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EPA Won’t Turn Over Mine Spill Docs to Congressional Committee

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 3:57 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency may have spilled millions of gallons of toxic waste into a Colorado river, but EPA officials see no need to share any official documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine disaster, leaving Congressional investigators and Colorado residents in the dark.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee gave the EPA until this morning to hand over pertinent materials related to their “cleanup” operations in Colorado’s mine country. At the deadline, the EPA failed to turn over even a single document.

Via Watchdog.org:

A congressional committee blasted the Environmental Protection Agency today for blocking release of documents related to the Gold King mine disaster, which poured deadly chemicals into the largest source of drinking water in the West.

“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House Science Committee’s reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). “These documents are essential to the Committee’s ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on Sept. 9. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states, who are still waiting for answers from the EPA.”

Congressional investigators are most concerned with why the EPA failed to notify people living along the Animus Rivers’ banks that their drinking water, which they also give to cattle and other livestock, was contaminated with heavy metals and other mine remnants. They would also like to know why the EPA has failed to identify the contractor responsible for the EPA’s “cleanup operation,” as well as why EPA head Gina McCarthy jetted off to Japan for a “Climate Change” conference, while there was a massive environmental disaster brewing at home.

Congress will hold a hearing on September 9th, to address the EPA’s malfeasance in both the initial mine cleanup effort and in the weeks that followed. State Senators in Utah are also investigating whether the EPA’s negligence was part of a plan to declare parts of Colorado and Utah a ‘Superfund’ site, triggering special federal regulatory power over the area, as well as special funding for the EPA.

Categories: On the Blog

The elephant in the room: The GOP’s tech dilemma

Out of the Storm News - August 25, 2015, 3:54 PM

Fifteen months ahead of the presidential election, a number of the 17 Republicans vying for their party’s nomination have invested considerable energy courting Silicon Valley. These candidates are boldly attempting to articulate a coherent understanding of the issues facing the technology industry.

This makes sense: what’s been seen traditionally as a Democratic stronghold ought to be ripe for the Republican taking. After all, it’s easy to frame the success of the Internet as an excellent manifestation of the conservative ideology that free markets and limited regulation spur economic growth and upward mobility.

Yet none of the Republican candidates has demonstrated a coherent technology-policy agenda. Despite all the overtures, the latest quarter’s financial filings revealed “most tech industry bigwigs are throwing cash at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.”

This isn’t because Hillary Clinton has a better tech agenda or better tech instincts than Republicans. Her comparative fundraising success is likely attributable primarily to the tech community’s own instinct that it’s better to trust the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

It’s clear that Republicans want to win Silicon Valley’s affection, whether it’s former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hailing an Uber; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., hanging out at SXSW; or Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., suggesting he would be “a new president for a new age.” Despite these photo-ops, careful evaluation of the candidates’ positions on issues important to startups, tech hubs, innovators and Internet giants show the Republican field is conspicuously out of step.

Surveillance

For some of the Republican candidates, the primary issue is an unwillingness to challenge the surveillance state. This may be due in part to a desire to preserve the party’s brand as a home for security hawks and in part to avoid appearing soft on Edward Snowden. Whatever one thinks of Snowden personally, there’s no dispute that his disclosures about the National Security Agency set off a national debate about the balance of security and privacy. These very real privacy concerns have resulted in significant economic fallout for the tech sector, as consumers and the international community lose confidence about the ability of U.S. firms to secure their data.

This summer, after much deliberation, the House and Senate passed the USA FREEDOM Act.  Swiftly signed into law by President Barack Obama, the law ends the bulk collection of phone metadata. This reform did not address all surveillance concerns, but it did represent a substantial and balanced approach to curtail the abusive spying undertaken by the government.

While the tech community universally praised the legislation, the GOP’s presidential candidates for the most part opposed efforts to rein in the NSA. Ignoring Silicon Valley, Sen. Rubio called for a “permanent extension” of the PATRIOT Act and voted against the reform. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker echoed Rubio, saying the nation “would be much better off” without the USA FREEDOM Act. Not to be outdone, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie famously defended the NSA, explaining that critics of mass spying should talk to families of the 9/11 victims.

Only two of the GOP candidates aligned with the tech community against the unwarranted mass surveillance of Americans. Sen. Paul didn’t vote for final passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, because he didn’t think it went far enough, but he did rally privacy supporters with his efforts on the Senate floor that helped bring about reform. Fellow privacy hawk Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, showed solidarity with Paul during his filibuster, even though he ultimately voted in favor of the USA FREEDOM Act.

Innovation

Last year, the conservative-leaning Young Guns Network published a paper titled “Room to Grow,” designed to serve as a conservative blueprint for an “innovative agenda that empowers individuals by increasing competition and replacing failed government policies.” In the report, American Enterprise Institute scholar James Pethokoukis correctly identified a problem hindering so many in the tech community. In his essay, “Regulatory and financial reforms to combat cronyism and modernize our economy” Pethokoukis explained: “over the years, copyright and patent law has evolved into cronyist protection of the revenue streams of powerful incumbent companies—a type of regulation that hampers innovation and entrepreneurship.”

This resonates as true in tech hubs across the country where many entrepreneurs are struggling to fight patent trolls as they develop new software and services. These “trolls” are companies that take advantage of the patent system to amass huge troves of weak and broad patents and make money by threatening lawsuits against legitimate new startups and entrepreneurs. Not only are patent trolls costing the economy $29 Billion a year, but the struggle against meritless patent litigation was even satirized front-and-center in the HBO hit comedy Silicon Valley.

Unfortunately, it appears the Republican candidates missed those episodes. For example, when pressed about his stance on patent reform in an interview with Tech Dirt, Rand Paul passed quickly over the issue, leading the author to conclude that fighting patent trolls “doesn’t appear to be of serious interest leading to Paul or his ilk.”

Of the other candidates, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has been the most vocal on the topic. Unfortunately, her stance has been to oppose patent reform. Fiorina attacked a Silicon Valley-supported legislation to rein in patent trolls, explaining, “these supposed reforms pose a dire threat to our notion of property rights.” The current reform effort – Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s INNOVATION Act – actually wouldn’t change substantive patent-law rights, but it would curb frivolous litigation costs and abuses.

Net neutrality

As access to the Internet has increased dramatically, there has been serious interest and debate over its future, quite often centered on the question of net neutrality. While the conversation in D.C. largely has been partisan, in Silicon Valley, there long has been vibrant, nuanced debate, both in favor of and in opposition to net-neutrality proposals.

Unfortunately, Republican candidates largely have been tone deaf on net neutrality. Rational people can disagree on the issue, but it isn’t helpful for branding when Ted Cruz calls net neutrality the “Obamacare of the Internet” or Jeb Bush says it the “craziest idea I’ve ever heard.” (There are some other pretty crazy ideas out there.)

If Republicans are serious about relating to the interests of Silicon Valley, they must learn to speak intelligently about the issues that matter to tech interests.

On a few subjects, they do. On the national level, Republicans have embraced the benefits of the sharing economy, notably in support of car-sharing services like Uber, although at the local level, Republicans and Democrats have been split fairly evenly in their support for and opposition to these innovations.

But the sharing economy is only one aspect of the tech revolution. Republicans should extend their celebration of free-market solutions into a comprehensive tech agenda. Some of these ideas were laid out by technology analyst Derek Khanna, who has written that conservatives should “create forward-leaning legislative policies to foster innovation, not uncertainty.”

The candidates would also do well to learn from their counterparts in Congress, who have deliberated on a host of issues of concern to the tech industry. While there are still areas where the stance of congressional Republicans (particularly on immigration) is unpopular in the Valley, many Republicans are working with their Democratic counterparts to make policy changes that will enhance the tech sector.

Most notable among these are Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who have been on the front lines on surveillance reform, patent policy and rebalancing copyright. This trio hasn’t hesitated to seek support for forward-thinking solutions, both within their caucus and across the aisle.

In the absence of strongly articulated pro-tech stances in the Democratic presidential field, 2016 has the potential to be a defining election for the Republican Party on the tech-policy front. But for GOP top-of-the-ticket candidates to win over new audiences and support, there must be a concerted effort to showcase a comprehensive agenda that will spur economic growth. There’s still time for Republicans to seize these issues, but the time is shorter than GOP leaders may like to think. We can only hope that, over the next year, more of the leading Republican candidates will step up to the challenge and frame a visionary path forward.

Oil’s Down, Gasoline Isn’t. What’s Up?

