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Gutfeld: Orlando’s doom. The most depressing article you will ever share. Share it anyway | Fox News

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - June 23, 2016, 12:24 AM
The immediate consequences from the Orlando terror attack are obvious: dozens dead and maimed – families changed forever. The next layer of consequences,…

Heartland Daily Podcast – Don Boyd: The Failure of Public Pension Funds

Somewhat Reasonable - June 22, 2016, 4:13 PM

In this episode of the Heartland Institute’s weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Nelson J. Rockefeller Institute of Government director of fiscal studies Don Boyd about a new study examining how the assumptions and gimmicks public pension boards use to fund pensions are affected by investment risks, and how those risks affect taxpayers and government employees.

Assuming current government pension planning trends continue, one out of every six government pension plans will fail, even if lawmakers do everything right. As time goes on, Boyd says, the risks of defined-benefit pension plan failure increases, leaving taxpayers with the bill.

Lawmakers’ current funding policies are inadequate, Boyd says, and, unless big changes are made, the danger of taxpayer-funded pension bailouts is greater than many taxpayers may understand, and greater than lawmakers wish to acknowledge.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Playing Both ‘Cops and Robbers’ on Asset Forfeiture

Somewhat Reasonable - June 22, 2016, 11:17 AM

A new digital system unveiled by Oklahoma government police is just the latest example of civil asset forfeiture laws encouraging cops to become the robbers they’re supposed to be catching.

Since May, the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol has been deploying “Electronic Recovery and Access to Data” systems. ERADs allow highway patrolmen to use civil asset forfeiture laws to seize individuals’ assets stored in bank accounts or on prepaid debit cards at the press of a button.

Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process by which government law enforcement agents seize private property, including money, believed to have been used in the commission of a crime, even if no criminal conviction has occurred.

Before the 1980s, when there was a brief “tough-on-crime” fad, civil asset forfeiture was relatively obscure. In 1984, Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, permitting local and national law enforcement agencies to share the rewards of seized assets and cash with one another. Between the law’s passage and 1993, a total of $3 billion in cash and property flowed through the nationalized Asset Forfeiture Program to local and national law enforcement agencies.

Instead of using civil asset forfeiture as it was originally intended, police in many jurisdictions have used civil asset forfeiture to enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers.

Studying asset forfeiture rates and law enforcement budgets from government datasets across five states, Harvard School of Public Health professor Katherine Baicker and UC Irvine associate economics professor Mireille Jacobson uncovered an interesting link between asset forfeiture rates and local government budgets. When government police carry out more asset forfeitures, Baicker and Jacobson found, local lawmakers reduce spending on law enforcement, treating the proceeds from law enforcement actions as revenue. In turn, asset forfeiture rates increase, because government police begin treating forfeiture as a fundraising activity.

Baicker and Jacobson write that just as a living thing responds to stimuli, government agencies, such as police departments and county commissioner boards, respond to incentives in complex, interconnected ways.

“Counties and police respond to incentives driven by seizures laws in a sophisticated way that depends both on the reaction of the other party and on the fiscal circumstances that affect their marginal utility of the funds,” Baicker and Jacobson write. “We find that local governments do indeed capture a significant fraction of the seizures that police make by reducing their other allocations to policing, undermining the statutory incentive created by state seizure laws. They are more likely to do so in times of fiscal distress.”

To guard against this unfair and immoral form of taxation, states must reform their laws to require a criminal conviction before private property can be seized and to require that asset forfeiture proceeds be deposited into the general fund, not funneled directly to law enforcement budgets.

Civil asset forfeiture creates too many perverse economic incentives. However well-intentioned the idea may be, the practice of civil asset forfeiture has been corrupted and now infringes on Americans’ right to be free from harassment by money-hungry agents of the government.

The U.S. government’s law enforcement agencies are supposed to be the cops – not the robbers – and it needs to stop now.

[Originally published at the Orange County Register]

Categories: On the Blog

The Logic Behind the Left’s Demonization of Conservatives

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - June 22, 2016, 10:58 AM
I n the immediate aftermath of the murder of 49 Americans at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., CNN’s Anderson Cooper descended on the scene of the crime. There,…

Supreme Court slaps down Labor Dept. on overtime exemption

Budget and Tax Suite - In The News - June 22, 2016, 7:01 AM
The Supreme Court slapped down a labor action by the Obama administration Monday, ruling that the administration was wrong to rescind a long-standing exemption…

The Nanny State Advances Statement on Passage of Anti-Soda Tax in Philadelphia

Somewhat Reasonable - June 21, 2016, 4:16 PM

In the first success of its nature for “nanny state” advocates after many years of trying, Philadelphia Thursday became the first major city to attempt to control the non-alcoholic drink choices of its residents by enacting a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on soda, tea, sports and energy drinks. This is expected to embolden nanny state tax advocates across the United States.

