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Ten Trends in Higher Ed in 2015

Blog - Education - December 31, 2015, 2:18 PM

The Pope Center for Higher Education has released its “What a Year! Ten Trends in Higher Ed in 2015.”  An overview with snippets is presented below. Read the details here.

“Higher Ed Policy Makes the Big Time” by Jay Schalin

“This was the year when higher education became a major political issue during the presidential primary campaigns. In the past, it wasn’t even a blip on the screen. But the federal government has long been encroaching on higher education through financial aid policies and research grants.”

“Whose University? Our University!” by Jesse Saffron

“Last fall, many campuses across the country erupted into protests for social justice. The race-related accusations and demands of the campus activists, for whom political expedience often trumped free speech and civility, caught the educational establishment by surprise.”

“Progress At Last!” by Jenna A. Robinson

“The North Carolina General Assembly enacted five important higher education reforms this year.”

  • Bringing Western Governor’s University to North Carolina.
  • UNC system and the Community College work to create a Guaranteed Admissions Program (GAP).
  • Moved to end remedial education in the UNC system.
  • Raised minimum admissions requirements for teacher preparation programs.
  • Defunded the politicized Hunt Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Racial Preferences’ Hold on Academia Weakened” by George Leef

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Fisher case on the racial preferences program at the University of Texas

“Giving the Boot to Restrictive Speech Codes” by Jenna A. Robinson

“UNC-Chapel Hill became the first school in North Carolina given a “green light” rating for free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a leading free speech advocacy non-profit organization.”

“The Chicago School of Free Speech Arrives In the Nick of Time” by Stephanie Keaveney

“This year saw some depressing news about the state of free speech on campus, with many students turning away from basic First Amendment principles. But there was one really positive development: the so-called “Chicago Statement” defining a workable framework around which free speech proponents can coalesce.”

“When In Doubt, Wear Pants” by Jay Schalin

“The spotlight on sexual crimes revealed the intrinsic injustice of student courts that lack the formal system of checks and balances fundamental to our legal system. The potential damage student courts can do to young men’s lives and reputations has resulted in a counter-movement for due legal processes.”

“Gainful Employment Rules Cripple For-Profit Colleges” by George Leef

“One of the worst developments in the last year was the implementation of the Obama Administration’s “Gainful Employment” rules regarding for-profit colleges.”

“In typical Washington fashion, these rules won’t solve the problem, but will have some harmful side effects.”

“What Are Students Learning (or Not Learning)?” by Jesse Saffron

“One year ago, Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) results showed that out of 32,000 college students tested, only 40 percent were ready for the white-collar workforce. When it came to writing skills, problem solving, and critical thinking, many students were deemed inadequate.”

“You Get What We Pay For” by Jay Schalin

“One of this year’s big ideas was ‘free college for all.’ I first heard somebody mention it in a serious vein about four years ago at a University of North Carolina Faculty Association meeting. I immediately thought, ‘that one’s gonna happen. Some ideas are just too bad not to take off.’”  

Ten Trends in Higher Ed in 2015

Somewhat Reasonable - December 31, 2015, 2:18 PM

The Pope Center for Higher Education has released its “What a Year! Ten Trends in Higher Ed in 2015.”  An overview with snippets is presented below. Read the details here.

“Higher Ed Policy Makes the Big Time” by Jay Schalin

“This was the year when higher education became a major political issue during the presidential primary campaigns. In the past, it wasn’t even a blip on the screen. But the federal government has long been encroaching on higher education through financial aid policies and research grants.”

“Whose University? Our University!” by Jesse Saffron

“Last fall, many campuses across the country erupted into protests for social justice. The race-related accusations and demands of the campus activists, for whom political expedience often trumped free speech and civility, caught the educational establishment by surprise.”

“Progress At Last!” by Jenna A. Robinson

“The North Carolina General Assembly enacted five important higher education reforms this year.”

  • Bringing Western Governor’s University to North Carolina.
  • UNC system and the Community College work to create a Guaranteed Admissions Program (GAP).
  • Moved to end remedial education in the UNC system.
  • Raised minimum admissions requirements for teacher preparation programs.
  • Defunded the politicized Hunt Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Racial Preferences’ Hold on Academia Weakened” by George Leef

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Fisher case on the racial preferences program at the University of Texas

“Giving the Boot to Restrictive Speech Codes” by Jenna A. Robinson

“UNC-Chapel Hill became the first school in North Carolina given a “green light” rating for free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a leading free speech advocacy non-profit organization.”

“The Chicago School of Free Speech Arrives In the Nick of Time” by Stephanie Keaveney

“This year saw some depressing news about the state of free speech on campus, with many students turning away from basic First Amendment principles. But there was one really positive development: the so-called “Chicago Statement” defining a workable framework around which free speech proponents can coalesce.”

“When In Doubt, Wear Pants” by Jay Schalin

“The spotlight on sexual crimes revealed the intrinsic injustice of student courts that lack the formal system of checks and balances fundamental to our legal system. The potential damage student courts can do to young men’s lives and reputations has resulted in a counter-movement for due legal processes.”

“Gainful Employment Rules Cripple For-Profit Colleges” by George Leef

“One of the worst developments in the last year was the implementation of the Obama Administration’s “Gainful Employment” rules regarding for-profit colleges.”

“In typical Washington fashion, these rules won’t solve the problem, but will have some harmful side effects.”

“What Are Students Learning (or Not Learning)?” by Jesse Saffron

“One year ago, Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) results showed that out of 32,000 college students tested, only 40 percent were ready for the white-collar workforce. When it came to writing skills, problem solving, and critical thinking, many students were deemed inadequate.”

“You Get What We Pay For” by Jay Schalin

“One of this year’s big ideas was ‘free college for all.’ I first heard somebody mention it in a serious vein about four years ago at a University of North Carolina Faculty Association meeting. I immediately thought, ‘that one’s gonna happen. Some ideas are just too bad not to take off.’”  

Categories: On the Blog

Declining Population Growth in China’s Largest Municipalities: 2010-2014

Somewhat Reasonable - December 31, 2015, 11:43 AM

After three decades of breakneck urban growth, there are indications of a significant slowdown in the largest cities of China. This is indicated by a review of 2014 population estimates in the annual statistical reports filed individually by municipalities with the National Bureau of Statistics.

For context, municipalities in China, which are also translated as “cities” in English are nothing like cities as is commonly understood in English. In China, municipalities are large geographic areas that have their own governments, but also control rural lands often far beyond the urban area. Indeed, in China, counties are subdivisions of cities, while in Anglo heritage nations, cities are within counties, with the notable exception of the city of New York or in a few, like San Francisco, are identical with counties. Some cities, like Kansas City and Atlanta stretch into adjacent counties, though occupy only part of their main county.

This article examines municipality population growth trends, from 2010 to 2014 and comparing to the 2000 to 2010 period. The analysis focuses on 21 municipalities, which include 20 of the 25 largest built-up urban areas in the nation areas of continuous development. The 21st municipality is Foshan, which shares its built-up urban area with Guangzhou. The statistical reports the other five municipalities did not provide sufficient data to be included in this analysis (Table).

Back in 1980, as Deng Xiaoping’s reforms were beginning to take effect, China was approximately 20 percent urban. By 2010, 55 percent of Chinese citizens lived in urban areas, a near tripling of the urban share. A large share of this growth was the so-called “floating population,” which was made up largely of rural residents who moved to the urban areas to take jobs in the export oriented factories and the massive building and infrastructure construction sites.

