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Tax Freedom Requires Adherence to the “Let-Alone” Principle

Somewhat Reasonable - April 14, 2015, 11:13 AM

April 15th is the day that every American is expected to have filed their federal income tax form. Some of us may have done it long before the deadline, some of us will wait until just before the stroke of midnight on April 15th, and some of us may be filing for extensions to defer the actual submission of the full set of income tax-related documents.

But which ever it may be, it is a day that reminds all of us just how much the government has siphoned off from each of us during the preceding calendar year.

Working One-Third of Your Time for Government

 The Tax Foundation reports that “tax freedom day” actually falls on April 24th this year. This means that, on average, each of us will have worked for 114 days of the 365 days out of the year working not for ourselves but for the government before we get to keep the remainder of the income we will have earned.

Americans will have paid in $3.3 trillion to the federal government and an additional $1.5 trillion to state and local governments in the United States, for total of $4.8 trillion absorbed by all levels of political power. This will represent 31 percent of the country’s national income.

The Tax Foundation points out that is will be more than all of us spend on housing, clothing and food, combined, during the calendar year.

If there is included the additional $580 billion the government is expected to borrow in 2015 to cover its deficit spending, then “tax freedom day” will come on May 8th, because that borrowed sum will be the amount of future taxes to pay for Washington’s current spend-thrift ways.

Since state and local governments do not tax their citizen-subjects all the same, if you are fortunate to live in Louisiana, your “tax freedom day” was on April 2nd. On the other hand, if you reside in California or New York, your tax freedom does not come, respectively, until May 3rd and May 8th, while the most unfortunate Americans are those who live in Connecticut and New Jersey, with their “tax freedom day” only beginning on May 13th.

What If Government Taxed Like When It was Small?

 For a point of comparison, in the year, 1900, Americans only paid about 5.9 percent of their income in taxes. In other words, for Americans at the beginning of the 20th century, “tax freedom day” came on January 22nd. For the remaining 343 days of that year, Americans worked and earned for themselves.

Let’s suppose that government today were only to absorb as much of national income as it did in 1900. That would mean that all levels of government would take about only $230 billion instead of that $4.8 trillion.

Per capita, government would, then, cost the average America around $905 per year, instead of the $15,315 per capita estimated cost in 2015.

What makes the real difference between this imagined budget and the one actually submitted? Of course, the Welfare State! All the departments, bureaus, and agencies added to the federal government since those far more laissez-faire days of over a century ago have been the product of the interventionist and redistributive state.

Less Burdensome Government Needs a Change in Ideas

The tax burdens we bear will not be reduced or eliminated until there is a shift in political philosophy away from political paternalism and once more to a belief in personal freedom and responsibility in the form of individual rights in place of our current far more collectivist premises.

Long before government began to grow dramatically in America, there were people warning about where collectivist ideas might lead, even in that freer United States. For instance, in 1887, Professor J. Laurence Laughlin, who founded the economics department at the University of Chicago, warned:

“Socialism, or the reliance on the state for help, stands in antagonism to self-help, or the activity of the individual. That body of people is certainly the strongest and the happiest in which each person is thinking for himself, is independent, self-respecting, self-confident, self-controlled, and self-mastered. When a man does a thing for himself he values it infinitely more than if it is done for him, and he is a better man for having done it . . .

“If, on the other hand, men constantly hear it said that they are oppressed and down- trodden, deprived of their own, ground down by the rich, and that the state will set all things right for them in time, what other effect can that teaching have on the character and energy of the ignorant than the complete destruction of all self-help? They think that they can have commodities that they have not helped to produce. They begin to believe that two and two make five . . .

“The danger of enervating results flowing from dependence on the state for help should cause us to restrict the interference of legislation as far as is possible, and should be permitted only when there is an absolute necessity, and even then it should be undertaken with hesitation.”

Laughlin added, “The right policy is a matter of supreme importance, and we should not like to see in our country the system of interference as exhibited in the paternal theory of government existing in France and Germany.”

Unfortunately, America did import the theory and policy of political paternalism from the collectivist trends then already growing stronger in Europe. They became the basis and rationale for a far bigger government in the United States beginning in the Progressive Era in the early decades of the twentieth century and accelerating in the New Deal days of the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s. They have continued ever since under both Democrats and Republicans.

The “Let-Alone Principle” is the Premise of Liberty

Today, the idea of “letting things alone” in society without an intrusive hand of government is considered the stand of the dogmatic enemy of progress and “social justice.”

Yet there was a time when getting government out of people’s lives and leaving people alone to manage, plan, design and direct their own lives was considered the essence of the American ideal that should be fostered, valued and fought for.

Indeed, in 1870, the free market economist and noted astronomer, Simon Newcomb, who taught at Johns Hopkins University, penned an article in the North American Review calling for adherence to and respect for “The Let-Alone Principle.” Newcomb said:

“That each individual member of society should be left free to seek his own good in the way he may deem best, and required only not to interfere with the equal rights of his fellow-men . . .

“The real point in dispute between the friends and the opponents of free government and individual liberty is simply this: Is man a being to be taken care of, or is he able when protected in his rights to take care of himself better than any governing power – congress, king, or parliament – can take care of him?

“The advocates of universal freedom claim that, if each individual is protected in the enjoyment of his individual rights as a responsible member of the community, he can take care of himself, and manage his own affairs and his share of the public affairs better than any other one else can do these for him.”

And Newcomb concluded that government “interference is so apt to lead to unforeseen complications – that the best course for a government to follow is, to adhere to the let-alone policy as a matter of principle.”

We cannot expect government to stop growing in either size or scope until people learn to value liberty and mistrust and dislike the intruding hand of political power.

Restoring Principles Over Compromise and Expediency

What, in this context, should friends of freedom do in making the case for liberty? I would suggest that case must be made in clear and uncompromising ways. That is, we need to demonstrate to our fellow citizens that the ideal of liberty is too easily compromised when it is judged on an ad hoc basis in the context of specific proposals for supposed benefits from some government intervention, regulation or restriction.

We don’t say such things as: “Well embezzlement is wrong, except when the person doing it, ‘really’ needed the money.” We take it for granted that stealing from others is just immoral and should be treated that way by the law.

And we don’t say such things as, “Yes, he was caught embezzling, but we can’t just make him stop ‘cold turkey,’ his family has gotten used to living off that stolen sum in terms of their accustomed standard of living.” We presume that if you’re caught stealing, it should be stopped, regardless of how used to an embezzler’s life-style the thief has come to take for granted.

We must extend the same principle and logic to respect the rights and property of every peaceful and honest member of society. As the French classical liberal, Frederic Bastiat emphasized in the 19th century, that which virtually all of us would consider immoral or unjust if committed by a private individual is not elevated to ethical permissibility or rightness when performed by a group of individuals or in the name of “society” as a whole by a government.

As freedom philosopher, Leonard E. Read, stated long ago, you cannot compromise a principle, you can only break it. Until we succeed in this endeavor in gaining the support of a sufficient number of our fellow citizens, governments will regulate and tax with the express purpose of bestowing privileges and favors on some at the coerced expense of others – no different than when a private individual continues to act in such a way until either a change in conscience or a policing force brings his plundering ways to an end.