The tax, like others on food and food-related items, will fall disproportionately on lower income individuals.

The National Center for Public Policy Research’s director of Risk Analysis, Jeff Stier, is available to speak with reporters and has a statement:

The only good thing about Philadelphia’s newly-imposed soda tax is that proponents were somewhat honest about it, admitting it wasn’t about improving public health. Instead, they admitted it was a money grab, albeit a highly regressive one.

Perhaps it was a wise tactical move, because soda-tax campaigners have failed to persuade scientists or the public that the tax reduces caloric consumption, obesity, or diabetes.

Adding to the absurdity of this tax, Philly’s treats diet soda and full sugar alike, failing to even distinguish between sugary drinks, which, like all caloric food and beverages, can contribute to obesity, and zero or low calorie beverages. Similarly, advocates across the country are pushing to equalize cigarette and e-cigarette sin taxes, the latter of which is primarily used by adult smokers trying to lower their risk. If soda was the new tobacco, now diet soda is the new e-cigarette.

In March, Stier told the Daily Caller that “Soda tax proponents are asking us to suspend normal assumptions about human behavior and simply assume that people who reduce soda consumption to avoid the tax, won’t just make their own sugary drinks and won’t replace the calories with other high-calorie foods or drinks.”

In an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle in 2014, Stier explained the real rationale for soda taxes: “Rather simply, it is Sutton’s Law. The ‘law’ is named after the infamous American bank robber Willie Sutton, who was incorrectly credited with answering a reporter who asked him why he robs banks by saying, ‘That’s where the money is.'”

Mr. Stier has testified before city and state governments and has frequently been quoted in or published in the press or appeared on cable television to discuss “nanny state” issues, including New York City’s ill-fated attempt under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to govern the size of cups New York City residents were to be permitted to use for their beverages.

Here he is discussing the New York soda ban on CNBC; in one of his many New York Postop-eds, this time discussing a proposed New York City ban on styrofoam; and being quoted in Forbes about nanny state attempts to limit transfats, among perhaps a hundred other prominent examples of his work.

To speak with Jeff Stier, contact Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or cell (703) 477-7476 orjkent@nationalcenter.org.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Rob Lindberg: With Falling Oil Prices, What Has Become of the Booming Bakken?

Somewhat Reasonable - June 21, 2016, 1:58 PM

The oil boom in the Bakken region of western North Dakota seemed like the closest thing to a gold rush the nation had experienced in more than a century. The boom garnered nation-wide media attention detailing the growing pains; truck traffic, man camps, and skyrocketing rents, along with the prosperity, thousands of jobs being created and starting wages at Walmart of more than $17/hour. Now that oil prices have fallen from more than $100 per barrel to just around $50, people are wondering what has become of the Booming Bakken?

In this edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Rob Lindberg of the group Bakken Backers tells stories about his experience in the oil-producing regions of North Dakota and the opportunities and challenges it has presented to these communities and gives the listeners a glimpse of what this part of North Dakota looks like now that the go-go days of the boom are over.

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

Categories: On the Blog

California Bill Would Ultimately Erase Religious Schools

Education - In The News - June 21, 2016, 8:55 AM
People used to expect that attending something sponsored by religious organization required abiding by mores and behavior that religious body professes. There…

Two Can Play at Climate ‘Fraud’

Environment Suite - In The News - June 21, 2016, 8:36 AM
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a news conference with other U.S. State Attorney's General to announce a state-based effort to combat…

Two Can Play at Climate ‘Fraud’

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - June 21, 2016, 8:36 AM
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a news conference with other U.S. State Attorney's General to announce a state-based effort to combat…

A Shadow Falls Over Silicon Valley

Tech Suite - In The News - June 21, 2016, 8:35 AM
Photo: Getty Images “The internet we know wasn’t built by firms requesting bureaucratic approval for every move,” observed Judge Stephen Williams in an opinion…

A Shadow Falls Over Silicon Valley

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - June 21, 2016, 8:35 AM
Photo: Getty Images “The internet we know wasn’t built by firms requesting bureaucratic approval for every move,” observed Judge Stephen Williams in an opinion…

A plea to Congress not to ‘fix’ a music market that isn’t broken

Out of the Storm News - June 21, 2016, 7:38 AM

Dear Congress,

By now, maybe you’ve read the “Dear Congress” letter that many music companies and individual artists have signed asking you to “fix” the Digital Millennium Copyright Act—a law Congress negotiated in 1998 in response to widespread fears that the Internet was going to kill the music industry because of digital redistribution.

