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Energy and Earthquakes in Ohio

Somewhat Reasonable - 42 min 40 sec ago

Ohio sits above the Utica and Marcellus shales, two geologic formations that have rich energy potential waiting to be unlocked by the process of hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking.” Increased energy production has the potential to be a powerful economic engine for unemployed Ohioans, but the debate over hydraulic fracturing has served to highlight the natural and political fault lines running through the state.

These fault lines have become most apparent near Youngstown, Ohio, an area that has felt two different sets of minor, fracking-related earthquakes, one in 2011 and one in the spring of 2014. The 2011 earthquakes are thought to be caused by disposing of wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing process in deep underground injection wells (the same kind used for carbon capture and sequestration), and the 2014 quakes are thought to have been caused by the hydraulic fracturing process itself.

Despite these quakes, the residents of Youngstown have rejected bans on hydraulic fracturing three times within the last year, by double-digit or near-double-digit margins on each vote, dealing radical environmental groups a hat-trick of defeat in their quest to ban the practice. Youngstown residents have embraced hydraulic fracturing largely because the quakes were mild, Ohio regulators acted quickly and efficiently to take steps limiting future risks, and hydraulic fracturing has sparked an economic recovery in Rust Belt communities throughout the state.

When most people think of earthquakes, they think of Hollywood-style earthquakes twisting bridges and splitting roads in two, but these are not the kind of tremors Youngstown experienced. The largest earthquakes felt in Youngstown in 2011 measured at 2.7 and 4.0 in intensity, and they resulted in zero injuries and no cases of verified damage. The largest of the 2014 quakes was a magnitude 3.0, which the US Geological Survey categorizes as a minor quake that produces vibrations similar to the passing of a truck.

Not only were the quakes minor, but state regulators wasted no time in identifying the problems, shutting down activity directly contributing to the risk, and crafting new rules that have been applauded by the industry and environmental groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund. Among the new rules are requirements that companies install sensitive seismic monitors before drilling horizontally into rock formations within three miles of a known fault area or an area where seismic activity greater than 2.0 has occurred, and drilling must be suspended pending investigation when monitors detect seismic activity above magnitude 1.

These safeguards and the sterling track record of Ohio regulators in dealing with oil-and gas-related earthquakes have given residents confidence that proper precautions will be taken to make sure hydraulic fracturing is done in an environmentally responsible way, while providing a huge economic stimulus in an area that has been trending downward for decades.

In some ways, the Youngstown area is an unfortunate poster child for the term Rust Belt. The region lost more than 16,000 manufacturing jobs during the Great Recession, and the unemployment rate peaked at 12.9 percent in March of 2009. Now, hydraulic fracturing is starting to shake off some of that rust, as evidenced by the construction of a $1 billion steel plant by Vallourec, a French manufacturer of steel pipes for the oil and gas industry, which employs 350 people.

Additionally, a local pipefitters union, which reported 40 percent unemployment at the height of the recession only 41⁄2 years ago, reached full employment last year, and as the business manager of Local 396 states, “None of this would have been possible without the oil and gas industry.” This dramatic drop in unemployment led Local 396 to rally against the fracking ban in Youngstown, creating a rift between blue-collar workers and greens, two demographics that have traditionally supported Democratic candidates.

As more states seek to increase their economic opportunities by expanding their oil and natural gas industries, Ohio’s restrictions on wastewater injection wells and required mapping of geologic fault lines will likely serve as a blueprint for regulators in other states. But even if other states have fewer worries about natural geologic faults, the political ones will be sure to shake things up.

Isaac Orr (iorr@heartland.org) is a research fellow for energy and environmental policy at The Heartland Institute.

Categories: On the Blog

The left’s case against Ex-Im

Out of the Storm News - 2 hours 9 min ago

Efforts to finally kill the $140 billion federal boondoggle that is the Export-Import Bank — led by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas — are getting characterized in some quarters as another round of impractical, rabble-rousing tea party invective.

The truth is, just as the bank has more than its share of apologists within the Republican Party, some of its more eloquent critics actually come from the left.

Of course, those critics at one time included the president himself, who on the campaign trail in 2008 called Ex-Im “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” Alas, Obama nonetheless signed a 2012 reauthorization bill and is now backing Senate Democrats like Mary Landrieu and Mark Warner as they try to make the bank’s pending reauthorization a campaign issue.

But some on the left still see clearly through the haze. Particularly noteworthy is today’s takedown — by Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research — of an op-ed published in yesterday’s New York Times by former U.S. Sen. William Brock, R-Tenn. Not only does Brock pull out all the usual tired claims for Ex-Im reauthorization, but he even has the brass to invoke the ghost of Ronald Reagan:

The bank is not perfect. It could do more to increase efficiency and transparency, and to better leverage partnerships to reach even more small businesses. But as President Reagan understood, that is a reason to reform it, not end it. Opponents of the bank say that it supports just 2 percent of all exports. Still, 2 percent amounts to $37.4 billion of American products made by American workers in American plants. That translates into tens of thousands of jobs from every state in the country.

Baker does an effective job of fisking this claim, noting that ending the bank would not actually cause Boeing, which receives 30 percent of Ex-Im’s subsidies, to stop selling planes abroad :

For the most part this would be a story of lower profits, but there would be some reduction in exports, probably in the range of 10 to 30 percent of the amount being subsidized. That translates into $3.7 to $11.2 billion in exports that we would lose without the Ex-Im Bank.

Is that a big deal? We can compare this to another export number that has been in the news recently. A new study showed that because of the sanctions against Iran, the United States has lost $175.4 billion in exports since 1995, with the estimated losses coming to $15 billion in 2012, the latest year covered by the study. So the jobs at stake with the Ex-Im Bank are about 75 percent of the number that could be gained if we ended the sanctions against Iran. In other words, if we think the ending of loans from the Ex-Im Bank would be a hit to the economy, then we must think the sanctions to Iran are an even bigger hit.

Baker goes on to note that, if promoting exports were actually the policy goal, the clearest way to do that would be to devalue the dollar, most likely through a negotiated arrangement with those countries that have been bidding up its value. It turns out that option isn’t so popular, not only because it would raise the prices of imported goods that retailers like Wal-Mart have come to rely on, but also because it would “hurt major manufacturers like Boeing and GE who now do much of their manufacturing overseas,” Baker writes.

Time magazine’s Michael Grunwald — author of the decidedly non-tea party tome The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era — lays out the progressive case against Ex-Im perhaps as well as anyone:

The fate of the Ex-Im Bank…will not affect the fate of the planet. It probably won’t even affect the fate of Boeing, which is perfectly capable of doing deals with Arab petro-states without government-guaranteed financing. So what’s the point of keeping it around and enduring its periodic scandals? Those of us who believe that government should do a lot of important things, like defend the nation and fight climate change and ensure universal health insurance, ought to recognize that government shouldn’t try to do everything. Opposing the Ex-Im doesn’t mean agreeing with the Tea Party notion that government shouldn’t try to do anything—just that it should stop trying to do this.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Who’s Really Waging the ‘War on Science’?

Somewhat Reasonable - 5 hours 25 min ago

Left-leaning environmentalists, media and academics have long railed against the alleged conservative “war on science.” They augment this vitriol with substantial money, books, documentaries and conference sessions devoted to “protecting” global warming alarmists from supposed “harassment” by climate chaos skeptics, whom they accuse of wanting to conduct “fishing expeditions” of alarmist emails and “rifle” their file cabinets in search of juicy material (which might expose collusion or manipulated science).

A primary target of this “unjustified harassment” has been Penn State University professor Dr. Michael Mann, creator of the infamous “hockey stick” temperature graph that purported to show a sudden spike in average planetary temperatures in recent decades, following centuries of supposedly stable climate. But at a recent AGU meeting a number of other “persecuted” scientists were trotted out to tell their story of how they have been “attacked” or had their research, policy demands or integrity questioned.

To fight back against this “harassment,” the American Geophysical Union actually created a “Climate Science Legal Defense Fund,” to pay mounting legal bills that these scientists have incurred. The AGU does not want any “prying eyes” to gain access to their emails or other information.  These scientists and the AGU see themselves as “Freedom Fighters” in this “war on science.” It’s a bizarre war.

While proclaiming victimhood, they detest and vilify any experts who express doubts that we face an imminent climate Armageddon. They refuse to debate any such skeptics, or permit “nonbelievers” to participate in conferences where endless panels insist that every imaginable and imagined ecological problem is due to fossil fuels. They use hysteria and hyperbole to advance claims that slashing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions will enable us to control Earth’s climate – and that references to computer model predictions and “extreme weather events” justify skyrocketing energy costs, millions of lost jobs, and severe damage to people’s livelihoods, living standards, health and welfare.

Reality is vastly different from what these alarmist, environmentalist, academic, media and political elites attempt to convey.

In 2009, before Mann’s problems began, Greenpeace started attacking scientists it calls “climate deniers,” focusing its venom on seven scientists at four institutions, including the University of Virginia and University of Delaware. This anti-humanity group claimed its effort would “bring greater transparency to the climate science discussion” through “educational and other charitable public interest activities.” (If you believe that, send your bank account number to those Nigerians with millions in unclaimed cash.)

UVA administrators quickly agreed to turn over all archived records belonging to Dr. Patrick Michaels, a prominent climate chaos skeptic who had recently retired from the university. They did not seem to mind that no press coverage ensued, and certainly none that was critical of these Spanish Inquisition tactics.

However, when the American Tradition Institute later filed a similar FOIA request for Dr. Mann’s records, UVA marshaled the troops and launched a media circus, saying conservatives were harassing a leading climate scientist. The AGU, American Meteorological Society and American Association of University Professors (the nation’s college faculty union) rushed forward to lend their support. All the while, in a remarkable display of hypocrisy and double standards, UVA and these organizations continued to insist it was proper and ethical to turn all of Dr. Michaels’ material over to Greenpeace.

Meanwhile, although it had started out similarly, the scenario played out quite differently at the University of Delaware. Greenpeace targeted Dr. David Legates, demanding access to records related to his role as the Delaware State Climatologist. The University not only agreed to this. It went further, and demanded that Legates produce all his records – regardless of whether they pertained to his role as State Climatologist, his position on the university faculty, or his outside speaking and writing activities, even though he had received no state money for any of this work. Everything was fair game.

But when the Competitive Enterprise Institute filed a FOIA request for documents belonging to several U of Delaware faculty members who had contributed to the IPCC, the university told CEI the state’s FOIA Law did not apply. (The hypocrisy and double standards disease is contagious.) Although one faculty contributor clearly had received state money for his climate change work, University Vice-President and General Counsel Lawrence White claimed none of the individuals had received state funds.

When Legates approached White to inquire about the disparate treatment, White said Legates did not understand the law. State law did not require that White produce anything, White insisted, but also did not preclude him from doing so. Under threat of termination for failure to respond to the demands of a senior university official, Legates was required to allow White to inspect his emails and hardcopy files.

Legates subsequently sought outside legal advice. At this, his academic dean told him he had now gone too far. “This puts you at odds with the University,” she told him, “and the College will no longer support anything you do.” This remarkable threat was promptly implemented. Legates was terminated as the State Climatologist, removed from a state weather network he had been instrumental in organizing and operating, and banished from serving on any faculty committees.

Legates appealed to the AAUP – the same union that had staunchly supported Mann at UVA.  Although the local AAUP president had written extensively on the need to protect academic freedom, she told Legates that FOIA issues and actions taken by the University of Delaware’s vice-president and dean “would not fall within the scope of the AAUP.”

What about the precedent of the AAUP and other professional organizations supporting Dr. Mann so quickly and vigorously? Where was the legal defense fund to pay Legates’ legal bills? Fuggedaboutit.

In the end, it was shown that nothing White examined in Legates’ files originated from state funds. The State Climate Office had received no money while Legates was there, and the university funded none of Legates’ climate change research though state funds. This is important because, unlike in Virginia, Delaware’s FOIA law says that regarding university faculty, only state-funded work is subject to FOIA.