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 3:48 PM

A little more than a year ago, oil prices were above $100 a barrel. The national average for gasoline was in the $3.50 range. In late spring, oil was $60ish and the national average for gas was around $2.70. The price of a barrel of oil has plunged to $40 and below—yet, prices at the pump are just slightly less than they were when oil was almost double what it is today.

Oil and gasoline prices usually travel up or down in sync. But a few weeks ago the trend lines crossed and oil continued the sharp decline while gasoline has stayed steady—even increasing.

Oil’s down, gasoline isn’t. Consumers are wondering: “What’s up?”

Even Congress is grilling refiners over the disparity.

While, like most markets, the answer is complicated, there are some simple responses that even Congress should be able to understand. The short explanation is “refineries”—but there’s more to that and some other components, too.

Within the U.S. exists approximately 20 percent of the world’s refining capacity. Fuel News explains that “on a perfect day,” these domestic facilities could process more than 18 million barrels of crude oil. But due, in large part, to an anti-fossil fuel attitude, it is virtually impossible to get a new refinery permitted in America. Most refineries today are old—the newest major one was completed in 1977. Most are at least 40 years old and some are more than 100. Despite signs of aging, refining capacity has continued to grow. Instead of producing at 70 percent capacity, as they were as little as a decade ago, most now run at 90 percent. They’ve become Rube Goldberg contraptions that have been modified, added on to, and upgraded. The system is strained.

To keep operating, these mature refineries need regular maintenance—usually done on the shoulders of the busy driving seasons and when systems need to be reconfigured for the different winter and summer blends. Even then, things break. Sometimes a quick repair can keep it up and running until the scheduled maintenance—known as “turnaround.” Sometimes, not. Fixing the equipment failures on the aging facilities can take weeks.

This year, several unexpected maintenance issues happened in the spring. Other refineries worked overtime to make up the shortage. That, plus low crude prices, means that many refiners didn’t shutdown for the usual spring turnaround. Fuel News notes, potential profit encouraged refiners to “get while the getting’s good.”

This pedal-to-the-metal approach is catching up with the sagging systems. On August 8, BP’s Whiting, IN, refinery, the largest supplier of gasoline in the Midwest, faced an unplanned shutdown due to a leak and possible fire hazard in its Pipestill 12 distillation unit—which processes about 40 percent of its 413,000 barrel per day capacity.

The closure of the largest of Whiting’s three units caused an immediate jump in gasoline prices in the Midwest. Stockpiles were drawn down to fill demand during summer’s peak driving season. Gasoline has been moved—via pipeline, truck, and train—from other parts of the country to balance out supply. So, while the biggest price increase was in states like Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois, prices raised nationwide beginning on August 11.

Meanwhile, because the Whiting plant wasn’t sucking up crude oil, its supplies grew and drove crude prices down further—hitting a six-year low. The Financial Times reports: “An outage at Whiting’s main crude distillation unit could add almost 1m [million] barrels to Cushing [The OK oil trading and storage center] every four days as long as it is out.”

Making matters worse, another Midwest refinery, Marathon’s Robinson, IL, 212,000 barrels per day facility is down for repairs that are expected to take two months.

Others smaller outages include Philadelphia Energy Solutions and the Coffeyville Resources’ refinery in Kansas. BloombergBusiness states: “As many as seven other Midwest refineries could shut units for extended time this fall.” Though, other reports indicate that some of the planned maintenance may be put off due to profit margins that are at a seven-year high.

Adding to the price increases due to refinery issues, are two other factors—both having to do with the calendar.

First, we are almost to Labor Day, which is considered the end of the summer driving season. It is when families make that one last trip to the lake or to visit grandma—which always causes a jump in demand that tightens supplies. This year, with two big refineries down, the usual spike could well be exacerbated.

The other is hurricane season. While we are just past its peak, we’ve only had one hurricane so far: Hurricane Danny—which last week was barreling toward the Northern Caribbean islands, with potential to hit the refinery-rich Gulf Coast. On Friday August 21, it moved from Tropical Storm Danny to Category 3 Hurricane status. It has since weakened, but its presence caused risk and supply concerns.

High summer-driving demands and unscheduled refinery repairs have combined to reduce supply of gasoline, and raise the price, thus the need for crude oil—especially in the Midwest—is down. Crude oil inventories at the Cushing hub continue to increase and add to the current oversupply and slide in oil prices.

While there’s some other contributing factors, the current mix of supply and demand explains: “what’s up?” The lack of new refineries punishes the whole system. Gasoline prices are up—hurting consumers. Crude prices are down—hurting producers.

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

Climate Crisis, Inc.

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 2:10 PM

$1.5 trillion and Larry Bell book explain how profiteers of climate doom keep the money flowing

No warming in 18 years, no category 3-5 hurricane hitting the USA in ten years, seas rising at barely six inches a century: computer models and hysteria are consistently contradicted by Real World experiences.

So how do White House, EPA, UN, EU, Big Green, Big Wind, liberal media, and even Google, GE and Defense Department officials justify their fixation on climate change as the greatest crisis facing humanity? How do they excuse saying government must control our energy system, our economy and nearly every aspect of our lives – deciding which jobs will be protected and which ones destroyed, even who will live and who will die – in the name of saving the planet? What drives their intense ideology?

The answer is simple. The Climate Crisis & Renewable Energy Industry has become a $1.5-trillion-a-year business! That’s equal to the annual economic activity generated by the entire US nonprofit sector, or all savings over the past ten years from consumers switching to generic drugs. By comparison, annual revenues for much-vilified Koch Industries are about $115 billion, for ExxonMobil around $365 billion.

According to a 200-page analysis by the Climate Change Business Journal, this Climate Industrial Complex can be divided into nine segments: low carbon and renewable power; carbon capture and storage; energy storage, like batteries; energy efficiency; green buildings; transportation; carbon trading; climate change adaptation; and consulting and research. Consulting is a $27-billion-per-year industry that handles “reputation management” for companies and tries to link weather events, food shortages and other problems to climate change. Research includes engineering R&D and climate studies.

The $1.5-trillion price tag appears to exclude most of the Big Green environmentalism industry, a $13.4-billion-per-year business in the USA alone. The MacArthur Foundation just gave another $50 million to global warming alarmist groups. Ex-NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chesapeake Energy gave the Sierra Club $105 million to wage war on coal (shortly before the Club began waging war on natural gas and Chesapeake Energy, in what some see as poetic justice). Warren Buffett, numerous “progressive” foundations, Vladimir Putin cronies and countless companies also give endless millions to Big Green.

Our hard-earned tax dollars are likewise only partially included in the CCBJ tally. As professor, author and columnist Larry Bell notes in his new book, Scared Witless: Prophets and profits of climate doom, the U.S. government spent over $185 billion between 2003 and 2010 on climate change items – and this wild spending spree has gotten even worse in the ensuing Obama years. We are paying for questionable to fraudulent global warming studies, climate-related technology research, loans and tax breaks for Solyndra and other companies that go bankrupt, “climate adaptation” foreign aid to poor countries, and much more.

Also not included: the salaries and pensions of thousands of EPA, NOAA, Interior, Energy and other federal bureaucrats who devote endless hours to devising and imposing regulations for Clean Power Plans, drilling and coal mining bans, renewable energy installations, and countless Climate Crisis, Inc. handouts. A significant part of the $1.9 trillion per year that American businesses and families pay to comply with mountains of federal regulations is also based on climate chaos claims.

Add in the state and local equivalents of these federal programs, bureaucrats, regulations and restrictions, and we’re talking serious money. There are also consumer costs, including the far higher electricity prices families and businesses must pay, especially in states that want to prove their climate credentials.

The impacts on companies and jobs outside the Climate Crisis Industry are enormous, and growing. For every job created in the climate and renewable sectors, two to four jobs are eliminated in other parts of the economy, studies in Spain, Scotland and other countries have found. The effects on people’s health and welfare, and on overall environmental quality, are likewise huge and widespread.

But all these adverse effects are studiously ignored by Climate Crisis profiteers – and by the false prophets of planetary doom who manipulate data, exaggerate and fabricate looming catastrophes, and create the pseudo-scientific basis for regulating carbon-based energy and industries into oblivion. Meanwhile, the regulators blatantly ignore laws that might penalize their favored constituencies.

