This election year gives millions of people a reason to pay closer attention than usual to what governments are doing with their money and their liberties. The large ideological divide between President Barack Obama and his Republican challengers offers a framework in which basic questions of the proper role of government can be debated.
We are planning 10 bold projects in 2012 designed to change public policies now and in the next few years. These are in addition to our six public policy newspapers, extensive work on health care and telecommunications, and other ongoing projects. The projects are briefly described here. Let me know if you want to participate in any of these projects.
Operation Angry Badger
Recall campaigns are taking place this year against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and three Republican senators who voted for Act 10, the landmark collective bargaining reform legislation adopted in 2011. The elections amount to a referendum on collective bargaining reform at the state level, making them of national interest. Successful recalls would be a major setback for the national effort to rein in public-sector compensation and union power.
We are contemplating a series of educational projects in Wisconsin built around objective research on the benefits of Act 10 and the shortcomings of public schools in Wisconsin. Senior Fellow Maureen Martin, Heartland’s legal counsel (and a resident of Wisconsin) will be our chief researcher and writer for this project.
Free To Choose Medicine
Every year, thousands of people die and millions suffer needlessly because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a monopoly on approval of new drugs. Free To Choose Medicine (FTCM) is Heartland’s plan to give patients the right to choose such drugs years before they otherwise would be available to the public.
Reforming FDA has been on the “wish list” of conservatives and libertarians since shortly after the agency was given its current authority to veto new drugs in 1962. Yet repeated efforts to break FDA’s monopoly or even to speed up drug approval times have failed. We believe we have a new and better plan to achieve success.
To read more about this effort, go to page X of this issue of QPR or contact Vincent Galbiati, managing director of the FTCM. project, at 312/377-4000 or by email at [email protected].
Four Projects on Global Warming
Researchers at The Heartland Institute recognized, earlier than most, that scientific uncertainty about the true causes and consequences of climate change makes costly efforts to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions unnecessary. In 2012 we are pursuing four projects on global warming.
The first is sponsoring and promoting the work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international network of scientists who write and speak out on climate change. With Heartland’s support, this team of scientists produced Climate Change Reconsidered: 2009 Report of the NIPCC, and more recently Climate Change Reconsidered: 2011 Interim Report. Each volume is a comprehensive and authoritative rebuttal of the United Nations’ IPCC reports.
We are currently working on promoting the first two volumes and preparing for publication of a third volume for release in 2013.
The second project is creation of a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Many people lament the absence of educational material that isn’t alarmist or overtly political. Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers in the past, but has had only limited success.
Late last year, we found a curriculum expert who is also an expert on the global warming controversy. We think he can finally break the code on getting sound science and economics into classrooms. Part of what he brings to the table is a detailed knowledge of the subjects and concepts teachers must teach, and in what order (year by year), in order to harmonize with national test requirements.
The third global warming project is publication of a great new book by Rael Isaac, titled Roosters of the Apocalypse. Rael, a sociologist who has studied the origins and motivation of apocalyptic movements, examines the global warming movement and finds it is rooted in irrational fears and beliefs that have no scientific justifications.
Rael’s little book is an exciting addition to the literature on global warming, and it comes at an important moment in the national and international debate over this important issue. As the science more and more clearly points to natural causes of climate change, the public wonders why prominent scientists and politicians nevertheless cling to their failed predictions. Roosters provides the answer.
The fourth global warming projects will change how weathermen report new temperature records, and in the process help wean some of them from the alarmist point of view. We are working to create a Web site that will access newly available temperature data from a set of high-quality temperature stations created by the National Aeronautics and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in response to our criticism of the quality of its previous network. Unfortunately, NOAA doesn’t widely publicize data from this new network, and it puts raw data in spreadsheets buried on one of its Web sites.
Our new Web site will convert the data into easy-to-understand graphs that can be easily found and understood by weathermen and the general interested public. We will promote the Web site to weathermen and encourage them to rely on the new network of stations and not the old network, and we’ll point out how the old network over-states high temperatures by as much as several degrees. The result: fewer weathermen bamboozled into reporting fake temperature records, and one fewer tool in the toolbox of global warming alarmists.
Hydraulic fracturing, popularly known as “fracking,” is a process whereby water, sand, and small amounts of chemicals (surfactants) are injected into oil and natural gas formations to make the energy resources easier to extract. Fracking has been safely used for more than 50 years.
Fracking became controversial in 2010 and 2011 because environmentalists, hoping to prevent the development of large reserves of oil and natural gas in the Marcellus Shale Formation, invented charges that fracking poses environmental and safety risks. The liberal media has uncritically reported these charges as though they were scientifically based, leading to pressure on national and state elected officials to ban or regulate the use of fracking.
Heartland has been one of the most outspoken defenders of fracking in the U.S., using Environment & Climate News, its Web sites, and its communications and government relations operations to comment repeatedly on the issue and reach large audiences. We expect to ramp up that effort and move to the front lines of the battle.
Center for Transforming Education
Transforming the nation’s public school system from a stagnant government monopoly into a thriving competitive marketplace would boost the nation’s international competitiveness, creating more jobs and new wealth. It would rescue the American Dream for countless children currently trapped in high-spending but low-performing public schools.
The Center for Transforming Education at The Heartland Institute produces School Reform News, the national outreach publication for school choice; leads the national effort to implement “Parent Triggers” at the state level outside California; played a major role in a school choice effort in Texas in 2011 that narrowly lost; and conducts a full-scale communications and government relations campaigns for “transformational” school reform.
In 2012 we will help make vouchers and the Parent Trigger a reality in more states, distribute new research and commentary to elected officials and opinion leaders, and battle teacher unions and other barriers to real reform.
Cook County Public Debt Project
Maria Pappas, Cook County (Illinois) treasurer, has discovered that municipalities and other taxing districts in the county are much deeper in debt than is widely understood, or even understood by elected officials in Cook County. She has documented a looming financial crisis, driven largely by employee pension and health care promises, that could have catastrophic results for residents and businesses in the county. She warns other counties in the U.S. are probably facing similar disasters.
Heartland has agreed to work with Pappas’s staff and other allies on a research and publishing effort that results in one or more Heartland Policy Studies that fact-check, report, and interpret the treasurer’s findings. We plan a national communications campaign consisting of distribution of the studies, news releases, op-eds, and other promotional activities, and a national speaking tour featuring Pappas, perhaps with events in state capitals held in conjunction with our allies in a dozen or half-dozen states.
Remembering Dave Padden
David Padden, Heartland’s founder and long-time chairman and then chairman emeritus, passed away on October 2, 2011. One way we plan to memorialize Dave’s contributions to the freedom movement is to establish the David H. Padden Internship Program.
The Padden Internship Program will be a close fit with what we think Dave would have wanted and would benefit the freedom movement he loved. Up to 10 interns a year would work 26 weeks in Heartland’s Chicago office, conducting research, writing, and assisting with event planning. We hope to include attendance at Cato’s annual Cato University Summer Seminar, a one-week program in August, and Socratic discussions over the course of the internship with Heartland senior staff, senior fellows, and board members.
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I hope you agree these are exciting projects. Please contact us if you want to get involved, either as a donor or in some other way. We need your help!