are no friends of the humans that live on it want to ban neonics and it is clear that the White House and the EPA are gearing up, for example, to induce a major reduction in crops such as Florida’s citrus industry which is subject to the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that spreads a devastating disease of citrus trees. Other food crops are similarly affected by insect pests and the end result of a ban would severely damage the U.S. economy.

In every way possible the environmentalists—Greens—continue to attack the nation’s and the world’s food supply and the result of that will kill off a lot of humans. The EPA’s pesticide bans are not about protecting health. They are an insidious way of increasing sickness from an ancient enemy of mankind, insect and rodent pests.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Categories: On the Blog

The New York Times Has Zero Idea How the Internet Works – Or Is Lying Its Masthead Off

August 22, 2014, 9:34 AM

It takes a special man to cram so much wrong into a mere 342 words.  Or an Old Grey Lady.

The New York Times utterly ridiculous Editorial Board recently as one addressed Title II Internet regulatory Reclassification and Network Neutrality – and they did so in utterly ridiculous fashion.

They either have absolutely no idea what any of this is – or they are lying through their printing presses.

The Times calls for the federal government to illegally commandeer control of the entirety of the World Wide Web – so as to then impose Net Neutrality.  Guess with whom they are in agreement?

The hardcore Media Marxist Left wants President (Barack) Obama’s Federal Communications Commission to unilaterally change – for the worse – how the government regulates the Internet. Which would be an egregious violation of existing law – the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

This law classified the Internet as Title I – a very light-touch regulatory regime. As happens when the government largely leaves something alone, the Internet has become a free speech, free market Xanadu. Arguably no endeavor in human history has grown so big, so well, so fast.

If ever there was an example of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – this is it. Yet the perpetually broken government is listening to these Leftist loons – and considering the move to Title II.

Title II is the uber-regulatory superstructure with which we have strangled landline phones – you know, that bastion of technological and economic innovation. Which do you find more impressive – your desktop dialer or your iPhone?

Title II regulations date back to the 1930s – so you know they’ll be a perfect fit for the ultra-modern, incredibly dynamic, expanding-like-the-universe World Wide Web.

This would be the most detrimental of all Information Superhighway road blocks. Rather than the omni-directional, on-the-fly innovation that now constantly occurs, Title II is a Mother-May-I-Innovate, top-down traffic congest-er.

Imagine taking a 16-lane Autobahn down to just a grass shoulder.

The Times editorial wrongness begins in their title.

President Obama: No Internet Fast Lanes

There will be no “fast lanes.”  There will be what there have been since just about the Internet’s inception – innovative ways to make uber-bandwidth hogs, like video merchants, easier to deliver.  Which keeps the traffic for everyone flowing smoothly.

The Web would have long ago ground to a halt had not these innovations been developed and continuously enhanced.  The bandwidth hogs are looking to have the government mandate that the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) build, maintain and grow them – and give the hogs free, unlimited access.

Guess who would then get to pick up that gi-normous, ever-growing, ongoing tab?  Hint: You saw him or her this morning brushing your teeth.

The Times then gets the first half of their very first sentence wrong.

The Federal Communications Commission, which could soon allow phone and cable companies to block or interfere with Internet content,….

Actually, ISPs have always and forever been able to do that.  But they haven’t.  Why?  Because they are in the customer service business – if they intentionally fail to service their customers, they will no longer have customers.

It’s called the free market, Times.  You should look into it – instead of looking to end it.

And there are already existing laws and an existing government entity – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – to address this if it ever does happen.  Which it won’t.

More Times inanity:

The F.C.C. is trying to decide whether telecommunications companies should be able to strike deals with powerful firms like Netflix and Amazon for faster delivery of videos and other data to consumers.

As Amazon grew and their package tally exponentially increased, it didn’t demand the various delivery services keep their shipping rates exactly the same.  That would be absurd.

And I’m sure the government-run Postal Service would have been very accommodating of that request.

Small and young businesses will not be able to compete against established companies if they have to pay fees to telephone and cable companies to get content to users in a timely manner.

Small and young businesses don’t and won’t have to pay – because they are but a blip on the Internet radar screen.  Netflix and Google’s YouTube are at peak times more than half of all U.S. Internet trafficthey should pay a little something, you know, for the effort.