In one glaring example, a person who merely possesses a single bald eagle feather can be fined up to $100,000 and jailed for a year. But operators of the wind turbine that killed the eagle get off scot-free. Even worse, the US Fish & Wildlife Service actively helps Big Wind hide and minimize its slaughter of millions of raptors, other birds and bats every year. It has given industrial wind operators a five-year blanket exemption from the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Birds Treaty Act and Endangered Species Act. The FWS even proposed giving Big Wind a 30-year exemption.

Thankfully, the US District Court in San Jose, CA recently ruled that the FWS and Interior Department violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws, when they issued regulations granting these companies a 30-year license to kill bald and golden eagles. But the death tolls continue to climb.

Professor Bell’s perceptive, provocative, extensively researched book reviews the attempted power grab by Big Green, Big Government and Climate Crisis, Inc. In 19 short chapters, he examines the phony scientific consensus on global warming, the secretive and speculative science and computer models used to “prove” we face a cataclysm, ongoing collusion and deceit by regulators and activists, carbon tax mania, and many of the most prominent but phony climate crises: melting glaciers, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, disappearing species and declining biodiversity. His articles and essays do likewise.

Scared Witless also lays bare the real reasons for climate fanaticism, aside from lining pockets. As one prominent politician and UN or EPA bureaucrat after another has proudly and openly said, their “true ambition” is to institute “a new global order” … “ global governance” … “redistribution of the world’s resources” … an end to “hegemonic” capitalism … and “a profound transformation” of “attitudes and lifestyles,” energy systems and “the global economic development model.”

In other words, these unelected, unaccountable US, EU and UN bureaucrats want complete control over our industries; over everything we make, grow, ship, eat and do; and over every aspect of our lives, livelihoods, living standards and liberties. And they intend to “ride the global warming issue” all the way to this complete control, “even if the theory of global warming is wrong” … “even if there is no scientific evidence to back the greenhouse effect” … “even if the science of global warming is all phony.”

If millions of people lose their jobs in the process, if millions of retirees die from hypothermia because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly, if millions of Africans and Asians die because they are denied access to reliable, affordable carbon-based electricity – so be it. Climate Crisis, Inc. doesn’t care.

Free market principles do not apply, and free marketers need not apply. The global warming industry survives and thrives only because of secretive, fraudulent climate science; constant collusion between regulators and pressure groups; and a steady stream of government policies, regulations, preferences, subsidies and mandates – plus taxes and penalties on its competitors. CCI gives lavishly to politicians who keep the gravy train on track, while its attack dogs respond quickly, aggressively and viciously to anyone who dares to challenge its orthodoxies, perks, power and funding.

Climate change has been “real” throughout Earth and human history – periodically significant, sometimes sudden, sometimes destructive. It is driven by the sun and other powerful, complex, interacting natural forces that we still do not fully understand … and certainly cannot control. It has little or nothing to do with the carbon dioxide that makes plants grow faster and better, and is emitted as a result of using fossil fuels that have brought countless, wondrous improvements to our environment and human condition.

Climate Crisis, Inc. is a wealthy, nasty behemoth. But it is a house of cards. Become informed. Get involved. Fight back. And elect representatives – and a president – who also have the backbone to do so.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death, and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: Saving the world from the Save-the-Earth money machine.

Categories: On the Blog

California: “Land of Poverty”

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 2:01 PM

For decades, California’s housing costs have been racing ahead of incomes, as counties and local governments have imposed restrictive land-use regulations that drove up the price of land and dwellings. This has been documented by both Dartmouth economist William A Fischel and the state Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Middle income households have been forced to accept lower standards of living while less fortunate have been driven into poverty by the high cost of housing.Housing costs have risen in some markets compared to others that the federal government now publishes alternative poverty estimates (the Supplemental Poverty Measure), because the official poverty measure used for decades does not capture the resulting differentials. The latest figures, for 2013, show California’s housing cost adjusted poverty rate to be 23.4 percent, nearly half again as high as the national average of 15.9 percent.

Back in the years when the nation had a “California Dream,” it would have been inconceivable for things to have gotten so bad — particularly amidst what is widely hailed as a spectacular recovery. The 2013 data shows California to have the worst housing cost adjusted poverty rate among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. But it gets worse. California’s poverty rate is now more than 50 percent higher than Mississippi, which long has set the standard for extreme poverty in the United States (Figure 1).

The size of the geographic samples used to estimate the housing adjusted poverty rates are not sufficient for the Supplemental Poverty Measure to produce local, county level or metropolitan area estimates. However, a new similar measure makes that possible.

The California Poverty Measure                           

The Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality have collaborated to establish the “California Poverty Measure,” which is similar to the Supplemental Poverty Measure adjusted for housing costs.

The press release announcing release of the first edition (for 2011) said that: “California, often thought of as the land of plenty” in the words Center on Poverty and Inequality director Professor David Grusky, is “in fact the land of poverty.”

The latest California Poverty Measure estimate, for 2012, shows a statewide poverty rate of 21.8 percent, somewhat below the Supplemental Poverty Measure and well above the Official Poverty Measure that does not adjust for housing costs (16.5 percent).

The California Poverty Measure also provides data for most of California’s 58 counties, with some smaller counties combined due to statistical limitations. This makes it possible to estimate the California Poverty Measure for metropolitan areas, using American Community Survey data.

Metropolitan Area Estimates

By far the worst metropolitan area poverty rate was in Los Angeles, at 25.3 percent. The Los Angeles County poverty rate was the highest in the state at 26.1 percent, well above that of Orange County (22.4 percent), which constitutes the balance of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. However, the Orange County rate was higher than that of any other metropolitan area or region in the state (Figure 2). San Diego’s poverty rate was 21.7 percent. Perhaps surprisingly, Riverside-San Bernardino (the Inland Empire), which is generally perceived to have greater poverty, but with lower housing costs, had a rate of 20.9 percent. The two counties, Riverside and San Bernardino had lower poverty rates than all Southern California counties except for Ventura (Oxnard) and Imperial.

The San Francisco metropolitan area had a poverty rate of 19.4 percent, more than one-fifth below that of Los Angeles. San Jose has a somewhat lower poverty rated 18.3 percent (Note 1). The metropolitan areas making constituting the exurbs of the San Francisco Bay Area had a poverty rate of 18.7 percent. This includes Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Stockton and Vallejo. Sacramento had the lowest poverty rate of any major metropolitan area, at 18.2 percent.

The San Joaquin Valley, stretching from Bakersfield through Fresno to Modesto (Stockton is excluded because it is now a San Francisco Bay Area exurb) had a poverty rate of 21.3 percent, slightly below the state wide average of 21.8 percent. The balance of the state, not included in the metropolitan areas and regions described above had a poverty rate of 21.2 percent.

County Poverty Rates

As was noted above, Los Angeles County had the highest 2012 poverty rate in the state (Note 2), according to the California Poverty Measure (26.1 percent). Tulare County, in the San Joaquin Valley had the second-highest rate at 25.2 percent. Somewhat surprisingly, San Francisco County with its reputation for high income had the third worst poverty rate in the state at 23.4 percent. This is driven, at least in part, by San Francisco’s extraordinarily high median house price to household income ratio (median multiple). In this grisly statistic, it trails only Hong Kong, Vancouver and Sydney in the latest Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.Wealthy Santa Barbara County has the fourth worst poverty rate in the state, at 23.8 percent. The fifth highest poverty rate is in Stanislaus County, in the San Joaquin Valley (county seat Modesto), which is already receiving housing refugees from the San Francisco Bay Area, unable to pay the high prices (Figure 3).

The two lowest poverty rates were in suburban Sacramento counties (Note 2). Placer County’s rate was 13.2 percent and El Dorado County’s rate was 13.3 percent. Another surprise is Imperial County, which borders Mexico and has generally lower income. Nonetheless, Imperial County has the third lowest poverty rate at 13.4 percent. Shasta County (county seat Redding), located at the north end of the Sacramento Valley is ranked fourth at 14.8 percent. Two counties are tied for the fifth lowest poverty rate (16.0 percent), Marin County in suburban San Francisco and Napa County, in the exurban San Francisco Bay Area (Figure 4).

Weak Labor Market and Notoriously Expensive Housing

The original Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality press release cited California’s dismal poverty rate as resulting from “a weak labor market and California’s notoriously expensive housing.” These are problems that can be moderated starting at the top, with the Governor and legislature. The notoriously expensive housing could be addressed by loosening regulations that allow more supply to be built at lower cost. True, the new supply would not be built in Santa Monica or Palo Alto. But additional, lower cost housing on the periphery, whether in Riverside County, the High Desert exurbs of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, the San Francisco Bay Area exurbs or the San Joaquin Valley could begin to remedy the situation.

