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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Obama Disses Alaska

January 27, 2015, 2:53 PM

Fifty million Americans who live in the northeast will experience what is predicted to be a historic blizzard from Monday evening through Tuesday. Cities and towns will virtually or literally close down. People will be told to stay indoors for their safety and to facilitate the crews that will labor to clear the roads of snow.

In other words, welcome to Alaska, a place that is plenty cold most of the year and which is no stranger to snow and ice.

Alaska, however, has something that the whole world considers very valuable; oil and natural gas. Lots of it. In 1980 a U.S. Geological Survey estimated that the Coastal Plain could contain up to 17 billion barrels of oil and 34 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In 1987, the U.S Department of Interior confirmed the earlier estimate, saying that “in place resources” ranged from 4.8 billion to 29.4 billion barrels of oil. Recoverable oil estimates ranged from 600 million barrels at the low end to 9.2 billion barrels at the high end.

A nation with an $18 trillion debt might be expected to want to take advantage of this source of revenue, but no, not if that debt was driven up by the idiotic policies of President Barack Obama and not if it could be reduced by the same energy industry that has tapped similar oil and natural gas reserves in the lower 48 states by drilling on private, not public lands.

Instead, on Sunday President Obama referred to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as “an incredible place—pristine, undisturbed. It supports caribou and polar bears” and other species and, guess what, tapping its vast oil and natural gas reserves would not interfere in any way with those species despite the whopping lie that “it’s very fragile.”

At Obama’s direction, the Interior Department announced it was proposing to preserve as wilderness nearly 13 million acres of land in ANWR’s 19.8 million-acre area. That would include 1.5 million acres of coastal plains that Wall Street Journal reported to be “believed to have rich oil and natural gas reserves.”

Not a whole lot of people choose ANWR as a place to vacation. It is a harsh, though often beautiful, area that only the most experienced visitor might want to spend some time. I would want to make every environmentalist who thinks any drilling would harm the area have to take up residence in its “pristine” wilderness to confirm that idiotic notion.

They would find plenty of caribou, polar bears and other species hanging out amidst the oil and gas rigs, and along the pipe line. The Central Arctic Caribou Herd that migrates through the Prudhoe Bay oil field, just next to ANWR has increased from 5,000 animals in the 1970s to more than 50,000 today. There is no evidence than any of the animal species have experienced any decline.

The Coastal Plain lies between known major discovery areas and the Prudhoe Bay, Lisburne, Endicott, Milne Point and Kuparuk oil fields are currently in production In 1996, the North Slope oil fields produced about 1.5 million barrels of oil per day or approximately 25% of the U.S. domestic production. Alaska is permitted to export its oil because of its high levels of productivity.

So why has Obama’s Department of the Interior decided it wants to shut off energy exploration and extraction in a whopping 13-million acres of what is already designated as a wildlife refuge and along its coastlines on the Beaufort and Chukchi seas? The answer is consistent with Obama’s six years of policies to deny Americans the benefits of the nation’s vast energy reserves, whether it is the coal that has previously provided 50% of our electrical energy—now down by 10%–or access to reserves of oil and natural gas that would make our nation energy independent as well as a major exporter.

The good news is that only Congress has the authority to declare an area as wilderness. It has debated the issue for more than 30 years and in 12 votes in the House and 3 votes in the Senate it has passed legislation supporting development and opposing the wilderness designation.

And guess who is the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee? Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaskan Republican. She also heads up the appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Interior Department!

This latest Obama ANWR gambit is going to go nowhere. It does, however, offer the Republican Congress an opportunity to demonstrate its pro-energy credentials.

“I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska,” said Sen. Murkowski when informed of Obama’s latest attack.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jim Steele: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

January 27, 2015, 2:24 PM

Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett interviews Jim Steele, ecologist, director emeritus of the Sierra Nevada field campus of San Francisco State University, in today’s podcast. Steele is the author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism.

In the podcast, Jim discusses how climate alarmism is undermining legitimate conservation goals by misdiagnosing the cause of environmental problems by diverting resources away from direct solutions to those problems. He also discusses lies that climate alarmists have told concerning moose declines, butterfly and mangrove population expansions, problems with Emperor Penguins and in general how climate alarmism is undermining science as an endeavor in the pursuit of knowledge.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Blizzard That Wasn’t

January 27, 2015, 1:51 PM

The Blizzard of 2015 was largely a dud.

There was no climate change where I live in a suburb of Newark, N.J. if by “climate change” you meant a dramatic blizzard with high winds and several feet of snow. It’s winter and you get the occasional, rare blizzard every few years, but more often you get snowstorms. That’s not “change” by any definition.

Listening to WABC radio follow events with callers from around the Tri-State area calling in with far more accurate reports than the meteorologists was an education in the way those trained in meteorology and the rest of us have been conditioned to believe that something is happening to planet Earth that, quite simply, is not happening.

The meteorologists spent their time trying to figure out the difference between a European computer model and one generated here in the U.S. The former predicted far worse conditions. The latter fell victim, along with the rest of us, to the mindset that the conditions the computers were interpreting did not reflect what was actually happening.

At this early morning hour, it is clear that Long Island, parts of Connecticut, and generally along the coastlines, there has been a heavier snowfall. A few miles inland however it is a far different story. Callers who had been out in the midst of the storm described light, powdery snow and perhaps two to four inches at most.

Why, they asked, did the Governors of New York and New Jersey, along with the Mayor of New York City close down the metropolitan area? They speculated on the millions of lost income for everyone involved in a storm that was not posing a significant traffic or other problems, but who had seen businesses, schools, bus lines, and other public facilities shut down. When a significantly incorrect weather prediction does that, it demonstrates how important it is to correctly interpret the data being provided by the satellites—the best source.

When, earlier in January, NOAA and NASA reported that 2014 had been “the warmest year” it should have raised far more questions and media coverage given the sheer absurdity of such a report. Remember, though, these are two federal government agencies we expect to get it right. They didn’t just get it wrong, skeptical scientists were quick to note how they had deliberately distorted the data on which they based the claim.

That is the heart of the issue surrounding the endless claims of “global warming” or “climate change.”  The planet has not been warming for 19 years at this point because the sun has been in a perfectly natural cycle of low radiation.

Centuries ago, it was noticed that when there are few sunspots, magnetic storms, the Earth got colder. Thus, “climate change” is not an unusual event, but rather a reflection of the well-known cycles of warmth or cold that the planet has passed through for billions of years.

At this writing it is too early in the morning hours to know what the rest of the East Coast looks like, but the indications are that, as one moves westward the “blizzard” has been far less than the one predicted and will likely be downgraded to a standard winter snowstorm.

That’s the good news. The bad news was the over-reaction of meteorologists and politicians. No doubt they wanted to be “safe than sorry” but they inadvertently taught us all a lesson about the way environmental organizations and a government led by a President telling us that “climate change” is the most dangerous challenge facing us have been deliberately lying about the true meteorological record in order to drag us all back to a time in which we burned wood for heat and rode horses for transportation.

The Greens don’t like humans much and that is why they have been lying about “man-made” climate change when the climate has nothing to do with human activities.

Listen to the skeptics, often maliciously called “deniers”, when they tell you the truth about the meteorological science that has been deliberately distorted since the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988. It has been lying to us ever since.

Depending on where you live in the area in which the snow fell and the winds blew, trust your eyes. Trust your commonsense. Be more skeptical because the blizzard that wasn’t is not a lesson you want to forget anytime soon.

Categories: On the Blog

Deception, Agenda and Folly Drive Latest Obama EPA Anti-hydrocarbon Rules. Are Farmers Next?

January 27, 2015, 12:38 PM

First they came for the coal mining and power plant industry, and most people did not speak out because they didn’t rely on coal, accepted Environmental Protection Agency justifications at face value, or thought EPA’s war on coal would benefit them.

