On the Blog
‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the news,
There were reports of record cold, so many were confused.
Told global warming is why we should care,
And that the point of no return would soon be here.
The children were bombarded with tales of dread,
While visions of climate disasters were stuck in each little head.
And mamma in her Prius, and I on my bike,
To save the planet, got rid of the cars that we like.
When suddenly in the data there arose such a clatter,
The earth was not warming, what could be the matter?
The warming stopped, as quick as a flash,
Leaving proponents in sack-cloth, bathing in ash.
For far too common was new-fallen snow,
More than forecasted, temperatures 0 or below.
And, what to my wondering eye there appears,
But an uptick in sea ice, and even more polar bears.
With a little old driver, called the PDO,
I knew in a moment it had to be so.
Howling like beagles fearing the shame,
AGW pushers called skeptics many a name!
“Now, Denier! now, madman! now neanderthal, you’re lying!
You’re an idiot! you’re stupid, know nothing, we’re frying!
To the top of the chart! breaking through the temperature wall!
The warmings out of control, it’s frying us all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
This is the worst drought ever, global warming is why.
So up to the IPCC the climate pushers flew,
With a gravy train of grants, and politics too.
Make economies pay, we need no proof,
Just keep saying temperatures are going through the roof.
With the media complicit, my head was turning around,
To see the global temperature level off and then come down.
The warming had stopped, in their mouth was their foot,
Exposing the scam, and making off with the loot.
Readjusting temperatures, from many years back,
Peddling disinformation to the media pack.
At conferences they would drink and make merry!
While the deceit grew in a way, that made it quite scary!
For the tide it had turned, there was cold that would show,
You can’t say it’s warmer, if there’s too much snow.
The cold that was showing led to chattering of teeth,
As the cycle came full circle, not unlike a wreath.
The face of global warming had become a subject smelly,
Their position as “solid,” as a bowlful of jelly!
Hockey sticks broken, sea ice on the increase,
I laughed when I heard their excuses not cease.
Events we all knew were something ahead,
Were twisted into worst ever, something to dread.
How dare mother nature destroy AGW’s life’s work,
These deniers are as nasty as a Miley Cyrus Twerk.
But the data is there and everyone knows,
The temperatures leveled off while CO2 rose!
So when in the wire, you hear the cold wind whistle,
The AGW agenda is ready for dismissal.
So let me exclaim, as this fades out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”
[Reposted with permission from The Patriot Post, where it was first published.]
Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom believes that- contrary to popular opinion- public schools exacerbate social tension because most things the government does pins people against each other.
The government makes decisions that are imposed upon people, whether they like it or not, or would choose it for themselves. This creates social tension because some people have to pay taxes that pay for other people, and some people benefit from the breach of values of another. In a nutshell- government actions are not voluntary.
One big that public school causes social tension is when moral values are at stake, especially during the holidays. McCluskey tells of a recent event in Wausau, Wisconsin where one choir teacher had to abandon his choir group because the administration said the songs were “too religious”. The district administration told him that he had to meet their arbitrary ratio of performing five “secular” songs for every one “religious” song. The choir teacher chose to abandon the project altogether because the entire group lost its meaning.
Public education imposes a “one-size-fits-all” and attempts to satisfy everyone’s preferences and moral values, but it’s just not possible. And in turn, it creates social tensions that could be dissolved with the freedom to congregate in mutual self-interest.
Please, listen to the podcast in the player above.
America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century tells the story of our nation’s government as crushingly expensive, one that is failing at its basic functions and unable to keep its promises. Such an unworkable and out-of-control government cannot continue as the status quo.
America 3.0′s co-author Michael J. Lotus was featured at the final noontime Heartland Author Series event of the year was held on Thursday, December 12, at the Heartland Institute Headquarters in Chicago. Lotus, a practicing Chicago lawyer, has a BA in economic from the University of Chicago and a JD from Indiana University, Bloomington. Mr. Lotus writes as “Lexington Green” for the Chicago Boyz blog, on history, politics, and books.
Initially I had reservations about the book’s optimistic message for our nation, but little by little I began to understand the reasoning behind Mr. Lotus’ strong positive conviction that had been absent heretofore in me. For minus a crystal ball, conjectures made based on past happenings of the American people and how they reacted in times of crisis, can serve as sound criteria from which to predict future happenings.
America 1.0 was described by Mr. Lotus as the society of our Founding Fathers, one of small scale, local government and based on agriculture. Around 1900 America moved from 1.0 to 2.0, ushered in by the Machine Age.
The transition to an America 2.0 represented a massive change for the American people. It was accomplished, but not without pain, despite many who thought such a dramatic upheaval would destroy this nation. Perceived by the American people at the time, as today, was that our nation’s Constitution had lost its intent and that America’s best days were behind her.
The unfolding of America 2.0: From its onset America 2.0 required some centralization, as in the operation of the nation’s railroad system. People crowded into cities. With the development of transportation suburbs were built, offering the American people a better quality of life. Factories sprung up and required lots of people doing things in a systematic way in order to achieve huge returns.
Change led to the development of a progressive political movement which took several generations to affect change. The great U-turn happened with the election of FDR and his “Great Society.” Social Security came into being which led the American people to believe that government would take care of their retirement years.
With the end of WW II, given this nation’s amazing feat in defeating the great evil of the Western world, many Americans came to believe that big government was capable of doing things well. A dose of big government likewise happened when President Dwight Eisenhower took on the big project of creating the national highway system. President Johnson advanced the progressive political agenda, now a fixture in the Democratic Party, by establishing Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans were not given a free pass from their support of big government. It was President George W. Bush who introduced prescription drug benefits under the mantel of “compassionate conservatism.”
Lastly, the development of amazing technology greatly influenced America 2.0. Instant communication is now possible though computers and the Internet.
America 2.0 in its current state: This nation exists in a crisis mode. Most people have no idea of the existing conditions which are tearing down the foundation on which this nation was conceived and by which it had prospered under a free market system. The progressive movement has emerged as a powerful force by advancing policies that will destroy rather than revive this nation. There is an attempt through Obamacare to run 1/6 of the nation from Washington, D.C.; regulations have become burdensome and costly; unfunded federal financial obligations have soared to $130 trillion; and state, county and municipal governments find themselves on the edge of a financial cliff.
Mainstream Republicans are not helping to reverse this nation’s economic and social crisis. Too many Republicans have become “me-too” Republicans after being convinced that progressive policies (i.e: amnesty for illegals, big government policies, and failure to deal with this nation’s unsustainable debt) will enable them to win the Senate in November, 2014, and the White House in 2016.
Can we even depend on Republicans to meet crisis head on, with the exception of conservative Republicans whose principles are firmly rooted in smaller government and against out-of-control spending? A pox exists on both political parties!
The transitional period: As already expressed by Mr. Lotus, the big government of today will eventually have to fail, for unable to keep its obligations default is inevitable.
The American people will experience pain through spending cuts, but hopefully the cuts demanded must be as painless as possible. Mr. Lotus called what must happen to government, “The Big Haircut.” Lotus also eluded to the possibility that one Constitutional amendment may be needed.
Although bad things will continue to happen during the transitional period, Mr. Lotus fervently believes that only when the situation becomes bad or oppressive enough will enough people rise up to demand change. This happened before in history when during times of crisis mass political movements were formed to demand change. During the period of the American Revolution, only three percent of the colonists were actively involved in throwing off the shackle of England so this nation could become independent and free.
Mr. Lotus cited the Tea Party as the beginning of a mass political movement of individuals willing to stand up and say, “Enough is enough,” with actions appropriate to their words.
It will take vigilant citizens to reclaim our government. It might take a million such “mutineers.” The question remains how long it will take enough people to stand up to demand a change of course for this nation.
Hopeful signs for a positive transition: The change from 2.0 to 3.0 must allow the creative powers of the American people to be realized and developed, despite a government machine that doesn’t want this to happen. It doesn’t help that we live in a “creepy state” where government has the capacity to spy on us.
Why reason for hope?
- This nation has already been through a major shift from an agriculture-based society to one based on machines.
- Its foundation is based on documents relating to our English heritage: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Northwest Territory which stated that west of the Ohio River there could be no slavery.
- This nation still leads in equality.
- The spirit of freedom still exists within the American people to resist and reject submission.
- The nuclear family, used to describe a family group consisting of a pair of adults and their children, is still the norm. The American people when given a chance want to live in single family
- Already self-employment is the growing sector. This trend will continue.
- The factory floor will no longer require thousands of people showing up for work every day, but will exist everywhere.
- The Internet will allow individual to work at gigs rather than at set jobs.
- 3-D printers will be able to grow new body parts.
In closing: Detroit represents the ultimate result of the 2.0 model failure. Chicago is likewise failing and is long overdue for a “revolt” by its inhabitants.
George Washington was willing to roll the dice and even risked his life in a time of crisis. The Founding Father were willing to roll the dice and make change happen. The signers of the Declaration of Independence risked their lives knowing they could be hung as traitors.