The improvement in housing affordability could help to strengthen the weak job market, by attracting both new business investment and households moving from other states.

Regrettably, Sacramento does not seem to be paying attention. Liberalizing land use regulations is not only absent from the public agenda, but restrictions are being strengthened (especially under the requirements of Senate Bill 375). In this environment, metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego could become even more grotesquely unaffordable, and the already high price to income ratios in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley could worsen. All of this could lead to slower economic growth and to even greater poverty, as more lower-middle-income households fall into poverty.

Note 1: San Benito County is excluded from the San Jose metropolitan area data. The California Poverty Measure does not report a separate poverty rate for San Benito County.

Note 2: Among the counties for which specific poverty rates are provided.

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.

Photograph: Great Seal of the State of California by Zscout370 at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

 

[Originally published at New Geography

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Heartland’s Move and the Candidates’ Views on Education

Blog - Education - August 25, 2015, 1:42 PM

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 Heartland’s move as well as where the presidential candidates stand on education issues.

The Heartland Institute recently relocated its office to Arlington Heights, a north-west suburb of Chicago. Kays calls in from the grand opening to talk to Molloy. Kays discusses some of the reasons for the move as well as some of the current education issues. Specifically, Kays breaks down candidate Jeb Bush’s stances and tells where he is right and where he is wrong.

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

 

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Heartland’s Move and the Candidates’ Views on Education

Somewhat Reasonable - August 25, 2015, 1:42 PM

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 Heartland’s move as well as where the presidential candidates stand on education issues.

The Heartland Institute recently relocated its office to Arlington Heights, a north-west suburb of Chicago. Kays calls in from the grand opening to talk to Molloy. Kays discusses some of the reasons for the move as well as some of the current education issues. Specifically, Kays breaks down candidate Jeb Bush’s stances and tells where he is right and where he is wrong.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Call for public access to Congressional Research Service reports

Out of the Storm News - August 25, 2015, 8:00 AM

We write in support of expanded public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. Longstanding congressional policy allows members and committees to use their websites to disseminate CRS products to the public, although CRS itself may not engage in direct public dissemination. This results in a disheartening inequity. Insiders with Capitol Hill connections can easily obtain CRS reports from any of the 20,000 congressional staffers and well-resourced groups can pay for access from subscription services. However, members of the public can access only a small subset of CRS reports that are posted on an assortment of not-for-profit websites on an intermittent basis. Now is the time for a systematic solution that provides timely, comprehensive free public access to and preservation of non-confidential reports, while protecting confidential communications between CRS and members and committees of Congress.

CRS reports—not to be confused with confidential CRS memoranda and other products—play a critical role in our legislative process by informing lawmakers and staff about the important issues of the day. The public should have the same access to information. In 2014, CRS completed over 1,000 new reports and updated over 2,500 existing products. (CRS also produced nearly 3,000 confidential memoranda.)

Our interest in free public access to non-confidential CRS reports illustrates the esteem in which the agency is held. CRS reports are regularly requested by members of the public and are frequently cited by the courts and the media. For example, over the last decade, CRS reports were cited in 190 federal court opinions, including 64 at the appellate level. Over the same time period, CRS reports were cited 67 times in The Washington Post and 45 times in The New York Times. CRS reports often are published in the record of legislative proceedings.

Taxpayers provide more than $100 million annually in support of CRS, and yet members of the public often must look to private companies for consistent access. Some citizens are priced out of these services, resulting in inequitable access to information about government activity that is produced at public expense.

In fact, while CRS generates a list of all the reports it has issued over the previous year, it silently redacts that information from the public-facing version of its annual report, making it difficult for the public to even know the scope of CRS products they could obtain from Congress. A Google search returned over 27,000 reports, including 4,260 hosted on .gov domains, but there is no way to know if those documents are up-to-date, what might be missing or when they might disappear from view.

Comprehensive free public access to non-confidential CRS reports would place the reports in line with publications by other legislative support agencies in the United States and around the globe. The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Law Library of Congress, and 85 percent of G-20 countries whose parliaments have subject-matter experts routinely make reports available to the public.

We hasten to emphasize that we are not calling for public access to CRS products that should be kept confidential or are distributed only to a small network on Capitol Hill. Memoranda produced at the request of a member or committee and provided to an office in direct response to a request should remain confidential unless the office itself chooses to release the report. By comparison, we believe no such protection should attach to reports typically published on CRS’ internal website or otherwise widely disseminated.

We value the work of CRS and in no way wish to impede its ability to serve Congress. CRS reports already undergo multiple levels of administrative review to ensure they are accurate, nonpartisan, balanced and well-written. Authors of every CRS product are aware of the likelihood that reports will become publicly available.

We do not make a specific recommendation on who should comprehensively publish nonconfidential CRS reports online, although the approaches outlined in H. Res. 34 (114th Congress) and S. Res. 118 (111th Congress) are reasonable. The Clerk of the House, the Secretary of the Senate, the Government Publishing Office (GPO), the Library of Congress and libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) are all reasonable places for the public to gain access to these documents. Even bulk publication on GPO’s website would be a major step forward.

We ask only that all non-confidential reports be published as they are released, updated or withdrawn; that they be published in their full, final form; that they are freely downloadable individually and in bulk; and that they be accompanied by an index or metadata that includes the report ID, the date issued/updated, the report name, a hyperlink to the report, the division that produced the report, and possibly the report author(s) as well.

In the attached appendix we briefly address concerns often raised by CRS regarding public access to reports. In doing so, we note that many committees, including the Senate Rules Committee, have published CRS reports on their websites. Also, that many CRS reports are available through third parties. We urge you to give great weight to the significant public benefit that would result from comprehensive, timely access.

We welcome the opportunity to further discuss implementing systematic public access to nonconfidential CRS reports. Please contact Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress policy director, at daniel@demandprogress.org, or Kevin Kosar, R Street Institute senior fellow and governance director, at kkosar@rstreet.org. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.

American Association of Law Libraries
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
California State University San Marcos
Cause of Action
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Effective Government
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for Responsive Politics
Citizens Against Government Waste
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Congressional Data Coalition
Data Transparency Coalition
Defending Dissent Foundation
Demand Progress
Engine
Essential Information
Federation of American Scientists
FreedomWorks
Free Government Information
Government Accountability Project
Middlebury College Library
Minnesota Coalition On Government Information
National Coalition for History
National Security Archive
National Security Counselors
National Taxpayers Union
NewFields Research Library
Niskanen Center
OpenTheGovernment.org
Project on Government Oversight
Public Citizen
R Street Institute
Sunlight Foundation
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University
Union of Concerned Scientists
Western Illinois University Libraries

 

Heartland Daily Podcast – Rob Natelson: Article V Constitutional Convention

Somewhat Reasonable - August 24, 2015, 3:04 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News spoke with Rob Natelson. Natelson is a senior fellow at the Independence Institute and a former Constitutional Law professor at three different universities. He and Burnett spoke about the history and the practicality of an Article V Constitutional convention.

Natelson is one of the foremost scholars concerning the Constitutional amendment process in general and Article V conventions of the States in particular. In their discussion, Natelson provides a historical analysis of what an Article V convention is, why it was put into the Constitution, how it functions, and how they have been used or not used, so far.

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

Categories: On the Blog

‘Little Green Steps’ Reflect Sustainability in Education (Part 2)

Somewhat Reasonable - August 24, 2015, 11:37 AM

By Nancy Thorner and Bonnie O’Neil 

The word “sustainability” is now being overused throughout our public education system. The claim is that teaching sustainable development to students will help them solve problems, such as climate change and poverty reduction, by teaching students how to change their behavior and thus help combat issues deemed as problems.

There is value in teaching our youth to respect our environment and explaining the importance of not polluting the Earth.   However, teaching only one viewpoint about controversial issues, and claiming that only one viewpoint represents established science,  certainly silences any further discussion on the issue. That is not education, it is indoctrination (brain washing) and thus becomes a form of political pollution in the classroom.

Sustainable development is a “catch phrase” that students in most every American classroom are hearing way too often. The biased education material presents students with a viewpoint claiming that the Earth is in dire peril due to mans’ irresponsible behavior, and that without an enforced program of sustainability, the Earth is doomed. Parts of that curriculum are highly debatable, but students are rarely given opposing facts or viewpoints, even though they exist. Students are rarely taught that a growing number of credible scientists have studied the issue and arrived at different statistics and conclusions than the doomsday apologists.

