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Think tank survey shows significant opposition to federal Internet tax

Out of the Storm News - July 20, 2014, 2:34 PM

From 90.5 WCBE:

The D.C.-based think tank R Street says more than 56% of Ohioans polled are against out-of-state taxation on e-commerce.  
 
Executive Director Andrew Moylan says the federal proposal known as the Marketplace Fairness Act would create an unlevel playing field.  
 
Moylan: “Where if you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer you get to use this simple easy standard of collecting based on where you’re located whereas you would be forcing online businesses to have to jump through all of these hoops to figure out tax obligations across the country.” 

Survey says most Ohioans oppose a federal Internet sales tax

Out of the Storm News - July 20, 2014, 2:06 PM

From 89.7 WKSU:

The D.C.-based think tank R Street says more than 56 percent of Ohioans polled are against out-of-state taxation on e-commerce.

Executive Director Andrew Moylan says the federal proposal known as the Marketplace Fairness Act would create an un-level playing field.

“If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, you get to use this simple easy standard of collecting based on where you’re located, whereas you would be forcing online businesses to have to jump through all of these hoops to figure out tax obligations across the country,” Moylan says.

Jerry Brown provides a powerful argument for California separation

Out of the Storm News - July 20, 2014, 2:04 PM

From RealClearPolicy:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s spokesman has raised questions about the feasibility of the Six States proposal, arguing that “the proposal has serious practical challenges.” But does this position harmonize with Brown’s own articulated preferences…

 

Slenderman and the ‘mythos’ of modernism

Out of the Storm News - July 20, 2014, 1:41 PM

From the American Conservative:

Vice chalks the violence up to poorly-managed hormones and small-town boredom. And Mytheos Holt at R Street asks whether their violence could have been prevented by addressing mental illness openly. Farhad Manjoo at the New York Times makes Slenderman’s faceless horror emblematic of the “selfie” age—an attempt to use fear to push against compulsive, narcissistic self-documentation.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: A Frightening Proposal from Down Under

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2014, 8:27 PM

The Labour Party, the main opposition political party in New Zealand, made headlines last week when it announced its proposed policy for trying people accused of rape. According to the party’s justice spokesman, Andrew Little, the party is proposing that the burden of proof be reversed in rape trials. In other words, people accused of rape would have to prove their innocence.

It is quite astonishing that any mainstream party in a Western democracy could actually entertain the idea of eliminating, even in one instance, the presumption of innocence. That presumption, which demands that the government never treat a citizen as a criminal until it has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they have actually committed the crime, is the Golden Thread binding together the whole of the Anglo-American criminal justice tradition. It is enshrined across laws and constitutions, and is even recognized in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

The government’s first role is the upholding of the law and the protecting of its citizens. That is fundamentally impossible if the government can brand citizens as criminals unless they can directly prove otherwise. The policy of the Labour Party, should it be implemented, represents a death knell to the legal protections citizens have come to expect and fundamentally deserve.

The avowed justification for the change in the case of rape is the indisputable fact that it is very hard to convict anyone of rape. It is true that convictions are difficult to achieve on a forensic level. It is also hard for people who have been raped to come forward at all, due to very real social pressures not to speak out, and the frequent tendency of societies to engage in victim-blaming. These are truly tragic problems, ones that are probably not addressed nearly enough by governments around the world. Rape is a horrific crime, and the victims of it are frequently scarred for life. The violation of one’s self in that way is one of the most grotesque that can be experienced. Governments the world over have done too little to address the problem.

But the underlying problem does not call for simply lowering the bar of what it takes to convict someone of the crime, and it certainly does not call for reversing the burden of evidence that is instantiated across the laws of all countries with British common law traditions. The Labour Party is groping blindly for a solution that will paper over social factors currently hampering investigations. The advocates of this policy are seeking a blunt tool by which to redress a clear injustice. But answering injustice with another terrible injustice is not the way forward.

It would be naive to assume that a policy of reversing the burden of consent in cases of rape would stop there. When the fundamental relationship between citizen and state in the investigation and prosecution of transgressions is shifted, even in one instance, it changes the relationship across the board. If underlying difficulties in enforcement of rape prosecutions is justification to reverse the burden of proof, why not do the same for other difficult-to-prosecute crimes? Where would it end?

Some pundits say slippery slope arguments are invalid, but they are unquestionably wrong in this case. The policy proposal of the Labour Party would permanently and irrevocably transform the entirety of the legal system. It might just take a few years for the case-law to accrete before people notice.

The Labour Party is not currently in power to act on this policy, and it would likely face substantial legal challenges in the courts were it to do so. But it is reflective of a dangerous strain in left wing political ideology that seeks to outright reject many of the sacred institutions of personal liberty and limited government to serve their myopic conceptualization of justice. When a position attacking a venerated precept like the presumption of innocence as a tool of the “patriarchy” to oppress women is met with anything but instant ridicule, there is a problem.

Rape, and all non-consensual violence, is monstrous and unambiguously evil. But a government demanding that citizens prove their innocence of a crime is also unambiguously evil.

Categories: On the Blog

Why Do Gerson and Wehner Think The Drug War Helps People?

Somewhat Reasonable - July 19, 2014, 10:13 AM

Gambling and marijuana are corrupting the people and Michael Gerson is on it:

Two of the larger social trends of our time — the growth of payday gambling and the legalization of marijuana — have two things in common: They are justified as the expansion of personal liberty, and they serve the interests of an expanding government. The ideological alliance behind these changes is among the strangest in U.S. politics. Libertarians seek to lift governmental restraints on consensual acts. State governments seek sources of revenue without the political inconvenience of requesting broad tax increases. Both find common ground in encouraging and exploiting the weaknesses and addictions of citizens. (And business interests and their lobbyists, of course, find new ways to profit from reliable vices.) …

Parents no longer expect much help from government in reinforcing the cultural and moral norms necessary to the raising of responsible, successful children. But now some states are profiting from actively undermining those norms. Apparently, only consenting adults matter. Libertarian utopias are always childless. For the strongest ideological advocates of this approach, the outcomes are largely irrelevant. It ultimately doesn’t matter if teen drug use increases by X percent or gambling addiction rises Y percent. Ending “consensual crimes” is a matter of principle — not just on pot and slots but on heroin and meth. The idea of a political community upholding standards, in order to help other institutions (such as families) pass healthy cultural norms between generations, is anathema.

It goes on from there as you might expect. Peter Wehner joins in on the idea here, in the odd context of advocating policies that will appeal to… single women? Emphasis mine:

In addition, Republicans would be wise to enlarge the social issues they speak about. Liberals and the elite press will want to keep the focus on issues like contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Republicans need to counter by speaking in compelling ways about the intellectual and moral education of the young, about education as the civil-rights struggle of this generation, and protecting children from harm, including drug use and standing against drug legalization. They need to speak about an agenda focused on social mobility and helping people gain the skills they’ll need to succeed in a 21st century economy. Republicans also need to make it clear they want to strengthen, rather than weaken, the social safety net, including about the purposes of government in ways that reassures rather than unnerves people, especially those who are most vulnerable.

I have difficulty with viewing these arguments from Wehner and Gerson (and David Frum) as anything but naive posturing. For Gerson, the aim seems to be that the drug war is something that is helping people, and backing off from it is bad for society; for Wehner, he seems to conclude that the path back to electoral success is doubling down on the drug war to appeal to single women and moms.