We should use this annual income tax time to remind others and ourselves how much a burden and cost a political system can be when it exists to violate people’s rights rather than to protect them.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

R Street, ATR urge Gov. Brownback to veto anti-competitive ridesharing legislation

Out of the Storm News - April 14, 2015, 11:04 AM

Dear Gov. Brownback,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and the R Street Institute, we urge you to veto S.B. 117, which would burden ridesharing services with hostile and unnecessary regulation.

Innovative businesses like Uber and Lyft can provide reliable, low-cost transportation options for thousands of residents in the state of Kansas. In addition, these services spur new economic activity and help create jobs that didn’t previously exist.

While we applaud the Kansas Legislature’s initiative to advance full legalization of transportation network companies (TNCs) operating within the state, this effort must be undertaken in a manner that promotes competition and innovation, rather than impedes it.

Providing a comprehensive regulatory framework for TNCs is essential to answer important liability and insurance questions. However, these regulation must be not be overly burdensome or force these innovative businesses to leave, as Uber has threatened to do if this legislation is signed into law.

As you are no doubt aware, many of the nation’s leading insurance trade associations, along with transportation network companies, have reached an accord about what exactly constitutes a comprehensive, yet flexible insurance framework.

While much of the content of S.B. 117 provides for a sound insurance framework for ridesharing, it deviates meaningfully from the national compromise in several important ways. For instance, S.B. 117 requires drivers to provide to lienholders proof of comprehensive and collision insurance coverage during Periods 2 and 3 of the transaction. In Kansas, both comprehensive and collision coverage are optional coverages that drivers elect to purchase. Whatever their facial appeal, the national compromise chose to forgo placing these onerous coverage requirements on drivers. Instead, it calls for horizontal uniformity and predictability in coverage between the various for-hire transportation services by recommending that coverage match the state’s current requirement on limousine services. Comprehensive and collision coverages are not required of limo drivers in Kansas.

In addition, this legislation would impose overly broad restrictions on the use of commercial data from TNCs in the name of protecting consumer privacy. While well-intentioned, this provision would limit innovations that could help significantly reduce costs.

Therefore, we ask you to veto this legislation, and urge the Kansas Legislature not to advance proposals that unnecessarily hinder competition or innovation.

Sincerely,

Eli Lehrer
President, R Street Institute

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

 

I challenge climate fascists with $500,000 bet - Climate Change Dispatch

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - April 14, 2015, 9:38 AM
Written by Christopher Monckton, WND on 13 April 2015. The International Union of Climate Fascists, as it prepares to establish a totalitarian world “governing…

How Republicans Can Cut Through the Obamacare Chaos After King v. Burwell

Somewhat Reasonable - April 14, 2015, 9:07 AM

The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of King v. Burwell will come out within the next three months.  Because the Obama administration did not follow its own law as passed by congressional Democrats and signed by President Obama, that decision will turn Obamacare inside out, creating chaos in health insurance and health care.

The Obamacare law provides for substantial federal subsidies to help pay for health insurance purchased on a health exchange established by a state.  But if a state does not successfully establish an exchange, the Obamacare law provides that the secretary of HHS can establish a federal exchange for the state.  The plain text of the Obamacare law, however, pointedly does not provide the Obamacare subsidies for health insurance purchased on such a federal exchange.

The Obama administration wizards designing Obamacare have already told us why they wrote Obamacare that way.  Under the Constitution, the federal government does not have the power to order states to establish exchanges.  So they limited the health insurance benefits under Obamacare to exchanges established by the states to give the states an irresistible incentive to establish their own state exchanges, so their citizens could get their Obamacare benefits.

But the wizards did not recognize that Obamacare would be so unpopular that 34 states would refuse to set up state exchanges anyway.  Two more states tried to set up Obamacare exchanges but failed and gave up.  So only 14 states established Obamacare exchanges, and 36 did not.

But President Obama does not take such personal rejection very well.  So he ordered the IRS to issue a regulation that the Obamacare health insurance subsidies, which are in the form of tax credits, would be provided for health insurance purchased on either exchanges established by the states or exchanges established by the federal government, the Obamacare law to the contrary notwithstanding.  The Democrats impeached Nixon to establish the principle that the president is not above the law, and must obey it, and since then have established that this principle applies only to Republican presidents, not to Democrat ones.

What made this presidential misconduct subject to legal challenge is that the Obamacare statute also provides that the employer mandate and the individual mandate apply only where the Obamacare health insurance subsidies apply.  That gave parties subject to the employer mandate and the individual mandate sufficient injury to have legal standing to challenge the IRS misinterpretation of the law in court.

If the Court rules by this summer for the petitioners in King v. Burwell, the Obamacare health insurance subsidies will be struck down in the 36 states that do not have state exchanges.  Moreover, the employer mandate and the individual mandate will be effectively shut down in those 36 states as well.  That is what I expect the Court to do.  The statutory language is unambiguously clear, and governs in this case.  The IRS regulation that extended the Obamacare subsidies to the federal exchanges, and all 50 states, is illegal under federal law, and must and will be struck down.

The question is, what should the Republican Congress, and the mostly Republican governors and state legislatures, do, then, to fix the supposed problem such a decision will create – effectively dashing Obamacare in at least 36 states?  Democratic Party-controlled media will join President Obama and congressional Democrats wailing about millions of sick people in 36 states who could no longer afford costly Obamacare health insurance without the Obamacare subsidies.  That Obamacare health insurance is so costly because the Obamacare federal overregulation adds so much cost to the insurance.

The villains in this morality play will be Republican governors and legislators who will not support establishing state exchanges to restore Obamacare in their states, and congressional Republicans who will not just change federal law to re-establish Obamacare in all 50 states.  But Republicans cannot possibly be so silly as to give in to these Obama Democrat demands.

Republicans and conservatives should use Obama’s defeat in King v. Burwell to embark on the political offensive against Obamacare.  Instead of caving in to Obama Democrat demands, Republicans and conservatives need to go on the offensive by demanding that Democrat governors and legislatures in blue states repeal their state exchanges, on the grounds that such will abolish the unpopular and economically counterproductive employer and individual mandates.

Congressional Republicans should also pass federal legislation that would ramp up this counterattack on Obamacare.  Since states without state exchanges will then have opted out of the benefits of Obamacare, congressional Republicans should pass legislation providing that the citizens of those states have opted out of the Obamacare taxes as well.  That includes a 3.8% surcharge on capital investment (capital gains and corporate dividends) and a 30% increase in their Medicare payroll taxes.  The Obamacare tax on medical device manufacturers and health insurance would also be abolished in those states, along with all other Obamacare taxes.

In addition, the new federal legislation should also provide that all the federal Obamacare regulations shall also not apply in states without state exchanges.  Those states will be considered to have opted out of the Obamacare regulation as well.  Those states can then go back to their original state regulation of health insurance.  Of course, the individual mandate and the employer mandate would no longer apply in those states, either.