Unlike those who faced death in Colonial America, as America 3.0 struggles to be born, activists and concerned citizens must take the lead or others will do so in their absence. The conditions are in place for change. Might Obamacare will be the straw that broke the camel’s back? We must be ready to seize the day. America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century – Why America’s Greatest Days are yet to Come.
[Originally published in the Illinois Review]
Today, The Heritage Foundation‘s Ericka Andersen hosted a Google+ Hangout (pretty cool, right?) with Congressman Roger Williams, Heartland Senior Fellow Ben Domenech, Bryan Broadcasting Vice President Ben Downs, Heritage Research Associate Alyene Senger, and Elizabeth Harrington, staff writer at the Washington Free Beacon. The topic? You guessed it, Obamacare.
Since the bill was passed, 19 of its provisions have been amended, repealed or delayed and lawmakers are scrambling to slow its destruction. Congressman Williams even said it’s “the worst bill that we’ve seen in our lifetime.” So, why is it so terrible?
For starters, Downs describes his perspective as a small business owner. “We don’t know what’s going on over here,” he explained. “We can’t plan for the future when we don’t know what’s going to happen,” or how much their premiums will increase, which he estimates to be around 25%. Senger reminds us it’s important to realize that people in the individual market aren’t the only ones losing their health plans.
Okay, so maybe Republicans don’t like Obamacare, but they never liked it in the first place. The rest of America probably likes it… Nope.
Domenech discusses some recent polls that indicate a spike in the number of people who mistrust government’s role in health care, a spike in the number of people who favor a delay in Obamacare and a spike in the number of democrats and independents who favor a delay. It’s not just Republicans; Americans are figuring out that Obamacare is bad for America. A recent Fox News poll revealed that 53% of Americans favor a full repeal of the bill and 54% wish it never passed. This is not good news for Obama’s pet legislation.
Despite the bill’s disaster, the launch of the marketplace website- as we all know- was a disaster as well. Harrington explained that there were no security measures built into to the website, and even with the continuous “fixes”, still has no security. Cyber security expert David Kennedy advised Americans to not even go on the website because of the weak security, and after the November 30 “fixes”, stated that the security problems were even worse. Oh boy.
It seems as though the Heritage panel is infuriated by all of this mess, and with good reason. We should all be upset too. Promises were made and not kept, our government misled us.
Watch the rest of the video above to hear more about the “Un-Affordable” Care Act and what may be a beacon of hope for the future.
Paul Krugman has found out the hidden truth of his political opponents once again: Republican opposition to Obamacare is motivated by how much they hate the poor:
“The purpose of most health care reform is to help the unfortunate — people with pre-existing conditions, people who don’t get insurance through their jobs, people who just don’t earn enough to afford insurance. Cost control is also part of the picture, but not the dominant part. And what we’re seeing right now, in any case, seems to confirm a point some of us have been making for a long time: controlling costs and expanding access are complementary targets, because you can’t sell things like cost-saving measures for Medicaid and limits on deductibility of premiums unless they’re part of a larger scheme to make the system fairer and more comprehensive. And here’s the thing: Republicans don’t want to help the unfortunate.”
Krugman goes on to denounce the “rage of the right” at President Obama’s policies, for just trying to offer help to these poor unfortunate souls. But I think the professor isn’t thinking big enough here. He’s settling for an easy answer to a far more complex problem, perhaps out of deference to his opponents. He’s missing the true villainy of Republicans – particularly conservatives, and even more particularly religious conservatives – and how it reveals their vile and antisocial character… and how they purposefully disguise it in a way that allows them the opportunity to be pompous and judgmental of people like Professor Krugman.
It’s really devious once you understand it, so I’ll try to explain.
What you have to understand about American Republicans is that they are the most misanthropic people on the planet. They don’t just hate the poor. They hate everybody. A tribal people to the core, they assign ill-motives and deal in broad-based evaluations of everyone, even those technically within their own clan for being insufficiently hateful. Just look at the Republican on Republican violence over the Medicaid expansion, and how they react to a few of their fellows breaking ranks to help the unfortunate! You might as well have run over their puppy for how they react (though of course Republicans also hate puppies).
But here’s why Krugman’s answer is far too easy: because it leaves out the really evil part of what Republicans do. It’s not enough that they loathe the poor and unfortunate and demand fealty to policies designed to make their lives as terrible as possible. It’s that they also want the moral superiority that comes with philanthropic activity! They are quite dedicated to it, too, particularly the Mormons and the Southern Baptists (who, as I’m sure Professor Krugman knows, hate the unfortunate more than any other Republican factions). That’s why states like Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and other red states lead the country in the percentage of household income given to charity, while New England – where such hatred of the poor is rare, and charitable giving is not required in order to achieve that special warm feeling of superiority – lags the nation with near Biden-level percentages of charitable donations.
This organized effort, built on a network of religious fanatics who sing songs together and recite prose in unison in cult-like meetinghouses across the nation, demonstrates the true villainy of the tithing culture and the vacuity of so-called “acts of charity” which exist in Republican communities. Remember: you only care about someone if you’re dedicated to compelling someone else to give money to an effort. The only purpose of giving of your own free will is self-aggrandizement. The only kind of spending which demonstrates actual care for the poor and unfortunate is government spending.
I’m sure Professor Krugman realizes this, so it’s probably just an oversight that he forgot to mention it. His only problem as a columnist is that he’s far too nice.
[Originally published on The Federalist]
The term “Greater New York” was applied, unofficially, to the 1898 consolidation that produced the present city of New York, which brought together the present five boroughs (counties). The term “Greater” did not stick, at least for the city. When consolidated, much of the city of New York was agricultural. As time went on, the term “Greater” came to apply to virtually any large city and its environs, not just New York and implied a metropolitan area or an urban area extending beyond city limits. By 2010, Greater New York had expanded to somewhere between 19 million and 23 million residents, depending on the definition.
Greater New York’s population growth has been impressive. Just after consolidation, in 1900, the city and its environs had 4.2 million residents, according to Census historian Tertius Chandler. Well before all of the city’s farmland had been developed, New York, including its environs, had become the world’s largest urban area by the 1920s, displacing London from its 100 year predominance. Yet, even when Tokyo displaced New York in the early 1960s, there was still farmland on Staten Island.
New York became even larger in two dimensions, as a result of geographic redefinitions arising from the 2010 census.
The Expanding New York Metropolitan Area
The New York metropolitan area grew by enough land area to add more than 700,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, even after the decentralization reported upon in the metropolitan area as defined in 2000. The expansion of the metropolitan area occurred because the employment interchange between the central counties and counties outside the metropolitan area in 2000 became sufficient to expand the boundaries by more than 1,000 square miles (2,500 square kilometers).
Summarized, metropolitan areas are developed by identifying the largest urban area (area of continuous urban development with 50,000 or more population) and then designating the counties that contain this urban area as “central counties.” Additional (“outlying”) counties are included in a metropolitan area if 25 percent or more of their resident workers have jobs in the central counties, or if 25 percent or more of the employees in the outlying county live in the central counties (There are additional criteria, which can be reviewed at 2010 Office of Management and Budget metropolitan area standards). In addition, adjacent metropolitan areas can be merged into a combined statistical area at a lower level of employment interchange (see below).
For example, one of the counties added to the New York metropolitan area in the 2010 redefinition was Dutchess (home of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library). A resident of Dutchess County who works across the county line in Putnam County (a central county) would count toward the 25 percent employment interchange with the central counties of the New York metropolitan area. Contrary to some perceptions, metropolitan areas do not denote an employment interchange between suburban areas and a central city, even as major an employment destination as the city of New York.
The OMB concept of “central” counties is in contrast to the more popular view that would consider the central counties to be Manhattan (New York County) or the five boroughs of New York City. In fact, out of the New York metropolitan area’s 25 counties, all but three (Dutchess and Orange in New York and Pike in Pennsylvania) are central counties. Sufficient parts of the urban area are in the other 22 counties, which makes them central.
The Expanding New York Combined Statistical Area
OMB has a larger metropolitan concept called the “combined statistical area.” The combined statistical area is composed of metropolitan and micropolitan areas that have a high degree of economic integration with the larger metropolitan area. Essentially, adjacent areas are merged into a combined statistical area if there is an employment interchange of 15 percent. This occurs where the sum of the following two factors is 15 percent or more: (1) The percentage of resident workers in the smaller area employed in the larger area (not just central counties) and (2) The percentage of workers employed in the smaller area who reside in the larger area.
On this measure, New York became greater by more 1 million residents as a result of the changes in commuting patterns. The addition of Allentown (Pennsylvania – New Jersey) and the East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania metropolitan areas expanded the New York combined statistical area by another 2,700 square miles (7,000 square miles), bringing the population to 23.1 million. Altogether, the metropolitan area and combined area land area increases added up to 3,700 square miles (9,700 square kilometers). The 35 county New York combined statistical area is illustrated in the map (Figure 1).