Given the logic of Gerson’s piece, I have a hard time seeing what shouldn’t be banned as a waste of money or a private vice in the name of his favored cultural norm. He argues that making something that is illegal legal – thereby reducing crime, reducing the prison population, and taxing the activity instead represents an expansion of government. I see no conceivable way this is accurate. On the drug front, the experience in Portugal completely goes against the idea that decriminalization breeds greater government dependency (fewer addicts using fewer social services, fewer people in jail and the courts, and so on). Yes, of course there will be some Americans who choose the simple life of welfare, Medicaid, and marijuana – but given that decriminalization of low level drug offenses also means that we will stop sending hundreds of thousands of young fathers to jail, the social dependency outcomes there are at worst a wash – and I would argue that over time, this will lead to dramatically less government dependency as opposed to the status quo for people bouncing in and out of prison.

Nothing has done more to increase government dependency than government drug policies which have dramatically increased the number of single moms who are pushed to look to government for help and become trapped by that help. There are 1.5 million kids in America who have a parent in jail, and of those in federal prison, half are there for drug related crimes. The continued criminalization of even low-level drug offenses has dramatically increased the burden on the welfare state and government dependency. How on earth does supporting a policy that often is the cause of making these women single moms by throwing their children’s fathers in jail something that will win the votes of single women?

On the gambling front: there is precious little evidence of a dramatic increase in dependency associated with areas around casinos, nor has there been an increase in the number of compulsive/problem gamblers despite the dramatic increase in casinos over the past several decades (the research on that also actually indicateseven fewer problem gamblers online, because they stop quicker). If Gerson wants to argue against something demonstrably unfair to the civic order, he shouldcriticize state lotteries, which are ever-present, cash-based, purposefully target poor areas, and actually doen’t make a lot of revenue for states. While casinos are typically gambling destination spots for the better educated middle class (they want people with more money to burn), state lotteries are only played by the dumb and desperate because of the ridiculous odds. State lotteries function as a regressive tax on people who don’t make enough money to pay a lot of taxes, while casinos function as a sin tax on people with disposable income. And if the latter is the unacceptable, we better start banning a lot of other things, too.

Here as in so many cases, those who are defending the status quo of American policy toward drugs and gambling, arguing against the current push for legalization, also demand that those who seek more liberty prove, beyond a doubt, that eliminating the current restrictive policy will have no negative outcomes. Gerson and Wehner would be better off presuming a default policy in favor of liberty and self-determination over the power of the state. Instead, we should demand a very high burden of proof from those who seek to restrict liberty and expand the state. If Gerson truly believes that the drug war represents a “political community upholding standards, in order to help other institutions (such as families) pass healthy cultural norms between generations,” then he must demonstrate how our these policies actually do that, and how helping parents enforce those norms is worth breaking up tens of thousands of families, instead of just ignoring the ample evidence of the failure of the drug war as irrelevant. Who knew that what was really crushing civil society all along wasn’t working class dads bouncing in and out of prison for non-violent crimes, but the creeping pestilence of pot, porn, and poker?

Perhaps they needs to revisit the understanding of what a Republic is. I’ve always thought John Wayne’s description, as Davy Crockett in The Alamo, is apt: “Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose.”

Subscribe to Ben’s daily newsletter, The Transom.

 

[Originally published at The Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Reacts to WI Gov. Scott Walker’s Call to Repeal Common Core Standards

Blog - Education - July 18, 2014, 4:17 PM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Thursday called on the state legislature to repeal the state’s Common Core education standards, national guidelines that are proving to be increasingly controversial in many states. Walker said he wants Common Core to be replaced “with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

The following statements from education policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely atjlakely@heartland.org and 312/377-4000.

“Pressure from the upcoming national elections has combined with years of steady grassroots pressure in Wisconsin to finally shift Gov. Walker towards giving some attention to Common Core. He had previously stated opposition to Common Core, but his Common Core solution included putting its chief proponent in charge of replacing it.

“If that remains his best idea, Wisconsin kids are still in for a weak curriculum and another decade of ignoring that monopoly education and the deterioration of the family are root causes of poorly prepared teachers, academic-lite curriculum, a culture that shirks the hard work and personal responsibility required for high achievement, and an attenuating citizenry.”

Joy Pullmann
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, School Reform News

 

“Now that the rank awfulness of the Common Core standards is finally becoming known, states are starting to back out. That is democracy in action, whereas the initial imposition of Common Core was a top-down, command-and-control approach done through a smoke-and-mirrors sleight of hand intended to look like private, state-led action. The fact that states are leaving the program proves that Common Core never was state-led and always was a big-government scam.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Research
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

Heartland Institute Reacts to WI Gov. Scott Walker’s Call to Repeal Common Core Standards

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2014, 4:17 PM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Thursday called on the state legislature to repeal the state’s Common Core education standards, national guidelines that are proving to be increasingly controversial in many states. Walker said he wants Common Core to be replaced “with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

The following statements from education policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely atjlakely@heartland.org and 312/377-4000.

“Pressure from the upcoming national elections has combined with years of steady grassroots pressure in Wisconsin to finally shift Gov. Walker towards giving some attention to Common Core. He had previously stated opposition to Common Core, but his Common Core solution included putting its chief proponent in charge of replacing it.

“If that remains his best idea, Wisconsin kids are still in for a weak curriculum and another decade of ignoring that monopoly education and the deterioration of the family are root causes of poorly prepared teachers, academic-lite curriculum, a culture that shirks the hard work and personal responsibility required for high achievement, and an attenuating citizenry.”

Joy Pullmann
Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, School Reform News

 

“Now that the rank awfulness of the Common Core standards is finally becoming known, states are starting to back out. That is democracy in action, whereas the initial imposition of Common Core was a top-down, command-and-control approach done through a smoke-and-mirrors sleight of hand intended to look like private, state-led action. The fact that states are leaving the program proves that Common Core never was state-led and always was a big-government scam.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Research
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Experts React to Australia’s Carbon Tax Repeal

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2014, 4:11 PM

These protesters finally got what they wanted: A repeal of Australia’s obnoxious carbon tax.

The Australian Senate on Thursday voted to repeal the country’s carbon tax of $25 per ton, keeping a promise by new prime minister Tony Abbott to get rid of it. Australia becomes the first Western nation to repeal a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

The following statements from climate and energy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org and 312/377-4000.

 

“The decision by Australia to repeal its carbon tax is further evidence that the global warming movement is now in global retreat. Australian voters realized the tax, which cost the average household more than $500 a year, had zero impact on the climate while it destroyed jobs and punished the poor and people on fixed incomes. Elected officials took longer to realize their mistake, but the right decision was finally made.

“The odds of a new international treaty with binding provisions being adopted at the next United Nations meeting in Paris in 2015, already poor, have dropped even further. People all over the world are seeing through the hype and exaggeration of politicians and environmental activists. They understand that there simply is no climate crisis, and they no longer are willing to passively accept the taxes, regulations, and subsidies passed at the height of global warming alarmism.

“Politicians who campaign on the promise of repealing such useless and destructive taxes and laws can expect to be rewarded at the polls. President Obama has given Republicans here in the U.S. a golden opportunity to make major advances this November. Australia has shown the way. Are they paying attention?”

Joseph Bast
President
The Heartland Institute

 

“Australia is the latest nation to realize expensive restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions punish living standards while accomplishing no real-world environmental benefit. Canada, Japan, Germany, Spain, the UK, and other nations have also been rolling back efforts to stifle conventional energy usage in the scientifically unsupportable war against carbon dioxide emissions.

“Money wasted imposing expensive energy restrictions could be better spent on education, housing, health care, nutrition, real environmental challenges, or simply allowing people to keep more of their earnings. Australia has seen the light and I expect more nations will soon follow suit.”