The key implication of those regulatory changes is that all the Obamacare increases in the cost of health insurance will be reversed as well.  And without those Obamacare cost increases in health insurance, the Obamacare subsidies would no longer be needed, either, at least among those who are not poor

For the poor and needy, the legislation should further provide for block granting Medicaid back to the states, exactly as the enormously successful 1996 welfare reforms for the former Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program did.  The new federal block grants to the states for Medicaid should include the Obamacare Medicaid expansion funds for all states, as an inducement to states to support the block grant reforms.  That would be scored by CBO as a sharp reduction in federal Medicaid costs overall.

States would ideally use their resulting new control over Medicaid to provide for Medicaid benefits in the form of health insurance vouchers that the poor could use to help buy the health insurance of their choice, including Health Savings Accounts.  That would vastly improve health care for the poor, who cannot get timely, essential health care through Medicaid today because the states so badly underfund payments to doctors and hospitals for health care provided under Medicaid.  Private insurers, by contrast, must adequately compensate doctors and hospitals to be able to attract health insurance customers in the competitive marketplace.

The Medicaid block grants should also include the funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which the states could also then run in conjunction with their new Medicaid programs.  States should also be authorized to use some of those Medicaid block grant funds to establish state uninsurable risk pools, where those uninsured who cannot get private health insurance because they contracted highly costly diseases like cancer or heart disease while uninsured can be assured of coverage for such pre-existing conditions.

Republicans and conservatives who can’t or won’t vigorously and articulately argue the case for these Obamacare reforms should be replaced with new leadership.  We must also present and argue for the full Patient Power, free-market health care vision that will replace Obamacare once the currently serving Great Mistake in the White House is replaced with new leadership next year as well.

Sure, Obama could veto this King v Burwell fix for his broken, failed Obamacare program.  But he and his pajama boys would then have to live with his Obamacare disaster for another year or so, until another President can be elected.  Such an Obama veto would further clarify for the public what is at stake in that election, which cannot come too soon.

[Originally published at the American Thinker]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly: Climate Alarmists Rake in Millions to Scare the Public

Blog - Education - April 14, 2015, 8:41 AM

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 everyFridaywith a highlight show.

Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

No, Washington Post: Heartland Is Not in ‘Tactical Retreat’ from Climate Realism
Washington Post Columnist Dana Milbank wrote in his April 6 column that The HeartlandInstitute was making ‘a tactical retreat’ away from the fight against global warming alarmism,” said President Joseph Bast. “I wish he had called me first, I would have told him: Nothing could be further from the truth.” READ MORE Peter Ferrara on NYC Talk Radio: Our Looming Entitlement Crisis
Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara was recently a guest on the show On The Money with host Mike Vitoria on 970 The Answer in New York City. Ferrara discussed America’s looming entitlement crisis and his upcoming book Power to the People. LISTEN HERE

 

Climate Alarmists Rake in Millions to Scare the Public
Ron Arnold, Heartlander
Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State’s notorious ClimateGate e-mail scandal figure, has garnered close to $6 million promoting scary scientific conclusions serving government’s goal of control over energy sources, $3.6 million of it from the National Science Foundation. The radical Environmental Defense Fund has collected $2.8 million in federal grants since 2008. READ MORE

 

Featured Podcast: State Sen. Angela Hill – Working to Get Rid of Common Core
Heartland Institute Research Fellow Heather Kays talks to Mississippi state Sen. Angela Hill about why it has been so difficult to remove Common Core in Mississippi despite a large grassroots movement calling for the repeal and replacement of the standards. Hill says she will continue to fight Common Core in Mississippi. LISTEN TO MORE

 

Heartland Is Hiring!
Do you believe in smaller government and more individual liberty? Do you believe free markets solve social and economic problems better than government planning? The Heartland Institute might have just the job for you! We’re looking for eager self-starters to manage several important projects that will have a real impact on policy in this country. READ MORE

Lawmakers Propose Plan to Block FCC’s ‘Net Neutrality’ Regulations
Alexander Anton, Heartlander
Responding to the Federal Communications Commission’s assertion of regulatory power over the Internet, congressional lawmakers have submitted a bill that would halt FCC’s 400-page “net neutrality” regulations before they are implemented and would prevent future regulators from granting themselves similar authority. READ MORE Study: Reporters Ordered to Ignore Climate Change Skeptics
Bonner Cohen, Heartlander
News editors encourage reporters to deny there is an ongoing debate over humanity’s role in climate change, the George Mason University study found. “This practice of ignoring skeptics was largely supported by their managers and editors. In fact, one reporter’s news organization had recently developed an explicit editorial policy discouraging reporters from quoting climate change deniers in environment and science coverage.” READ MORE Indiana Lawmakers Considering New E-Cigarette Regulations
Jeff Reynolds, Heartlander
“I regret to say that a small number of tobacco control activists with a limited grasp of how to conduct or interpret research findings are confusing policymakers and the general public with statements about e-cigarettes that are misleading,” said Robert West, a professor of health psychology at University College London.READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Sustainability – Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism
A new report from the National Association of Scholars shows colleges are being led by the nose by left-leaning institutions to buy into false promises of sustainability and climate alarmism. Those schools then attempt to brainwash students into rejecting the economic and political systems that has made modern liberal education and economic well-being possible, and instead embrace paternalistic, elitist ideals of how society should be. LISTEN TO MORE When the Supreme Court Stopped Economic Fascism in America
Richard Ebeling, Somewhat Reasonable
“There was a time when the Supreme Court of the United States defended and upheld the constitutional protections for economic liberty in America. This year marks the 80th anniversary of one of the Supreme Court’s finest hours, when it overturned Franklin Roosevelt’s agenda for economic fascism in the United States.”READ MORE No, the Culinary Is Not Political
Jeff Stier and Julie Kelly for Heartlander
“Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio probably doesn’t cook much these days. Having built his reputation preparing expensive entrées for his well-heeled customers at Craft Restaurants, Colicchio is now cooking up liberal food policy to expand the government’s ever-encroaching role in how we eat, and what. His self-promotion schedule and branding pursuits could put Kim Kardashian to shame.” READ MORE

 

Invest in the Future of Freedom!
Are you considering 2015 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: Climate Alarmists Rake in Millions to Scare the Public

Somewhat Reasonable - April 14, 2015, 8:41 AM

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 everyFridaywith a highlight show.

Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

No, Washington Post: Heartland Is Not in ‘Tactical Retreat’ from Climate Realism
Washington Post Columnist Dana Milbank wrote in his April 6 column that The HeartlandInstitute was making ‘a tactical retreat’ away from the fight against global warming alarmism,” said President Joseph Bast. “I wish he had called me first, I would have told him: Nothing could be further from the truth.” READ MORE Peter Ferrara on NYC Talk Radio: Our Looming Entitlement Crisis
Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara was recently a guest on the show On The Money with host Mike Vitoria on 970 The Answer in New York City. Ferrara discussed America’s looming entitlement crisis and his upcoming book Power to the People. LISTEN HERE

 

Climate Alarmists Rake in Millions to Scare the Public
Ron Arnold, Heartlander
Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State’s notorious ClimateGate e-mail scandal figure, has garnered close to $6 million promoting scary scientific conclusions serving government’s goal of control over energy sources, $3.6 million of it from the National Science Foundation. The radical Environmental Defense Fund has collected $2.8 million in federal grants since 2008. READ MORE

 

Featured Podcast: State Sen. Angela Hill – Working to Get Rid of Common Core
Heartland Institute Research Fellow Heather Kays talks to Mississippi state Sen. Angela Hill about why it has been so difficult to remove Common Core in Mississippi despite a large grassroots movement calling for the repeal and replacement of the standards. Hill says she will continue to fight Common Core in Mississippi. LISTEN TO MORE

 

Heartland Is Hiring!
Do you believe in smaller government and more individual liberty? Do you believe free markets solve social and economic problems better than government planning? The Heartland Institute might have just the job for you! We’re looking for eager self-starters to manage several important projects that will have a real impact on policy in this country. READ MORE

Lawmakers Propose Plan to Block FCC’s ‘Net Neutrality’ Regulations
Alexander Anton, Heartlander
Responding to the Federal Communications Commission’s assertion of regulatory power over the Internet, congressional lawmakers have submitted a bill that would halt FCC’s 400-page “net neutrality” regulations before they are implemented and would prevent future regulators from granting themselves similar authority. READ MORE Study: Reporters Ordered to Ignore Climate Change Skeptics
Bonner Cohen, Heartlander
News editors encourage reporters to deny there is an ongoing debate over humanity’s role in climate change, the George Mason University study found. “This practice of ignoring skeptics was largely supported by their managers and editors. In fact, one reporter’s news organization had recently developed an explicit editorial policy discouraging reporters from quoting climate change deniers in environment and science coverage.” READ MORE Indiana Lawmakers Considering New E-Cigarette Regulations
Jeff Reynolds, Heartlander
“I regret to say that a small number of tobacco control activists with a limited grasp of how to conduct or interpret research findings are confusing policymakers and the general public with statements about e-cigarettes that are misleading,” said Robert West, a professor of health psychology at University College London.READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Sustainability – Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism
A new report from the National Association of Scholars shows colleges are being led by the nose by left-leaning institutions to buy into false promises of sustainability and climate alarmism. Those schools then attempt to brainwash students into rejecting the economic and political systems that has made modern liberal education and economic well-being possible, and instead embrace paternalistic, elitist ideals of how society should be. LISTEN TO MORE When the Supreme Court Stopped Economic Fascism in America
Richard Ebeling, Somewhat Reasonable
“There was a time when the Supreme Court of the United States defended and upheld the constitutional protections for economic liberty in America. This year marks the 80th anniversary of one of the Supreme Court’s finest hours, when it overturned Franklin Roosevelt’s agenda for economic fascism in the United States.”READ MORE No, the Culinary Is Not Political
Jeff Stier and Julie Kelly for Heartlander
“Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio probably doesn’t cook much these days. Having built his reputation preparing expensive entrées for his well-heeled customers at Craft Restaurants, Colicchio is now cooking up liberal food policy to expand the government’s ever-encroaching role in how we eat, and what. His self-promotion schedule and branding pursuits could put Kim Kardashian to shame.” READ MORE

 

Invest in the Future of Freedom!
Are you considering 2015 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

Groups push to end NSA spying before June

Out of the Storm News - April 14, 2015, 8:04 AM

From Watchdog Wire:

The coalition includes a range of organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Free Press Action Fund, DownsizeDC, TechFreedom, Fight for the Future, R Street Institute, and Human Rights Watch and the Sunlight Foundation…

…More recently, during Congress’ two-week Easter recess, members of Fight215.org petitioned staffers during a Capitol Hill panel organized by the R Street Institute to convince their bosses to end the program.

Medical Journal Study Shows Romneycare Failed to Reduce Hospitalization Rates

Somewhat Reasonable - April 14, 2015, 7:51 AM

Findings published this month in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), a leading research publication, show that “preventable hospitalizations” of poor patients remained “high,” even after they were provided with state government-subsidized health insurance in Massachusetts.

Bay State legislators passed the so-called “Romneycare” law in 2006 when Gov. Mitt Romney was in office for his one term as chief executive there. Congressional Democrats were said to have modeled the national Obamacare project on the Romney plan.

Harvard Medical School researchers just completed an examination of one million hospital admission records in Massachusetts and other states, with an eye to seeing if the health insurance expansion was beneficial.

Though they received the government-funded health insurance, previously uninsured patients still sought emergency room treatment for maladies ranging from high blood pressure to urinary tract infections.

Why is that? Fewer than half of the doctors in Massachusetts would accept the “Romneycare” health insurance for inpatient visits. What is more, the co-pay of $12.50 per month was a financial disincentive for poor patients to regularly obtain prescription medicines and comply with doctors’ orders.

“Despite the insurance expansion, under the Massachusetts reform, access to timely outpatient visits to a doctor may not have improved much,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Danny McCormick, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, indicated.

Most interestingly, from an epidemiological point of view, Hispanic and black patients had the highest rates of preventable hospitalizations in Massachusetts, according to the new study. This indicates there are also cultural factors at work in the selection of medical care.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland President Still Waiting for Apology from Sen. Whitehouse

Somewhat Reasonable - April 13, 2015, 4:53 PM

The Huffington Post today published a piece by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse titled “Right-Wing Groups Get Overheated on Climate Questions.” This is rich.

If the senator’s letter wasn’t intended as harassment of individuals who disagree with his extremist views on the climate, why the overly broad demand, the ridiculous deadline, the implied threat of action, and the news releasing saying it was intended to expose a diabolical conspiracy of “right-wing groups”?

Whitehouse’s latest Huffington Post piece compounds his abuse of authority and misrepresentation of the facts by conflating global warming skepticism with the tactics of the tobacco industry, failing to admit that left-wing foundations and industry sources pour 1,000 times the amount of money into the opposing side, and repeating the lies about Willie Soon’s funding.

And of course, Heartland never “put up billboards comparing climate scientists to the Unabomber.” We put up one billboard, for 24 hours, three years ago (!) reporting (accurately) that the Unabomber still believes in global warming. Why is he so offended by that? I think we know why.

I’m still waiting for an apology.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Ben Boychuk: Common Core, Parent Trigger laws and the need for school choice nationwide

Blog - Education - April 13, 2015, 3:48 PM

Heather Kays welcomes Ben Boychuk, who will be the project manager for education issues at the Heartland Institute. Boychuk previously worked for Heartland as School Reform News managing editor and has also worked for the Manhattan Institute. Boychuk explains his new role at Heartland, which will be largely focused on marketing.

Kays and Boycuk discuss Common Core, Parent Trigger laws and the need for school choice nationwide.

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

Heartland Daily Podcast – Ben Boychuk: Common Core, Parent Trigger laws and the need for school choice nationwide

Somewhat Reasonable - April 13, 2015, 3:48 PM

Heather Kays welcomes Ben Boychuk, who will be the project manager for education issues at the Heartland Institute. Boychuk previously worked for Heartland as School Reform News managing editor and has also worked for the Manhattan Institute. Boychuk explains his new role at Heartland, which will be largely focused on marketing.

