On the Blog
Apple Inc. is under fire for paying little corporate income tax. The company did it legally but this does not matter to those who apparently believe private business exists for the benefit of government.
A Senate subcommittee harangued Apple executives for their legal use of the tax code to minimize the company’s tax burden, something every company tries to do. It’s also something I’ll bet every reader of this blog post tries to do.
I was going to rant about this. Then I came across this video of Sen. Rand Paul’s performance during the subcommittee hearing. He said everything I wanted to say and then some. I don’t know how anyone could disagree with any of this. Enjoy.
It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week at the White House—and it isn’t looking like next week will be any better. You probably know about Obama’s trifecta of troubles: the Benghazi story about the attack that killed four Americans and the aftermath that falsely blamed a YouTube video that “continues to smolder on the far-right side of the dial,” the IRS targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny while giving liberals a pass, and, the one that got the mainstream media engaged: the “broad and potentially chilling probe” conducted by the Justice Department on journalists’ phone calls at the Associated Press (AP).
The place in which the President finds himself has been compared to that of Nixon on May 17, 1973, about which US News and World Report states: “The scandal and cover-up came to define and destroy Richard Nixon’s presidency. It’s too early to tell if the scandals plaguing President Barack Obama … rise to a similar level.”
It may be too early to tell whether the three scandals will “define and destroy” Barack Obama’s presidency—but they do reveal a propensity to massage the message and reward their friends while destroying their enemies. And, there are more than the trifecta of troubles that make this point, there’s a six-pack of scandals.
In addition to the three-widely covered stories, there are three more with the same characteristics.
EPA Favors Friendlies
We see favoritism in the EPAs treatment of friendly groups vs. a “concerted campaign to make life more difficult for those deemed unfriendly.” A few days ago, the Washington Examiner reported on the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) review of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to see how equally the agency applies its fee waiver policy. The results are shocking.
Chris Horner, Senior Fellow at CEI, told me: “The IRS and EPA revelations are near-identical uses of the state to enable allies and disadvantage opponents. Granting or denying tax-exempt status can make or break a group. The same is true with FOIA fee waivers being tossed like Mardi Gras beads at greens, and denied to opponents of a bigger regulatory state. Fees for FOIA document productions can run into the six-figures.”
We’ll be hearing more about the EPA friendlies scandal. On Friday, May 17, Senator Vitter’s office sent a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe requesting “your prompt attention to this matter as we investigate EPA’s process for granting FOIA fee waivers.” The letter was signed by David Vitter, Ranking Member, Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate; Darrel Isa, Chairman, Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, U.S. House of Representatives; James Inhofe, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Oversight Committee on Environment and Public Works, U.S. Senate; and Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate.
The May 17 letter states: “According to documents obtained by the Committees, EPA readily granted FOIA fee waivers for liberal environmental groups–effectively subsidizing them–while denying fee waivers and making the FOIA process more difficult for states and conservative groups. This disparate treatment is unacceptable, especially in light of the recent controversy over abusive tactics at the Internal Revenue Service, which singled out conservative groups for special scrutiny.”
It reveals that the “EPA manipulated the FOIA fee waiver process.” Fee waiver requests sent by environmental groups were granted for 92% of the requests while EPA denied a fee waiver for 93% of requests from CEI and overall only granted fee waivers for other think tanks 27% of the time. “The startling disparity in treatment strongly suggests EPA’s actions are possibly part of a broader effort to collude with groups that share the agency’s political agenda and discriminate against states and conservative organizations. This is a clear abuse of discretion.”
The Washington Examiner reports: “all requests from Franklin Center and the Institute for Energy Research were denied.”
Wind farms get a pass
We see the same “startling disparity in treatment” in the way the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act is applied. Under both acts, the death of a single bird—without a permit—is illegal. On May 14, the AP reported on an investigation that showed that nearly 600,000 birds are killed each year by wind farms, including an average of about one golden eagle a month in Converse County, WY—which the AP calls: “one of the deadliest places in the country of its kind.” California’s Altamont Pass wind farms “kill more than 60 per year”—making it the “industry’s deadliest location.”
Yet, “so far, the companies operating industrial-sized turbines here and elsewhere that are killing eagles and other protected birds have yet to be fined or prosecuted—even though every death is a criminal violation. The Obama administration has charged oil companies for drowning birds in their waste pits, and power companies for electrocuting birds on power lines. But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly.”
Back in August 2011, oil company executives were hauled into court, by Timothy Purdon, the US Attorney for North Dakota, over the death of 28 migratory birds—including ducks. Businessweek reported: “The maximum penalty for each charge under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is six months in prison and a $15,000 fine.” The case was thrown out of federal court in January of 2012 by district Judge Daniel Hovland, who rejected US Attorney Purdon’s “expansive interpretation of the law” because it “would yield absurd results.” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) called the ruling “withering” and said: the “selective prosecution was probably an expression of its political hostility to oil and gas companies.” The report concludes with: “Mr. Purdon takes the prize for dodo prosecutor of the year.”
The WSJ didn’t point out Purdon’s resume. The LA Times reports: “Purdon is a prominent Democratic donor and fundraiser,” who served on the Democratic National Committee and who “has no experience as a prosecutor.” Purdon was chosen over several, apparently, more qualified candidates, who probably didn’t have Purdon’s pedigree. He was selected because he’s a loyalist who’d do what the White House wanted—and that included prosecuting oil companies for duck deaths.
Similarly, the AP reports that ExxonMobil paid $600,000 for killing 85 birds and BP was fined “$100 million for killing and harming migratory birds during the 2010 Gulf oil spill. And PacifiCorp, which operates coal plants in Wyoming, paid more than $10.5 million in 2009 for electrocuting 232 eagles along power lines and at its substations.”
“Meanwhile, the Obama administration has proposed a rule that would give wind-energy companies potentially decades of shelter from prosecution for killing eagles.” The wind-energy industry has been part of the committee that drafted and edited the guidelines that the Interior Department updated last year that “provided more cover for wind companies that violate the law.” The AP states: “In the end, the wind-energy industry … got almost everything it wanted.”
Former US Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent Tom Eicher aptly sums up the scandal: “What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK.” Yet, in an interview with the AP before his departure, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “denied any preferential treatment for wind.”
Expect more coverage of the preferential application of regulatory enforcement. Rep. Doc Hasting, Chairman of the House Natural Resources committee, made the following statement through spokeswoman Jill Strait: “There are serious concerns that the Obama administration is not implementing this law fairly and equally.” The Committee is in “the beginning stages of an investigation.”
Propping up green energy
We see similar favoritism across the bigger energy spectrum. Despite President Obama’s frequent touting of increased domestic oil and gas production, “federal government policies are suppressing development,” says Kathleen Sgamma, Vice-President of Government and Public Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance (WEA). “Unfortunately, the federal government is standing in the way of increasing production of valuable energy resources that could spur further job creation, economic growth, and energy security.” To support her comments, the WEA press release offers the following numbers: “From FY2008 to FY2011 the Bureau of Land Management offered 81% less acreage, which has resulted in a 44% drop in leasing revenue, down from $356 million to $201 million. Nationwide, royalty and leasing revenue have declined 12% from $4.2 billion to $3.7 billion.” Meanwhile production and revenue on private lands increased.
Additionally, despite numerous reports regarding the positive economic impacts and environmental safety of the Keystone pipeline it has been continuously delayed—now for more than 1700 days. On Thursday, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passed a bill that, according to the WSJ, “effectively pushes through approval of the 875-mile pipeline by eliminating the need for Mr. Obama to issue a special permit for it.” Transportation committee chair Rep. Bill Shuster said: “After more than four years of bureaucratic delays, this bill will finally allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This project has been studied more than any other project of its kind.”