The Roaring 2000s

In the 2000s, the largest Chinese municipalities experienced some of the most rapid growth in world history. Shanghai and Beijing added between 6 and 7 million residents. Both had annual growth rates of between 3% and 4%. During the same period, the U.S. annual growth rate was about 1.0 percent.

But even these growth rates were not the highest in the country. Xiamen, in Fujian grow at an annual rate of 5.6%, while Suzhou (in Jiangsu, adjacent to Shanghai on the west) and Shenzhen (in Guangdong, just north of Hong Kong) expanded their population at rates between 4% and 5%.

The Slowing 2010s

The last four years have been very different. Overall, these 21 municipalities added population at a rate of 2.2% annually between 2000 and 2010. Between 2010 and 2014, the annual growth has been reduced by nearly half, to 1.2%. This is a far greater rate than that of the national population increase, which is gradually moving from modest growth to eventual decline. The 2010 to 2014 annual national population growth rate was 0.50 percent, a 12 percent reduction from the 0.57 percent 2000 to 2010 annual rate, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The cause of the larger decline in these municipalities thus seems likely to be the result of reduced domestic migration from more rural areas.

Nearly all — 19 of the 21 municipalities — are experiencing slower growth in this decade than in the last. Only one, Tianjin, is experiencing the growth similar to the fast-growing municipalities of the last decade. Between 2010 and 2014, Tianjin grew 4.1%, annually, a considerable increase over its 2.8% rate from between 2000 and 2010. During this decade, Tianjin added approximately 560,000 residents annually, the largest increase among the 21 municipalities. This fits well with national priorities, since the high densities of Beijing and related consequences have led to a plan to decentralize the population of nearby Beijing (100 miles or 160 kilometers away), encouraging the movement of residents, businesses and government agencies to Tianjin as well as to the municipalities of Tangshan (location of the great 1976 earthquake), and Langfang (midway between Beijing and Tianjin) and Baoding in the province of Hubei. The newly integrated area would be called Jin-Jing-Ji.

Chongqing has begun to grow, after having lost 1.7 million residents in the last decade. . But Chongqing itself is uncharacteristic and the most “uncitied” of Chinese municipalities. Chongqing is a largely rural province, governed directly from Beijing (like Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin). The principal built-up urban area, Chongqing, has a population of less than 7.5 million, or one-quarter of the municipality population. Chongqing has grown 0.9 percent annually since 2010 and is adding 267,000 residents per year. The population losses of the last decade occurred principally in the rural areas, as the Chongqing metropolitan area added more than three million residents, according to United Nations data.

Strong growth continues in Beijing, but at a much reduced rate. The annual population growth rate in Beijing has dropped 38%, to 2.3% annually. Beijing is adding 475,000 residents annually, second only to nearby Tianjin.

Shanghai’s growth has fallen even further, to 60% below the 2000 (1.3%). Shanghai is adding 310,000 residents annually. Other municipalities in the Yangtze Delta region are not doing as well. Suzhou’s annual growth has dropped more than 90% to 0.3%. Hangzhou and Nanjing have seen their growth drop more than 70 percent, with Hangzhou growing 0.5 percent annually and Nanjing 0.7 percent.

The Pearl River Delta, in Guangdong, was at the heart of China’s three decade economic miracle, with its export driven growth. All four of the Pearl River Delta’s largest municipalities have seen their population growth rates dropped by 70% or more. Shenzhen grew 4.0% in the 2000’s and grows barely 1.0% today. Guangzhou has fallen from 2.5% in the 2000 to 0.7%. Foshan, which grew 3.0% in the 2000’s, now grows only 0.5%. Dongguan has fallen from a growth rate of 2.5% in the 2002 0.4% over the past four years, the slowest among the Pearl River Delta giants.

Some other municipalities have grown nearly as quickly as before. Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, grew rapidly during the 2000’s, at 2.6%, and has maintained a growth rate of 2.1%. With the third fastest growth rate, after Tianjin and Beijing, Zhengzhou is adding 186,000 residents annually, Quanzhou (Fujian), one of the best world examples of “in situ” urbanization is growing at 85% of its previous rate, though only 0.9% annually. Wuhan (Hubei), a long-time central China manufacturing center has been similarly successful in retaining its growth, and now has an annual growth rate of 1.4%.

Without complete information on all of China’s largest municipalities, it is difficult to assess the extent to which (if any) urban growth has slowed. Certainly, the national government remains committed to strong urban growth. On the other hand, with China’s slowing economic growth rates, there may be less reason to leave the countryside for the city.

2014 Population & Comparison of 2000-10 and 2010-4 Growth Rates Municipalities of China Corresponding to Largest Built-Up Urban Areas Annual Population Growth % Annual Population Growth Municipality Population: 2014 2000-2010 2010-2014 2000-2010 2010-2014 Beijing            21,516,000 3.8% 2.3%      604,300      476,000 Chengdu            14,428,000 2.4% 0.7%      293,900        95,000 Chongqing            29,914,000 -0.6% 0.9%     (166,700)      267,000 Dongguan              8,343,000 2.5% 0.4%      177,400        30,750 Foshan              7,351,000 3.0% 0.5%      185,600        39,250 Guangzhou            13,081,000 2.5% 0.7%      275,900        95,000 Hangzhou              8,892,000 2.4% 0.5%      182,100        48,000 Jinan              7,067,000 1.4% 0.9%        89,200        63,250 Nanjing              8,216,000 2.7% 0.7%      187,900        52,750 Qingdao              9,046,000 1.5% 0.9%      122,100        82,750 Quanzhou              8,440,000 1.1% 0.9%        84,600        77,750 Shanghai            24,257,000 3.4% 1.3%      661,100      309,500 Shenyang              8,287,000 1.2% 0.6%        90,200        45,250 Shenzhen            10,790,000 4.0% 1.0%      334,900      108,000 Suzhou            10,604,000 4.4% 0.3%      366,800        36,000 Taiyuan              4,299,000 2.3% 0.6%        85,800        24,250 Tianjin            15,168,000 2.8% 4.1%      308,900      557,500 Wuhan            10,338,000 1.6% 1.4%      147,200      138,250 Xiamen              3,810,000 5.6% 1.9%      147,800        69,750 Xi’an              8,628,000 1.5% 0.5%      119,300        40,000 Zhenghou              9,371,000 2.6% 2.1%      197,000      186,000 Total          241,846,000 2.2% 1.2%   4,495,300   2,842,000 Calculated from annual municipality reports to the National Bureau of Statistics and NBS data Comparable data not available for 5 municipalities corresponding to the 25 largest built-up urban areas Built-up urban areas from Demographia World Urban Areas

[Originally published at New Geography]

Photograph: Still fast growing Zhengzhou (by author)

Wendell Cox is Chair, Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California) and principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Looking Back: Wayne Allyn Root: Liberalism Leads to Lack of Economic Freedom

Somewhat Reasonable - December 31, 2015, 10:37 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News, speaks with Wayne Allyn Root. Root, referred to as the capitalist evangelist, is an author, entrepreneur, and television and radio personality. Root joins Burnett to discuss the problems of big government and how climate change is being used to expand government control.