Kays and Boycuk discuss Common Core, Parent Trigger laws and the need for school choice nationwide.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Congress should vote to override Obama’s latest veto

Out of the Storm News - April 13, 2015, 2:30 PM

Congress returns from its two-week break on Monday. If it has any respect for itself, it will promptly schedule a vote on President Obama’s most recent veto.

The nixed bill was a resolution to strike down new regulations issued by the National Labor Relations Board in mid-December. These new rules, which run 180 pages, would have the effect of making it easier to unionize certain workplaces. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who introduced S.J. Res. 6, said the new regulations allow “a union to force an election” to decide whether to unionize “before an employee has a chance to figure out what is going on.” To the concern of some in Congress, the rules would also force employers to provide union advocates with employees’ email addresses and phone numbers.

This was the first time Congress had fully utilized the Congressional Review Act since 2001. Thanks to fast-track rules for such resolutions, both chambers passed the legislation in less than a month.

Congress likely does not have the votes needed to override the veto. The legislation passed along party lines, with 53 ayes in the Senate and 232 yeas in the House. Leadership in both chambers should nonetheless schedule an override vote.

For one, voting to override the veto will signal to the White House that Congress is serious about having a role in regulatory policy. For too long, Congress has treated regulation as an afterthought, or worse, an issue to ignore and then demagogue. Sens. Roy Blunt, Angus King, Mark Kirk and others have introduced promising bills to curb the explosion in regulation. Congress passes perhaps 50 significant laws per year. The executive branch issues 80 to 100 major rules per year, to the tune of $100 million or more each in economic impact.

For another, Obama’s veto was issued in an insulting and unconstitutional manner. The president claimed he was issuing a pocket veto. Yet he also returned the legislation to the Senate, where it originated.

Article I, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution sets the legislative process: When the president issues a veto, he must return it to the chamber from whence it originated. If, however, “Congress by their adjournment prevent its return,” then the president may veto it once and for all with the stroke of his pen. “It shall not be a law.” It is an either/or choice; either one vetoes or one pocket vetoes. That a Senate designee received Obama’s veto makes his assertion of a pocket veto “gibberish,” as one constitutional scholar put it.

Obama, as has been reported, is not the first president to issue both types of vetoes at once. This dubious practice goes back to the Ford Administration, at least. The “protective return veto,” as it is termed, aims to allow the president to kill legislation while denying Congress the right to override it.

When Obama pulled this same maneuver in 2010, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to her great credit, scheduled a vote. Congress did not override the veto, but it did send the message that the legislative branch was not going to tolerate such shenanigans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has condemned the president’s veto. Hopefully, he sees fit to protect Congress’ constitutional prerogatives and schedule an override vote pronto.

R Street alarmed by FDA panel ruling on tobacco

Out of the Storm News - April 13, 2015, 1:05 PM

WASHINGTON (April 13, 2015) – The R Street Institute expressed disappointment and alarm at the decision by a key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel to bar Swedish Match of North America from eliminating misleading warnings on its snus products.

Currently mandated snus warnings allege risk of mouth cancer, tooth and gum disease and health risks similar to that of cigarettes. The company requested that these warnings be replaced with a warning that, while not totally safe, these snus products present far less health risk than cigarettes.

“The denial of Swedish Match’s application represents a victory for Big Tobacco and Big Pharma, but a major loss for public health,” said Dr. Joel Nitzkin, R Street senior fellow and former co-chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force of the American Association of Public Health Physicians. “If allowed to stand, this action will reaffirm cigarettes as the primary means of nicotine delivery in the United States, and will protect cigarettes from competition from less-addictive and far less-hazardous nicotine-delivery products, which could substantially reduce future rates of tobacco-related addiction, illness and death.”

Nitzkin said the ruling also would protect Big Pharma and prevent competition from these relatively low-risk products, which could prove to be more effective for smoking cessation and more attractive to smokers than the current pharmaceutical options.

“A major flaw in the panel’s approach was to disregard the potential public health benefits of the action requested,” said Nitzkin. “Cigarettes are the most hazardous and most addictive of nicotine-delivery products. Consumers deserve to be told that alternative products, such as snus, present far less health risk.”

Nitzkin stated that reversing this decision could pave the way for a tobacco harm-reduction initiative that would secure personal and public health benefits in excess of those achievable with current tobacco-control programming.

 

 

R Street congratulates Gov. Herbert on signing insurance modernization bill  

Out of the Storm News - April 13, 2015, 1:03 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (April 13, 2015) – The R Street Institute congratulated Utah Gov. Gary Herbert for today’s signing of H.B. 141, which will modernize arcane insurance terms and definitions.

Specifically, the law updates the state’s anti-rebating statute to clarify that a product offered free of charge to customers and non-customers alike cannot be considered an inducement. This clarification brings Utah’s law into conformity with the bulk of interpretive judgment concerning the widely adopted model promulgated by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

“We applaud Gov. Herbert for recognizing that innovation brings new conditions which could not have been predicted when laws were enacted,” said Ian Adams, R Street’s western region director. “As would be expected, the Internet and e-commerce have enhanced the quality of products and services offered to consumers and updating the Utah statue will allow all customers to harness the power of the Internet to work for them.”

By taking a permissive approach, the law will allow insurance brokers to offer online benefits portals, which are increasingly inseparable from insurance products themselves, without worrying about running afoul of the state’s anti-rebating statute.

“Enactment of this law represents a step in the right direction by narrowing the scope of largely outdated state anti-rebating insurance statutes,” said Adams.

 

The Obama Climate Monarchy

Somewhat Reasonable - April 13, 2015, 11:54 AM

ISIS terrorists continue to butcher people while hacking into a French television network. Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons remains on track. In a nation of 320 million people, American businesses hired only 126,000 workers in March, amid a pathetic 62% labor participation rate. Wages and incomes are stagnant.

And yet President Obama remains fixated on one obsession: dangerous manmade climate change. He blames it for everything from global temperatures that have been stable for 18 years, to hurricanes that have not made US landfall for nearly 9.5 years, and even asthma and allergies. He is determined to use it to impose energy, environmental and economic policies that will “fundamentally transform” our nation.

He launched his war on coal with a promise that companies trying to build new coal-fired power plants would go bankrupt; implemented policies that caused oil and gas production to plunge 6% on federal lands, even as it rose 60% on state and private lands; proclaimed that he will compel the United States to slash its carbon dioxide emissions 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and 80% by 2050; and wants electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket.” His Environmental Protection Agency has led the charge.

EPA has targeted power plants that emit barely 3% of all mercury in US air and water, saying this will prevent IQ losses of an undetectable “0.00209 points.” On top of its recent “Clean Power Plan,” EPA is taking over what used to be state roles, demanding that states meet CO2-reduction mandates by reorganizing the “production, distribution and use of electricity.” The agency justifies this latest power grab through a tortured 1,200-page reinterpretation of a 290-word section of the Clean Air Act.

The injuries, abuses and usurpations have become too numerous to count, and involve nearly every federal agency – as the President seeks to make the states and Executive and Judicial Branches irrelevant in his new monarchical “do as I tell you, because I say so, or else” system of government.