If you leave the grocery store with twenty steaks, you pay more than if you walk around a little and leave with nothing – is that so complicated?

Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the F.C.C. who was appointed by Mr. Obama, has proposed troubling rules that would allow cable and phone firms to enter into specials with companies like Facebook and Google as long as the contracts are “commercially reasonable.

Apparently it is, in fact, too complicated for the Times.  Which wants to mandate grocery stores allow someone to fill up an eighteen-wheeler with steaks – and pay the store nothing.  Which isn’t “commercially reasonable”- it is supermarket death by government.

Which is exactly what the Media Marxists want for the Internet.

“(T)he ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.

How very Hugo Chavez of them.  And, of course, the New York Times.

[Originally published at NewsBusters]

Categories: On the Blog

Don’t Tax the Internet into Oblivion

August 21, 2014, 9:56 AM

Original photo by Alexander Anton.

Most of us who have grown up with the Internet have watched it do amazing work. Companies that are idea-driven and whose sources of income come from “users” have even started going public with major IPOs. Whatever has been going on seems to be working. Freedom surges online; anyone can start a Facebook page, a Tumblr blog, a PayPal account, a Twitter, or a YouTube account and gain millions of followers with as little capital as a phone or a PC. Even the much ridiculed Justin Bieber was found by Usher on YouTube, where the young star is now worth $200 million—all in just seven short years.

For much of the time that this extreme growth occurred, the government was careful not to hamper innovation. The recent debate has been about the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) that is set to expire on November 1st. First created in 1998, it has been renewed three times, preventing state and local taxation of Internet access and electronic commerce. It also allows seven states who were taxing Internet access prior to the law to be grandfathered in so they can continue unabridged.

It seems at first glance that the federal government should not be telling states and municipalities what they can and can’t tax, but undue taxes naturally hinder the flow of the marketplace to begin with. Looking at current cell phone taxes provide some insight as to how Internet access taxes could look if the law expires. The national average on cell phone taxes is over 16.3%! My $80/month “unlimited everything” plan from Sprint sounds good in a Spotify ad or on a billboard, but it’s deceiving. It’s actually closer to $100 with all the extra taxes. A similar phenomenon could happen and put accessing the Internet out of reach for people who can barely afford it now.

A bipartisan group in the Senate has been working on a proposal called the Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act, which would ban Internet access taxes for another 10 years, but allow states to collect sales taxes from out-of-state companies, and still allow grandfathered states to charge Internet access taxes. It is unclear whether or not sales taxes from Internet purchases would also be up for expiration after 10 years like the Internet access tax ban would be, but it seems unlikely.

Since the Internet itself has no one “location,” it would be difficult to create a simple set of tax rules for items bought and sold. Rather than make it complex and add to the mix of confusing tax policies that already dominate American life, we should continue to shop and sell unabridged from government interference. Because the Internet can facilitate private marketplace transactions easily and efficiently, profits can be spent on investments that can lead humanity further into the future. Imagine if the government taxed the Internet. They could tax individual apps, how much data you use, the words you type in an email or a blog… Considering there are state taxes that apply to altered bagels in New York, toilet-flushing in Maryland, or holiday decorations in Texas, it isn’t far-fetched that certain states would come up with odd ways to suck out as much money as they could from the Internet…and for counties and cities that have home rule, and thus, their own taxes, multiple taxes by multiple bodies of government could begin appearing.

This proposal is ludicrous, especially since we still operate under federalism. If the Internet is inherently borderless and knows no location, then it should not have any state or local tax applied to its use. Imagine the arguments between states on who should be able to tax what. Should the states that house the servers for the seller’s website get any of the revenue? How about the state where the seller lives? What about the state that the seller’s items get shipped out of? These, along with many other variables, seem not to be an option when it comes to Internet sales taxes.

When taxes are first explained to us—probably when most of us were young—they made it sound all well and good. “Taxes are used for roads and schools and to defend our country!” We repeatedly hear these statements throughout our lives. However, as we grow up, we realize how wasteful governments of all sizes are. The surplus of social security income is not kept in a nice “pot” for us to all go back and draw from (plus, it’s a forced retirement plan), and tolls we pay in most states (with exorbitant fines if you don’t pay, often marked up 1000% or more than the original price)—contrary to popular belief—do not all go to repairing and building new highways. The documented waste, tax increases, new tax proposals all keep growing and growing while the good service we’re promised for our schools and our roads and our defense continually seems neglected. Do not add Internet taxes of any kind—sales or access—to this list that will only fuel the government fire of irresponsibility and waste for decades to come.