That means White used his position to bully and attack Legates for his scientific views – pure and simple.  Moreover, a 1991 federal arbitration case had ruled that the University of Delaware had violated another faculty member’s academic freedom when it examined the content of her research. But now, more than twenty years later, U Del was at it again.

Obviously, academic freedom means nothing when one’s views differ from the liberal faculty majority – or when they contrast with views and “science” that garners the university millions of dollars a year from government, foundation, corporate and other sources, to advance the alarmist climate change agenda. All these institutions are intolerant of research by scientists like Legates, because they fear losing grant money if they permit contrarian views, discussions, debates or anything that questions the climate chaos “consensus.”  At this point, academic freedom and free speech obviously apply only to advance selected political agendas, and campus “diversity” exists in everything but opinions.

Climate alarmists have been implicated in the ClimateGate scandal, for conspiring to prevent their adversaries from receiving grants, publishing scientific papers, and advancing their careers. Yet they are staunchly supported by their universities, professional organizations, union – and groups like Greenpeace.

Meanwhile, climate disaster skeptics are vilified and harassed by these same groups, who pretend they are fighting to “let scientists conduct research without the threat of politically motivated attacks.” Far worse, we taxpayers are paying the tab for the junk science – and then getting stuck with regulations, soaring energy bills, lost jobs and reduced living standards … based on that bogus science.

Right now, the climate alarmists appear to be winning their war on honest science. But storm clouds are gathering, and a powerful counteroffensive is heading their way.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Harry Reid Remains Obstinately, Perversely Insistent on Taxing the Internet

Somewhat Reasonable - 6 hours 40 min ago

As we asked last week – who says bipartisanship is dead?

The allegedly “do-nothing” Republican-led House of Representatives has actually done a lot of good stuff – a lot of it bipartisan in nature.

“We’ve put together a helpful list of bipartisan bills (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) can start with that have passed the House with over 250 votes and are stuck sitting idly in the Senate. The do-nothing Senate really must do-better,” (Congressman Eric) Cantor spokeswoman Megan Whittemore said.

Therein lies the problem.  Senator Reid remains an obstinate obstruction to advancing good legislation.  He only moves bills that lessen our freedom – and lighten our wallets.

On November 1 – and remember, Election Day is November 4 – a since-1998 federal moratorium on Internet-only taxes ends.  Meaning you and I will pay the government even more coin to surf the World Wide Web.

When you next fume at your Internet or cell phone bill – check the litany of taxes tacked on.  (And forget not the built-in government costs you pay but never see.)  That way you’ll know at whom to actually be angry.

Governments already bite huge chunks out of our hide.  But they view our money likeJello – there’s always room in their stomachs and wallets for more.

But the House just passed – by mega-bipartisan voice vote acclimation – the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA).

(T)he law has attracted large bipartisan majorities every time it’s been up for a vote in either house. That’s because the law has allowed the Internet to grow into an engine of interstate and international commerce.

Except Senator Reid won’t allow the bill up for a vote in his Senate.  Unless he can tether it to a whole new Internet tax scheme – the woefully misnamed, incredibly destructive Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA).

A new Senate bill may force lawmakers this week to make a tough choice on internet taxes: they must agree to expand the reach of sales taxes on out-of-state retailers, or else see the end of a law that forbids states and cities from imposing a tax on internet access.

…(T)he dilemma stems from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s handling of a bill called the Internet Tax Freedom Act. That bill, which passed the House by a large margin, would permanently entrench a temporary moratorium on ISP taxes. The measure is politically popular because it means consumers won’t see “service fees,” akin to those that appear on cell phone statements, on their broadband bills.

Instead of putting the same bill to the Senate, however, Reid has decided to attach it to a proposed law called the Marketplace Fairness Act. That bill, which first passed the Senate last year, would require online retailers to collect tax on sales they make to out-of-state consumers.

Get that?  Under the MFA, uber-tax-happy states like California would no longer be confined to taxing into oblivion just Californians.  They’d have access to the wallets of every business – every person – in all fifty states.

Turning Huge Government states into additional Huge Government federals.  And tempting Less-Huge-Government states to grow – with the siren song of new coin taken from people in forty-nine states that can’t vote against them.  That’ll help the economy and spur growth.

These people need to be told: Stop looking for new ways to take our money – instead, stop spending quite so much.

The underlying assumption when government looks for new money – is that every current penny is being spent wisely and well.  And there’s your Joke of the Day.

Senator Reid is constantly decrying the lack of bipartisanship in Washington.  He could get a whole lot more of it if he stopped serially, unilaterally blocking things that garner it – like PITFA.

Or tacking to it things like the MFA – which both sides oppose.

Hold on a sec.  Senator Reid’s actually getting more of the bipartisanship he says he wants – against him and his Huge Tax, Huge Government policies.

That’s one mean to an end, I guess.

[Originally published at Human Events]

 

Categories: On the Blog

The peer production economy should be allowed to succeed without heavy regulation, R Street study finds

Out of the Storm News - 7 hours 43 min ago

WASHINGTON (July 29, 2014) – Emerging “peer production” markets could unlock trillions in previously dormant capital, making it essential that lawmakers and regulators do not strangle these new business models before they have the opportunity to develop, two R Street Institute senior fellows write in a new paper.

Co-authored by R Street Executive Director Andrew Moylan and Editor-in-Chief R.J. Lehmann, “Five principles for regulating the peer production economy” finds that new technologies and changes in the way we communicate have created more opportunities for individuals and small groups either to develop and build upon innovative ideas or to bring their marginal capital and labor into productive use.

With new services like Lyft, Airbnb and Etsy connecting buyers directly to sellers, the peer production economy has helped to democratize production, liberate underutilized capital and reduce costs for consumers and producers.

“In some cases, this shift has allowed small startups to threaten dominant market incumbents, as long-standing asset-intensive firms now must compete with new firms than can tap the resources of privately held assets by individuals who aren’t using them fully,” Moylan and Lehmann write. “Overall, the effect has been to eliminate many of the benefits of being big.”

“Alas, the development of these new modes of doing business has been threatened by legislators and regulators – particularly on the state and local level – who in too many cases attempt to apply regulatory models developed in an earlier era to the individuals and small firms that are innovating through peer production,” they add. “These actions do little to protect consumers, but rather they prevent innovative ideas from coming to market and keep potential service providers sidelined.”

The authors lay out five principles for legislators and regulators to take into consideration when thinking about how to regulate the peer production economy.

Regulators should tread lightly, allowing firms and industries to self-regulate to the extent practical. They also should consider using existing market-regulating instruments, such as insurance contracts and surety and fidelity bonds, rather than prescriptive regulation.

The authors also recommend reduced reliance on occupational licensing and that regulators exercise extreme caution before any attempt to determine the “right” balance of buyers and sellers. Finally, regulators and legislators should strive for neutrality in regulation, so as not to benefit either incumbent or emerging business models at the expense of others.

“At a minimum, regulators should think very carefully about banning any peer production activity that isn’t already banned and should review existing laws to assure that policies created for one purpose do not place an undue burden on the sharing economy,” the authors write. “With a sensible, minimal regulatory structure, the peer production economy can and will create enormous new wealth, generate jobs and put previously underutilized resources to work,” said Moylan.

The full paper can be found here:

http://www.rstreet.org/policy-study/five-principles-for-regulating-the-peer-production-economy/

Five principles for regulating the peer production economy

Out of the Storm News - 7 hours 57 min ago

 

The attached paper was co-authored by R Street Executive Director Andrew Moylan.

Economic history over the last 200 years is largely the story of the industrial move from small-scale domestic production and piece work to systems dominated by economies of scale: factories, big businesses and multi-national corporations. But over just the past two decades, new technologies have radically altered this trend,disaggregating physical assets in space and time and employing digital platforms that allow for more individually tailored pricing, matching and exchange. Changes in the way we communicate and transact business have reduced economies of scale in some industries, shifting value to producers who have access to distributed capital.

In some cases, this shift has allowed small startups to threaten dominant market incumbents, as long-standing asset-intensive firms like car rental giants Avis and Hertz now must compete with new firms like RelayRides and Getaround that can tap the tens of millions of privately owned cars that currently sit idle in American driveways. Overall, the effect has been to eliminate many of the benefits of being big.

These changes have led not only to a greater diversity of products to meet niche demands, but to a panoply of divergent business models in sectors previously dominated by a just a handful of options, whether the consumer need is to find lodging or to get across town, to take just two notable examples.

As a result, there are more opportunities for individuals and small groups either to develop and build upon innovative ideas or to bring their marginal capital and/or labor into productive use. This phenomenon goes by a number of names, including the “sharing economy” and the “mesh economy.” We will use the phrase “peer production” as the hallmark of this emerging economic phenomenon. To be sure, the participants in this market aren’t necessarily peers, but we feel this label better describes the underlying dynamics. Peer production is not sharing, per se, nor is it a seamless mesh of production. Rather, it is about harnessing technological platforms to connect buyers and sellers who otherwise would not have connected, either because of supply- or demand-driven constraints.

Alas, the development of these new modes of doing business has been threatened by legislators and regulators — particularly on the state and local level — who in too many cases attempt to apply regulatory models developed in an earlier era to the individuals and small firms that are innovating through peer production. These actions do little to protect consumers, but rather they prevent innovative ideas from coming to market and keep potential service providers sidelined. Too often, the presumption is to “ban first; ask questions later.”

In exploring how to regulate new firms that shake up existing markets — especially those who develop entirely new business models — or what rules should apply to individuals who develop smartphone apps or rent out their power tools over the Web, legislators and regulators should step back and reexamine the first principles of consumer protection. Consumer-oriented regulation should be about providing basic standards to market players and should not serve as a barrier to entry, either for those who seek to compete with incumbent producers or for those with innovative ideas that redefine markets.

As the markets for peer production services evolve, it is the welfare of consumers that most concerns us and that should most concern policymakers. Innovation and “creative destruction,” as the economist Joseph Schumpeter termed it, are not prized because of their effects on incumbent producers, which are in many cases negative. Nor are they prized because of their “jobs created” or similar workforce metrics frequently espoused by politicians. Rather, they are valued because, from the perspective of the consumer, they improve on existing goods and services, reduce costs for households and create a host of new options to increase consumer utility.

In many cases, regulators charged with defending consumers’ interests instead work to protect incumbent producers from innovative market forces. This phenomenon, known as “regulatory capture” in public choice literature, not only impedes innovation and economic growth, but is profoundly unfair to consumers.

Heartland Challenges, Dismantles UN’s Climate Change Finding

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2014, 3:42 PM

Climate change hysteria has become the mantra of U.S. government since Al Gore’s 2006 Oscar-winning documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. The latest is that the U.S. Defense Department has embraced Al Gore’s message. According to a Defense Department official, Daniel Chiu, “All Pentagon operations in the U.S. and abroad are threatened by climate change.” Chiu, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development, gave this additional warning to senators at a hearing on Tuesday, July 22:

The effects of the changing climate affect the full range of Department activities, including plans, operations, training, infrastructure, acquisition, and longer-term investments. By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis, and adaptation, the Department can keep pace with the impacts of changing climate patterns, minimize effects on the Department, and continue to protect our national security interests.

The Defense Department’s proclamation is in keeping with an alarming statement made by President Obama at a recent fundraiser outside Seattle when he called for a Collectivist “New World Order.”  Obama bemoaned that the old new order isn’t working around the world, but “we’re not quite yet towhere we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a different set of principles, that’s based on a sense of common humanity, that’s based on economics that work for all people.”

As discussed in Thorner’s Illinois Review article of Thursday, July 24UN and its auspices bear responsibility for Climate ChangeAgenda 21, as a product of the UN’s Rio+20 conference, is all about the new World Collectivist Order espoused by President Obama in which environmental goals are integral to its success.

The 97% Consensus Figure

Repeated time and again is that almost all scientists agree that climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous, even though there are skeptic world-wide among scientists studying weather and climate who question pronouncements of certitude that due to man’s emissions of CO2 runaway global warming will occur.