Now even the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is getting involved, by dramatically retooling the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA requires that federal agencies consider the impacts of their significant decision-making actions on “the quality of the human environment,” anytime they issue permits for projects, provide government funding or conduct the projects themselves.

The law has avoided many needless impacts but has also enabled activists to delay or block projects they oppose on ideological grounds. The new White House/CEQ “guidelines” were issued on Christmas Eve 2014, to minimize public awareness and response. They require that federal agencies henceforth consider potential impacts on climate change, whenever they provide permits, approvals or funding for any federal, state or private sector projects, on the assumption that such projects will always affect Earth’s climate.

Problems with the new diktats are far too numerous for a single article, but several demand discussion.

First, CEQ uses US carbon dioxide emissions as proxy for climate change. This assumes CO2 is now the dominant factor in climate and weather events, and all the powerful natural forces that ruled in past centuries, millennia and eons are irrelevant. It presumes any increases in US “greenhouse gases” correlate directly with national and global climate and weather events, and any changes will be harmful. It also considers emissions from China and other countries to be irrelevant to any agency calculations.

Second, CEQ employs the same “social cost of carbon” analyses that other agencies are using to justify appliance, vehicle and other efficiency and emission standards. This SCC assessment will now examine alleged internationalharm up to 300 years in the future, from single project emissions in the United States, despite it being impossible to demonstrate any proximate relationship between asserted global climate changes and any US project emissions (which are generally minuscule globally).

Moreover, the entire SCC analysis is based on arbitrary, fabricated, exaggerated and manipulated costs, with nobenefits assigned or acknowledged for using hydrocarbons to improve, safeguard and save countless lives – or for the role that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide plays in improving crop and other plant growth, thereby feeding more people, greening our planet and bolstering wildlife habitats.

Third, the expensive, time-consuming, useless, impossible exercise is made even more absurd by CEQ’s proposed requirement that agencies somehow calculate the adverse global climatic impacts of any federally approved project that could emit up to 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide or its equivalents per year. A single shopping mall, hospital or stretch of busy highway could meet this threshold – triggering endless “paralysis by analysis,” environmentalist litigation, delays and cost overruns.

Fourth, CEQ also wants agencies to somehow evaluate “upstream” and “downstream” emissions. In cases reviewing highway or hospital projects, this would entail examining emissions associated with mining, processing, shipping and using cement, steel, other building materials and heavy equipment before and during construction – and then assessing emissions associated with people and goods that might conceivably be transported to or from the facility or along the highway following construction.

CEQ likewise wants project proponents to offset these alleged impacts with equally spurious mitigation projects, which will themselves by subjected to still more analyses, contention, litigation and delays.

Fifth, the proposed CEQ guidelines would supposedly evaluate any and all adverse impacts allegedly caused by climate changes supposedly resulting from fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions. But they do not require federal agencies to assess harms resulting from projects delayed or blocked because of the new climate directives. Thus agencies would endlessly ponder rising seas and more frequent and/or severe hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts that they might attribute to particular projects.

However, they would not consider the many ways people would be made less safe by an analytical process that results in more serious injuries and deaths, when highway improvements, better levees and other flood protections, modern hospitals and other important facilities are delayed or never built.

Nor has CEQ factored in the roles of ideologically motivated anti-development bureaucrats in the federal agencies – or the ways Big Green campaigns and lawsuits are sponsored by wealthy far-left foundations, Russian moneylaundered through a Bermuda law firm, and even grants from the government agencies.

Sixth, in many cases, the CEQ rules could actually be counterproductive even to the Administration’s purported energy and environmental goals. Its war on coal is intended to replace coal mines and power plants with “more climate-friendly” natural gas. However, CEQ’s new guidelines for methane and carbon dioxide could delay or prevent leasing, drilling, fracking, production, pipelining and export of new gas. That would hardly seem a desirable outcome – unless the real purpose is to keep fossil fuels in the ground, increase energy prices, compel a faster transition to unreliable wind and solar power, cause more brownouts and blackouts, destroy jobs, reduce living standards, and keep more people dependent on government welfare and thus likely to vote Democrat.

NEPA is supposed to improve the overall “quality of the human environment,” and thus human health and welfare. That means all its components, not merely those the President and his Executive Branch agencies want to focus on, as they seek to use climate change to justify shutting down as much fossil fuel use as possible, in an economy that is still 82% dependent on hydrocarbons.

The CEQ and White House violate the letter, spirit and intent of NEPA when they abuse it to protect us from exaggerated or imaginary climate risks decades from now – by hobbling job creation, families, human health and welfare, and environmental quality tomorrow. That their actions will impact poor, minorities and working classes most of all makes the CEQ proposal even more pernicious.

When will our Congress, courts and state legislatures step up to the plate, do their jobs, and rein in this long Train of Abuses and Usurpations?

Categories: On the Blog

Transit Ridership Increases: No Escape From New York

Somewhat Reasonable - April 13, 2015, 11:47 AM

Transit ridership is increasing in the United States. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA)has reported that 10.8 billion trips were taken on transit in 2014, the largest number since 1956. With a more than 80% increase in gasoline prices since 2004, higher transit ridership was to be expected. However, it would be wrong to suggest the transit ridership is anywhere near its historic peak, nor that the increases have been broadly spread around the nation.

Highest Ridership Since 1956 (Which was the Lowest Since 1912)

Total transit ridership in 2014 was the highest since 1956. That’s just the beginning. The 2014 modern record ridership was lower than every year from 1956 all the way back to at least 1912, the last year of William Howard Taft’s presidency, when transit carried 13.2 billion riders.

Transit ridership has virtually collapsed since that time in relative terms. In 1912, the average man, woman and child rode transit at least 170 times a year. Today, the figure is about 35, down 80% from 1912. During the intervening century, non-farm employment increased by more than five times and the urban population, transit’s principal market, also increased more than five times. Ridership was elevated to its peak by gasoline rationing during World War II. Before that, transit ridership had peaked in 1926, as car ownership and suburbs rose before the Great Depression.

The Continuing Dominance of New York

Further, contrary to some media accounts, recent transit increases have not really been national in scope. Nearly all of it was on transit systems that serve local mobility in the City of New York as well as the rail systems serving the City from the suburbs. In the City, most of the service is provided by the Transit Authority. Additional services are provided by the New York City Department of Transportation and the Staten Island Railway. The suburban rail systems are the Long Island Railroad, the Metro North Railroad, New Jersey Transit Rail and PATH Rail. On these systems, nearly 90% of national work trip travel was to the city of New York and nearly three-quarters of those were to Manhattan.

Transit and New York: The Last Decade

Overall, the enormous system of buses and subways of New York City alone accounted for 88 percent of the national ridership increase from 2013 to 2014. If the ridership on the four large suburban rail systems that serve New York City (the Long Island Railroad, the Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey transit commuter rail, and the PATH trains) is added, City related transit accounts for 94 percent of the increase. A great achievement for the City, but not one that is being repeated in the rest of the nation.