In fact, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon gave the Sierra Club $26 million, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the Club $50 million, to help it wage a Beyond Coal campaign. The Sierra Club later claimed its efforts forced 142 U.S. coal-fired power plants to close, raising electricity rates, threatening grid reliability, and costing thousands of jobs in dozens of states.

Mr. McClendon apparently figured eliminating coal from America’s energy mix would improve his natural gas business. The mayor likes renewable energy and detests fossil fuels, which he blames for climate change that he tried to finger for the damages “Superstorm” Sandy inflicted on his city.

Now the Obama EPA is coming after the natural gas industry. Hopefully many will speak out this time, before more costly rules kill more jobs and damage the health and welfare of more middle class Americans. The war on coal, after all, is really a war on fossil fuels and affordable energy, and an integral component of President Obama’s determination to “fundamentally transform” the United States.

Proposed EPA regulations would compel drilling and fracking companies to reduce methane (natural gas or CH4) emissions by 40-45% by 2025, compared to 2012. Companies would have to install technologies that monitor operations and prevent inadvertent leaks. The rules would apply only to new or modified sites, not existing operations. However, Big Green activist groups are already campaigning to have EPA expand the rule to cover existing gas wells, fracking operations, gas processing facilities and pipelines.

But companies already control their emissions, to avoid polluting the air, and because natural gas is a valuable resource that they would much rather sell than waste. That’s why EPA data show methane emissions falling 17% even as gas production increased by 37% between 1990 and 2014, and why natural gas operations employing hydraulic fracturing reduced their methane emissions by 73% from 2011 to 2013. The rules are costly and unnecessary, and would bring few benefits.

The Obama Administration thus justifies them by claiming they will help prevent “dangerous manmade climate change.” Methane, EPA says, has a warming effect 50 times greater than carbon dioxide. This assertion is wildly inflated, by as much as a factor of 100, Dr. Fred Singer says. Atmospheric water vapor already absorbs nearly all the infrared radiation (heat) that methane could, and the same radiation cannot be absorbed twice. The physics of Earth’s surface infrared emission spectrum are also important.

More importantly, to borrow a favorite Obama phrase, let me make one thing perfectly clear. There is no dangerous manmade climate change, now or on the horizon. There is no evidence that methane or carbon dioxide emissions have replaced the complex, powerful, interconnected natural forces that have driven warming, cooling, climate and weather fluctuations throughout Earth and human history. There is no evidence that recent extreme weather events are more frequent or severe than over the previous 100 years.

Indeed, planetary temperatures have not budged for more than 18 years, and we are amid the longest stretch since at least 1900 (more than nine years) without a Category 3-5 hurricane hitting the United States. If CO2 and CH4 are to be blamed for every temperature change or extreme weather event, then shouldn’t they also be credited for this lack of warming and deadly storms? But climate hype continues.

We are repeatedly told, “Climate change is real, and humans are partly to blame.” The statement is utterly meaningless. Earth’s climate fluctuates frequently, and human activities undoubtedly have some influences, at least on local (especially urban) temperatures. The question is, How much of an effect? Are the temperature and other effects harmful or beneficial, especially when carbon dioxide’s enormous role in improved plant growth is factored in? Would slashing U.S. CO2 and CH4 emissions mean one iota of difference, when China, India and other countries are doing nothing to reduce their emissions?

Nevertheless, the latest NASA press release asserts that 2014 was “the hottest since the modern instrumental record began,” and again blames mankind’s carbon dioxide emissions. This deliberately deceptive, fear-inducing claim was quickly retracted, but not before it got extensive front-page coverage.

Let me make another fact perfectly clear. The alleged global temperature increase was 0.02 degrees C (0.04 degrees F). It is not even measurable by our most sensitive instruments. It is one-fifth the margin of error in these measurements. It ignores satellite data and is based on ground-level instruments that are contaminated by urban heat and cover less than 15% of Earth’s surface. Even NASA admitted it was only 38% confident of being correct – and 62% certain that it was wrong. Analyses by Dr. Tim Ball, Marc Morano, Anthony Watts and other experts provide more details eviscerating this bogus claim.

In the end, though, all these real-world facts are irrelevant. We are dealing with a catechism of climate cataclysm: near-religious zealotry by a scientific-industrial-government-activist alliance that has built a financial, political and regulatory empire. They are not about to renounce any claims of climate catastrophe, no matter how much actual evidence debunks their far-fetched computer model scenarios.

Their EPA-IPCC “science” is actively supported by most of the “mainstream media” and by the World Bank, universities, renewable energy companies and even some churches. They will never willingly surrender the political influence and billions of dollars that CAGW claims bring them. They won’t even admit that wind and solar facilities butcher birds and bats by the millions, scar landscapes, impair human health, cannot exist without coal and natural gas, and are probably our least sustainable energy option. They want gas prices to rise again, so that heavily subsidized renewable energy is competitive once more.

Meanwhile, polls reveal that regular, hard-working, middle-income Americans care most about terrorism, the economy, jobs, healthcare costs, education and job opportunities after graduation; climate change is always dead last on any list. Regular Europeans want to end the “energy poverty” that has killed countless jobs, and each winter kills thousands of elderly people who can no longer afford to eat their homes properly. The world’s poorest citizens want affordable electricity, higher living standards, and an end to the lung infections, severe diarrhea, malaria and other diseases of poverty that kill millions of children and parents year after year – largely because alarmists oppose nuclear, coal and gas-fired power plants.

But federal regulators, climate chaos “ethicists” and “progressives” who loudly profess they care deeply about the poor and middle classes – all ignore these realities. They focus on methane, because they view it as a clever way to inject federal oversight and control into an energy sector that had been largely free of such interference, because the fracking revolution has thus far taken place mostly on state and private lands governed effectively by state and local regulators. (Federal lands are mostly off limits.)

The proposed methane rules would generate more delays, paperwork, costs and job losses, to comply with more federal regulations that will bring no detectable benefits – and much harm, at a time when plunging oil and gas prices are forcing drillers to reduce operations and lay people off.

President Obama devoted 15 lines of his 2015 State of the Union speech to climate fables and propaganda. His goal is steadily greater control over our lives, livelihoods, living standards and liberties, with little or no transparency or accountability for regulators, pseudo-scientists or activists.

It won’t be long before EPA and Big Green come for farmers and ranchers – to curtail “climate-wrecking” methane emissions from cattle, pig and sheep flatulence and dung, and exert greater control over agricultural water, dust and carbon dioxide. By then, there may be no one left to speak out.

Categories: On the Blog

Public Sector Unions Gain Power, Lose Popularity, says Economist

January 26, 2015, 2:52 PM

While becoming more and more powerful, public sector unions are losing favor with taxpayers, Daniel DiSalvo, author of “Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences,” said during a forum hosted by The Illinois Policy Institute Tuesday in Chicago.

The event’s format was that of a two-way conversational discussion that took place between DiSalvo and Paul Kersey, director of labor policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, about the role of public-sector unions in politics today. Daniel DiSalvo is Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Colin Powell School at The City College of New York-CUNY and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute’s Center for State and Local Leadership.

Although Americans have long supported public unions because they associate them with the merits of the working class, recently taxpayers have begun to see reality with polls showing that barely half of Americans approve of unions, while an overwhelming majority approve of Right-to-Work laws.

Emily Rose, Vice President of Development, introduced Paul Kersey and Daniel DiSalvo.  Mr. Kersey directed a series of questions to DiSalvo for his response, all of which were relevant to DiSalvo’s book, “Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and its Consequences.”

The book is about a broken system whose financial consequences have reached the point of being unsustainable. The broken system referenced pertains to unions representing government workers in contrast to those found in the private sphere.