Organized Around the World’s Largest Urban Area (in Land Area)
The New York combined statistical area is very large. It covers approximately 14,500 square miles (37,600 square kilometers). From north to south, it measures 235 miles (375 kilometers) from the Massachusetts border of Litchfield County, Connecticut to Beach Haven, in Ocean County, New Jersey. It is an even further east to west, at more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) from Montauk State Park in Suffolk County, New York to the western border of Carbon County in Pennsylvania (Note 2). Despite containing the largest urban area in the world, at 4,500 square miles (11,600 square kilometers), more than 60 percent of the combined statistical area is rural (see Rural Character in America’s Metropolitan Areas).
Dispersion of Jobs and Residences
The dispersion characteristic of modern metropolitan regions is illustrated by the extent to which jobs have followed the population in the New York combined statistical area. In all “rings” outside the city of New York, there is near parity between resident workers and jobs. The greatest employment to worker parity (0.97) is in the metropolitan and micropolitan areas outside the New York metropolitan area (Allentown, PA-NY; Bridgeport, CT; East Stroudsburg, PA; New Haven, CT; Torrington, CT; and Trenton, NJ). There is 0.94 parity in the inner ring suburban counties, which include Nassau and Westchester in New York as well as Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Passaic and Union in New Jersey. The outer balance of the New York metropolitan area has slightly lower employment to worker parity, at 0.87 (Figure 2).
The lowest employment to worker parity in the New York combined statistical area is in the four boroughs of New York City outside Manhattan, at 0.70. The greatest disparity is in Manhattan, where there are 2.80 jobs for every resident worker. Combining all of New York’s five boroughs yields a much more balanced 1.17 jobs per resident worker.
Example: Commuting from Hunterdon County
Hunterdon County, New Jersey provides an example of the dispersion of employment in the New York area. Hunterdon County is located at the edge of the New York metropolitan area. It is well served by the commuter rail services of New Jersey Transit. With a line that reaches Penn Station in New York City, approximately 55 miles (35 kilometers) away. Yet, the world’s second largest employment center (after Tokyo’s Yamanote Loop), Manhattan south of 59th Street, draws relatively few from Hunterdon County to fill its jobs.
Among resident workers, 45 percent have jobs in Hunterdon County. Another 36 percent work in other outer counties of the combined statistical area. This leaves only 19 percent of workers who commute to the rest of the combined statistical area. The New Jersey inner suburban counties attract 16 percent of Hunterdon’s commuters and Manhattan employs just three percent of Hunterdon’s resident workers (Figure 3). Fewer than 0.5 percent of Hunterdon’s commuters work in the balance of the CSA, including the outer boroughs of New York, the other New York counties and Connecticut). The detailed area definitions are included in the Table.
DISTRIBUTION OF COMMUTING FROM HUNTERDON COUNTY, NEW JERSEY To Locations in the New York Combined Statistical Area (2006-2010) NY CSA Sector Commuting from Hunterdon County Areas Included Hunterdon County 45.0% Hunterdon County, NJ Outer Combined Statistical Area 35.6% Monmouth County, NJ Morris County, NJ Ocean County, NJ Pike County, PA Somerset County, NJ Sussex County, NJ Allentown metropolitan area, PA-NJ East Stroundsburg metropolitan area, PA Trenton metropolitan area, NJ Inner Ring (New Jersey only) 16.1% Bergen County, NJ Essex County, NJ Hudson County, NJ Middlesex County, NJ Passaic County, NJ Union County, NJ Manhattan 2.8% New York County, NY Elsewhere 0.4% Bronx Brooklyn Queens Staten Island Dutchess County, NY Nassua County, NY Orange County, NY Putnam County, NY Rockland County, NY Suffolk County, NY Westchester County, NY Bridgeport metropolitan area, CT Kingston metropolitan area, NY New Haven metropolitan area, CT Torrington metropolitan area, CT
From Commuter Belts and Concentricity to Dispersion
Metropolitan areas are labor markets, as OMB reminds in its 2010 metropolitan standards, which refer to metropolitan areas, micropolitan areas, and combined statistical areas as geographic entities associated with at least one core plus “adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties. ”
Yet metropolitan areas have changed a great deal. Through the middle of the last century, metropolitan areas were perceived as monocentric with core cities and a surrounding “commuter belt” from which the city drew workers to fill its jobs. However, metropolitan areas have become more polycentric, as Joel Garreau showed in his book Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. In more recent years, metropolitan areas have become even more dispersed, with most employment located in areas that are hardly centers at all. Of course, some people still commute to downtown and edge cities. Others work even further away, but most find their employment much closer to home. That is the story of New York and, which has just become greater, and other metropolitan areas as well.
Note 1: OMB revised its metropolitan terms in 2000. The term “core based statistical area” (CBSA) is used to denote metropolitan areas (organized about urban areas of 50,000 population or more) and micropolitan areas (organized around urban areas of 10,000 to 50,000 population). The former “consolidated metropolitan statistical area,” was replaced by the combined statistical area, which is a combination of core based statistical areas. OMB also notes that the term “urban area” includes “urbanized areas” (50,000 population or more) and “urban clusters (10,000 to 50,000 population).
Note 2: Part of the reason for this large geographic expanse is the use of counties as building blocks of core based statistical areas. If the smaller geographic units were used (such as census blocks, as in the delineation of urban areas), the geographies would be smaller, though populations would be similar.
[Originally published on newgeography]
Alarmist Grand Poobah Al Gore predicted in 2008 the North Pole could be ice-free in the summer within the next five years. Well, time’s up, and this summer and fall were marked by one of the thickest ice packs in years. Overall, Arctic ice coverage is up 50 percent from 2012 levels.
The Middle East last week was hit by a rare December snow storm, called the “fiercest in 20 years” in Jerusalem. We also saw the first recorded snowfall in Cairo in 100 years. In the United States, meanwhile, 59 percent of the country was covered in snow, the highest level in at least a decade, according to the National Weather Service.
The pics of the Middle East below, taken over the weekend, show that Mother Nature continually laughs at the certainty of the global warming alarmists.
A camel sits in the snow outside Cairo.
Men walking on the snow and sand in Saudi Arabia.
A man prays at the Western Wall.
Two Palestinian men make a snow man in Jerusalem.
Jewish men walk through the snow in Jerusalem.
Snowboarding in an Israeli park.
Snow covers the Dome of the Rock and other buildings in Jerusalem.
A Palestinian builds a snowman.
A Palestinian and a Jewish man walk their separate ways in Jerusalem.
An Israeli walks on a street in Jerusalem.
Children play in the snow in Israel.
Heartland Institute Policy Advisor Merrill Matthews, who is resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, posted a PolicyByte the other day titled “Mandate Revolt: Health Insurers Offering Coverage for Those Who Refuse Obamacare.”
Some health insurers are offering health plans that do not meet Obamacare standards, apparently because they believe there is an opportunity to provide at least some coverage to millions of Americans who refuse to buy an Obamacare plan.
Some pundits and the media have stated or implied that it is illegal for health insurers to sell coverage that does not meet the Affordable Care Act’s “essential benefits” (i.e., things it must cover).
It’s not illegal; insurers are free to sell non-qualified coverage, subject to state insurance department approval.
However, a person buying non-qualified coverage would still have to pay the penalty (or tax) for not having the kind of coverage President Obama approves of—what he likes to call “substandard coverage,” but which many others call affordable.
Assurant is one of the largest insurers for the individual (i.e., non-group) market. It has long offered limited policies, and still does, even with Obamacare’s mandate to have qualified coverage breathing down its neck. It’s Health Access fixed-indemnity product—which means it pays a fixed amount of money rather than a percentage of the medical bill—costs $94, $159 or $249 a month for a 50-year-old male, depending on the coverage options a person chooses.
But Assurant isn’t the only one. I am told that United Healthcare has developed a limited-benefit plan and is now working to get it approved in several states. As is Texas-based American National.
A Heartland friend who got word of this emailed to say he is not all that encouraged by this development. Assurant is a small player that only offers insurance to individuals, and Big Insurance is fully captured by the Obama administration and won’t get out of line lest it risk retaliation. Assurant may get away with this for a while, my correspondent wrote, “but they are just one ‘interum final regulation’ from extinction.”
Aren’t we all “just one interim final regulation” from extinction in the Age of Obama, where the law is what he says it is at any given day? John Podesta, Clinton’s newest White House “fixer,” will certainly be encouraging even more “law” by decree.
I’m sure my correspondent is right that too much of the health insurance industry is captured and won’t dare defy its new master. But when governments get this deep into the business of dictating arbirtary “new economic realities,” genuine free-market activity has a way of emerging to meet the needs and desires of the people. Maybe if more Assurants pop up, the “captured” health insurers will gain the courage to wriggle free.
Consierge medicine, and full-on black-market health services, will be all the buzz in 2014 and beyond. We should all applaud this emerging “gray market” — a quasi-legal way to opt-out of this mess. (And at least Assurant is complying with the law, which is more than can be said for Obama and Sebelius.)
I’d certainly pay the fine plus the premiums of a health plan that met my needs if it was cheaper, and it undoubtedly would be. Hell, I’d find a doctor who would take chickens and rhubarb pie as payment before I’ll submit to the Obamacare Disaster.