James M. Taylor
Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy
The Heartland Institute

The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

Categories: On the Blog

Three things conservatives wrote this week that everyone should read

Out of the Storm News - July 18, 2014, 12:56 PM

From ThinkProgress:

So the conservative think tank R Street and author Ian Adams came to the plan’s defense this week, pointing to California’s socioeconomic diversity and some conceptual arguments that California Governor Jerry Brown himself inadvertently opened the door to rhetorically…

…However, as Adams shows, Draper’s scheme is so out-there it at least has value as an intellectual exercise, blowing up the preset ideological divides and forcing us all to think hard once again about some of our more foundational and usually-unexamined assumptions.

Anti-tax groups say Iowans oppose online tax collectors

Out of the Storm News - July 18, 2014, 12:31 PM

From the Des Moines Register:

The National Taxpayers Union and the R Street Institute this week released a poll of 400 likely Iowa voters who were surveyed in May. They said 67 percent of Iowa respondents were opposed to the idea of a plan that would “allow tax enforcement agents from one state to collect taxes from online retailers based in a different state.” Twenty-three percent were in favor. The survey was conducted by Mercury Public Strategies and had an error margin of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

“Voters in the Hawkeye State evidently believe that the Internet should exist to improve the lives of Iowa’s citizens, rather than serve as a highway to bigger government,” said Andrew Moylan, executive director and senior fellow at the R Street Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports free markets and limited government.

Conservative group releases poll on online sales tax collections in Ohio

Out of the Storm News - July 18, 2014, 12:01 PM

From the Aurora Advocate:

The R Street Institute and the National Taxpayers Union say the results should prompt Ohio’s congressional delegation to think twice before backing federal legislation on the issue.

“From our perspective, this is a really dangerous expansion of state tax authority,” said Andrew Moylan, executive director if the R Street Institute. “We have a system where states are rightly sovereign within their own borders, but their power ends at borders’ edge, because we can’t have states trying to exert control over commerce in other states.”…

…R Street and the National Taxpayers Union decided to poll Ohioans on the issue; about 400 likely voters in the state responded a telephone survey early last month.

Among the results, 56 percent of respondents said they opposed allowing states to require online retailers to collect sales taxes on out-of-state purchases. More than 60 percent said they seldom or never buy things online.

The results have a margin of error of about 5 percentage points.

Moylan acknowledged arguments from supporters of the Marketplace Fairness Act, but he said the result would not be fair to all of the businesses involved.

The proposed federal legislation “would create a totally unlevel playing field, where if you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, you get to use this simple, easy standard of collecting based on where you’re located, whereas you would be forcing online businesses to have to jump through all of these hoops to figure out tax obligations across the country.

He added, “There are 46 states with sales taxes, there are 9,998 separate taxing jurisdictions across the country. Asking online businesses to be accountable for all of those … is the exact opposite of a level playing field.”

New poll says Internet sales tax unpopular idea in Ohio

Out of the Storm News - July 18, 2014, 11:39 AM

From 1370 WSPD:

“Ohioans of all political stripes, majorities, count themselves in opposition to this,” said Andrew Moylan, executive director of the R Street Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank.

Under current law, states are only able to collect sales taxes from businesses that actually have a physical presence in the state. Business groups, like the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, argue that gives online retailers an unfair advantage in the marketplace.

However, Moylan argues that forcing a business based in one state to collect sales tax for 46 states and more than 9,000 taxing authorities is unfair.

“Asking online businesses to be accountable for all of those when you are only asking brick-and-mortar businesses to be accountable for the one where they are physically located is the exact opposite of a level playing field,” he said.

A bill, labeled the Marketplace Fairness Act, would change current law and allow states to require online retailers, known as e-tailers, to collect and remit sales tax from customers. The U.S. Senate passed the bill, but the House hasn’t taken it up. A new version has since been introduced in the Senate.

Ohio has a use tax, which requires residents to voluntarily report items purchased out of state and pay a tax on it. 

Moylan also worries that an internet sales tax could open up retailers to other cross-state taxes.

“From our perspective this is a really dangerous expansion of state tax authority,” he said.

Heartland President Joe Bast Discusses the Origins and Importance of ICCC

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2014, 11:25 AM

Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast sat down with the New American’s Bill Jasper during the 9th International Conference on Climate Change to talk about the origin and purpose of the conference. Boasting 64 speakers, from a multitude of disciplines, ICCC9 was the most “star-studded” climate conference yet.

Bast explained that when the Heartland Institute started looking seriously at the issue of global warming in 2006, its first aim was to find a way to make a difference. To do so, Bast conducted a “gap analysis” in order to find something missing in the climate skeptic movement. Heartland quickly hit upon the idea of a conference to bring together the world’s leading climate skeptics.

Bast explained that ICCC was born out of that idea:

“One of the things that was missing was an opportunity to bring all of these global warming skeptics together and develop some personal relationships, to develop a social movement. And unless people get to know each other and actually sit around the table and talk and bring their families together, they’re not going to form a social movement. It’s especially important when you have a minority point of view. You need that support network of friends and colleagues who agree with you.”

Bast spoke wistfully of the first ICCC as “a beautiful thing.” It was the first time these climate skeptics had met together. It sparked a wave of collaboration and new research projects. Science relies on cross-pollination of ideas, and there had been a marked absence of such collaboration in the field of climate skepticism. As organizer, Heartland played midwife to a burgeoning skeptic movement.

Bast had a lot to say about what he perceives to be an extreme bias in the way science is conducted and discussed in the mainstream:

“I think very few people realize just how imbalanced the debate is. There are estimates that we spend a billion dollars a day, globally, on global warming. Between subsidies for the researchers and all these programs to subsidize renewable energy, a billion dollars a day! That is an industry. That is a global warming industry, and its self-interest is to exaggerate the threat, to ignore any doubts, and to pursue one avenue, which is reducing emissions.”

A growing problem, according to Bast, is one of funding. Each time Heartland has put on an ICCC, it has had to dedicate a tremendous percentage of its manpower and resources to making it work. They are expensive, and Bast explained that each time he was always reticent to do it again. And he still was, even after the big turnout at ICCC9, saying, “I’m not sure we’re going to do a tenth.” It all comes down to money and resources, a subject Bast turned to more broadly when he described the plight of many climate skeptics who pay a high academic cost for holding their views:

“We need to find new sources of revenue and support for these skeptics. You’ve got very competent, very courageous academics like Willie Soon, and David Legates in Rhode Island. These guys are losing their academic positions, losing grants, losing all the usual awards and privileges that a successful career would bring. We have to create competing institutions, or set of institutions, that reward these guys.”

The problem to which Bast alluded, that the academic discipline of science has become a monolith, is certainly a serious one. It is a problem that even people who accept the mainstream view on climate change should acknowledge and try to fix. There was once a time when private research institutions were the dominant players on the science stage, in all the varied disciplines. A glut of government funding has made even private universities and institutes junkies for government cash. That desire for subsidies and grants can make scientists alter their research programs to better align with the views of those who have their hands on the tap.

Science as a discipline thrives in a marketplace of open ideas and competition. Any time a majority view seeks to not just defeat, but to strangle, opposition views, people should be worried. Accept anthropogenic global warming or don’t. Either way, don’t support a scientific establishment that is more concerned with raking in government funding than pushing the boundaries of human understanding.