No longer the underdog, public-sector unions since 2009 have totaled more members than the membership in traditional private-sector unions. This imbalance came about when in 1962 President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988 permitting collective bargaining for federal employees.  Around the same time state and city workers, teachers and firemen were starting to unionize.

Following is an account, with photo, of President John F. Kennedy signing Executive Order 10988:

Fifty years ago, on January 17, 1962, Federal employees first obtained the right to engage in collective bargaining through labor organizations when President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10988, “Employee-Management Cooperation in the Federal Sector.” Executive Order 10988 issued as result of the findings of the Task Force on Employee-Management Relations in the Federal Service, which was created by a memorandum issued to all executive department and agency heads by President Kennedy on June 22, 1961. In this memorandum the President noted that, “The participation of employees in the formation and implementation of employee policy and procedures affecting them contributes to the effective conduct of public business,” and that this participation should be extended to representatives of employees and employee organizations.

Public-sector government employment now accounts to 17% of total U.S. employment.  Those employed are mostly found in state and local governments, with teacher having the most members, about 41% of the total public membership. The cost of public sector union employees (teachers) eats up two-thirds of the government’s (school district’s) operational budget. Public sector workers actually fight for benefits whose provision will hurt the public.

What is the nature of pubic unions versus private unions?

  • In public sector unions, pre-existing job protection exists through civil laws that provide protections from arbitrary firing, transfers, and disciplinary actions that private sector workers usually lack.
  • Government can access new revenue through taxation, while private workers are fully exposed to the business cycle.
  • Public sector unions can vote for the politicians who sit across from them at the bargaining table.  This gives politicians (or their delegates) an incentive to give unions concessions instead of bargaining hard, like private-sector unions do.
  • Public sector unions contribute billions to candidates on every level, almost always to candidates from one party.  At one point or other, these are the very candidates who will be “negotiating” contracts with these public sector unions, a definite conflict of interest.  In some states public unions have become so powerful, that there is no opposition.  They can also exert greater influence on their members that private sector unions, through political lobbying.
  • In the private sector the argument is over how to divvy up the profits: How much to owners, how much to management, how much to labor, and how much spent to improve products? If labor gets too greedy, that drives up the cost of whatever they’re making until customers start buying less. Profits then decrease, raises decrease or stop altogether, and jobs start going away.  Labor either wises up of the company goes down. The public sector can’t go out of business no matter how much union members manage to squeeze out of it. Union members have no incentive to settle for less, and the costs get passed along to the taxpayer.  In many cases management benefits from higher settlements.
  • Workers in the private sector struggle with stagnant wages, disappearing benefits, and rising retirement ages, while unionized public employees retire in their fifties, many with over $100,000 a year in pension and healthcare benefits.

Consequences of union inequality and imbalance

After work health and pension liabilities are a major source of bankruptcy of the governments that negotiated them.  Retirement pension benefits are increasingly crowding out discretionary spending.

As such, public sector unions threaten the integrity of our democratic process by increasing a disparity in the standard of living between public and private sector workers, by decreasing efficiency in state and local services, and by reducing the number of necessary services that government can provide.  Public sector workers actually fight for benefits whose provision will hurt the public. Because public sector unions are rich, taken together they spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually lobbying governments on behalf of their members.

Liberal Democrats face a bigger political downside when public pension become unsustainable, as they represent the party of bigger government or what government can do for you.  What happens when public sector unions produce a government that costs you ever more and does for you ever less?  If the Democrats cannot fix government, voters eventually conclude that they might as well elect Republicans to deal with the mess, as happened in Wisconsin with the success of Governor Walker.

The burden of public sector pensions alone is frightening, especially in states like Illinois, California and New York.  Illinois not only exempts public sector union pensions from adjustment to meet changed economic circumstances, but also increases such pensions by 3% every year.

As long as the employer (the government) owns the pension liabilities of its employees, the hazard of potential bankruptcy will hover over the taxpayers. Given the political coalition that supports the public union status quo, it will be hard to reform public sector unions.

FDR was correct when he said there should be NO unions of tax paid employees (government unions), for the employees would be bargaining with themselves as they are also the tax payers who would pay them:

“The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place” in the public sector. “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”

When Daniel DiSalvo was asked what Governor Bruce Radner should first tackle, DiSalvo indicated that the Governor should think about pension reform before anything else.  But at the same time, DiSalvo admitted that Illinois and Chicago are still a long way off from adopting any reform measures.

Categories: On the Blog

If You Like Your Medicare, You Can Keep Your Medicare

January 26, 2015, 1:16 PM

Not just Barack Obama, but all politicians promise to protect Medicare—even if they are robbing it to pay for ObamaCare. They don’t promise that you can keep your Medicare doctor, however.

And they don’t address the question of what happens if you don’t like your Medicare.

You can drop Medicare Part B, though there is a penalty for getting back in. But to drop Medicare Part A, you have to give back all the Social Security payments you ever received, as well as forgoing future payments. This was litigated in the case of Hall v. Sebelius, and was revisited in the challenge to ObamaCare brought by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), AAPS v. Burwell, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear.

Why would anybody want to turn down free insurance, you may well wonder—especially when there is no private substitute for it. (President Johnson saw to that, to be sure that “his” program was successful.)

That has to do with your Medicare doctor, and your actual care. Medicare rules are forcing many independent physicians to give up their practice, and either retire early or become employees. Physicians who do remain in practice may not accept Medicare patients, or limit the number they see. If you are a Medicare patient, the entire Medicare regime is in the examining room or hospital room with you, like it or not. You are not allowed to be free for a day. Neither is the doctor. There is a way out (opting out or disenrolling), but that’s an all-or-nothing choice for the doctor.

A Medicare beneficiary can see a non-Medicare doctor as a private patient, but is very unlikely to be able to collect any Medicare reimbursement. A Medicare doctor cannot see Medicare-eligible patients as private patients.

Medicare is also making it increasingly difficult for Medicare patients to get tests, consultations, oxygen or other home-health items, or medications prescribed by a non-Medicare doctor, sometimes even if the patient is willing to pay privately.

Why should this be?

Keep in mind that Medicare is not yours. The money you paid in all your working life is long gone. Your benefits are coming out of the wages of people like Larry, John, and Jesus, who toil at Arnold’s gas station, and all of them are having a hard time these days. Now that payroll tax receipts are less than payouts, benefits are coming out of general tax revenues, which redeem the IOUs in the “Trust Fund.” And the ever-increasing Part B premiums pay only 25 percent of benefits. If you are on Medicare, you are a liability—to your doctor and to society.

Medicare does offer some fine new “benefits”—such as paying for “end-of-life” counseling. And why do you need that?

Death is something that could happen to anyone at any moment. If you have obligations or assets, you need to provide for your survivors. Medicare counseling, however, is not about life insurance, wills, or funeral arrangements—or about making peace with your family or God. It’s about reducing the cost of your care. The most expedient way to do that is to use “end” as a verb.

These days you can no longer assume that a hospital will seek to prolong your life and restore you to the health you enjoyed before you fell ill. It is much easier for the hospital if you give them permission ahead of time not to try. The purpose of the “advance directive” is to decline “life-sustaining treatments”—such as food and water.

Do not assume that doctors and hospitals have to “do everything” just because you said you wanted them to. Increasingly, hospitals demand the legal right to refuse care that is “futile”—by their definition. Medicare’s refusal to pay is a strong motive. Your consent provides immunity. Sedatives, to keep you quiet and peaceful, are cheap.

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber has told us how much the government cares.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Note to GOP: Talking About Raising Taxes is a Bad Idea

January 26, 2015, 12:42 PM

What are the Republicans thinking? Coming right out of the gate, at the start of the new GOP-controlled Congress, they began talking about the crazy idea of increasing the gasoline tax. It has little chance of passing, yet can easily taint the party with a tax-raising reputation.