John Beale was once the top climate expert at the Environmental Protection Agency, and the EPA’s highest-paid employee. Now he’s going to jail, sentenced today to 32 months in prison for bilking taxpayers out of over $1 million in salary by not showing up for work because he claimed to be doing undercover work for the CIA.
A story in the Financial Times by Brianna Ehley gives more details about John Beale’s work at the EPA. He worked in the Office of Radiation and Safety — the group that is proposing rules declaring carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is a dangerous air pollutant. Present Administer of the EPA Gina McCarthy was John Beale’s supervisor as head of the Office of Radiation and Safety until his retirement April 2013.
Keep this background information about Beale in mind to help judge the credibility of EPA’s absurd rules stating life-supporting carbon dioxide (called carbon pollution) is a dangerous air pollutant.
The full implementation of the incandescent light bulb ban takes effect in two weeks, which in the U.S. government’s anti-liberty wisdom will effectively eliminate the competition to companies like Cree, Inc., who one industry analyst has said is trying to do a “land grab” of the alternative lighting market.
Besides the illegalization of the Thomas Edison’s filamentous light, Cree last week received a $30 million tax credit from the Department of Energy to expand its manufacturing in Racine, Wisc. and Durham, N.C., where it is also headquartered. That was the second installment for Cree from the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit Program, which was funded by $2.3 billion from the Recovery Act. The first windfall for Cree from the stimulus was a $39-million tax credit, as well as $1.8 million for research and development. This is in addition to millions of dollars in federal grants and contracts, plus deals for much more with state and local governments to essentially smash perfectly good incandescents to replace them with Cree’s light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
“With this project,” an announcement of the latest DOE giveaway explained, “Cree is taking the next step toward its goal of making traditional lighting products obsolete through the use of advanced LED technology with significant estimated annual energy savings.”
It always helps when your government mandates your competitor’s destruction while at the same time pours other peoples’ money into your company’s development – presumably a recipe for victory. Unfortunately those darn consumers keep getting in the way, and some retailers are trying to find a way to accommodate them as long as possible. According to FoxNews.com, Home Depot is urging customers to buy up the last of the incandescent bulbs before they are criminalized.
“Get them while you still can,” the nation’s largest bulb retailer urges on its Web site. “Stock up on incandescent light bulbs before they are completely discontinued.”
FoxNews.com reported that Home Depot has stockpiled enough of the old-fashioned version to last six months into 2014, at which time they expect to be out of 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs. Seventy-five watt and 100-watt bulbs are already outlawed. Then the only legal choices that will likely be widely available are compact fluorescents (a mercury-filled toxic hazard when broken) and the LEDs made by Cree and a few others.
The fact that retailers have built up a huge inventory of the incandescent bulbs shows there has been no diminished demand for them. Yet Congress and President Bush in 2007 passed the law that treated incandescents as though they were the endangerment to public health.
The choice left for consumers will be far less disposable income because of what they are forced to spend on light bulbs. Last month NLPC found a six-pack of General Electric, “Double Life” 40-watt soft whites online at Home Depot for $3.97. That works out to 66 cents per bulb. Cree’s LED competitor to that bulb, while it consumes only six watts of energy, costs $9.97 at Home Depot – per bulb. That means 15 of the GE soft white incandescent bulbs could be bought for the same price as the single Cree LED. Or put another way, Cree wants you to believe its LED will last longer than if you replaced a bulb in the same fixture 15 times, and/or that the energy savings will make up the difference.
Maybe it will, or maybe it won’t, but shouldn’t it be the customers’ choice to decide whether they want the cheaper bulb that uses more electricity and delivers a light quality that many people prefer?
As Americans’ preferred lighting delivery method vanishes, Cree looks to fill the void. With the multi-millions of DOE dollars to get a leg up and the ban to make the competition “obsolete,” the company is trying to capitalize.
“Remember, Cree is still in expansion mode where they’re trying to do a land-grab, effectively, of the LED and alternative lighting space,” said Peter Wahlstrom, a senior analyst with the investment research firm Morningstar, to the Durham Herald-Sun. “I would just reiterate that it’s still an under-penetrated market, particularly on the residential side.”
Two years ago a Rasmussen poll found that 67 percent of respondents disapproved of the incandescent ban. Seventy-two percent said light-bulb choices are none of the government’s business. And whether new bulb technologies would have a positive or negative impact on the environment – which is the justification for the incandescent ban in the first place – was split down the middle in the poll.
In order to get customers to adopt the different lighting technology, Cree and its LED competitors like Philips are seeking the help (again) of – you guessed it – even more government-funded or -mandated programs to subsidize the costs of the higher-priced bulbs they sell.
“They’re all trying to take advantage of rebates and Energy Star qualifications, and things like that,” Wahlstrom said.
The stimulus grants ($69 million plus), of course, are also intended to help the “land grab.” While DOE publicized the current $30 million award last week, so also did Cree earlier this month announced a new 75-watt incandescent equivalent LED bulb. The only way that product becomes remotely appealing to consumers is if it receives millions of dollars more in government subsidies, because right now it retails for $23.97 per unit. The $30 million is intended to help cover the costs of new manufacturing machinery at Cree’s two plants, so maybe that will bring the 75-watt bulb price down a few cents.
“Our initial reaction was sticker shock given that the 75 watt equivalent is 85 percent more expensive than the 60 watt equivalent, yet produces only 38 percent more light,” said analyst Andrew Huang of Birmingham, Ala.-based investment firm Sterne Agee, to the Triangle Business Journal.
In other words, no one is going to buy it – no one, that is, except for the same people who can afford to buy taxpayer-subsidized $100,000 electric cars. Even Cree has admitted in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that its business model depends on government mandates and subsidies.
“If governments, their agencies or utilities reduce their demand for our products or discontinue or curtail their funding,” Cree reported, “our business may suffer.
“Changes in governmental budget priorities could adversely affect our business and results of operations. U.S. and foreign government agencies have purchased products directly from us, and products from our customers, and U.S. government agencies have historically funded a portion of our research and development activities. . . . If government or utility funding is discontinued or significantly reduced, our business and results of operations could be adversely affected.”
Thus the “sustainability” that the alternative energy industry, environmental groups and the Obama administration emphasize so often has nothing to do with support from the free market, and everything to do with endless government subsidies.
“We do whatever it takes to try to drive adoption and right now,” said Mike Watson, Cree’s vice president of corporate marketing, to theTriangle Business Journal.
Yes, that 137 percent increase in Cree’s lobbying expenditures as the stimulus bill was pieced together in 2009 is still paying off – “whatever it takes.”
[First published at the National Legal and Policy Center.]
The deal amounts to saving two days of federal spending over the next decade. A sliver of a sliver of savings. And that’s assuming future Congresses follow through on today’s promises, something that almost never happens because no Congress can force a future Congress to do anything.
Federal spending totaled $3.5 trillion in fiscal 2013 and would go to $3.6 trillion in 2014 (President Obama wants nearly $3.8 trillion of spending), up more than 40 percent since 2002 even after adjusting for inflation. Just for fun, I’m going to pick up the link for this statistic from the Heritage Foundation, one of the big targets of Republican establishment wrath.
There are 365 days in a year. With spending of approximately $3.6 trillion, the government spends approximately $10 billion a day. The Ryan-Murray deal says to let discretionary spending rise $63 billion over the next couple of years. Over the next 10 years they’d cut it to generate a net savings of $22.5 billion. That totals approximately two days of federal spending.
Ten years times 365 days in a year equals 3,650 days. Divide by two days and we arrive at 1,825. So Ryan-Murray would save 1/1,825th of federal spending over a decade at current rates of spending.
The deal overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives a few days ago and could soon be okayed in the Senate. House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican Party establishment leaders are lashing out at conservatives and Tea Party types who oppose the deal. (“They are not fighting for conservative policy. They are fighting to expand their lists, raise more money and grow their organizations, and they are using you to do it. It’s ridiculous,” Boehner told The New York Times, which, as we all know, has long been a conservative and Tea Party tool.)
For most of the years since 2002, when federal spending went on its 40 percent inflation-adjusted increase, a self-described compassionate conservative Republican named George W. Bush occupied the White House, and in some of those Bush years Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate. Spending under this compassionately “conservative” regime climbed much faster than it has under the “progressive” regime of Democrat Barack H. Obama. In fact, spending under Bush climbed more than under any president since Lyndon Baines Johnson, who bequeathed the nation a huge escalation in the Vietnam War (we lost), Medicare (it’s insolvent), and the War on Poverty (we’re losing).
Paul Ryan, the supposed “fiscal hawk” Republican budget negotiator, voted for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that Bush foisted on the nation shortly before he left office – a program that polls showed Americans overwhelmingly opposed. Ryan supported Bush’s huge Medicare expansion for prescription drugs – the largest entitlement increase since Medicare was created in the 1960s, and the first to be done without one penny of revenue designated to pay for it. He supported Bush’s failed economic stimulus spending. Ryan supported virtually all the Bush-era spending increases.