As a lawyer who has been working on internet and copyright law for more than 25 years, I’m always a little surprised by these letters, not least because I have bought so much digital music from these companies and these artists over the last couple of decades. I know many songs by Pink and Pharrell, by Elvis Costello and Chicago and Randy Newman, by Sir Elton John and Carole King, by Lionel Richie and Mark Ronson – and I know them by heart because I play them over and over again on my iPhone or my computer. Or because I hear them in restaurants and sing along and happily support the restaurants that pay their fees to the American Society of Composers (ASCAP) or Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) or the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC) or the individual music companies.

I love the music of Lady Gaga and Sir Paul McCartney and Gwen Stefani, and I want to see them get paid, and I happily pay money to pay them.

But one of the reasons I’m able to sing along so quickly with the music of Taylor Swift or Ronnie Spector is that I’ve been able to hear them through the great array of digital technologies and digital choices that the new tools and devices, and that companies like Apple and Google and Microsoft, have brought to me and millions of other consumers. It’s precisely because those companies, like the web and the internet itself, are protected by the balances that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act struck so well back in 1998.

I don’t believe that Lionel Richie or Aaron Neville or Sheryl Crow really believe I’ve been stealing their music when I hear it for the first time on the internet, maybe through a friend’s iPhone or another friend’s subscription to Spotify or Pandora. I believe these great artists and performers, if they could see me discovering their music for the first time on these digital platforms, would be thankful for the balances struck not so long ago in the DMCA. They would be able to tell by the expression on my face that they had found their audience, and that they had won me over as a (paying) fan forever.

This world that has enabled me to find all this new music—and I’m not the youngest music fan around, since I’m set to turn 60 this year—is a world that Congress helped create when legislators decided carefully and wisely to put a framework in place that both allows music to be heard digitally nearly everywhere and that also makes it easy for artists to require—sometimes with just a letter of request – that infringing music be removed.

I will be frank here and say that, while I am a fan of the music companies that also signed this letter (together with so many of the artists that I know and love), I am reminded that these debates never end. The minute you change copyright law even one little bit to give them more ways to extract money from computer companies and phone companies and the people who make my earbuds, they already start planning for what they want to take next year, in the next Congress and the next legislative session, in response to whatever other technologies have developed by then to give me more choices to pay for the music I love.

Dear members of Congress, all I ask is that you not just roll over this time. I think you got the Digital Millennium Copyright Act mostly right back in 1998. When I look at the successful musicians on this latest letter, my own thought is that I am so happy for their success and for the success of all the new musicians who’ve gotten started since 1998. And so my request to you, members of Congress, is to please don’t assume the music marketplace is broken. For fans like me, it’s the fulfillment of the world of music that I want to listen to and be a part of. And if this marketplace ain’t broke, please, please, please don’t yield to the latest (yet weakest) calls to try to fix it.

Sincerely,

Mike Godwin
Director of Innovation Policy
R Street Institute

 

 

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

California's state religion

Environment Suite - In The News - June 21, 2016, 6:42 AM
In a state ruled by a former Jesuit, perhaps we should not be shocked to find ourselves in the grip of an incipient state religion. Of course, this religion is…

California's state religion

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - June 21, 2016, 6:42 AM
In a state ruled by a former Jesuit, perhaps we should not be shocked to find ourselves in the grip of an incipient state religion. Of course, this religion is…

State Should Switch to 401(k) Style Plans

Somewhat Reasonable - June 21, 2016, 1:00 AM

South Carolina lawmakers have undertaken reforms to address some of the serious issues with their state’s pension system, but major changes are still needed to prevent future budget problems.