Categories: On the Blog

Debunking Consumerist Bogus Claim Mobile Data Does Not Compete with Cable

August 21, 2014, 6:13 AM

Pro-regulation interests often resort to highly misleading arguments to advance their cause. Fortunately that kind of deception ultimately exposes the weakness of their underlying argument and public policy position.

To promote Netflix’ “strong” version of net neutrality regulation and to oppose the Comcast-TWC acquisition, Consumerist just framed a very deceptive whopper competition argument: “Comcast says mobile data is competitive, but it costs $2k to stream Breaking Bad over LTE.”

Consumerist“Since Netflix is the driver of so much internet traffic, and the center of so many of the conversations around home broadband, TV seemed to be the way to go. The question we decided to answer is: How much will you pay for the data it takes to watch the entire series run of Breaking Bad in one month?” Consumerist’s contrived calculation was $1,200 – $2,200 for a billing cycle.

Consumerist cynically uses a classic deceptive straw man argument, hoping that most people will not catch their bogus premise that Comcast does not have broadband competition from 4 national mobile LTE OTT competitors, because it is exceptionally more expensive to binge-watch premium video programming on mobile LTE plans than it is on cable.

Let’s deconstruct this clearly unreasonable straw man argument.

First, no good deed goes unpunished. Consumerist turns the great benefit of Comcast-TWC’s high-bandwidth/usage broadband offerings that enable binge-watching of premium programming, into a problem!

Second, one can easily buy all seasons of Breaking Bad on DVD at Best Buy and other retail outlets, or on iTunes and Amazon.

Third, one can binge-watch Breaking Bad on cable or DBS — with or without a DVR. These technologies are designed, in infrastructure and economic model, to enable mass binge-watching economically.

Fourth, almost no one uses mobile LTE Consumerist’ straw man way. That’s because people know how to routinely use free WiFi to watch video on their LTE phones. Most LTE providers enable and encourage offloading high-bandwidth video content like Breaking Bad onto WiFi to more-economically manage their data usage. In addition, cable broadband providers offer their subscribers free WiFi in hundreds of thousands of spots in America so they also could binge-watch in those widely-available locations if they wanted to.

Fifth, in what common sense world is it bad for people to binge-watch video programming on technologies actually designed for viewing mass volumes of video by millions of people? Any engineer will tell Consumerist that distributing large volumes of video programming daily to many millions of people is highly economic and efficient via over-the-air broadcast, cable, or DBS technologies.

Sixth, Consumerist’s straw-man argument rests on an even more bogus straw-man core-assumption: competitors must have near identical offerings to consumers in order to be considered competitive substitutes. That is not a consumer-focused view of competition, because consumers know they have a diversity of wants, needs, demands, and means that need to be matched with a diversity of technologies, infrastructures, services, amounts, and prices. Diversity of choice, availability of innovative offerings, and robust investment are all hallmarks of dynamic market competition, and which are all generously present in America’s world-leading broadband and video distribution markets.

Lastly, Consumerist is implicitly promoting the Netflix argument for maximal broadband regulation and blocking the Comcast-TWC acquisition by assuming that the high-end markets that offer the highest prices for the most cutting-edge or market-leading services can be separated from the underlying basic mass market — for antitrust purposes. The fallacy here is similar to thinking that the market for luxury cars is separate from the market for non-luxury cars – when one can understand that the distinction of what car or feature is considered a “luxury” when the products and features in high-end markets are highly-fluid, with easily-disputed market boundaries.

In sum, apparently NetFlix, Consumerist and other broadband-regulation maximalists, need to resort to deceptive straw man arguments to try and somehow justify their extreme position for maximal broadband regulation and blocking the Comcast-TWC merger.

Importantly, one of the things that make the FCC an expert agency is that they can see through fallacious straw men arguments, and FCC-reviewing courts certainly can as well.

[First published at the Precursor blog.]

Categories: On the Blog