On the Blog

Are Europeans Spending Too Little On Health Care ComparedTo The US?

Somewhat Reasonable - 1 hour 13 min ago

It is common for health policy experts to argue that US health care spending is wasteful compared to its European counterparts because we are not getting better health for the larger amount of spending taking place here. There is limited evidence to support this claim, and existing evidence in the case of cancer care actually indicates Europeans under-spending rather than US over-spending. Arguments of waste in health care must be more nuanced and distinguish between waste in the public and private sectors.

The United States spends more on health care than other developed countries, about 18% of GDP, but some argue that US patients do not derive sufficient benefit from this extra spending. The high costs of cancer care in the United States are frequently cited as evidence of a poorly functioning health care system, compared to those of other developed countries, e.g. Europe. A common but misguided argument is that, since Americans are not healthier and do not live longer than Europeans, the additional spending in the US represents wasted resources. This assumes that health care is the main driver of health and longevity (which it is not) and that other factors such as genes, diet and exercise, accidents, violence, and harmful drug use are the same across countries.

Therefore, to better judge the relative productivity of health care in the US and Europe, it is necessary to examine the effects of spending in a specific disease area conditional on the same diagnosis. However, in the debate about whether higher US healthcare spending, compared to Europe, is wasteful, little reliable evidence of the comparative benefits of spending in specific disease areas has been generated. Cancer is a good case to consider because it is a leading cause of death across many developed nations. Conditional on a cancer diagnosis, it is plausible that a relationship between spending and survival exists because of differences in cancer care rather than other factors leading to the diagnosis. Non–treatment-related investments by patients—in healthy behavior such as exercise and in other types of preventive activities—are likely to have a smaller impact on survival compared to actual treatment.

In a paper we published in Health Affairs,* we compared the value of US vs European cancer care in the 1980s and 1990s.** As shown in Figures 1 and 2, we examined survival and spending differences for cancer patients in the United States compared to a similar group of patients from ten European countries.

As the figures illustrate, our study found that US cancer patients both lived longer and spent more than European patients in every year. In addition, the absolute growth in survival gains and costs was larger in the US over the period considered from 1984 to 1999. We calculated the financial value of the additional years of survival in US in order to compare these gains to the costs of cancer care in these countries. The key finding was that, if one utilizes standard value measures for longevity, the value of survival gains in the US exceeded the higher cost growth compared to Europe. In short, the extra spending for the extra living was worth it. In fact, US cancer care generated about $600 billion of additional value compared to Europe for patients who were diagnosed with cancer during this period. The value of that additional survival gain was highest for prostate cancer patients ($627 billion) and breast cancer patients ($173 billion), partly because of their larger prevalence.

Some criticized this study, without carefully reading it, for being driven by earlier diagnosis in the US. If longevity, measured as survival from time of diagnosis, rises faster simply because patients are diagnosed relatively earlier in US, this may create “lead-time bias.” However, in a companion study we found that the overall gain in survival of US cancer patients was only 20% due to detection of cancers in earlier stages, and 80% due to treatment once detected.*** Quantitatively, early detection does not negate our main conclusion: US cancer patients get more value than Europeans.

To exemplify these findings at the country level, consider Slovakia, which spent $39 per capita on cancer care and averaged 5.5 years’ life expectancy after cancer diagnosis. Compare this to Sweden, which spent $134 per capita on cancer care and averaged 9.9 years’ life expectancy after diagnosis. Now consider the US, which spent $207 per capita on cancer care and saw 10.8 years of life expectancy from the point of diagnosis.

These differences in US costs reflect—at least in part—more rapid uptake of new technologies that may lead to differences in survival. In prostate cancer treatment, several major changes were implemented in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s, including higher rates of radical prostatectomy; improvements in radiation therapy; and use of luteinizing hormone releasing hormone agonists, a type of drug that causes testosterone levels to fall in men. Compared with the United States, European countries typically treated prostate cancer less aggressively, with lower use of these technologies during this time period. In addition, new cancer drugs often reach US patients sooner than their European counterparts, in part because of delays or denials of reimbursement decisions within Europe. For example, the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin), a major breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1998 and was quickly incorporated into clinical practice guidelines. In contrast, trastuzumab was not launched until after 2000 in many European countries, including Finland, France, Germany, and Sweden. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the United Kingdom, which evaluates the cost-effectiveness of new therapies to inform coverage and reimbursement decisions, did not recommend reimbursement and use of trastuzumab for breast cancer until 2002.