Just two days after the swearing in of the new Congress, the January 8 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) headline reads: “Senate Republicans: Higher Gas Taxes are on the Table.” It states: “Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R., Okla.), who just took the reins of the panel, said he is open to considering raising the gas tax as a way to help pay for the dwindling Highway Trust Fund that keeps up the nation’s roads and other transportation infrastructure.”

Many of Inhofe’s Senate colleagues are clear about gas tax increase’s future. According to the Associated Press (AP), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said: “I don’t know of any support for a gas tax increase in Congress.” The WSJ cites Senator John Barasso (R-WY), “who said he doesn’t support an increase and doesn’t think there is a political appetite for doing so on Capitol Hill.”

The House isn’t any more optimistic. According to the AP, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doesn’t think there “are enough votes in the House for a gas tax increase.” Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, said: “I don’t think there’s a will in Congress and the American People don’t want it.”

Even the New York Times touts: “Gasoline-tax increase finds little support.”

However, Inhofe’s apparent willingness to consider an increase in the gas tax, along with Senators Orin Hatch (R-UT) and John Thune (R-SD), has given fodder to those who long for a carbon tax. A San Francisco Chronicle article titled: “Odds of gas-tax hike grow with quiet support of GOP Senators,” opens: “With Washington’s most famous climate-change skeptic expressing interest in raising the federal gasoline tax, Bay area Rep. Jared Huffman sees an opening to grab the brass ring of the environmental movement: a tax on carbon.” Huffman sees that “it’s a good time to make the tax a little more sophisticated so it reflects the carbon content of all fuels.”

The gas tax creates headlines because the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which finances the interstate highway system, faces insolvency due to spending more than it takes in. Had Congress not come up with a solution to the $16 billion shortfall by August 1, 2014, federal highway projects would have ground to a halt and as many as 700,000 people would have received lay-off notices. An agreed upon “patch” put the crisis off until after the elections. That fix ends in May and the new Congress must now come up with another way to fund America’s roads and bridges. A gas-tax increase is the obvious solution as the concept means those who use the roads most, pay for them—supposedly making it more of a “user fee” than a tax.

The tax is currently 18.4 cents a gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel—more than double the oil companies’ profit on that same gallon of gas. (Note: the gas tax is a flat figure, not a percent. With lower prices, people are driving more so revenues should be up.) With gasoline prices at historic lows, many think now is the time to raise the tax, as it will hardly be noticed.

But there are other options that don’t require raising taxes—or instituting a new carbon tax.

The fact that modern cars are more efficient than they were when the gas-tax was first instituted in 1956 at 3 cents a gallon is a major problem with HTF funding. Because drivers now go farther on less fuel, the roadways receive wear and tear without enough taxes collected to cover the use. As more electric cars fill our roads, the problem is exacerbated. Electric cars use the roadways for free while everyone else pays for them. Therefore many have proposed a mileage fee rather than a gas tax—or in addition to it. With a voluntary program passed in 2013, Oregon has been at the forefront of what is called mileage-based user fees (MBUF). The pilot program, which takes advantage of smart technology, has been hailed as a great success.

However, MBUFs should concern everyone concerned about more government involvement in our lives. At the Detroit auto show, BMW sounded an alarm about the “fine line between performance and privacy.” While the Financial Times (FT) report focuses on the pressure carmakers receive from technology companies and advertisers who want data collected by “connected cars,” one doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to imagine the data collection morphing into a big-brother-like intrusion. According to the FT: “About two-thirds of today’s new cars have sensors and communications systems that send and receive data.” At last year’s consumer electronics show, Jim Farley, then Ford’s head of marketing, said: “We know everyone breaks the law. We know exactly when you do it because we have a GPS sensor in your car.” Imagine Environmental Protection Agency officers showing up on your doorstep because you have driven more than the allowed amount. Or, more likely, your gas supply getting cut off because you used up this month’s allotment early.

MBUFs may serve as a good option for electric vehicles, but implementation should not be universal—and therefore do not create the full answer to the HTFs funding woes.

The answer requires an understanding of the problem.

Gas taxes used to be more of a user fee—which made it fairer. “But since the 1990s the Highway Trust Fund has come to fund much more than new roads and bridges and highway maintenance,” claims a WSJ editorial. Heritage Foundation transportation and infrastructure analyst Emily Goff believes the problem is: “Spending priorities are determined more by politicians appeasing special interests than local needs or consumer choices. And the federal regulatory burden delays projects and smothers state and private-sector innovation.” She points out: “Washington diverts more than 25% of that money to subways, streetcars, buses, bicycle and nature paths, and landscaping, at the expense of road and bridge projects.” Users of these HTF projects utilize the infrastructure but don’t contribute to it. Cutting non-highway spending would go a long way to closing the funding gap. As the WSJ puts it: “Simply using the taxes that are supposed to pay for highways to, well, pay for highways makes the HTF 98% solvent for the next decade, no tax increase necessary.”

Another part of the solution, would redirect highway projects to the states. Chris Chocola, president of The Club for Growth, explains: “All 50 states have Departments of Transportation. More than 70% of all transportation spending in this country is already financed and spent at the state and local level. Each state has very specific infrastructure needs, and those needs are most effectively addressed at the local level, where those making the decisions are held most accountable by the taxpayers.”

States can more easily innovate and have already solved some highway issues with toll-concession private-public partnerships (PPP). Douglas Holtz-Eakin, head of the American Action Forum, a conservative advocacy group, and a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, sees creating more PPPs as an alternative to an increase in the gasoline tax.

A Reason Foundation FAQ on Toll Concession PPPs explains them this way: “A toll concession is a DBFOM (design-build-finance-operate-maintain) highway contract in which the principal funding source is tolls charged to users of the highway project. The projected toll revenue stream is used to support long-term revenue bonds, in addition to covering operation and maintenance costs of the project. In a toll concession, the consortium that wins the right to do the project takes on the risks of (a) construction cost overruns, (b) late completion, and (c) inadequate traffic and revenue. Those risks would otherwise be borne by the government (and hence, the taxpayers).”

I’ve outlined just four possible options to fund our roadways without raising the gas tax—which will still exist when gas prices go up and impacts the price of almost everything:

  • MBUFs for electric cars;
  • Limit spending to actual highway projects—not mass transit or nature trails;
  • Redirect some projects to the states; and
  • Toll concession PPPS.

Surely, the great minds in Washington could come up with more ideas.

With several options available to support the nation’s highways, the GOP needs create, innovate, and unify in fixing problems—like the HTF—and show America that they can do it without raising taxes.

(A version of this content was originally published on Breitbart.com.)

Categories: On the Blog

ObamaCare Must Go!

January 26, 2015, 11:14 AM

Can anyone remember how awful the U.S. healthcare free market system was that it needed to be replaced by the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare? Can’t remember? That’s because it was ranked one of the best of the world and represented 17.9% of the nation’s economy in 2014. That’s down from the 20% it represented in 2009 when ObamaCare was foisted on Americans.

One of the best ways to follow the ObamaCare story is via Health Care News, a monthly newspaper published by The Heartland Institute. The January issue begins with an article by Sean Parnell, the managing editor, reporting that ObamaCare enrollment is overstated by 400,000.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) once again lowered its estimate of the number of Americans enrolled in health plans through government exchanges in 2014. The 6.7 million enrollees who remain are far lower than the eight million touted in May at the end of the last open-enrollment period.”

ObamaCare has been a lie from the moment it was introduced for a vote, all 2,700 pages of it, to the present day. Everything President Obama said about it was a lie. As to its present enrollments, they keep dropping because some 900,000 who did sign up did not make the first premium payment or later stopped paying.

Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies as the Cato Institute, said the dropout rate is a troubling trend. “It means that potentially hundreds of thousands of Exchange enrollees are realizing they are better off waiting until they get sick to purchase coverage. If enough people come to that conclusion, the exchanges collapse.”

