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Obama’s Climate Goals Undermine U.S. Financial and National Security

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2016, 4:25 PM

Row of military ships against marine sunset

On several occasions at different venues and events, President Obama has declared“there is no greater threat to U.S. security than climate change.” With China’s moves in the South China sea, Russia’s moves in Eastern Europe, and terrorists strikes killing Americans and others around the world, the President’s belief is idiotic. Climate change, if it poses a threat at all, is distant and the impacts can be adapted too without loss of life.

Still President Obama has forced the military to undertake expensive programs to fight climate change by going “green.” These efforts are drowning taxpayers in debt while  is diverting scarce resources from the nation’s defense to the creation of expensive, and, as it turns out, greenhouse-gas-emitting green fuels.

For instance, driven by President Barack Obama’s directives, the Navy has undertaken the “Great Green Fleet” (GGF) initiative to reduce petroleum consumption by 50 percent in 2020 by switching to alternative energy sources, including advanced biofuels. Substituting advanced biofuels for petroleum marine fuels has proven very expensive and produced little if any environmental benefit.

At the outset of the GGF initiative, the Navy paid up to $400 per gallon for advanced biofuels at a time when the price of petroleum-based marine fuel was $2.82 per gallon. The initial algae-based advanced biofuels had large negative “net energy values,” meaning they consumed far more energy (in the form of fossil fuels) during their production-through-consumption lifecycle than the petroleum fuels they displaced, so net carbon dioxide emissions were many times greater than if the Navy had just used traditional fossil fuels.

Due to a combination of generous federal subsidies and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding, the cost of marine biofuels has dropped to approximately 50 percent greater than the cost of petroleum-based marine diesel. Factoring in the carbon content of the biofuels’ feedstock and the final fuel itself, the energy used in refining and delivering the fuel outside of the normal supply chain means the environmental benefits of the fuel remain questionable.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep48): #WebOfDenial, Cutting the Federal Budget, Renewable Mandates, and the Everglades

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2016, 3:30 PM

With John MIA, Donny is joined by Director of Communications Jim Lakely in this week’s exploration of think tanks across the country in episode #48 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Cato Institute, the Rio Grande Foundation, and the James Madison Institute.

Jim and Donny start off the podcast talking about the latest attack on the freedom of speech by Democratic Senators with their #WebOfDenial campaign. The Heartland Institute was singled out more times than any other organization in the Senators’ name and shame stunt.

Featured Work of the Week

In this Featured Work of the Week segment, Donny and Jim discuss a research paper from the Cato Institute titled “Downsizing the Federal Government.” The report describes a course of action that could be taken to get government spending under control. Going far beyond the tried appeal to reducing waste, fraud, and abuse, this report proposes major cuts to dozens of federal departments and services. As Donny explains, these cuts will surely impact everyone in the country, but in the effort of solving the ongoing debt crisis, it is necessary.

In the World of Think Tankery

In this week’s “think tankery” segment, Donny and Jim look at a study by the Rio Grande Foundation titled “New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard: An Evaluation of its Impact on the State Economy.” The report takes a close look and the benefits and drawbacks of these mandates specifically in the state of New Mexico.

In the last part of this segment, Donny and Jim talk about a publication from the James Madison Institute titled “Solving the Everglades Riddle.” This issue of restoring the Everglades has been the subject of debate for decades. This report gives a detailed look at the current situation, what led to the current situation and what we can do to help. Never let anyone tell you that free-market, and limited-government advocates don’t care about the environment.

Events

  • John Locke Foundation (Monday, July 25) With All Due Respect, What Are You Thinking? @ the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • The Heartland Institute (Wednesday, July 27) The Use of State Power to Silence Patriots featuring Eric O’Keefe @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois

I hope you’ll listen in, subscribe, and leave a review for our podcast on iTunes. We welcome your feedback in our new show’s inbox at InTheTankPodcast@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

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

heartland daily podcast, hdpodcast, podcast, in the tank, itt, donald kendal, donny kendal, jim lakelly, public policy, cato, institute, cutting, spending, federal, government, rio grande foundation, renewable energy, mandates, james madison, everglades, riddle, energy, environment, budget, taxes,

Categories: On the Blog

Pokemon Go Re-Reveals The Left’s Anti-Free Market, Pro-Government Fetish

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2016, 11:44 AM

Congratulations to Google on Pokemon Go. Google’s parent company Alphabet incubated and spun out this latest highly successful data-collection-device – for sale to advertisers everywhere.

Pokemon Go is a phenomenon. Of course, if you are in any way involved in social media or popular culture – you already know this. The game’s app is drawing tens if not hundreds of thousands (millions?) of consumers out into the sunlight and the streets – chasing down augmented-reality Pikachus and Charizards.

Consumers are speaking – and they are roaring for Pokemon. And when consumers speak – companies listen.

T-Mobile Jumps on the Pokémon Go Bandwagon with Free Data Access for Players: “Pokémon GO players on the network won’t get dinged for any data…for the next year starting on Tuesday the 19th.”

And if Pokemon Go remains popular – you can bet T-Mobile will extend the free data offer way past a year. And you can bet that by then T-Mobile will not be the only provider giving people free Pokemon.

Consumers love Pokemon. Consumers love free stuff. Combining the two is yet another free market victory for consumers. And the party rolls on. Except – cue the anti-free market, pro-government fetishists.