This is nothing new. National transit ridership has increased about 10 percent over the decade since 2004. Much of the increase — 79 percent — has been on New York City’s buses and subways. The suburban rail systems raise that total to 84 percent. This does not include the many commuter buses that enter the city especially from New Jersey and other suburbs, which cannot extracted from the data because it is not separately reported (Figure).

New York’s transit turnaround has been nothing short of impressive. Nearly all of the nation’s progress in transit has been on a bus and subway system that carries one third of the national rides.

The results have not been nearly so positive in the rest of urban America, where 30 times as many people live. While New York City related transit services experienced a ridership increase of 33% in the last decade, in the rest of the nation, the increase was less than three percent. Even huge ridership increases in New York City cannot make much of a difference nationally. In 2004, transit accounted for approximately 1.6% of urban travel. By 2014, it had risen to only 1.7%. Without taking anything from New York City’s impressive transit record, these results are not likely to be replicated elsewhere. New York City is a very unique place. It is home to the world’s second largest business district, after Tokyo, the area south of Central Park in Manhattan. Approximately 2 million peoplework in this small area, a number approximately four times the next largest central business districts, in Chicago and Washington.

Approximately three quarters of Manhattan employees reach work by transit. This is 15 times the national average, New York City’s population density (excluding Staten Island, with its postwar suburbanization) is by far the highest and most extensive in the nation. The city of San Francisco comes the closest to New York City, with little more than half the population density and only 1/10 the total population.

Transit is often suggested as a substitute for the car. The reality is that transit can compete with the car only to the largest downtowns. Destinations within the six transit “legacy cities,” (not metropolitan areas) of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington account for most of the nation’s transit work trips. And, 60% of these trips are to downtown.

Transit cannot compete elsewhere, because travel times tend to be double those of the automobile (according to the American Community Survey) and it provides little practical access to most jobs.  University of Minnesota research indicates the average employee can reach fewer than 10 percent of jobs in less than one hour by transit in 46 major metropolitan areas. By contrast, approximately 65% of people who drive reach their jobs in less than 30 minutesby car in the major metropolitan areas. Building new rail systems doesn’t change the equation. At least 20 new urban rail systems have been built in the last four decades, though transit’s percentage of work trips has generally not improved, despite representations about reducing traffic congestion to the contrary. For example, in Portland, Washington, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Atlanta, which have among the most extensive new rail systems, a smaller percentage of commuters use transit than before rail opened, when there were only buses.

Even low income workers, who are often portrayed as “transit dependent,” use cars much more than transit, and at a rate nearly equal to that of others in the labor force.

Yet, transit funding advocates continue to seek even more money, claiming that transit can attract drivers from their cars and reduce traffic congestion. That may be true in New York City’s uniquely transit-friendly environment, but not elsewhere.

Photo: Bart A car Oakland Coliseum Station

 

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

PTO smacks down podcasting patent troll

Out of the Storm News - April 13, 2015, 11:45 AM

Notorious patent troll Personal Audio LLC did not invent adding episodic content to a webpage, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled in an April 10 decision that’s expected to put a serious crimp in Personal Audio’s plans to extract licensing fees from podcasters and television networks.

The decision from a panel of three administrative patent judges comes in an inter partes review filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which raised more than $75,000 in a crowdfunding challenge to support the effort.

An earlier campaign had raised more than $500,000 to fend off a suit Personal Audio brought against podcaster Adam Carolla, although Carolla ultimately settled with the company. In a separate infringement suit against CBS Corp., a federal jury in Texas awarded Personal Audio $1.3 million.

The background is this: In 1996, Personal Audio applied to patent a personal audio device, an application that was amended 13 years later – long after the explosion of the podcast industry – to include the concept of regularly updating a website with new audio and video episodes. The business was founded as a mail-order service in which subscribers would regularly receive cassettes with newspaper and magazine articles read and recorded aloud. That service, Personal Audio would later claim, constituted the “invention” of podcasting.

But EFF was able to demonstrate in its filing that, by 1996, there were already many examples of webpages regularly updated with episodic content, including those of CNN, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Carl Malmud’s “Geek of the Week” Internet radio show. The PTO judges agreed that there was sufficient prior art that the patent ought never have been granted, ordering the claims for episodic content “unpatentable.”

A copy of the full decision is embedded below.

https://www.eff.org/files/2015/04/10/personalaudiodecision.pdf

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

The American People Aren’t Stupid Enough to Buy the Manmade Climate Change Crisis Narrative

Somewhat Reasonable - April 13, 2015, 11:38 AM

Late last year, the name Jonathan Gruber became part of the public consciousness for his newly public declarations that Obamacare passed due to the “stupidity of the American voter.” While there are many cases one can cite affirming that most Americans don’t closely follow politics and/or the political process and, therefore, may be called “stupid,” the campaign to sell the manmade climate change crisis narrative proves otherwise.

We are smarter than they think. We are not buying what they are selling.

Global warming has been the most expensive and extensive “public relations campaign in history”—as David Harsanyi calls it in his post at TheFederalist.com. He identifies the “25 years of political and cultural pressure,” as including “most governmental agencies, a long list of welfare-sucking corporations, the public school system, the universities, an infinite parade of celebrities, think tanks, well-funded environmental groups and an entire major political party.” Yet, despite all the “gentle nudging,” “stern warnings,” and “fear mongering,” Harsanyi states: “Since 1989, there’s been no significant change in the public’s concern level over global warming.”

Based on new polling data from Gallup, Harsanyi points out that with the past 25 years of messaging, even among Democrats those who “worry greatly” about global warming has only increased “by a mere four percentage points”—with no change in the general public in the past two years.

A pew research poll on the Keystone pipeline—also the target of years of intense messaging and fear mongering—offers similar insights: “support for the Keystone XL pipeline is almost universal,” reads the Washington Post headline. The poll results report that only those who self-identify as “solid liberals” oppose the pipeline.

Clearly, Americans aren’t that stupid after all. We can smell a rat.

It isn’t that we don’t believe the climate changes—it does, has, and always will—but, as Harsanyi states: “there is a difference in believing climate change is real and believing that climate change is calamitous.” He continues: “as the shrieking gets louder, Americans become more positive about the quality of their environment and less concerned about the threats.” And: “as the fear-mongering becomes more far-fetched, the accusations become more hysterical, and the deadlines for action keep being pushed right over the horizon, fewer people seem to really care.”

Harsanyi concludes: “if you haven’t been able to win over the public in 25 years of intense political and cultural pressure, you are probably down to two options: You can revisit your strategy, open debate to a wide range of ideas, accept that your excited rhetoric works on a narrow band of the Americans (in any useful political sense), and live with the reality that most people have no interest in surrendering prosperity. Or, you can try to force people to do what you want.”

With the huge investment of time and money, it appears the fear mongers have chosen the latter option. The regulatory scheme coming out of Washington reflects an acknowledgement that the PR campaign has failed, but that the effort is continually being forced on people who don’t want it—though they may not be following it closely; they may not be politically engaged.

The climate campaigners are continuing to do that which hasn’t worked for the past 25 years—somehow believing they’ll get different results (Isn’t that the definition of insanity?).