This past May Secretary of State John Kerry warned graduating students at Boston College of the “crippling consequences” of climate change. “Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists,” he added, “tell us this is urgent.”  John Kerry’s comments mirror those publicized by UN IPCC reports, which have been unequivocally accepted by the Obama administration.  It goes without saying that  all IPPC scientists are self-professed members of the fictional 97% consensus of world scientists who believe in earth changing, man-made global warming.

Ignored by the media is a petition circulated for signatures by a group of physicists and physical chemists based in La Jolla, Calif.  Known as the Petition Project, it attracted more than 31,000 (more than 9,000 with a Ph.D.).  The petition states that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of . . . carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

Heartland Institute fills a need and reaches out to present “hard” science

The Heartland Institute initially started looking at the issue of global warming in 2006, realizing that the debate as being presented by the UN and its auspices was all one-sided.  According to Heartland’s president, Joe Bast, it was “time to bring together global warming skeptics to develop personal relationships and a social movement” to counter the published reports released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with its “self-interest to exaggerate the threat, to ignore any doubts, and to pursue one avenue, which is reducing emissions.”

The 1st International Conference on Climate Change was held in New York Cityin 2008.  Between 2008 and 2014 nine international conferences were held.  The just completed Las Vegas 9th International Conference on Climate Change from July 7-9, attended by Thorner, featured 64 speakers, from a multitude of disciplines and rightly qualifies as the most star- studded climate conference yet.  Visit this site to watch all of the #ICCC9 conference videos.

NIPCC as a Counter to IPCC

In addition to Heartland’s sponsorship of nine international climate change conferences to inform the public that there is another side to the global warming debate and that science is not settled, The Heartland Institute’s association with the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) is noteworthy and is recognized worldwide, sometimes with scorn, with findings that reducing CO2 emissions, especially here in the United States alone, will not effect the global temperature. In 2009 the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), and The Heartland Institute combined forces to produce Climate Change Reconsidered,which was the first comprehensive alternative to the alarmist reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The newest volume in the Climate Change Reconsidered series, was released on April 9: Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts. The second volume was released in June. These two volumes are the fifth and sixth in a series of scholarly reports produced by NIPCC.  Previous volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series were published in 200820092011, and 2013.  Reports are available for free online on this site. 

Whereas the reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warn of a dangerous human effect on climate, NIPCC concludes the human effect is likely to be small relative to natural variability.  Whatever small warming is likely to occur will produce benefits as well as costs.

Lord Christopher Monckton, a favorite of Conference attendees, issues a warning

It was during the 12th panel discussion at the recent Las Vegas 9th International Conference on Climate Change on Tuesday, July 8, titled, International Perspectives on Climate Change, when panelist Lord Christopher Monckton, a former policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher and one of the most visible and outspoken voices against climate change science as a climate change skeptic, gave pertinent details about past UN conferences, along with a grave warning about the Paris Conference (COP21) that will take place in the summer of 2015.  If the Paris Conference succeeds in its goal, as Lord Monckton feels that it might, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations all the nations of the world, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, will be bound by a universal agreement on climate change.  Monckon is calling for a “Get out” clause insert – or freedom clause — if countries wish to withdraw from the treaty because of changed minds about the dogma of Global Warming as a threat to mankind.  In reality, there hasn’t been any global warming for 17 years and 10 months!

Normal or hard science, contrasted with Post-normal science

Just what is the basis of real or hard science and how does it differ from post-normal science?  The concept of post-normal science was introduced by Funtowicz and Ravetz during the 1990’s. Climate change as promoted by UN IPCC reports, fall in the post-normal science category in that the process of science is linked to who gets funded, who evaluates quality, and who has the ear of policy makers.  Predictions are made on the basis of a theory or hypothesis. This contrasts the use of real world observations to test predictions as do the NIPCC reports published by The Heartland Institute.

In Climate Change and the Death of Science, Christian British blogger Kevin McGrane nails practitioners of post-normal science.  In their own words Kevin McGrane demonstrates that even they know and admit they’re no longer doing science but politics.  McGrane’s article strikes at the very root of many environmentalists’ routine practices.

A good explanation of Normal vs Post-normal science was contained in a brochure published and distributed by The Cornwall Alliance at the Las Vegas Conference.  The Cornwall Alliance is a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development. Not only was the Cornwall Alliance a cosponsor of the Las Vegas Conference, but its president, founder and national spokesman, E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D. , participated in Panel 21 (Global Warming as a Social Movement).  Dr. Beisner was likewise honored as the winner of Heartland’s Outstanding Spokesperson in Faith, Science, and Stewardship Award.

Normal or Hard science (NIPCC reports) consists of a rigorous process in which scientists formulate hypotheses to explain how some natural process works; test those hypothesis by careful observation of the real world and of laboratory experiments, diligently disciplining themselves to look as carefully for results that might falsify their hypotheses as results that are consistent with them; and freely share the raw data and the computer codes by which they interpret those date with other scientists so that they can try to replicate their observations and experiments, or find flaws in them.  Post-normal science (UN IPCC reports) is a process in which someone formulates a hypothesis, pays attention only to experimental and real-world observations that seem to confirm it but ignores and even suppresses contrary observation, refuses to share his date and methods with other scientists, and seeks to intimidate scientists who disagree with him or to prevent publication of their research.

What happens if Post-normal science wins?

This is what we are up against.  To put it bluntly, practitioners of post-normal science have stabbed real science in the back on their hurried way to declare how an “overwhelming scientific consensus” exists on manmade global warming.

Nigel Lawson asks in A Wicked Orthodoxy published May 5, 2014:

How is it that much of the Western world has succumbed to the self-harming collective madness that is climate orthodoxy?  It is difficult to escape the conclusion that climate-change orthodoxy has in effect become a substitute religion. . .

Throughout the Western world, the two creeds that use to vie for popular support, Christianity and the theistic belief system of Communism, are each clearly in decline.  Yet people still feel the need both for the comfort and for the transcendent values that religion can provide.  It is the quasi-religion of global salvationism that has filled the vacuum, of which the climate-change dogma is the prime example.

Although the Western world will suffer economically with countless hardships befalling its inhabitants, it is with the masses in the developing world where the greatest immorality is even now taking place. How can you ask the millions of people in third world countries who live in dire poverty to abandon the cheapest available sources of energy while suffering malnutrition, disease, and premature death. Not only is the global-warming orthodoxy irrational. It is also wicked.

In Conclusion

A new Pew “Global Attitudes Project” poll of July 22 offers details on the way citizens of the world think about climate change.  Unfortunately the poll has been interpreted in a way that brands the American people as ignorant to the risks of global warming.  Why?  Because only one in four Americans indicated that climate change was a “major threat,” making the U.S. the least concerned nation.  Maybe Americans as a whole are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for being.

If real scientists don’t rise up and point out that the emperor of “post-normal science” has no clothes, the whole scientific enterprise will die and the world and its people will suffer  The Heartland Institute must be applauded and supported for its fearless stance as a global warming skeptic, noted by The Economist, for taking action through its presentation of international conferences, and for its fact-based NIPCC reports which challenge the UN IPCC reports that advance unproven hypotheses.

Articles by Nancy Thorner based on Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Global Warming:

Article 1:  http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/07/ready-thorner-a-climate-change-holocaust.html#more

Article 2:  http://blog.heartland.org/2014/07/heartlands-science-director-breaks-ground-to-rein-in-us-epa/

Article 3:  http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/07/scientist-honored-at-heartland-conference-seeks-us-congressional-seat.html

Article 4:  http://illinoisreview.typepad.com/illinoisreview/2014/07/ready-thorner-un-and-its-auspices-bear-responsibility-for-global-warming-hysteria.html#more

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

 

Categories: On the Blog

UN and its Auspices Bear Responsibility for Global Warming Hysteria

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2014, 3:32 PM

President Obama has made 2014 his “year of action” and plans to use his executive authority to implement various actions of his agenda that are too divisive for Congress to consider. John Podesta, as White House adviser, was brought on board late last year to help Obama find ways to use executive orders to unilaterally push climate policies.

The EPA has already released emissions limits for existing coal-fired plant.  Early last month the EPA rolled out new proposed rules that would require power plants to slash carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years as part of the Obama administration efforts to curb air pollution and fight climate change.

Recently (July 23) a coalition of top business groups expressed rising concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants and demanded more time to respond.  The same business group coalition is also eying a legal battle against the Obama administration if called for.  According to the EIA (Energy Information Administration), if power companies are further mandated to comply with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) which limit mercury emissions and others pollutants, it is estimated that by 2040 this nation will have lost 15% of its coal-fired capacity.

Before drastic action is taken to curb CO2 emissions which would result in higher energy prices, the loss of jobs, certain electricity black outs, and an overall drag on this nation’s economy and productivity, shouldn’t both sides of the global warming argument be heard?  Given a fair and balanced approach, those Americans who accept Global Warming as settled science might not be so willing to go along with alarmists who are prepared to ruin the economy, sacrifice jobs, and our standard of living all for the sake of a crusade being promoted and conducted by politicians and world leaders seeking to tell everyone else how to live.

Undoubtedly Al Gore has done much to promote alarm and concern that catastrophic Global Warming is taking place through his 2006 Academy Award winning documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.

UN as a Promoter of One World Government through social engineering

Understanding how the issue of Climate Change originated and why green energy vs. carbon-produced energy sources is now being pushed by nations all over the world (including the U.S.), requires some historical knowledge.  Social engineering has been the orchestrated role of the progressive-oriented United Nations since its founding in 1945, when 50 nations and several non-governmental organizations signed the U.N. Charter.  Today almost every fully recognized independent states are member states in the U.N.  If accepted for U.N. membership, member states must accept all obligations outlined in the Charter and be willing to carry out any action to satisfy those obligations.

An attempt at U.N. social engineering took place this week on Tuesday, July 22nd, when the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee began discussion of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CPRD).  Should the Senate approve the UN CPRD treaty, it could threaten U.S. sovereignty and parental rights, putting this nation under international law when it comes to parenting our special needs children by giving the U.N. discretion over healthcare and education decisions for special needs kids.   Our nation already has laws to protect Americans with disabilities!

UN’s Rio+20 conference:  a blueprint for sustainable development worldwide, with emphasis on the environment

Operating within the U.N. is the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established in 1972, with its mandate “to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment.”  This agency has become the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, that promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimensions of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and that serves as the authoritative advocate for the global environment.

Twenty years after the establishment of the UNEP, the UN Climate Change crusade began in earnest.  Initiated at the UN Rio+20 Conference (also known as the “Earth Summit”) held from June 3-14, 1992, the Conference themes were that of a green economy in the context of an institutional framework for “sustainable development” to eradicate poverty.  The two-week 1992 UN Earth Summit produced Agenda 21, adopted as a climax to a process that had begun in 1989 through negotiations among all U.N Member States.  Its intent was to serve as a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide.  As written, Agenda 21 was a  Declaration on Environment and Development, the Statement of Forest Principles, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

172 governments participated in the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, 108 as heads of State of Government.  George H. Bush represented the U.S.  The UN Rio+20 “Earth Summit” set the agenda for further UN conferences, at which time the emphasis continued on the need for “environmentally sustainable development” — that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Subsequent U.N. Conferences included those held Copenhagen (2009), Cancun (2010), and Durbin (2011).

Sustainable government in the here and now

An example of sustainable development presently being enacted throughout the world under the guise of saving the planet from global warming, was brought home in a recent article titled, “Agenda 21:  Home Sweet Home in Freight Shipping Containers,” written by senior columnist for Canada Free Press, Ileana Johnson, and best-selling author of UN Agenda 21:  Environmental Piracy.  Ileana Johnson relates how damaged shipping containers are now being tuned into housing units in this nation and throughout the world

Writes Ileana Johnson:  These tiny spaces are expensive but they give the occupants a false sense of saving money and the planet by not using a car, walking or biking everywhere, just like the zoning environmentalists have been pushing for a while now, high density, and high rise living, five minutes from work, school, shopping, and play while the metro is nearby. Absolute heaven if you want to live like a rat in an 8-by-40-foot box! Who would not enjoy living in “lovingly repurposed steel husks” that have been previously sloshing across oceans.