Cutting 1/1,825th of federal spending over a decade doesn’t sound like much of a cut. Combine this paltry promise with the recent history of federal spending under a Republican president who, for a time, also enjoyed Republicans in charge of the House and the Senate and who enjoyed Republicans in charge of the House for most of his term. Now Republican leaders are telling us a promise to cut two days of federal spending over a decade — a promise future lawmakers do not have to follow — is a breakthrough.
Some people actually believe in limiting the size and power of government. Republican leaders say they believe in it. When is the last time they acted like it? The Republican base is angry that Republican establishment leaders don’t act like it. The leaders are angry that the Republican base wants them to act like it.
Who’s more honorable? Those who expect people to act on their professed beliefs? Or those who profess beliefs but do not act on them?
Although not happening in all school districts throughout Illinois at the same time or to the same degree, several similar practices have being reported in school districts across the nation. Some might already be the norm, or might soon be the norm, in your Illinois school district where teachers are in the initial stages of employing Common Core standards to guide what skills students learn, not only when, but how.Many great literary works won’t be read or taught at all. The move is away from classics and toward informational texts such as government documents. When reading a classic speech such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, students will be told to mediate on how they feel about the text and then asked to relate it to social justice. Ignored will be the virtues of honor, moral truths, right and wrong, etc., so prevalent in classic literature as revealed in their contents. In other words, students will be encouraged to think like a socialist with texts that foster extreme leftist ideology.
- Changing emphasis on historical events. Why Pearl Harbor should be remembered seems obvious to most of us. Consider the opening page of the slim chapter in one approved Common Core textbook devoted to World War II called “War Shock”, which features a photograph of a woman inspecting a large stockpile of thousand-pound bomb castings. As stated: The entire section is littered with questions and plenty of photos that show the destruction of Hiroshima. Just in case students would be inclined to take the American side in this conflict, the editors see to it that teachers will remind the students repeatedly that there are two sides in every war.
- A new interest in religion — just everything else but Christianity or Judaism. In California, a Common Core book used in middle school (“History Alive”) has an entire 65-page chapter devoted to the History of Islam which glorifies Islam and Muhammad where before there was only one page devoted to Islam, while the text about the history of Christianity and the church has been decreased.
- Math concepts taught at different age levels. In Math, multiplication is being moved from second grade to third and algebra is being pushed into the high school. Calculus is no longer a requirement, even though calculus is required at the college level. http://pioneerinstitute.org/news/lowering-the-bar-how-common-core-math-fails-to-prepare-students-for-stern-
- Student and family privacy tossed out. In the privacy realm: It has been revealed that non-academic, personal information is beingcollected through the Common Core testing consortia about students and their parents, including family income, parents’ political affiliation, their religion, and students’ disciplinary records — all without parental consent.
- Exhorbitant costs to school budgets. Regarding cost to Illinois: Official estimates indicate that for every $1 in federal funding states will receive from adopting Common Core, they’ll have to spend $4 to implement it. It’s much higher here in Illinois. Implementation of Common Core will cost $799 million, with federal awards totaling $66 million. This means Illinois will lose $733 million. As a federal incentive to sign on to Common Core in 2010, Illinois is the big loser financially, as are young people education-wise.
- Cost passed on to taxpayers. The cost to school districts is projected to reach $166 million nationwide over the next five years. This year state lawmakers experienced a sticker shock when PARC and SBAC rolled out its new tests which were twice as expensive on the average -as were previous tests — $22 to $27 per test. With 67% of the Illinois’ local districts operating at a deficit, one study shows Common Core implementation could cost local school districts $773 million over the next seven years.
Do your own homework on Common Core in your school district(s). Don’t allow advocates to peg you as crazy. Show up at local school board meetings and let your opinions be heard, also at PTA meetings. It is imperative that you take the time to find out how far along your school system is in adopting Common Core standards.
FOIAs are a good way to request information if a school district prefers to be secretive by being vague or in giving you the run around. Also, most districts have a curriculum director for direct interaction about Common Core. And by all means if you have children attending public schools (and even private schools) keep tabs on what and how they are being taught. Text books must be examined for bias and propaganda.
No where in our Constitution is education spelled out as to its structure and scope, for the Founders wanted nearly all aspects of our lives to be governed by those who were closest to us at the local or state level. Education does relates to the 10th Amendment as state’s rights issue. We cannot allow government to grab children early on, entering them first into a government program called Kindergarten, then continuing the molding until about age 20 when they are called to serve the State.
Opposition is growing against Common Core from the left, the right, and the middle in many states over concern about Common Core and its implementation, especially over the high-stakes standardized tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards.There is Common Core unrest in 17 states, Illinois is not among them, as noted in this post by Mercedes Schneider, a public school teacher, education activist, PhD.
Even two Democrat-led states, New York and Massachusetts — Blue States like Illinois — are showing signs of distancing themselves from the curriculum that the Obama administration is supporting in a big way. Will Illinois be next to turn on Common Core? It is past time to take action that is really for the sake of our children, unlike school districts who use the phrase “for the children” when appealing to taxpayers for additional funding.
Russian communist Vladimir Lenin knew the power of controlling the future by taking control of the school. He once said: ”Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never by uprooted.”
The EU’s apparent preference for settling, rather than prosecuting Google for antitrust violations, turns a blind eye to Google’s proliferating abuse of its dominance.
Last week Canada’s Competition Bureau announced its investigation has found three new ways that Google maybe abusing its dominance. Those three are above and beyond the four abuses of dominance that the EU already has found. In turn, those four were more abuses of dominance than the U.S. Federal Trade Commission found in its earlier investigation.
Canadian authorities allege Google is abusing its dominance by raising advertiser prices via forcing participation in Enhanced Campaigns, by foreclosing competition via exclusive Android deals, and by abusing YouTube’s dominance to foreclose other mobile platforms.
Google’s dominance is also not going away; it is proliferating at an accelerating rate. Google reached a billion users via searches in 13 years, Google Maps in 9 years, YouTube in 8 years, and Android in 5 years. Google+ will likely reach a billion users in an estimated 4 years.
Google’s rapidly spreading dominance and allegations of dominance abuse make it by far the largest, broadest, fastest-spreading, and potentially most harmful dominant firm in EU history. Never before has one company had more power to dictate what people find online, the value of Internet content, and which online businesses prosper or fail.
Google’s EU privacy and data protection abuses are also growing.
Concerning abuses of other EU laws, EU nations have found Google to be among the most aggressive companies in the world at evading EU taxes. And Google has earned more copyright and patent property infringement charges than any company in the world.
Simply put, there is no other company that the EU has more law enforcement problems with than Google.
In that well-known context, it is astounding that the EU is even entertaining a Google-proposed absolution settlement that would require the EU to “confirm there are no grounds for further action.”
If approved, the settlement would make many extraordinary unwarranted concessions to Google.
The EU would allow Google to continue illegally diverting traffic and preferring Google content.
The EU would absolve Google of any wrongdoing for abusing its dominance in four ways.
The EU would not conclude Google’s greater-than 90 percent share is dominance even though the EU’s standard dominance threshold for other companies is 39.7 percent.
The EU would exempt Google from any fine and the standard EU legal obligations of dominant firms, i.e., “A special responsibility not to allow its conduct to impair competition on the common market.”
The EU would even permit Google to continue to extend its dominance into other markets without limit.
In sum, the EU’s continued interest in settling with Google generates many more questions than it answers.
Why would the EU lean towards the most lenient process and treatment for the most dominant, and potentially the most abusive dominant, company the EU has ever investigated?
Why would the EU consider minimizing and not maximizing its law enforcement authority and deterrence when it knows the Google dominance abuse problem is not going away, but actually is spreading and getting much worse?
How would Google have much incentive to fully comply with the proposed settlement if the EU agrees to shut down its current investigations before, and not after, Google has fully complied with the proposed settlement?
How would a settlement deter future Google abuses of dominance when the proposed settlement does not conclude Google’s 90 percent share is dominant; include an admission of, or responsibility for, wrongdoing, or preclude future illegal abuses?
What part of Google’s first two settlement proposals’ delays, deceit, and deficiencies, inspire EU confidence that Google would promptly and fully comply with its proposed settlement?
In short, why isn’t the European Commission prosecuting Google?
[First published at the Daily Caller.]
Increasingly, EPA regulations are being challenged and now reach the Supreme Court for a final judgment. This marks the failure of Congress to exercise any real oversight and control of an agency that everyone agrees is now totally out of control.
Recently the EPA ruled that New York City had to replace 1,300 fire hydrants because of their lead content. The ruling was based on the Drinking Water Act passed by Congress in 2011. As Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) pointed out while lambasting the agency, “I don’t know a single New Yorker who goes out to their fire hydrants every morning, turns it on, and brushes their teeth using the water from these hydrants. It makes no sense whatsoever.” Reportedly, the Senate is poised to consider legislation exempting fire hydrants if the EPA does not revise its ruling.
The EPA is not about making sense. It is about over-interpreting laws passed by Congress in ways that now continually lead to cases before the Supreme Court. The Court is composed of lawyers, not scientists. In an earlier case, they ruled that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a “pollutant” when it is the one gas that all vegetation requires. Without it, nothing grows and all life on Earth dies.