Despite a lack of supporting evidence, the majority of the health policy community argues that US health care is plagued with waste, especially compared to Europe. In this debate, though, it is important to distinguish between public-sector versus private-sector waste. As I have argued in this column before,**** there is likely a large amount of waste in the public payer sector run by the Medicaid and Medicare programs, compared to the private sector. Though well-intended and hard-working individuals run these public programs, the basic fact remains that, because government bureaucrats do not improve their own material well-being by eliminating health care waste, any waste reduction depends on their own sense of mission and desire to do what is right rather than a profit motive. The fact that the biggest dollar crime in the US is Medicare fraud, sometimes estimated to be 15% of spending, underscores the problem—a problem that does not have a corollary among private payers because of tighter controls to support shareholder earnings.

However, health policy analysts do not distinguish between the private and public sector in its claims about waste in US health care. In my opinion, academics’ efforts to teach private insurance executives how to run their businesses is in itself a waste—namely of time and journal pages. Some academics and think-tanks have even claimed that as much as one third of health care is “wasted.” Really? These individuals claim to know the recipe for cutting the costs of private payers by a third without sacrificing quality of care and customer satisfaction. Put simply, if these health care policy wonks were right that one could eliminate one third of the 3 trillion dollar health care tab without impairing quality, their ideas would be worth close to a trillion dollars. If true, they could become multi-billionaires by starting a new plan and slashing prices by a third. More immediately, private payers should be willing to go to great lengths to acquire these policy wonks’ knowledge, as payers could return billions to shareholders. Indeed, one would expect payers to quickly bid out these analysts from their academic jobs if they truly held the secret to profitable health insurance, like the financial sector did in response to “financial engineering” developed by academics in the 1980s. However, no such bidding wars for these academics and their cost-cutting insights exist. This is likely for good reason, as these ideas—although popular in academic and policy circles—would likely be unpopular in real-world health care markets.

In sum, before cries of US waste is believed and accepted, better evidence is needed to support the claim and implementable actions, rather than words, needed to eliminate it.

*Philipson, T., M. Eber, D. N. Lakdawalla, M. Corral, R. Conti and D. P. Goldman (2012). “An Analysis of Whether Higher Health Care Spending in the United States Versus Europe Is ‘Worth It’ in the Case of Cancer.” Health Affairs 31(4): 667-675.

**This paper was also discussed at length in the Obama Administration’s annual Economic Report of the President in 2012, available here.

***Sun, E.. A. B. Jena, D. N. Lakdawalla, C. Reyes, T. J. Philipson and D. P. Goldman (2010). ” The Contributions of Improved Therapy and Earlier Detection to Cancer Survival Gains, 1988-2000.” Forum for Health Economics and Policy 13(2).

****Forbes, Oct 20, 2013, “What’s Wrong With Private Insurance?”

[First pubilshed at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Is Diesel the New Green Fuel?

Somewhat Reasonable - 2 hours 8 min ago

Are Climatists giving a green tick to diesel power? (Photo: abadonian)

Ten thousand professional climate crusaders recently attended yet another Climate Carnival in Lima, Peru. Did they use green power to minimise their carbon footprint? No way; massive diesel generators were trucked in on diesel-powered lorries because the local hydro/solar power could not cope. The delegates were also moved between hotels and the venue in more than 300 diesel buses – few bothered to walk or ride bicycles.

In sunny Spain, the government solar subsidies were so generous that some entrepreneurs managed to produce solar energy for 24 hours per day. However, inspectors discovered that diesel generators were being operated at night, thus producing great profits in selling “solar” energy to the grid.

Then in “go-green, vote-blue” Britain, wind power is proving so erratic that thousands of reliable diesel generators are being installed by utilities and businesses to maintain power when the grid becomes unstable.

Finally we have people who disconnect from the grid, aiming to become independent by generating their own power from small solar and wind installations. After the first long spell of cloudy windless weather, most turn to a reliable on-demand diesel backup generator to keep the fridge running and the lights on.

It seems that diesel is the new “green” fuel. In some bitter winter, when real blackouts hit UK or Europe, maybe clean “green” coal will be re-discovered and cranked up again.

Categories: On the Blog

HEARTLAND DAILY PODCAST – Chris Jacobs: America Next’s plan to replace Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - 2 hours 48 min ago

Chris Jacobs, policy director of America Next, discusses the think tank’s market-based proposal for what Congress should pass to replace Obamacare. The key elements of the America Next plan are simplified tax credits that can be used to purchase coverage, and elimination of federal mandated benefits that drive up health insurance premiums.