While federal policies are suppressing traditional energy that is effective, efficient and economical, they are propping up projects that have been repeatedly found to be failures—but that benefit Democratic donors.
Through Obama’s 2009 Stimulus Bill—which Democratic donors such as John Doerr, and George Soros (personally and through the Soros-funded Apollo Alliance) helped craft—nearly $100 billion dollars have been made available for green energy projects. With the help of researcher Christine Lakatos who’s been working on it since 2009, I’ve been extensively covering the green-energy crony-corruption scandal for the past 12 months. We’ve found that nearly all of the Department of Energy-funded projects had meaningful political connections and many got special treatment—such as fast-tracked approvals with little scrutiny over environmental damages that would have taken any other energy company months, if not years, to get—from the Department of Interior. The policies benefitted insiders such as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry—just to name a few. To date, 25 have gone bankrupt and four are about to go under—though 29 others have various issues. Denying the dismal record, Obama’s 2014 budget calls for more taxpayer dollars for green energy projects. It’s scandalous.
Now that The Hill is holding hearings and investigations on Benghazi, the IRS, the AP, the EPA, and the green energy industry’s not-so-green slaughter of protected species, it is time to look at the financial and regulatory favors extended to friendlies while erecting obstacles to anything or anyone they oppose—and that includes the green-energy crony-corruption scandal that could be the biggest of them all.
These six scandalous stories illustrate the standard operating procedure of the Obama White House—and, as such, there’s likely to be even more. It may be too early to tell whether these scandals will “define and destroy” Barack Obama’s presidency, but they are certainly a distraction to his second-term agenda and display a side the administration didn’t want made public.
Pick-up this six-pack and share it with others.
[First published at TownHall.com]
Radical environmentalism rose to ascendancy on opposition to pesticides, specifically DDT. “If the environmentalists win on DDT,” Environmental Defense Fund scientist Charles Wurster told the Seattle Times in 1969, “they will achieve a level of authority they have never had before.” Using Rachel Carson’s often inaccurate book Silent Spring to drive a nasty campaign, they succeeded in getting the Environmental Protection Agency to ban US production and use of DDT in 1972, leading to a de facto global ban even to combat malaria.
Trumpeting illusory or manufactured dangers of DDT and callously indifferent to the deaths of millions from this horrible disease, radical greens still battle its use, even to spray only the inside walls of primitive homes to keep most mosquitoes out, and keep those that do enter from infecting people.
Attacking a new class of insecticides for equally spurious reasons is thus no big deal, even if the chemicals are safe and vital for modern agriculture. Their real goal is to raise more money and acquire more power. As Saul Alinsky taught, they have picked their new target, personalized and polarized it, and attacked it relentlessly.
The target now is a widely used new class of safe pesticides – neonicotinoids – that Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network, Sierra Club and other “socially responsible” groups are blaming for bee population declines in various countries. But the real danger is a phenomenon called “colony collapse disorder,” which poses a serious threat to bees, crop pollination, flowers and food crops in many areas.
CCD and other bee die-offs are not new. What we now call colony collapse was first reported in 1869, and many outbreaks since then have turned scientists into Sherlock Holmes detectives, seeking explanations and solutions to this mysterious and scary-sounding problem. Fungi, parasitic mites and other possible suspects have been implicated, but none has yet been arrested or convicted.
That’s created a perfect Petri dish for anti-pesticide groups. They’re pressuring the United States and other countries to ban neonic pesticides, by blaming them for bee population declines. Their fear-mongering assertions are pure conjecture, but that hasn’t stopped activists – or news outlets – from promoting frightening stories implicating the chemicals.
“Neonics” are derived from naturally-occurring nicotine plant compounds and have been hailed as a low-toxicity pest treatment. They are often applied to seeds or on soils during planting, become part of the plants’ physiology, and work by giving treated plants internal defenses against invasive pests. That means neonics are toxic only to insects that feed on crops, which dramatically reduces the need to spray entire fields with other, less safe pesticides. It also curtails risks to farm workers and beneficial insects.
Claims that these insecticides could kill bees appear plausible at first blush, and laboratory studies have shown that high doses can affect bees in minor ways. However, doses that bees receive in lab studies “are far above what a realistic field dose exposure would be,” says Dr. Cynthia Scott-Dupree, environmental biology professor at the University of Guelph. The difference is akin to an 81 mg aspirin tablet versus a full bottle of 200 mg tablets, or light rainfall on a bee versus throwing it into a bucket of water.
Scott-Dupree helped coordinate a Canadian field study that compared hives exposed to neonics to those that weren’t exposed – and found no difference in colony health between the two groups. Another study by Britain’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs reached the same conclusion.
The DEFRA evaluation of studies purporting to link neonics to bee harm found that the lab work was conducted under extreme scenarios which would not occur under real-world conditions. “Risk to bee populations from neonicotinoids, as they are currently used, is low,” the scientists concluded.
That’s hardly surprising. Plant tissues contain only tiny amounts of neonics, bees are not feeding on the plants, and pollen contains barely detectable neonic levels.
Nevertheless, several beekeepers and activist groups have sued the Environmental Protection Agency, demanding that EPA immediately ban all neonicotinoids.
The lawsuit is not merely ill advised. By blaming pesticides, activists are ignoring – and deflecting attention from – a very real and serious threat to bees. The aptly named parasitic mite “Varroa destructor” threatens honeybees directly, while spreading and activating previously dormant or harmless bee viruses, which then become dangerous. The mites are not easy to eradicate.
“You can imagine how hard it is to kill a bug on a bug,” says John Miller, President of the California State Beekeepers Association, and sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Treating Varroa requires insecticides that can be toxic to bees at levels high enough to be effective. Well-intentioned apiarists trying to combat Varroa can accidentally overdose hives with miticides.
Various neonicotinoids are widely used in Canada to protect its vast canola fields, and Canadian bee populations are thriving, notes science writer Jon Entine. Varroa-free Australia is likewise one of the world’s prime users of these pesticides, and its bee colonies are among the planet’s healthiest. By contrast, bee populations have been severely impacted by Varroa mites in areas of Switzerland where neonics are not used.
Multiple studies point to still other factors that explain why bees are struggling. They include bees developing resistance to antibiotics, funguses like Nosema, multiple bee viruses and parasites, bacterial infections like foulbrood, exposure to commonly used organophosphates, bee habitat loss, and even long-term bee inbreeding and resultant lack of genetic diversity.
Activists aren’t asking for investigation into these problems – which calls their science, sincerity and integrity into question. Their track record on DDT and malaria underscores this modus operandi. The activists get money, publicity, power and phony solutions – and end up hurting the very things (bees and people) they profess to care so much about.
Right now, no one knows why bees aren’t thriving. Studies have shown that neonicotinoids are innocent, and reflexive bans will harm farmers, whose crop yields will fall; consumers, whose food bills will rise and food safety will decline; and environmental values, as older, more toxic insecticides will have to be reintroduced to protect crops. The detective work needs to continue, until real answers are found.
The prudent, precautionary approach would be to avoid eliminating vital, low-toxicity neonicotinoids, while continuing to study their potential effects on bees, and other potential causes of die-offs and colony collapses. Right now we don’t have an equally low substitute for neonics. Sound, replicable science – not pressure group politics – must underpin all pesticide policies, or the unintended consequences will be serious, far-reaching, and potentially devastating to agriculture and food supplies.