A federal appeals court recently heard a case about the EPA’s interpretation of the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, yet another effort in the “war on coal” that would shut down more coal-fired plants that provide the bulk of the electricity the nation requires.
The EPA is asserting that the rule would annually prevent 11,000 premature deaths, nearly 5,000 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks. Moreover it asserts that it would help avoid more than 540,000 missed work days, and protect babies and children. These statistics are plucked from various studies published in journals and are typical of the way the EPA operates to justify its rulings. Their accuracy is dubious.
What makes this case, brought by EarthJustice–formerly the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund–of interest is the way the NAACP, along with 17 other organizations, came to the defense of the ruling. Are you surprised that the NAACP has a director of Environmental and Climate Justice?
Apparently civil rights for Afro-Americans now embraces the absurd claims about climate change, formerly known as global warming. “Civil rights are about equal access to protections afforded by law,” said Jacqui Patterson, the NAACP director. “These standards provide essential safeguards for communities who are now suffering from decades of toxic exposure.” If these essential safeguards are in place, on what basis does she make such a claim?
The EarthJustice attorney, Jim Pew, claims the case is about protecting “hundreds of thousands of babies each year from development disorders, and spare communities of 130,000 asthma attacks each year. If, in a lawsuit, you find yourself arguing against the lives of babies, children with asthma, and people suffering from your toxic dumping, then you are on the wrong side of both the lawsuit and history..”
Here, again, the claims about health-related harm are absurd. Who believes that asthma or development disorders are related to mercury? Who believes that communities served by coal-fired power plants are subject to major health hazards?
The claims about mercury are baseless, in a 2011 commentary published in The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Willie Soon, a geoscientist at Harvard and expert on mercury and public health issues was joined by Paul Driessen, a senior policy advisor for the Committee For a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), rebuts the claims about mercury that have been part of the environmental lies put forth for years:
“There is no factual basis for these assertions. To build its case against mercury, the EPA systematically ignored evidence and clinical studies that contradict its regulatory agenda, which is the punish hydrocarbon use.”
“Mercury has always existed naturally in the Earth’s environment…Mercury is found in air, water, rocks, soil and tries, which absorb it from the environment. This is why our bodies evolved with proteins and antioxidants that help protect us from this and other potential contaminants.”
Dr. Soon and Driessen do not deny that coal-burning power plants emit an estimated 41-to-48 tons of mercury per year, “but U.S. forest fires emit at least 44 tons per year; cremation of human remains discharges 26 tons, Chinese power plants eject 400 tons; and volcanoes, subsea vents, geysers, and other sources spew out 9,000-10,000 additional tons per year.”
“Since our power plants account for less than 0.5% of all the mercury in the air we breathe, eliminating every milligram of it will do nothing about the other 99.5% in our atmosphere.”
Such facts mean nothing to the EPA. The air and the water of the United States is remarkably clean, but to justify its existence and expand its power, the EPA continues to impose idiotic and unscientific rules about fire hydrants and power plants.
The threat is the EPA, not mercury.
[First published at Warning Signs.]
Fittingly, the dinner, organized by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), was held in the O’Byrne Gallery of the DAR’s Constitution Hall where President Bush signed the law on December 8, 2003.
Represented were many of the people who conceived of the idea in the 1980s, the policy staff and legislators who enacted the first Medical Savings Accounts (MSA) law in 1996, the entrepreneurs and regulators who took the concept and created Health Reimbursement Accounts in 2002, and the companies who have turned the law into the products and services that benefit tens of millions of people today.
NCPA President John Goodman, who is often referred to as “the father of HSAs,” and myself opened the commemoration with a tribute to the late J. Patrick Rooney, Chairman of Golden Rule Insurance, who did more than anyone else to popularize the idea and shepherd it through the legislative hurdles.
Brian McManus and Darryl Ritchie, who worked closely with Mr. Rooney, were on hand to discuss how hard he worked to keep the MSA proposal bipartisan, recruiting Democrat co-sponsors such as Representatives Andy Jacobs and Richard Gephardt, and Senators John Breaux and Tom Daschle.
Dr. Reyn Archer, the son of Rep. Bill Archer, former Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, remembered how his father negotiated with Senator Ted Kennedy to include MSAs in other legislation. And former Senator Phil Gramm recalled how the bipartisan support fell apart over President Clinton’s attempt to enact sweeping health reforms.
Kyle Rolfing and Dr. Mike Parkinson, formerly of Definity Health and Lumenos respectively, spoke of taking the MSA concept a step further after the collapse of managed care in the late 1990s. They found a way to apply the idea under current tax law and sell it to large corporations. They found a receptive audience in the Bush Treasury Department, according to Bill Sweetnam, which termed the effort Health Reimbursement Arrangements.
The embrace of consumer-directed health care by larger corporations helped secure the HSA legislation in 2003, aided by regulators such as Roy Ramthun, who also read a letter of congratulations from former Secretary of the Treasury John Snow. Mr. Snow called HSAs “an example of public policy done right,” and said, “The creation and implementation of HSAs represents one of the most meaningful health policy innovations in a generation and one that I count as a great accomplishment of the Bush Administration and my tenure as Secretary of the Treasury.”
Also on hand were representatives of many of the companies who are developing and marketing the products and services that support consumers in the health care marketplace, including, Evolution1, Health Equity, ConnectYourCare, Alegeus Technologies, Acclaris, Bank of America, Golden Rule Insurance, Optum Bank, and PNC Bank.
The commemoration was topped off with a champagne toast by Dr. Goodman, honoring all those who have made the program successful and calling for restoring the patient to the center of the health care system in the future.
[First published at NCPA.]
The public eulogies marking the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 on December 5, 2013 have refocused attention on the long struggle in South Africa to bring about an end to racial discrimination and the Apartheid system.Mandela and His Marxist View of Apartheid
Forgotten or at least certainly downplayed in the international remembrance of Mandela’s nearly three decades of imprisonment and his historical role in becoming the first black president of post-Apartheid South Africa is the fact that through most of the years of his active resistance leading up to his arrest and incarceration he accepted the Marxist interpretation that racism and racial discrimination were part and parcel of the capitalist system.
Mandela was a member of a revolutionary communist cohort who were insistent and convinced that only a socialist reorganization of society could successfully do away with the cruel, humiliating, and exploitive system of racial separateness.
With the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the communist model of socialist transformation was too tarnished and delegitimized to serve a as a guidebook for post-Apartheid South Africa by the time that Mandela assumed office as the first black president in that country in May 1994.
Instead, Mandela’s government followed the alternative collectivist path of a highly “activist” and aggressive interventionist-welfare state, with its usual special interest politicking, group-favoritism, and its inescapable corruption and abuse of power. Its legacy is the sorry and poverty-stricken state of many of those in the black South African community in whose name the anti-Apartheid revolution was fought.The Free Market Criticisms of Apartheid
But this did not have to be the road taken by South Africa. There were other voices that also opposed the racial and Apartheid policies of the white South African government, especially in the decades after the Second World War.
These voices argued that racial policies in that country were not the result of “capitalism,” but instead were precisely the product of anti-capitalist government interventionism to benefit and protect certain whites from the potential competition of black Africans.
One of the most prominent of these voices was economist, William H. Hutt. Hutt had come to South Africa from Great Britain in 1928 and taught at the University of Cape Town until the 1970s, when he moved to the United States where he died in 1988. Born in 1899, he had attended the London School of Economics and studied under Edwin Cannan, the noted historian of economic thought and liberal free trade economist.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Hutt became most widely known in free market and classical liberal circles as an outspoken and tireless critic of Keynesian economics and an advocate of a liberal free market order.
But his notoriety in South Africa was due to his well-reasoned and biting criticisms of government economic policies to “keep blacks in their place.” Indeed, in the mid-1950s, Hutt was threatened with expulsion from the country as a result of his criticisms until the matter was brought up in the South African parliament, and his right of residence and freedom of speech were defended.South Africa’s Racist and Anti-Capitalist Policies
William Hutt’s criticisms culminated in a 1964 book, “The Economics of the Color Bar.” The thesis of the book was that South Africa’s “race problem” was due to the rejection of a liberal, open and competitive market economy. Black poverty and the income inequality between South African whites and blacks was caused by government regulation and prohibitions that bestowed privileges on segments of the white, and especially Afrikaner, population at the expense of unprivileged blacks who were prevented from competing for employment and opening businesses in restricted “white-only” parts of the economy.
These discriminatory laws began to be implemented in the early decades of the 20th century. Under “workplace fairness,” for example, white trade unions had pushed for legislation requiring for “equal pay for equal work.” But, in fact, such laws made it difficult for blacks to offer themselves at more attractive wages than their white competitors. This worked like a minimum wage law that prices lower skilled and less valuable workers out of the market. In the South African case, the burden of exclusion from employment fell almost completely on blacks.Afrikaner Fear of Black African Competition
In his book Hutt traced out the history of how the Afrikaners, who had originally come from Holland and had first settled in South Africa early in the 1600s, were mostly farmers who shunned manufacturing and commercial enterprise. These latter occupations and businesses were mostly formed and developed by later settlers from Great Britain.