So it is that the progressive UN-inspired social engineering projects of Sustainable Urbanism, Sustainable Development, and Equitable Communities are now being implemented around the world.  Having been adopted  at the UN’s Rio+20, the UN’s social engineering projects are not just aimed at destroying national sovereignty, language, and cultural identity.  Social engineering, as being imposed on entire neighborhoods, is resulting in a massive replacement of rural areas and suburban sprawl with high density, high rise urban dwellings, all in the name of green environmentalism as a way of saving the planet from the destruction of manufactured man-made global warming/climate change.

UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

In tandem with the UN Conferences, which have colored the thinking of world leaders since 1992 and have led them to become advocates of Global Warming, is the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientificintergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations, set up at the request of member governments.  So far there have been five reports.  All of the IPCC reports assess scientific information relevant to:

1.  Human-induced climate change.

2.  The impacts of human-induced climate change.’

3.  Options for adaptation and mitigation.

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5) was the product of this year’s March 25-29 meeting in Yokohama, Japan. As with the other four assessment reports, the consequences of Global Warming were many and required the issuance of a thirty-two page report for policymakers!  The AR5 report reads like a bad novel with consequence after consequence stated unless human induced climate change is addressed without delay.

Evaluatng IPCC scientists

John Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama, describes the IPCC as a framework around which hundreds of scientists and other participants are organized to mine the panoply of climate change literature to produce a synthesis of the most important land relevant findings.  These finding are published every few years to help policymakers keep tabs on where the participants chosen for the IPCC believe the Earth’s climate has been, where it is going, and what might be done to adapt to and or even adjust the predicted outcome.

Although Christy refers to most IPCC participants as scientists who bring an aura of objectivity to the task, he does note two drawbacks which limit the objectivity of IPCC scientists: 

1. IPCC is a political process to the extent that governments are involved.  Lead Authors are nominated by their own governments.

2. Scientists are mere mortals looking at a system so complex that it’s impossible to predict the future state even five day ahead.  It doesn’t help that it’s tempting among scientists as a group to succumb to group-think and the herd-instinct (now formally called the “informational cascade.”  Scientists like to be the “ones who know” and not thought of as “ones who do not know.

As far as process is concerned, IPCC scientist trust computer simulations more than actual facts and actual measurements.  Many times there are not exact values for the coefficients in computer modes.  There are only ranges of potential values.  By moving a bunch of these parameters to one side or the other, a scientist of computer modeler can usually get very different results — ones that are favorable to the individual or institution doing the study which, in turn, insures a continuance of government funding.

Patrick Moore, Ph.D., once a Greenpeace Insider, lashes out at UN’s IPCC. 


Patrick Moore, Ph. D. at the 9th International Conference on Global Warming  

Moore co-founded the environmental activist group Greenpeace as a PhD student in ecology in 1971, but left Greenpeace in 1986 after the group became more interested in “politics” than science.   Patrick Moore has angered environmentalist groups after saying climate change is “not caused by humans” and there is “no scientific proof” to back global warming alarmism.

On February 28, 2014, Moore told a US Senate Committee:  “There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years,”  “If there were such a proof, it would be written down for all to see.  No actual proof, as it is understood in science, exists.”

Patrick Moore is critical of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for claiming “it is extremely likely” that human activity is the “dominant cause” for global warning, noting that “extremely likely” is not a scientific term.

Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist is Moore’s firsthand account of his many year as an ultimate Greenpeace insider.

Dr. Patrick Moore was the winner of The Speaks Truth to Power Award in Las Vegas at the 9th International Conference of Climate Change.

Articles by Nancy Thorner based on Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Global Warming:

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

2007–a great year for growing bad legislation like the ethanol mandate

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2014, 3:16 PM

President Obama, and his administration, has enacted so many foolish and cost-increasing energy policies, it is easy to think that they are his purview alone. But in 2007, Republicans were just as guilty. Seeds were planted and a garden of bad legislation took root in a totally different energy environment. At the time, the growth seemed like something worthy of cultivation. However, what sprouted up more closely resembles a weed that needs to be yanked out.

Last week, I wrote about Australia’s carbon tax that was pulled on July 17. Its seeds were also planted in 2007, though not germinated until 2011. Prime Minister Abbott promised to eradicate the unpopular plant—and after nearly a year of struggle, he did.

2007 was also the year of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Around that time, more than half the states put in a mandate requiring increasing amounts of wind and solar power be incorporated into the energy mix the local utilities provided for their customers. It was expected that the RPS would become a much-admired garden with wind turbines blowing in the breeze and solar panels turning toward the sun like sunflowers.

Instead, the RPS has been an expensive folly. Angering the ratepayers, electricity prices have gone up. Groups, like the American Bird Conservancy, have filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because it allows bald and golden eagles to be chopped up by wind turbines without punishment to the operators. Industrial solar installations are in trouble due to the massive land use and literally frying birds that fly through the reflected sunlight. The mandates have created false markets and bred crony corruption that has the beneficiaries squawking when legislatures threaten to pull plans that have grown like kudzu. Yet, many states have now introduced legislation to trim, or uproot, the plans that sounded so good back in 2007. Though none has actually been yanked out, Ohio just put a pause on its RPS.

The RPS was state legislation; the RFS, federal.

Enacted, in 2005 and strengthened in 2007, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—also known as the ethanol mandate—had true bipartisan support (something that is difficult to imagine in today’s political climate). Both Republicans and Democrats lauded the RFS as America’s solution to U.S. dependence on foreign oil. In signing the Energy Independence and Security Act that contained the RFS, President George W. Bush promised it would end our addiction to oil by growing our gas. Although it was passed by Congress with the best of intentions, it, too, has become a costly, wasteful, and politically-charged fiasco that has created an artificial market for corn-based ethanol and driven up both fuel and food prices while threatening to damage millions of families’ most prized and essential possessions: their cars and trucks.

Times have changed. People are no longer lining up to view the garden of renewables as they do to stroll through the spectacular floral displays at Las Vegas’ Bellagio—where teams of specialized staff maintain the stylized gardens. At the Bellagio, you can gaze gratis. America’s renewable garden is costly at a time when our citizens are forced to cut back on everything else.

Compared to 2007, several things are different today. The big one is the economy. We, as a country, were still living large in 2007. We were also still dependent on oil from overseas and our purchases were funding terrorism. Plus, it was, then, generally believed by many that our globe was warming—and it was our fault because of burning fossil fuels. When presented with the idea of growing our gasoline, even though it might cost more, it seemed worth it—after all, what was a few cents a gallon to thumb our nose at the Middle East and save the planet?

But this is a different day. A few cents a gallon matters now. Thanks to the combined technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, America is rich with oil-and-gas resources—and we could be truly energy secure if there were greater access to federal lands. Since 2007, the U.S. has trimmed our CO2 emissions—while they’ve grown globally. The predicted warming (and accompanying catastrophes) hasn’t happened. Instead, it appears that the increased CO2 has generated record harvests—despite predictions to the contrary.

But the seeds planted in 2007 have grown false markets that need the mandates—both for electricity generation and transportation fuels—to stake them up, as they can’t survive on their own. Talk of yanking the mandates is likened to cutting down the once-a-year blossom of the Queen of the Night. “How could you?”  “You’ll kill jobs!”  Elected officials, such as Congressman Steve King (R-IA), who are normally fiscally conservative, vote to continue the boondoggles that benefit his state.

When the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed in 2007, it was assumed that gasoline demand would continue to rise indefinitely so larger volumes of ethanol could be blended into gasoline every year to create E10, a motor fuel comprised of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol. Rather than requiring a percentage of ethanol, the law mandated a growing number of gallons of ethanol be used.

Instead, due to increased vehicle efficiencies and a bad economy, gasoline demand peaked in 2007 and began to decline, reducing the amount of gasoline consumed in the U.S. Still, the law requires refiners to blend ever-increasing volumes of ethanol into gasoline every year until 36 billion gallons of ethanol is blended into the nation’s fuel supplies by 2022.

It is the mandate that allowed the ethanol tax credit (a.k.a. subsidy) to expire at beginning of 2012. The growing mandates gave the corn farmers plenty of incentive.

In the modern era, with ethanol no longer needed due to America’s increasing oil production and the mandates’ unreasonable requirements, an unusual collection of opponents has risen up against ethanol:environmentalists and big oilauto manufacturers and anti-hunger groups.

Much to everyone’s surprise, last November the EPA came out with a proposal to use its authority to make a practical decision to keep the mandate from increasing that resulted in a cut in the amount of biofuels that refiners would need to mix into their fuels—a decision that was required to be made by the end of November 2013. To date, in the seventh month of 2014, the EPA still has not released the 2014 mandates. Refiners are still waiting.

On Thursday, July 24, White House Advisor John Podesta met with select Democrat Senators including Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Al Franken (D-MN) to discuss the EPA’s November 2013 proposal to lower ethanol targets—which, according to reports, Franken called: “unacceptable.” The Hill quotes Franken as saying: “White House adviser John Podesta has indicated the administration plans to raise the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.” And, in another report, The Hill says: “That may mean Podesta’s signal—that the levels of ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels will be increased in the EPA’s final rule—is as good as gold.” A decision from the EPA is expected to “be imminent.”

All of this amid new reports that ethanol has little if any effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change. A Congressional Budget Office report, released on June 26, states: “available evidensce suggests that replacing gasoline with corn ethanol has only limited potential for reducing emissions (and some studies indicate that it could increase emissions).”

It may have been Bush who planted the ethanol mandate, but it is the Obama administration that is fertilizing it and keeping it alive, when it should be yanked out by its roots.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

[Originally published at RedState]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Area Lobbyist: Why Do Republicans Want To Kill My Job?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2014, 9:33 AM

John Feehery’s piece here on the dangers of rising Republican skepticism for big business is an amusing read, not just because I’m pretty sure nearly every sentence of it can be debunked in whole or in part. The tone is one of desperate confusion: when did the Republican Party stop being knee-jerk pro-business in the subsidies and carveouts and bailouts sense? Why do they want to kill the jobs of hardworking K Street influence peddlers?

Feehery writes that “Amid the fight for the soul of the Republican Party, some elements of the GOP coalition have become overtly hostile to Big Business.” I think that’s just false: no one is “overtly hostile” to big business, nor are they hostile because it’s big. Rather, they’re hostile to big business that uses government policy to warp the marketplace. No Republican is saying that Boeing needs to be broken up, just that they don’t have special privileges.

“Defeating crony capitalism has become the battle cry of libertarian conservatives.” Wait, does he mean that “real” Republicans should actually support crony capitalism? If Feehery equates “hostility to big business” with “defeating crony capitalism,” that suggests some big business profits do in fact come from cronyism, which you would think all Americans would oppose. (Except lobbyists.)

“Big Business wants immigration reform and higher academic standards for elementary and secondary schools–policy priorities that drive the hard right into conniptions.” Well, except everybody is for immigration reform – the system is a catastrophe – and higher academic standards – they are too lax. The debate is over what kind. But to suggest that the “hard right” opposes those things because they oppose the Gang of Eight and Common Core is intellectually dishonest, almost as insulting as claiming being in favor of home schooling means you want to break down community.

“What would happen if Big Business decided to change sides? What would happen if the Chamber of Commerce suddenly stopped being a huge fundraising machine for the Republican Party and started financing pro-business Democrats? That is the dream of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.)–and the nightmare scenario for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).” So because big business gives Republicans a lot of money, they should do special favors for them? Of course Chuck Schumer very much wants to be the party of cronyism – but again, if the price of corporate campaign dollars is corrupt manipulation of the economy to benefit large politically connected corporations at the expense of working families, that’s a pretty high price.

“Could Democrats make a coalition of big business and labor work?” Well, to a certain extent, they already do! That’s the whole reason this argument has juice. The highway bill Feehery mentioned is essentially a money laundering scheme from taxpayers to labor bosses. And business already gives to Democrats to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Whatever grassroots liberals think about inequality, Washington Democrats know that their rhetorical attacks on the 1 percent are simply cover for doing the bidding of big business on all sorts of issues. Chris Dodd understands the danger of this hypocrisy, and so do a lot of smart Democrats.