We need to let science do its job, not jump to conclusions or short-circuit the process, as the media did in accusing Richard Jewell of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.
This time – as always – we need answers, not scapegoats.
In which I referenced a bit of good news on the Internet front. In a possible deal between ESPN and AT&T (at least), the sports network would pick up some of the tab for the delivery of its content. Which would be outstanding news for consumers. More content, more Internet use – for no more coin.
I then had the audacity to use the Left’s absurd words against them. “Consumer” interest groups – allegedly interested in consumers – were opposed to this, and calling on the government to stop it. And doing all of it in complete contravention of the facts.
My essay drew the scattershot attention – and conspiratorial ire – of Salon’s Andrew Leonard.
At Red State, the wonderfully monickered Seton Motley put down his monocle and blustered about the “ridiculous folly of the Left.” Public Knowledge isn’t a consumer interest group, he raged, it’s a “government interest group” whose sole goal is “growing government.”
Both Scott Cleland and RedState, intriguingly, brought up the same useful analogy to explain why Public Knowledge was off-base. When ESPN pays a company like AT&T to lift data caps for its streaming video, it’s just like any other company paying the phone company subsidized access to an 800 toll-free number.
RedState: Do these Leftist “consumer” groups oppose 800 numbers? Do they claim 800 numbers prevent you from calling other numbers? Do they claim 800 numbers hurt you –- the consumer? They would look ridiculous if they did.
There’s a good reason why the 800 analogy appears in both anti-Public Knowledge diatribes. Because it was originally suggested by AT&T itself back in February.
It is neither “intriguing” nor surprising that Cleland – full disclosure, a friend, but one with whom I never discussed my essay or his – and I would unilaterally deliver the same obvious example of how foolish the Left is being here.
And it is neither “intriguing” nor surprising that Mr. Leonard’s assertion that AT&T originally posited it in February 2013 – is completely wrong.
Perhaps for him an idea is born the first time he stumbles upon it.
I can’t speak for Cleland – again, because I have never discussed it with him – but I have been using said analogy since at least June of 2010, when I first started in writing and on radio and television discussing the absurdity that is Net Neutrality.
It is so obvious, and been used by so many people so many times, I’m not sure who came up with it when. It’s in the free market zeitgeist – like knowing the Left impedes economic growth and creativity. It’s a factual, rhetorical given.
Perhaps its free market nature prevented Mr. Leonard’s conceiving it – or his not having heard of it prior to February. He was, however, completely capable of conceiving out of whole cloth a marching-orders-conspiracy-theory.
It surely comes as no surprise that a telecom lobbyist and RedState are simply repeating AT&T’s propaganda.
Again, his chronology and his concept are woefully off. So too is his worldview. But hey – Leftists never allow facts to get in the way of a good beating.
I am a nothing if not magnanimous – I emailed Mr. Leonard the following:
Greetings. I’d like to respond to your piece in your august pages. You willing?
No response from Mr. Leonard. So I Tweeted at him:
@koxinga21 attempts some shots at me & #Leftist #NetNeutrality defense in @Salon http://t.co/1p83S1IZXp. Will he let me respond in his mag?
Again, no response from Mr. Leonard. Thus this comes here.
Will Mr. Leonard respond to this response there – with corrections aplenty? I won’t halt respiratory activity in the waiting.
[First posted at Red State]
Here’s a very revealing item for those interested in understanding the progressive worldview: the Internal Revenue Service has been accused, in addition to its many malfeasances already revealed, of asking people what they pray about. When queried about this in testimony before a congressional committee today, acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller could not bring himself to condemn such an outrageous intrusion into innocent people’s innermost thoughts:
“It pains me to say I can’t speak to that one either. But that’s an —” Miller said.
“You don’t know whether or not that would be an appropriate question to ask an applicant?” Schock interrupted Miller.
“Speaking outside of this case, which I don’t know anything about, it would surprise me that that question was asked,” Miller said.
Note that Miller cannot bring himself simply to say that such a thing would be wrong. Perhaps it did not occur to him. Or if it did, he considered it too dangerous a thing to say. This is the Alice in Wonderland world in which we find ourselves when under rule by socialist-progressive statists.
This incident was just another in a series of appalling revelations of the Obama administration’s IRS targeting harassment against groups and individuals believed to be unfriendly toward the president’s political programs. Like the Benghazi cover-up and the illegal prying into business and personal communications of people employed by the Associated Press (done, according to reports, because the White House was incensed by the timing of an AP story), this record of government intimidation is simply corrupt Chicago politics on a national scale.
The essence of Chicago machine politics is simple: give plenty of taxpayer-extracted gifts to your friends (Wall Street, Hollywood, medical providers, Silicon Valley, auto unions, wind and solar power developers, teachers unions, etc., etc., etc., in the current president’s case) and punish your enemies ruthlessly, with your enemies defined as anyone who stands in the way of your agenda, in any way, regardless of any other considerations such as their innocence of actual wrongdoing.
Thus the IRS’s Chicago-style outrages: “Nice little nonprofit organization you got there, buddy. It would be a shame if . . . something happened to it” . . .
That is statism in a nutshell.
Crossposted from The American Culture.
Wireless communications have improved the lives of millions of people across the United States and the world. However, the rapid expansion of wireless services has brought growing pains: The electronic spectrum on which most communications are broadcast is a limited resource that is quickly filling up. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission regulates the spectrum and how these frequencies are distributed.
Wireless Spectrum Underutilized in the US
Wireless spectrum in the United State is far less utilized then spectrum in other countries. According to the Technology Liberation Front, British consumers have 3.5 times the available spectrum as Americans; Japanese consumers have around 2 times as much. This growing lack of spectrum capacity has emerged due to the slow issuance of new spectrum by the FCC through competitive auctions and Congresses interference in voluntary transfers of broadcast spectrum.
Government Attempting to Move Away from Successful Auction System
The competitive auctioning of wireless spectrum, when it has been allowed by the FCC has been an effective process; allowing for the creation of what is a thriving, competitive telecom market that gives U.S. consumers a wide array of products at reasonable prices. The next spectrum auction, expected to take place in 2014, will distribute portions of low-frequency spectrum that are highly valued by telecom companies. Currently, a large portion of the spectrum that is suitable for auction between 400 MHz and 3 GHz is held by the government and the FCC has been slow to issue the largely underutilized spectrum.
Despite the success of the competitive auction system, the Justice Department recently released a filing that strongly suggested to the FCC that it create new auction rules to ensure that all companies receive their “fair share” of wireless spectrum in the upcoming spectrum auction. “The Department concludes that rules that ensure the smaller nationwide networks, which currently lack substantial low-frequency spectrum, have an opportunity to acquire such spectrum could improve the competitive dynamic among nationwide carriers and benefit consumers,” wrote the Justice Department in the filing.
The new auction rules proposed by the Justice Department would effectively steer the new spectrum away from the two major networks of Verizon and AT&T, while providing the valuable spectrum space to smaller national networks like Sprint and T-Mobile. Both Verizon and AT&T have voiced their concerns that the FCC’s new auction rules could result in a caps being placed on how much spectrum one provider could purchase, limiting their participation in the auction.
Reports Find Government Disdain for Market-Driven Auctions
Critics of the recent changes to the spectrum auction have noticed a trend towards increasing government control over the auction process. A Daily Caller piece pointed out that numerous DOJ and FCC filings have demonstrated a distaste for market-driven spectrum auctions and a preference for increased “preemptive and interventionist wireless regulation.” The Caller article points to two reports: the first, mentioned above, denies new spectrum to the largest providers; the second, its annual wireless competition report to Congress, refuses to acknowledge the successful private deployment of broadband.