In 2012, the state increased employee and employer contribution rates for the South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS), the state’s public pension fund. The increase affected current members as well as new hires. The 2012 reforms also reduced the expected rate of return for pension investments and reduced the minimum cost-of-living benefit increase. In 2000 and 2002, the state created optional defined-contribution plans for existing and new state and local government employees and teachers.

While these steps toward improving South Carolina’s pension system were much-needed, the state’s pensions still remain in dire need of further reform. According to a report on SCRS released in 2015 by the South Carolina Legislative Audit Council (SCLAC), South Carolina’s five state-run pensions were only about 60 percent funded in 2014 and carried a combined unfunded pension liability of $19 billion.

Due to the generous rate of return estimate used by the state in its pension projections, state Rep. Jeffrey Bradley, R-Hilton Head, says the problem is now even worse than the SCLAC report indicated. In an editorial in the Island Packet, Bradley says over the past 10 years, the rate of return on the fund’s investments has averaged 5.06 percent. This, Bradley insists, is a significant problem, but why?

In November 2014, State Budget Solutions released a research report that found if the state used a fair market valuation in its pension projects — one based on a more reasonable discount rate of 2.743 percent — South Carolina’s pension system would only have a funded ratio of 32 percent in fiscal year 2013, meaning every South Carolinian would have to pay $13,280 to make the system whole.

The high cost of defined-benefit pensions caused most private sector companies to abandon them in the 1990s for 401k-style defined-contribution plans, but state and local governments, using the hard-earned money of taxpayers, continue to promise these outdated and unsustainable benefits to public workers. We have already seen municipalities such as Detroit and Stockton, California literally bankrupted by these defined-benefit plans. When these plans fail, not only are taxpayers hurt, the public sector workers who were promised these benefits suffer as well.

In 2010, South Carolina received a grade of “F” in The Heartland Institute’s 50-state public pension report card. The state was one of the lowest graded in the nation, and it remains so today. In the report, the state scored low in its efforts to avoid pension spiking, its failure to tax pension benefits, and because of the poor solvency of its pension fund, among other things.

These problems have been compounded in recent years by the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission’s decision to take on additional risky and expensive investments for the pension funds. According to the Post and Courier, since 2007 — when the state eased rules on how pension funds could be invested—more investments were made in stock and hedge funds. The SCLAC report found the state did not see improved returns as a result of this decision, and its investment returns trailed those of most other states. The state also paid high fees for the investments.

“Due to South Carolina’s increase in stocks and ‘alternative investment’ holdings, such as hedge funds, from 2005 to 2014, annual expenses rose from $22.4 million to $467.3 million,” wrote David Slade and Gavin Jackson in the Post and Courier article. “In 2005, expenses amounted to less than one-tenth of a percent of the pension assets—.09 percent, the same as the Vanguard fund. The state’s expenses rose to 1.57 percent by 2014.”

To protect taxpayers and public workers, South Carolina should follow the private sector’s lead and switch its pension plan offerings for new employees to a defined-contribution pension plan system. A defined-contribution system would give retirees direct control over retirement and make it possible for them to move in and out of the private sector without losing their accrued pension benefits. This would also allow governments to budget more accurately, because the benefits would be paid directly to the employee and are set each year, rather than changing along with benefit costs.

Defined-contribution plans benefit taxpayers as well, because the pension plan burden does not rise automatically due to cost of living adjustments and because the defined-contribution model is more transparent, making it harder for government officials to utilize the accounting gimmicks governments currently use to hide liabilities.

Moving state workers into a defined-contribution model would put South Carolina on a path toward more-sustainable budgets and give public employees improved flexibility, a win-win solution to the state’s growing fiscal crisis.

[Originally published at Greenville Online] 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Packed House for Heartland’s Second Amendment Event

Blog - Education - June 20, 2016, 4:45 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Heartland President Fires Back at Liberal AGs’ Suit to Halt Climate Change Dissent With 17 state attorneys general in hot pursuit of the research and records of climate change critics, the head of one of the leading groups targeted for legal action made it clear Wednesday he is fighting back. “If all of a sudden we pulled back on the questions we’ve raised about the threat of climate change and I said it was actually a crisis, I could be a very, very rich man,” said Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, in an interview with Newsmax.com. “But I’m not going to do it. Heartland is in the fight for the duration.” READ MORE