Root says it is more important than ever to fight back against moves to expand government power and influence. He laments the fact that the United States is continuing to move down the economic freedom index, now at 16th. To reclaim the country, Root says advocates of liberty must be relentless in our efforts.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Did the GOP Congress Change Energy Policy?

Somewhat Reasonable - December 30, 2015, 5:42 PM

Last year, when Republicans gained a decisive edge in both houses of Congress, I made predictions as to the six energy-policy changes we could expect—as the two parties have very different views on energy issues.

Now, halfway through the “two years” for which I projected, here’s where American energy policy stands today.

Keystone Pipeline

As predicted, the GOP got right to work backing the Keystone pipeline. With strong bipartisan support, on February 11 Congress passed the bill approving construction. Though many Democrats crossed the aisle and voted with the Republicans, the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act fell a handful of votes short of making it veto-proof. As expected, two weeks later, President Obama vetoed the bill.

I was optimistic that some late night arm twisting would bring the needed Democrats on board, but on March 4, the vote to override the veto failed.

While the bill ultimately failed, my projection was accurate: understanding the impact the Keystone pipeline would have had on job creation and energy security, Republicans made the Keystone pipeline a high priority.

Oil Exports

A bill to lift the decades-old oil export ban was introduced in February and gained momentum throughout the year. On September 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to send the legislation to the full House for final passage—which took place on October 9.

As with Keystone, the bill had bipartisan support, though many Democrats opposed it. Comments made in the House chambers before the vote reflected the partisan divide on energy issues. Opposing the bill, Democrats grandstanded saying it would put more money in the pockets of big oil. In contrast, Republicans understand that successful businesses hire people.

The White House threatened a veto.

Despite passing another committee vote in early October, the Senate didn’t take up the bill. Lifting the ban, however, was included in the omnibus-spending package that Obama quickly signed on December 18.

With the ban now officially overturned, the spread between the global benchmark price, known as Brent, and the U.S. benchmark, known as WTI (for West Texas Intermediate), has virtually disappeared. Within a matter of days, the first shipment of U.S. crude will be heading overseas—to Switzerland.

Climate Change

Last year, I wrote: “The Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Chairmanship will change from one of the biggest supporters of Obama’s climate change agenda (Senator Barbara Boxer [D-CA]) to the biggest opponent of his policies (Senator Jim Inhofe [R-OK]).” With that change, we’ve heard a different tune coming from The Hill.

Days before the U.N. conference on climate change took place in Paris, the Senate held a hearing and passed resolutions designed to let the world know that Obama did not have the support of the U.S. Senate—which would be needed for any legally binding treaty. The New York Times reported: “proponents believe their defiance will have diplomatic repercussions.” In a statement following the vote, Senator Inhofe said: “The message could not be more clear that Republicans and Democrats in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House do not support the president’s climate agenda and the international community should take note.”

The plan was successful; the “international community” took note. It is believed that the Republican drumbeat, prompted the European Union to back off of its insistence that any carbon goals in the final agreement need to be legally binding. The agreement that was ultimately reached in Paris is, according to the New York Times, “essentially voluntary.”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

In the December 18 spending bill, the EPA didn’t get a budget increase while many other departments did. It is considered a “loser.” Funding levels for the EPA in 2016 are at a level lower than 2010, but on par with 2015.

Additionally, the agency has received several smack downs in 2015 from federal courts—including putting its onerous Waters of the U.S. Rule on hold. Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the focus of the Senate’s resolutions, is facing numerous lawsuits and may also be awarded a stay. This is surely an issue to watch in 2016.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA)

One of the big concerns for anyone in the West who earns a living from the land—ranching, farming, mining and mineral extraction—has been the potential listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. While it did not get listed, and the omnibus deal blocks the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from putting it on the Endangered Species list, the Bureau of Land Management has enacted land use plans that that will likely have many of the same effects of listing under the Act. It is time for ESA reform.

Federal Lands

This final issue saw little action in 2015, but with the anti-fossil fuel movement’s aggressive plans to keep resources in the ground, especially on federal lands, this one is ripe for attention from the GOP-controlled Congress.

For 2016, Congress will need to stay on top of Obama’s rules, regulations and executive orders aimed at burnishing his legacy on climate change. It should also rein in the EPA, reform the ESA, and work to reduce the amount of land owned by the federal government.

Let’s hope for more positive movement in 2016—including a new resident in the White House, who understands the important role energy plays in making America great.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Categories: On the Blog

Postal union chief calls for post office banking

Out of the Storm News - December 30, 2015, 4:27 PM

From Heartland

Kevin Kosar, a senior fellow with the R Street Institute, says postal banking is an outdated idea, better left in the history books.

“The postal banking system was established back when private banks did not insure deposits,” Kosar said. “People put their money in the postal bank because it was safe. Congress created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1933, and it guarantees customer deposits to private banks. By the time that Congress closed the postal bank, few Americans were using it.”

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jesse Hathaway: Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank

Somewhat Reasonable - December 30, 2015, 4:27 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Research Fellow Jesse Hathaway joins the Late Afternoons With Mike Schickman show where he discussed the recent passage of the Highway Bill that reauthorized the Export-Import Bank.

Hathaway describes how the Ex-Im Bank is a government program that distorts the free market. Hathaway tells how the the program only benefits specific big businesses. As Host Schickman notes, the Ex-Im bank equates to corporate welfare.

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

Categories: On the Blog

School Choice Year in Review

Blog - Education - December 30, 2015, 3:26 PM

A year in review Q&A by Reporter Paul Brennan (formerly of Watchdog.org) with Jason Bedrick, policy analyst at the Center for Educational Freedom Cato Institute.

What were the three best or most promising developments in educational choice this year?

  1. The sheer number of new or expanded educational choice policies: The Wall Street Journal proclaimed 2011 the “Year of School Choice” after 13 states enacted new or expanded school choice policies. This year, 15 states enacted 21 new or expanded educational choice policies, including three new education savings account laws. This year, we also hit a tipping point: more than half the states now have some sort of private educational choice policy. Most of them are small and eligibility is limited, but they are likely to expand as people see the benefits and the idea of educational choice becomes more popular.
  2. Nevada’s nearly universal education savings account program: This is the boldest educational choice initiative to date and holds great promise in the long run.
  3. The numerous legal victories for educational choice laws: The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the state’s scholarship tax credit law, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the state’s voucher law, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the U.S. Department of Justice’s attempt to use a decades-old desegregation lawsuit to control or curb Louisiana’s voucher program, and a judge in Florida tossed out a procedural challenge that would have ended the state’s new ESA program. (See the bottom of this blog post for a list of recently decided and pending court cases). There is a very clear consensus emerging that educational choice laws are constitutional, which will pave the way for more states to adopt choice laws.

What were the three worst things or most potentially troubling things that happened in educational choice this year?