Jacobs also discusses the Obama administration’s poorly executed high-risk pools, and how the high-risk pools proposed in the America Next plan would avoid the problems of the Obamacare version, and the political and practical obstacles and opportunities for the America Next plan and others with similar ideas.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Embrace, Don’t Fight the Future of the Labor Market

Somewhat Reasonable - 3 hours 41 min ago

In 1811, British factory workers literally “fought the machine,” protesting against technology under the banner of mythical figurehead King Ludd. Upset about being replaced by more efficient machinery, cost-ineffective factory workers rebelled against the installation of threshing machines and other force-multipliers.

That same fear is common in the American psyche today, as unemployment rates remain stubbornly high in the wake of decades of government programs and market interventions. Some industry experts predict as many as one in three workers may be replaced by robots or software by 2025.

Like the Luddites who broke looms and burned factories, many Americans today see the contradiction between advancing technology and stagnant economic well-being as a failure of the free market. Instead of blaming the “invisible hand” of the marketplace, they should consider the regulatory shackles binding that hand.

Government policies such as minimum-wage hikes—theoretically compassionate moves which are really calculated to benefit organized labor bosses and those already holding entry-level jobs—make technological solutions more attractive to employers.

Consider, for example, the rise of the grocery store self-checkout lane. Before, a cashier manned each checkout lane, assisting a single customer at a time. Now, more customers can make purchases, with reduced waiting time and less labor overhead. That saves the store money, and those cost savings will be passed on to the customers through price cuts, invested in expanding the grocery store or opening new ones, saved in the store’s bank account for a rainy day, or paid out as dividends to the store’s owners. All of those actions result in greater economic activity, which is what creates jobs.

Naturally, politicians prefer to blame others for economic problems on their watch, as President Obama famously did in 2011. He told reporters the stubbornly high unemployment rates of his administration were caused by “structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers.” The president said computers were causing unemployment: “When you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.”

The facts do not match this hypothesis, though. Instead of massive unemployment rates among bank tellers or bookkeepers, statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal there are actually more such employees in 2009 than there were in 1999.

Our neo-Luddites commonly claim the benefits of technological progress go exclusively to the owners of capital, not the workers. That’s obviously not true, as noted above. And that’s why the average American today lives more comfortably than Queen Victoria did during the height of the British Empire and is less likely to die from accident or plague than ever before.

Categories: On the Blog

Jim Demint in Chicago, Proposes Bold Agenda for a Better America

Somewhat Reasonable - 7 hours 51 min ago

Last week, Heritage Foundation President, Jim DeMint and Heritage Action for America Chief Executive Officer, Michael Needham led a discussion at Chicago’s Ritz Carlton. Their topic was “A Bold Agenda for a Better America: Taking on the 114th Congress”, as a way to deliver opportunity to all, but favoritism to none.

Jim DeMInt, former South Carolina U.S. Senator, is entering his third year of running The Heritage Foundation. He painted conservatives as believers of the values and ideas that motivated our Founding Fathers, that these values and ideals are worth conserving, and that solutions must be consistent with those ideal and values.

A bold agenda must be put forth to keep America safe and secure, he said. One where there are choices in education and health care; where taxes are fair and flat to unleash growth; where all Americans have the opportunity to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them in pursuit of the American Dream; and where government concentrates on its core functions, recognizes its limits, and treats every one equally, showing favoritism to none.

Conservatives do have solutions for the challenges this nation faces, but they must explain them, fight for them, and then see them through.  Opposing Obama’s policies are not enough.  Government is already too powerful and burdensome for most Americans, even as it works well for the special interests who are protected in return for doing its bidding. Good alternatives must be presented to energize and excite the American people.

Reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, Jim DeMint asked “What kind of city do we want all Americans to wake up in?”  It must be full of opportunity to work, learn, volunteer, and worship, This includes school choice,w energy independence, an economy that will create millions of jobs, health care that the American people can afford and keep – all created in an atmosphere where government stays within its means.  Creating an America that works should not be a matter of partisan politics.  Instead it requires an understanding of those ideals that made this nation acceptable in the first place.

DeMint reminded his audience that good things are happening at the state level where Republican governors are doing bold things. Meanwhile, the Left is dividing this country into different groups by pitting one group against another in what was characterized as class warfare. wMost people want a better life and more opportunity.  For this to happen the American people must be educated to understand the mission of the Left and where it wants to take this nation. The Left revels in announcing what is wrong with America instead of why we should love America.  It is disturbing that politics follows culture, which has steadily declined since prayer was removed from the public schools. Candidates must be recruited who embrace the ideals that made this nation great, they must run on them, and then govern accordingly.  If they renege on their campaign promises, their feet must be held to the fire.