If the goal of schools and teachers is to encourage students to be critical thinkers, why aren’t students being given opposing facts, documented by reputable scientists, and complete with credible arguments For instance, shouldn’t students know that credible scientists strongly disagree with the premise man can control the climate and that there are logical reasons for their skepticism?  Students deserve to see evidence that indicates there has not been global warming for 18 years and six months. Important and credible facts contradict all the doom laden climate models cited in the IPCC’s (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) various reports.

To put this into perspective, children in grade school through high school today, who are presently studying the climate change propaganda, ironically have not lived during a time of global warming.

How many students, parents, or teachers are even aware today that the leading proponents of Climate Change were caught falsifying facts.  It had to be embarrassing that facts provided by the United Nation’s scientists did not align with their own global warming theory, and in fact proved the Earth had not been warming for at least two decades.   That most likely was the reason for their name change from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change”.  They might have thought people would not consider that climate change happens naturally and has done so since the Earth’s existence.   Obviously, those early documented changes could not have had anything to do with man made causes, since man wasn’t even on the Earth yet,  but who bothers to check such details.

It was discreetly decided to stop using the term “Global Warming” and switch to a name that covered any changes, hot or cold. The new name allowed all changes or patterns of weather to serve as proof of climate change.  No need for those promoting dire warnings to  worry about whether the Earth warms or cools, as both can be used to put forth their agenda.

The obvious question is:  What is the reason for blaming that people are damaging our Earth and changing our climate?  We submit it is the ageless attempt for people seeking more power and control over government and the people.  Power is seductive, and leads to a desire for even more more ways to dictate how we all shall function and live, based on a proposed scenario that is at least partially fictional. Obviously, a reason for such control must include a dire threat if people are to comply.   Climate Change is a great excuse.

It is also curious, but not unexpected given its biased agenda, that the media provides so little attention to facts that would place doubt about man-made climate change, even when international scientists were caught falsifying and/or not accurately reporting those nasty inconvenient facts.  It is time for the public to demand the media and government allow all sides of this argument to be published and readily available for students and the general public.

Sustainability in studying poverty

Schools choose to teach controversial issues dealing with other areas of sustainability, and poverty is a particularly important social issue to study.  It is highly optimistic to think a student studying poverty can add anything significant to help solve a problem that has existed for many centuries, especially when this is another subject in which specific facts are withheld.  How many students are told, and in many cases even their parents are left uninformed, about the billions of tax dollars that have been spent to relieve poverty in America?

Intensive studies and expensive government programs have continually been initiated to resolve the growing problem of poverty, but all have proven faulty, with the result being more and more Americans end up on some type of welfare program and eventual total dependency on government assistant programs.  Advocates of welfare reform in California point out that the state has one-eighth of the nation’s population but one-third of all welfare recipients.  Why?  California is one of the more attractive “nanny states” with a variety of numerous programs that provide cradle to grave assistance.

The most recent experiment by our government, referred to as “the war on poverty”, was established under the administration of President Lyndon Johnson fifty years ago.  The program has failed in spite of the length of time, large amount of invested money, numerous agencies set up to administer the program, and new laws that have been written and implemented expanding it.  Those who study the issue wonder why we continue with this expensive, failed program when evidence shows more people are added to the welfare rolls than those who escape it.  Why are we so unwilling to admit the truth and move on to something that might actually work?

Star Parker was once a black single mother on welfare, until she realized the only real solution was for her to take charge of her own life.   She succeeded in breaking her addiction to welfare and thus the system that had her bonded to eternal poverty.   Parker began a ministry to educate others of the dangerous trap of a lifetime: government  welfare. Today Star Parker is a syndicated columnistRepublican politician, author, and conservative political activist.  Star warns all who will listen, that: “The war on poverty is an unending cruel experiment on the black community that all Americans can regard as a mirror into the future of everyone, as we allow government to grow and control our destiny.”

As to the mainstream media, it has lost its appetite for hiring investigative reporters who at one time worked diligently  to find facts that tell the whole story and thus the truth.  Then too, elected officials quietly change our laws, habits, and society to accommodate a specific, unproven viewpoint, and there is no significant opposition to these powerful game changing socialists.

By attaching the word “sustainability” to whatever the subject might be, the public, having been trained to accept that term as the motivation for blind acceptance, never questions the possibility that we are being deceived by those whom we should trust the most. Therefore, whether the subject is banning fossil fuels, initiating a federal education program for all our children, or paying higher taxes to subsidize liberal ideas concocted by the elites among us, the American people rarely question the changes or new laws.

Sustainability tinkers with impressionable minds

Should we really expect our children, with their impressionable minds, to behave or believe any differently than adults, when not provided with important information or facts needed to make informed decisions?   In other words, are we to believe our children will question what they are being taught, when adults are derelict in doing so?  Few students are equipped or courageous enough to refute what they are being taught.  Most will parrot back the rhetoric offered by their teachers and textbooks, and few parents are aware of what that might be, or actually even know the truth themselves.

The challenge of parents is knowing exactly what information or material their children actually receive daily, whether at school, on their computers or cell phones, and/or watching television. Without due diligence we could be raising a generation that is being indoctrinated in unknown ways by educators and media sources that are in direct disagreement with our principles and values.

Do you know what your children or grandchildren will be taught or exposed to when they start back to school after the summer break?  If not, get involved!  Be assured that sustainability is a term most students in every classroom have heard and are been taught to fully respect, without question. The topic of sustainability will be taught from K through 12.  None of us any longer have the luxury or comfort of believing those in charge of our country or our education system have our traditional, time-honored beliefs or values in mind.  We must realize others are making decisions for our families and thus our country’s future.

Common Core offers one-sided views

What has caused our education system to change in such a short period of time?  We know elections have consequences, right?  We know presidents have differing viewpoint and political agendas and they are given the privilege of making changes.  Education was never meant to be under the control of the federal government, but instead it was designed to be a state initiated and run program.  However, President Obama may have forgotten or failed to respect that time-honored ideal.  Instead Common Core was initiated and sold to all the states with various incentives.  Following the Common Core standards came the controversial Common Core material  which is now being taught to the vast majority of children in America today.  It  has a very different look than what you might have experienced at the same age.

Common Core was designed by a select, small group of liberals, and the end product is one every parent and patriot should investigate, and be highly suspicious of the process that allowed a national education program to be accepted by states even before it was written, and obviously without any previous testing proving if it was superior to what it replaced. For instance, Illinois agreed to accept Common Core, sight unseen, back in 2010.  It is now being implemented throughout most states.

Consider that Common Core science curriculum from K-12, offers a one-sided view of Global Warming.  As noted in this article, “Scared Green: Sustainability Lies We Teach”, children are being taught material that has them terrified of what their future might be if society does not adapt to a specific behavior.   The author, Wood,  further writes: “While the sustainability pitch to children often involves extolling the little green steps they can take for themselves, it is almost always mixed with apocalyptic warnings of what will happen if they fail.”

It is not comforting to know that American schools, like many throughout the world, scare our children, using controversial material as fact, and without offering opposition information from other leading scientists  After all, how can we expect children to become critical thinkers, if we don’t give them opposing arguments?  Instead they are inundated with the importance of taking “little green steps”, and if they do not take those steps, they are led to believe the world could ultimately end up as a “temple of green doom.”

Many public-school children have sat through multiple screenings of “The Story of Stuff,” the 20-minute animated “documentary” that propagandizes young children on the environmentally ruinous nature of consumer goods, which has its roots in the all-encompassing United Nations Agenda 21, which emphasizes sustainability. The purpose, of course, is tactics which scare children into behaving in a specific way.