Categories: On the Blog

2016 Republicans Must Have Answers On The NSA And Iraq

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2014, 10:04 AM

At the Examiner, Gene Healy writes about why the Rand Paul/Rick Perry initial sparring is good for the foreign policy debate on the right. Whether it’s good or bad in the long run, I do believe it illustrates a number of challenges Republican candidates in 2016 will have to deal with, and the difficulty of assessing where the Republican base is headed at a time when few leaders have run in tandem with its shifting views on national security and foreign policy.

It should be clear, however, that Rand Paul has been elevated for three reasons, all of which are concurrent with the trendlines of Republican opinions to varying degrees. He has become the lone prominent voice on the national stage rejecting the nation-building approaches deployed by both parties in the past decade and a half; he has advocated for bringing home troops and withdrawing from or avoiding additional actions in hot spots around the world; and he has spoken to the distrust of government within the realm of security policy domestically.

It is actually this last arena in which the poll numbers have experienced the most dramatic change over the past year. The actions of the Obama administration in regards to invasions of privacy by the IRS and inappropriate actions by government officials in a number of different agencies have led Republican and Independent voters to shift significantly toward a total rejection of the established security policy. Today 77 percent of Republicans saying the National Security Agency’s spying intrudes on their privacy (even exceeding the 70 percent of Democrats!), a 27 point jump from before Obama’s presidency. 60 percent of Americans oppose the NSA collection of phone and internet data; 74 percent believe the NSA is violating their privacy rights; and a majority of Americans by a 13 point margin disapprove of the NSA itself, with again more Republicans than Democrats opposing the agency. Pew finds that almost 70 percent of self-identified Tea Partiers disapprove of the NSA – a demonstration of a shift on civil liberties that really did not exist as a phenomenon prior to the Obama era. It’s not hard to see why.

Yet even as this rising Republican suspicion of government surveillance and power has elevated Rand Paul beyond the anti-war backing of his father, I suspect it has not simultaneously led to an endorsement of Paul’s other policy views. It is notable that the same majority which wants to eliminate the ability of the NSA to spy on them also favors the prosecution of Edward Snowden. Republican primary voters don’t share the views of many Obama 2008 voters (and one suspects Rand 2016 voters) who remain incensed about the existence of Gitmo, CIA black sites, torturing bad guys, killing terrorists with drones… On all these scores, Republican voters do not display significant movement. In particular, they display no qualms about spying on foreign countries – indeed, most will agree we should absolutely be doing that in a time of an ascendant Russia and increased dangers in the Middle East. The problem this presents for Paul is that while they may be of the same mind on the NSA, the leftward portion of his base believes that Edward Snowden is a saint and Glenn Greenwald is his prophet, while the rightward portion believes both should be in jail. I don’t think he’s figured out how to deal with that yet.

As for the challenge for Rick Perry’s faction, which effects virtually every other realistic 2016 candidate, I think the back and forth with Paul reveals that non-neoconservative hawks are going to have to deal with their own discomfiting trend lines. Perry wanted to criticize Paul without having to also defend prior policy positions regarding Iraq – which Paul of course raised in his response oped. Here, Perry and his ideological allies would probably prefer to deflect: after all, just 22 percent of Americans believe the Iraq war was worth it. Even majorities of Republicans share that view, an indication that Republicans have, along with the rest of the country, largely rejected the ideas of Bush’s second inaugural as well as the view that national security requires sacrificing a significant degree of privacy. But I don’t think their candidates have come to share that view yetat least not explicitly.

Now, this is not an indication that the Republican base is becoming anti-war, or anti-American power, or isolationist. It is an indication that they are opposed to costly lengthy humanitarian-minded missions without clear goals or conditions for victory which include putting soldiers in harm’s way doing just about anything outside the realm of what they think the military ought to be doing. The shift has been toward opposition of the international freedom agenda where it involves boots on the ground, using the military to nation build, and do a bunch of stuff that isn’t killing bad guys. And this opposition does not make one an isolationist – that label does not work when people like Jonah Goldberg have to defend themselves from being called isolationist because they didn’t want to get involved in Syria.

(As an aside: The danger in a Republican presidential primary is not to be tagged as an isolationist. It actually plays to Paul’s advantage to run with that attack, because of the rhetorical pivot it allows: “does opposition to nation-building make one an isolationist?”. No, the real danger for Paul is to be tagged as no different from an Obama-Kerry liberal. He is vulnerable on this count, and will likely remain so absent a change in his approach which includes more of an embrace of the realist policy legacy.)

Republican voters want someone who is genuinely neither neoconservative nor isolationist. They want someone who will reject the overreach of nationbuilding and sticking our nose into every conflict, reject internationalism and hypocritical spying on American citizens, and embrace a more traditional Jacksonian policy which says that if you hit us or if we see you’re going to hit us, we will use any and all Constitutional resources to hunt you down and kill you in your cave in the middle of the night.

This may seem rather simplistic. But Republican candidates are still struggling with this, and they will have to work it out before the question gets asked on the Iowa debate stage of “Was it right to go to war in Iraq? Would you do it again? And what would you do about the NSA?”

In a sense, this is just another consequence of Republicans losing the adult in the room status on security and foreign policy. The party has always included realists and idealists, and there was in the past a degree of trust that elected leaders could sound more like idealists but govern more like realists. Welcome to life in a political realm where that trust no longer exists.

Subscribe to Ben’s daily newsletter, The Transom.

[Originally published at The Federalist]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Iowan’s USDA appointment raises concern

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2014, 9:21 AM

The appointment of Iowa’s Angela Tagtow, a controversial “environmental nutritionist” and local food activist, to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is causing more headaches for the agency, already facing criticism about politicization of federal nutrition advice and its consequences for public health.

By using the government’s official dietary guidelines as a tool to advance her well-established environmentalist agenda, Tagtow would undermine the USDA’s mandate — to provide families with science-based, impartial nutrition advice.

The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services administer the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations regarding the dietary guidelines mandated by Congress. The guidelines, now being revised, are the basis for federal food and nutrition programs and welfare benefits such as SNAP and educational campaigns, including MyPlate (formerly the food pyramid). The USDA touts them to be “authoritative advice for people 2 years and older about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.”

The fourth meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee started Thursday and will conclude today.

According to Politico, recent advisory committee meetings raised eyebrows because “hot-button issues, such as diet and climate change,” are being discussed in an unprecedented way. The committee has even dedicated one of five subcommittees to “food sustainability and safety” to discuss how the food we eat contributes to climate change and how the government should recommend changes to our diets based on those concerns.

Sustainable food systems and environmental protection may be important, but these issues don’t belong in discussions of healthy eating.

That hasn’t stopped the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee from delving deeply into them over the past year. In the January meeting of the committee, member Miriam Nelson gushed about the importance of promoting foods that have the “littlest impact on the environment” and invited testimony from sustainability expert Kate Clancy, who argued it would be “perilous” not to take global climate change into account when dispensing dietary advice.

In April, a USDA spokesperson seemed to back away from the row by minimizing the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s role in policy-making, saying, “The committee is still in the early stages of its work, so it is premature to guess what their recommendations might be, and even more premature to speculate about what will be included in the final dietary guidelines.”

But the appointment of Tagtow to the USDA office responsible for not only developing and promoting the dietary guidelines, but advancing prominent programs such as MyPlate, suggests that the USDA is doubling down on raising the profile of our diet’s alleged effect on the climate and other issues that have more to do with political science than nutritional science.

For instance, Tagtow boasts that the mission of her consulting firm, Environmental Nutrition Solutions, “is to establish healthier food systems that are resilient, sustainable, ecologically sound, socially acceptable and economically viable.”

This isn’t nutrition. This is code language for politically charged activism. In what amounts to her policy platform statement, Tagtow writes that we should select meat and dairy products from animals that have been fed only grass diets.