The Heritage Foundation is actively promoting its message within the environs of Washington, D.C. This is where the money and power is. But the agenda must also be set outside of Washington, D.C. To reach people across Americans Heritage Action for America was founded in 2010 as a sister organization to the 40-year-old Heritage Foundation. Together they offer a one-two punch of scholarly research and grassroots activism.

Mark Needham serves as Chief Executive of Heritage Action.  Heritage Action has more than 400,000 citizen activists nationwide to hold lawmakers accountable in their home districts and in Washington, D.C.  In the November mid-term elections, Heritage Action had more trained sentinels on the ground than did the Obama camp.  There are weekly strategy calls to alert Heritage Action Sentinels on the issues U.S. House and the Senate members will be dealing with on the floor of their respective chambers. Following the call, an e-mail summary of the call is shared with citizen activists with suggested recommendations on how to approach your legislator, along with taking points. Check Heritage Action for America is you wish to become active in this fine organization.

Mr.Needham related how the American people perceive their lives to be.  Four out of five Americans believe life is tough. It’s getting tougher and no one cares. Nor does the government care about the fears and concerns of the American people.  Americans subsequently believe that politics is a dirty game, such as portrayed in TV shows they watch like “House of Cards,” “Scandal” on ABC, and the “Daily Show.  Given what these shows portend, is it any wonder why Americans perceive politics to be all about lying and stealing and not about solving problems?  Concerns also exist over the medium income remaining at stagnant at $52,000, that beef is reaching $4.00 a pound, that our education system is failing, and that housing and the cost for everything has gone up.

People do have a right to feel unheard in Washington, D.C.  According to Needham, ideas must be presented that speak to the anxieties of the American people and likewise inspire.  There must be a tax code that works. Opportunities must be offered to all, with favoritism to none.  It was surprising to hear Needham say that 57% of Hispanics voted for Romney in 2012, in that Republicans are now telling us that unless we are nice to Hispanics Republicans will never again win the White House.

Question from audience members to DeMint and Needham addressed various concerns:

  • Upper most was the expressed disillusionment with members of the Republican Party over the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus bill” (passed by 219-206 in the House and a closure vote of 77-19 in the Senate), in spite of the mid-term election in which a majority of Americans voted to checkmate President Obama’s agenda.  The election outcome was basically dismissed by most U.S. House and Senate candidates, including all six Illinois Republican congressmen andSenator Mark Kirk. The Republican leadership didn’t want a spending bill fight for fear of getting blamed for a government shutdown.  The same Republicans also wanted to get the bill off the floor.  A continuing resolution would have allowed Republicans to deal with the bill when they had control of both houses in January. The bill, now signed by President Obama, hands over control of the budget to Democrats for almost half of their time in office (until Sept., 2015) funding most of the government, including Obamacare, while funding for amnesty, under the Department of Homeland Security, will run through February 27.
  •  Although it is Democrats who talk about helping the middle class, easy economics lesson can be taught to middle class working people.  Telling stories is a good way to reach the middle class.  Only look at North Dakota to see what is happening. Workers at McDonald’s start at $15.00 an hour!  People aren’t stupid, but they don’t have the time to check out details for making their lives better. It would be of immeasurable value to teach economics to high school students.
  • Stressed was that the solution to creating good government is in the states, not in Washington, D.C.  The Daily Signal, started this past May is The Heritage Foundation news site. It aims at reporting straight news (straight-down-the-middle journalism) with a conservative bent, as a means to force the mainstream media to stop slanting the news.  The Daily Signal shares stories of success with millions of Americans
  • This nation is still a Christian country, although the Left is intent on pushing Secularism.  Heritage is a big advocate of Religious Freedom.Hobby Lobby won its government battle with the help of The Heritage Foundation in June of this year.  The Left uses the force of government to push faith or religion. Conservatives must convince the American people that we are not trying to push our religious faith through government, but instead are fighting to protect and preserve religious freedom.
  •  Expressed was concern that despite the Republican establishment controlling both the U.S. Senate and the House, the establishment might continue with its “broken window strategy” of not fighting back. The problem is that many Republicans fall into the big spending category. The desire isn’t there to repeal Obamacare, despite campaign rhetoric to follow through with the repeal. They further view amnesty for Illegal immigrants as a good thing, beholden as they are to the Chamber of Commerce and to those Republicans who hold the big money bags. Unfortunately the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and the new House Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, are in this category.