  1. The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to strike down (or at least severely restrict) Douglas County’s voucher law: A plurality relied on the historically anti-Catholic Blaine amendment to discriminate against families who want to send their children to religious schools. Supporters of educational choice are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision and potentially limit or strike down Blaine Amendments across the country.
  2. The Montana Department of Revenue similar decision to discriminate against families who want to send their children to religious schools: The DOR unilaterally interpreted the state’s new scholarship tax credit law to prohibit nonprofit scholarship organizations from issuing tax-credit scholarships to students seeking to attend religious schools. Not only is their interpretation is contrary to the legislature’s intent, but the state attorney general’s office stated that they do not have the authority to make a decision like that unilaterally and warned them that their action may be unconstitutional. I hope this sort of administrative sabotage of educational choice programs doesn’t spread.
  3. Poor program design in Louisiana is reducing the effectiveness of the voucher law: Louisiana requires all private schools accepting vouchers to relax their admissions standards and administer the state test, among other regulations. A recent study by the American Enterprise Institute found that only one-third of private schools in the Pelican State were willing to accept vouchers, while the majority refused to accept vouchers because of the regulatory burden. Worse, as Professor Jay P. Greene of the University of Arkansas has warned, “The only schools who are willing to do whatever the state tells them they must do are the schools that are most desperate for money.” It is the schools whose finances aren’t in great shape and that are less effective overall that are more likely to be willing to accept the regulations in order to get the voucher funds, which distorts the proper functioning of the market. In other words, the government regulations intended to ensure quality may in effect be limiting the number and quality of choice available to low-income families.

What major developments in educational choice, both positive and negative, should people be watching for in 2016?

I expect to see several more states adopt new educational choice policies or expand their existing ones, but court decisions and perceptions about the success of implementation of choice policies, particularly ESAs, will greatly impact what sort of action state legislatures take. In particular, education policy mavens and lawmakers across the country will be watching Nevada to see how well they implement their new ESA program. Moreover, this coming year, the U.S. Supreme Court will have to decide whether to hear the challenge to Colorado’s Blaine Amendment and state courts in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Oklahoma will hear challenges to educational choice laws. Success on the legal and implementation fronts would bode well for the success of legislative initiatives.

What role, if any, do you think the issue of educational choice will play in the 2016 election at the national level? Are there any states where you think school choice will an important issue in the elections?

At the national level, education rarely emerges as a deciding issue. At the state level, it’s too early to tell where and how educational choice will impact state elections. Of the 12 states with a gubernatorial election in 2016, the most likely state where educational choice will be an issue is Missouri where there is vigorous debate over how to help students assigned to failing urban district schools.

How would you characterize the overall state of educational choice in the country at the end of 2015?

Educational choice is ascendant, but still small. Most states now have some sort of educational choice policy — and even more are considering it — but most of the programs are very limited and only a small percentage of students are participating. Fortunately, lawmakers in numerous states have shown interest in expanding eligibility and growing the number of scholarships available to meet increasing demand. I look forward to seeing more progress in this regard in 2016.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonBedrick

School Choice Year in Review

Somewhat Reasonable - December 30, 2015, 3:26 PM

A year in review Q&A by Reporter Paul Brennan (formerly of Watchdog.org) with Jason Bedrick, policy analyst at the Center for Educational Freedom Cato Institute.

What were the three best or most promising developments in educational choice this year?

  1. The sheer number of new or expanded educational choice policies: The Wall Street Journal proclaimed 2011 the “Year of School Choice” after 13 states enacted new or expanded school choice policies. This year, 15 states enacted 21 new or expanded educational choice policies, including three new education savings account laws. This year, we also hit a tipping point: more than half the states now have some sort of private educational choice policy. Most of them are small and eligibility is limited, but they are likely to expand as people see the benefits and the idea of educational choice becomes more popular.
  2. Nevada’s nearly universal education savings account program: This is the boldest educational choice initiative to date and holds great promise in the long run.
  3. The numerous legal victories for educational choice laws: The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the state’s scholarship tax credit law, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the state’s voucher law, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the U.S. Department of Justice’s attempt to use a decades-old desegregation lawsuit to control or curb Louisiana’s voucher program, and a judge in Florida tossed out a procedural challenge that would have ended the state’s new ESA program. (See the bottom of this blog post for a list of recently decided and pending court cases). There is a very clear consensus emerging that educational choice laws are constitutional, which will pave the way for more states to adopt choice laws.

What were the three worst things or most potentially troubling things that happened in educational choice this year?

  1. The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to strike down (or at least severely restrict) Douglas County’s voucher law: A plurality relied on the historically anti-Catholic Blaine amendment to discriminate against families who want to send their children to religious schools. Supporters of educational choice are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision and potentially limit or strike down Blaine Amendments across the country.
  2. The Montana Department of Revenue similar decision to discriminate against families who want to send their children to religious schools: The DOR unilaterally interpreted the state’s new scholarship tax credit law to prohibit nonprofit scholarship organizations from issuing tax-credit scholarships to students seeking to attend religious schools. Not only is their interpretation is contrary to the legislature’s intent, but the state attorney general’s office stated that they do not have the authority to make a decision like that unilaterally and warned them that their action may be unconstitutional. I hope this sort of administrative sabotage of educational choice programs doesn’t spread.
  3. Poor program design in Louisiana is reducing the effectiveness of the voucher law: Louisiana requires all private schools accepting vouchers to relax their admissions standards and administer the state test, among other regulations. A recent study by the American Enterprise Institute found that only one-third of private schools in the Pelican State were willing to accept vouchers, while the majority refused to accept vouchers because of the regulatory burden. Worse, as Professor Jay P. Greene of the University of Arkansas has warned, “The only schools who are willing to do whatever the state tells them they must do are the schools that are most desperate for money.” It is the schools whose finances aren’t in great shape and that are less effective overall that are more likely to be willing to accept the regulations in order to get the voucher funds, which distorts the proper functioning of the market. In other words, the government regulations intended to ensure quality may in effect be limiting the number and quality of choice available to low-income families.

What major developments in educational choice, both positive and negative, should people be watching for in 2016?

I expect to see several more states adopt new educational choice policies or expand their existing ones, but court decisions and perceptions about the success of implementation of choice policies, particularly ESAs, will greatly impact what sort of action state legislatures take. In particular, education policy mavens and lawmakers across the country will be watching Nevada to see how well they implement their new ESA program. Moreover, this coming year, the U.S. Supreme Court will have to decide whether to hear the challenge to Colorado’s Blaine Amendment and state courts in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Oklahoma will hear challenges to educational choice laws. Success on the legal and implementation fronts would bode well for the success of legislative initiatives.

What role, if any, do you think the issue of educational choice will play in the 2016 election at the national level? Are there any states where you think school choice will an important issue in the elections?

At the national level, education rarely emerges as a deciding issue. At the state level, it’s too early to tell where and how educational choice will impact state elections. Of the 12 states with a gubernatorial election in 2016, the most likely state where educational choice will be an issue is Missouri where there is vigorous debate over how to help students assigned to failing urban district schools.

How would you characterize the overall state of educational choice in the country at the end of 2015?

Educational choice is ascendant, but still small. Most states now have some sort of educational choice policy — and even more are considering it — but most of the programs are very limited and only a small percentage of students are participating. Fortunately, lawmakers in numerous states have shown interest in expanding eligibility and growing the number of scholarships available to meet increasing demand. I look forward to seeing more progress in this regard in 2016.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonBedrick

Categories: On the Blog

The Fear Of Terrorism Is Destroying Our Freedom

Somewhat Reasonable - December 30, 2015, 10:07 AM

The year that is just closing, 2015, has been full of events that continue to dominate the news, including renewed racial tensions on the streets of American cities, growing fears about terrorist attacks on the territory of the United States, and one of the most fear-focused presidential campaign seasons in living memory.

Through it all there is one underlying thread that is not always given the attention it deserves: the increased political straightjacketing and threatened loss of individual liberty.