How is this issue affecting our college age children?  Do you know what professors are teaching in university classes today? Part 3 will address these questions.   Be prepared to wonder if the high costs paid for a college education today is worth the indoctrination they are receiving from liberal professors, many of whom have an agenda with which you might wholeheartedly disagree.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly Email: Heartland Heading to Las Vegas to Spoil Obama’s Clean Energy Summit

Blog - Education - August 24, 2015, 9:34 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 every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Will EPA Benefit from Its Own Mistake? H. Sterling Burnett, American Spectator The environmental disaster caused by the Environmental Protection Agency at Gold King Mine in Colorado may actually benefit the agency. While a private company that spilled three million gallons of toxic sludge into a major waterway would be gearing up for criminal investigations, EPA is more likely to use the disaster to push for building a treatment plant that would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. READ MORE Walker, Rubio Endorse Patient Power Gene Koprowski, Somewhat Reasonable The Heartland Institute and other free-market groups have been calling for a set of health care policy reforms that economist and policy pioneer John Goodman once called “Patient Power.” These policies include a refundable tax credit to purchase health insurance, allowing consumers to purchase insurance across state lines, and expanding health savings accounts (HSAs). Now, some 30 years after the plan was first presented, leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president are embracing key parts of that plan. Time for a victory lap! READ MORE Puerto Rico’s Bankruptcy Is a Preview of Things to Come Stateside Jesse Hathaway, Townhall “It may be too late for Puerto Rico, the ‘Island of Enchantment,’ but similar high-tax, high-regulation states still have time to avert disaster if they stop treating taxpayers like ATMs and start enacting pro-taxpayer, pro-growth reforms. If they don’t change their ways soon, the result will not be enchantment, but fiscal ruin.”  READ MORE Heartland Sends Truth Squad to Las Vegas to Confront Obama on Affordable Energy The Heartland Institute is sending a “truth squad” of elected officials, energy policy experts, and members of minority communities to Las Vegas to steal some thunder from President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, and their taxpayer-subsidized alternative energy cronies. Clean Energy Summit 8.0 – a political event organized by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid featuring a presentation by President Barack Obama – will be closely monitored, critiqued, and protested by Heartland and its allies. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Mischa Popoff: Leaving the Organic Food Movement Mischa Popoff, author and Heartland policy advisor, joins Environment & Climate NewsManaging Editor H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his history as an organic farmer and his time as a government organic food inspector. Popoff explains why he abandoned the organic movement and why organic farmers should embrace GMO foods rather than fight against them. LISTEN TO MORE  

Watch the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change! The Heartland Institute’s Tenth International Conference on Climate Change (#ICCC10) was another huge success. You can watch the entire conference online at climateconference.heartland.org. Watch the full panels composed of some of the leading climate scientists and energy policy experts as well as keynote addresses by Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Lamar Smith, and author Mark Steyn. SEE WHAT YOU MISSED! How Obama’s Clean Power Plan Would End the Era of Cheap Natural Gas Isaac Orr, Townhall U.S. households are saving hundreds of dollars a year because natural gas prices are low, but that’s about to change. A study by NERA Economic Consulting has found new regulations on power plants mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) will increase natural gas prices to 2007 levels, virtually guaranteeing these savings will soon be wiped out. READ MORE Cuba Deal Could Have Unexpected Silver Lining: Medical Tourism Kenneth Artz, Times and Democrat Many people question the wisdom of President Barack Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba, but even misguided policies sometimes produce positive unintended consequences. Low-priced Cuban medical treatment has spurred medical tourism from Canada and Western Europe, and now Americans may follow suit. While there are significant shortcomings and risks involved, the increased competition and choice should benefit some patients and perhaps taxpayers, too.  READ MORE

Keep Your Hands Off My Beer! How Regulations Are Slowing the Growth of the Craft Brewing Industry Matthew Glans, Research & Commentary The impressive growth of the craft brewing industry has occurred despite myriad local, state, and national laws that create barriers to new entry and expansion. Many of these regulations are decades-old and ill-suited for modern markets. Many of the restrictions serve to protect from competition the larger brewers who have the resources to manage the bureaucracy more effectively than craft brewers can. READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Peter Ferrara on The Larry Kudlow Show: Is 4% Growth Possible? Liberal commentators often excuse the Obama administration’s poor economic growth record by claiming the days of more rapid economic growth are behind us. Really?  Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara, author of a new book on entitlement reform titled Power to the People, joined The Larry Kudlow Show to discuss the factors and policies that stunt the growth of the American economy and how they can be changed. Economic growth, Ferrara says, is the key to solving many of the nation’s problems, including the pending entitlement crisis. LISTEN TO MORE California Judge Rules in Favor of Families in Parent Trigger Case Heather Kays, The Heartlander “The defenders of the traditional public school system often claim that it is superior to choice-based systems for delivering education, because the public school system is more responsive to citizens,” said Patrick Wolf, a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas. “Isn’t it strange that when citizens actually try to influence the public school system, through the parent trigger process, the supposedly democratic traditional public school system decries and seeks to undermine their efforts?” READ MORE Number of Uninsured Declines, But Access to Care Worsens Kenneth Artz, The Heartlander Less than two years after Obamacare went into effect, the number of uninsured people has declined by 16.3 percent. The decline started before Obamacare could have been responsible for it, and much of the rest is due to the Obama administration’s expansion of Medicaid. “That would seem to be a good thing, except Medicaid is lousy coverage,” said Heartland Senior Fellow Greg Scandlen. “Most doctors don’t accept Medicaid patients, because the government’s rate of payment is so low.” READ MORE Remember Rome! Heartland Staff The Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Roman Catholic Church held a workshop on global warming on April 28, 2015 at the Vatican. The Heartland Institute sent a delegation of climate scientists and other experts to tell Pope Francis: Global warming is not a crisis! The result was astonishing: global press coverage of our presence in Rome, a robust debate within the Church about the roles of science, ideology, and concern for the poor. We created a website with dozens of links to videos, news releases, and articles generated by our trip to Rome. 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 Email: Heartland Heading to Las Vegas to Spoil Obama’s Clean Energy Summit

Somewhat Reasonable - August 24, 2015, 9:34 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 every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Will EPA Benefit from Its Own Mistake? H. Sterling Burnett, American Spectator The environmental disaster caused by the Environmental Protection Agency at Gold King Mine in Colorado may actually benefit the agency. While a private company that spilled three million gallons of toxic sludge into a major waterway would be gearing up for criminal investigations, EPA is more likely to use the disaster to push for building a treatment plant that would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. READ MORE Walker, Rubio Endorse Patient Power Gene Koprowski, Somewhat Reasonable The Heartland Institute and other free-market groups have been calling for a set of health care policy reforms that economist and policy pioneer John Goodman once called “Patient Power.” These policies include a refundable tax credit to purchase health insurance, allowing consumers to purchase insurance across state lines, and expanding health savings accounts (HSAs). Now, some 30 years after the plan was first presented, leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president are embracing key parts of that plan. Time for a victory lap! READ MORE Puerto Rico’s Bankruptcy Is a Preview of Things to Come Stateside Jesse Hathaway, Townhall “It may be too late for Puerto Rico, the ‘Island of Enchantment,’ but similar high-tax, high-regulation states still have time to avert disaster if they stop treating taxpayers like ATMs and start enacting pro-taxpayer, pro-growth reforms. If they don’t change their ways soon, the result will not be enchantment, but fiscal ruin.”  READ MORE Heartland Sends Truth Squad to Las Vegas to Confront Obama on Affordable Energy The Heartland Institute is sending a “truth squad” of elected officials, energy policy experts, and members of minority communities to Las Vegas to steal some thunder from President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, and their taxpayer-subsidized alternative energy cronies. Clean Energy Summit 8.0 – a political event organized by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid featuring a presentation by President Barack Obama – will be closely monitored, critiqued, and protested by Heartland and its allies. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Mischa Popoff: Leaving the Organic Food Movement Mischa Popoff, author and Heartland policy advisor, joins Environment & Climate NewsManaging Editor H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his history as an organic farmer and his time as a government organic food inspector. Popoff explains why he abandoned the organic movement and why organic farmers should embrace GMO foods rather than fight against them. LISTEN TO MORE  

Watch the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change! The Heartland Institute’s Tenth International Conference on Climate Change (#ICCC10) was another huge success. You can watch the entire conference online at climateconference.heartland.org. Watch the full panels composed of some of the leading climate scientists and energy policy experts as well as keynote addresses by Sen. Jim Inhofe, Rep. Lamar Smith, and author Mark Steyn. SEE WHAT YOU MISSED! How Obama’s Clean Power Plan Would End the Era of Cheap Natural Gas Isaac Orr, Townhall U.S. households are saving hundreds of dollars a year because natural gas prices are low, but that’s about to change. A study by NERA Economic Consulting has found new regulations on power plants mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) will increase natural gas prices to 2007 levels, virtually guaranteeing these savings will soon be wiped out. READ MORE Cuba Deal Could Have Unexpected Silver Lining: Medical Tourism Kenneth Artz, Times and Democrat Many people question the wisdom of President Barack Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba, but even misguided policies sometimes produce positive unintended consequences. Low-priced Cuban medical treatment has spurred medical tourism from Canada and Western Europe, and now Americans may follow suit. While there are significant shortcomings and risks involved, the increased competition and choice should benefit some patients and perhaps taxpayers, too.  READ MORE