Will this nation remain a viable one with standing?

We are still a center-right country.  The Left has had its way for 100 years trying to make the sale, but their product has failed. It is thought that conservatives have a better chance to get their message out than at any other time in history. The right person with the right ideas will win in 2016.  The Conservative agenda must be set down and fought for outside of Washington, D.C. It does not bode well that the Republican establishment is already in line behind Republicans holding the big money bags and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, both of whom are excited over Jeb Bush’s facebook announcement several days ago to form a presidential committee. In the interim, Jeb Bush cites his firm endorsements of Common Core and citizenship for illegal aliens, two issues that do not play well with the conservative Republican base.

This nation’s present debt of $18 trillion cannot be allowed to grow even larger.  It must be reined in, lest it become a heavy burden upon future generations of Americans.  At what point does such a horrendous, unchecked debt become unsustainable for this nation to continue to exist, or even exist at all, as a viable nation with any standing?

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

 

Categories: On the Blog

What if Obama’s Climate Change Policies are Based on pHraud?

Somewhat Reasonable - 7 hours 59 min ago

“Ocean acidification” (OA) is claimed to be a phenomenon that will destroy ocean life—all due to mankind’s use of fossil fuels. The claim of OA is a critical scientific foundation to the full spectrum of climate change assertions.

Dr. Richard A. Feely is a senior scientist with the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL)—part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). His four-page report: Carbon Dioxide and Our Ocean Legacy, offered on the NOAA website, contains a chart titled “Historical & Projected pH & Dissolved Co2,” which shows a decline in seawater pH (making it more acidic) that appears to coincide with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Mike Wallace is a hydrologist with nearly 30 years’ experience, who is now working on his Ph.D. in nanogeosciences at the University of New Mexico. In the course of his studies, he uncovered something that he told me: “eclipses even the so-called climategate event.”

Feely’s work is based on computer models that don’t line up with real-world data—which Feely acknowledged in email communications with Wallace. Feely, and his coauthor Dr. Christopher L. Sabine, PMEL Director, omitted 80 years of data, which incorporate more than 2 million records of ocean pH levels.

The Feely chart began in 1850, which caught Wallace’s attention since similar charts all began in 1988. Needing the historic pH data for a project, he went to the source. The NOAA paper with the chart lists Dave Bard, with Pew Charitable Trust, as the contact.

Wallace sent Bard an email: “I’m looking in fact for the source references for the red curve in their plot which was labeled ‘Historical & Projected pH & Dissolved Co2.’ This plot is at the top of the second page. It covers the period of my interest.” Bard responded and suggested that Wallace communicate with Feely and Sabine—which he did over a period of several months. Wallace asked again for the “time series data (NOT MODELING) of ocean pH for 20th century.” Sabine responded by saying that it was inappropriate for Wallace to question their “motives or quality of our science,” adding that if he continued in this manner, “you will not last long in your career.” He then included a few links to websites that Wallace, after spending hours reviewing them, called “blind alleys.”  Sabine concludes the email with: “I hope you will refrain from contacting me again.” But communications did continue for several more exchanges.

In an effort to obtain access to the records Feely/Sabine didn’t want to provide, Wallace filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

In a May 25, 2013 email, Wallace offers some statements, which he asks Feely/Sabine to confirm:

“…it is possible that Dr. Sabine WAS partially responsive to my request. That could only be possible however, if only data from 1989 and later was used to develop the 20th century portion of the subject curve.

“…it’s possible that Dr. Feely also WAS partially responsive to my request. Yet again, this could not be possible unless the measurement data used to define 20th century ocean pH for their curve, came exclusively from 1989 and later (thereby omitting 80 previous years of ocean pH 20th century measurement data, which is the very data I’m hoping to find).

Sabine writes: “Your statements in italics are essentially correct.” He adds: “The rest of the curve you are trying to reproduce is from a modeling study that Dr. Feely has already provided and referenced in the publication.”

In his last email exchange, Wallace offers to close out the FOIA because the email string “clarified that your subject paper (and especially the ‘History’ segment of the associated time series pH curve) did not rely upon either data or other contemporary representations for global ocean pH over the period of time between the first decade of 1900 (when the pH metric was first devised, and ocean pH values likely were first instrumentally measured and recorded) through and up to just before 1988.” Wallace received no reply, but the FOIA was closed in July 2013 with a “no document found” response.