Elsewhere in this month’s edition, there is an article, “States Struggle to Fund Exchanges”, that reports on the difficulties that “states are experiencing difficulty in paying the ongoing costs of the exchanges, especially small states. “’The feds are asking us to do their jobs for them. We get saddled with the operating costs,’ said Edmund Haislmaier, senior research fellow for health care policy studies at The Heritage Foundation.” Some are imposing a two percent tax on the insurance companies which, of course, gets passed along to the consumer. Even so, the exchanges are not generating enough income to be maintained.

Why would anyone want ObamaCare insurance when its rates keep rising dramatically? In Nebraska the rates have nearly doubled and another article notes that “A 2014 study finds large numbers of doctors are declining to participate in health plans offered through exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, raising questions about whether people buying insurance through exchanges will be able to access health care in a timely manner.” One reason physicians gave was that they would have to hire additional staff “just to manage the insurance verification process.”

Dr. Kris Held, a Texas eye surgeon, said ObamaCare “fails to provide affordable health insurance and fails to provide access to actual medical care to more people, but succeeds in compounding existing health care costs and accessibility problems and creating new ones.”

Health Care News reports what few other news outlets have noted. “In Section 227 of the recently enacted ‘Cromnibus’ spending measure, Congress added critical but little-noticed language that prohibits the use of funds appropriated to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay for insurance company bailouts.” William Todd, an Ohio attorney, further noted that “Congress did not appropriate any separate funding for ‘bailouts.’” Todd predicted that “some insurers are likely to raise premiums to avoid losses, or they will simply stop offering policies on the exchanges altogether.”

The picture of ObamaCare failure emerging from these excerpts is a very true one. Its momentum, in fact, is gaining.

In mid-December, the Wall Street Journal opined that “With the Supreme Court due to rule on a major ObamaCare legal challenge by next summer, thoughts in Washington are turning to the practical and political response. If the Court does strike down insurance subsidies, the question for Republicans running Congress is whether they will try to fix the problems Democrats created, or merely allow ObamaCare damage to grow.”

“King v. Burwell will be heard in March with a ruling likely in June. “Of the 5.4 million consumers on federal exchanges, some 87% drew subsidies in 2014, according to a Rand Corporation analysis.”

The Wall Street Journal recommended that “The immediate Republican goal should be to make insurance cheaper so people need less of a subsidy to obtain insurance. This means deregulating the exchanges, plank by plank. Devolve to states their traditional insurance oversight role, and allow them to enter into cross-border compacts to increase choice and competition. Allow insurers to sell any configuration of benefits to anyone, anywhere, and the private market will gradually heal.”

Or, to put it another way, eliminate ObamaCare entirely and return to the healthcare insurance system that had served Americans well until the White House decided that socialism was superior to capitalism.

The problem with the Affordable Care Act is that the cost of the insurance sold under the Act is not affordable and ObamaCare is actually causing hospitals and clinics to close their doors, thus reducing healthcare services for those who need them.

ObamaCare must go. If the Republicans in Congress did nothing more than repeal ObamaCare, the outcome of the 2016 election would be a predictable win no matter who their candidate will be. If not repeal, some separate actions must be taken such as eliminating the tax on medical instruments.

If the Republican Congress fails to take swift and deliberate action on ObamaCare between now and the 2016 elections, they will have defeated themselves.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Randal O’Toole: Funding for Highway Construction and Transportation Infrastructure

January 26, 2015, 10:10 AM

Cato Institute Senior Fellow Randal O’Toole joins Budget & Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about his work on changing the way the federal government funds highway construction and transportation infrastructure projects. O’Toole explains how the current funding system, based on discretionary grants, is inefficient and wasteful, and proposes a formula-based system.

Formula-based funding, O’Toole says, would fix many of the problems with the current system, removing political considerations and other inefficiencies from decisions on how infrastructure projects are funded. Also, shifting to a formula-based funding system would reduce cities’ incentive to build larger projects than are actually needed, as the system would be based on actual population and ridership statistics.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Founders Wanted a Laser-Targeted Article V Convention (Part 7 of 8)

January 24, 2015, 10:26 AM

This is part 7 of the 8 part series establishing that the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach to organizing an Article V convention with the specific job advancing and ratifying a pre-drafted, specific federal Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly what the Founders expected from the state-originated amendment process.

Exhibit G – George Washington’s Letter to John Armstrong

1788: “It should be remembered that a constitutional door is open for such amendments as shall be thought necessary by nine States.”

George Washington’s statement to his friend John Armstrong clearly indicates that two-thirds of the states (nine at the time) would specify the desired amendments in their Article V application and target the convention agenda accordingly. That’s because the only element of the process controlled by two-thirds of the states is the application!

If you agree, like and share!

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

Sen. Inhofe Uses Heartland Poster to Debunk Climate Alarmism

January 23, 2015, 4:08 PM

On Wednesday January 21, in his first speech on the floor of the senate as the Chairman of the Senate’s Environment & Public Works Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) used a poster supplied by The Heartland Institute to drive home the point that the theory of man-made climate change is highly contested.

The poster, which can be seen here, identifies 58 climate experts who “don’t believe global warming is a crisis.” Among those listed are Dr. Richard Lindzen, Dr. Tim Ball, and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt – all of whom reject the UN IPCC’s conclusions regarding the human impact on our climate.

Inhofe used his time on the floor to poke holes in the arguments of climate alarmists in the Senate, who still believe that “97-98 percent of scientists agree” about the causes of global warming. “It just isn’t true,” Inhofe said.

He uses the poster to illustrate the large amount of dissenting opinion in the face of the generally held “consensus” on man-made climate change. Sen. Inhofe reassures us that there are going to be hearings in the future on the subject and “we’ll be there to be the truth-squad.”

Watch the speech in full above, and visit the archive site of Heartland’s nine International Conferences on Climate Change to see presentations by many of the scientists featured on that poster.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Lindsay Boyd: Right to Try

January 23, 2015, 10:00 AM

Lindsay Boyd, policy director at the Beacon Center of Tennessee, discusses ‘Right to Try’ legislation that has been introduced in Tennessee and elsewhere, and already passed in five states. Under ‘Right to Try,’ patients with a terminal illness are able, with their doctor, obtain medicines that have passed the FDA’s phase one clinical trials for safety but haven’t yet passed phases two and three, which test the efficacy of new drugs.

Right to Try expands treatment options and would give Americans access to many drugs that have already been approved in Europe and elsewhere. It would expand and speed up the FDA’s current ‘compassionate use’ policy that allows patients access to drugs that have not yet been approved. The process for compassionate typically takes between 9 and 18 months, and requires about 100 hours of a doctors time, making approval for compassionate use an arduous and time-consuming process that many patients just can’t wait on.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Wind Energy’s Bluster Peters Out

January 22, 2015, 12:23 PM

Cape Wind, touted as “America’s first offshore wind project,” became one of America’s most high-profile and most controversial wind-energy projects. Fourteen years in the making, estimated at $2.6 billion for 130 turbines, covering 25 square miles in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project has yet to install one turbine—let alone produce any electricity. Now, it may be “dead in the water.”

On January 6, the two power companies, National Grid and Northeast Utilities, that had agreed to purchase most of the electricity Cape Wind was to generate, terminated their contracts with the developers due to missed milestones. Under the terms of the contracts, Cape Wind had to secure financing and give notices to proceed to its suppliers to start work by December 31, 2014. Neither happened and both companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements. “The project is in cardiac arrest,” according to Amy Grace, a wind-industry analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Cape Wind has faced stiff opposition since it was first proposed in 2001. Senator Edward Kennedy’s efforts, and those of his wealthy friends, to fight Cape Wind have been the most publicized, but Native Americans, fishermen, and local communities have also battled the industrialization of Nantucket Sound. The town of Barnstable has been particularly active in the fight. The Cape Cod Times reports that Charles McLaughlin, Barnstable’s assistant town attorney, said: “The town’s concerns include the possibility that a collision between a boat and the large electric service platform the project requires could spill thousands of gallons of oil into the sound.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) positioned Cape Wind as the centerpiece of his renewable energy goals and invested significant political capital backing the proposal—including tying the NStar power purchase agreement to approval of the NStar and Northeast Utilities merger (given the unfavorable terms of the agreements, the companies may have been looking for any exit ramp). Yet, Ian Bowles, Patrick’s first energy and environment chief who, according to the Boston Globe, “helped shepherd the offshore project,” acknowledgesthat the loss of the power purchase agreements “may have spelled the end for Cape Wind.”