On March 6, “A documentary that looks at pundits-for-hire,” Merchants of Doubt was released. It aimed to smearthe reputations of some of the most noted voices on the realist side of the climate change debate—specifically Fred Singer who has been one of the original climate skeptics. But nobody much wanted to see it. In its opening weekend, BoxOfficeMoJo.com reports Merchants of Doubt took in $20,300.

A week later, former Vice President Al Gore, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, called on attendees at the SXSW festival in Austin, TX, to “punish climate change deniers”—which is the tactic being used now.

We’ve seen it in the widely publicized case of Dr. Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian center for Astrophysics, who “claims that the variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent Global warming.” TheNew York Times accused him of being tied to funding from “corporate interests.”

Similar, though less well known, attacks have been made on Henrik Moller—Denmark’s leading academic expert on noise research, who was fired by his university after exposing a wide reaching cover-up by the Danish government of the health risks caused by wind turbine noise pollution. And, on eminent meteorologist Lennart Bengtsson, who received world-wide pressure after he stated: “I believe it is important to express different views in an area that is potentially so important and complex and still insufficiently known as climate change.”

Even Senator Edward Markey and Congressman Raul Grijalva recently joined the crusade. Paul Driessen draws attention to a letter they sent to “institutions that employ or support climate change researchers whose work questions claims that Earth and humanity face unprecedented manmade climate change catastrophes.” The lawmakers warn of potential “conflicts of interest” in cases where evidence or computer modeling emphasizing human causes of climate change are questioned—but no such warning is offered for its supporters.  Driessen states: “Conflicts of interest can indeed pose problems. However, it is clearly not only fossil fuel companies that have major financial or other interests in climate and air quality standards—nor only manmade climate change skeptics who can have conflicts and personal, financial or institutional interests in these issues.” He quotes Dr. Richard Lindzen, MIT atmospheric sciences professor emeritus and one of Grijalva’s targets: “Billions of dollars have been poured into studies supporting climate alarm, and trillions of dollars have been involved in overthrowing the energy economy.”

But somehow, only those who may receive funding from “fossil fuel companies” are suspect. The anti-fossil fuel movement has been vocal in its funding for candidates who support its agenda.

I’ve experienced this on a small scale. I wrote on op-ed for the Albuquerque Journal warning New Mexico residents about concerns over SolarCity’s arrival in the state—which included offering 30-year financing for rooftop solar panels. A week later the paper published an op-ed that didn’t discount my data, but accused my organization of receiving funding from the fossil-fuel industry. The op-ed was written by an employee of SolarCity—but this didn’t seem incongruous.

The little attack on me allowed me to ask for people to counteract the claim that the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy is not an “alliance of citizens.” The outpouring of support astounded me—though the newspaper didn’t post every comment.

Others, with whom I have been in contact, while researching for this writing, provided similar stories of support following the attacks.

In a Desmog post titled: Climate deniers double down on doubt in the defense of Willie Soon, the author states that Soon’s supporters “circled the wagons.”

In a Scientific American story about the Merchants of Doubt, Andrew Hoffman, a professor at the University of Michigan, who studies the behavior of climate skeptics, says: “tit-for-tats between mainstream and contrarian researchers tend to raise the profile of skeptical scientists.” He concludes: “Frankly, this degradation benefits the skeptics.”

Because of the failure of the manmade climate-crisis campaign to capture the hearts and minds of the average American—who, after all, isn’t that stupid—we can expect the Gore-ordered attacks to continue. Expect the fear mongering to become more far-fetched, the accusations to become more hysterical, and the deadlines for action to keep being pushed right over the horizon. When this happens, “fewer people seem to really care.”

Like the mythical Hydra, when one “skeptic” is cut down, supporters “double down”—two more grow to take its place. While designed to silence, the attacks draw attention to the fact that there is another side to the “debate.”

Categories: On the Blog

Key FDA panel votes down warning label change for snus

Out of the Storm News - April 13, 2015, 10:45 AM

Swedish Match should not be allowed to alter the warning labels on its U.S. snus products to reflect evidence they are safer than cigarettes. That was the determination of the Food Drug Administration’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee at Friday’s conclusion of two days of testimony on the matter.

The eight-member panel voted unanimously that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that use of snus – a smokeless-tobacco product contained in packets placed under the lip – didn’t increase the risk of tooth loss and gum disease. The New York Times reports members were split on other questions related to the relative risk of oral cancer:

Perhaps the most direct question, whether the research showed that health risks from Snus were “substantially lower” than those from cigarettes, divided the panel in half, with four members voting yes and four no.

“I voted no because I have a problem with the word ‘substantially’ lower as it relates to all health risks,” said Pebbles Fagan, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center. “There’s no evidence that pregnancy outcomes related to snus would be any different than with any other tobacco product.”

But other panel members were persuaded.

“You can still care about a wide array of health effects and still endorse the idea that there’s a substantial reduction in risk,” said Kurt M. Ribisl, a professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. “Cancer and heart disease are top killers of women in this country, and the risk for those are substantially lower in these products.”

The hearings followed up a 130,000-page application Swedish Match submitted last June, which included the results of dozens of studies – including two double-blind, randomized trials comparing snus to placebo for those trying to quit smoking – that the company said demonstrate that snus use is at least 90 percent safer than smoking cigarettes.

Much of the evidence is drawn from 50 years of data from snus users in Sweden, which has one of the highest rates of tobacco use in Europe, but one of the lowest-rates of smoking-related deaths. The reason, says Swedish Match, is that Swedes prefer snus to cigarettes, with roughly one-in-five Swedish men reporting they are regular snus users.

Indeed, snus accounts for roughly half of Swedish Match’s $15 billion in annual sales. But in the United States– where there are still 40 million regular smokers – its General Swedish brand has only about 4 percent of the smokeless tobacco market. Swedish Match also makes cigars and the chewing tobacco brand Redman.

The company sought clearance to replace on its U.S. snus packages such standard warnings as “This product can cause mouth cancer” and “This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes” with one that reads: “No tobacco product is safe, but this product presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes.”

R Street Associate Fellow Brad Rodu, who wrote about the hearings last week, told Reuters:

“The committee appears to have set an absolute standard of safety that ignores decades of evidence showing that snus is vastly safer than cigarettes,” said Dr. Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville.

Or, as another expert quoted by the Washington Post put it:

“Can you make the claim that a product is safer when it’s not perfectly safe? Yes, I think you can,” said Lynn Kozlowski, a University of Buffalo professor who studies tobacco use policy. “But there are some who think their job is satisfied only when they say nothing is safe.”

These were the first hearings conducted under provisions of the 2009 Tobacco Control Act, which granted the FDA authority to regulate tobacco, but permits companies to petition for the right to demonstrate one tobacco product is safer than another. The panel’s recommendations are considered advisory, though they likely will have significant weight with the FDA, which is expected to render a final decision this summer.

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

Victory as WV School Board allows students to debate global warming

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - April 13, 2015, 10:35 AM
The West Virginia Board of Education voted yesterday to put an end to months of controversy and open up teaching standards to permit students to consider both…
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