Does T-Mobile’s ‘Pokemon’ Data Plan Poke at Net Neutrality?“(D)igital rights advocates question whether the deal amounts to favoritism that violates the spirit of Net Neutrality.”

If you asked the average consumer “You can have free, unlimited Pokemon Go – or Net Neutrality” – guess which he or she would choose? Net Neutrality is a Fantasy Land fetish about which the average consumer has never heard. Getting free stuff they love is a Reality-based boon to consumers. The vote wouldn’t even be close.

Except – cue the anti-free market, pro-government fetishists.

T-Mobile Gives Free Unlimited Data for Pokemon Go – Raising Net Neutrality Concerns: “To be clear: making Pokémon Go exempt from data caps is bad for net neutrality, for the same reasons making certain video and music apps exempt is a bad idea.”

Free Pokemon GO Data for T-Mobile Users, Is It Against Net Neutrality?: “Of course, this is against net neutrality and the carrier has been criticized several times.”

It’s almost as if “Net Neutrality” is a Leftist safe word – to be uttered when the free market growing freely causes them too much discomfort.

Few things demonstrate the insular Government Bubble better than this:

T-Mobile’s Cool New ‘Pokémon Go’ Deal is a Threat to the Open Internet: “T-Mobile is waiving the charges for data its customers are using to play ‘Pokémon Go’ — and people are furious about it.”

Which “people?” Certainly not consumers – who vastly, exponentially outnumber any Bubble contingent of pro-government Net Neutrality fetishists. The babble continues:

“On first glance, it seems like a weird thing to be angry about. Customers get to catch more pokémon, T-Mobile gets a publicity boost, everyone’s happy – right?”

Full stop – consumers do think it’s a weird thing about which to be angry. They are very happy. Except the fetishists don’t stop:

“Not quite. The carrier’s offer arguably violates a principle of the open internet that has caused huge debate in the past: Net Neutrality.”

Again, if consumers are happy with what they’re getting – who cares what happens to some faculty-lounge nonsense that the government has bizarrely, tyrannically imposed onto a magnificently functioning Internet ecosystem?

The anti-free market, pro-government fetishists do.

Pokemon Go News: T-Mobile to Exempt Pokemon Data through August 2017; Is it Worthwhile?

T-Mobile Giving Free Data for Pokemon Go, but is This a Good Thing?

T-Mobile Promotion Scheme On ‘Pokemon Go’ Not Good Enough For Customers

How about we let consumers decide if this – if anything – is “worthwhile.” If it’s a “good thing.” If it’s “good enough” for them.

Rather than the tiny contingent inside the Government Bubble deciding for them?

That’s how free markets work. Unless the government fetishists get their interloping, wealth-and-freedom-destroying way.

[Originally published at Redstate]

Categories: On the Blog

Global Temperatures Are Mostly Fake | Real Science

Environment Suite - In The News - July 22, 2016, 11:40 AM
NOAA claims global temperatures are the hottest ever, based on some rather spectacular junk science. NOAA doesn’t actually have any temperature data over most…

There Is No Good Time for a Carbon Tax

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2016, 11:39 AM

June 10, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) saying a carbon tax would harm the economy and should not be enacted. The 237–163 vote in favor of the resolution included only six Democrats, who joined the entire Republican caucus.

Although the legislative action was purely symbolic — there was no pending legislation attempting to impose a tax on carbon dioxide — I applaud the House’s vote. When carbon taxes or similar bills capping carbon emissions have been considered in the past, they have either been rejected or failed to get a vote.

Despite President Barack Obama’s inability to get legislation through Congress to raise the cost of burning fossil fuels, the Obama administration has enacted limits on carbon-dioxide emissions through various executive actions and regulations that ultimately have the same effect as a tax on carbon would. Thus, this resolution is important, because it highlights the high costs related to many of the Obama administration’s restrictions on greenhouse-gas emissions.

Because a carbon tax would apply to 85 percent of the United States’ energy, and energy is the lifeblood of the economy, the resolution notes a carbon tax “would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States.”

In the lead up to the resolution’s introduction, a group of 22 research institutes, legal foundations, and grassroots activist groups — including the Heartland Institute, my employer — submitted a letter to Scalise expressing their support for the resolution.

The letter says multiple independent analyses, including reports by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), have found carbon taxes and similar policies often bring with them significant unintended consequences.

“Such marketplace manipulation represents a recipe for unintended consequences and self-inflicted economic damage… [and would be]… regressive, imposing disproportionately high costs on middle- and lower-income families and thereby harming most those who can afford it least,” wrote the authors of the letter.

NAM says a carbon tax could eliminate the equivalent of 21 million jobs over the next 40 years and reduce workers’ wages by up to 8.5 percent. NAM also says a carbon tax would increase the cost of goods and services, as manufacturers and retailers would pass their higher energy costs on to consumers.

A carbon tax would damage America’s economic competitiveness, making U.S. goods more expensive than comparable goods from other countries. Relatively inexpensive energy is currently one of U.S. manufacturers’ main competitive advantages over international competitors. The American Energy Alliance notes in the second half of 2014, the average price of electricity for industrial consumers in the European Union was 12 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to 7 cents per kilowatt hour in the United States.