The announcement came two days before Patrick left office. While he claims: “We’ve done everything as a state government to get them over the regulatory lines,” Patrick concedes it is now “up to the market.” According to the Cape Cod Times, the former governor doesn’t know “if the project could survive without the contracts in place.”

Even the Department of Energy (DOE), which seems to indiscriminately throw money at any politically favored green-energy project, was tepid in its support for Cape Wind. DOE’s loan guarantees generally average about 60 percent of the project’s costs, but the $150 million offered to Cape Wind made up a mere 6 percent—and that, only after the project received commitments for about half of its financing. In most cases, the government guarantee comes before the private financing and signals a go-ahead for investors.

Additionally, the political winds have shifted. While Governor Patrick championed Cape Wind, Massachusetts’ new governor, Charlie Baker (R) was staunchly opposed to it—even calling it Patrick’s “personal pet project.” While campaigning, Baker “dropped his opposition to Cape Wind” because he believed it was a “done deal.” Now that the deal may well be undone, Baker says he “will not try to influence the outcome of the legal process surrounding the Cape Wind project.”

Wind energy’s future faces problems beyond Massachusetts.

While Massachusetts’s utility companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements, two Minnesota wind farms, operating as Minwind Companies, filed for bankruptcy because the eleven turbines needed extensive repairs and the 360 farmers and landowners who invested in the projects can’t afford the maintenance. Weather related damaged put them 200-300 percent over budget.

Minwind’s nine separate limited-liability companies allowed investors to take advantage of federal wind-energy credits, USDA grants, and the now-discontinued state assistance program for small wind projects. The Star-Tribune reports: “The owners stand to lose their investment, and the wind farms eventually may have to shut down.”

On the national level, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has continued to lobby for a retroactive extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy that expired at the end of 2013. Disappointing AWEA, the lame-duck Congress did approve a ninth extension—but just through the end of 2014. AWEA’s CEO Tim Kiernan groused: “Unfortunately, the extension to the end of 2014 will only allow minimal new wind development and it will have expired again by the time the new Congress convenes.” In response to the “bare-minimum extension,” Luke Lewandowsi, Make Consulting research manager, said it “casts doubt on the willingness or ability of Congress to revisit the PTC in 2015.”

Adding insult to industrial wind’s injury, wind turbine installation placed number three in a recent list of 10 dying U.S. industries—in a better spot than only computer and recordable media manufacturing.

All of this news doesn’t bode well for the wind energy business, but for ratepayers and those who believe in the free market and who believe that government shouldn’t pick winners and losers, current wind conditions are a breath of fresh air. Governments, both state and federal, have given wind energy every advantage. Even Warren Buffet admits the tax credits are the only reason to build wind farms. And as Governor Patrick acknowledges: “It’s now up to the market.”

Categories: On the Blog

The Founders Wanted a Laser-Targeted Article V Convention (Part 6 of 8)

January 22, 2015, 10:26 AM

This is part 6 of the 8 part series establishing that the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach to organizing an Article V convention with the specific job advancing and ratifying a pre-drafted, specific federal Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly what the Founders expected from the state-originated amendment process.

Exhibit F-James Madison’s Alternative to Nullification

On February 7, 1799, James Madison wrote both that the states could ask their senators to propose an “explanatory amendment” clarifying that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional, and also that two-thirds of the Legislatures of the states “might, by an application to Congress, have obtained a Convention for the same object.”

This is perhaps the clearest statement by the Founder called by some the father of the Constitution that an Article V application properly organizes an Article V convention to propose a specific amendment. In 1799, Madison defended the legislative declarations of Virginia and Kentucky that the Alien and Sedition Acts were void and unconstitutional. He said they were statements of opinion to which states are entitled. But he didn’t stop there. He emphasized how the states should consider following up their declaration with an Article V application to obtain an Article V convention for the object of proposing an “explanatory amendment” that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional.

The modern notion that an Article V convention sets its own agenda and drafts any number of amendments independently of the will of the States as expressed in their Article V application is obviously, manifestly and completely alien to Madison’s expressed public understanding of the process.

If you find this evidence compelling, please like and share widely. Also, let’s bring the fight for a Balanced Budget Amendment originated by the states to the belly of the beast!Consider supporting our latest educational campaign-this time focused in Washington, DC.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Really, Really Time to Ban Internet Discrimination Forever

January 22, 2015, 9:55 AM

Once again the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act has been introduced in the House of Representatives, this time because the last temporary extension, passed in December, will expire on October 1. The bipartisan legislation bans taxes on Internet access permanently and disallows multiple or discriminatory taxes on Internet activities. If allowed to expire, states would begin to collect taxes on Internet access, or apply other discriminatory taxes that may already be in place in the state but which have been held at bay during the moratorium.

According to Scott Mackey, former chief economist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, an average household’s taxes would increase by $50 to $75 each year if states apply their sales or telecommunications taxes to Internet access.  While that doesn’t seem like much, keep in mind that that is about what a low-income family spends in a year on subsidized school lunches. Those who qualify for such programs are exactly those who will be most negatively affected by a lapsed moratorium.

And those taxes are discriminatory. Since taxes are already being paid on the infrastructure that is delivering broadband, adding a new tax is merely a multiple tax, and hence discriminatory.  Fortunately, for 17 years, as the moratorium has continued to be extended, the country has continued a policy of keeping the Internet free of multiple or discriminatory taxes to the benefit of all families.

Today, we also have a clear national mandate to expand broadband use. The addition of discriminatory online taxes would drive down online purchases, and additional access taxes would decrease adoption of broadband. However, permanently wiping out the many exceptions made to the ban over the years would eliminate discriminatory access taxes, which would actually encourage broadband adoption.

One would think that immediate passage of a permanent moratorium would be a foregone conclusion given the consensus that broadband across the nation is a good idea. Those taxes discriminate against certain technologies and business plans and ultimately fall heaviest on those least able to bear the burden.

Congress has a clear choice: Make complete and permanent the ban on Internet access and multiple or discriminatory taxes online, encouraging broadband access and e-commerce, or turn away from that national priority and allow the pro-tax thugs to loot our digital future.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Chris Casey and Paul Rosenberg: Bitcoin

January 22, 2015, 9:43 AM

Chris Casey, Managing Director at WindRock Wealth Management, sits down with the founder of Cryptohippie and author, Paul Rosenberg to talk about Bitcoin. Casey and Rosenberg answer all the most frequently asked question regarding the virtual currency.

With the increasing popularity of Bitcoin, people are curious about the currency and its potential benefits. However, since its inception, the value of a unit of Bitcoin has varied dramatically. This has caused some to become wary of using the digital currency. Rosenberg addresses those fears and explains that Bitcoin is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Real Torture Defined by Those Qualified to Judge

January 22, 2015, 8:50 AM

Co-Authored by Al Boese

Recently the movie, “Unbroken,” based on the best-selling book of the same name by Laura Hillenband about war hero Louis Zamperini, has gotten rave reviews, which the movie and book well deserve. It’s story line is mesmerizing of how an athletic upon becoming an airman embarked on a journey that led to his doomed fight and his drift into the unknown on a tiny raft where he encountered thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, and then was captured to endure horrific torture.