She also repeats the myth that meat is an environmentally reckless form of protein, suggesting a plant-based diet instead. She says we should reduce our consumption of meat, lean or not, not because of any potential health benefits, but in order to “conserve natural resources and energy.”

Tagtow has suggested that Iowans could improve the state’s economy by eating only food grown in the state, at least part of the year.

She touted a Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture study, claiming that ” if Iowans ate five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and Iowa farmers supplied that produce for three months of the year, these additional crops would add $300 million and more than 4,000 jobs to the Iowa economy.”

She fails to mention that in her utopian Iowa, residents wouldn’t likely enjoy the benefits of staples like oranges or pineapples for those months. Nor does she consider the devastation to Iowa’s agricultural community if her agro-protectionist ideals were implemented in other states.

Well, now she’s headed to the federal government to promote her narrow ideology.

The maxim that in government, “personnel is policy,” is especially true here, given Tagtow’s policymaking role. The priorities she’s spent her career advancing are far from the consensus among mainstream nutritionists.

Her appointment is a slap in the face to thousands of men and women in nutrition who daily work tirelessly and impartially to help Americans eat better. And it casts doubt over whether USDA is willing to dispense nutrition advice based on science rather than an activist agenda.

THE AUTHOR:

JEFF STIER is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He heads its risk analysis division. Contact: jstier@nationalcenter.org.

 

Originally published at www.jeffstier.org.

Categories: On the Blog

Iceland: The Unlikely Cradle of Representative Government

Somewhat Reasonable - July 18, 2014, 9:00 AM

When asked to imagine the birthplace of our contemporary republican democracy, most educated people point to the democratic traditions of ancient Athens and to the institutions and offices of the Roman Republic. Yet, Athens was destroyed and its democracy destroyed centuries before the birth of Christ, and the Roman Republic succumbed to imperial despotism in 27BC. These shining examples continued to burn as embers of remembrance long after their practical extinction, thanks to a political and intellectual class dedicated to the preservation of ancient documents and knowledge. But while preserving the records, the successor states of both Athens and Rome were neither democratic nor republican in character.

It is not until the signing of the Magna Carta that most people trace a tentative rekindling of the concepts of limited government and representation. While far from a republican document, let alone a democratic one, Magna Carta represented the first time one of the European monarchies that arose from the ruins of Rome formally constituted a limited relationship between ruler and subjects (or ruler and barons as was the case at first).

The Magna Carta is still thought of as the nucleus of the British constitution. It represents a starting point out of which arose parliamentary primacy, and eventual parliamentary democracy. It was the concept of the natural and constitutionally guaranteed Rights of Englishmen, and their perceived impugning by taxation without appropriate representation, that spurred the American colonists first to demand redress, and then to open revolt.

This is the story most students in the English-speaking world are taught. A line is drawn through history showing the unbroken thread of liberty and limited government, from Greece to Rome to Britain, and finally to the United States where it reached its full and final flowering in republican splendor.

Yet this substantively Anglo-centric view leaves out several important episodes in the saga of republican government. If we cast our eye further afield we may find a far richer history than the textbooks permit. Casting our gaze northward to another island in the Atlantic we see another, independent birth of republicanism, one that has carried its own legacy to the present day. This is the story of Iceland and its discovery of representative government.

Iceland was first settled by Norwegian Vikings around 874AD. The impetus to leave their homeland appears to have been twofold. For some it was the desire to find new lands on which to build farms and to raise families. For others it was the desire to escape the authority of the Norwegian king.

These early pioneers found a fairly barren, inhospitable land, but they swiftly went about making a home for themselves. In many ways the settlers replicated life as it was on the Scandinavian mainland, with family and clan groups forming the primary centers of social life. Architecture and farming practices were successfully transferred wholesale.

The one thing the settlers did not bring along with them was an established government. No nobility or royal family staked claim to the Icelanders. Indeed, among the early Icelanders there was no central form of government at all. This state of affairs proved somewhat unstable, as no set rule of law resulted in feuds that cost many lives. Eventually the most respected and powerful clan leaders met to resolve these problems. As pragmatic as they were warlike, the Icelanders agreed to establish a permanent government to uphold a binding rule of law and to arbitrate disputes between individuals and families.

In 930AD this government took shape as the Althing, or assembly. It would be a sort of proto-parliament, with seats apportioned to the major families and regions. The Althing was to be a deliberative and legislative body, as well as central judiciary. No one was denied access to it by merit of birth.

It was settled that the permanent meeting place would be in a valley within easy riding distance of the major population centers. As a quirk of history, or maybe as an auspicious sign, the particular valley chosen happens to fall directly on the dividing line of two tectonic plates. On one side is the plate carrying most of Europe. The other, to the west, holds the eastern North American continent. The Icelandic pioneers could not know that, of course, but looking back on it through history, it dredges up a sense of symbolic importance. Here, in this rugged frontier, men with little or no education had settled on a break with the only way of governing they had ever known, a break as palpable as the split in the earth dividing the Old World and the New over which they met.

The imagination calls up images of these brave men who embarked on a new course, one with which they had no experience and no guidance from Greek or Roman forebears. As they met beneath the moon-cast shadows of ancient crags, they could hardly have known what a revolutionary path they had chosen to tread.

While far from as representative as what modern citizens would expect from a legislative body, the Althing was a remarkable first step in the direction of parliamentary governance. The body was large enough to include many landowners, not simply the mightiest in the land. It enacted a binding law that was recognized and respected by the citizenry with a remarkable zeal. The respect for the rule of law was inculcated in Icelanders in a time when much of the rest of the world was ruled by the fiat of kings or warlords. Even their kinsfolk in Scandinavia were subject to powerful kings and lords.

The difference in mindset between the Icelandic people and the Scandinavian society they left behind is perhaps best reflected in the extant legends and sagas of the two groups. Scandinavia is famous for its bloody epics detailing the exploits of mighty heroes who slay preposterous numbers of warriors and monsters. In Iceland, the sagas still have some of that blood and thunder. But the centerpieces of the stories tend to revolve more around intricate legal disputes and oratorical, rather than martial, brilliance.

Over the centuries, despite successive foreign invaders and occupiers seeking to quash it, the Althing has persisted, showing as much stubbornness as the Icelandic people. It remains the chief governing body of Iceland, though it now fits squarely in the mold of modern parliamentary democracy. It is the oldest extant parliament in the world. It is a living reminder of humans’ desire to rule themselves and to be free of arbitrary government. It is wise to reflect on the many paths nations have followed to the promised land of representative democracy. Doing so allows us to see its invaluable worth to humanity and to the enduring truth it upholds.

Categories: On the Blog

2/3 of Iowans oppose Internet sales tax, poll shows

Out of the Storm News - July 17, 2014, 5:41 PM

From the Iowa Republican:

National Taxpayers Union visited Iowa Wednesday to reveal the results of a poll that shows Iowans overwhelmingly oppose a sales tax on internet purchases. Representatives from the taxpayer watchdog group, along with D.C.-based think tank R Street Institute, revealed the findings during an early afternoon briefing at the State Capitol.