CBO notes a carbon tax is highly regressive, costing the poorest one-fifth of American households 250 percent more than the richest one-fifth of households. Low-income communities, seniors, and those on fixed incomes spend a greater proportion of their budgets on energy and energy-related items compared to middle-income households and wealthy households.

Incredibly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits neither a carbon tax nor the regulations EPA has already imposed will do anything to prevent global climate change — even if humans’ carbon-dioxide emissions are contributing to it. These policies are truly all pain and no gain.

Ironically, carbon-dioxide limits and taxes — by raising the cost of using fossil fuels — will likely increase pollution. Facing higher energy costs for certain American companies means they will be forced to move overseas to remain profitable. Countries such as China and India — two places many businesses are likely to relocate to — have weaker environmental standards and less-efficient methods of production than those that exist in the United States. As companies fleeing the carbon tax and other onerous regulations shift more of their operations overseas, air pollution will likely increase as a result.

There is never a good time to enact bad policy, and a carbon tax is one of the worst policies I can imagine.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Consumers Lose, Regulators Win in Federal Court’s Net-Neutrality Ruling

Somewhat Reasonable - July 22, 2016, 11:34 AM

A months-long court battle challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority to rewrite U.S. law has been brought to an end by federal judges. Unfortunately for consumers, the government courts sided with government lawyers.

On June 14, federal judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of FCC, determining—in agreement with government lawyers—the regulatory agency possesses the legal authority to rewrite federal law using the Telecommunications Act of 1934 to regulate internet services in the same manner a power company is regulated.

These regulations, using laws from the 1930s to address issues in 2016, put unelected government regulators between consumers and service providers, in stark contrast to FCC’s stated goal of “supporting the nation’s economy by ensuring an appropriate competitive framework for the unfolding of the communications revolution.”

Treating the internet as though it is an electric company or a water company allows FCC to insert itself in the middle of every data transaction, between every recipient and sender of every bit and byte. It’s one of the most significant regulatory power grabs in history, and few people even realize it occurred.

The term net neutrality is itself a Trojan horse for control-hungry bureaucrats, and justifying the decision under Title II of the Telecommunications Act shows FCC is less interested in “ensuring an appropriate competitive framework” and more interested in banning prioritization on private networks.

Prioritization is a technical term referring to agreements made between content providers and a network owner that allows the provider’s data to travel on less-congested network routes in exchange for agreed-upon fees.

When networks are clogged with data during high-traffic times, these private agreements help consumers receive requested data faster, which benefits consumers.

All kinds of data—YouTube videos of epic fails, an e-mail to your boss, or that winning move in Overwatch—travel over the internet, but some kinds of data are more tolerant of delays or temporary congestion. For example, the order in which an e-mail’s data are sent doesn’t matter very much, but other kinds of data—such as data for streaming videos or playing video games—are less forgiving when jumbled around.

Receiving data bits in the wrong order or at the wrong time can cause distortions, stutters, lag, and other problems. Ideally, content companies can choose to pay a little bit extra—if it’s worth it to them—to have their content bits be delivered faster than data from competing services.

Similar to how many motor-vehicle drivers choose to pay slightly more to take well-maintained toll roads instead of clogged government-funded highways, paid prioritization allows you to be entertained in higher fidelity. By preventing paid prioritization, net neutrality forces internet service providers to treat all data alike, ignoring the different needs of the various kinds of data travelling over the internet.

Net neutrality permanently sticks commands to your favorite Overwatch hero in the same slow internet road as your least-favorite e-mail spam, preventing the data you want from getting to you when you want and need it.

Instead of pursuing more power through opaque regulations and months of court battles, ditching net neutralityand cutting deadweight regulations on internet providers and other telecommunications companies is the key to giving consumers a power-up in today’s fast-paced digital economy.

[Originally published at The Hill]

Categories: On the Blog

The Closing of the American Mind

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 22, 2016, 10:23 AM
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto I was born in the midst of the Great Depression, when no one could imagine the revolutionary technological advances that we now…

Polar Voyage Meant To Prove Global Warming STUCK In Ice | The Daily Caller

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 22, 2016, 9:47 AM
5140350 A group of adventurers, sailors, pilots and climate scientists that recently started a journey around the North Pole in an effort to show the lack of…

Heartland Daily Podcast – Joshua Sewell: Taxpayers on the Hook for Crop Insurance Programs

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2016, 3:37 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Joshua Sewell, senior policy analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense joins the show to discuss agriculture policy and crop insurance.

Sewell explores the high costs related to crop insurance and other farm programs showing how taxpayers foot the bill for a program that could be provided more effectively through the free market. Most people don’t know, but taxpayers insure farmers not just against crop losses due to disaster but also against below expected crop prices.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Add Intellectual Property Protection To The List Of Rights The Government Is Eviscerating

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2016, 10:46 AM

The Constitution is an extraordinary document. Life for most humans for most of human history has been poor, nasty, brutish and short. The Constitution acknowledged this past (and present) – and transformed our future.

One of the many, many amazing things the document did was properly define the role between man (master) and government (servant). In part by codifying man’s natural rights. These rights are inherently ours – and government can not infringe upon them.