But as circumstances changed over time in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with industrial development and the growth in mining, Afrikaners reluctantly found themselves moving into these lines of employment. However, they resented and feared the potential competition from black Africans also looking for employment, and who might be more industrious than themselves or willing to work for lower wages.
The labor market restrictions were exacerbated in the post-World War II period when the Afrikaner-led Nationalist Party came to power in 1948 and instituted the Apartheid policy of keeping the races separate by restricting entire professions and occupations or forms of employment for white workers only.
In addition to occupational segregation, Apartheid attempted to limit black residence and settlement to certain parts of South Africa, which included restrictions on the everyday movement of blacks within white areas.Government Planning to Separate the Races
Hutt called this a form of “totalitarian” control so the government could “centrally plan” the interactions, associations and movements of whites and blacks throughout the country. Contrary to the leftist propaganda of the time, many private businesses in South Africa were interested and willing to employ black workers and invest in their training and acquisition of more highly valued marketable skills.
However, the Afrikaner government used its regulatory and fiscal tools of control and intimidation to “keep in line” white employers who saw economic gain by “crossing the color line” in their businesses and enterprises.
Thus, it was political goals of the South African government and not the market motive of profit that prevented black South Africans from having the opportunities to rise more out of poverty through peaceful competition and cooperative commercial association.Free Markets as the Great Liberator
Hutt forcefully insisted that capitalism was the potential and real force for freedom and prosperity of the blacks in South Africa, if only the government would get out of the way. As Hutt expressed, it in the free market the only “color” that really matters is the color of your money:
“The liberating force is released by what is variously called ‘the free market system,’ ‘the competitive system, ‘the capitalist system’ or ‘the profit system.’ When we buy a product in the free market, we do not ask: What was the color of the person who made it? Nor do we ask about the sex, race, nationality, religion or political opinions of the producer.” “All we are interested in,” Hutt continued, “is whether it is good value for money. Hence it is in the interest of businessmen (who must try to produce at least cost in anticipation of demand) not only to seek out and employ the least privileged classes (excluded by custom and legislation from more remunerative employments) but actually to educate them for these opportunities by investing in them.
“I have tried to show [in his book], Hutt said, “that in South Africa it has been to the advantage of investors as a whole that all color bars should be broken down; and that the managements of commercial and industrial firms (when they have not been intimidated by politicians wielding the planning powers of the state) have striven to find methods of providing more productive and better remunerative opportunities for the non-Whites.”
What, then, was holding back opportunities for black South Africans? Hutt explained it was the political and restrictive power of government:Government Intervention Benefits Some and Hurts Others
“The subjugating force is universally through what we usually call, when writing dispassionately, the interventionist, collectivist, authoritarian or ‘dirisgiste’ system . . . Unchecked state power (or the private use of coercive power tolerated by the state) tends, deliberately or unintendedly, patently or deviously, to repress minorities or politically weak groups. Thus, the effective color bars which have denied economic opportunities and condemned non-Whites to be ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ have all been created in response to demand for state intervention by most [of South Africa’s] political parties.”
Why would businessmen, enterprisers, capitalists have any incentive or motive to overcome what might even be their own racial or ethnic prejudices and hire and train those in the discriminated group?Consumers’ Color-Blindness Open Opportunities
Hutt said that it was due to what he once called “consumers’ sovereignty.” That is, in a competitive, open and free market, there is only one way that a businessman may earn profits and gain market share: Making the better and less expensive product than his rivals who are also attempting to capture some of the consumers’ business. In the free market place, the consumer is the “master” and the producers are the “servants” who must satisfy the consumers’ desires, or end up as failed entrepreneurs.
“The virtues of the free market do not depend upon the virtues of the men at the political top but on the dispersed powers of substitution exercised by men in their role as consumers,” Hutt stated. “In that role, a truly competitive market enables them to exert the energy [through their decisions to buy or not to buy] which enforces the neutrality of business decision-making in respect of race, color, creed, sex, class, accent, school, or income group.”
“In a multi-racial society,” Hutt continued, “it tends, because of the consumers’ color-blindness, to dissolve customs and prejudices which have been restricting the ability of the under-privileged to contribute to, and hence to share in, the common pool of output and income. This is because business decision-makers – ‘entrepreneurs’ – have an immensely powerful incentive to economize for the benefit of their customers, who collectively make up the public. Their success depends upon their acumen and skills in acquiring the resources needed for production at the least cost, especially in discovering under-utilized resources.”
Here was the free market capitalist road not taken by South Africa, both in bringing an end to the racist and Apartheid policies of the past, and in terms of the policies that could have brought about a far more color-blind, free, and prosperous South African society in the nearly twenty years since 1994.
In following the anti-capitalist ideas of Nelson Mandela instead of the classical liberal free market ideas of someone like William H. Hutt, South Africa’s post-Apartheid history has been in many ways as troubled and discriminatory as the corrupt racist regime it replaced.
[Originally published on Epic Times]
Green energy, specifically solar and wind, has been sold to the American public as the answer to a host of crimes against the planet—but green has a big downside.
Hundreds of acres of photovoltaic solar panels confuse migratory water birds, such as the “once-
critically endangered brown pelican whose lifestyle involves fishing by diving into open water,” to veer miles out of their way to dive toward what they perceive are lakes or wetlands—only to die from “blunt force trauma.” At the largest solar thermal plant in the world, Ivanpah, the 170,000 reflecting mirrors—designed to “superheat liquid in boilers”—literally fries feathers. The USA Today reports that the intense radiation—called solar flux—has singed some birds, melted feathers, and denatured the protein in their wings as they fly through the intense heat. Unable to fly, the injured birds drop out of the sky and die.
The birds being lured to their death by solar power plants may get a reprieve.
USA Today references a “solar-industrial corridor” along I-10 in Riverside County, California, which was to have 80 percent of its 148,000 acres covered with solar panels or mirrors. However, it reports: “Today, that seems unlikely. Industry trends are toward smaller solar projects and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) loan-guarantee program has ended.” Additionally, Friday, December 13, was unlucky for the solar industry—but lucky for the birds. Giving official recognition of the threat solar power tower projects pose to wildlife, the California Energy Commission announced that it is “likely to deny approval to a major Riverside
County solar power project that has been criticized for posing an unacceptable risk to birds and other wildlife.”
The bald and golden eagles aren’t so lucky.
The Friday before, December 6, the Obama Administration announced an extension of the existing five-year eagle take permit. Effective immediately, the new rule issued by the Department of Interior (DOI) will grant 30-year permits allowing wind farms to “accidently kill federally protected eagles.” The “rule” is in direct violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act passed by Congress in 1940.
Wind turbines chop up bald and golden eagles, and other endangered species—like a Cuisinart. If the DOE were to meet its 2030 goal of having 20 percent of the nation’s electricity generated from wind, the authors of a new study on bird collision mortality at wind facilities project: “a mean annual mortality estimate of roughly 1.4 million birds.”
To encourage Interior Secretary Jewell to reverse the DOI decision, the National Audubon Society has set up a direct email option with a customizable letter to Secretary Jewell that states: “The 30-year permit rule is a blank check for the wind industry and provides no comfort or confidence at all that you will be protecting America’s majestic Bald and Golden Eagles and safeguarding their populations.”
Like the expiration of the DOE loan guarantee program has increased the likelihood populations of migratory birds will survive death by renewables, the pending expiration of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy could help the eagles and other raptors that are attracted to the towering turbines.
A December 12 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial, “Powering Down the Wind Subsidy,” points out, as the subtitle states: “How Congress can achieve something by doing nothing.” The WSJ is encouraging Congress to “do nothing” and allow the PTC to expire as scheduled on December 31—which would save taxpayers $18 billion over the next five years. Expire it may, as the current budget deal takes away last minute negotiations that got it extended last year—but that doesn’t mean it is really gone. The PTC has expired several times in its twenty-year history and has been extended retroactively. The WSJ states: “The wind lobby is now trying to get the subsidy included in a January ‘tax extender’ package and made retroactive.”
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on December 13, for the first time hinted, according to Politico.com, that he may push the Senate to consider a tax extenders package. Wyden said: “If you didn’t have tax reform and you didn’t have extenders, you’d do crushing damage to solar, wind and renewables.” No mention was made of the “crushing damage” to America’s migratory bird population or to the bald and golden eagles.
Wyden will likely have his way. While, Republicans generally oppose government subsidies and support the energy that actually works, and Democrats, like Wyden, tend to favor government giveaways and support the energy that they “hope” will “change” and actually work—there are plenty of Republicans who will help him push the “extenders” package and give the PTC back. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, where the PTC extension originates, and he recently predicted a PTC extension. With just a handful of Republicans, such as Orin Hatch (UT), Pat Roberts (KS), John Thune (SD), and Mike Crapo (ID)—all of whom voted for the extension in 2012, the PTC could be hailed a “bipartisan victory.”