While the story of “Unbroken” is compelling and a powerful one, have you ever heard of Colonel Bud Day? The heroic story of Colonel Bud Day is on a par with that of Louis Zamperini.

Born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1925, Colonel Bud Day died in 2013 at age 88. During the course of his military career (World War II, Korean, and then Vietnam) Bud Day received every available combat medal, escaped death on no fewer than seven occasions, and spent sixty-seven months as a POW in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where his occasional roommate was John McCain. Despite incredible torture, Day would not break. He became a hero to POWs everywhere–a man who fought without pause, a prisoner at war.

Bud Day and Louis Zamperini were true heroes and knew something about torture, which President Barack Obama does not.

Day’s biography, American Patriot”, says it all. In his biography Colonel Day details how he and John McCain shared a cell for a while.  McCain’s biography, “Faith of My Fathers”, references the same encounter.

Bud Day, a fine man before the war, remained so after the war. The unspeakable acts of brutality Day endured during his capture had little impact upon his retirement. That speaks volumes about the man.

Below is a description of just some of the atrocities committed against Bud Day.  Remember Jane Fonda? She was having fun with the North Vietnamese while Bud Day was being subjected to unthinkable acts of brutality. And Obama thinks water boarding is a tough deal!

Colonel Bud Day

I got shot down over N Vietnam in 1967, a Sqdn. Commander.

After I returned in 1973…I published 2 books that dealt a lot with “real torture” in Hanoi.  Our make-believe president is branding our country as a bunch of torturers when he has no idea what torture is.

As for me, I was put through a mock execution because I would not respond…Pistol whipped on the head….same event…Couple of days later….Hung by my feet all day. I escaped and a couple of weeks later, I got shot and recaptured.  Shot was OK….what happened afterwards was not.

They marched me to Vinh….put me in the rope trick….almost pulled my arms out of the sockets. Beat me on the head with a little wooden rod until my eyes were swelled shut. Unbroken hand a pulp.

Next day hung me by the arms…rebroke my right wrist…wiped out the nerves in my arms that control the hands….rolled my fingers up into a ball. Only left the slightest movement of my left forefinger.  So I started answering with some incredible lies

Sent me to Hanoi strapped to a barrel of gas in the back of a truck.

Hanoi…on my knees….rope trick again. Beaten by a big fool.

Into leg irons on a bed in Heartbreak Hotel.

Much kneeling–hands up at Zoo.

Really bad beating for refusing to condemn Lyndon Johnson.

Several more kneeling events. I could see my knee bone thru kneeling holes.

There was an escape from the annex to the Zoo. I was the Senior Officer of a large building… because of escape…they started a mass torture of all commanders.

I think it was July 7, 1969…they started beating me with a car fan belt.  The first 2 days I took over 300 strokes…then stopped counting because I never thought I would live through it.

They continued day-night torture to get me to confess to a non-existent part in the escape. This went on for at least 3 days. On my knees…Fan belting…cut open my scrotum with fan belt stroke. Opened up both knee holes again. My fanny looked like hamburger…I could not lie on my back.

They tortured me into admitting that I was in on the escape…and that my 2 room-mates knew about it.

The next day I denied the lie.

They commenced torturing me again with 3- 6- or 9 strokes of a fan belt every day from about July 11 or 12th to October 14, 1969. I continued to refuse to lie about my roommates again.

Now, the point of this is that our make-believe President has declared to the world that we (U.S..) are a bunch of torturers…Thus it will be OK to torture us next time when they catch us…because that is what the U.S. does.

Our make-believe president is a know nothing fool who thinks that pouring a little water on some one’s face, or hanging a pair of women’s pants over an Arabs head is TORTURE.. He is a meathead.

I just talked to MOH holder Leo Thorsness, who was also in my squadron, in jail…as was John McCain…and we agree that McCain doesnot speak for the POW group when he claims that Al Gharib was torture…or that “water boarding” is torture.

Our president and those fools around him who keep bad mouthing our great country are a disgrace to the United States.  Claims that water boarding is torture are stupid, when there are no after effects from water boarding.

If it got the Arab to cough up the story about how he planned the attack on the twin towers in NYC… .

Hurrah for the guy who poured the water!

The most telling statement in Bud Day’s account is that it’s fine to torture U.S. service men and women when caught because this is what we do with our captives.

There is a time to be nice, but when we are at war and the lives of our soldiers are in jeopardy, this nation has an obligation to protect its own citizens instead of playing nicey nice with the enemy.  Will attempting to appear better than our enemy in the way we treat captives make them like us any better?  I don’t think so? This is suicidal thinking which can be likened to political correctness when our best interests are tossed aside in favor of doing that which doesn’t offend others.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Why the FCC Needs Congress

January 22, 2015, 8:30 AM

The FCC imagines it doesn’t need Congress, but it does.

In just the second week of this new Congress, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune proposed draft legislation that would provide the FCC with the permanent net neutrality enforcement authority the FCC says it needs.

The leaders of the FCC’s oversight committees have opened the new Congress with a transparent, outreached hand of assistance and bipartisanship by making the FCC’s top priority its initial priority.

To date however, the FCC appears intent on preemptively blocking and throttling Congress’s good-faith efforts to transparently resolve the FCC’s open Internet authority problem.

Whenever the prospect of congressional compromise comes up, the FCC snubs Congress by reiterating it will decide the matter of America’s open Internet policy and authority unilaterally in a Feb. 26 vote of five unelected FCC commissioners.

The FCC’s current message is obvious — it does not want Congress’ help, because the FCC wants to conjure up its own legal authority.

Why is the FCC wrong here?

Legally, it needs Congress.

The FCC is 0-2 in self-asserting the Internet regulatory authority it wants. The FCC lost Comcast v. FCC in 2010 and Verizon v. FCC in 2014. In both instances, the courts determined the FCC overreached its statutory authority.

How can the FCC imagine it will fare better with a Title II utility regulation of the Internet proposal that involves more legal overreach, more harm to reliance interests and a wholesale repudiation of over a decade of FCC legal precedents and findings of fact?

The FCC knows it’s choosing a much riskier legal strategy than ever before. The agency initially concluded the best legal approach was to obey the guidance of the U.S. Appeals Court in Verizon v. FCC.

In stark contrast, the FCC reportedly now seeks to blaze an entirely new legal path with a 180-degree policy reversal to Title II, combined with a follow-on, partial, 180-degree reversal of that new Title II policy via broad forbearance from Title II.

The FCC hopes any legal challenge will hinge on Chevron Deference to the FCC. However, it ignores that its abrupt and transparent political switch to Title II after long opposing it will transform this case into glaring violations of the Administrative Procedures Act, and obvious arbitrary and capricious treatment of huge longstanding reliance interests.

The FCC operationally needs Congress.

Congress funds the FCC, and the FCC is seeking a very big increase in its 2015 budget.

Congress investigates and oversees whether the FCC abides by legally required processes and procedures.

Congress is the source of all the FCC’s current and future authority, and the FCC’s congressional authorizing committees are actively in the process of updating the Communications Act that created the FCC in 1934.

The FCC also politically needs Congress.

If the FCC politically rejects Congress’ help, it alone will politically own any problems, unintended consequences, or public backlash resulting from an abrupt unilateral FCC reversal of the bipartisan policies that enabled the Internet we know today.

Any FCC utility regulation of the Internet that harms America’s consumers, economy, or national interests will be solely on the FCC, not Congress or the executive branch, of which the FCC insists it is “independent.”

Politics is credit-taking and blame-shifting.

In publicly rejecting Congress’ help and bipartisanship, the FCC’s majority will own political credit for what goes right, and political blame for what goes wrong.

Surely the FCC has seen the store signs, “You break it, you bought it.”