As we’ve oft reminded, Ben Franklin was asked as he departed the Constitutional Convention “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” To which Franklin responded “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

We haven’t kept it. Because government keeps serially, ever-more-blatantly exceeding its limits – and in the process eviscerating our rights. And the officials We the People elect either do nothing to stop it – or are complicit in it.

Our representatives have yet another opportunity to step up and stop yet another government encroachment. Under prospective assault this time – the Constitution’s Copyright Clause:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

We have a right to property protection. This includes intellectual property – as identified just above. But nothing is safe anymore.

The agency about to undermine our intellectual property rights right this go round is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is considering a bizarre, back-to-the-future regulation – which will prop up the dying set-top-box market so as to allow cronies like Google to have free access to copyrighted television content.

In case you were wondering: The set-top-box is the thing that sits in close proximity to your television – that descrambles the encoded signal your cable company sends, translating it into viewable shows and movies. Why is the signal scrambled? Because it contains tons and tons of copyrighted material – the content created by ABC, NBC, CBS and the dozens of other creators of the programming we all enjoy.

Protecting that content is a huge deal for its creators – which is why they demand such stringent protections in the contracts they negotiate with cable companies. Thus the set-top-box isn’t some sort of add-on item – it is the final component in cable television’s secure-delivery-system.

The FCC is ignoring all of this Reality. And are about to force cable companies to descramble the content which they are obligated by contract to protect – and for which they pay most handsomely.

And then give that content for free to the likes of Google. Who will then sell their set-top-boxes (just what we need, another remote control) – thanks to content for which they do not have to pay. Google and their ilk will sell advertising – thanks to content for which they do not have to pay. All the while collecting all of our data – thanks to content for which they do not have to pay. And then selling said data every which way they can.

Again, Google and their ilk make all of this omni-directional money – thanks to content for which they do not have to pay.And for which they have never signed any sort of contract promising to protect. Since they are not on the hook to do so – guess how much time, money and effort they will exert doing so?

This is more than a mite disconcerting for the content’s creators.

Showbiz Groups Say FCC Set-Top Box Proposal Could Have Harmful Impact: “The groups are filing comments with the (FCC) on Friday expressing concerns that the move would have an adverse impact on content creators’ ability to protect copyright and be compensated for their work, according to a joint announcement.”

Allowing companies like Google to have free access to content – with no promise made by them to protect it – would absolutely affect the creation of future content. As in – there won’t be any more creation of content. Why expend all the time, money and effort to create it – if the government is mandating you give it away?

You know who else is standing up for Reality? Congress – in bipartisan fashion. (I’ll pause while you get over your shock.…) A letter signed by Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte and Michigan Democrat John Conyers reads in part:

“As members of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees our nation’s copyright laws, we recognize the harm to the American economy caused by the theft of copyrighted works….Creators are legitimately worried about the prospect that future set top boxes, or their functional equivalents, could…lead to the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted works.”

Given the soon-to-be-government-mandated perverse-market-incentives for the likes of Google – these are very legitimate concerns.

We are very pleased Congressman Goodlatte recognizes the import of intellectual property and its protection. We hope he continues to stand against the FCC’s efforts to undermine it – up to and including using Congress’ power of the purse to curtail the Commission’s budget should it in insist on pushing forward with these anti-Reality regulations.

And we hope Congressman Goodlatte will apply his dedication to Constitutional intellectual property protection equally to all things – and once and for all shelve his anti-patent Innovation Act.

Intellectual property – is intellectual property. All of it is protected by the Constitution. None of it should be undermined by those who swear an oath to uphold and defend said Constitution.

It ain’t complicated.

[Originally published at Redstate]

Categories: On the Blog

Entrepreneurship and Public Policy: Reinvigorating Economic Competition

Somewhat Reasonable - July 21, 2016, 5:29 AM

The Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation, a Missouri-based nonprofit organization at the forefront of supporting research on entrepreneurship and innovation in the United States, recently published a policy paper titled “A Fair Fight: Entrepreneurship and Competition Policy,” which included several policy recommendations for reinvigorating economic competition in America.                                                           

The first policy recommendation addresses entrepreneurial entry and focuses on labor markets. Kaufman recommends limiting the scope, duration, geography, and eligibility of non-compete agreements, which restrict fledging entrepreneurs from starting a business that competes with their former employer and often blocks or delays the opening of a competing business. Kaufman also argues that a service economy should have occupational licensing requirements that create appropriate consumer protections with only minimal regulatory burdens and licensure restrictions. Further, Kaufman recommends professional licensure boards should increase the number of non-licensed practitioners, or “public members,” and be directly accountable to elected officials. 

Complementing the Kaufman recommendations, the Arlington, Virginia-based Institute for Justice, a nonprofit public policy organization, has recently updated (with this author’s assistance) its hierarchy of occupational regulatory options that includes an increased array of so-called “private governance” choices that should be evaluated by state policymakers before the traditional public regulatory responses of registration, certification, and licensure. Moreover, while Kaufman recommends a “greater number” of non-licensed practitioners on state licensing boards, I would recommend having a majority of qualified public interest members, as it would likely provide increased benefits to consumers (rather than to the regulated profession itself).

The second policy recommendation addresses tax incentives and public subsidies. Kaufman recommends reconsidering the targets and effectiveness of economic-development tax incentives, which are provided overwhelmingly to larger businesses, therefore reducing entrepreneurial competition. Moreover, Kaufman recommends allowing laws and regulations to evolve as entrepreneurs commercialize innovative products, services, and business models.