Let us be frank. Race relations may not be what they were, say, fifty or sixty years ago, but it remains a fact that tensions and conflicts still abound in the interactions between people of differing racial and ethic backgrounds in the U.S.

The Legacies of Collectivism

The legacy of cultural, social and economic history dies hard, and this is true not only for the United States, but around the world. For thousands of years people everywhere lived their lives in often tightly knit tribal and collective groups with narrow definitions of group identity.

The notion of freeing ourselves of many aspects of these tribal and collective identities is a relatively new concept. It is really only about three or four hundred years old in terms of having a manifested impact on human society. And it started in only one corner of the world, in parts of Western Europe, where the idea of philosophical and political individualism slowing began to take hold.

The individual came to be seen as the central character of human existence, and not the feudal estate, or the religious order, or the nation-state. The individual before this was viewed as someone whose role, if not very existence, was as an entity to work, obey, sacrifice, and if necessary die for the collective to which he belonged. His interests were considered subservient to and always in potential conflict with the tribal or collective good.

Individualism, Individual Rights, and the Free Society

The emerging philosophy of individual rights turned collectivism on its head. The premise of this new idea was, of course, captured in the American Declaration of Independence, when it spoke of the individual’s inalienable right to his life, his liberty, and his pursuit of happiness.

The tribe or group was not seen as an ethereal entity with an existence separate from and independent of the individuals who made up some society. Society slowly came to be seen as the short-hand summary expression for the interconnected associations and relationships of individual human beings as they went about their peaceful, honest and productive everyday activities of attempting to improve their own lives and that of others than may care about.

We do not always appreciate the radicalness of this idea. The individual is not the property, the slave, and the sacrificial animal of a group that may do virtually anything it likes with him when it serves the declared “higher purposes” and “needs” of that group. He owns himself. He lives for himself. He finds purpose, meaning, value and happiness for himself.

This does not mean that he is an “island unto himself,” an “atomistic being,” as some critics of individualism have attempted to portray this idea. What it does mean is that the individual is free to form his own peaceful, voluntary, and mutually agreed to associations and relationships that advance his purposes, meanings, values and peace-of-mind through which he strives to have a sense of fulfillment for his life.

It is not imposed, commanded, or coerced upon him. In this view of man and society, government is not an enforcer of some asserted “common good,” or “general welfare” or “national purpose,” to which the individual shall be confined and made to conform. Government is merely a human agency – an important one, no doubt – whose purpose is to protect each individual’s right to his life, liberty and honestly acquired property; not a violator or abuser of those rights.

 

Racial Relations and the Ideal of Individualism

In America, one of the worst carry-overs of the collectivist mindset from the Old World was slavery, and made even more group identifiable since it ended up being based on race in the form of enslaved Africans brought to colonial America and then the United States.

The southern States that seceded from the Union in 1860 and 1861 may have made their case on the right of states to withdraw from the Union; but the primary motivation for their decision to do so, if you read the explanations of secession as publicly made by the state governments of South Carolina, Georgia, or Mississippi, for example, was the perceived threats from the North to the institution of slavery.

A hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, some residues of that forced human association still linger in our society. This past year it was seen in a series of racial conflicts in a number of places around the country from allegations of police misuse of force on the streets of some American cities to the murder of innocent people during a Bible study in the basement of a church.

But we should not forget just how different social, cultural and racial attitudes were and have been changing in many people’s lifetime. To pick one example, when black actor Richard Roundtree had a shower scene with a white woman in the 1971 movie, Shaft, it was considered a step beyond the publicly acceptable. Now on the television show, Scandal, the black female lead has affairs – near simultaneously – with two white men, one of who is the president of the United States, and that has become a cultural yawn. Times have changed, and it has become so much the “new normal” that we forget how much of a difference a few decades have made.

It would have been and is difficult enough for people to overcome their tribal and group senses of identity even in a free society based on individual rights and impartial and equal rule of law. This has been made even more difficult by the heavy-hand of government that been reintroducing definitions of identity based on race and ethnicity.

Racial Tensions and Repoliticized Collectivism

Affirmative action, government set-aside programs and subsidies for “minority” groups, and various group rights based on racial and ethnic classification all have acted as reactionary political processes reawakening people’s group-oriented sense of who they are due to how the government uses its power to tax, spend, redistribute, and regulate to benefit some such groups at perceived cost or disadvantage to others.

This has reversed, in my opinion, some of the noticeable advances that had been and were being made, slowly-but-surely within these minority groups and between groups. It is the continued and renewed politicization of race relations, I would argue, that has made this problem a continuing sore in American society.

However imperfectly in practice, the American ideal was to look at and judge people as individuals. Now we are back to the tribal idea that we judge and reward people on their collective identity as pronounced as deserving “special treatment,” at the expense of others. All of this, of course, occurs in a political process of manipulation, propaganda, and control to benefit politicians desiring to have or retain high political office and special interest groups who feed off real and exaggerated grievances that justify their own position and power.

Terrorist Fears and American Foreign Interventions

The other greatly intensified social concern is the pervasive fear of domestic terrorism after the tragic events in Paris and San Bernardino. Here, too, the concern for personal and public safety threatens a further loss of individual freedom and personal privacy from prying political eyes.

Concerned about religious and political fanatics in far-off parts of the world who commit primitive and barbaric acts of torture and murder in the name of God, and who then bring it to areas outside of the Middle East in the form of mass killings, many Americans and Europeans are ready to raise the drawbridge, build walls and narrow even more people’s ability to freely move around the world.

However, what many ordinary Americans and almost all of those active in the political arena are unwilling to seriously consider is that a good part of what we have been experiencing is the unintended consequence of American and European foreign intervention in parts of the Islamic world.

American political and military intervention in the Middle East has been going on for decades. We have propped up some dictators and monarchs and opposed and fought against others. We have toppled regimes, most recently, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and are increasingly being draw into the civil war in Syria. And in the process we have unhinged political and cultural balancing acts that may very well be based on coercion and corruption, but nevertheless, reflected the situations on the ground in those countries.

 

Making Enemies as Governments are Toppled

Overthrowing or undermining those governments have released religious, ideological and political demons that have set loose a whirlwind of death, destruction and brutality, as well as general societal destabilization.

The old adage says, the friend of my enemy is my enemy. American and European intervention in these countries inevitably and inescapably involves viewing some as the “good” (or “better”) guys and others as the “bad” (or more “worse) guys.

Those who are rejected as our “friends” not surprisingly soon come to view us as their “enemy.” And when it is in a situation in which the demon forces set loose include some of the worst features of religious intolerance and absolutism, we should not be surprised if their madness and brutal practices are eventually directed against us, as they see American political and military power as a threat to their own designs within their part of the world.

The emotional response is to seal off America to prevent the madmen from coming in, and to want to go worth and crush them at their source through some form of additional political and military intervention.

In the process we threaten and reduce our own freedom. In the name of “national security,” all must be placed under the umbrella of comprehensive surveillance and intrusion into anyone’s personal affairs and communications. Everyone is to be subject to search and travel restrictions. Everyone must be expected to be an “informer,” ever watchful and reporting on one’s neighbor’s activities if they seem “suspicious.” Everyone is further put under the microscope of government observation and extended control – just in case there is “something” the security apparatus needs to know to prevent another violent tragedy.