 

Moylan talks Internet sales tax on Radio Iowa

Out of the Storm News - July 17, 2014, 5:07 PM

R Street Executive Director Andrew Moylan and Pete Sepp from the National Taxpayers Union joined host host Kay Henderson of the Learfield Radio Network’s Radio Iowa to discuss R Street/NTU polling showing voter opposition to the proposed Internet sales tax. Listen to the whole show below.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.http://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/mickelson-2014-07-16.mp3

Message to EPA—“You Have Done Enough” Let Them Know Your Thoughts

Somewhat Reasonable - July 17, 2014, 2:11 PM
For years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been issuing onerous rules applying to the use of fossil fuels that has caused increases in energy prices and contributed to the economic malaise that has befallen the country since the end of the last recession in 2009.  The latest assault occurred June 2, 2014 with the EPA’s issuing its Carbon Pollution Standards requiring a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from existing power plants below the 2005 level by the year 2030.  2005 was a year of high carbon pollution for the United States with total carbon dioxide emissions of 6.723 billion tons and 2.642 billion tons for electric power generation.  A 30 percent reduction in power emissions by 2030 is 0.793 billion tons leaving no more than 1.85 billion tons of carbon emissions for electric power generation. For the EPA, carbon pollution means carbon dioxide, the trace gas necessary for life on the planet; not the dirty soot older people remember turned snow black in the winter, ruined laundry hung outside to dry, and coated cars parked outside.  This is a direct attempt to deceive the public about the nature of the hazard being foisted upon them. PUBLIC HEALTH BENEFITS EMPHASIZED Along with usual stopping catastrophic climate events due to global warming, carbon pollution standards were pushed from the standpoint of health benefits.  The May 31, The Guardian carried an article “Obama heralds health benefits of climate plan to cut power plant emissions”  which described a presentation President Obama made, with white-robed individuals in the background, in an asthma ward at the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington, DC.  The President said, “just in the first year the plan would reduce asthma attacks by 100,000 and heart attacks by 2100″.  A 7-page report from The White House “The Health Impacts of Climate Change On Americans” list their claims of health problems from global warming.  No mention most health problems occur in the winter. On June 2, EPA Administrator Gina McCarty announced EPA’s Carbon Pollution Plan calling attention this plan reduces illnesses like asthma by reducing carbon pollution.  Ms. McCarthy said, “The first year these standards go into effect, we’ll avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks-and those numbers go up from there.” “No one really knows what causes asthma.  We do know asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways.  Causes of asthma symptoms vary for different people.  Still, one thing is consistent with asthma: when airways come into contact with an asthma trigger, the airways become inflamed, narrow, and fill with mucus.  Allergies with asthma are common problem.  Eighty percent of people with asthma have allergies to airborne substances such as tree, grass, and weed pollens, mold, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroach particles.  In one study, children who had high levels of cockroach droppings in their homes were four times more likely to have childhood asthma than children whose homes had low levels.  Asthma exacerbation after dust exposure is usually due to dust mite allergy.” A devastating July 11, 2011 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by University of Georgia Emeritus Prof. R. Harold Brown “Politics of asthma have outrun the science of the condition” destroys arguments by the EPA power plant emissions cause asthma.  EPA claims ozone causes asthma; but Prof. Brown cites studies show a negative correlation of asthma attacks with peak eight-hour ozone concentrations.  Air pollution would be thought to be worse in urban areas; but asthma rates are as high in rural areas as urban areas.  A 2004 global report on asthma cited asthma incidences among adults as 10.9 percent in the U. S., 2.1 percent in China, and 2.2 percent in Russia; all countries with far more polluted air than the U. S.  A 2001-2004 CDC study reported 14.6 percent of U. S. born women, 4 percent of Mexican born women, and 6.8 percent for immigrants born elsewhere claimed they had asthma.  Additional studies, most in Europe, show children born on farms with lots of livestock contact are less likely to have asthma. To add more confusion to causes of asthma is a new study reported June 6, 2014 in Health Daily News “Too-Clean Homes May Encourage Child Allergies, Asthma:  Study” reported children from dirty homes were less likely to have wheezing coughing by age 3.  The study is still in infancy. An article by Brian Palmer titled “How Dangerous Is Asthma?” shows you are more likely to die from drowning than asthma in the U. S.  Deaths due to asthma have fallen from 2 per 100,000 in 1998 to 1 per 100,000 in 2010. “Air pollution not correlated with asthma hospitalizations” is reported by a JunkScience.com study.  Soot and smog were not correlated with emergency admissions for asthma at a large Los Angeles hospital over the two-year period 2010-11.  Los Angeles is one of the most polluted areas in the United States. Carbon dioxide is a trace gas, 0.04 percent, occurring in our atmosphere and its slight increases have no effect on causing asthma or stimulating its attacks.  Claiming asthma reductions by a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generation in the next 16 years is totally false.   It may be the EPA’s calling “wolf” for years on power plant pollution that causes parents to keep their children inside homes where actual air pollution is more severe. There is some thought increasing ozone in the atmosphere stimulates asthma attacks.  Weather alerts given in cities about impending bad air is due to ozone increases caused by automobiles.  One source of atmospheric ozone is due to ethanol being mixed with gasoline as a renewable fuel.  A December 14, 2009, report by Stanford University researchers “Ethanol results in higher ozone concentrations than gasoline” shows vehicles running on ethanol generate higher concentrations of ozone than those using gasoline, especially in the winter.  This could create new health concerns in areas where ozone hasn’t been a significant problem before.  Further evidence of ethanol causing ozone is shown by studies in Sao Paulo, Brazil “Study Links Ethanol To Higher Air Pollution.  These studies showed higher ozone pollution during times of greater ethanol use due to ethanol’s lower prices. This is an example where the EPA attacks a non-problem, carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, and creates a real problem by pushing use of ethanol as a mix with gasoline.  An analogous situation occurred in 2011 when the EPA attacked mercury from effluents of coal-and oil-burning power plants with its Mercury and Toxic Substance (MATS) Rule and supervised elimination of incandescent light bulbs with replacement of mercury-containing compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.   A May 3, 2011 paper by James H. Rust “Do New EPA Regulations on Power Plant Mercury Effluents Make Sense” shows mercury emissions from power plants are negligible compared to natural mercury emissions; while mercury concentrations in small areas in homes from CFL breakage posed potential severe environmental hazards. THE GLOBAL WARMING PITCH The EPA has long claimed carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causes catastrophic global warming (CAGW).  Thus its 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide from electric power generation from 2005 levels should reduce global warming.  CAGW is stated to cause increased flooding, drought, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, sea level rise, Arctic ice melting, etc.  The EPA maintains scientific support for carbon dioxide threats are a series of 5 Assessment Reports by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) released since 1990 with the most recent in 2014.  These documents are accepted without question. To counteract omissions, half-truths, and false statements in these reports, the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was formed in 2003.  Since 2009, NIPCC has released 6 Reports that give authoritative, easily-read information about vast amounts of experimental data showing negligible influence of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels on climate, benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, financial losses from mitigation, and proper role of adapting to climate change.  NIPCC is supported by three non-profit organizations–Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global ChangeScience and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute. A host of data exists to show all catastrophic events alleged caused by CAGW occurred in the past when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were lower and constant.   For many weather events, rates of occurrences recently declined.  In addition, lack of global warming the past 16 years, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased the highest rate in thousands of years, is conveniently ignored. NIPCC reports cover all these omissions. A lifetime could be spent studying past global temperatures, theories about causes of climate change, and failures to predict the future.  