In addition to the Kaufman recommendations, this so-called “tilting of the playing field” of public subsidies needs far greater scrutiny from the “public” rather than simply remaining in the cloistered world of the public policy process. Calls for greater transparency in identifying which companies or industries are being targeted, as well as demanding periodic benefit-cost evaluations of the effectiveness of such tax incentives, as well as that of existing laws and regulations which may be impediments to innovation, are legitimate “good government” initiatives. The greater use of social media and other forms of non-traditional Internet media scrutiny can shed much needed “light” on public policies that are crucial to supporting a dynamic, competitive American business environment.

Thirdly, Kaufman recommends resisting “rent-seeking” behavior in the public policy process. By rent-seeking activities, Kaufman identifies legislative “carve-outs”, exemptions, or other special privileges that create a competitive advantage for a single company or an industry. One Kaufman recommended remedy to countering rent-seeking activities is to bolster congressional capacity by increasing institutional staffing and salary.

However, regardless of Kaufman’s noble intentions, twenty-first century “political capitalism” is now approaching an apex level, moving beyond the obvious recognition that organized political behavior influences the American economic system, to where political and economic elites are now designing and controlling political institutions and establishing the rules for their own benefit. While increasing staffing and salaries may attract more and better quality individuals, it will have little substantive impact on the existing tide of rent-seeking behavior and “crony capitalism.” The ascendancy of the “political” marketplace shows little sign of abatement, short of institutional reform re-focusing “competition” back to the economic marketplace.

Lastly, Kaufman believes that innovation is more likely to occur in a competitive market environment where opportunities and resources for developing new products and earning profits exist. Kaufman argues that abusive litigation by patent holders in industries where intellectual property plays an important role in competition negatively impacts entrepreneurial firms’ efforts at incremental innovation of the original technology.

There is no question that an overly broad interpretations of patent property rights has increased patent infringement litigation in recent years. This enforcement activity by so-called non-practicing entities in an industry is not driven not by a business model of employing these acquired patents in an industrial process, but a litigation strategy of threatening patent infringement enforcement resulting in financial settlements with the alleged infringers, thus dampening entrepreneurial innovation of the foundational technology. Fortunately, the likely results of pro-innovation provisions in the America Invents Act, passed by Congress in 2011, show a recent decline in the volume of patent enforcement litigation cases initiated annually, especially in the information technology sector.

In summary, like many lists of policy recommendations, Kaufman’s has a mix of those worth immediately pursuing (occupational licensing reform and evaluating economic tax incentives for effectiveness), a non-starter – at least for now (addressing egregious rent-seeking behavior), or in the process of being legislatively addressed (IP abuses threatening entrepreneurial innovation).

Thomas A. Hemphill is a professor of strategy, innovation, and public policy at the School of Management at the University of Michigan-Flint and a policy advisor at The Heartland Institute.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Lennie Jarratt: Illinois Board of Education Adopts Common-Core-Aligned SAT Testing

Blog - Education - July 20, 2016, 2:35 PM

In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to Terry James Radio Show where Heartland Project Manager for Education joins the show to talk about the Illinois State Board of Education’s decision to drop PARCC testing for high school.

Jarratt explains why this decision to replace PARCC testing with SAT tests is really a step sideways instead of a step forward due to the fact that SAT is fully aligned to Common Core. He also discusses how mandating a single test creates an environment of teaching to the test instead of truly focusing on education and testing knowledge.

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

Heartland Daily Podcast – Lennie Jarratt: Illinois Board of Education Adopts Common-Core-Aligned SAT Testing

Somewhat Reasonable - July 20, 2016, 2:35 PM

In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in to Terry James Radio Show where Heartland Project Manager for Education joins the show to talk about the Illinois State Board of Education’s decision to drop PARCC testing for high school.

Jarratt explains why this decision to replace PARCC testing with SAT tests is really a step sideways instead of a step forward due to the fact that SAT is fully aligned to Common Core. He also discusses how mandating a single test creates an environment of teaching to the test instead of truly focusing on education and testing knowledge.

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

Categories: On the Blog

GOP VP Candidate Mike Pence Praises The Heartland Institute

Somewhat Reasonable - July 20, 2016, 9:52 AM

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s pick for vice president, is a long-time friend and admirer of The Heartland Institute. He was kind enough to record a brief tribute to Heartland for our 25th Anniversary Benefit Dinner in 2009 when he was a member of Congress.

We are honored that he took the time to publicly share his praise for us. Video and transcript below.

“I’m Mike Pence. I’m a congressman from Indiana, and I’m honored to be able to join you all, at least by video, at the 25th Anniversary Benefit Dinner for The Heartland Institute – an organization I have admired and followed for years.

“The Heartland Institute is the very picture of American innovation. The institute’s rapid growth in size and stature is a testament to its founder, David Padden, now chairman emeritus, and his first employee, my friend, Joseph Bast, now the president. They played an integral part in building one of the most important voices in the national public policy debate.

“So, to Joseph Bast and to all who are gathered tonight: heart-felt congratulations to The Heartland Institute. Here’s to many more years of helping to guide this nation’s debate, and those of us who have the privilege of serving here in Washington, DC.”