New E-Book: Kids Guide to Climate Change Are you a parent or grandparent looking for a book on climate change appropriate for children and pre-teens? Are you a teacher looking for such a book to share with your elementary school class? We may have found what you’re looking for: an e-book titled Kids Guide to Climate Change. The e-book sets out the current facts about the climate, without the alarmist and theoretical predictions that can scare many kids. Get it today at Amazon.com! READ MORE

Heartland Second Amendment Event Fills the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center Gun-grabbing politicians this week have exploited the atrocity in Orlando to push for new laws that would violate our Constitutional right to own firearms – which made Heartland’s event with two Second Amendment experts extremely timely. John Boch, president of Guns Save Life, and Mike Rioux, CEO of Red Dot Arms, spoke to a packed and impassioned audience in the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center on Wednesday night. If you missed the live-stream, you can watch the presentation at Heartland’s YouTube page. WATCH IT HERE

Featured Podcast: Leo Huang: Frac PAC, Educating People About Oil and Gas Years of global warming indoctrination in America’s public schools have left millions of young people fearful that using fossil fuels will destroy the planet – so it’s no wonder that demographic is among the most skeptical about the safety and effectiveness of hydraulic fracturing. But help, and truth, is on the way. Leo Huang, a student of petroleum engineering and a founding member of the Hydraulic Fracturing Public Awareness Committee (Frac PAC), joins Research Fellow Isaac Orr to explain how Frac PAC is reaching out to and educating youth about the positive impacts of the oil and gas industry.  LISTEN TO MORE

Heartland Library Book Shelf of the Week – Reagan
For more, follow Heartland on Twitter @HeartlandInst

Coming Next Week: Steve Moore in Chicago, David Shestokas in Arlington Heights  On Monday, June 20, join The Heartland Institute at the Union League Club in Chicago as we welcome Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation, who will talk about his new book, Fueling Freedom, an unapologetic case in favor of fossil fuels. Then on Wednesday, June 22, David Shestokas will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to talk about “Constitutional Soundbites,” his effort to engender respect and love for the Constitution in the twenty-first century. We hope to see you there! SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

Study Reports Health Benefits from E-cigarette Use Lindsey Stroud, Heartland Research & Commentary While government bureaucrats are stepping up their efforts to regulate e-cigarettes, studies continue to show e-cigarette use helps reduce the much more harmful habit of smoking. For instance, a study recently published in theBritish Medical Journal found 61 percent of people who switched from cigarettes to vaping remained “abstinent from tobacco” for at least two years. READ MORE

How Obamacare’s Mandates Hurt the Patients They’re Supposed to Help Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report Referring to the sky-high insurance premiums, increasing deductibles, and insurance companies leaving the Obamacare exchanges as “unintended consequences” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a huge understatement. ACA’s mandates create incentives that alter how businesses operate and how insurance plans are crafted. In the end, the employer and individual mandates put affordable health care further out of the reach of many Americans – including many of those was supposed to help. READ MORE

Restoring the Constitution Would Repay a Debt to Veterans Kyle Maichle, Washington Times American veterans fought and sacrificed to preserve the nation they love, but that nation is sliding inexorably into financial turmoil with unsustainable $500 billion annual deficits and a $19 trillion national debt. There is a way to honor their sacrifice and get the country back on sound financial footing: holding an Article V Convention of the States to amend the U.S. Constitution. We owe it to ourselves, but especially our veterans, to use Article V to pass a balanced budget amendment. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep42): DeVoe L. Moore Center, 10 Things Keeping Us Poor, and More John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks across the country in episode #42 of the In The Tank Podcast. Dr. Sam Staley, managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University and a Heartland policy advisor, joins the show to talk about the center as well as a free-market perspective on regulations, sports stadium subsidies, and mass transit. This episode also features work from the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the Mackinac Center, and more.  LISTEN HERE

Whistleblower Hits College Board for SAT Changes Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly The former director of assessment design for College Board, the organization that owns the SAT and Advanced Placement tests kids take to help get into college, is alleging the recent reform of the SAT test is riddled with shoddy work and public deceptions – and in service to the controversial Common Core standards. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to scuttle the SAT and find another way to measure a high school student’s ability to succeed in college. READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Heartland Weekly – Packed House for Heartland’s Second Amendment Event