Three recent examples are of interest: A June 24, 2014 article by P. Gosselin “Laughing Stock Met Office—2007 “Peer-Reviewed” Global Temperature Forecast A Staggering Failure” reports an August 10, 2007 Science article claimed global temperatures would rise 0.54 degrees F. from 2004 to 2014 and at least half the temperatures after 2009 would be above the highest recorded (1998 super El Nino) up to that time.  In actuality a cooling of 0.025 degrees F. occurred over the ten-year period and no temperatures were above the 1998 temperature. Since 1890, the U. S. Weather Service has collected temperature data across the country that is stored in the United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN).  This data is published by USHCN and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).  In the last few decades, this data has been adjusted as reported “Data Tampering At USHCN/GISS”.  The measured data set shows a decline in US temperatures since the 1930s.  However, after adjustments to the data, the cooling trend since the 1930s had been changed to a warming trend.  More recent analysis is reported as “Just Hit The NOAA Motherlode”. An article by Tom Harris in the June 30, 2014 Washington Times quoted a statement by President Obama to the League of Conservation Voters on June 25 in Washington.  President Obama said, “We know that carbon dioxide traps heat. We know that the levels of carbon dioxide are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years. We know that the 20 warmest years on record for our planet all happened since 1990 — and last month was the warmest May ever recorded.”  President Obama got his information from NOAA(May 2014 warmest ever and 1.33°F above the 20th century average 58.6°F), for which the preceding paragraph shows doctors their data.  However, if you examine satellite temperature data from the University of Alabama at Huntsville you get the following numbers:  May 2014 temperature 0.59 degrees F., May 1998 temperature 1.01 degrees, and May 2010 temperature 0.83 degrees—all temperatures above the global average from 1981 to 2010.  The Wood For Trees data site, which contains British HADCRUT 4 global mean temperature data, also showed May 1998 was warmer than May 2014.  This is another example of shaky data used to promote EPA’s policies. IS THE REST OF THE WORLD YAWNING? The EPA and President Obama hailed their carbon dioxide reductions would convince the rest of the world to cut back on use of fossil fuels. After EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards announcement, Reuters published China announced a plan to cap carbon dioxide emissions due to remarks by Chinese Professor He Jiankun at a conference in Beijing.  These remarks were quickly undone when Professor He made a later statement, “What I said today was my personal view. The opinions expressed at the workshop were only meant for academic studies.  What I said does not represent the Chinese government or any organisation.” In another Reuters announcement “German state allows Vattenfall to expand brown coal mining” points out the East German state of Brandenburg will mine 200 million tons of brown coal from 2026. Another follow-up is Robert Wilson’s article “What a difference a decade makes:  an updated reality check on the global energy system” for the Energy Post.  He reported China in a decade and a half built the equivalent of the entire American electricity grid.  “China today consumes 4 billion metric tons of coal and has a commitment to 500 GW of new coal capacity.  It is unlikely China’s coal use for electricity generation will be significantly lower 30 or 40 years from now.”  China’s carbon dioxide emissions are twice that of America’s today. Even if carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels had an effect on global warming, it is apparent the United States reduction of 0.8 billion tons by 2030 would have no measureable effect on climate change. WHAT’S NEXT? EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards are a difficult requirement to explain that are based on their descriptions of carbon dioxide Emission Rates in pounds of carbon dioxide per Megawatt-hour electricity produced for each state for the years 2012 and 2030.  The connection to a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the year 2005 is not apparent.  Readers are invited to predict sacrifices for their states. Some facts are known.  The population of the U. S. in 2005 was 296 million, 317 million in 2013, and predicted 373 million in 2030.  This is a 26 percent increase in U. S. population from 2005 to 2030 and an 18 percent increase from 2013 to 2030.  Thus a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 to 2030 means a 44 percent reduction on a per capita basis. Some information about possible cost escalations of the Carbon Pollution Standards are in a June 2 article by James H. Rust “President Obama’s and EPA’s Attack on Fossil Fuels”.  The EPA thought their rules would encourage use of cap-and-trade programs in individual states to force reductions in carbon dioxide output.  Ten states currently have cap-and-trade programs–nine states in theNorth East and Mid Atlantic Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and California.  RGGI started January 1, 2009.  Cap-and-trade went into effect in California January 1, 2013. The ten states with cap-and-trade have mandates for renewable energy generation—solar and wind energy–called renewable portfolio standards (RPS).   Thirty three states have RPS with Hawaii the highest RPS of 40 percent renewables by 2030.   California has the second highest RPS with a requirement of 33 percent by 2020.  Nineteen states have all sector electricity rates above the national average and all have RPS.  With exceptions of Hawaii, whose majority of electricity is generated with oil, and Alaska; the ten states with cap-and-trade have the highest electricity rates in the nation.   The March 2014 average cost of all sector electricity for the ten states with cap-and-trade is 14.84 cents per kilowatt-hour (kw-hr)–44 percent higher than the average of 10.32 cents per kw-hr for the nation. It is apparent EPA’s insistence on a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions will increase electricity prices.  Individual states will suffer more than others. WHAT ARE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES? At her public announcement June 2, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy made the following comments about the economic consequences of the Clean Power Plan: “I know people are wondering: can we cut pollution while keeping our energy affordable and reliable? We can, and we will. Critics claim your energy bills will skyrocket.  They’re wrong.  Any small, short-term change in electricity prices would be within normal fluctuations the power sector already deals with.  And any small price increase—think about the price of a gallon of milk a month—is dwarfed by huge benefits. This is an investment in better health and a better future for our kids. In 2030, the Clean Power Plan will deliver climate and health benefits of up to $90 billion dollars.  And for soot and smog reductions alone, that means for every dollar we invest in the plan, families will see $7 dollars in health benefits. And if states are smart about taking advantage of efficiency opportunities, and I know they are, when the effects of this plan are in place in 2030, average electricity bills will be 8 percent cheaper. For over four decades, EPA has cut air pollution by 70 percent and the economy has more than tripled. All while providing the power we need to keep America strong.” We think of economic growth in terms of total amount; but a more accurate measure is increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.  A June 6, 2014 article in The American Thinker by Sierra Rayne “How Environmental Regulations Hurt The Economy In One Graph” shows U. S. economy growth on a per capita basis has slowed since 1970 compared to the time period 1929-1970.  From 1970 to 2010, the U. S. population increased from 203 million to 309 million and GNP per capita increased from $24,000 to $49,000.  However, based on the growth rate over the period 1929-1970, per capita GDP would have been $84,000.  Sierra Rayne thought the procession of environmental acts (1970 Clean Air Act, 1972 Clean Water Act, 1973 Endangered Species Act, and 1987 Montreal Protocol) may have been the catalyst to slow down the nation’s rate of economic growth prior to 1970.  The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will only add to regulatory burdens and increased economic slowdown. Heidi Moore of The Guardian wrote June 6 “The fault in our starry-eyed ‘recovery’ :  2014 looks like we are going bust again”.  The article disputes economic data put out by the government on unemployment, economic growth, and wealth of most Americans.  This shows EPA’s hit on the economy by unnecessary regulations on fossil fuel use is unwarranted. Prof. Anthony Kelly’s multi-referenced report “Climate Policy and the Poor” for the Global Warming Policy Foundation found actions to restrict fossil fuel use has far greater impacts on the poor whether they are from developed or developing nations.  In addition, many adverse consequences are due to implementation of renewable energy sources–solar, wind, biofuels, and biomass–as substitutes for fossil fuels.  He further states the religions of the Western World place assisting the poor as their first priority and yielding to calls for programs to mitigate climate change are counter to this argument. Carbon dioxide is a necessary chemical to sustain life on this planet.  It is an airborne fertilizer that increases plant yields and bigger plant root systems that makes them more drought resistant.  A report on social benefits of carbon dioxide for agriculture alone is estimated at $3.2 trillion from 1961 to 2011.  Benefits from 2012 to 2050 are estimated to be $9.8 trillion.   