Categories: On the Blog

Clinton to Madison: Get Me Rewrite

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - July 20, 2016, 8:57 AM
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks in Philadelphia. Photo: Associated Press Hillary Clinton wants to win over Bernie Sanders voters, and…

Free-Market Principles Should Guide Road-Funding Solutions

Somewhat Reasonable - July 20, 2016, 1:39 AM

As Americans hit the road during summer driving season, one thing that’s probably not on their minds is how the maintenance of those roads gets funded.

Over the past century, when consumers stopped to fill up at gas stations, they also filled up state and federal government highway funds through excise taxes, consumption taxes (which are included in the price of goods), and motor-fuel taxes. Now, as technological advancements and changing consumer habits work hand-in-hand to reduce the volume of motor fuel purchased, government infrastructure budgets have become increasingly strained, prompting lawmakers to increase tax rates.

Instead of trying to retain the status quo by increasing taxes on declining motor-fuel sales, now is the perfect time for legislators to experiment with fairer funding ideas — using common-sense, free-market principles as a guide to road-funding success.

Step one — or, rather, step zero — is to make sure road money is actually spent on roads. Currently, 15 percent of all federal gas tax revenue — about 3 cents for every gallon of gas purchased — is diverted away from funding road construction and toward subsidizing passenger trains and other forms of government-provided transportation. That may not sound like much, but it adds up to roughly $5.6 billion in inefficient spending.

After patching the leaks in the pipeline between the taxes consumers pay and the benefits consumers receive, the next step is to simplify the pipeline itself. Taxes are payments, and the people paying should be the ones using the things that are being paid for. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to today’s government highway funding laws. Gas taxes are paid by everyone who purchases gasoline — not by everyone who uses the government roads.

One, very direct way to uphold this user-benefit principle — a key free-market idea — is to get rid of excise taxes and replace it with a mileage-based user fee (MBUF). The number of miles an individual travels is much more directly connected to the miles of roads “consumed.”

With MBUFs, the fee can vary with the congestion rate of particular highways — just as the price of a good in a free market increases as demand spikes — without violating consumers’ privacy.

In Oregon, the state government has been test-driving such a program, alleviating potential privacy concerns by simply keeping track of how much is owed, rather than when or where people drive. Marc Scribner, a research fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argues that Oregon’s program proves privacy and user-fee funding are not mutually exclusive:

“An on-board computer … assigned miles driven to various categories: public roads or private property, in-state or out-of-state roads. That mileage was then tallied and processed by a trusted third party, without ODOT [Oregon Department of Transportation] receiving any location data. Fuel tax rebates based on mileage data were then applied and charges were assessed — again, without the government obtaining individualized location data.”

Oregon provides just one model. The current patchwork of local, state, and federal gas excise taxes is so inefficient and wasteful that almost any alternative funding framework lawmakers rally around would be superior.

The time for experimenting is now. Lawmakers should seize the opportunity by thinking outside the gas-tax box and devising more consumer-friendly and cost-effective ways to fund the government roads on which we drive.

[Originally published at Real Clear Policy]

Categories: On the Blog

Let’s Get Smart About Classroom Technology

Blog - Education - July 19, 2016, 4:32 PM

Online retail giant Amazon established itself more firmly in the education technology market this week by introducing Amazon Inspire, an online resource that will offer teachers and students free instructional materials. Amazon Inspire is set to launch in the fall, just in time for the upcoming school year.

The debate over whether the use of technology in U.S. classrooms advances student achievement or hinders it is a persistent one. Tech supporters contend the virtual world offers nearly limitless opportunities for students to learn in ways the physical world can’t. Proponents of “old-fashioned” learning, on the other hand, say there are advantages to the traditional system that technology can never replace.

Amazon’s online platform sounds promising. It’s a way for fellow teachers to share lesson plans, learning tools, and materials, which will be helpful considering, as TechCrunch reports, “Amazon estimates that teachers spend around 12 hours a week looking for course materials.”

Is it just me, or does 12 hours seem like a lot of time? Teachers put in long hours as it is preparing for classes, creating assessments, grading assignments, and often helping with extra-curricular activities as well.

With such an abundance of classical literature and brilliant human thought to explore, you’d think “looking for course materials” would be the least of a teacher’s worries in the modern, tech-savvy world. Many teachers probably spend as much time searching for online materials and learning how to use ever-evolving technology as they do using it to teach. Research by Virgin Media Business, released in 2015, found only 15 percent of teachers are confident using technology, despite a large majority using technology in most of their lessons. How much time is spent training and retraining qualified teachers to use a computer to do their job for them?

And let’s not forget the time and money spent to install, upgrade, and repair these technological tools. School districts feel pressured to supply students with the flashiest, most state-of-the-art equipment, because the more money you spend on students, the more you care about them, right?  Tech companies — which, according to the New York Times, receive “more than $8.3 billion annually on educational software and digital content” — approve of this logic. But last time I checked, the $6.85 Penguin paperback edition of Pride and Prejudice didn’t require a complete system reboot.

My sister Rebecca, a teacher in New Jersey, experiences what many fellow teachers complain of: technology distracting students. According to CampusTechnology, a study published in the Journal of Media Education earlier in 2016 found research shows “students spend a fifth of their time in class doing things on their devices that have nothing to do with their school work.”