“How could the Republicans survive as a purely populist/libertarian political party?” Wait, so only populists and libertarians oppose cronyism? I mean, I understand that’s why the U.S. Chamber is opposing Justin Amash. But is Paul Ryan “purely populist/libertarian” – he just gave a speech on cronyism and called for getting rid of the ExIm bank, which is of course currently under investigation. Are Marco Rubio, Jeb Hensarling, Darrell Issa, and Jim Jordan all crazy populist libertarians?

The truth is that anti-cronyists on the right aren’t anti-business, nor will their policy approaches lead to business suddenly shifting to a monopartisan Democratic bent. http://vlt.tc/13za They simply want businesses to earn their profits in a competitive marketplace, and they want Washington to stop sending taxpayer dollars to insulate business from risk. Suggesting that being anti-cronyism means you are opposed to business is absurd. It just means you’re opposed to Feehery’s business, which consists of profiting handsomely off an alliance between Republicans, big business, and big government policy to dole out pork.

And that’s Feehery’s real concern: that his clients won’t be around to hire the money.

Subscribe to Ben’s daily newsletter, The Transom.

[Originally published at The Federalist]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Review of Glenn Beck’s “We Will Not Conform”

Blog - Education - July 28, 2014, 9:22 AM

Common Core is a unique issue in American politics because it has the ability to unite a variety of people from different end of the spectrum who agree on little else other than Common Core must be stopped. The reason so many people have joined forces on this issue is because they have found common bonds as parents and Americans concerned for their children and the future of America.

On July 22, 2014 Glenn Beck hosted a live, interactive event at 700 theaters across the country in order to formulate a plan of action for Americans to fight Common Core. During the show, the audience had the ability to email or tweet at Beck as well as participate in surveys to better gage the most successful types of efforts.

“This is something we all can unite on,” Beck said, “And we don’t really have a choice.” Parents across the country, regardless of political background, have witnessed the effects of the age inappropriate and unnecessary complexity that the Common Core standards have on their children. A group of parents and students gathered in the Blaze’s New York studio explained how Common Core causes needless frustration among students and takes away their desire to learn.

The standards espouse a “one-size fits all” style that disregards the fact that individual students learn differently. Brandon Gibson, a New York student, explained “Common Core makes you do it their way.” This approach has negative effects on many students who do not learn the Common Core way. Alphonsine Eglberth, a mother of a third grade student, told the audience that her son had to go to therapy when he was seven because of the frustration and anger he experienced as a result of Common Core.

The event featured an array of people from activists, to parents, to politicians willing to equip ordinary Americans with the necessary resources to stop Common Core in their own states and localities. The group was divided into five tables (research and resources, grassroots, alternatives, politics, and messaging) each geared toward providing different strategies to fight Common Core.

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, asserted that the biggest issue with repealing Common Core is that the federal government gave the states money to implement it. If states want to continue to receive these federal funds for education, they have to conform to the federal standards. [FreedomWorks provides an overview of the issues with the Common Core standards here]

Jenni White, founder of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, agreed citing her own experience in trying to repeal Common Core in her state. In attempting to obtain answers, White found the biggest obstacle to be the state chamber of commerce. The reason for this difficulty is that the Gates Foundation has given large sums of money to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to promote Common Core, and this has extended to the states as well.

Kathleen Jasper, founder of ConversationEd and a former high school administrator, although she holds very different political views, partnered with Glenn Beck in the effort to halt Common Core. She echoed Kibbe’s and White’s ideas that the money is one of the main issues. Jasper argued that parents must work against the machine. She explained that certain corporations are profiting off of the tests and textbooks for Common Core. The tests are designed for children to fail so that the companies make more money off of students repeatedly taking the tests and purchasing the materials for preparation. Jasper claimed that the best way to stop the machine is to boycott high stakes testing, which stops the “fuel.” [ConversationEd will host a webinar on August 24th about these tests]

With Common Core, students legally only have to take a third grade and a high school assessment, but schools offer many more tests more often. The research and resources table emphasized the importance of parents knowing their rights and holding the school boards and administrations accountable for the decisions they make about testing the students. Parents can opt out of these tests for their children, even if schools make it difficult.

In gathering information, it is important to go back to the original source to verify facts. Shane Vander Hart, president of Truth in American Education, expounded on this concept saying the impetus was Race to the Top; states wanted federal funding so they agreed to implement Race to the Top, which was $4.3 billion in earmarks. To understand Common Core, citizens should look at Race to the Top contracts as well as the National Governors’ Association, which asked the federal government to fund Common Core. Many organizations and think tanks have public records available to view. Additionally, citizens can also contact their local officials to request public records.

“Nothing is more disruptive than an informed citizen,” asserted author and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. Parents must know their rights and exercise them to stop this unconstitutional takeover of education. As Emmett McGroarty, director of education at the American Principles Project, stated “Common Core ushers in a highly defective curriculum…[and] undermines the Constitution.” In this way, Common Core provides a “blueprint” for foisting other policies on the people without their approval.

In addition to being informed, action is critical. A live poll concluded that Twitter was the most effective means to spread the word about Common Core. The grassroots table explained that face-to-face (or mom-to-mom) contact is also essential. With this effort, parents can find common ground to discuss the issues at hand. The table also suggested to use pictures and examples (such as Common Core worksheets) whenever possible in order to make Common Core something real and personal so parents don’t view it as something abstract but rather something that is in their own homes.

Along with spreading the message to other parents, legislators must be made aware of the dissatisfaction with Common Core to actually bring about policy change. Kibbe stated that it is key to “get parents to understand what a difference they can make…Politicians respond to incentives. Parents represent a voting bloc that is unstoppable.”

The politics table suggested a three step plan to influence legislators and change policy. First citizens must know what they are talking about; parents must know their constitutional rights and their rights as parents. Second people must get organized; this is something visible to legislators. Finally, it is crucial to show up. Even after a repeal, it is still necessary to show up because proponents of Common Core will try to usher it back in under a new name.

It is also important to note that there are other options besides public schools using Common Core. The program discussed homeschooling, online education or “distance learning”, and charter schools, specifically in the classical model. Dr. Terrence Moore, founder of Atlanta Classical Academy, asserted that Common Core is attempting to knock out school choice when the evidence is revealing the success of classical charter schools. He also argued that it is essential to take back the public schools because they are taxpayer funded and they control the future of America.

In discussing the most successful method of communicating about Common Core to bring about change, the messaging table highlighted the importance of finding common ground with others. This common ground could be the well-being of children or local control.

The complete plan of action, with viewer input, is available at commoncorefails.com. Now is the time to act before Common Core is firmly implanted in schools and produces catastrophic effects. As Heidi Huber, founder of Ohioans Against Common Core, stated, “You can restore your country if you take back your classroom.”

 Image originally published at http://www.theblaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Beck-We-Will-Not-Conform.png

Review of Glenn Beck’s “We Will Not Conform”

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2014, 9:22 AM

Common Core is a unique issue in American politics because it has the ability to unite a variety of people from different end of the spectrum who agree on little else other than Common Core must be stopped. The reason so many people have joined forces on this issue is because they have found common bonds as parents and Americans concerned for their children and the future of America.

On July 22, 2014 Glenn Beck hosted a live, interactive event at 700 theaters across the country in order to formulate a plan of action for Americans to fight Common Core. During the show, the audience had the ability to email or tweet at Beck as well as participate in surveys to better gage the most successful types of efforts.

“This is something we all can unite on,” Beck said, “And we don’t really have a choice.” Parents across the country, regardless of political background, have witnessed the effects of the age inappropriate and unnecessary complexity that the Common Core standards have on their children. A group of parents and students gathered in the Blaze’s New York studio explained how Common Core causes needless frustration among students and takes away their desire to learn.

The standards espouse a “one-size fits all” style that disregards the fact that individual students learn differently. Brandon Gibson, a New York student, explained “Common Core makes you do it their way.” This approach has negative effects on many students who do not learn the Common Core way. Alphonsine Eglberth, a mother of a third grade student, told the audience that her son had to go to therapy when he was seven because of the frustration and anger he experienced as a result of Common Core.

The event featured an array of people from activists, to parents, to politicians willing to equip ordinary Americans with the necessary resources to stop Common Core in their own states and localities. The group was divided into five tables (research and resources, grassroots, alternatives, politics, and messaging) each geared toward providing different strategies to fight Common Core.

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, asserted that the biggest issue with repealing Common Core is that the federal government gave the states money to implement it. If states want to continue to receive these federal funds for education, they have to conform to the federal standards. [FreedomWorks provides an overview of the issues with the Common Core standards here]

Jenni White, founder of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, agreed citing her own experience in trying to repeal Common Core in her state. In attempting to obtain answers, White found the biggest obstacle to be the state chamber of commerce. The reason for this difficulty is that the Gates Foundation has given large sums of money to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to promote Common Core, and this has extended to the states as well.

Kathleen Jasper, founder of ConversationEd and a former high school administrator, although she holds very different political views, partnered with Glenn Beck in the effort to halt Common Core. She echoed Kibbe’s and White’s ideas that the money is one of the main issues. Jasper argued that parents must work against the machine. She explained that certain corporations are profiting off of the tests and textbooks for Common Core. The tests are designed for children to fail so that the companies make more money off of students repeatedly taking the tests and purchasing the materials for preparation. Jasper claimed that the best way to stop the machine is to boycott high stakes testing, which stops the “fuel.” [ConversationEd will host a webinar on August 24th about these tests]

With Common Core, students legally only have to take a third grade and a high school assessment, but schools offer many more tests more often. The research and resources table emphasized the importance of parents knowing their rights and holding the school boards and administrations accountable for the decisions they make about testing the students. Parents can opt out of these tests for their children, even if schools make it difficult.

In gathering information, it is important to go back to the original source to verify facts. Shane Vander Hart, president of Truth in American Education, expounded on this concept saying the impetus was Race to the Top; states wanted federal funding so they agreed to implement Race to the Top, which was $4.3 billion in earmarks. To understand Common Core, citizens should look at Race to the Top contracts as well as the National Governors’ Association, which asked the federal government to fund Common Core. Many organizations and think tanks have public records available to view. Additionally, citizens can also contact their local officials to request public records.

“Nothing is more disruptive than an informed citizen,” asserted author and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. Parents must know their rights and exercise them to stop this unconstitutional takeover of education. As Emmett McGroarty, director of education at the American Principles Project, stated “Common Core ushers in a highly defective curriculum…[and] undermines the Constitution.” In this way, Common Core provides a “blueprint” for foisting other policies on the people without their approval.

In addition to being informed, action is critical. A live poll concluded that Twitter was the most effective means to spread the word about Common Core. The grassroots table explained that face-to-face (or mom-to-mom) contact is also essential. With this effort, parents can find common ground to discuss the issues at hand. The table also suggested to use pictures and examples (such as Common Core worksheets) whenever possible in order to make Common Core something real and personal so parents don’t view it as something abstract but rather something that is in their own homes.

Along with spreading the message to other parents, legislators must be made aware of the dissatisfaction with Common Core to actually bring about policy change. Kibbe stated that it is key to “get parents to understand what a difference they can make…Politicians respond to incentives. Parents represent a voting bloc that is unstoppable.”

The politics table suggested a three step plan to influence legislators and change policy. First citizens must know what they are talking about; parents must know their constitutional rights and their rights as parents. Second people must get organized; this is something visible to legislators. Finally, it is crucial to show up. Even after a repeal, it is still necessary to show up because proponents of Common Core will try to usher it back in under a new name.

It is also important to note that there are other options besides public schools using Common Core. The program discussed homeschooling, online education or “distance learning”, and charter schools, specifically in the classical model. Dr. Terrence Moore, founder of Atlanta Classical Academy, asserted that Common Core is attempting to knock out school choice when the evidence is revealing the success of classical charter schools. He also argued that it is essential to take back the public schools because they are taxpayer funded and they control the future of America.

In discussing the most successful method of communicating about Common Core to bring about change, the messaging table highlighted the importance of finding common ground with others. This common ground could be the well-being of children or local control.