Keep Your Hands Off My Beer! How Regulations Are Slowing the Growth of the Craft Brewing Industry Matthew Glans, Research & Commentary The impressive growth of the craft brewing industry has occurred despite myriad local, state, and national laws that create barriers to new entry and expansion. Many of these regulations are decades-old and ill-suited for modern markets. Many of the restrictions serve to protect from competition the larger brewers who have the resources to manage the bureaucracy more effectively than craft brewers can. READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Peter Ferrara on The Larry Kudlow Show: Is 4% Growth Possible? Liberal commentators often excuse the Obama administration’s poor economic growth record by claiming the days of more rapid economic growth are behind us. Really?  Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara, author of a new book on entitlement reform titled Power to the People, joined The Larry Kudlow Show to discuss the factors and policies that stunt the growth of the American economy and how they can be changed. Economic growth, Ferrara says, is the key to solving many of the nation’s problems, including the pending entitlement crisis. LISTEN TO MORE California Judge Rules in Favor of Families in Parent Trigger Case Heather Kays, The Heartlander “The defenders of the traditional public school system often claim that it is superior to choice-based systems for delivering education, because the public school system is more responsive to citizens,” said Patrick Wolf, a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas. “Isn’t it strange that when citizens actually try to influence the public school system, through the parent trigger process, the supposedly democratic traditional public school system decries and seeks to undermine their efforts?” READ MORE Number of Uninsured Declines, But Access to Care Worsens Kenneth Artz, The Heartlander Less than two years after Obamacare went into effect, the number of uninsured people has declined by 16.3 percent. The decline started before Obamacare could have been responsible for it, and much of the rest is due to the Obama administration’s expansion of Medicaid. “That would seem to be a good thing, except Medicaid is lousy coverage,” said Heartland Senior Fellow Greg Scandlen. “Most doctors don’t accept Medicaid patients, because the government’s rate of payment is so low.” READ MORE Remember Rome! Heartland Staff The Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Roman Catholic Church held a workshop on global warming on April 28, 2015 at the Vatican. The Heartland Institute sent a delegation of climate scientists and other experts to tell Pope Francis: Global warming is not a crisis! The result was astonishing: global press coverage of our presence in Rome, a robust debate within the Church about the roles of science, ideology, and concern for the poor. We created a website with dozens of links to videos, news releases, and articles generated by our trip to Rome. 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

Puerto Rico’s Bankruptcy is a Preview of Things to Come Stateside

Somewhat Reasonable - August 24, 2015, 9:06 AM

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico owes more than $70 billion—about $19,729.43 per resident—in debt to creditors and investors. First to note the territory’s fiscal problems were the credit rating agencies, which downgraded the territory’s bond status to “speculative,” the first of three steps along the junk-bond path to loan default.

Over the summer, about a year and a half after insiders warned of the territory’s looming problems, Gov. García Padilla (PPD) announced, “[T]he debt is not payable.”

“My administration is doing everything not to default,” Garcia Padilla said in an interview with The New York Times. “But we have to make the economy grow. If not, we will be in a death spiral.”

Some territory agencies, such as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, are negotiating forbearance agreements with bondholders, but the future of most of the territory’s municipal debt continues to be up in the air.

Without major reforms, the crisis playing out in Puerto Rico will come home to roost in the mainland United States as well, as state governments continue to walk down the same financial path as Puerto Rico and Greece.

One of the root causes of Puerto Rico’s inability to pay its bills is the high cost of doing business in the territory. The litany of mandatory fringe benefits for employees—treated as bonuses elsewhere in the United States—discourages businesses from investing in the territory because the labor costs exceed employee productivity.

Stateside, the cumulative impact of countless business-unfriendly laws in California and New York has caused numerous businesses and the people employed by them to leave those states. Between 2013 and 2014, New York’s net population declined by 153,921, and the number of people leaving California exceeded new arrivals by 32,090. Like Puerto Rico, both California and New York are known for complex tax codes that distort the economy and discourage business investment.

The inevitable result of this incessant business-harassment is fiscal insolvency. Just like Puerto Rico before the fiscal tsunami hit, California carries a jaw-dropping amount of public debt. Adding in the cost of postponed payments to public schools and universities, deferred Medicaid entitlement payments, and other gimmicks, California taxpayers are on the hook for $443 billion in liabilities, or about $11,417.53 per resident.

The situation confronting New York taxpayers is only slightly less bleak than that of a Puerto Rican taxpayer. Each and every New York resident is on the hook for $18,222.78 in public debt. In response to such crushing amounts of public debt, politicians raise taxes even higher, which suppresses economic activity and resultant tax revenues even further, creating the “death spiral” predicted by Padilla.

Tax hikes chase away new business investment and encourage businesses to move. People then move to other states because of the lack of available jobs, and tax revenue falls short of expectations as employment rates and economic activity decline. The bills pile ever-higher as a result. The symptoms of the economic disease crippling Puerto Rico are already present in some states around the nation.

It may be too late for Puerto Rico, the “Island of Enchantment,” but similar high-tax, high-regulation states still have time to avert disaster if they stop treating taxpayers like ATMs and start enacting pro-taxpayer, pro-growth reforms. If they don’t change their ways soon, the result will not be enchantment, but fiscal ruin.

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

Letter to National Credit Union Administration

Out of the Storm News - August 24, 2015, 8:00 AM

My name is Eli Lehrer and I am president of the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank headquartered in Washington, with offices in Tallahassee, Fla.; Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Sacramento, Calif.; and Birmingham, Ala. I am writing to comment on the above-referenced rules, based both on R Street’s commitment to free-market principles and R Street’s own interests as a small nonprofit and credit-union member. We consider these proposed rules a good start toward a better and freer environment for credit unions to operate and urge you to move forward with them.

R Street staff long have argued that – given the history of the credit-union movement, the nature of credit-union lending to business and the potential benefits to the broader economy – statutory and regulatory caps on credit-union member-business loans should be removed or, at least, made significantly more flexible. Credit-union lending can better meet market needs if it is based on demand, rather than arbitrary rules.

Proposed changes to lift credit union lending caps could provide economic stimulus on a significant scale at no cost to taxpayers; significant research has shown this type of lending is already becoming more important. As current law does not give the NCUA authority to lift the cap, simplifying the process to make more loans, as the proposed rules would do, is a step in the right direction.

We see little to no risk of harm from the modest rule changes currently under consideration. These proposed changes would eliminate some requirements not found in statute and simplify a few rules. They pose no safety and soundness concerns related to the overall scope of expanded credit-union business lending.

As president of an organization that is a credit union member, I believe legal simplification would benefit us and other existing members. In an op-ed I co-authored last year with my organization’s chief operating officer, we described how the member-business-lending cap constrained our ability to find a credit union that met our needs as a growing business:

[W]e couldn’t easily make electronic check deposits and couldn’t see check images online. When we looked for these features – and we spent almost a month searching – we couldn’t find a single credit union anywhere that both offered them to small business and could fit [the R Street Institute] into their field of membership. This state of affairs, we believe, exists because of federal laws that cap credit union member-business loans. Since credit unions face such onerous restrictions on the size of their loan portfolios, it’s natural and even proper that many underinvest in the IT systems necessary to support small business.

Without a significant easing of the cap, it is unlikely that any given set of regulatory changes will solve these problems. Nonetheless, the small changes you propose might, at the margin, make it easier for credit unions to justify the investments necessary to serve businesses like ours in the way we would like to be served.

The rule changes you suggest are common sense and will benefit both and existing credit-union members the economy as a whole.

Higher ed/industry disconnect a workforce wakeup call for Alabama

Out of the Storm News - August 24, 2015, 7:00 AM

“Workforce development” is such a widely used term that it’s easy for most of us to ignore. Unfortunately, it might be one of the most critical challenges facing Alabama. Between an aging population and a disconnect between education and industry, we may need to change the term to “workforce creation” in short order.

My generation grew up in the middle of America’s manufacturing exodus. For the last three decades, America has seen its “makers” move to lower-wage nations like China and Mexico.

From December 1982 to July 1990, the economy saw one of the largest expansions in American history. More importantly, employment grew by more than 25 percent.

Manufacturers cashed out on the growth by moving to emerging markets in an effort to lower labor and regulatory costs.