Think of the millions of birds being killed by renewables. Think of the billions of taxpayer dollars that have gone down the drain in “the quest for the holy grail of cheap renewable power.” Whether you oppose death by renewables for avian or economic reasons isn’t important. But what does matter is making your opposition to continuing wind welfare heard.
Cleland is the president of Precursor, LLC, a Fortune 500 research consultancy specializing in the future of Internet competition, property rights, privacy, cyber-security and cyber-ideology; algorithmic markets; and communications competition and de-regulation. Cleland authors the widely-read PrecursorBlog and serves as Chairman of NetCompetition® a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.
Cleland’s thesis is that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an outdated and outmoded federal bureaucracy. He explains in the podcast that the FCC’s common carrier laws are largely outdated because they were created in 1934 and pulled from 1880′s regulations for the railroad industry. How do you expect such an outdated law to keep up with modern technology?
The bottom line is that the FCC’s authority is obsolete and needs to recognize today’s facts.
Hear the rest by listening to the podcast in the player above!
Mayor Bloomberg’s going out with one last ban. The City Council, with the administration’s strong backing, is rushing through a law to treat the vapor from e-cigarettes like tobacco smoke under the city’s “Smoke-Free Air Act.” The use of e-cigs, aka “vaping,” would be forbidden in indoor and outdoor locations wherever smoking is banned.
The key idea is that e-cigs somehow facilitate tobacco smoking – but the best evidence suggests the reverse, that they’re mainly useful for (and used by) people trying to quit. So the ban is likely to do harm, not good.
The goal of the Smoke-Free Air Act has always been to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, and allow people to smoke in fewer places, with the hope that it would cause them to quit. Banning e-cigs helps on neither front.
It won’t cut exposure to secondhand smoke, because there is no smoke — not even any first-hand smoke. And early evidence is that they’re a much more popular way to help people quit smoking than forcing them to stand out in the cold.
Here’s the science so far: A randomized controlled trial, published in the Lancet last month, found that e-cigs were about as effective an aid in quitting as FDA approved nicotine patches.
The study, funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, also found that e-cigs have only a few adverse effects — far fewer than tobacco.
The pro-ban side argues that e-cigarettes “normalize” smoking, because people may be confused and think vaping is smoking. That’s nonsense.
Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association summed up the claim at a council hearing this month: “This mimicry of traditional cigarettes, if used indoors where smoking is banned, can easily lead to confusion and confrontation by New York business owners. The potential for this dynamic to weaken the city’s decade-long ban on smoking in workplaces is quite clear and is the greatest motivating factor to support this proposal.”
Actual business owners beg to differ. Andrew Rigie of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, the trade association for restaurants and bars, testified that e-cigarettes have not become an issue of concern among his members.
It seems that regular folks can tell that the blue LED light on the tip of many e-cigs from the red burning ember at the end of real cigarettes. It helps that vapor doesn’t stink the way tobacco smoke does.
Yes, e-cigs somewhat mimic the old “coffin nails” — that’s why they help you quit. Many smokers prefer kicking the habit with a product that looks and feels like a cigarette.
Spike Babian, co-owner of Vape New York, a city “vape shop,” made the clear point, testifying, “We don’t ban water because it looks like vodka.”
City Health Commissioner Tom Farley presented another red herring at the same hearing, hauling out the “gateway” argument: He claimed, with no data to back up the charge, that e-cigarette use could lead to smoking. In fact, preliminary studies, as well as empirical evidence, show that e-cigarettes are a major gateway away from smoking.
A study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in November looked at 1,300 college students, average age 19. Only 43 of those told researchers their first nicotine product was an e-cigarette, and only one of the 43 later switched to cigarettes. The vast majority of the 43 who’d tried an e-cigarette weren’t using nicotine or tobacco when researchers followed up.
“It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything,” said researcher Theodore Wagener, an assistant professor of general and community pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, in Oklahoma City.
As an ultimate fallback, activists suggest e-cig vapor might be dangerous. But in a study this summer, Drexel University’s Dr. Igor Burstyn found “there is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures . . . that would warrant health concerns by the standards that are used to ensure safety of workplaces.”
Grasping at straws, the ban fans suggest it’s just the prudent thing to do until we have more data. No, the prudent thing to do is to help smokers trying to quit.
[Originally published in the New York Post]
Politically, the president’s inequality concern trolling push is just the latest MacGuffin: the distraction of an issue that does not poll as a high priority, but is designed as a sop to the media and his now-shrinking base of support. But it also speaks to real concerns in an era of wage stagnation and squeezed paychecks. There shouldn’t be any debate about the reality of the problem that the costs of basic staples, health care, and higher education are chewing up ever-increasing portions of the median family budget which is, in inflation-adjusted terms, smaller than it’s been since 1995. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the past five years, the average prices for all goods are 7.7% higher; the average price of bread is 10.4% higher; and the average price of meat/poultry/fish/eggs is 16.2% higher. In the past decade, the average worker has paid 89 percent more toward their health care benefits, while their wages grew 31 percent. The rising costs of the government-fueled higher education bubble makes American parents concerned they can no longer afford to send their kids to college. On top of it all, Americans no longer feel confident about their ability to find a new job which can pay them enough to make up for the costs of these goods and services.
The problem is not that the cost of unskilled labor is too low. The problem is the costs of what workers can buy with the fruits of that labor are too high. And the reason for that is largely due to government and systems which socialize risk and insulate producers from reality, not the realities of a competitive marketplace. Those who favor a free market response to these inequality-related concerns ought to view the minimum wage push as an opportunity to put forward an agenda that speaks to these real concerns with a gas & groceries agenda. This is not going to be solved by more government requirements which raise the cost of labor and will absolutely lead to more low-skilled unemployment: it is with an agenda that would smash the insulated systems which have led to these higher costs.
What does that look like in practice? Well, you can start by ending the massive subsidies and mandates for big conglomerates that drive up food and gas prices; streamlining or eliminate burdensome regulations on food production; ending the government’s management Soviet-style programs of dairy and raisins; streamlining or eliminating burdensome regulations on energy which needlessly drive up prices, inhibit competition, and destabilize the market while eliminating all taxpayer-funded energy subsidies and letting the best product win; and eliminating subsidies and tax incentives for energy companies to turn food like corn into gas, such as the Renewable Fuel Standard. You can propose smashing the federal government’s accreditation cartel, which has had a dramatic and negative impact on innovation within the higher ed space, and take a simple, federalist step of empowering the states to create 50 new accreditation entities. With the ability to accredit all the way down to the level of the individual course, this approach would push market-driven course offerings designed not as hollow imitations of larger liberal arts programs, but to suit the skill demands of the new economy.
These types of approaches, packaged together or pursued separately, should address these concerns head on. But is the Republican Party at all interested in such steps? It’s an open question, given how many of them are still in bed with many of the industries who view these protectionist and subsidy programs as essential supports for their industry.
I’ve repeatedly criticized the government’s sugar program, which kills jobs here in America while driving up prices on sugar and incentivizing the use of high fructose corn syrup – some estimates have put the program at a $1.9 billion annual cost for foodmakers and consumers. But this piece in the Washington Post illustrates how much hypocrisy exists on the right around the program, bringing together Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Marco Rubio to defend a New Deal-era program of market-warping cronyism.
“As a rule, the industry meets with every incoming freshman member of a new Congress. This year the list included Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), elected in 2012 on a tea party platform. Yoho quickly gained national recognition for, among other things, pressing House Republicans to cut deeply into farm bill programs such as food stamps. But on sugar subsidies, the livestock veterinarian said he has grown to support the industry view. He is sponsoring a sugar-backed resolution that favors giving up the sugar program only when other countries end their subsidies. “I ran on limited government, fiscal responsibility and free enterprise,” Yoho said, “but when you’ve got programs that have been in place and it’s the accepted norm, to just go in there and stop it would be detrimental to our sugar growers.”
Mario Loyola does a good job of explaining how execrable Yoho’s position is here.
“Protectionism is always a reverse–Robin Hood proposition. Farm protections force the poor to pay artificially higher food prices in order to pad profits for millionaire farmers. And the poor never even realize that they’re basically being defrauded by a conspiracy of government officials and their favorite special interests. When properly understood in their true economic light, these farm supports (like the abominable Wright Amendment for American Airlines) are tantamount to government collusion in a criminal price-fixing cartel. Contrary to what is an almost biblical tenet of progressivism, government cannot sanitize a price-fixing cartel. Government power can only make the cartel’s injury to the public far worse, both by protecting the cartel from the competition that would bring it down in a truly free market, and by making the cartel permanent. It is no surprise that the New Deal’s agriculture supports were foisted on the American public as emergency measures, but are still with us today.”
Some Republicans have taken up more populist anti-corporatist and anti-cronyist arguments in recent months, because they can read the same polls we do. But will they stand up to cronyism, or are they just interested in demagoguery on the issue until they hold the reins of power again? I’m skeptical they’ll change unless political reality forces the issue and makes this route the most expedient, and make the obvious lure of Big Sugar less appealing.
[Originally published on The Federalist]