That our own government’s foreign interventions bring at least some, if not all, of this on us is so politically sensitive and charged with negative consequences for those in political power, that it is shunted aside as the out-of-date and “unrealistic” ramblings of “isolationists.”

Classical liberals, libertarians, and some non-interventionist conservatives have never argued for “isolationism.” They have traditionally called for the widest possible “open borders” and free movement of goods, men, money, and ideas to bring about mutual betterment and improvement in the material, cultural and social conditions of all human beings everywhere.

What they have opposed are political and military entanglements and interventions that thrust America into the affairs of other countries with harmful effects, often, on the people in those foreign lands as well as financial costs, lost lives and reduced freedom for Americans at home.

 

Our Terrorism Fears are Costing Us Freedom

Finally, the character of the current American presidential election cycle does not bode well for the cause of liberty, either. Putting aside the personalities of the candidates, their personal attacks on each other, or the circus-like quality of the television debates, the discussions have primarily revolved around how better to limit the freedom of people in the name of border and immigration control or to fight the “war on terror.”

The arguments are not focused on how best to limit or prevent criminals or terrorists from entering the country within the context of Constitutional respect for and guarantee of Americans’ individual rights or the reasonable right of human beings in general to freely move for any and every peaceful purpose they wish to pursue.

No, the discourse is more on the hysteria of fear that because we can never be sure to have found every terrorist needle in the migration haystack, it is best to devise ways to limit or even prevent people from freely entering the country and peacefully interacting with Americans for lawful and mutually beneficial trades and associations. A Berlin Wall in reverse is the imagery that keeps people out, and throws out any that are placed on the government’s list of reasons why they cannot stay, even if it has nothing to do with violence or crime.

There are numerous domestic crimes and acts of violence that very possibly could be reduced or even eliminated in some cases if local, state and Federal government policing agents were not expected and required to recognize, follow and respect Constitutional restraints on violations of the freedom and privacy of people such as those codified in the Bill of Rights.

We accept that sometimes “bad things” will happen; even very bad things. But we take that as part of the price and the cost of our liberty. We should take exactly the same attitude and view when it comes to any issues surrounding violence and crime that may sometimes happen as a result of those who enter the United States from other parts of the world. It is part of the price and cost of being a free country different from many of those abroad that we rightly condemn and criticize for their own lack of practicing freedom.

We should take the lessons of the last year and try to do better in understanding, respecting and protecting our liberty, before another year passes and we have even less than the new year begins with.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Cut Meat Consumption to Combat Climate Change? Bah, Humbug!

Somewhat Reasonable - December 30, 2015, 9:51 AM

Climate change activists are disappointed with the Paris agreement because, in the words of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, it doesn’t go “far enough.”

High on their list of policy goals is a tax on meat, akin to tobacco and alcohol “sin taxes.”

The theory is that meat, especially beef, is disproportionately responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and if we were able to change how people eat, primarily in wealthier countries like the U.S., we could take a significant bite out of climate change.

A blueprint to achieve the meat tax is laid out in a November report by Chatham House, a London-based think tank. The group concedes that the issue is “complex.”

Yet it advises governments to push for the taxes through publicly funded public relations campaigns which make the matter appear clear-cut, because “publics respond best to simple messages.”

This is an unusual recommendation for a group known for promoting open debate.

For radical animal rights groups and puritanical health crusaders, promoting vegetarian diets is, well, a red-meat issue. But the environmental case against meat is a stretch, requiring fuzzy math and politicized science.

Those backing the taxes cite the United Nation’s Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model, or GLEAM, which concluded in 2013 that livestock, including beef, milk production, and poultry, accounts for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the model was not developed as fodder for anti-meat campaigns, but rather as a tool to guide the livestock industry toward more sustainable production.

Using GLEAM as scientific evidence to argue against meat consumption is as far-fetched as it would be to fight organic agriculture because it relies on manure, a source of methane and nitrous oxide, both greenhouse gases. No wonder advocates want to keep their messaging simple.

The idea that reducing meat consumption would make both humans and the earth healthier is challenged by consideration of the environmental impact of alternatives.

For instance, almonds, a darling of health food advocates, are highly water-intensive. The U.N. hasn’t yet calculated the water-footprint of your almond milk-based smoothie.

So what would be the environmental impact if we did reduce our caloric intake and shifted to the U.S. government’s dietary guidelines?

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University evaluated just that. In a study published in Environment Systems and Decisions last month, such a change “increases energy use by 38 percent, blue water footprint by 10 percent, and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 6 percent.”

Or, as the British newspaper The Independent reported it, “Lettuce is ‘three times worse than bacon’ for emissions and vegetarian diets could be bad for environment.”

Of course, replacing lettuce for meat and comparing emissions on a calorie-for-calorie basis is absurd. But it underscores a relevant point: meat is actually nutrient dense — and tasty.

The report explains, “these perhaps counterintuitive results are primarily due to USDA recommendations for greater caloric intake of fruits, vegetables, dairy and fish/seafood, which have relatively high resource use and emissions per calorie.”

This isn’t the first study to challenge the simplistic “meat is bad for the environment” claim.

According to a recent study from the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems, “An iso-caloric shift from the current average U.S. diet to USDA dietary recommendations could result in a 12 percent increase in diet-related GHG emissions, whereas a shift that includes a decrease in caloric intake, based on the needs of the population — assuming moderate activity, results in a small, 1 percent decrease in diet-related GHG emissions.”

The lesson: if you want to advocate for meat taxes, follow the advice of the experts and keep it simple. Otherwise, the science will get in the way of your agenda.

Jeff Stier is director of the risk analysis division of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. He earned his law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and served two terms as editor-in-chief of the Cardozo Law Forum. Readers may write him at 20 F Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington DC 20001. Follow him on Twitter @JeffAStier. This essay is available to Tribune News Service subscribers. Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of Tribune or its editors.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

There’s a Huge New Demand for Guns — Not from Fear of Confiscation, but for Self-Protection

Somewhat Reasonable - December 30, 2015, 6:51 AM

Something has changed.

Last week my wife said to me, “I think I’d like to get a gun.” By which she meant a gun she can carry with her. If my wife were from Texas, this might not be surprising. But she is from Australia, a country which for two decades has had restrictive firearms laws and whose citizens largely do not understand Americans’ commitment to protecting gun rights.

She has long been politely but barely tolerant of my interest in guns, of the fact that I have more than a few of them, and of my treating target practice as something important, not simply a sport or hobby — though it is those things as well. She has gone from forbearing to interested, an evolution I never expected to witness.

I asked my wife — now an American citizen — what spurred her interest in something which had previously frightened her. The intensity of her answer, even more than the words themselves, surprised me: “San Bernardino has convinced me that as long as Barack Obama is president, terrorists will be emboldened. And I’m afraid that as long as Barack Obama is president they will have an easier time getting into the country than they should.”

President Obama has spent years trying and failing to jawbone the American people into yet another “fundamental transformation” of the nation, namely to forsake the Second Amendment and to abandon a real, if not equally geographically distributed, “gun culture” — a term which liberals and other foreigners use as a pejorative but which I mean as nothing more than a recognition of a tradition with deep historical, pragmatic and, yes, political roots.

Meanwhile, the most anti-gun president in our nation’s history has created a boom in gun and ammunition sales and a massive bull market in the stock prices of firearms manufacturers.