Now, those foreign markets are catching up. Many cost and regulatory advantages are decreasing. At the same time, issues of product quality from nations like China are popping up continually.

Manufacturers are coming back to America and Alabama has many of the fundamentals they need. Even so, we struggle in three key areas: Workforce, workforce and workforce.

“When we talk to the folks in business and industry, they’re talking in terms of 50 percent of their workforce could retire today if they wanted,” said Alabama Community College System Chancellor Mark Heinrich. “So far, the economy has kept them in place.”

As the economy improves, retiring workers could prove to be a potentially catastrophic problem for existing businesses and a hindrance to industrial expansion and recruitment.

Normally, we’d simply replace them, but we’ve effectively lost a generation of workers in the same industries we’re trying to recruit.

At the same time as America’s manufacturing exodus, our education system managed to redefine personal and professional success in terms of obtaining degrees. That’s a great benefit to colleges and universities, but it’s a problem when the supply of degrees doesn’t match the job demand of the marketplace.

According to information presented by Alabama State Board of Education member Mary Scott Hunter, Alabama’s public colleges aren’t producing enough graduates in the areas of projected economic growth.

Unfortunately, the problem isn’t unique or novel. For example, I majored in both philosophy and classics in college. But for law school, I would have been able to use a dead language to critically explore the meaning of me starving to death as a result of my career choices. Other than my father’s wisdom, nobody bothered to highlight the importance of being able to find gainful employment with my degree.

At the same time, our industry leaders need a longer-term approach to education and professional agility. People aren’t commodities; they’re assets. Investments that incrementally provide workers with the skills to engage the changing industrial environment may actually prove economically preferable to firing and hiring repeatedly.

Alabama’s economy needs all the help it can get. Finding ways to increasingly match our education with our industrial needs is a good place to start.

Anti-GMO Radicals Harass Scientists with Deluge of Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests

Somewhat Reasonable - August 22, 2015, 6:48 PM

Anti-GMO radicals are harassing scientists who work at state universities — including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — with an onslaught of speculative Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, according to a report in the 13 August edition of Nature magazine, one of the world’s leading weekly science journals.

Led by the leftist group, US Right to Know, the activists, who oppose the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and medicine, are requesting confidential documents that demonstrate the correspondence between academic research activity and industry.

Industry commonly funds research in academia. So does the government. Researchers who are employed at state universities, like Washington State University and the University of Florida, both of which receive state, and federal, funds, are subject to the FOI laws. Radicals at US Right to Know, ironically, are not covered by FOI, and have not disclosed their funding sources.

Radicals asked a total of 40 researchers to hand over documents, though some, like the University of Nebraska, have refused to produce the documents. Others, like Washington State, have agreed to turn over documents, including e-mail, Nature reported.

The liberals are distraught that some scientists have posted remarks on a web site called, GMO Answers, which is produced by the PR firm, Ketchum, in New York City, as the food fear assault mounted by these activists seeks to silence opposition to its un-scientific scare campaign.

Not many normal people support the unhinged leftists and their anti-science campaign. In remarks yesterday at the Heartland Institute’s open house, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) gave a speech, which, among other things, voiced support for continued federal backing of science and technology at the Fermilab, located in Batavia, Ill., which has conducted research on the ethics of genetic engineering, among other important scientific work.

Deranged liberal activists harass professors who are working on genetically modified crops.

Categories: On the Blog

Should we make it easier for people with criminal records to find work?

Out of the Storm News - August 22, 2015, 10:01 AM

From the Deseret News:

While ban the box laws are designed to encourage employers to keep an open mind when evaluating people with criminal records, there is no evidence that it actually leads to more hires, according to Eli Lehrer, president of R Street Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based libertarian think tank that advocates for free markets and limited government.

“If there were evidence to support ‘ban the box’ I would get behind it,” said Lehrer. “But we are still waiting for that gold standard study. There’s no proof it works.”

August: Season of rules

Out of the Storm News - August 21, 2015, 11:59 AM

From Politico:

Though 15 major rules in a month might seem like a lot, in fact the bigger problem with rulemaking right now is just how far behind regulators are in producing rules mandated by Congress, as a recent report from the R Street Institute points out. The problem then is not regulators trying to sneak rules in when Congress isn’t looking but an inability to produce rules at all.

Courts need a better appreciation of the principles of depreciation

Out of the Storm News - August 21, 2015, 9:50 AM

Post-World War II, the United States experienced a simultaneous boom of babies and buildings. To keep pace with the need for new development, homes literally could be ordered out of a Sears catalogue.

The true expense of such homes was not found in the cost of the building supplies, but rather in the labor necessary to construct the structure. A Sears home available for $1,000 would, with the cost of construction figured in, run closer to $3,000.

That distinction, between the cost of materials and the cost of labor, is at the core of a current controversy about how replacement costs should be calculated.

Replacement-cost calculations are utterly uninteresting to most people, right up until they experience a loss. At that point, those uninterested people are surprised to learn that, if their homeowners insurance policy spells out that they are entitled only to the “actual cash value” of certain features of their home (a roof, a deck, etc.), then damage claims will subtract from the replacement costs any depreciation stemming from the wear and tear the home would have experienced over time.

In 2002, the Oklahoma Supreme Court was prompted by a U.S. District Court to answer this question: “In determining actual cash value, using the replacement costs less depreciation method, may labor costs be depreciated?” That is, when determining the amount to be paid out to satisfy a claim, is it appropriate to distinguish between the materials, which obviously depreciate over time, and the labor use in construction?

The Oklahoma court ruled against such distinctions because “labor is a part of the whole product, it is included in the depreciation of the roof.” At bottom, insurance is designed to return claimants to their pre-loss condition. If a tree lands on a homeowner’s seriously dilapidated porch, the value of that porch (which might effectively be nothing) is all the homeowner is entitled to.

But in the case of, for instance, the owner of the Sears home, the materials and labor were purchased separately. This can be cause for confusion. Recently, courts and even some departments of insurance have embraced that confusion and departed from the Oklahoma court’s reasoning. The counter argument – elucidated earlier this year by a U.S. District Court in Kentucky – holds that while construction materials age, labor does not:

Labor is not subject to wear and tear. Indeed, the cost of labor to install a new garage would be the same as installing a garage with 10 year old materials. In other words, depreciated labor costs would result in under indemnification. As the insurance contract is one for indemnity, depreciating the cost of labor violates the contract.

Of course, it’s true that labor is not subject to wear and tear. But that obfuscates the larger point, which is that any produced item is composed of a mixture of labor and material. It is that item which depreciates, not its component parts, which ultimately are indistinguishable.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s reasoning rests soundly on a theory of property not unlike that of 17th century British philosopher John Locke. A home’s roof is not just the materials needed to create it or the labor for its construction. The roof only exists when the materials and labor are mixed.

Were an insurance policy drafted to cover labor and materials separately, it would be reasonable for a claimant to assume that labor would not depreciate. But in virtually all cases, claimants insure their structure as a whole. Put another way, the relative component parts of labor and materials aren’t relevant to the depreciation of an item itself.

A practical consequences of the Kentucky court’s decision to not allow for depreciation of labor in “actual cash value” policies will be that like items are treated differently. For instance, it is possible that one contractor who got a good deal on materials, but overcharged for labor, would construct a deck that is deemed more valuable than another contractor who paid market price for materials and a regular price for labor, even if they were the same deck and depreciated at the same rate. Again, the value of the item itself is determinative of the value of a claim because the policy, in all likelihood, covers the item itself.

That courts are choosing to ignore the distinction between the antecedent conditions of an item and the item itself is troubling. That the colloquial wisdom upon which such decisions are being made is creeping into quasi-legislative determinations of state insurance departments is more problematic. Depreciation of labor is an affordability mechanism by any other name. Prohibiting it will hurt the very insureds that insurance departments are attempting to assist.

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

Heartland Daily Podcast – Peter Ferrara on The Debt Dialogues: Fixing the Entitlement Crisis

Somewhat Reasonable - August 21, 2015, 9:32 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara joins the Ayn Rand Institute’s podcast, The Debt Dialogues. Ferrara, author of the new book – Power to the people,  is on to discuss the growing entitlement crisis in America and what to do about it.

The Debt Dialogues is a weekly podcast that aims to educate young people about the welfare state and how it will affect their future. Ferrara and host Don Watkins talk about why Social Security and Medicare are not sustainable, the importance of coming up with concrete proposals for reining in entitlements, and Ferrara’s proposals for reforming Social Security and the health care system.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog
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