The complete plan of action, with viewer input, is available at commoncorefails.com. Now is the time to act before Common Core is firmly implanted in schools and produces catastrophic effects. As Heidi Huber, founder of Ohioans Against Common Core, stated, “You can restore your country if you take back your classroom.”

 Image originally published at http://www.theblaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Beck-We-Will-Not-Conform.png

Categories: On the Blog

The national security social contract

Out of the Storm News - July 28, 2014, 9:11 AM

Of all the news outlets that covered the mysterious replacement of the U.S. flags on one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, only the New York Post got the lede right. While other media pondered what the “message” of the flag switch was, the Post identified the true significance of the story: a stupefying breakdown in the security of critical infrastructure.

Under the classical liberal idea of social contract, people hand over certain rights to the state in return for a degree of safety and security. Implied is that the cost-benefit ratio of this trade-off favors the average citizen. That is, the sense of well-being I gain is substantially exceeds the pain of losing a few freedoms.

But the social contract ceases to be of value when the costs in freedom and privacy outweigh any benefit in security. Or, to put it less delicately, why should we grant the government the power to track and record all our public movements, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, when it can’t use those assets to act fast enough to stop a small group of people from gaining access to a secure area on one of the America’s most iconic landmarks?

Today’s news has police and politicians speculating how the trespassers got past gates, fences, cameras and police officers stationed at either end of the bridge. The real question isn’t how they did it. It’s that they did it. And believe me, any explanation that emerges as to how these guys pulled it off is only going to reflect worse on the system. As a test of national, state and city terror readiness, this incident earns a bright red F.

In the name of protecting us, we have granted our government unprecedented intrusiveness in our personal space. In addition to widespread surveillance, the government eavesdrops on phone conversations, tracks our locations via cellphones, evaluates our web-surfing habits and monitors our purchases—and this is just what we know from the Snowden disclosures.

Innocuous activities – such as photographing public art, meeting a friend at a train station or buying more than one computer at Best Buy – can put you on a government terror watch list. The watch list itself has swollen to 1.5 million people, a level of dilution that pretty much makes it useless as an analytic tool, but could present enormous headaches for someone at an airport or a routine traffic stop.

The government asks us to accept on faith that numerous threats were detected and neutralized by way of these methods, but refuses to provide any examples. That the Brooklyn Bridge trespassers, whatever their motive, were able to accomplish their act is bad enough. There is no credibility to the claim that such ultra-high levels of surveillance are necessary when the government proves inept at containing what would have appeared to be an overt threat.

Citizens and their elected representatives should be demanding more accountability from the White House, the National Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and all other agencies who have the power to listen, watch and search Americans without due process. What quantitative metrics and specific cases can you show us to prove these programs work?

Until that question is answered, the government will be asking too much in privacy and return for too little in security.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Open letter to the House and Senate: Keep the caps

Out of the Storm News - July 28, 2014, 8:47 AM

 

We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of Americans dedicated to fiscal responsibility, urge you to strictly abide by the discretionary budget caps originally established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) and subsequently modified by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, or “Ryan-Murray,” as it is commonly known. In particular, our organizations and members are concerned about efforts to circumvent these spending restraints through the use of budgetary gimmicks.

Many of us were disappointed by and opposed to last year’s Ryan-Murray agreement that allowed for an additional $63 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal years (FY) 2014 and 2015—well over the amounts initially provided for by the BCA. Despite our concerns, some lawmakers supported the deal because its near-term spending increases were intended to be offset by longer-term deficit-reducing measures. Nevertheless, if Congress is to have any credibility on fiscal restraint, it should not further alter the caps and allow spending to exceed the already-revised discretionary figure of $1.014 trillion for FY015. Maintaining this level appears to be in jeopardy, which is cause for serious concern.

In particular, we urge members to be vigilant about the potential misuse of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. These funds should be used exclusively for their intended purpose—not as a backdoor means to increase resources for the base defense budget or for other, unrelated spending items. As military operations in Afghanistan wind down, so too should OCO, as this off-budget account poses a threat to fiscal responsibility.

Additionally, we are concerned about budgetary gimmicks often called “changes in mandatory programs” or CHIMPs. CHIMPs are sometimes used to shift spending outside the budget window on paper without actually saving taxpayers any money. Doing so should not be permitted because it would disingenuously hide spending and undermine budget caps.

Again, we encourage you to exercise fiscal discipline, avoid CHIMPs or other budgetary gimmicks, and oppose any spending legislation that would violate the BCA or of the modest limits established in Ryan-Murray.

Sincerely,

Brandon Arnold
National Taxpayers Union

James L. Martin
60 Plus Association

Phil Kerpen
American Commitment

Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform

Norman Singleton
Campaign for Liberty

Brian Garst
Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Jonathan Bydlak
Coalition to Reduce Spending

Lawson Bader
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Peter J. Thomas
The Conservative Caucus, Inc.

Mattie Duppler
Cost of Government Center

Tom Schatz
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Jim Babka
DownsizeDC.org

Coley Jackson
Freedom Action

Matt Kibbe
FreedomWorks

Andrew Moylan
R Street Institute

Matt Nye
Republican Liberty Caucus

Dave Wallace
Restore America’s Mission

Paul Gessing
Rio Grande Foundation

Ryan Alexander
Taxpayers for Common Sense

David Williams
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

To Reward or Not to Reward: Motivating Students to Learn

Blog - Education - July 28, 2014, 7:54 AM

[NOTE: The following is excerpted from Chapter 1 of the next Heartland Institute book titled Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn — and why teachers don’t use them well. Title of the chapter is The Psychology of Motivation.This piece was first published at The American Thinker.]

The late Jere Brophy, a longtime Michigan State University professor of educational psychology, started the second edition of his 428-page tome titled Motivating Students to Learn with the following summaries of two opposing views about how best to motivate students:

Learning is fun and exciting, at least when the curriculum is well matched to students’ interests and abilities and the teacher emphasizes hands-on activities. When you teach the right things the right way, motivation takes care of itself. If students aren’t enjoying learning, something is wrong with your curriculum and instruction — you have somehow turned an inherently enjoyable activity into drudgery.

School is inherently boring and frustrating. We require students to come, then try to teach them stuff that they don’t see a need for and don’t find meaningful. There is little support for academic achievement in the peer culture, and frequently in the home as well. A few students may be enthusiastic about learning, but most of them require the grading system and the carrots and sticks that we connect to it to pressure them to do at least enough to get by. (1)

Brophy observed that “neither [view] is valid, but each contains elements of truth.” They illustrate the two extreme ends of a continuum of views among psychologists of student motivation. At one extreme is a teaching philosophy based on what Brophy called “overly romantic views of human nature,” while at the other is a philosophy based on “overly cynical or hedonistic views of human nature.” Between these extremes lies a realistic and research-supported theory of student motivation.

The core message we deliver in Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn – and why teachers don’t use them well is that too many teachers adhere to the first view and reject the use of rewards that have been proven to be effective in classrooms in carefully controlled studies covering many years and many thousands of students.

The well-designed reward systems we describe do not include the unearned praise and uncritical recognition associated with the self-esteem fad that swept the U.S. in recent years. Some writers observe that Millennials (persons born from the early 1980s to the 2000s, also called Generation Y) grew up believing that simply participating in a sport or “trying hard” at some other activity entitled them to rewards, regardless of their level of performance. As a result, they enter the workforce with unrealistic expectations of recognition, promotions, and pay increases [2]. Greater use of well-designed reward systems would have better prepared this generation for the challenges and responsibilities of adult life.

Rewards need not be crude “carrots and sticks”; rather, they can take the form of feedback and encouragement that make learning a rewarding experience long before the acquisition of a particular piece of knowledge or skill might earn material rewards. Learning without rewards is usually more difficult than learning with rewards. For this reason, the tendency among educators to discourage the use of rewards hurts rather than helps students.

Rewards and Learning

According to Aristotle, we become what we do [3]. Education contributes to that process by building skills and habits of mind that are learned in a variety of ways. Psychologists have identified incremental methods for helping individuals learn. Rewards constitute part of this learning enterprise when they help individuals attend to the short- and long-term goals that drive their learning [4].

When students learn something well, they reduce their costs of doing it; that is, they can use their well-absorbed knowledge or well-practiced skills nearly automatically, with little effort. The more automatic a requisite skill is, the faster a person reaches his or her goals. Skills such as recognizing letters exemplify the learning needed to reach the goal of reading. Students who struggle to distinguish a “b” from a “d” are unlikely to readily comprehend what they read. Once they achieve “automaticity” with such recognition skills, however, they can move on to word recognition and sentence comprehension. Mastering the prerequisite stages makes the later stages less costly in time and effort – even enjoyable. Just as practice in sports makes a physical skill more automatic, practice in reading makes a mental skill more automatic.

Students typically must exert effort over some period of time to acquire sufficient levels of automaticity to achieve rigorous goals. Ideally, schooling offers efficient means of allowing learners to improve their knowledge and skills and acquire increasingly advanced forms of both. Educators who use rewards to help learners persist in the face of challenging tasks to gain automaticity also help them reduce the amount of effort needed later to attain their ever more challenging goals. Appropriate rewards improve learners’ ability to perceive cues by guiding their attention to constructive action, reinforcing specific forms of learning, and rewarding high levels of achievement [5].

During learning, repetition can help individuals experience the pleasure of increasingly easy accomplishment. Repeated cycles of presentation, action, and reinforcement can foster high levels of mastery. Complex forms of personal achievement are possible only when individuals set progressively challenging personal goals requiring sustained drive or grit to attain. When the personal goals of these individuals align with those valued in the communities in which they live, they acquire social and material rewards [6].

Some credibility should be given to theories and evidence that employees may be more effective when they are involved in setting goals to which they commit themselves [7]. Students may similarly benefit.

Conclusion

Knowledge of the positive effects of rewards on motivation is well established in behavioral psychology despite the controversy in recent years over whether experimental evidence confirms or rejects the effectiveness of specific reward and punishment systems. Critics of the use of all or most rewards in learning are on the extreme end of a continuum of opinion on the subject. The results of rigorous research studies do not support their point of view, and they overlook or misrepresent research that contradicts their views.

Most experts recognize that reward systems are especially valuable at the earliest ages to help students attain the habit of deferring gratification. Failure to develop this habit can handicap learners for the rest of their lives. Students need rewards to engage in the difficult or tedious work of achieving automaticity, another key step in learning progress. Without rewards, fewer students develop the drive or grit needed to achieve high levels of skill.

Herbert J. Walberg and Joseph L. Bast are chairman and president, respectively, of The Heartland Institute and author of  Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn — and why teachers don’t use them well (October 1, 2014; ISBN 978-1-934791-38-7).  This article is excerpted from Chapter 1, “The Psychology of Motivation.”

Notes

[1] Jere Brophy, Motivating Students to Learn (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associations, Publishers, 2004), p. 1.

[2] Ron Alsop, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008).

[3] Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. Joseph Sachs (Santa Fe, NM: Green Lyon Press, 1999).

[4] See Theresa A. Thorkildsen, Courtney J. Golant, and Elizabeth Cambray-Engstrom, “Essential Solidarities for Understanding Latino Adolescents’ Moral and Academic Engagement,” in Cynthia Hudley and Adele E. Gottfried, eds.,Academic Motivation and the Culture of Schooling in Childhood and Adolescence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 73–89.

[5] Jere Brophy, supra note 1; Dennis G. Wiseman and Gilbert H. Hunt, Best Practice in Motivation and Management in the Classroom (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, Ltd., second ed., 2008).

[6] Julian L. Simon, Effort, Opportunity, and Wealth (New York, NY: Basil Blackwell, 1987).

[7] Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham, A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990).

To Reward or Not to Reward: Motivating Students to Learn

Somewhat Reasonable - July 28, 2014, 7:54 AM

[NOTE: The following is excerpted from Chapter 1 of the next Heartland Institute book titled Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn — and why teachers don’t use them well. Title of the chapter is The Psychology of Motivation.This piece was first published at The American Thinker.]