In the past year, the share price of gunmaker Smith & Wesson (SWHC) is up nearly 120 percent, with competitor Sturm, Ruger (RGR) up over 60 percent. The Russell 2000 “small-cap” index, which both companies’ stocks are included in, is down 2 percent over that same time. Since Barack Obama was first elected president in November 2008, SHWC and RGR have each gained roughly 800 percent, six times the gain in the Russell 2000 during the reign of our gun-hating president, adding nearly $2 billion in wealth to their shareholders. (Note to self: Short the gun stocks if a Republican wins in 2016.) Other major gun companies such as Browning, Winchester, and Remington are privately owned and there is no “pure play” ammunition company to track.

I interviewed the manager of a prominent Denver area gun store, training center, and shooting range to discuss the current state of his industry. We shall use the initials GM for him as he preferred to remain anonymous.

Ross Kaminsky: Thinking about “runs on guns” in recent years, such as after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, how does the current increase in sales compare?

Gun Store Manager: The aftermath of the Newtown shooting was an immediate and concentrated period of intense buying of both guns and ammo. I personally attribute a significant portion of that to the political climate as the political class started to immediately jockey for the moral high ground and we saw people buying guns “while they could” before more restrictive legislation was put in place.

We basically sold out of ARs and popular handguns in a couple weeks in December 2012. [The AR-15 is a military-style rifle, usually chambered in .223 caliber, tremendously fun to shoot and squarely in the category that the left calls “assault weapons.”] Our main focus for 2013 ended up being “how do we find enough merchandise (mainly guns and ammo) to have something (anything) to sell?” There was just no merchandise readily available for months.

After the most recent Paris terrorist attack we started to see some more interest in guns, ammo, and training. After the San Bernardino terror attack, it picked up exponentially. In terms of last year to this year, we are over double the gun sales for Dec 1-8 year to year.

RK: It seems to me that people buying guns now who didn’t buy after President Obama was elected or after Newtown are people who never took “gun-grab by government” seriously and probably still don’t. Therefore I would suspect they’re motivated simply by wanting to be able to protect themselves. Are you getting that sense from customers?

GM: Well, we are seeing people buying guns in bigger numbers, but it also seems that those people who bought in prior years may now be looking for training. My opinion is whereas they have previously bought their guns “while they could” they may now be thinking that with all the terrorist attacks on soft targets, and the “mass shootings” and the seemingly ever-increasing stories of violent attacks — such as home invasions, carjackings, and group attacks on individuals — they need more confidence in their ability to actually use their guns should the need arise. We have also seen a lot of interest in Concealed Carry training and CCW-oriented handguns.

[A call to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office (the county in which this gun store is located) confirmed that applications for new CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) permits are up about 10 percent year-over-year, with a large spike in the last several days. Similarly, Boulder County, not home to many gun enthusiasts, has received more applications in the first nine days of December this year than in the entire month of December 2014. The Boulder County spokesperson noted insightfully that “While the prior freak-outs were about fear of government taking guns away, this freak-out is different; it’s really about self-protection.” In Boulder, of all places. Something has indeed changed.]

RK: What sort of guns are people particularly looking for?

GM: As I said, we are seeing a lot of “CCW guns” being sold. Small, easy to conceal guns that are specifically designed for CCW. Since 2013, we have seen AR sales pretty stagnant. There does seem to be a slight resurgence in AR sales as we are seeing sales across the board picking up with recent events. AR sales may be driven by the idea of needing defense against a superior force as opposed to just a one-on-one confrontation. Hard to know for sure.

RK: What’s going up more in percentage terms: gun sales or concealed carry class registrations?

GM: In rough numbers, our gun sales have doubled (over last year) for the first 8 days of December, while we have seen sales of training classes roughly quadruple. Pure speculation, but it really does seem that people, especially new(er) gun owners, are trying to prepare to actually use their guns to defend themselves. [“Training classes” includes beginning and advanced courses in firearm use and tactics as well as CCW training.]

RK: What are you seeing in terms of the behavior of women buyers and women taking classes?

GM: For some time, women have been more likely to take up shooting. It has been a growth segment in our industry for at least several years now. With the recent increase in sales, we are continuing to see women looking for handguns (much more so than ARs). And recently, even more emphasis on CCW than before. Again, my opinion would be that people in general, and women specifically, are coming to terms with the fact that it is becoming more likely they would actually have to use a firearm in their own defense.

RK: How do you think about these recent waves of buying interest? Does the current buying presage a stronger gun market in the future or is it a rush to satisfy demand that otherwise would have stretched out for longer, implying that when it slows down it may slow down even more than it otherwise might have and put a lot of pressure on some gun shops?

GM: Gun sales has really always been a “boom and bust” business to some degree. I think with all the changes in media, people are plugged in to news on a minute-to-minute basis. When a politician says something about increasing gun control it makes headlines now. That sort of pressure seems to be creating big spikes in the market place. December of 2012, after the Newtown shooting, it was chaos selling guns. It seemed that every conduit was overtaxed. The brick and mortar retailer, the online gun and ammo sellers, distributors, manufacturers, even the regulators (background checks were stretched into weeks here in Colorado!) were overmatched by the buying public. The power of the (gun) consumer crushed the system and it took up to 24 months to catch up in some ways.

This recent sales increase is more of a swell, still gaining momentum, but not the huge spike we saw at the end of 2012. Events that may happen in the next weeks or months will determine whether or not we see a larger and/or sustained increase in firearm and related merchandise (and training) sales. After 2012/2013, many of us in the firearms industry are just trying to make good business decisions in a very volatile marketplace.

RK: Finally, what other aspects of the business do you think are most interesting and might not be obvious to a civilian…?

GM: I do not think the average gun buyer understands how difficult it is to provide the goods and services they are looking for in our industry. Trying to forecast sales, and to commit, sometimes millions of dollars, to a business strategy in this environment is treacherous. For example, when Colorado imposed its magazine [capacity] restrictions in March of 2013, we ended up with tens of thousands of dollars of merchandise that was unsaleable.

There was no financial consideration given to those of us who brought in product in good faith and then had the rules changed within a matter of months. We still have thousands of dollars in merchandise that we cannot sell legally in Colorado to this day. We are expending energy (and financial resources) to try and sell this merchandise through other channels, but with the limited margins available, it is still ultimately a significant loss for us.

The heavy regulatory climate and the volatility of the marketplace — in no small part due to political forces — make this the most challenging business I have ever been associated with.

•••••

We can only wonder if President Obama broods over his inability to transform us into a nation of sheeple who revere the United Nations Charter over the United States Constitution, who put their faith in government rather than in self-reliance, and who couldn’t hunt down a meal for themselves if their lives literally depended on it.

Of the many things he has failed at, that is one worth celebrating.

But a symptom of his greatest failure, the failure to perform the most fundamental duty of his office, to wit: the failure to aggressively prosecute, or even recognize, the “war on terror” even as our enemies continue to attack us at every opportunity, is that my Australian-born wife now wants her own concealed-carry handgun.

It’s a small symptom representing a profound change.

At least in my family, the one fundamental transformation Barack Obama has accomplished is the last thing he would ever have wanted.

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Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Education Issues Around the Country

Blog - Education - December 29, 2015, 11:00 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Research Fellow Heather Kays appears on the “Freedom Works Show” on Tantalk1340 in Florida with host Paul Molloy. Kays was on to talk about the various education related issues that are taking place around the country.