Broadband development across the United States has been robust, creating wide internet availability at affordable prices. The market based system does not need reform; government control of the spectrum would undermine what has been a very successful system. The government has already badly botched the release of unused spectrum, slowly releasing usable spectrum while hoarding some of the best for itself.
Among the greatest liars on Earth today is the international organization called Friends of the Earth (FOE). It has engaged in the most scurrilous fear-mongering for decades, along with Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the World Wildlife Fund, while all the time they pulled in billions in funding.
In May 2012, the Daily Caller noted that “The Congressional Research Service estimates that since 2008 the federal government has spent nearly $70 billion on ‘climate change activities.’” The leading critic in Congress, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) asked at the time, “Which would you rather have? Would you rather spend $4 billion on Air Force base solar panels, or would you rather have 28 new F-22s or 30 F-25s or modernized C-130s?”
“Would you rather have $64.8 billion spent on pointless global warming efforts or would you rather have more funds put toward modernizing our fleet of ships, aircraft and ground vehicles to improve the safety of our troops and help defend the nation against the legitimate threats that we face?’
On May 9, I received an email from Friends of the Earth that repeated all the lies we have heard for years. Painting with a very broad brush that completely ignores the fact that the U.S. climate has always had highs and lows of temperature, FOE complained that “Last year the U.S. experienced record-breaking weather all over the country. But, the nightly news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC barely talked about what was fueling this extreme weather—climate change.”
What FOE failed to mention was a record that was set in 2012-13; as of May, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, the U.S. had its longest stretch in recorded history—2,750 days—without a major hurricane landfall. The many claims of “extreme” weather are classic fear-mongering. I might also add that, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, the number of wildfires is at a ten-year low. Glaciers are not melting and seas are not rising, unless a millimeter or two worries you.
“Climate change” is the replacement name for “global warming.” Climate is measured in centuries. The weather is whatever is happening anywhere in the nation on any given day. Around the world, however, there has been a significant increase in cold weather and many are still waiting for spring to arrive.
Typical of the hyperbole that is representative of the lies we have heard from so-called environmental organizations, FOE fumed that “the nightly news programs at the major broadcast networks have largely ignored what is fueling this extreme weather—climate change.” Citing a Media Matters for America study, FOE noted that “ABC’s nightly news program did only one segment about climate change last year. Meanwhile NBC’s news show did only four and CBS just seven segments to this critical issue.” Perhaps this is because these notably liberal news organizations have concluded it is not a critical issue?
It gets better, FOE was angry, saying “What’s almost worse is that when these networks have covered global warming, they have often treated climate change as a ‘two-sided debate’ rather than what it really is; an issue in which there is overwhelming scientific consensus.” These are people who do not want to have a debate because, based on the facts, they would lose. As for scientific consensus regarding either global warming or climate change, there is NONE. If anything, leading scientists around the world have been debunking global warming now for years.
One of the leading think tanks in the effort to end the global warming hoax has been The Heartland Institute. It has sponsored several international conferences in which scientists and others have offered papers and addressed the topic. I recommend you subscribe to its national monthly, Environmental & Climate News. Its managing editor, James M. Taylor, J.D., provides the latest information on the environmental organizations greatest villain, carbon dioxide (CO2).
Two recent dispatches by Taylor noted in one that “Climate models supporting predictions of rapid global warming during the next century have performed miserably predicting global temperatures during the past two decades”, citing a comparison of computer model predictions and real-world temperatures by climate scientist Roy W. Spencer. In another, Taylor noted that “New data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, but global temperatures are not following suit. The new data undercut assertions that atmospheric carbon dioxide is causing a global warming crisis.”
Undismayed by the facts, FOE could only cite the taxpayer-funded PBS News Hour that “devoted 23 segments to covering climate change.” When the President is telling everyone that the climate is the greatest threat to the nation, PBS bureaucrats who know where the money comes from can be depended upon to broadcast his lies.
Ironically, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion by Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer on the same day the FOE email arrived. It was titled “In Defense of Carbon Dioxide.” Schmitt was an Apollo 17 astronaut and a former U.S. Senator from New Mexico. He is an adjunct professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Happer is a professor of physics at Princeton University and a former director of the office of energy research at the U.S. Department of Energy.
“The cessation of observed global warming for the past decade or so has shown how exaggerated NASA’s and most other computer predictions of human-caused warming have been—and how little correlation warming has with concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide.”
No wonder FOE is upset that even the mainstream media networks no longer want to report on a global warming that does not exist. There’s real science and there’s the fulminations and lies of Friends of the Earth.
[First posted at Warning Signs.]
Sol Stern is a nice man. It’s too bad he’s deceiving himself and others about Common Core, an enterprise that essentially nationalizes U.S. education. He and Joel Klein write in the WSJ, in the latest pro-Common Core PR piece:
Conservative critics ignore how the Common Core Standards support teaching all students about the nation’s rich heritage of constitutional government, which is often overlooked in K-12 schools. For example, one of the Common Core’s reading standards [in English] for grades 9-10 calls for students to analyze and understand the arguments in “seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning.” How many American public schools do that today?
That sounds so great. Too bad there’s no evidence it’s true. Neither are most of the other things Stern and the hardly right-wing Klein want Americans to believe about centrally planned education.
If these fellows read Common Core, they would see no definition of “seminal U.S. texts.” For Stern, that term likely implies the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. To the average high school English teacher (who is lucky if she has any historical knowledge, because schools of education shudder at content) it is entirely open to interpretation. This is how, over the past 50 years, we have become a nation where even a college degree does not improve civic knowledge and fewer than half of adults can identify the three branches of government. One of the two people (neither of whom has ever written standards or been a classroom teacher) who wrote the English Common Core has given a model lesson on how to treat the Gettysburg Address and Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. David Coleman instructs English teachers to not give students background information and to read the words without emotion. Ah, instruction in the “heart of American heritage.”
Furthermore, as one of the world’s top literacy experts has been screaming for years, it is entirely inappropriate to demand that English teachers teach history and civics, along with their other duties. Perhaps that’s why Common Core dilutes classic literature instruction, which research shows is crucial to preparing students for college. Funny, Stern and Klein didn’t mention that.
Yes, the Constitution and Federalist Papers are mentioned in a Common Core appendix of voluntary suggested readings. If suggesting such readings meant more students learning them, it would have worked by now, because that’s the system we have had.
But the biggest problem with the article is that it entirely sidesteps the evidence that Common Core was written by special interests and federally-funded non-profits in secret,; that it was pushed on states by the federal government before they even saw the final product; that its requirements are vague, meaningless, and of shockingly low-quality; that is an entirely unproven set of mandates untried anywhere in the world; that states are incorporating creepy data-mining on teachers and kids; and that the history of American education shows, as the Soviets did on a larger scale, that central planning breeds corruption and destitution.
[First published at Ricochet]
Many friends of Heartland, including Lord Christopher Monckton, have drawn our attention to the 50-to-1 project. The project of Australian filmmakers is worth getting behind, and sharing with your friends. From the project’s website:
What if we could show you that trying to ‘stop’ climate change is 50 times more expensive than adapting to it? And what if we could prove it using numbers and formulas accepted by the IPCC, CRU and other ‘consensus’ bodies? Well that’s exactly what 50-to-1 does.
It’s also a big part of what Heartland does, with so many projects and publications it’s hard to keep count. It’s a lot, including our eight international conferences on climate change. Monckton has been a frequent speaker. And you can view them here.
The 50-to-1 guys need some help to get their video out to the public. It can be — in the words of the producers — a “game-changer and could radically shift the climate debate.” I have no doubt. Watch filmmaker Christopher Field explain:
The producers have lined up interviews with “climate realist” luminaries, including several who have spoken at Heartland’s climate conferences: Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Professor Henry Ergas, Professor Fred Singer, Anthony Watts, Professor David Evans, Christopher Essex, and Joanne Nova.
Again, the producers describe their important project:
50 to 1 cuts across all the noise and fury surrounding the ‘climate debate’ and gets right to the point: Even if the IPCC is right, and even if climate change IS happening and it IS caused by man, we are STILL better off adapting to it as it happens than we are trying to ‘stop’ it. ‘Action’ is 50 times more expensive than ‘adaptation’, and that’s a conclusion which is derived directly from the IPCC’s own predictions and formulae!
That statement is demonstrably true. We just need to get the message out there — before it’s too late. This project, part of the Lord Monckton Foundation, could use a boost. Check out the website and contribute a few bucks, if you can.
Earlier this month, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick announced that his state reached the goal of 250 megawatts of installed solar energy capacity. “When we set ambitious goals and invest in achieving them, Massachusetts wins,” said the governor. “The many businesses and homeowners who have taken advantage of cost effective renewable energy installations are helping to create both a safer and more prosperous Commonwealth for the next generation.” But if we look a little closer, it’s not clear that the Massachusetts push for solar is cost effective or makes citizens safer.
Governor Patrick and solar advocates typically quote capacity, but nothing runs on capacity. What’s important is actual delivered electricity. Photovoltaic solar systems only deliver significant energy for about six hours each day. Output is further reduced on cloudy days and days when snow covers the solar panels. Renewable Energy Massachusetts estimates electricity generated in Massachusetts to be 15 percent of nameplate capacity at best.
But actual solar-generated electricity may be much less than 15 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in 2011 Massachusetts solar generated only 4.8 megawatt-hours of electricity from 193 megawatt-hours of installed capacity at the end of 2010, or less than three percent of nameplate solar capacity. In 2011, solar facilities provided only one ten-thousandth of the state’s electricity. A single gas-fired power plant, the Mystic Generating Station in Boston, delivers more electricity in seven days than the annual output of all the solar panels in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is not exactly the Sun Belt. According to the National Climatic Data Center, Boston enjoys clear skies only 27 percent of days each year on average, with 28 percent of days classified as partly cloudy and 45 percent as cloudy. At 42 degrees north latitude, Boston sunlight is also less intense than that received in southern states.
The Patriot Place solar facility was completed in 2010 with an expansion added earlier this year. The facility consists of photovoltaic solar arrays installed on the rooftops of several buildings of the Patriot Place retail and dining center, adjacent to Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. The system cost $4.3 million and provides about 1.1 megawatt-hours of electricity each year. The electricity output value is about $180,000 per year at a retail electricity rate of 16 cents per kilowatt-hour. Excluding government subsidies and assuming zero maintenance cost, the project will not break even on invested capital until about 2034
But massive government subsidies can make solar a good financial deal. Solar purchasers receive a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the installation cost, paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Massachusetts provides an exemption for property taxes, sales taxes, and corporate excise taxes for solar facilities. Residential installations also receive a $1,000 income tax credit on solar panels. To top it off, Massachusetts law requires utilities to buy generated solar electricity at the premium price of 27 cents per kilowatt-hour, well above the 16 cents per kilowatt-hour retail rate and more than five times the wholesale rate for New England electricity. It all adds up to a lucrative wealth transfer from taxpayers to solar system purchasers and installers.
State and the federal governments have poured millions of dollars into Massachusetts-based solar cell companies, much of it lost down a green drain. Evergreen Solar, which provided most of the solar panels for the Patriot Place, declared bankruptcy in August 2011 after receiving $58.6 million in Massachusetts subsidies and $26.3 million from the federal government. Massachusetts-based Konarka Technologies and Satcon Technology both filed bankruptcy last year after receiving state and federal grants.
After providing tax dollars for solar and other renewables, Massachusetts citizens pay a second time in the form of higher electricity rates. The state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard law requires utilities to buy an increasing share of electricity from renewable sources or be fined. A 2010 study by the Beacon Hill Institute projected that Massachusetts green energy programs will cost state citizens almost $10 billion from 2010 to 2020, or about $1,600 in additional cost for each household.
Does Governor Patrick actually believe that solar cells make Massachusetts safer? Can solar installations stop the seas from rising or make the storms less severe? Contrary to claims by some, there is no empirical evidence that mankind can significantly influence the climate. But misguided government efforts, like solar initiatives and mandates in Massachusetts, provide only a tiny addition to electricity supply at high cost to citizens.
[Originally published in The Washington Times]
The sudden deluge of scandal which dominates the discussion around President Obama’s administration at the moment has handed a golden opportunity to Republicans. Yet if they aren’t careful, they’ll squander this opening completely by allowing their intense dislike of the president to cloud their judgment, missing the broader political lessons for the sake of personal point scoring.
Personal scandals are personal. They are tied to defects and appetites, as in the case of Bill Clinton, John Edwards, John Ensign, and a host of others. With rare exceptions, such scandals begin and end with that individual, not with their broader political philosophy. The American people intrinsically understand that, and they distinguish naturally between failures of an individual variety and of a party as a whole.
The scandals we are talking about in Washington today are not tied to the individual of Barack Obama. While there’s still more information to be gathered and more investigations to be done, all indications are that these decisions – on the AP, on the IRS, on Benghazi – don’t proceed from him. The talk of impeachment is absurd. The queries of “what did the president know and when did he know it” will probably end up finding out “just about nothing, and right around the time everyone else found out.”
Marco Rubio’s remarks the other day illustrate the right and the wrong way to talk about these scandals. Decrying Chicago politics and a fractured Washington, the failure of hope and change, is fine and good. But there’s a limit to it, and if done poorly, the attacks imply that the problem here isn’t the statism, it’s the guy at the head of it. In other words, that if Obama was really the ethically clean reform-minded progressive technocrat he styled himself as when running for office, things would be just fine. In effect, this partisan morality play approach allows the Democratic Party an escape route which they shouldn’t have: just firing a bunch of lower level people.
Here’s the hard thing Republicans have to do if they don’t want this crisis to go to waste: they have to ignore their id, the temptation of the sugar high of partisan point-scoring. They must willfully set aside Obama’s presence in the fray, leaving the short term personalized attacks on the table, and go after the much bigger prize. Obama isn’t running for office again. Liberalism is. Making this about him is a short term boost to the pleasure center of the conservative brain. Making this about the inherent falsehood of the progressive project will help conservatism win.
The point is that these scandals cut at the core conceit of Obama’s ideology: the healthy and enduring confidence of big government to be good government. As technological capabilities advance and the scope of government expands, the types of domestic scandals we’re seeing here are only going to increase in frequency and invasiveness, with personal information shared more frequently, easier for even low level bureaucrats to acquire and manipulate. At the same time, Americans are becoming increasingly skeptical and cynical about their public institutions, with their trust in the federal government at historic lows. They distrust the agencies and bureaucrats even as the politicians of our age are investing more and more power in them.
Today, the media, the Obama administration, and David Axelrod are undertaking the task that conservatives could not: illustrating with each passing day that the progressive approach to modern governance and policy is inherently flawed and that vast governments are ripe for abuse. What we are seeing from the IRS and the DOJ is not something new, nor does it represent a perverse approach to benign bureaucracy: it is the inevitable consequence of an approach which puts mechanisms in place and then assumes they will not be used for ill. You should expect government to go as far as it can, whenever it can, in any ways that it can, toward the full exploitation of the power made available to it. Expecting government to behave otherwise is to expect the scorpion not to sting the frog.
The progressive answer to this is more rules and regulators, more agencies and safeguards and accountability projects. Republicans should recognize this intervention for the ridiculousness it is – creating more federal entities to watch over federal entities – and focus their arguments instead on the only solution which will actually work: removing power from the federal government and returning it to the states or the people. The only way to ensure that government doesn’t abuse a power is to make sure it doesn’t have this power in the first place.
When this period of scandal draws to a close, if the idea still survives that a more competent and ethical president would be able to effectively govern a $4 trillion bureaucracy, it will be a sign Republicans have failed. They can succeed by ignoring the tempting bait of making this about the president they despise, and focusing instead on the false philosophy of expansive government which represents the true danger to the American experiment. Doing so will require them to go against their own short-term viewpoint, so prevalent in recent years, and look instead to the long game.
[First posted at Real Clear Politics]
Free Press, which effectively defines the “public interest” as being against private interests in media, communications and technology, just issued an anti-cable diatribe, apparently out of frustration that so few people are listening to them.
In classic Free Press fashion, their new white paper is a solution in search of a problem. They seek stricter neutrality regulation and bans against usage-based broadband pricing. At core, they dream of a ‘public’ Internet largely devoid of any private (corporate) influence.
With that agenda in mind, they try to manufacture a problem in their white paper: “Combating the Cable Cabal: How to Fix America’s Broken Video Market.”
Free Press’ problem is reality. The facts show America’s video market is the most vibrant and successful in the world. It’s nothing like the selective, out-of-context, fact-challenged monstrosity Free Press attempts to paint.
America has more and better video content available, on more technologies, from more providers, in more ways, on more devices, with more viewing time options, than any other country by far.
America’s entertainment dominates the world market and is a leading U.S. export. America also dominates virtually every dimension of the Internet video marketplace.
If anything, America’s video market is among the most vibrantly competitive, innovative, and value-added in the economy and the world. Like every industry, it is far from perfect, but it certainly is not “broken” by any objective measure.
Remember a few years ago, Free Press’ Save the Internet coalition was peddling the bogus charge that America had fallen behind in broadband in hopes of inciting government to intervene broadly in the competitive broadband market.
Then, like now, Free Press’ claimed broadband “problem” was devoid of reality.
Free Press selectively ignored that America is the only nation in the world with a second national wire line network – and that cable in many ways was much easier to upgrade to fast broadband capability than the more regulated public telephone networks that are standard around the world.
Free Press also ignored that Europe’s early broadband speeds were destined to hit a wall because European price regulation left no money for long term capital investment in fiber optic networks.
And Free Press ignored that America was investing more in 4G LTE wireless broadband service than any other country, making America the world leader in mobile broadband speeds.
Another bogus Free Press charge is that America’s private industry is not working hard enough to promote universal broadband service. The reality is that cable offers wire line broadband service to 93% of the country; wireless offers it to 94%; and satellite extends the reach of cable and wireless availability to 98% overall.
Recent NTIA numbers confirm that Free Press’ assessment here is way off-base. NTIA recently reported that 98% of Americans have access to > 3Mbps, 94% to >10Mbps, and 75% to >50Mbps.
Free Press also ignores how technological change and competition have transformed the American video marketplace and created a vastly superior value proposition for the American consumer than ever before.
Free Press focuses on cable programming costs going up. However, this ignores the natural competitive trend of quality programming migrating to secure pay TV platforms, because of the decline in free over-the-air broadcasting, rampant video piracy and the deep decline in DVD sales. Thus this is a natural technological and business evolution to protect valuable property, not an exercise of market power.
Free Press also selectively looks at cable bills increasing in excess of inflation while ignoring the vast increase in value American consumers are enjoying. Consumers are getting: more video choices, better quality content, more conveniently, over more devices, in more places.
Compared to the high total cost of a family attending sports contests, concerts, or plays; going to the movies in a theatre, or going out to eat, the entertainment value Americans enjoy from their home pay TV provider, whether it be cable, satellite or telco, is relatively the best available entertainment value for American consumers.
In sum, Free Press and others who want public networks and media to replace private networks and media over time have to recognize reality.
American consumers have spoken loudly with their hard-earned dollars. Property-based, for-profit video models are vastly outperforming public not-for-profit models in the video market. It isn’t even close.
[First posted at the Daily Caller]
On the 40th anniversary of the first televised U.S. Senate hearing into the Watergate scandal, it’s both disturbing and amusing to watch the wheels coming off the Obama “Hope and Change” wagon.
As President Obama’s narrowly-won second White House term begins with revelations of scandals that reek of abuse of power, the incumbent executive inevitably invites unfavorable comparison to Richard Nixon, the only U.S. President to resign from office under threat of impeachment and removal from office: secret wars; privacy violations; cover-ups; vendettas against the press; refusal to release internal emails; and politicizing the IRS. (“I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons,” Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden in the rain on Thursday, May 16. “You can read the history and draw your own conclusions.”)
It’s amusing because this time, unlike during Watergate, the press has been on the side of the White House and until recently thought that the White House was on its side, too.
It’s disturbing because the major lesson the Executive Branch seems to have learned in the past forty years is how more effectively to stonewall, to cover up, and to attempt to manipulate the press and the public.
You can – and we trust have – read elsewhere in detail about the Obama administration’s attempts to cover up the fact that al Qaeda-related attacks took place or were broken up on the anniversaries of the September 11 attacks and of the killing of Osama bin Laden; the administration’s chilling investigations of the Associated Press; the IRS’s efforts to stifle opposition to the Obama re-election campaign; and the Holder Justice Department’s Nixonian refusal to turn over the functional equivalent of the Nixon White House tapes in the form of unredacted emails Congress has requested.
Suffice it to say that – four decades after Watergate – nothing much has changed when it comes to the abuse of Executive Branch power, and the famous dictum of Lord Acton remains true: power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
It’s been said that in a democracy the people get the politicians they deserve, so cynics may argue that the millions who voted to re-elect Barack Obama’s after seeing him in office for four years deserve what is now coming home to roost. But the nearly equal number of people who voted otherwise can only recall with wistful sadness the response of Benjamin Franklin to the passerby who asked back in Philadelphia in 1789 what kind of new government the framers of the U.S. Constitution had come up with: “A Republic, madam – if you can keep it.”
Joseph Bast, President of the Heartland Institute and Dr. Herbert Walberg, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Heartland Institute discuss their book Education and Capitalism: How Overcoming Our Fear of Markets and Economics Can Improve America’s Schools on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the book’s release.
Their book argues unless myths surrounding capitalism go unchallenged, American society will not achieve meaningful education reform. Since Education and Capitalism was published, all states have charter schools, totaling 5,000 nationwide, 10
states have tax tuition credits, several states are developing school voucher programs, and even more are considering Parent Trigger legislation. However, there is still a lot of work to do. We are paying astronomical costs for sub-standard education in a country that is supposed to have the greatest schools and universities in the world. Privatization is a solution to high school costs because it increases competition, which enhances performance, and also accommodates for personal choice. There are many obstacles in the way of this solution, including: the power of special interest groups, public distrust of capitalism, and the fear of a painful or disorderly transition. Unless these challenges are addressed, meaningful change cannot be made.
Uber, a tech start-up and on-demand transportation service, is under attack by anti-innovation regulation in Washington DC. In December 2012, the DC City Council passed legislation that would allow Uber to operate in the capital city without intervention from unelected regulators, but they are now facing opposition from the DC Taxi Commission that will force them to discontinue their taxi services starting June 1st.
If the DCTC has its way, Uber will no longer be able to collect digital payments from DC residents, and they will have to hand over customer ride data to the DCTC, compromising privacy. Perhaps most ridiculously, the Toyota Prius will be banned from the Uber fleet. I’m not a fan of the Prius either, but these obstacles could prevent Uber from operating altogether in the District, costing jobs, eliminating consumer options, and making taxi drivers miss out on the extra business they gain from the app.
Mayor Gray’s appointee is doing a lot of damage to transportation options and ease in DC with these regulations. I enjoy the Uber app because it allows me to pay seamlessly by credit card, and brings reliable transportation to wherever I am. Uber TAXI is Uber’s low cost option, and it is a popular service because of this. It benefits consumers and also independent taxi drivers, who can earn a little extra money by picking up Uber ride requests.
Fans of Uber are taking to Twitter to voice their dissatisfaction. Check out #UberDCLove.
Health policy economists are puzzled by a persistent slowdown in the growth of health care spending that seems to have started in mid-2005, and accelerated since then. The Wall Street Journal summarized it on Monday, saying, “The health [spending] growth rate has flattened out at about 3.9% over the last three years — a record low since the 1960s and down from the old normal of 6.2% to 9.7% in the 2000s.”
Economists thought at first that the slowdown in spending was due to the recession, when people didn’t have the money to continue to increase health care spending as much as in the past. But new papers published in the journal Health Affairs last week provide “evidence that the moderation [in rising health spending] is durable, and that it is structural — the result of permanent changes in the health system itself rather than the business cycle,” as the Wall Street Journal further explained on Monday.
These papers indicate a sharply reduced role for the recession in slowing the rise in health spending, and indicate a greater role for market choice, competition, and incentives. But even these folks don’t have the full story.
The Health Savings Account Revolution
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were enacted into law in December 2003. Traditional, old-fashioned insurance involves a nominal deductible, leaving the insured to pay only the first $100 or $250 each year, with the rest covered by the insurance, perhaps with a modest, limited, co-insurance fee above the deductible. That structure creates the “third party payment” problem. With the insurance company paying for virtually all the bills, neither the patient nor the doctor bears any incentive to control costs. But they both decide between themselves what and how much health care to consume, and bill the insurer. Naturally, that makes health insurance very expensive.
The concept behind HSAs is to greatly reduce the cost of the health insurance with a high deductible, in the range of $2,000 to $6,000 a year, or more. The savings from that lower expense is then kept in the HSA to be used to pay for health care costs below the deductible. Whatever the patient does not spend from those HSA funds on health care he or she gets to keep, for future health care expenses, or anything in retirement. That creates full market incentives to control costs for all non-catastrophic health expenses, because the patient is effectively using his or her own money for such costs. Since the patient is now concerned about costs, the doctors and hospitals will compete to control costs.
The insight of the godfather of HSAs, John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, was that the health insurance savings from a deductible in this range would be almost enough to finance all expenses under the deductible for the year. After one healthy year, the insured would have more than enough in the HSA to pay for all expenses below the deductible.
Moreover, patients with HSAs would enjoy complete control over what health care to spend their HSA funds on. They don’t need to beg for the approval of a health insurance company to spend their HSA funds on the health care they want.
These are the reasons why the sick as well as the poor would still prefer HSAs. The sick would have complete control to spend their HSA funds on the health care they prefer. The poor would be fully covered and could pay themselves out of the health care savings they gain with HSAs.
Such HSAs and their incentives have proven very effective in controlling costs in the real world. Total HSA costs, including the savings to fully fund the HSA savings account to cover the deductible, have run about 25% less than the costs for traditional, old-fashioned insurance. Annual costs increases for HSAs have run more than 50% less, sometimes with zero premium increases for years.
These are the reasons why HSA accounts soared by 22% in 2012 alone, to over 8 million. Total savings and assets in the accounts zoomed by 27% to $15.5 billion. That is expected to increase by nearly three-fourths to almost $27 billion by 2015. That booming growth has continued since HSAs were adopted in 2003.
According to the National Health Interview Survey of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one fourth of the privately insured population is covered by HSAs, similar Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs), or other high deductible plans, which probably exceeds HMO enrollment by now. About half of those with private insurance obtained outside employer plans are covered by such high deductible plans.
The proof is in the pudding. As HSAs and similar plans have soared in the private market, health spending growth has plummeted. That is the result of market competition and incentives.
Obamacare: Somewhere Between High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Most who support Obamacare do so because of a principled belief that everyone should have access to essential health care. But even the Washington Establishment CBO, still dominated by career Democrats, projects that 10 years after full implementation, Obamacare will still leave 30 million uninsured.
But it is going to be much higher than that. Under the perverse incentives of Obamacare, tens of millions will lose their employer provided insurance because of the perverse incentives under the program. CBO reported in February that at least 7 million, and as many as 20 million, will lose their employer coverage. CBO estimated then that “in 2019 [5 years after Obamacare is implemented], an estimated 12 million people who would have had an offer of employment-based coverage under prior law will lose their offer under current law [aka ‘Obamacare’].”
That is because of a second problem caused by Obamacare. Obama promised us that Obamacare would reduce the cost of health insurance by $2,500 a year. But it has already increased those costs by $3,000 per year. That is because of the new mandated benefits and other regulatory burdens of Obamacare already coming online. Obamacare will also increase health care costs by driving up demand but reducing supply, and through new taxes applying to health insurance and health care.
For these reasons, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said last December that Obamacare (as Investor’s Business Daily later put it) “will likely cause premiums to double for some small businesses and individuals.” Former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimated in a study for the American Action Forum of 5 major cities that premiums would climb there under Obamacare by an average of 169%.
Many employers will prefer to pay the fine for not providing coverage than bear these cost increases. Moreover, employers can give their workers healthy raises plus Obamacare health insurance subsidies if coverage at work is dropped. That is why Holtz-Eakin estimated in another study for the American Action Forum that more than 40 million workers would lose their employer coverage under Obamacare. So much for another Obama promise that “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. No one is going to take that away from you.”
Employer desperation to avoid the added costs of Obamacare will cause chaos in the labor market as well. To avoid the employer mandate that applies only to companies with 50 or more full time employees, employers are already replacing full time employment with part time employment paying lower wages and no benefits. Small businesses with less than 50 employees are already freezing hiring, and those just above 50 employees have already begun layoffs. Moreover, Obamacare’s employer mandate does not require employers to cover the family dependents of their workers. So employers have already begun a trend towards terminating that coverage as well.
President Obama told us during his State of the Union address earlier this year that “A growing economy that creates good, middle class jobs — that should be the North Star that guides all of our efforts,” and he has repeated that numerous times since then. But all of these labor market effects and the soaring costs of Obamacare will just mean still more declining real incomes for the middle class and for working people, and fewer good, middle class jobs, which have been the actual hallmarks of Obamanomics. That means another central promise by President Obama, repeated over and over, will continue to be violated, more and more.
The young and healthy will also take steps to avoid the high costs of Obamacare’s individual mandate. Under Obamacare’s regulation, any insurer they choose must take them no matter how sick and costly when they sign up, and charge them no more than anyone else. Consequently, many, including myself, will refuse to buy any insurance until they are sick with some costly condition such as cancer or heart disease. Then they will sign up for full coverage at no extra charge, until they recover.
The individual mandate, as well as the employer mandate, was supposed to prevent this. But individuals, like employers, can just skip the insurance and pay the penalty, at a savings of thousands of dollars a year. But why even pay the penalty? When it was put to a vote in Congress, your double talking, unserious representatives denied the IRS the authority to enforce the penalty by garnishment or seizure.
So the end result will be still millions more uninsured under Obamacare, probably in the end even more than there were without Obamacare. But as the young and healthy drop out of insurance pools, that will drive up the costs for those that remain still more, driving still more out, in a financial death spiral for private insurers. So if you like your health plan, you can keep it, until Obamacare drives your insurer out of business. At best, that will leave you only with a government monopoly, like the Post Office, for your health care.
Obamacare will soon be teaching seniors on Medicare what that means. While Democrats and President Obama talk a good game about Republicans wanting to throw grandma over a cliff by slashing Medicare, it is the Democrats and President Obama who have already done that, through Obamacare.
Obamacare already has slashed $716 billion over the next 10 years from Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals for the health care they provide to seniors, growing into trillions in future years. By the end of the decade, Medicare will be paying less for health care for seniors than Medicaid will pay for health care for the poor. That already often leaves the poor without access to essential, timely care, with many suffering worse health outcomes as a result, including premature death, as recent studies have shown. Seniors, do not ask for whom the bell tolls! As John Goodman recently explained on his health policy blog at ncpa.org, “One out of seven hospitals will leave Medicare in the next seven years, say the actuaries, and beyond that things just get worse and worse. Access to care will become a huge issue as waiting times to see doctors and enter hospitals grows…. From a financial point of view, seniors will be less attractive to doctors than welfare mothers.”
In other words, the government monopoly of Medicare will become an official, institutionalized means of denying health care to seniors, just like the government monopoly of Medicaid has become for the poor. And that is what the coming government monopoly of Obamacare will be soon enough, an official, institutionalized means of denying essential health care to everyone, just like socialized medicine in every other country.
Universal health care, indeed. Just another “progressive” delusion, if not outright lie. In a recent paper for the NCPA, John Goodman and I explain how universal health care for all can be assured through Patient Power, free market reforms, without Obamacare, no individual mandate, no employer mandate, at a savings of $2 trillion or more for taxpayers.
As Jon Roland of the Constitution Society has recently shown, the constitutional grounds for impeachment, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” really means violating your oath of office, especially by lying to the American people. Impeach Obama for Benghazi, for Nixonian IRS abuse, for illegal wiretaps of the press? No, impeach him for Obamacare, and the thoroughly wasted, trillion dollar, so-called “stimulus,” which are the biggest lies told in U.S. history.
[First published by The American Spectator]
The reason that only one Black advocate has come before the Supreme Court since October is not racism – it’s simply that there aren’t many Black lawyers in America to begin with. This, however, hasn’t stopped those on the left from writing about the fact that in the 75 hours of oral arguments heard by the Supreme Court since October, only one of the advocates was Black. The point that they seem to be trying to make is, as one blogger put it, that “the Supreme Court rules over Black people, it doesn’t see or listen to them.”
While the number 1 is easy to latch onto for those seeking to preserve the perception of liberals as “friends” of the minority groups of America, in this context, it is statistically irrelevant.
Since October, a total of 120 different advocates have appeared before the Supreme Court. Of those, 108 were White, 4 were Hispanic, 7 were Asian, and, as we all know by now, only 1 was Black. In other words, in the October term, 90% of the advocates that appeared before the Supreme Court were White; 3% were Hispanic, 5% were Asian; and .8% were Black.
There are (according to the ABA) about 1,245,205 licensed attorneys in the United States. About 88% are White, which seems rather proportional to that particular group’s representation among the advocates heard by the nation’s highest court since October.
I’m afraid that pundits have been found reaching as to the meaning (if there is one) of this particular situation. The fact of the matter is that of the 1,245,205 lawyers in America, only 120 (.009%) had the privilege of arguing before the Supreme Court of the United States. It is incredibly unlikely that any attorney – even a great one – will ever get to argue in front of those nine justices. The fact that only one Black advocate came before the Court in the last term is irrelevant.
Of the approximately 1,095, 780 White lawyers in America, only .0099% of them appeared before the Court. When compared to the .0017% of the approximately 59,769 Black lawyers in America, the difference is quite trivial. Actually, a larger percentage of Asian attorneys (7 out of approximately 42,336) appeared before SCOTUS last term than that of any other race; but that wasn’t the headline.
The fact that people are trying to turn this number into an illustration of institutional racism is both troubling, and sad. But if the left really wants to take it up with someone, they should start with the current administration, seeing as how a large chunk of the attorneys who appeared before our Supreme Court were with the office of the Solicitor General – and not one was Black.
A May 14 New York Times article by Eduardo Porter titled “For Insurers, No Doubts on Climate Change” has been getting quite a bit of play lately, judging from how often we’ve been pinged on Twitter about it. Correcting errors in the NYT’s coverage of global warming (alias “climate change”) would be a full-time job, but this one deserves to be called out.
Porter tells readers it is somehow important or significant that property and casualty insurance companies are repeating the unscientific claims and predictions of environmentalists about global warming. He mentions that those companies stopped funding The Heartland Institute because of our stand on the issue… though he doesn’t report that they only stopped last year when their identities were revealed by Peter Gleick as part of the Fakegate scandal. Did they oppose our stand before then? Apparently not.
Porter makes a key admission in this article that exposes the lie:
“And insurers can raise premiums or even drop coverage to adjust to higher risks. Indeed, despite Sandy and drought, property and casualty insurance in the United States was more profitable in 2012 than in 2011, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.”
No kidding! Everybody knows property and casualty insurers can raise rates and make more profits if they exaggerate the threat of global warming, and they do. Their reports aren’t science, they are advertising. Greenpeace might actually believe its propaganda on this issue. Insurers almost certainly don’t. How does a reporter not get this? Is Porter just stupid?
Do you believe, as this administration wants you to, that our leaders don’t have a clue as to what is happening unless it appears as a trending topic on twitter? According to White House press secretary Jay Carney, President Obama and friends have become aware of major scandals through the media, just like anyone else.
“I would only say broadly that the idea behind that thinking suggests that there was some grand plan behind the Fast and Furious program when, in fact, everyone knows the President did not know about this tactic until he heard about it through the media; the Attorney General did not know about it.”
Jay Carney at a May, 14 2013 Press Conference
“Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the Associated Press,” Carney announced.
The president “found out about the news reports yesterday on the road,” he added.
“Carney also said during his briefing that no one in the White House was had “knowledge” of the alleged targeting of tea party and other conservative groups until the White House counsel’s office was informed of the probe late last month. Later, the lines got a bit blurrier, as he said the White House was “not aware” of the IRS conduct.”
Jon Stewart wrote a Daily Show sketch about Obama’s blissful ignorance, joking that he probably found out that Osama Bin Laden was killed by watching his own address on TV.
As silly as that image is, how can anyone take the White House’s claims seriously? This administration seems to know more about health care than private insurers or doctors, or more about guns than law-abiding firearm owners, but when it comes to the inner workings of their own government programs, they don’t know a thing.