It may be the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from 310 parts per million (ppm) in 1950 to 400 ppm today is the reason the planet can feed the population increase of 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7 billion in 2013.  These benefits from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide make any suggested economic benefits from carbon dioxide curtailment by the EPA irrelevant. OTHER PROBLEMS? The public should remember electrification was voted The Outstanding Engineering Achievement of the 20th Century by the National Society of Professional Engineers and other scientific organizations. This is due to inexpensive, abundant, reliable electricity has contributed more to the health and pleasures of life than any other scientific accomplishment by man.  Any activity to reduce its reliability and increase costs is a threat to the health, safety, and economic welfare of the nation.  The few articles that follow show EPA’s carbon pollution plan serves that purpose. A June 16, 2014 report “Ensuring Adequate Power Supplies For Tomorrow’s Electricity Needs” for the Electric Markets Research Foundation calls attention to a host of issues affecting the reliability of our electric grid system.  Extreme cold during the 2014 winter caused price spiking and loss of reserves in parts of the country, in particular the Northeast.  Coal-fired power plants scheduled for retirement in 2015 were needed to maintain power supply.  Increased reliance on intermittent sources such as solar and wind, that may not be available when needed, may cause system reliability problems.  The trend to using natural gas for new plant construction and conversion of existing power plants to natural gas may cause future problems over pricing and availability of natural gas in future times of urgent demand.  All of these issues are solutions for reducing carbon dioxide emissions demanded by the EPA.  Thus EPA’s rules jeopardize the national grid reliability. A paper by Martin E. Rock, P.E., J.D. “Here’s the dirt on the EPA’s new ‘Clean Power’ Plan…” published June 18, 2014 by energy industry leader EUCI outlines numerous problems with the EPA plan.  One comment is “Another dirty little secret is that market forces have reduced GHG emissions more in the US since 2005 than in any other country in the world without any intervention by EPA.  US innovation, free market capitalism, and gas exploration has allowed for dramatic reductions, and these trends indicate even steeper future reductions than does the EPA’s Plan for the next 15 years.  Perhaps someone should tell the EPA the obvious truth about this situation: ‘If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.’” Matt Ridley wrote an article June 19 for the Financial Post “Junk Science Week:  IPCC commissioned models to see if global warming would reach dangerous level this century.  Consensus is ‘no’” that analyzed worst predictions from the latest IPCC Report.  The worst set of conditions on greenhouse gas increases led to a temperature rise of 2.1 degrees C.  “The IPCC produced two reports last year. One said that the cost of climate change is likely to be less than 2% of GDP by the end of this century.  The other said that the cost of decarbonizing the world economy with renewable energy is likely to be 4% of GDP.  Why do something that you know will do more harm than good?” International events in 2014 illustrate the dangers of the United States not exploiting its abundant reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas.  The March 24, 2014 article by James H. Rust “Putin’s Gift To America’s Energy Independence” points out the role of energy in foreign affairs in the 20th century and Russian President Putin’s aggressive role in the Ukraine being fueled by their providing substantial amounts of natural gas to Western Europe. The Ukraine Crisis and unsettled events in Iraq are great gifts to stop the environmental movement’s eliminating fossil fuel production and insistence on relying on solar, wind, ethanol from corn, etc. as energy sources.  The EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards will force shutdown of numerous coal-fired power plants and a shift to less polluting natural gas.  This leaves the United States in a position to having less natural gas available for export and thus less importance on the international stage.  Renewable energy sources are of no consequence in conduct of foreign policy.   Do we want peace and prosperity or “green energy”, poverty, and the possibility of nuclear war? A House Subcommittee on Energy and Power had a hearing June 19 on the EPA Clean Energy Plan reported as follows: “Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) compared EPA’s promises for its power plant proposal to the administration’s failed promises of Obamacare.  He criticized the administration for misleading the American people about the plan’s impact on jobs and energy prices and overall feasibility and flexibility, saying, “You may say you don’t demand something, but the inherent nature of the rule – the only way it can be reached without the federal government’s squeezing the state – will be to shut down coal.”  Watch the exchange HERE. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) highlighted the hardships states would face in complying with EPA’s plan, and questioned EPA’s assumptions about electricity generation in states.  Shimkus also asked what would happen if EPA did not approve a state’s implementation plan.  She replied, “EPA will move forward with a plan. … We are not focused on that right now.”  Watch the full exchange HERE. Upton concluded, ‘As with the health law, another train wreck is coming – unless Congress does something about it.  It’s time to start being honest with the American people about this expensive power plan, and that process started with today’s hearing.’” AFTERMATH Possibly the greatest dangers to the nation lies in what happens after EPA implements its Carbon Pollution Standards. On June 30, the EPA announced their climate change adaptation programs that are summarized as follows: “EPA’s policy is consistent with the President’s Climate Action Plan and Executive Order 13653 on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change, which calls on the federal government to strengthen the adaptive capacity of its programs and operations. The new policy updates the EPA policy first issued in June 2011, and includes the following directives: -        Modernize EPA financial assistance program to encourage climate-resilient investments; -        Provide information, tools, training and technical support for climate change preparedness and resilience; -        Implement priority actions identified in EPA’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Implementation Plans; -        Focus on the most vulnerable people and places; -        Measure and evaluate performance of climate adaptation actions; -        Continue EPA planning for climate change-related risk; and -        Coordinate with other federal agencies” Later that day EPA announced their proposed rule Standards of Performance Solid Waste Landfills.  This rule would increase removal of methane gas from landfill emissions to 66 percent. On July 10, EPA made a news release “EPA Proposes to Replace and Reduce Harmful Greenhouse Gases” which is a program to prohibit use of hydrofluorocarbons “used in aerosols, motor vehicle air conditioning, retail food refrigeration and vending machines, and foam blowing.”  “This action is estimated to reduce greenhouse gases by up to 42 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020.”  By 2020, natural emissions of carbon dioxide would have been about 3,600,000 million metric tons or human-produced emissions of 150,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.  Not much effect on global warming no matter what the cost of these EPA rules. CITIZEN ACTION NOW The climate adaption program could make EPA a powerful master that could dictate to all departments in the government.  Already the Department of Energy, Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Defense have numerous programs that promote President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.  I am on the distribution list for News Releases from all these agencies.  My observations are each agency is trying to out-perform the others in their attempts to come up with programs that please the Whitehouse.  What comes to mind is the fealty of vassals to their lord back in medieval times.  The EPA may be the new lord.  One example is the U. S. Navy’s “Farm to Fleet” program that has a long term goal of 50 percent biofuels for its fleet needs.  It would be cheaper to buy oil wells. With a country that has budget deficits of $1.5 billion per day, these programs could help sink the nation into an insurmountable level of debt in a few years. There is much speculation Emperor Nero fiddled when Rome burned in AD 64.  It appears the “fiddle” has been passed to the EPA by its recent rulings.  It is time to say to the EPA “You have done enough”. By coincidence, sixty years ago on June 9, 1954; U. S. Army lawyer Joseph Welch told Senator Joseph McCarthy, “You have done enough.  Have you no sense of decency.”   Welch’s remarks stopped McCarthy’s harassing people alleged as Communists.  Maybe these remarks will stop this useless harassment of the nation’s abundant, economical, reliable, and geographically distributed fossil fuels. EPA provided a means to make written comments on the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule that are due by October 16, 2014.  EPA will have hundreds of thousands of favorable comments from environmental groups.  Use information from this document to send EPA your comment telling them “You have done enough.” James H. Rust, Professor of nuclear engineering and policy advisor The Heartland Institute.
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