Somewhat Reasonable - June 20, 2016, 4:45 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Heartland President Fires Back at Liberal AGs’ Suit to Halt Climate Change Dissent With 17 state attorneys general in hot pursuit of the research and records of climate change critics, the head of one of the leading groups targeted for legal action made it clear Wednesday he is fighting back. “If all of a sudden we pulled back on the questions we’ve raised about the threat of climate change and I said it was actually a crisis, I could be a very, very rich man,” said Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, in an interview with Newsmax.com. “But I’m not going to do it. Heartland is in the fight for the duration.” READ MORE

New E-Book: Kids Guide to Climate Change Are you a parent or grandparent looking for a book on climate change appropriate for children and pre-teens? Are you a teacher looking for such a book to share with your elementary school class? We may have found what you’re looking for: an e-book titled Kids Guide to Climate Change. The e-book sets out the current facts about the climate, without the alarmist and theoretical predictions that can scare many kids. Get it today at Amazon.com! READ MORE

Heartland Second Amendment Event Fills the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center Gun-grabbing politicians this week have exploited the atrocity in Orlando to push for new laws that would violate our Constitutional right to own firearms – which made Heartland’s event with two Second Amendment experts extremely timely. John Boch, president of Guns Save Life, and Mike Rioux, CEO of Red Dot Arms, spoke to a packed and impassioned audience in the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center on Wednesday night. If you missed the live-stream, you can watch the presentation at Heartland’s YouTube page. WATCH IT HERE

Featured Podcast: Leo Huang: Frac PAC, Educating People About Oil and Gas Years of global warming indoctrination in America’s public schools have left millions of young people fearful that using fossil fuels will destroy the planet – so it’s no wonder that demographic is among the most skeptical about the safety and effectiveness of hydraulic fracturing. But help, and truth, is on the way. Leo Huang, a student of petroleum engineering and a founding member of the Hydraulic Fracturing Public Awareness Committee (Frac PAC), joins Research Fellow Isaac Orr to explain how Frac PAC is reaching out to and educating youth about the positive impacts of the oil and gas industry.  LISTEN TO MORE

Heartland Library Book Shelf of the Week – Reagan
For more, follow Heartland on Twitter @HeartlandInst

Coming Next Week: Steve Moore in Chicago, David Shestokas in Arlington Heights  On Monday, June 20, join The Heartland Institute at the Union League Club in Chicago as we welcome Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation, who will talk about his new book, Fueling Freedom, an unapologetic case in favor of fossil fuels. Then on Wednesday, June 22, David Shestokas will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to talk about “Constitutional Soundbites,” his effort to engender respect and love for the Constitution in the twenty-first century. We hope to see you there! SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

Study Reports Health Benefits from E-cigarette Use Lindsey Stroud, Heartland Research & Commentary While government bureaucrats are stepping up their efforts to regulate e-cigarettes, studies continue to show e-cigarette use helps reduce the much more harmful habit of smoking. For instance, a study recently published in theBritish Medical Journal found 61 percent of people who switched from cigarettes to vaping remained “abstinent from tobacco” for at least two years. READ MORE

How Obamacare’s Mandates Hurt the Patients They’re Supposed to Help Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report Referring to the sky-high insurance premiums, increasing deductibles, and insurance companies leaving the Obamacare exchanges as “unintended consequences” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a huge understatement. ACA’s mandates create incentives that alter how businesses operate and how insurance plans are crafted. In the end, the employer and individual mandates put affordable health care further out of the reach of many Americans – including many of those was supposed to help. READ MORE

Restoring the Constitution Would Repay a Debt to Veterans Kyle Maichle, Washington Times American veterans fought and sacrificed to preserve the nation they love, but that nation is sliding inexorably into financial turmoil with unsustainable $500 billion annual deficits and a $19 trillion national debt. There is a way to honor their sacrifice and get the country back on sound financial footing: holding an Article V Convention of the States to amend the U.S. Constitution. We owe it to ourselves, but especially our veterans, to use Article V to pass a balanced budget amendment. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep42): DeVoe L. Moore Center, 10 Things Keeping Us Poor, and More John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks across the country in episode #42 of the In The Tank Podcast. Dr. Sam Staley, managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University and a Heartland policy advisor, joins the show to talk about the center as well as a free-market perspective on regulations, sports stadium subsidies, and mass transit. This episode also features work from the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the Mackinac Center, and more.  LISTEN HERE

Whistleblower Hits College Board for SAT Changes Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly The former director of assessment design for College Board, the organization that owns the SAT and Advanced Placement tests kids take to help get into college, is alleging the recent reform of the SAT test is riddled with shoddy work and public deceptions – and in service to the controversial Common Core standards. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to scuttle the SAT and find another way to measure a high school student’s ability to succeed in college. READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

Gov. Cuomo needs to veto terrible short-term-rental bill

Out of the Storm News - June 20, 2016, 3:51 PM

Forces aligned against short-term rentals are on the cusp of victory in their battle to harm the ability of spacesharing services like Airbnb and HomeAway to conduct business in New York state, under legislation just passed by both the state Assembly and Senate.