My sister outlawed her students’ laptops, because, as surprising as it sounds, teenage girls tend to be more interested in online shopping, checking social media, and instant messaging each other on their tech devices than they are in declining Latin nouns on a blackboard. Imagine!

Teachers aren’t the only ones burdened by a tech-heavy classroom. Students aren’t learning as well as they used to. Many studies have found traditional methods of learning — with pen, paper, and textbook — improve students’ cognitive abilities.

Scientific American reported on a 2014 study that found students “who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who took notes with their laptops.” The authors of the study, which is titled “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” found because students who are taking notes by hand can’t possibly write down every word of a lecture, they “instead … listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.” Taking notes by hand, the article says, “forces the brain to engage in some heavy ‘mental lifting,’ and these efforts foster comprehension and retention. Students who type their notes can do so very quickly, without processing what the words mean.”

Many other studies have also found “old-school” methods of learning, such as writing things down by hand and drilling kids in math facts, are better for retaining knowledge, memorization, and developing motor skills.

The allure of technology in teaching children is understandable. Technology is entertaining. Like a video game, there are moving pictures, interesting sounds, and fun colors. It gets a kid’s attention, but what holds it? A 2012 Pew Research study found 87 percent of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers thought the Internet and digital search tools created an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.”

Let’s also consider students’ abilities, or lack thereof, to look outside of a screen and be stirred with a healthy curiosity about humanity and the world around them. A well-rounded education should encourage inquisitive minds to use their brains rather than rely on a personal digital assistant to find answers. There will be times when the GPS won’t work, “autocorrect” won’t know how to spell a word, and nothing but good, old-fashioned problem-solving skills will do.

Technology in itself is not bad. It’s an exciting and valuable instrument that allows us to do amazing things. But when it comes to educating young people, it should be considered a supplementary tool used to enhance the learning experience and reinforce traditional teaching, not replace it.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Let’s Get Smart About Classroom Technology

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2016, 4:32 PM

Online retail giant Amazon established itself more firmly in the education technology market this week by introducing Amazon Inspire, an online resource that will offer teachers and students free instructional materials. Amazon Inspire is set to launch in the fall, just in time for the upcoming school year.

The debate over whether the use of technology in U.S. classrooms advances student achievement or hinders it is a persistent one. Tech supporters contend the virtual world offers nearly limitless opportunities for students to learn in ways the physical world can’t. Proponents of “old-fashioned” learning, on the other hand, say there are advantages to the traditional system that technology can never replace.

Amazon’s online platform sounds promising. It’s a way for fellow teachers to share lesson plans, learning tools, and materials, which will be helpful considering, as TechCrunch reports, “Amazon estimates that teachers spend around 12 hours a week looking for course materials.”

Is it just me, or does 12 hours seem like a lot of time? Teachers put in long hours as it is preparing for classes, creating assessments, grading assignments, and often helping with extra-curricular activities as well.

With such an abundance of classical literature and brilliant human thought to explore, you’d think “looking for course materials” would be the least of a teacher’s worries in the modern, tech-savvy world. Many teachers probably spend as much time searching for online materials and learning how to use ever-evolving technology as they do using it to teach. Research by Virgin Media Business, released in 2015, found only 15 percent of teachers are confident using technology, despite a large majority using technology in most of their lessons. How much time is spent training and retraining qualified teachers to use a computer to do their job for them?

And let’s not forget the time and money spent to install, upgrade, and repair these technological tools. School districts feel pressured to supply students with the flashiest, most state-of-the-art equipment, because the more money you spend on students, the more you care about them, right?  Tech companies — which, according to the New York Times, receive “more than $8.3 billion annually on educational software and digital content” — approve of this logic. But last time I checked, the $6.85 Penguin paperback edition of Pride and Prejudice didn’t require a complete system reboot.

My sister Rebecca, a teacher in New Jersey, experiences what many fellow teachers complain of: technology distracting students. According to CampusTechnology, a study published in the Journal of Media Education earlier in 2016 found research shows “students spend a fifth of their time in class doing things on their devices that have nothing to do with their school work.”

My sister outlawed her students’ laptops, because, as surprising as it sounds, teenage girls tend to be more interested in online shopping, checking social media, and instant messaging each other on their tech devices than they are in declining Latin nouns on a blackboard. Imagine!

Teachers aren’t the only ones burdened by a tech-heavy classroom. Students aren’t learning as well as they used to. Many studies have found traditional methods of learning — with pen, paper, and textbook — improve students’ cognitive abilities.

Scientific American reported on a 2014 study that found students “who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who took notes with their laptops.” The authors of the study, which is titled “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard,” found because students who are taking notes by hand can’t possibly write down every word of a lecture, they “instead … listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.” Taking notes by hand, the article says, “forces the brain to engage in some heavy ‘mental lifting,’ and these efforts foster comprehension and retention. Students who type their notes can do so very quickly, without processing what the words mean.”

Many other studies have also found “old-school” methods of learning, such as writing things down by hand and drilling kids in math facts, are better for retaining knowledge, memorization, and developing motor skills.

The allure of technology in teaching children is understandable. Technology is entertaining. Like a video game, there are moving pictures, interesting sounds, and fun colors. It gets a kid’s attention, but what holds it? A 2012 Pew Research study found 87 percent of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers thought the Internet and digital search tools created an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.”