The late Jere Brophy, a longtime Michigan State University professor of educational psychology, started the second edition of his 428-page tome titled Motivating Students to Learn with the following summaries of two opposing views about how best to motivate students:

Learning is fun and exciting, at least when the curriculum is well matched to students’ interests and abilities and the teacher emphasizes hands-on activities. When you teach the right things the right way, motivation takes care of itself. If students aren’t enjoying learning, something is wrong with your curriculum and instruction — you have somehow turned an inherently enjoyable activity into drudgery.

School is inherently boring and frustrating. We require students to come, then try to teach them stuff that they don’t see a need for and don’t find meaningful. There is little support for academic achievement in the peer culture, and frequently in the home as well. A few students may be enthusiastic about learning, but most of them require the grading system and the carrots and sticks that we connect to it to pressure them to do at least enough to get by. (1)

Brophy observed that “neither [view] is valid, but each contains elements of truth.” They illustrate the two extreme ends of a continuum of views among psychologists of student motivation. At one extreme is a teaching philosophy based on what Brophy called “overly romantic views of human nature,” while at the other is a philosophy based on “overly cynical or hedonistic views of human nature.” Between these extremes lies a realistic and research-supported theory of student motivation.

The core message we deliver in Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn – and why teachers don’t use them well is that too many teachers adhere to the first view and reject the use of rewards that have been proven to be effective in classrooms in carefully controlled studies covering many years and many thousands of students.

The well-designed reward systems we describe do not include the unearned praise and uncritical recognition associated with the self-esteem fad that swept the U.S. in recent years. Some writers observe that Millennials (persons born from the early 1980s to the 2000s, also called Generation Y) grew up believing that simply participating in a sport or “trying hard” at some other activity entitled them to rewards, regardless of their level of performance. As a result, they enter the workforce with unrealistic expectations of recognition, promotions, and pay increases [2]. Greater use of well-designed reward systems would have better prepared this generation for the challenges and responsibilities of adult life.

Rewards need not be crude “carrots and sticks”; rather, they can take the form of feedback and encouragement that make learning a rewarding experience long before the acquisition of a particular piece of knowledge or skill might earn material rewards. Learning without rewards is usually more difficult than learning with rewards. For this reason, the tendency among educators to discourage the use of rewards hurts rather than helps students.

Rewards and Learning

According to Aristotle, we become what we do [3]. Education contributes to that process by building skills and habits of mind that are learned in a variety of ways. Psychologists have identified incremental methods for helping individuals learn. Rewards constitute part of this learning enterprise when they help individuals attend to the short- and long-term goals that drive their learning [4].

When students learn something well, they reduce their costs of doing it; that is, they can use their well-absorbed knowledge or well-practiced skills nearly automatically, with little effort. The more automatic a requisite skill is, the faster a person reaches his or her goals. Skills such as recognizing letters exemplify the learning needed to reach the goal of reading. Students who struggle to distinguish a “b” from a “d” are unlikely to readily comprehend what they read. Once they achieve “automaticity” with such recognition skills, however, they can move on to word recognition and sentence comprehension. Mastering the prerequisite stages makes the later stages less costly in time and effort – even enjoyable. Just as practice in sports makes a physical skill more automatic, practice in reading makes a mental skill more automatic.

Students typically must exert effort over some period of time to acquire sufficient levels of automaticity to achieve rigorous goals. Ideally, schooling offers efficient means of allowing learners to improve their knowledge and skills and acquire increasingly advanced forms of both. Educators who use rewards to help learners persist in the face of challenging tasks to gain automaticity also help them reduce the amount of effort needed later to attain their ever more challenging goals. Appropriate rewards improve learners’ ability to perceive cues by guiding their attention to constructive action, reinforcing specific forms of learning, and rewarding high levels of achievement [5].

During learning, repetition can help individuals experience the pleasure of increasingly easy accomplishment. Repeated cycles of presentation, action, and reinforcement can foster high levels of mastery. Complex forms of personal achievement are possible only when individuals set progressively challenging personal goals requiring sustained drive or grit to attain. When the personal goals of these individuals align with those valued in the communities in which they live, they acquire social and material rewards [6].

Some credibility should be given to theories and evidence that employees may be more effective when they are involved in setting goals to which they commit themselves [7]. Students may similarly benefit.

Conclusion

Knowledge of the positive effects of rewards on motivation is well established in behavioral psychology despite the controversy in recent years over whether experimental evidence confirms or rejects the effectiveness of specific reward and punishment systems. Critics of the use of all or most rewards in learning are on the extreme end of a continuum of opinion on the subject. The results of rigorous research studies do not support their point of view, and they overlook or misrepresent research that contradicts their views.

Most experts recognize that reward systems are especially valuable at the earliest ages to help students attain the habit of deferring gratification. Failure to develop this habit can handicap learners for the rest of their lives. Students need rewards to engage in the difficult or tedious work of achieving automaticity, another key step in learning progress. Without rewards, fewer students develop the drive or grit needed to achieve high levels of skill.

Herbert J. Walberg and Joseph L. Bast are chairman and president, respectively, of The Heartland Institute and author of  Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn — and why teachers don’t use them well (October 1, 2014; ISBN 978-1-934791-38-7).  This article is excerpted from Chapter 1, “The Psychology of Motivation.”

Notes

[1] Jere Brophy, Motivating Students to Learn (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associations, Publishers, 2004), p. 1.

[2] Ron Alsop, The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008).

[3] Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. Joseph Sachs (Santa Fe, NM: Green Lyon Press, 1999).

[4] See Theresa A. Thorkildsen, Courtney J. Golant, and Elizabeth Cambray-Engstrom, “Essential Solidarities for Understanding Latino Adolescents’ Moral and Academic Engagement,” in Cynthia Hudley and Adele E. Gottfried, eds.,Academic Motivation and the Culture of Schooling in Childhood and Adolescence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 73–89.

[5] Jere Brophy, supra note 1; Dennis G. Wiseman and Gilbert H. Hunt, Best Practice in Motivation and Management in the Classroom (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, Ltd., second ed., 2008).

[6] Julian L. Simon, Effort, Opportunity, and Wealth (New York, NY: Basil Blackwell, 1987).

[7] Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham, A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990).

Categories: On the Blog

Science for the Picking

Somewhat Reasonable - July 27, 2014, 9:45 AM

[Editor's note: The other day, Lawrence Kogan, an attendee of Heartland's Ninth International Conference on Climate Change July 7-9 — which featured more than 100 excellent presentations in Las Vegas — wrote . He asked me to republish it here, which I do gladly with a recommendation you read it in full]:

In a May commencement speech delivered at the University of California, Irvine, President Obama mocked members of the U.S. Congress who “duck the question,” as he put it, “of whether climate change is real by saying that they are not scientists.” Since then, articles appearing in a number of “neutral” media outlets, including the Washington PostNew York TimesLos Angeles TimesMiami HeraldSan Francisco ChronicleCape Cod TimesHuffington Post, etc., have endorsed this learned approach of addressing the issue of climate change.

Clearly, they display climate change believers’ chosen tactic of ridiculing or dismissing as climate change deniers anyone — including scientists, analysts and politicians — who dares to raise questions about the views of many within the contemporary climate science community.

Perhaps a more thoughtful way to address this matter would be to question the president and his chief science adviser, John Holdren concerning which paradigm of science they subscribe to. Is it the evolved modern notion of quantitative science built on the firm empirical principles of Newtonian physics, or is it a new postmodern brand of qualitative science incorporating precautionary and other subjective concepts — all infused with a certain sense of intellectual ascendency.

If they subscribe to Enlightenment-era science, they should legitimately ask whether the myriad scientific uncertainties discussed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports, and by extension, the administration’s national climate assessments, provide reason to question whether science has clearly identified the necessary causal links definitively establishing that humankind’s activities are primarily, if not exclusively, responsible for all or most current global warming — both observed prior and future computer modeled global warming.

If however, they subscribe to what ‘futurist’ Jeremy Rifkin describes as “a radical new approach to science and technology based on the principle of sustainable development and global stewardship of the Earth’s environment” premised on “[t]he precautionary principle, [which] is designed to allow government authorities to respond pre-emptively, as well as after damage is inflicted, with a lower threshold of scientific certainty than has been the rule of thumb in the past,” they are likely to interpret the uncertainties reflected in the IPCC and administration-developed climate science assessments differently. It would certainly explain why the president has argued that immediate regulatory actions are necessary, notwithstanding the current costs, because the possible future endangerment to human health, the environment and the economy posed by inaction is unacceptable.

President’s pledge of “unparalleled transparency”

Consistent with the president’s pledge of “unparalleled transparency,” Mr. Holdren’s response would be illuminating. He would likely confirm the White House has, by design or happenstance, helped facilitate a subtle but nonetheless substantive change in the way Americans define, understand and apply principles of science to address perceived environmental and health risks.

If by design, it would reveal a non-transparent, activist-inspired agenda of shifting America away from the Enlightenment era paradigm of science premised on probability, risk assessment, prevention, causation and “hard” quantitative evidence of foreseeable harm toward the postmodern anti-Enlightenment era paradigm of science based on possibility, hazard assessment, precaution, correlation, coincidence and ‘soft’ qualitative evidence of possible and unforeseeable harm.

As the European experience demonstrates, the legal and economic consequences flowing from such a paradigm shift are real and present their own significant dangers. This new postmodern regulatory science paradigm relies more on politics and notions of policy-based science informed by environmental and social justice concerns rather than on science-based policy.

As a second question, one would ask how this shift is coming about. Mr. Holdren’s response would likely be more complex and nuanced. There are multiple mechanisms at play, ranging from moral suasion to fear mongering to nudged behavior modification to weakened scientific peer review processes.

EPA’s 2009 greenhouse gas endangerment findings: Less than stellar job of conducting proper and robust peer review

In an ideal world, Mr. Holdren and other Administration officials would acknowledge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have done a less than stellar job of conducting proper and robust peer review of the climate science underlying EPA’s 2009 greenhouse gas endangerment findings. But we do not live in such a world. Indeed, they seem to have forgotten or conveniently explained away their obligation under the federal Information Quality Act to ensure each of the 28 highly influential scientific assessments summarizing and synthesizing IPCC ‘climate science’ supporting those findings had been adequately validated. This would not have been an insignificant undertaking yet it was required to detect serious systemic violations of the letter and spirit of the Act and is a serious omission.

Overwhelming evidence produced by the nonprofit Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development (ITSSD) demonstrates how EPA and NOAA, under Mr. Holdren’s stewardship of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy-led interagency US Global Change Research Program, systematically circumvented the Information Quality Act’s most rigorous and least discretionary peer review, objectivity/bias, transparency and conflict-of-interest standards. Such evidence is contained in a recast 145-page annotated FOIA request ITSSD filed with EPA on June 30, 2014, and in a clarified FOIA request ITSSD filed with NOAA in May 2014.

As InsideEPA reported, the new EPA FOIA request seeks disclosure of “documents reflecting four different levels at which EPA should have followed IQA requirements”. By comparison, the EPA Office of Inspector General’s 2011 investigation of agency GHG endangerment finding data quality processes had been limited to only one of these levels. And as we previously reported in the Washington Times, the clarified NOAA FOIA request described how the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science had hand-selected scientists affiliated with universities receiving NOAA climate research grant monies to peer review six NOAA-developed climate assessments, presenting a significant appearance, if not actual conflict-of-interest in violation of the IQA.

EPA’s decision to circumvent the requirements of the Information Quality Act

ITSSD’s findings and analysis demonstrate that EPA’s decision to circumvent the requirements of the Information Quality Act likely originated from within and beyond the agency itself. While the full breadth of EPA’s actions date back to before the beginning of the Obama administration, a 1989 law review article written by Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe with the assistance of the then editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review, B. Obama (“Curvature of Constitutional Space”) provides a window into the president’s views on the future of public policy and science.

It reveals the president’s long-held skepticism about the intersection of science and the law especially where matters of environmental and social justice are concerned. It also sheds light on the president’s long-held view that science and the law can be finessed, where necessary, to suit policy ends.

