Turning the Tide

Published September 2, 2015

Advocates of individual liberty and limited government can easily become depressed reading about President Barack Obama’s latest exercise of unconstitutional power or the tragicomedy of the upcoming presidential election. But looking behind the headlines reveals something very different and positive: We are turning the tide in favor of freedom.

Global Warming

Obama seeks to tear down the world’s most reliable and lowest-cost energy system and erect in its place a system relying on unreliable and expensive solar and wind generators. His motivation is partly ideological – environmentalists hate fossil fuels and the freedom and prosperity they make possible – and partly realpolitik – alternative energy producers pour hundreds of millions of dollars into liberal advocacy groups and Democratic campaign coffers.

Obama is waging his war on energy via the Environmental Protection Agency, suppressing dissent within the agency and circumventing clear congressional intent to impose unnecessary and constitutionally dubious regulations. Regrettably, the courts and Congress have failed to stand up to this abuse of authority.

But here’s the good news: Despite almost mind-numbing repetition of “the debate is over” and “don’t believe climate deniers,” the American public is unconvinced that man-made global warming merits the policies this administration is pushing. Republicans in Congress are unified on the climate change topic, acknowledging that while there may be some human impact on climate, it does not justify the sweeping taxes, regulations, and subsidies supported by the current administration. They will block cap and trade, carbon taxes, and international treaties.

State legislatures are starting to repeal mandates to use alternative fuels such as wind and solar, which can be 10 and even 20 times as expensive as fossil fuels. The “fracking” revolution has made natural gas and oil plentiful and cheap, making the contrast with expensive and unreliable wind and solar even more apparent.

EPA’s draconian regulations will be rejected by the courts in the coming months, and the next administration will repeal whatever is still on the books come January 2017. The next United Nations climate conference, taking place in Paris in early December, will be a flop: no international treaty, no binding caps, no massive payments of “reparations” to third world countries.

The global warming hysteria movement has waxed and is now waning. It will soon recede as a threat to our liberties and prosperity.

Transforming Education

Obama wanted to transform K–12 education in America by nationalizing the curriculum. That would be illegal if done directly so he launched Common Core State Standards, a set of learning goals tied to achievement tests intended to force every K–12 school, public as well as private or religious, to teach the left’s perverse vision of English literature and dysfunctional theory of math instruction.

Common Core got off to a fast start as most states adopted it in exchange for federal money under Obama’s Race to the Top program. But then groups including The Heartland Institute revealed the true origins, content, and intent of Common Core and support for the standards began to evaporate. One by one, states withdrew from the consortia created to administer the Common Core-linked tests.

The debate over Common Core has had the opposite effect Obama hoped for. The public learned the national government doesn’t belong in the school curriculum business, and that activist groups on the left use schools to indoctrinate rather than educate their children. Parents are fleeing public schools for private schools or are homeschooling their children rather than risk exposing them to Common Core.

The controversy over Common Core has made parents and legislators more interested in school choice today than they were before. In June, Nevada adopted the country’s most comprehensive school choice program. That program deposits about $5,100 into personal education savings accounts for nearly every child in the state, to be used to pay for tuition or fees charged by the education service providers chosen by parents.

The Nevada program is a huge breakthrough for the school choice movement and was a long time coming. The Heartland Institute has been advocating education savings accounts since 1992 and I am proud to say has done more to promote the idea to state legislators than any other think tank or advocacy organization in the country.

Health Care Reform

The year The Heartland Institute started promoting education savings accounts, 1992, we also entered the national debate over health care reform by publishing a book titled Why We Spend Too Much on Health Care … And What We Can Do About It. That book was widely credited with helping defeat “Hillarycare,” Hillary Clinton’s plan to nationalize the nation’s health care system.

The left has been scheming to transform health care in America ever since and came close to achieving its goal with passage of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, in 2010. Obamacare was designed to fail – it simply could never deliver on its promises of preserving choice of private insurance coverage while also controlling spending – and to destroy the private health care system in the process, leaving the path clear for single-payer or nationalized health care.

But just as Obama’s plans to transform energy and education have failed, so too has his effort to transform health care. Surveys show the American people remain opposed to the program despite years of propaganda and billions of dollars in subsidies. Millions of people still refuse to buy insurance.

Insurance premiums are rising at double-digit rates, sparking widespread anger. Republican governors are refusing to expand Medicaid, the mechanism under which a large majority of people were to become “newly insured.”

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed bills to repeal and replace Obamacare more than 60 times. Republicans in the Senate haven’t been able to meet the 60-vote threshold to achieve closure in that chamber or to override a promised presidential veto. Candidates for the Republican nomination for president – notably governors Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal and Sen. Marco Rubio – have proposed replacing Obamacare with plans incorporating many of the ideas we first presented in Why We Spend Too Much on Health Care.

The backlash against Obamacare will soon lead to the adoption of consumer-driven health care reforms such as tax credits, enhanced health savings accounts, interstate insurance markets, and malpractice insurance reforms. It’s entirely likely these reforms would not have been proposed or embraced were it not for Obamacare and its disastrous consequences.

No Time for a Victory Lap

It’s tempting to step back from the fight and take a victory lap or two. After all, we are on the brink of repealing expensive alternative energy mandates and subsidies, bringing school choice to every family in America, and finally empowering patients to find and use the medical care services they feel are best for them.

But if we quit the fight now, there is no assurance we will win these battles. The forces against freedom and for tyranny in each case are enormous, well-funded, and powerful. We are David against Goliath, confident and hopeful but still battling heavy odds.

This much is certain: We have turned the tide on statism in each of these three important areas. We’ve risen to the call to come to freedom’s defense and have fought a good fight indeed. Let’s finish what we’ve begun: Win these battles … and the others likely to come our way … and then the war.