Let’s also consider students’ abilities, or lack thereof, to look outside of a screen and be stirred with a healthy curiosity about humanity and the world around them. A well-rounded education should encourage inquisitive minds to use their brains rather than rely on a personal digital assistant to find answers. There will be times when the GPS won’t work, “autocorrect” won’t know how to spell a word, and nothing but good, old-fashioned problem-solving skills will do.

Technology in itself is not bad. It’s an exciting and valuable instrument that allows us to do amazing things. But when it comes to educating young people, it should be considered a supplementary tool used to enhance the learning experience and reinforce traditional teaching, not replace it.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Scott Lincicome: How to Help Free Markets Defeat Protectionism

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2016, 4:16 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, research fellow and managing editor Jesse Hathaway is joined by Scott Lincicome, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and visiting lecturer at Duke University. Hathaway and Lincicome talk about how both major political parties used to believe in free-market trade, how both parties have been hijacked by cronyist anti-trade sentiment, and what conservatives can do to make American economic policy great again.

Lincicome, an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and visiting lecturer at Duke University, joins the show, explaining why politicians find promoting protectionism easier than promoting real free-trade solutions, and explains how believers in free-market principles can “flip the script” and make free-market principles popular again.

There is a moral case to be made for free trade and people should be talking about freer international trade helps everyday people, Lincicome says, instead of treating international trade deals as scoreboards and worrying about export-import imbalances. By worrying about numerical equality on the ledgers and not worrying about getting the government out of the way of voluntary transactions and exchanges, Lincicome says lawmakers have failed to fight fallacies about how free trade works—ultimately failing the people they serve.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Making American Medicine Great Again

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2016, 10:45 AM

The Republicans are at it again: trying to tweak a bad idea, make it “bipartisan,” and set a flawed system more firmly in concrete. What we really need is a Republican reform – one that can restore the republic, along with medicine.

Yes, Obamacare needs to be repealed – every last syllable. But that’s not all. To make America and American medicine great again, we need to remember what made it great in the first place. It was, to quote Dinesh D’Souza’s great insight in his book “Stealing America,” the “anti-theft” society. That’s what attracted people like him from all over the world, including India, to come here and become great Americans. They certainly did not risk everything to come to America and turn it into what they had left behind.

To put what we need to do into a few words: Stop the lying and the stealing. Simple. But far from easy. Once a country has become addicted to theft – redistribution of wealth – it’s hard to stop it. Almost everybody has something to lose, and the benefits are hard to see.

The benefits of stopping the plunder could include:

  • An immediate 15 percent raise for all working people;
  • A big increase in job opportunities;
  • An enormous drop in the price of medical care (50 percent or more);
  • Timely access to a doctor who is happy to see you and has plenty of time for you.

Does that sound worthwhile?

To get there, we have to get to the root of the problem: the tax code and Medicare. During World War II, wage and price controls made it hard to find workers, so companies started paying in tax-free medical benefits. More and more medical care was paid for through third parties (“insurance companies”). Then came Medicare – for the people who needed the most care – which paid through government and its private partners, such as Blue Cross, which administered the system. Prices doubled or tripled overnight.

My first proposal is to stop the Big Lie of the Social Security/Medicare system and abolish the payroll tax. There’s the 15 percent pay raise. The employer’s “contribution” has to come out of the worker’s earnings, too. Without the added expense of payroll taxes, more employers could hire more people.

The payroll tax is a first-dollar tax. No one can (legally) earn a dollar to buy milk for the baby or bus fare to get to work without paying 15 cents to Social Security/Medicare. And no, it is not a contribution to an individual’s retirement, even though it is represented as such. It is just a tax, as the U.S. Supreme Court determined long ago. The worker has no legal, contractual claim on any return at all. He’ll get whatever Congress allots when he reaches retirement age. Minorities with a shorter life expectancy will end up getting less. When the government runs out of revenue – pyramid schemes always run out of enough new subscribers – that’s just too bad.

The worker’s “contribution” is immediately spent – on other people’s retirement or medical care (some of them very rich). And also on the well-compensated army of white-collar employees who shuffle the money around. Probably half or less of the revenue that comes into Medicare is spent on medical goods and services.

But what would we do without Medicare, or other “insurance”? How could we afford care? Well, if you can’t afford to pay for something, how can you afford to pay two to three times as much by passing the money through a third party?

Some people seem to think that enrolling in insurance is like the scene in “Laurel and Hardy” where Stan, faced with the lunch bill, puts his last nickel in the slot machine and hits the jackpot. Yet people know that slot machines aren’t a magic money-multiplying machine.

Insurance is a way to voluntarily share unpredictable but catastrophic risks. It is not a way to get other people to unwillingly pay your bills. Neither Obamacare nor Medicare is really insurance. In fact, they outlaw true insurance for medical care and force most people into a beggar-thy-neighbor prepayment scheme.

Of course, we cannot suddenly cut off payments to older people who relied on politicians’ promises. But they will be hurt more than anyone else if we allow the American system to collapse.

Obamacare loots Medicare to help fund the scheme. Some Republican proposals would impose Medicare risk-adjustment methods on the whole economy – without admitting that the system is insolvent.

We need an Operation: Restoring Honesty. Major surgery, not a tummy tuck. It should start with Medicare.

Categories: On the Blog
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