The FCC will own the negative commercial and financial consequences of a unilateral decision to take control of the Internet via utility regulation.

It will own any unintended tax or fee increases on consumers, any decline in broadband investment, deployment, jobs, growth and any legal uncertainty.

Apparently, the FCC imagines it alone is the solution to the Internet’s problems.

However, if the FCC goes ahead and unilaterally takes regulatory control over the Internet, it will find itself becoming the Internet’s main problem.

Wake up FCC. You need Congress.

[This first appeared at The Daily Caller]
Categories: On the Blog

A Common Core Standards Primer for Rev. Meeks and Governor Rauner

January 21, 2015, 4:37 PM

Earlier this week, Rev. James Meeks announced on on WLS 890 AM that he had been chosen by Governor Bruce Rauner to be the new chairman of the State Board of Education. During the interview Tuesday morning, Rev. Meeks’ said, “We have to have a Common Core Curriculum in the state of Illinois.”

That statement set off alarm bells within me.

Although Meeks, a Democrat, headed the Senate Education Committee while in the state senate, and bucked his party by advocating for vouchers and charter schools — a  noble and outstanding thing to do — Meek’s unconditional support for Common Core is unacceptable.

Having been chosen by Governor Rauner to reform education, how can he say the Common Core Curriculum is really the pathway to education reform? Are Meeks and Rauner so out-of-touch that they are unaware Illinois started to adopt the Common Core standards in 2010 and fully implemented them last school year?

Starting this spring, the PARCC tests linked to Common Core standards will be used in school districts across the state. The tests will be given to students in grades three to eight, but only partially rolled out in high school because the state board of education had its budget request for assessments cut by $10 million. The ACT exam has been a state mandated assessment for high school juniors in recent years and doubles as a college entrance exam.

Being out-of-touch might be excused for the time being, but it is evident that both Governor Rauner and Rev. James Meeks need to be educated on what Common Core is all about, which will not be an easy task. Why is this so?  The Illinois Education (IEA), as a progressive organization, fully supports Common Core. It also has tremendous clout in getting what it want as a Democrat-aligned organization.

As shared by Joy Pullman, research fellow for the Heartland Institute, in her recent booklet, “Common Core:  A Bad Choice for America”:

Some advocates of Common Core insist it is not a curriculum and that it will promulgate an academic curriculum based on great works of Western civilization and the American republic.  But the standards are being used to write the tables of contents for all the textbooks, used in K-12 math and English classes.  This may not technically constitute a curriculum, but it certainly defines what children will be taught, especially when they and their teachers will be judged by performance on national tests aligned with these standards.

Initiatives related to Common Core include teacher evaluations, since many states tie teacher ratings to student performance on tests; school choice, because many school choice states require participating private schools to administer state tests; nearly all learning materials, because these must now correspond to Common Core; and college entrance exams including the SAT and ACT.

Following is shocking information about a teacher, Dr. David Pook, who helped write the controversial Common Core State Standards.

Dr. David Pook is a professor at Granite State College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He’s also the chair of the History Department and one of the authors of the Common Core standards.  Pook’s role is documented at the pro-Common Core website, AchieveTheCore.com, which confirms that he worked closely with Susan Pimentel and the Council of Chief State Officers in drafting the Core Standards for English Language Arts, and currently has several projects underway with Student Achievement Partners on work aligned with the CCSS.

As a guest at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Dr Pook opened up on his reasons for participating in the creation of the Common Core standards.  In the video posted by Campus Reform, the audience can be heard gasping and laughing, stunned and revolted by this comment by Dr. Pook’s:

The reason why I helped write the standards and the reason why I am here today is that as a white male in society I am given a lot of privilege that I didn’t earn.

Dr. Pook went on to say that all kids deserve an “equal opportunity to learn how to read,” the same advantages he had.  Ironically, as Campus Reform notes, the Derryfield School where Pook works does not use the Common Core State Standards and has a student body that is 91 percent white.

Below are some basic facts about Common Core for Governor Rauner and Rev. Meeks to consider, both having endorsed the disaster that is Common Core:

  • Common Core gives the federal government the power to collectextensive data from students including Social Security numbers, records of school attendance, supposed learning disabilities, religious affiliation, disciplinary records and parent’s income information.
  •  Regarding the claim that the Common Core standards were developed by top leaders in states, this is false.  The standards areowned and copyrighted by two private trade associations in Washington, D.C. and were drafted by essentially five people. The standards were then submitted to a “validation” process that was little more than a rubber stamp. The only two content experts on the Validation Committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram, were so disgusted by the charade and by the deficiencies of the resulting standards that they refused to sign off on Common Core.
  • The Common Core standards have never been tested or piloted anywhere, and indeed are acknowledged to be considerably less rigorous than many of the state standards they replaced. Kids are being used as human Guinea pigs on untested standards, all in the hope that Common Core is the magic bullet to solve our education problems.
  • In English language arts, Common Core replaces content knowledge with what Dr. Stotsky labels “empty skill sets” that will not prepare students for authentic college coursework. The standards also diminish the study of classic literature in favor of nonfiction “informational text” of the type students may find in their entry-level jobs (after all, Common Core consists more of workforce-development training than genuine education). This theory – that exposure to technical manuals rather than great stories will make students better readers, and ultimately better employees – is not only preposterous on its face, but refuted by all available research.
  • The Common Core math standards are even less likely to achieve the lofty results touted by the Chamber authors. One of the lead authors of the math standards admits that they are not designed to prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies in college. How could they, when they include no trigonometry or calculus and stop with an incomplete Algebra II course? And as Dr. Milgram of Stanford University points out, Common Core’s mandated “reform math” techniques stand in stark contrast to the traditional techniques employed by the highest-achieving countries. The Gates Foundation gave over $7 million, much of which has gone to promote Gates’s pet education project – the Common Core national standard

The truth about Common Core is obvious to all who are willing to take the time to evaluate the untested educational program.  Common Core is very racist and very political.  As stated by Dr. Pook early on this this article, his aim was to balance the scales because he, and many others, were benefiting from some mythical ‘white privilege‘ that was not earned.

As Jason Dewitt of Top Right News notes:

Common Core is not only about irrational and bizarre math problems as some might think. Make no mistake, this program is about indoctrinating our children into a leftist way of thinking which includes destructive ideas such as the embracing of Islam and normalizing sexual promiscuity.

Is it any wonder that states are rejecting and suing the federal government over Common Core?  45 states signed on to Common Core education standards in 2010, sight unseen.  States, however, are starting to rebel and are taking action. As of September, 2014, Oklahoma and Indiana have dropped Common Core, with Oklahoma having its No Child Left Behind waiver revoked in retaliation.  South Carolina and Missouri have taken strong steps toward replacing Common Core, while North Carolina seems to have found a compromise in which they’d merely tweak the standards. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been doing everything in his power to drop the standards, though so far to no avail. He’s currently embroiled in a lawsuit against the US Department of Education. Check here for a roundup of other state action against Common Core.

Michelle MalkinGlenn Beck and many others have written extensively about the abject disaster that is Common Core, and as Americans have been exposed to examples of its instruction, and motivations of its backers, they have increasingly rejected it.

U.S. schools, and many in Illinois, do need to improve. Consider this 1912 eighth grade exam: Could you make it to high school in 1912?

Education has been dumbed down since 1912, but is Common Core the answer?  On the contrary, it seems like a bad choice for America – and for Illinois.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – John Berlau: Taxpayers Lose Billions on Auto Bailout

January 20, 2015, 4:25 PM

Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow John Berlau joins The Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about the U.S. Treasury Department’s recent announcement that the “auto bailout” portion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) had officially ended with the final repayment of taxpayer-funded loans to Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC.

Berlau offers a brief history of the auto bailout, started by President George W. Bush and continued under President Barack Obama, and explains the consequences affecting taxpayers today.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog