On the Blog

Feds to Ban Kids’ Soft Plastic Toys for No Good Reason

Somewhat Reasonable - March 29, 2015, 2:20 PM

The Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) wants to hear from you.

The agency has extended its comments period until April 15 as it considers a rule that would regulate a range of chemicals within a group called phthalates. These chemicals, among other purposes, keep plastics from shattering when bent, and play a useful role in a range of consumer products.

Some phthalates, such as di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), have already been banned. Others have been under scrutiny for years and have been subject to temporary bans, or have been banned from products that children are likely to put their mouths on.

The CPSC’s proposed rule would extend the ban on diisononyl phthalate (DINP)—in effect since 2009–from a temporary restriction on mouthable children’s toys and childcare articles, to a permanent ban on even non-mouthable children’s products. The CPSC’s justification is that non-mouthable products are touched, which can also cause exposure, thus adding to the cumulative exposure from other phthalates, such as DEHP.

But as it turns out, DINP is among the least potent phthalates, and exposure from toys and childcare articles—even mouthable ones—is a very minor source of DINP exposure in the first place. It is an even more minor concern in terms of cumulative phthalate risk, given DINP’s low potency.

Cumulative exposure from DINP in children’s products may have been a conceivable concern when overall phthalate exposure was much higher, prior to the legislative bans on many phthalates more than five years ago. But now, with overall exposure much lower, DINP exposure from touching should barely even be considered of minimal importance.

The CPSC, in its proposed rule to extend the ban, relies heavily on a study it commissioned called the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) on Phthalates. Yet the CHAP report fails to take today’s lower exposure levels into account, instead relying on data that is not only old, but no longer relevant given the bans of more potent phthalates. A cumulative assessment based on exposure levels we know to no longer be accurate renders the CHAP report irrelevant when considering cumulative exposures.

The proposed CPSC rule comes close to acknowledging the scientific weakness of the case to extend the ban on DINP to non-mouthable products, by arguing that the effect of the ban would be minimal. “In practice, children’s toys and toys that can be placed in a child’s mouth all require testing for phthalates,” says the CPSC. “The testing costs are the same in either case. The only change caused by expanding the scope to all children’s toys is that toys too large to be mouthed could not be made with DINP.” (See pages 45 to 48 of the CPSC’s notice regarding the proposed rule.)

This, however, does not bother to consider several factors: The effect on consumers; the potential that in the future, smaller manufacturers would be burdened by this regulation; or the potential for eventual uses of DINP in non-mouthable children’s products. Overall, the rule offers no demonstrated public health benefits in exchange for keeping a safe and useful chemical out of the hands of consumers.

When Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in 2008, it did not give the CPSC the power to remove safe products from the marketplace, simply because the effects of such a ban appear to be minimal. Nor did it empower the CPSC to remove products that can only be shown to present a risk based on old exposure data that is no longer accurate.

But with the extension of the comments period until mid-April, there is still time to let your voice be heard. The law is clear: The agency must read and consider your comments. Your unique insight and experience can help shape this policy. Submit your comments at the Federal eRulemaking Portal until April 15.

 

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

Multiculturalism – A Cancer on College Campuses

Somewhat Reasonable - March 29, 2015, 10:14 AM

By Nancy Thorner & Bonnie O’Neil – 

David L. Goetsch in his book, “Liberal Tyranny in Higher Education”, sees multiculturalism as the leftist code for a worldview that seeks the destruction of Christianity and traditional American values.  Although everyone and everything is supposed to be equal, universal equality is preached but not actually believed. Multicultural elitists not only reject the values of those who pay their salaries, they do everything in their power to subvert their values.  Elitists in academia go beyond just advocating multiculturalism, they worship at the altar of this misguided, socially cancerous worldview.

Professor Williams explained this multicultural hypocrisy in a recent column entitled “Multiculturalism, a cancer on Western society”:

“Western values are by no means secure. They are under ruthless attack by the academic elite on college campuses across America. These people want to replace personal liberty with government control; they want to replace equality with entitlement; they want to halt progress in order to worship Mother Earth. Personal liberty and private property are anathemas to people who want to control our lives. This is part and parcel of the multicultural and diversity movements infecting the western world.”

Colleges and universities, hotbeds of multiculturalism

It is not surprising that colleges and universities across this nation have become hotbeds of multiculturalism.  In the social environment that currently prevails on most of these campuses, young students are targeted for being taught the philosophy that no one and nothing is supposed to stand out. Everyone and everything is to be equal.  Not so, however, if the action in question is for the purpose of liberal indoctrination, such as when a college mandated LGBTQ training for all campus groups.   When one group requested an opt-out from the indoctrination, it was labeled a hate group, thus exemplifying the expected intolerance of the Left.  It goes without saying that if we don’t agree with Liberals, we’re part of a hate group. If Liberals don’t agree with us they are the enlightened ones, and have no trouble spewing angry, insulting comments to silence us.

Unfortunately on college campuses we have an ever-growing group of young men and women who no longer understand what it means to be an American.   A story that received national news attention a few weeks ago took place at the University of California, Irvine (U.C.I.), located in Orange County, which is one of the few remaining conservative Republican counties in California.   A student government group decided to ban flags from being displayed in a prominent place on campus, particularly the American flag, because as they were quoted: “it is a symbol of oppression.”  In all likelihood the students who created the firestorm have no clue as to what oppression really feels like.  They would be well advised to examine real oppression that exists in many countries throughout the World, such as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.  The UCI students might feel differently about the United States if they witnessed real, not imagined, oppression.   Odd that they ignore the countries that forbid women to go to school, drive a car, show their hair or faces in public, or vote;  countries in which women are the property of their husbands, and where one can justifiably kill another who denounces a specific religious belief.

College students have the legal right to dishonor our American flag. Ironically they do so without considering that our flag is the symbol of the very freedom that gives them that right.  However, they are not immune to criticism for doing so, and their decision, once leaked to the media, caused American patriots everywhere to be outraged.  Thousands expressed their distaste and anger, wondering what caused this utter disrespect for “Old Glory”.  Some wondered if the students’ lack of patriotism originated from their home, their families?   Questions arose as to whether the 6 students were born and/or raised in America or whether they were foreign students whose loyalty lies elsewhere?   How could they be oblivious to the freedom and opportunities our flag represents?   Had they not been taught brave men and women died for the country that flag represents?  Citizens from all over wanted to know if the U.C.I. students in question were among those who have received federal (American) grants for their education, which have grown to around $30 million a year.  In this case, likely due to the resultant public outcry, the decision to remove the American flag was quickly overturned by school authorities.

Flag’s removal not an end all to U.C.I. controversy 

Despite the removal of the flag, the firestorm of controversy created by the “flag flap” continued.  But what happened next on the U.C.I. campus provided the most glaring explanation as to the thought process that produced the six student’s attitude towards “Old Glory”, and why it was targeted for removal. The first clue that caught the public’s attention was that students were not as shocked by the removal of the flag as they were the accompanying controversy.  The second major clue came several days later when it was reported that a letter of support for the six students had been circulated on campus, apparently by Rei Terada, a professor of Comparative Literature at U.C.I.  The petition included 1,200 signatures, sixty of which were from professors who, by signing, declared their approval of the decision and support for the six students.

The following is an excerpt from the letter:

“We admire the courage of the resolution’s supporters amid this environment of political immaturity and threat, and support them unequivocally.”  “We write to support the six members who offered the resolution to remove national flags from the ASUCI lobby,” the letter reads.  “The university ought to respect their political position and meet its obligation to protect and promote their safety.  The resolution recognized that nationalism, including U.S. nationalism, often contributes to racism and xenophobia”

As more information and facts unfolded, it became apparent to observers that the source of the student’s disrespect for our American flag originated not with their families, but with a philosophy born in classrooms by exceedingly liberal professors who had the audacity to spew their liberal agenda into classrooms of vulnerable, open-minded young students, eager to please the authority over them.  It is about a creeping liberalism that has been dominating, not just U.C.I., but colleges and campuses all over America for decades. Students, our children who are the future of America, have become victims of professors with an extreme agenda.  The unpatriotic action of six U.C.I. students uncovered a far more serious problem that requires the attention and action of every American parent and patriot. The realization that the U.C.I flag incident was only discovered due to a “leak” , believed to have been reported to the media by a student and then fortunately given to a conservative media source to bring to the attention of the public, there is every cause to wonder how many similar college incidents go unnoticed throughout the country?

Influence of liberal professors in American classrooms

The obvious concern should be to what extent U.C.I. professors and others in prestigious universities use their position of authority daily to infuse a liberal philosophy into American classrooms, thus indoctrinating rather than teaching vulnerable students.   An article in the L.A. Times entitled “Leftism at UC Leaves Many with Unbalanced Education” quotes a study that concluded: “Cal is a hotbed of leftist faculty and politically correct thinking, where many students are receiving a weak education”.  Students who only learn one viewpoint on controversial issues are not prepared for a society in which they will be challenged with differing perspectives.  With a compromised outlook, students risk succeeding in specific fields, only to find themselves at a disadvantage because of their one-sided frame of reference.

There have been astute students who have complained that professors continually point out America’s perceived failures without balancing the negative with this nation’s many achievements, many of which have propelled this country into becoming the great nation we now enjoy.  Such students are not easily influenced with rhetoric, but look at facts for their conclusions.  They respect our country and its accomplishments and know our borders do not prohibit people from leaving, but instead are challenged to manage the huge number of foreigners who want to enter America.  Just observing that one fact alone indicates we must be doing something right!

Notwithstanding, it is difficult for vulnerable young minds to resist the power of persuasive professors who convey and encourage students to resist national pride and thus consider themselves as “citizens of the world”, not citizens of the United States.  No wonder those six U.C.I. students wanted to remove the flag; they have been indoctrinated with anti-patriotic philosophies in favor of a one-world concept that discourages loyalty to one’s country.

Perhaps the “flap” over the flag has opened a door for all to see that a one-sided, exceedingly liberal political and philosophical perspective in classrooms can prove detrimental. An obvious conclusion is that it is not only the professors, but also school administrations that perpetrates the liberal indoctrination.  That seems logical when we realize most universities hire liberals over conservatives at a ratio as high as seven to one. The solution may be for taxpayers, parents, students, and donors to demand fair and equal hiring practices; one that creates a balance of conservatives to liberals, and which would provide students the opportunity to hear and learn a more fair and diverse political perspective. All students benefit when equipped with a better understanding of all political thought, provided without prejudice.

Equality a byword only when benefiting liberal ideals

Although equality is a byword among university professors, it appears to apply only if that equality benefits liberal ideals.  Recent revelations indicate school administrations are reluctant to make any changes to correct the liberal bias permeating their schools.  In fact they tend to excuse or justify the inequality when exposed.  The bias is not only witnessed in the Universities’ unfair hiring practices, but also in their choice of commencement speakers.  Liberals are favored seven to one over conservatives, which may be largely due to the backlash liberal professors create on the campus when a conservative speaker is selected.

Consider Rutgers University.  Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited to give the school’s commencement speech, but soon after her acceptance a group of faculty members led by Rutgers Chemistry professor Robert Boikess and Rutger student Carmelo Cintrón Vivas began a campaign to force the school to disinvite the former United States official. Protestors gained national attention by an intensive effort to malign the former official, and liberal media sources slanted the story in favor of the protestors by citing quotes regarding Rice’s role in the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and U.S. interrogation policies. To Rutgers credit it refused to disinvite Rice, but not wanting to create more controversy, Rice graciously rescinded her acceptance, stating: “Commencements should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families.  Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”

In actuality, liberals were grateful for the opportunity Rutgers gave them to malign our former Secretary of state and in the process promote their own leftist agenda not only at the university but throughout the nation.

Can this nation tolerate centers of higher learning engaged in indoctrination?

America can withstand unfair protests.  Our country can overcome the rhetoric spewed from the Left.  We can tolerate an occasional professor who has the same liberal mindset as former terrorist Bill Ayers.  What we cannot tolerate is for our nation’s college and university system to become learning centers where our children are indoctrinated by a majority of self-professed liberal professors whose goals are not that of our forefathers, the student’s parent, or the community in general.  The condemning of American policies, practices, laws, leaders and traditions must stop.  Our children deserve a fair and balanced education void of intentional leftist indoctrination.

It is time for each of us to demand real equality in all our schools, from elementary to the University level, which would include everything from hiring practices to the curriculum taught in each classroom.  Students deserve a balanced education, citizens should demand it, and the health of our nation requires it.   We must join together and demand fair hiring practices, then request they drop the controversial Common Core, eliminate the federal Department of Education, and detach from all unions.  Now, that would be real progress; the type our brave and wise forefathers would have applauded!

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Unnecessary Collateral Damage From FCC Title II Internet Regulation

Somewhat Reasonable - March 28, 2015, 2:05 PM

The collateral damage is beginning to pile up from the FCC’s February decision to trigger Title II telephone utility regulation of the Internet.

Long called the “nuclear” option, the FCC preemptively triggered Title II Internet regulation ostensibly to prevent potential new net neutrality problems, which the FCC admits it can’t yet identify.

Why is Title II so destructive to the Internet ecosystem?

Few appreciate the awesome governmental power of Depression-era Title II regulation.

Title II is inherently comprehensive, capturing the whole telecommunications ecosystem. It presumes end to end, and top to bottom, FCC control of a vertically-integrated AT&T monopoly, including local and long distance communications, telecom equipment and devices manufacturing, Bell Labs R&D and content, publishing and advertising in Yellow Pages directories.

Most every functional part of the 1934 Title II monopoly AT&T ecosystem has a functional communications equivalent in the 21st century Internet ecosystem.

Title II also is inherently an adversarial, command and control regulatory ecosystem designed for one provider and one decider — the AT&T telephone monopoly network and the FCC monopoly regulator, respectively. Title II Section 201 has sweeping catchall authority empowering the FCC to “prescribe such rules and regulations as may be necessary in the public interest.”

Dropping Title II ecosystem regulation on top of the Internet ecosystem is like dropping an antiquated square-peg model on a modern round-hole model, meaning that literally everything in today’s 21st century Internet eventually may have to be force-fitted into analogous 1934 Title II regulations by the FCC and/or the courts over a period of many years.

Just as the FCC was not the final legal authority over Title II regulation of the monopoly telephone system, the FCC is not the final authority over what portions of the Internet ultimately will be captured by Title II regulations of “telecommunications.”

That’s because any trial lawyer can sue to require that the FCC’s new re-definitions, like “telecommunications” to capture ISPs’ broadband service, be equally applied under the law to functionally similar services.

The courts ultimately will decide much of this, creating potential litigation uncertainty for most every player in the Internet ecosystem.

If broadband is now telecommunications, IP addresses are now the legal equivalent of a phone number, and the Internet itself is now the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) per the FCC’s Internet Order, then are any apps that involve telecommunications of any kind, such as instant messaging, VoIP, or video communications etc., Title II telecommunications as well?

Are cloud service telecommunications analogous to broadband telecommunications?

Are over the top video streaming providers like Netflix, Google-YouTube, Amazon, etc. offering the functional equivalent of a Title II regulated telecommunications service?

Do online advertisers who use Title II Section 222 customer proprietary network information (user identifiers) in their cookies that telecommunicate back to their data centers, have to protect customer privacy like broadband providers do?

Under Title II Section 207 most everyone in the Internet ecosystem may be just one federal lawsuit and decision away from being sucked into the vortex of the Title II regulatory ecosystem.

Why was the Title II collateral damage unnecessary and avoidable?

All alleged net neutrality problems have been resolved without Title II. The relevant court indicated that the FCC’s 706 authority could support the FCC’s net neutrality rules without Title II.

And Congress has offered to codify FCC authority to implement the FCC’s 2010 court-overturned net neutrality rules.

What will be the likely collateral damage from Title II?

Consumers face the uncertainty of higher prices, fees and taxes over time, reduced competition and infrastructure improvements. Minority, poor, and underserved populations are especially at risk of losing service from higher prices, fees and taxes.

Innovators face the new and unnecessary uncertainty of FCC second-guessing and after the fact rejection of their innovations by opaque, arbitrary and unnecessary FCC innovation permission panels.

Investors face new unquantifiable litigation and business risks from an apparently arbitrary regulator picking winners and losers.

In a nutshell, lots of Americans, innovation and business will become collateral damage in an unnecessary, avoidable, and self-serving FCC war on potential future net neutrality problems, which the FCC admits it can’t yet identify.

It’s hard to imagine how another agency could inflict so much pain for so little gain.

Innocent bystanders beware, the FCC treats you as acceptable collateral damage.

 

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Seven States that Deserve an ‘F’ for their Welfare Programs

Somewhat Reasonable - March 28, 2015, 9:15 AM

When President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act into law in 1996, some Democrats and virtually all Republicans in Congress, led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), predicted the law would lead to dramatic reductions in welfare.

They were right.

Since 1996, welfare rolls have declined by 73 percent—from 12.4 million in 1996 to 3.4 million in October 2014. Few other reforms over the past 20 years have been as successful or as important.

But despite the many improvements caused by the 1996 changes to welfare, many states’ welfare programs continue to lag behind the rest of the nation because they fail to implement simple, commonsense reforms.

In an effort to identify the reasons why some welfare reform efforts have been far more successful than others, as well as what can be done to improve welfare reform, The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank headquartered in Chicago, conducted an extensive analysis of every state’s welfare program in 2008. The study also made reform recommendations that history has proven to be effective solutions to helping impoverished Americans move out of welfare and into productive and self-sufficient professional careers.

To determine its rankings, Heartland analyzed and scored each state’s program outcomes and welfare policies. A state’s program outcomes score was determined by looking at overall poverty rates, work participation rates, unemployment, teen birthrates, and the decline in the number of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program recipients.  Welfare reform policies were scored by analyzing state work requirements, cash diversion, service integration, time limits, and sanctions.

On March 19, Heartland released an updated version of the 2008 report card after conducting exhaustive research, and the following seven states have been identified as having the lowest-performing welfare programs and policies in the nation:

#44 Georgia, Grade: F (52/100 points)

Georgia came in as the nation’s seventh-worst state for welfare reform, ranking 49th in unemployment and receiving 0 out of 100 possible points for its poor “cash diversion” program. Cash diversion policies are those that allow case workers to give applicants lump-sum cash payments to meet short-term needs if recipients agree not to participate in TANF for some stated period.

#45 (tied) Alabama, Grade: F (51/100 points)

Alabama finished among the bottom six states, ranking 42nd in TANF recipient decline and earning grades of “F” for having poor cash diversion and sanctions policies. Sanctions are tools state officials can use to ensure recipients comply with work requirements and other mandates necessary for continued use of social services.

#45 (tied) Oregon, Grade: F (51/100 points)

Oregon finished in the bottom 10 of all states for overall poverty rates, work participation rates, and TANF recipient decline. It also received failing marks for its cash diversion and sanctions policies.

#45 (tied) Rhode Island, Grade: F (51/100 points)

The Ocean State finished 49th in the nation for its dismal work participation rate and 40th for its unemployment rate. It also received F grades for its poor service integration and cash diversion policies.

#48 Vermont, Grade: F (46/100 points)

Vermont ranked 48th overall due to its poor reform policies regarding work requirements and time limits, which is the amount of time a recipient is eligible to receive aid in a recipient’s life.

#49 Massachusetts, Grade: F (24.7/100 points)

Massachusetts earned “F” grades in four of five policy categories: work requirements, cash diversion, time limits, and sanctions. Massachusetts received an “A” grade for service integration, but that was only enough to keep it from finishing dead last.

#50 Missouri, Grade: F (24.3/100 points)

The Show Me State receives the dubious honor of being ranked the worst state in the nation for welfare reform, finishing 48th overall for its anti-poverty outcomes and earning “F” grades for its poor sanctions, work requirements, and cash diversion policies. Missouri earned “D” grades for lackluster service integration and poor time limits policies.

Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin received “A” grades for enacting proven reform policies that help move recipients off of welfare and into self-sufficiency.

You can read Heartland’s complete welfare reform report card, titled “2015 Welfare Reform Report Card” by going to The Heartland Institute’s website, where the study is available for free at www.heartland.org/welfare-reform

[Published on The Hill]

Categories: On the Blog

Celebrate Progressive Human Achivement Hour, Reject Regressive Earth Hour

Somewhat Reasonable - March 28, 2015, 12:38 AM

Light Up Night in Pittsburgh should be Light Up Night everywhere during the miserable ‘Earth Hour’ of the environmental extremists.

The technology liberated by fossil fuels allows us to live a longer and better life.  You can now have fresh vegetables from all over the planet and not having to live off canned vegetables that I had to eat back in the 1930s – 1950s.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute invites you to celebrate “Human Achievement Hour” by turning on your lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. TODAY, March 28. This celebration of human progress and advancement is an alternative to “Earth Hour,” the annual event calling on people and business to turn off their lights for an hour as a symbolic gesture against climate change.

Share in the celebration of modern society on Facebook! And Tweet it with the hashtag #HAH2015.

In contrast, Earth Hour wants you to live like the people in the 17th century — dying young, starving, working yourself to death with manual labor, etc.

Humans were not meant to live that way. Humans learned how to not live that way. Let’s not go back.

Categories: On the Blog

Is Global Warming a Moral Cause?

Somewhat Reasonable - March 27, 2015, 1:22 PM

On March 1, the New York Times published a silly piece titled “Is the Environment a Moral Cause” by Robb Willer (writing from Palo Alto, CA, of course) saying conservatives don’t embrace global warming alarmism and other popular environmental causes because they are more concerned about “patriotism, respect for authority, sanctity or purity” than “protecting people and ecosystems from harm and destruction.”

With all due respect to Prof. Willer, this isn’t even close to the truth. Rupert Wynham’s wonderful March 26 letter to the BBC makes it abundantly clear that conservatives view global warming as an issue loaded with moral concerns of a different kind: truth-telling, respect for others, healthy skepticism toward authority and propaganda, and willingness to publicly debate those who disagree.

Conservatives – and, opinion polls show, a healthy majority of the American public – don’t “believe in global warming” because its advocates utterly lack credibility. They’ve been caught again and again exaggerating, lying, and even breaking the law to end any civil discussion of the causes and consequences of climate change. Ordinary people aren’t fooled by propaganda. They’ve figured it out.

Willer writes, “To win over more of the public, environmentalists must look beyond the arguments that they themselves have found convincing.” That’s only partly right. They need to start speaking the truth, stop believing government agencies and advocacy groups that have been shown to lie and deceive to achieve power or financial rewards, and start debating their critics. Nothing else will restore environmentalism to the status it properly held before it became an appendage of the left-liberal political movement.

Categories: On the Blog

Ted Cruz Gets Common Core Way Better Than ThinkProgress Does

Somewhat Reasonable - March 27, 2015, 12:20 PM

ThinkProgress has not one but two articles bashing this tweet from Sen. (and now presidential candidate) Ted Cruz:

Federal Govt has no business sticking its nose in education. We need to repeal every word of Common Core! #nhpolitics #MakeDCListen

The headlines pretty much sum it up: “Ted Cruz Makes Impassioned Plea For Repeal Of Federal Legislation That Does Not Exist” and “Every Claim In This Ted Cruz Statement Is Completely False.” The second critiques this statement from Cruz’s spokeswoman: “Common Core is a federally created curriculum that the state’s ‘Race to the Top’ grants are tied to. So if the state does not adopt the standards, it gives up the grant money. But since the federal government created this mess, there should be a way to undo it.”

ThinkProgress Editor in Chief Judd Legum responds:

Literally every claim in that statement is false.

First, Common Core is not ‘federally created.’ It was created by the states, on a voluntary basis. As NPR reported, ‘the federal government played no role in creating the standards, nor did it require that states adopt them.’

Second, Common Core is not a ‘curriculum.’ Federal law actually prohibits the federal government to ‘to endorse, approve, or sanction any curriculum designed to be used in an elementary school or secondary school. Common Core is a set of math and English guidelines that outline a set of skills one should have at the end of each grade. The curriculum used to obtain those skills is left to school districts, schools and teachers.

Third, ‘Race To The Top’ grants were never tied to the adoption of Common Core.

Legum might want to spend some time googling up the pertinent federal and other publicly available source documents, because he’s flat-out wrong.

Fed Involvement in Common Core

Federal law does indeed prohibit any federal entity from having anything to do with curriculum. Legum may not have noticed, but the Obama administration doesn’t give a damn what any law says. So, in flat contradiction to the law, the Obama administration has indeed funded and coerced Common Core.

These two federal shadow agencies (PARCC and SBAC) explicitly told the Obama administration they would use tax dollars to create Common Core curriculum.

Common Core is not, as its apologists insist because there’s no other way to cover their butts on this, merely “curriculum benchmarks.” The document governors signed to signal their consent to the creation of Common Core defines the initiative in two “phases”: The first is standards, the second linked assessments. And the federal government provided $360 million in tax dollars explicitly to create the pair of linked national testing systems that share test questions and student data, both with each other and the federal government. Federal employees oversaw the creation of these tests right down to the test questions. Without federal money, there would be no second half of Common Core.

Furthermore, these two federal shadow agencies (PARCC and SBAC) explicitly told the Obama administration they would use tax dollars to create Common Core curriculum. SBAC’s grant agreement with the feds promised it would provide teachers “exemplary instructional materials linked to CCSS,”  “model curriculum and instructional modules that are aligned with the CCSS,” and teacher training.  It will send teachers “recommended readings, focused group discussions, use of online tools, and sharing of annotated examples of best practices and exercises.”  The organization budgeted $5.125 million in federal funds to contract with yet another organization to develop such “instructional and curriculum resources for educators.” PARCC’s says it is writing “model curriculum frameworks” and “exemplar lesson plans.”

It’s also utterly blind to pretend the Obama administration’s Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind waivers did not push states into Common Core. State board of education minutes from Race to the Top winners show that these boards believed “The verbatim adoption of these standards is required for Race to the Top approval” (that’s Tennessee’s).As the Washington Post reported, the term “Common Core” was written directly into Race to the Top mandates until substituted for a definition that matched only them so people wouldn’t get “suspicious.”

Lastly, the federal government provides at least half the operating funds of the two organizations that created Common Core, which are private nonprofits with no authority to create any binding national initiatives or laws. So either way, the feds were there at the beginning, at the request of Common Core’s creators, no less.

Ted Cruz Is Basically Right

There’s a lot more nitpicking to be done, but I think a fair reader sees my point. Almost everything about Legum’s posts is wrong, with the technical exception that Common Core itself is indeed not a full curriculum (“it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is”). Cruz is more accurate than Legum.

Cruz also gets the core of the issue right. The federal government has been breaking its own laws to fund curriculum essentially ever since the feds started stickyfingering education. So while the Obama administration is particularly brazen in its lawbreaking, this history of federal involvement in education essentially demonstrates its refusal to keep itself within bounds. (It also has not helped children of any income level or nationality, but that’s a story for another day.) As Cruz says, “The federal government has no business sticking its nose in education.”

[Originally published at The Federalist]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Marita Noon and James M. Taylor: Solar Power in the U.S.

Somewhat Reasonable - March 27, 2015, 12:04 PM

In Today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Senior Fellow James M. Taylor speaks with Marita Noon, host of America’s Voice for Energy. Taylor and Noon discuss solar energy in the United States. Noon and Taylor have both recently focused some of their work on the topic of solar power.

Taylor wrote an article titled “Solar Power Lobbyists seek to subvert Florida Teaparty.” The article explores a solar power ballot initiative in Florida masquerading as a free-market policy. Noon recently published a new report titled “Solar Power in the U.S.” This comprehensive look at solar energy “provides citizens with a more thorough understanding of how energy policy decisions affect their day-to-day lives.” Listen in as Taylor and Noon discuss this very important topic.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Millennials’ Dangerous Growing Addiction to Government

Somewhat Reasonable - March 27, 2015, 11:34 AM

When a friend and recent college graduate informed me he was receiving food stamps, I was floored. He is a healthy, educated, intelligent individual, but, like many of the millennials I know, entitled. Completely and utterly entitled.

“Is something wrong?” I asked my friend. “Are you going through a tough time or something? I know you’re working and everything seems to be going well with your job.”

“It’s nothing like that,” he assured me. “My job is with AmeriCorps though, and they just don’t pay enough. That’s why I’m eligible for food stamps. I figure, they aren’t paying me what I should get paid so it seems fair I should be eligible for government assistance.”

Somewhere in Fairfax County, Virginia, George Washington is rolling over in his grave.

AmeriCorps is a federal volunteer program—and by “volunteer,” I mean you earn money—that is considered to be quite prestigious by many employers and government agencies. Made up almost exclusively of young college students and graduates, AmeriCorps places individuals into community service organizations, providing a steady stream of cheap labor.

My friend, who was receiving a salary of just under $6,000 for his “service,” felt his decision to enroll in my state’s food stamps program was justified, not because he couldn’t find work and feed himself, but because he felt like he was being underpaid by the government for his “volunteer” job.

Fifty years ago—even 30 years ago—this sort of logic would not be tolerated by society. It used to be embarrassing to receive government assistance, a sign that something was going terribly wrong in one’s life. Not anymore. Government assistance isn’t exclusively for those who are down on their luck and need a helping hand; it’s for nearly everyone.

Millennials now pay for most of their tuition and college costs using federal student loans, a portion of which are guaranteed to be “subsidized.” Once students graduate from college, they are eligible to pay their loans back using income-based repayment plans. After 25 years, the loans are automatically forgiven, even if the student never paid a penny of it back. Loans are forgiven in only 10 years if students work for a non-profit organization.

While in school, non-dependent millennials are eligible for numerous government services. Because student loans do not count as “income” for the purpose of determining eligibility in many government programs, students can borrow as much as a school allows for living expenses and remain eligible for state and federal assistance.

For instance, a student attending New York University can borrow at least $24,000 for living expenses, work part-time earning $14,000, and still be eligible to receive a free cell phone from the federal government’s Lifeline Program, Medicaid health coverage, and could even be eligible for New York’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

To top it all off, because there is no lifetime aggregate limit on the amount of money a graduate student can borrow from the federal government and because students are not required to pay loans back while enrolled at least half-time, students can literally attend school forever and never actually have to pay off any of their student loans—all while remaining eligible for countless government assistance programs.

Could someone please explain why Americans should ever work another day again? What a country!

[Published by The Blaze]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Andrew Moylan: Marketplace (un)Fairness Act

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2015, 2:03 PM

In this episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Managing Editor of Budget & Tax News Jesse Hathaway is joined by Andrew Moylan. Moylan is a senior fellow and executive director at R Street. Hathaway and Moylan talk about the recent reintroduction of the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Moylan explains that the Act isn’t very fair at all, as it treats e-commerce customers differently, based on their physical location. Brick-and-mortar stores, he explains treat all customers the same, charging everyone the same sales tax rate. Also, the Act would effectively “deputize” online businesses as tax collectors for nearly 10,000 taxing jurisdictions, creating massive amounts of paperwork and compliance costs for small business owners.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Death Throes of Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2015, 10:28 AM

Americans are learning the hard way that the federal government should not be permitted to impose one-size-fits-all standards to education. It was never intended to play a role in education and the absence of any mention in the Constitution is proof enough that education was intended to be supervised by the states where the school districts, schools, and parents are closest to the process.

Common Core is going to play a large role in the 2016 elections and that is likely to impact former Governor Jeb Bush the most. At the heart of the unhappiness with Common Core has been its emphasis on testing.

A March 20th Wall Street Journal article, “Bush Faces Test of Exam Policy”, reported that “A Rasmussen Reports nationwide survey in February found that 52% of respondents thought there was too much emphasis on testing in schools and 69% believed there was too much ‘teaching to the test.’”

The transformation of the nation’s educational system began when the Department of Education was signed into law by Jimmy Carter in 1979 and began operating in 1980. It continued with the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the name given to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It requires all public schools receiving Title 1 federal funding to annually administer a state-wide standardized test to all students. NCLB was coauthored by Representatives John Boehner (R-OH), George Miller (D-CA) and Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH).

President George W. Bush was a leading NCLB advocate and signed it into law on January 8, 2002. Each state was expected to develop its own standards because NCLB did not impose a national one. This year when its reauthorization came up for consideration, it was pulled from the House floor in February. The Heritage Foundation deems it “outdated, ineffective, and prioritizes government standards over the needs of individual students.”

According to Neal McCluskey, Associate Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, “There is no compelling evidence that No Child Left Behind, and federal intervention overall, has produced much good, while it is very clear it has cost substantial money and is unconstitutional.”

In Missouri, circuit court Judge Daniel R. Green, ruled in February that the state’s payment of more than $4 million in membership fees as part of a standardized testing consortium was illegal. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium “is an unlawful interstate compact to which the U.S. Congress has never consented, whose existence and operation violate” Article 1 and 10 of the federal Constitution. It dealt a blow to Common Core.

It’s not just Missouri. In January the Mississippi Board of Education voted to withdraw from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers consortium which is one of the two tests aligned to Common Core. A full repeal of Common Core standards is under discussion.

By June 2014, two months before its implementation date, 19 states had either withdrawn from the tests or had paused implementation of the standards. Four of the 19, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana had completely exited the national standards. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia never adopted it.

Gov. Bush is beginning to put some distance between himself and Common Core. His spokeswoman, Kristi Campbell, said “There is such a thing as too much testing.” Reportedly “he says the federal government shouldn’t impose particular tests or curricula on states.” Meanwhile, in one state after another, Common Core is being rejected.

On the political front, the Heartland Institute’s monthly newsletter, School Reform News, reported in March that “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a front runner in the contest for the Republican nomination for president, made bold reforms of elementary, secondary, and college education a prominent part of his proposed 2015-17 budget.”

“The budget, presented on February 3, would remove the cap on the state’s school choice program, eliminate state funding for Smarter Balanced tests tied to Common Core State Standards, and cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin over two years in exchange for greater autonomy for the system.”

On Capitol Hill, four Republican senators including Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Roberts of Kansas have introduced a bill that would prevent the federal government from strong-arming states into adopting education standards such as Common Core and, presumably, NCLB. The bill is called learning Opportunities Created at the Local Level Act. As reported in the Daily Caller.com, it “would limit the federal government’s ability to control state educational standards and curriculums through financial incentives, grants, mandates, and other forms of influence.”

There’s no way to know when Common Core will die or whether No Child Left Behind will suffer a similar fate but the trend nationwide is obvious. Parents, teachers, schools and districts want to determine the best curricula for the children in their systems. They want the federal government out and that is a very good thing.

Categories: On the Blog

Climate Witch Hunt Is Bad For Science, Bad For Witch Hunters

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2015, 10:16 AM

Desperate times breed desperate measures, and for climate alarmists these are desperate times.

There has been no measurable global warming for 18 years. The majority of polar bear populations are stable or growing; hurricane landfalls have been virtually nonexistent in the United States for a decade; cold temperature and snowfall records are being set daily (more than 2,600 cold temperature records were set or broken between February 19 and February 25 of this year alone); Antarctica is setting sea ice records in the middle of its summer; and in the Arctic, the much ballyhooed sea ice decline of the late 1990 and early 2000s has recovered over the past two years.

By almost every metric, the predictions made by climate change believers have failed or are failing, and reasons for climate alarm are fading from view as a result.

Perhaps this explains climate alarmists’ desperate attempts to smear the reputations of climate researchers who scientifically reject any aspect of the “human-catastrophic-climate-change-connection.”

The latest salvo in this desperate gambit comes from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), ranking member of the House of Representatives Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. He sent a letter to seven university presidents demanding information on funding sources and all draft testimony and exchanges relating to the testimony of select researchers who have testified before Congress on climate change issues and did not express an alarmist view.

Grijalva’s original letter asked about the climate research and funding for seven scholars: geographer Robert C. Balling Jr., Arizona State University; atmospheric scientist John Christy, University of Alabama; climatologist Judith Curry, Georgia Institute of Technology; historian Steven Hayward, Pepperdine University; climatologist David Legates, University of Delaware; atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr., University of Colorado.

As one of the targets of Grijalva’s probe, Legates points out, “Grijalva was asked why he targeted the seven of us. His response was we were the most well-published, most often-cited, and had the most impact on public policy in the United States. Not that our research was likely fraudulent, not that we had taken big sums of money from foreign governments, or that we simply had been publishing bad research. None of these were the reason. It was simply we are too effective with our research and too persuasive with our arguments. Pure and simple. And since we disagree with him and his views, we must be harassed. Maybe that will stop us.”

Pielke, a researcher who accepts that humans contribute to global warming but does not believe a modest warming signifies disaster, has repeatedly testified under oath before Congress he never received any funding from fossil-fuel companies. Pielke wrote, “I know with complete certainty that this investigation is a politically-motivated ‘witch hunt’ designed to intimidate me and to smear my name.”

Tired of years of abuse, Pielke is bowing out of further climate research.

The American Meteorological Society, the national scientific society for research in atmospheric, oceanic, and hydrologic sciences, added its voice to the growing chorus defending scientific freedom of enquiry and speech with its own letter to Grijalva. The letter, written by AMS Executive Director Dr. Keith L. Seitter, states, “Publicly singling out specific researchers based on perspectives they have expressed and implying a failure to appropriately disclose funding sources — and thereby questioning their scientific integrity — sends a chilling message to all academic researchers.”

Seitter continued, “Further, requesting copies of the researcher’s communications related to external funding opportunities or the preparation of testimony impinges on the free pursuit of ideas that is central to the concept of academic freedom.”

Even some climate alarmists believe Grijalva has gone too far. Bob Ward, policy director for the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, a frequent critic of climate skeptics, tweeted, “Politicians should not persecute academics with whom they disagree. No ifs or buts.”

Climate alarmist organizations and scientists had better hope public scrutiny does not turn to their funding sources. Climatologist Judith Curry has asked, “Are we not to be concerned by funding from green advocacy groups and scientists serving on the Boards of green advocacy groups?”

 

Pielke tweeted, “Once you tug on the thread of undisclosed financial interests in climate science, you’ll find it more a norm than exception.”

In fact, according to Imablawg, Rep. Grijalva, the self-appointed climate witch finder general, has taken $78,854 from environmental lobbying groups.

I’d like to propose a solution: Let’s all stick to an honest debate concerning the scientific and economic issues of climate change and stop the mudslinging, yellow journalism, and political harassment.

 

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Overhaul Public Pensions Now

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2015, 10:05 AM

Unless local and state governments act now, a tsunami of underfunded public pension plan obligations will soon rush ashore and drown taxpayers with tax hikes and crippling debt.

According to State Budget Solutions, a nonpartisan public policy organization focusing on local and state budget issues, states’ total unfunded public pension liabilities reached $4.7 trillion in 2014, an increase of more than 14 percent since 2013.

That puts each American citizen on the hook for an average of $14,156 in public pension debt, up from about $12,852 per person in 2013. If the problem is allowed to continue to fester unabated, taxpayers will ultimately be forced to make up the difference in the form of higher taxes.

For years, state pension boards have used overly optimistic investment return assumptions to “cook the books” and make the funds they manage appear financially sounder than they really are.

In California, the Public Employees’ Retirement System assumes it will consistently beat the market and receive a fabulous 7.25 percent return on its investments. In reality, CalPERS’ books showed a net loss of 0.5 percent at the end of fiscal year 2014.

Using a more realistic assumption of a 2.734 percent yield on returns, roughly the same yield received from investing in 15-year U.S. Treasury bonds, SBS says CalPERS can realistically expect to pay only about 39 percent of its total pension liabilities.

Vermont’s pension liabilities exceed its ability to pay by more than $7 billion, or about $11,375 per Vermonter. The Vermont State Employees’ Retirement System (VSERS) assumes its investments will earn 6.25 percent per year. In reality, VSERS fell far short of its expectations, realizing just 3.7 percent growth between June 30, 2013 and June 30, 2014.

According to SBS’ calculations, Vermont’s public pension plans can only pay out $1 for every $3 promised to state employees.

The problem of looming public pension liabilities is not limited to California and Vermont. States such as Alaska, Connecticut, and Kentucky are in even worse shape. For example, Connecticut’s public pension funds can only pay out 23 cents for every dollar of entitlements promised to government workers.

Ignoring the approaching public pension tsunami means taxpayers will get swallowed up in an ocean of red ink.

Unlike a real tsunami, this wave of underfunded public pensions can be stopped. By shifting from defined-benefit programs to 401(k)-like defined-contribution plans, and applying common sense, honesty, and transparency when preparing investment plans, state pension boards can make a plausible effort to safeguard government workers’ money and taxpayers against potential economic shocks in the future.

 

[Originally published at The Press Enterprise]

Categories: On the Blog

Gary MacDougal Discusses Welfare Reform on NPR’s ‘The Jefferson Exchange’

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2015, 10:01 AM

On March 23, Policy Advisor Gary MacDougal was a guest on NPR’s “The Jefferson Exchange,” broadcasted out of Southern Oregon University. MacDougal was on with host Geoffrey Riley to discuss the 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card and Oregon’s ‘F’ grade.

The 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card is an analysis of the welfare polices and outcomes of each of the 50 states. The states are given letter grades based on their programs and performance and ranked against each other. This 2015 edition of the report card is an update of the original published in 2008. MacDougal, the lead author of the report, was chairman of the Governor’s Task Force in Illinois, where he led an effort to help people from dependency to a state of self-sufficiency.

In the interview you can listen to with the player above, MacDougal explains that how the grades were formulated, with an emphasis on whether or not a state’s welfare programs use cash diversion, sanctions, and time limits. He explains how these factors improve the state welfare programs and encourage people to become more self-sufficient.

Among other things, Riley questions why Oregon received an ‘F’ grade while California got a ‘C’ — something that seems counter-intuitive. MacDougal responds by explaining the process in which the states were ranked and graded. One reason why Oregon ranked poorly was because the state lacked a cash diversion option and sanctions. MacDougal said, “Oregon can do better, we’d like to call attention to it and we’d like to help.”

If you would like more information on the 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card and to see where your state is ranked, visit our website. Included in the website is an interactive map as well as the full report.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland’s Jay Lehr Talks Fracking Regulations with Neil Cavuto

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2015, 9:56 AM

On March 20, Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr was on the Fox News Channel’s Your World with Neil Cavuto to discuss new regulations on hydraulic fracturing. Lehr was joined by The Accountability Project’s president Nomiki Konst. As you can see in the clip above, Lehr and Konst have very different views on the safety and reliability of fracking. 

Konst repeats the exaggerated claim that fracking contaminates well water which poses a threat to public health. Dr. Lehr crushes this argument saying, “We fractured a million wells between the beginning and when the shale gas boom began and we really haven’t proven that there’s been a single water supply contaminated.”

This idea that hydraulic fracturing is a major public health concern has been propagated by faulty and debunked studies. In fact, a recent statewide ban of fracking in New York by Gov. Andrew Cuomo used these studies as justification. In the interview, Dr. Lehr states, “We’ve fracked 200,000 well in the shale gas era of today. And again, we haven’t had a problem.”

Watch the clip above as Dr. Lehr dissolves the myths surrounding fracking and gives sensible answers as to why we should take advantage of the inexpensive energy that is being produced as a result of this shale boom.

What more info on hydraulic fracturing?

Heartland Daily Podcast – David Quast: Hydraulic Fracturing Ban in New York

Banning Industrail Sand Mining Would Be a Mistake

Anti-Vaxxers, Anti-Frackers Show Similar Disregard for Science

Andrew Cuomo’s Fracking Psuedo-Science

Categories: On the Blog

A New Approach – To Finally End an Old Farm Bill Problem

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2015, 8:58 AM

The Farm Bill is a bane of we Conservatives’ existence – and Reality-based policymaking.  It is a relic of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR)’s horrendously failed New Deal – a top-down, central-planning nightmare mess.

And over the last eighty-plus years, FDR’s heinous domestic policy has gone global.  A worldwide farm market has arisen.  We no longer just grow for ourselves.  We sell all over – and they sell to us.

And our Farm Bill – which warps our market – has warped the world’s as well.  FDR helped beget an eight-decade-long international regulatory arms race.  Other produce-producing nations saw our lattice-work panoply of tariffs and subsidies – and felt compelled to match them.  And then exceed them.

Round and round we go.  Myriad nations outdo our government interference in the marketplace – so we outdo theirs.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  So what we now have is a global lattice-work panoply of tariffs and subsidies.  A thicket that grows ever thicker – as each next government tries to outdo the last.

We take our swing every half decade – when our heinous Farm Bill comes up for Congressional renewal.  A $1 trillion redux passed last year.

We Conservatives tried then to do what we always try to do – unilaterally kill it.  And we were just as successful then as we always have been – not at all.

So let’s try something new, shall we?

 We’ve spent the better part of a century erecting ever-higher walls of trade impediment.  And watching the world’s nations do the same.  It would seem we need to work together to tear down those walls.

Here’s a start of that deconstruction.

Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., reintroduced a bill Friday that encourages the (Barack Obama) administration to target foreign sugar subsidies. Under the “Zero-for-Zero” plan, U.S. sugar policy would also be rolled back in exchange for the elimination of foreign programs, which Yoho says are distorting world prices and inhibiting a free market.

Congressman Yoho is, of course, absolutely correct.  We’ve been “distorting world prices and inhibiting a free market” for decades – and on oh-so-much-more than merely sugar.

Here’s hoping the Administration makes this move – and on oh-so-much-more than merely sugar.

It’s way past time we end this fossilized facet of FDR’s New Deal.  Both here – and abroad.

Categories: On the Blog

Obamacare Failing, Doctors Will Take Future Blame

Somewhat Reasonable - March 25, 2015, 4:43 PM

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on March 9 projecting Obamacare premium prices to outpace both private insurance premiums and government spending between 2016 and 2018.

This report comes just one week before The Washington Post’s Guy Gugliotta reported on Sunday that rural health facilities across the nation are struggling to survive. Since 2010, 48 rural hospitals have closed, according to the National Rural Health Association.

“Experts and practitioners cite declining federal reimbursements for hospitals under the Affordable Care Act as the principal reasons for the recent closures,” reported Gugliotta. “Besides cutting back on Medicare, the law reduced payments to hospitals for the uninsured …”

Needless to say, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is causing all sorts of chaos, but don’t expect the Obama administration to admit defeat anytime soon. While the evidence against the law is stunning and apparent, Democrats would rather see George W. Bush become president again than allow Obamacare to falter.

This doesn’t mean, however, that someone—or some group—isn’t going to be held responsible for the failures caused by the ACA. In Washington, DC, someone is always to blame, and in this case, doctors, not incompetent bureaucrats and greedy politicians, will be next on the blame-anybody-but-Democrats media tour.

It may seem counterintuitive to some since doctors spend their whole lives healing sick people, including many sick and poor people, but the reality is that doctors actually make easy political targets for the Democrat machine.

For starters, Doctors are wealthy, especially highly trained specialists. The average base pay for a family practitioner is $189,000 according to Merritt Hawkins & Associates’ 2012 Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives. But this figure seems paltry in comparison to the average salaries of cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, and neurosurgeons, all of whom earn more than $500,000 per year on average.

Specialists’ earnings put them securely within the “top 1 percent” category in virtually all states, the very same group of people demonized by the Occupy Wall Street crowd and their DNC supporters.

Second, most doctors are not politically active and are poorly represented in government. In the current Congress, there are only 17 physicians out of the 535 available seats despite the fact that doctors are some of the most educated people in the nation.

Third, many doctors have already started to turn away Medicare and Medicaid patients because the government’s reimbursement rates are too low, making doctors as a group seem unsympathetic to the elderly and the impoverished.

Their wealth, lack of a big public microphone, and seemingly uncaring behavior with Medicaid and Medicare patients make doctors the obvious scapegoat for Obamacare’s struggles. Rather than raising taxes or cutting benefits, both of which are politically difficult to accomplish, Democrats looking to defend the ACA will pin increasing costs and reduced benefits and coverage on greedy, rich, selfish doctors more interested in helping retain their status as members of the 1 percent than saving lives and serving the public.

The political hit pieces and election-season television commercials practically write themselves.

It’s true that doctors earn a lot of money, but notice the key word there is “earn.” Doctors are required to attend four years of college, four years of medical school, and then as many as seven years of residency, where most doctors make roughly $40,000–$50,000 per year. They spend thousands of dollars on required internships, residency interviews, applications, standardized test, and numerous other fees. Many doctors graduate medical school hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and all medical students are required to work for two years without any pay at all.

Many doctors work 60 hours per week or more, and it’s not uncommon for specialists to work as many as 80 hours per week. Doctors miss holidays, birthdays, and make numerous other personal sacrifices in order to help other people. If ever there was a group of people who deserve to make a lot of money, it’s doctors.

This, however, won’t matter in the coming years to politicians in the nation’s capital looking to score cheap political points when the ACA’s flaws become even more apparent than they are today.

[Published on Human Events]

Categories: On the Blog

The Trouble with Google as Truthsayer

Somewhat Reasonable - March 25, 2015, 4:39 PM

Google, Inc., with its $385 billion share value, has bumped Exxon to become America’s No. 2 ranking company in market capitalization.

That may not be a good thing. A February article in New Scientist announced, Google wants to rank websites based on facts not links, and writer Hal Hodson said, “The internet is stuffed with garbage. Google has devised a fix – rank websites according to their truthfulness.”

The idea of changing page rank from popularity to “truthfulness” based on a Google-made “knowledge vault” did not go down well.
Fox News reported, “Google’s plan to rank websites raising censorship concerns.” Douglass Kennedy opened with, “They say you’re entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts. It’s a concept not everyone is comfortable with.”

They’re saying we’re only entitled to Google’s facts, which completely shortcircuits how slippery facts are and naively equates facts with truth. Ask any lawyer about truth.

Today’s climate wars consist of arguments between highly qualified scientists about facts that some sincerely believe are true and some sincerely believe are false, each for solid reasons. It should be an honest debate among equals, but it’s degenerated into a power play by alarmists to kill debate for policy’s sake, pushed by politicians and their social base.

Google’s truth plan is not so simple. Facts are statements about existence. Statements about existence can be true or false. Existence itself – your kitchen sink or the climate or whatever – can’t be true or false, it just exists. Say anything you want about existence and it won’t change a thing – it still just exists. Existence doesn’t give a damn what you think about it. Facts are statements about existence, and statements are always arguable.

But get everyone to believe Google Facts, and you can enforce political policy worth trillions to climate profiteers.

You can see where this is going.

Imagine: Big Google the Universal Truthsayer. That’s as scary as “Mr. Dark” in Ray Bradbury’s 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, only worse, because it’s the perfect machine to kill all dissent and wither the Internet into a wasteland of groupthink, susceptible to disinformation campaigns from any power center from the CIA to the rich bosses of Google, Inc.

What about those rich bosses? Google’s two co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, created a corporate foundation in 2005, Google Foundation, with 2013 assets of $72,412,693, grants of $7.9 million, and $29.4 million added from corporate profits.

Three of Google’s top-ten recipients are key climate alarmists: World Wildlife Fund ($5 million); Energy Foundation ($2.6 million); and the Natural Resources Defense Council ($2.5 million).

NRDC is particularly influential because it received $3.01 million in Environmental Protection Agency grants since 2009 and has 50 employees on 40 federal advisory committees: NRDC has 33 employees on 21 EPA committees, and more in six other agencies.

The big gun in Google philanthropy is Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, whose Schmidt Family Foundation ($312 million, 2013 assets) is a major armory for anti-skeptic groups. Schmidt has given $67,147,849 in 295 grants to 180 recipients since it was endowed in 2007.     

Top Schmidt money went to Climate Central ($8.15 million), a group of activist climate scientists bolstered by $1,387,372 in EPA grants since 2009.

Schmidt gave $3.25 million to the Energy Foundation, which was almost superflouous, since EF is practically the Mother Ship of green grants, with $1,157,046,016 given in 28,705 grants to 11,866 recipients since 1999.

Among the shadier grants in the Schmidt portfolio are anti-fracking, anti-fossil-fuel grants totaling $1.19 million to Sustainable Markets Foundation, a shell corporation that gives no recorded grants, but funnels money to climate and anti-fracking organizations such as Bill McKibben’s 350.org so the donors are not traceable.

Schmidt supported the far-left Tides Foundation empire with $975,000 for an anti-consumer film, “The Story of Stuff;” the Sierra Club ($500,000 for anti-natural gas activism); the Center for Investigative Reporting ($985,000 for an anti-coal film), and so forth. This list goes on for pages.

With all the massive resources of wealth and power alarmists have, we must ask why they give so much to destroy the climate debate and the debaters? What are they afraid of?

It may be what Eric Schmidt said at January’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, when he was asked for his prediction on the future of the web. “I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear.”

How? The mature technology will be wearable, give us interactive homes and cars and simply fade into the background to become something that we all have, that most of us don’t really know very much about (or care) only that it can do whatever we want.

That’s the view from the pinnacle of wealth and power. On the ground, the joke is on Google.

Michael Humphrey, Forbes contributor and instructor at Colorado State University sees younger people abandoning the public forum in favor of one-to-one connectivity. He says they don’t trust the Internet.

Why? Millennials say the Internet is cheapening language, it is stunting curiosity (because answers come so easily), we are never bored so we lose creativity, it steals innocence too quickly, it makes us impulsive with our buying and talking, it is creating narcissists, it creates filter bubbles which limits discovery, it hurts local business, it is filled with false evidence, it desensitizes us to tragedy, it makes us lonely.

They want the real world.

Google that.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – John R. Graham: How Would the GOP’s Proposed Budget Affect Medicare and Medicaid

Somewhat Reasonable - March 25, 2015, 1:23 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor of Health Care News, Sean Parnell, talks with John R. Graham. Graham is a senior fellow in health care policy at the National Center for Policy Analysis. Graham and Parnell discuss the health care related impacts of the proposed GOP budget.

Graham explains the recently unveiled budget released by Congressional Republicans and what it means for Medicare and Medicaid, including how states might be able to innovate with block grants to integrate other welfare programs with the existing program for the poor. He also explains the two good ideas President Obama’s budget has in it for health care, ending one of the ways states manipulate the Medicaid funding formula to get more federal dollars and restricting Medigap policies.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Anti-Vaxxers, Anti-Frackers Show Similar Disregard for Science

Somewhat Reasonable - March 25, 2015, 10:57 AM

How would you feel if you or your child became sick with a potentially deadly disease such as the measles, mumps, or whooping cough because the governor of your state banned the vaccines preventing these diseases in deference to a small yet vocal group of anti-vaccination activists who claimed these vaccines cause autism, even though the “science” they cite has been thoroughly discredited?

This scenario should sound absurd, because lawmakers ought never to base laws on bad science. Unfortunately, we don’t live in perfect world, and bad science has ruled the day in New York State, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has deferred to anti-fracking activists and their widely discredited claims.

Instead of putting New York’s economy first, Cuomo enacted a ban on hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” As a result, Upstate New York’s economy continues to suffer from a debilitating economic anemia while states that have embraced fracking experience healthy, growing economies.

Despite a lackluster national economy, states that allow hydraulic fracturing have been bright spots among the blight. According to U.S. Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson, “mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries were the most rapidly growing part of our nation’s economy over the last several years.” As a result, 903,641 people now earn a living in the U.S. energy sector, where employment grew by 23.3 percent between 2007 and 2012.

None of this growth has occurred in New York, which has effectively banned fracking since 2008, even though the state sits atop the Marcellus Shale—the largest natural-gas producing formation in the United States that accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s shale gas.

It would make some sense if the ban on hydraulic fracturing in New York was based on sound science that shows the costs of fracking outweigh the benefits, but the report produced by the New York Department of Health (DOH) Cuomo used to justify the fracking ban is fraught with bad science that does not hold up to scientific scrutiny.

One of the problematic studies cited in the DOH report is from the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH), which attempted to establish a connection between birth defects and hydraulic fracturing operations. The study, conducted by Dr. Lisa McKenzie, failed to correct for even the most basic factors, such as genetics or whether the mothers drank alcohol or smoked tobacco.

In addition, the CSPH researchers used proximity to natural gas wells as their metric for risk, failing to distinguish between conventional wells and unconventional wells; there is no way to determine whether the wells in question actually used high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

The study was so poorly conducted the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) disavowed it. Larry Wolk, the executive director of CDPHE, told pregnant mothers not to take the study seriously, and he warned the public could be easily misled by its findings. Unfortunately, Cuomo, who defended his decision to ban fracking by stating, “I am not a scientist,” may not have seen Wolk’s comments and thus was easily misled by the conclusions of the CSPH study.

Lawmakers have a responsibility to weigh the costs and the benefits of the policies they implement when based on the best available science, because public policy decisions often have profound effects on our lives. For the highest elected official in New York to base his decision to ban fracking on studies that have been thoroughly debunked by public health officials in other states is a disservice to all New Yorkers.

The evidence from states all around the country is in: Hydraulic fracturing is a safe and environmentally responsible way to increase oil and natural gas production. Cuomo’s fracking ban is like banning vaccines based on the misguided notion they cause autism. It’s an unscientific, discredited, and harmful decision.

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