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

 

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Education Issues Around the Country

Somewhat Reasonable - December 29, 2015, 11:00 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Research Fellow Heather Kays appears on the “Freedom Works Show” on Tantalk1340 in Florida with host Paul Molloy. Kays was on to talk about the various education related issues that are taking place around the country.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Make a year-end donation to R Street, get a free gift!

Out of the Storm News - December 29, 2015, 10:54 AM

Get the mug everyone has been talking about. Make a tax-deductible donation to R Street of $50 or more and we’ll send you your choice of these premium drinking vessels.


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Roundup: Cold Water on Global Warming

Environment Suite - In The News - December 29, 2015, 10:37 AM
Home / Faith / This is fascinating evidence that the theory of appreciable, man-caused climate change may be a bunch of hot air: Exclusive: NOAA Relies on…

Roundup: Cold Water on Global Warming

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - December 29, 2015, 10:37 AM
Home / Faith / This is fascinating evidence that the theory of appreciable, man-caused climate change may be a bunch of hot air: Exclusive: NOAA Relies on…

GOP Energy Report Card 2015

Somewhat Reasonable - December 29, 2015, 10:09 AM

Last year, when Republicans gained a decisive edge in both houses of Congress, I made predictions as to the six energy-policy changes we could expect—as the two parties have very different views on energy issues. I closed that column with these words: “It is going to be an interesting two years. If the Republican policies turn the economy around—offering a sharp contrast to the stagnation of the past six years, they will pave the way for victory in 2016.”

We are now halfway through the “two years” in which I expected the changes to take place.  Here’s where American energy policy now stands.

Keystone Pipeline—B grade

As predicted, the GOP got right to work backing the Keystone pipeline. The House had already passed several bills aimed at getting the project built, but with a Republican Majority Leader in control in the Senate, Harry Reid (D-NV) could no longer prevent a vote. With strong bipartisan support, on February 11 Congress passed the bill approving construction. Though many Democrats—often from states with strong Union membership—crossed the aisle and voted with the Republicans, the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act fell a handful of votes short of making it veto-proof. As expected, two weeks later, President Obama vetoed the bill.

Having communicated with TransCanada representatives, the company behind the Keystone construction, and Union officials—and having oft addressed its benefits—I was optimistic that some late night arm twisting would bring the needed Democrats on board, but on March 4, the vote to override the veto failed.

While the bill ultimately failed, my projection was accurate: understanding the impact the Keystone pipeline would have had on job creation and energy security, Republicans made the Keystone pipeline a high priority. (Note: Obama’s claim that “The Keystone pipeline is for oil that bypasses the United States” qualified for the Washington Post’s list of “The biggest Pinocchios of 2015.” But, try discussing the pipeline with an opponent and you’ll repeatedly hear that claim.)

Oil Exports—A-grade

Throughout the year, talk of lifting the decades-old oil export ban gained momentum. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) introduced H.R. 702, a bill to adapt to changing crude oil market conditions, in February. On September 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to send the legislation to the full House for final passage—which took place on October 9.

As with Keystone, the bill had bipartisan support, though many Democrats opposed it. Comments made in the House chambers before the vote reflected the partisan divide on energy issues. Opposing the bill, Democrats grandstanded saying it would put more money in the pockets of big oil. In contrast, Republicans understand that successful businesses hire people. With the current low-priced oil environment, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in the oil industry. Lifting the ban helps by providing new markets for U.S. oil and eliminating the discount American producers have had to accept for their product.

Should the bill make it to Obama’s desk, the White House, as always, threatened a veto.

Despite passing another committee vote in early October, the Senate didn’t take up the bill. Lifting the ban, however, was included in the omnibus-spending package that Obama quickly signed on December 18.

With the ban now officially overturned, the spread between the global benchmark price, known as Brent, and the U.S. benchmark, known as WTI (for West Texas Intermediate), has virtually disappeared. Within a matter of days, the first shipment of U.S. crude will be heading overseas—to Switzerland.

Climate Change—B Grade

Last year, I wrote: “The Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Chairmanship will change from one of the biggest supporters of Obama’s climate change agenda (Senator Barbara Boxer [D-CA]) to the biggest opponent of his policies (Senator Jim Inhofe [R-OK]).” With that change, we’ve heard a different tune coming from The Hill.

Days before the U.N. conference on climate change took place in Paris, the Senate held a hearing and passed resolutions designed to let the world know that Obama did not have the support of the U.S. Senate—which would be needed for any legally binding treaty. While Obama would surely veto any such legislation, the New York Times reported: “proponents believe their defiance will have diplomatic repercussions.” In a statement following the vote, Senator Inhofe said: “The message could not be more clear that Republicans and Democrats in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House do not support the president’s climate agenda and the international community should take note.”

The plan was successful; the “international community” took note. It is believed that the Republican drumbeat, prompted the European Union to back off of its insistence that any carbon goals in the final agreement need to be legally binding. The agreement that was ultimately reached in Paris is, according to the New York Times, “essentially voluntary.”

Polls taken just days before the Paris conference indicate that only 3 percent of Americans believe that climate change is the most important issue facing the country and that a wide majority of voters “oppose the government investigating and prosecuting scientists and others including major corporations who question global warming.”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—C grade

The EPA didn’t get defunded in the December 18 spending bill, as many had hoped, but it didn’t get a budget increase while many other departments did. It is considered a “loser.” Funding levels for the EPA in 2016 are at a level lower than 2010, but on par with 2015.

The agency has received several smack downs in 2015 from federal courts—including putting its onerous Waters of the U.S. Rule on hold. Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the focus of the Senate’s resolutions, is facing numerous lawsuits, including one of the newest from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and may also be awarded a stay. This is surely an issue to watch in 2016.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA)—D grade

One of the big concerns for anyone in the West who earns a living from the land—ranching, farming, mining and mineral extraction, or who benefits from the results (food, fuel, and fiber)—has been the potential listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. While it did not get listed, and the omnibus deal blocks the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from putting it on the Endangered Species list, the Bureau of Land Management has enacted land use plans that that will likely have many of the same effects of listing under the Act. It is time for ESA reform.

Federal Lands—D grade

This final issue saw little action in 2015, but with the anti-fossil fuel movement’s aggressive plans to keep resources in the ground, especially on federal lands, this one is ripe for attention from the GOP-controlled Congress—led by Rep. Bob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Resources Committee. Addressing the nearly one-third of the U.S. owned by the federal government, Bishop recently stated: “Whether they know it or not, every person is affected by the mammoth federal land ownership in this country.” Bishop has created a “Federal Footprint Map” that he hopes will “play a vital educational role as Congress evaluates and responds to executive actions and debates related policy reforms.”

For 2016, Congress will need to stay on top of Obama’s rules, regulations, and executive orders aimed at burnishing his legacy on climate change. It should also rein in the EPA, reform the ESA, and work to reduce the amount of land owned by the federal government.

Let’s hope for more positive movement in 2016—including a new resident in the White House, who understands the important role energy plays in making America great.

Categories: On the Blog

The Year of Hysteria

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - December 29, 2015, 9:50 AM
We should be glad that 2015 is passing into memory, because it was a year when we could barely hold it together. It was a year when we freaked out over symbols…

Victor Davis Hanson - The Death of Gratitude

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - December 29, 2015, 9:23 AM
The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero insisted that gratitude was “the parent of all the other virtues.” Cicero did not define gratitude as Mafia-like…
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