The measure would make it illegal to advertise entire homes or apartments for rent for durations of less than 30 days. The bill would charge violators $1,000 for a first offense, and up to $7,500 for repeat offenses.

That the Legislature’s effort has little to do with protecting consumers (despite passionate claims to the contrary) is obvious to most outside observers. For those in doubt, one needn’t look further than the statement released by the Hotel Association of New York City, a group that has not only actively lobbied against spacesharing, but that uncoincidentally stands to benefit the most if services like Airbnb lose their ability to fully operate within the state. According to their representative:

Airbnb facilitates the creation of a black market for illegal and unsafe commercial rental properties…This smart and innovative legislation will allow law enforcement agencies to better target, track and penalize lawbreakers, while also protecting one of New York’s most vital economic contributors — the hotel and hospitality industry.

That the hotel industry is opposed to innovative new services that threaten to compete for hospitality business is unsurprising. But the level of vitriol underpinning the group’s official statement is telling. This is a very personal fight.

Contrary to the hotel lobby’s assertions, the average Airbnb renter is almost assuredly not a Dickensian slumlord “lawbreaker” peddling “illegal and unsafe” rentals through the “black market.” The accusations call to mind the Philadelphia cab industry’s decision to publicly compare Uber – another “sharing economy” company that has shaken up an industry and thus run afoul of established entities – to the terrorist group ISIS.

Instead, as Airbnb has argued, those using the service are most often middle-income property owners looking to supplement their salaries. Most make only modest profits. According to the data, the average unit listed through the site was rented for 42 nights per year and brought in $5,110 annually, on average.

That reality also makes more notable the fact that, despite the law’s already-hefty fines, there is already pending a bill in the New York City Council that would increase the minimum fine for breaking the law by tenfold, to $10,000. This is twice what the average renter is even making through the service, because the statute is primarily about punishing those who have the gall to challenge an entrenched special interest.

The bill’s impact would not be minor, either, but would make illegal the majority of properties listed through Airbnb in New York City. According to the New York Post: “Of the nearly 36,000 listings that were active in mid-November, roughly 55 percent — or 17,942 — were for rentals of entire homes or apartments.”

Though the hospitality lobby’s allies in the Legislature and the City Council have insisted these measures have nothing to do with the wealthy, powerful lobby vocally championing their implementation, their arguments appear to be wildly false based on currently-available data.

According to a study commissioned by Airbnb of the housing market in San Francisco – perhaps one of the only places on Earth with rental prices and housing scarcity that can rival Manhattan – the prominence of short-term rentals has had negligible impact on the region’s greater housing market. The study indicated that “a housing unit would need to be rented more than 211 nights annually on a short-term basis in order to out-compete a long-term rental.” Only 0.09 percent of the company’s San Franciso properties met those criteria. The report further found that “from 2005 to 2013 the number of vacant units in San Francisco has remained essentially unchanged,” a trend that casts doubt on warnings of housing scarcity due to short-term rentals, even in densely populated urban areas.

Despite this reality – and the fact that more consumer choice is a good thing for New Yorkers — the bill would law, barring a veto from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That’s bad news for the hard-working New Yorkers who rent their properties in order to help to make ends meet and who may soon find themselves unwitting cannon fodder in the hospitality industry’s war to protect its own profits.

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

Heartland Daily Podcast – U.S. Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL): Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech

Somewhat Reasonable - June 20, 2016, 3:44 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway is joined by U.S. Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL), the sponsor of the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act.

The bill, just recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, seeks to reduce government employees’ temptation to use the power with which taxpayers have entrusted them to win political battles.

Given recent government audits revealing IRS’ refusal to take steps to protect taxpayer data from hackers, both domestic and foreign, Roskam explains how his bill guards against the abuse of government power and the threat of data breaches, by acknowledging that collecting the identities of donors to private organizations does not promote IRS’ primary function of revenue collection.

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

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