We arrive, then, at a point where ends seem to justify means, fair and transparent processes fall by the wayside, and critics become villains. Partisans lob amusing but ultimately unsatisfying barbs at each other while the rules of science shift behind the curtain. Given the global economic and environmental challenges faced by our nation, we should expect and demand better.

—————–

Lawrence A. Kogan is chief executive of the Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development and managing principal of The Kogan Law Group, P.C. Richard D. Otis Jr. is an environmental-policy expert and has held senior positions at the EPA.

Categories: On the Blog

Republicans Will Run On An Obamacare Replacement in 2016 – Will Democrats?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 26, 2014, 9:00 AM

The decision in the Halbig v. Burwell case this week was an unexpected legal boon to opponents of Obamacare. Spearheaded by the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon and law professor Jonathan Adler, the case will almost certainly lead this debate about the text of the Affordable Care Act back to the Supreme Court. My colleague Sean Davis has written a comprehensive piece on the case, particularly on the nature of the supposed “drafting error” at its core.

But whatever the ultimate outcome for Halbig, the case serves as a reminder of the uneven ground on which Obama’s health care law is likely to be standing over the next two years. Whether facing challenges in the courts, or in implementation, as we saw in the GAO’s security report this week, or simply as a matter of political approval, Obamacare is going to be a subject of uncertainty in 2016, and its survival will depend on who wins the election, as I wrote here last month.

This raises an interesting question about how the presidential candidates will interact with the law. The law’s continued instability and problems will have to be answered – but the odd circumstance likely to result from the political frame of the issue is that Republicans will put forward a plan to replace Obamacare, but Democrats won’t.

One of the lazier memes of Democratic politicians and a few too many members of the media over the past several years has been the myth that Republicans have no alternative to Obamacare. This is the sort of thing that doesn’t pass even the most basic assessment of accuracy in reporting – here is a list of the health care reforms introduced by Republican House members in 2012, and here’s one for 2013. While their plans vary in scope, there are eight things Republicans generally agree about when it comes to health care reform:

They want to end the tax bias in favor of employer-sponsored health insurance to create full portability, either through a tax credit, deductibility, or another method;

 

  • They want to incentivize the reform of medical malpractice laws, likely through carrot incentives to the states;
  • They want to allow for insurance purchases across state lines;
  • They want to support state-level pre-existing condition pools;
  • They want to fully block grant Medicaid;
  • They want to shift Medicare to premium support;
  • They want to speed up the FDA device and drug approval process; and
  • They want to maximize the consumer driven health insurance model, making high deductible + health savings account plans larger and more attractive.

Now, some feel that none of these count as Obamacare replacements, because they aren’t aimed at doing the same things Obamacare does (namely, dramatically expanding the number of people on taxpayer-subsidized insurance or entitlement programs). But that’s how Republicans will present them. There have been a host of such plans introduced in the Congress and put forward by would-be Republican presidential nominees. And it stands to reason that in 2016, every serious candidate for the presidency in the Republican Party will put forward an alternate plan or endorse one that has already been introduced, if they haven’t already. The choice of nominee will also determine the choice of the replacement plan Republicans run on.

For the Democratic nominee, however, the challenge of running in defense of Obamacare could prove more difficult than might be anticipated. Obama’s law is sacrosanct for some factions of the Democratic Party. Many observers have cited a variety of poll data showing that Americans want to fix Obamacare as opposed to repealing it or keeping it as-is. But those “fixes” are largely vague at this juncture, thanks to the administration’s decision to enforce aspects of the law as it sees fit.

Assuming for the sake of argument that Hillary Clinton is the 2016 nominee, will she really be able to navigate the entire election without putting forward a plan on how she intends to fix Obama’s law? The likeliest scenario is that she will avoid saying anything that could cause her political difficulty – urging voters not to risk going back to a pre-Obamacare era, while acknowledging that certain aspects of the law need fixing in a general sense. But fixing Obamacare in the long term (particularly fixing the kind of problems that spawned the Halbig case) will almost certainly ultimately require legislative reform, not just administrative fixes.

If this is how the 2016 election plays out as it relates to health care policy, the amusing aspect is that – for all the talk of Republicans not having a plan to replace Obamacare – we will likely end up knowing a lot more about the plan Republicans intend to put forward after the election than the one Democrats have in mind.

Originally published at The Morning Consult. 

Categories: On the Blog

Ending the Costly Integration Ban

Somewhat Reasonable - July 26, 2014, 9:00 AM

This past Tuesday the House of Representatives, in a bipartisan voice vote, passed a bill reauthorizing the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act. STELA allows satellite providers, such as Dish Network and DirecTV, to import TV signals from other markets when their subscribers cannot pick up over-the-air local stations. The current STELA authorization expires at the end of this year, and the Senate is expected to act on an extension before then.

A provision in the STELA reauthorization bill would end the FCC’s set-top box “integration ban.” This outdated, costly FCC regulation bans cable operators from integrating the security and programming navigation functions in set-top boxes. The supposed rationale for the integration ban, which was implemented in 2007, was to promote the availability of an independent retail market in set-top boxes.

In short, from the very beginning, in light of the competition among multichannel video providers that already then existed, it was clear that the costs imposed by the mandated separation of security and program navigation functions outweighed the consumer benefits. Consumers never took to purchasing set-top boxes enabled with the “CableCard” technology. And all the while, robust competition among video service providers has been driving ongoing enhancements and new features in the video providers’ own set-top boxes, not to mention the various new innovative navigation devices used in conjunction with Internet video services.

Congressman Bob Latta, Vice Chair of the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, deserves much credit for leading the effort in the House to eliminate the integration ban. It is his bill, H.R. 3196, the “Consumer Choice in Video Devices Act,” co-sponsored by Texas Congressman Gene Greene, that is now incorporated into the STELA reauthorization. Indeed, shortly after Congressman Latta introduced H.R. 3196, he delivered a keynote address at a Free State Foundation event at which he explained that the integration ban already has resulted in over $1 billion in increased costs to consumers since it went into effect in 2007. The separation mandate imposed over $50 in additional costs on each leased set-top box. Moreover, as Congressman Latta said in introducing his bill: “In today’s ultra competitive video marketplace, cable operators have no incentive to make it more difficult for their customers to use their preferred devices to access their video programming services.”

I argued against adoption of the integration ban back in 2006 before the FCC implemented the mandated separation. Since then, I, along with other Free State Foundation scholars, have argued for its elimination on a regular, some might even say incessant, basis. Here is (it’s true!) just a small sampling of such Free State Foundation publications:

Free State Foundation Blogs:

The Integration Ban and Integrating DTV Transition Policy (2006); Integration Bans Then and Now (2007); National Broadband Plan: A Setback On Set-Top Box Regulation (2010); FCC Should Let the Sun Set on Its Set-Top Box Regulations (2011); It’s Time to Remove the Costly Integration Ban (2013); Switching Off an Outdated Cable Rule: End the Costly Integration Ban (2014); STELA Offers an Opportunity to Clean Out Old Cable Regulations (2014).

Perspectives from FSF Scholars:

Don’t Inflict Analog Era Equipment Rules On The Digital Age (2006); The FCC’s Continuing, Costly Video Navigation Device Regulation (2010); AllVid Regulation Risks Harm to Next Generation Video Innovation (2012);Consumers Would Benefit from Deregulating the Video Device Market (2013); It’s Time to Remove the Costly Integration Ban (2013); A Costly Affair: Retaining Outdated Set-top Box Mandates? (2014).

Normally, I wouldn’t string-cite so much of our previous work in one piece. In this instance, perhaps you can chalk it up to celebrating the adoption of the House bill that offers the prospect of ending the integration ban and pride in our own efforts to advance this reform cause.

Or perhaps you can chalk it up to wanting to provide plenty of readily available substantive educational material for the Senators who will now be considering a STELA authorization bill. There is no reason that the Senate should not follow the House’s lead in ending the costly integration ban. Indeed, for the benefit of consumers, there is every reason for it to do so.

PS – By focusing in this piece on ending the integration ban, regular readers know that, by no means, do I wish to imply that there is not a need to eliminate other outdated video regulations, many of which date back to the 1992 Cable Act or even before. Of course, twenty-two years ago the video marketplace was not nearly as competitive as it is today. Indeed, many of the Perspectives and blogs listed above, in addition to advocating an end to the integration ban, address the need for comprehensive reform of video regulations, such as, for example, eliminating or modifying retransmission/must carry, program carriage, channel placement, and basic tier “must buy” mandates.

Categories: On the Blog

Ryan’s opening bid

Out of the Storm News - July 25, 2014, 3:07 PM

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled his draft “opportunity agenda” in a speech this morning at the American Enterprise Institute, offering a plan broad and bold enough to give both sides much to like, hate and quibble over.

The many individual proposals contained in the agenda are held together by the theme of solving complex problems through pairing local knowledge with the immense power of the federal purse. This marks a welcome return to the central conservative tenets of community and federalism, which Ryan applies to six different areas of public life.

Federal and state governments currently spend more than $900 billion annually on more than 80 means-tested assistance programs. But as even many on the left will concede, we have little to show for these efforts in terms of transformative change. As we look for ways to turn around this dismal performance, conservatives are right to insist on a modest role for the federal government and for more programs to be tied to work requirements and other means of shared responsibility.

But Ryan grasps something deeper: that the plague of institutional breakdown and intergenerational poverty means some communities still require additional help to get effective programs off the ground. After years of formulaic welfare spending, the unfortunate victims of well-intentioned policies might have the resources to live above the poverty line, but too few have the means to move themselves up the ladder.

Ryan’s plan acknowledges a necessary role for the federal government, but confines it to what the federal government does best, which is provide resources. Even in the proposal that most clearly would be directed by the federal government – expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers – Ryan justifies the idea on grounds that it will better help those in poverty, particularly unmarried men, return to work and participate in other local initiatives designed to put their lives back on track.

The most ambitious part of the plan would see billions in bureaucratic, uncoordinated spending replaced by “Opportunity Grants” to the states. The grants would fund local, personalized case-management providers who take a holistic approach to bettering the lives of the poor. These changes would allow service providers to assess individuals where they are, coordinate the services they need and track progress to ensure real results.

The public policy literature is thick with studies and experiments extolling the virtues of individualized care and rigorous accountability, but large-scale implementation of such programs has been elusive. In part, this is because it requires huge upfront investment, but also because of the many ways it would gore the sacred cows of current social services spending. It’s worth noting that pulling off this shift would be difficult, as it requires participating states to set up entirely new systems. Ryan’s proposal is unfortunately thin on details as to how this transition would take place.

The Ryan plan is not perfect. Conservatives will charge that it really does not reduce spending, and that’s true. But the harsh reality is that years of family and community breakdown inevitably require spending some money on targeted reforms if we ever hope to break the cycle. The end goal is to strengthen families and communities so that, in the next generation, far fewer Americans need this type of assistance. Given economic and social trends, we’re unlikely to get there without radical change.

For its part, the left should, but probably won’t, acknowledge that the Ryan plan leaves the social safety net very much intact, while making it more flexible to local and individual needs. States would be free to place priority wherever it’s most needed, whether child care, nutrition, job training or what have you. The services would be the same. It is how they are delivered that could be altered radically.

Ryan’s understanding of poverty in America has certainly advanced from when he controversially attributed poverty to “a tailspin of culture in our inner cities.” To be sure, the reforms called for in this plan will only be successful if they do have a lasting effect on culture. But Ryan now is offering concrete ideas on the structural drivers of poverty and how to address them.

Conservatives would need to accept that, perhaps, it is not quite time for federal spending on social services to shrink; and liberals would have to accept that the formulaic, often one-size-fits-all programs Ryan is attempting to overhaul have failed to help Americans living in poverty. Could a shift toward results-oriented programs delivered by those closest and most able to solve the problem bring both sides together?

Hopefully, it can. After all, as Ryan states in the agenda’s opening paragraphs:

 A key tenet of the American dream is that where you start off shouldn’t determine where you end up. If you work hard and play by the rules, you should get ahead. But the fact is, far too many people are stuck on the lower rungs.

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