Interestingly, in this same general timeframe, NOAA reissued its World Ocean Database. Wallace was then able to extract the instrumental records he sought and turned the glass electrode pH meter data into a meaningful time series chart, which reveals that the oceans are not acidifying.

Regarding the chart in question, Wallace concluded: “They replaced that (historical) part of their curve through the execution of an epic data omission—which was apparently the only way that ocean scientists have been able to assert that the oceans are acidifying.”

These taxpayer-funded scientists are leaders of the OA narrative. They participate in well-funded OA research programs and sit on advisory councils. “It all seems authentic and quite legitimate.” Yet their work is based on, as Wallace calls it, “a new history of ocean pH.” One that “is significantly different from the history suggested by actual measurements and other sources of peer review literature.”

Wallace authored a petition that he encourages my readers to sign.

Wallace concludes: “Ocean acidification may seem like a minor issue to some, but besides being wrong, it is a crucial leg to the entire narrative of ‘human-influenced climate change.’ By urging our leaders in science and policy to finally disclose and correct these omissions, you will be helping to bring honesty, transparency, and accountability back where it is most sorely needed.”

Categories: On the Blog

Weather Bulletin 3: International Cold Spell

Somewhat Reasonable - 16 hours 49 min ago

Weather Bulletin #3 December 23

Winter has only just officially begun but already cold weather has claimed the lives of five Marylander’s between mid-November and Mid-December.

Most of the U.S. is currently experiencing a break from record low temperatures, but the same can’t be said for other parts of the world.

The Japan Times reports that six people died during extremely heavy snow which blanketed much of Japan December 5-7. The blizzard left more than 1,200 people in the Tokushima Prefecture cut off from the rest of the nation as roads were blocked due to snow, falling trees and rocks. More than 45 inches of snow fell in the Sukayu area of Japan, and 38 inches of snow covered the village of Okura.

Just across the Sea of Japan, South Korea also suffered from bitterly cold weather and unusual amounts of snowfall with Seoul experiencing fall temperatures of 13 degrees below zero. Snow and strong winds knocked down power lines in eight towns across two districts leaving more than 37,000 families shivering in the cold.

Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) issued heavy snow warning for the South and North Jeolla regions. Mokpo in South Jeolla received nearly a foot of snow, the most snow that had fallen in nine years and Wando also in South Jeolla received 9 ½ inches of snow, the most that has fallen in the province since the KMA started keeping records in 1970. Halla Mountain received more than 51 inches of snow in the same time period.

Meanwhile parts of India are also experiencing unusually cold weather. Mountainous tribal areas were 15 to 20 degrees below freezing point while Keylong, Manali and Kalpa recorded a low of 19 degrees , 26 degrees and minus 29 degrees respectively. As a result, lakes and other natural sources of water like springs, creeks and tributaries of major rivers are frozen in high altitude areas.

 

Even the nation’s capital experienced temperatures seven degrees below average for this time of year. Four peoples deaths have been attributed to the cold weather.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Keystone Confusion

Somewhat Reasonable - December 21, 2014, 3:16 PM

In his appearance last week on The Colbert Report, President Obama restated his approach to the Keystone XL pipeline decision, a mindset that can only be described as confused.

The president summarized his strange dilemma as follows: “[Keystone] could create a couple of thousand potential jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline, but we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it is going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”

But this thinking hinges on three key — and false — assumptions.

First, that whatever carbon dioxide or pollution (note that I did not say “or other pollution” since CO2 is plant food, not pollution) would be generated in the building or operation of Keystone will not be generated in whatever other method ends up being used to transport oil from Canada through the United States.

Second, the usual climate alarmist assumptions, namely that humans are having a substantial impact on the climate and that a warming of the planet is likely to be harmful.

Third, and most important, the implicit assumption that climate change — even if you believe the alarmists’ claims — is the only risk worth considering.

Regarding ignoring the theoretical climate impacts of alternatives to Keystone: Opponents of Keystone (or more precisely of the section of Keystone that connects Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska) seem to believe that if we don’t allow a way to transport Canadian oil here, our neighbors to the north will then just leave it in the ground. This is, of course, preposterous. Since every potential alternative form of transportation, whether via truck, ship, train, or any combination likely creates more pollution than a pipeline, particularly if transported by people other than Americans or Canadians, and since any pipeline built by American and Canadian companies is likely to be constructed more environmentally sensitively than pipelines built overseas, a concern over carbon or pollution argues strongly for, not against, building Keystone XL.

As far as climate change overall: In short, depending on which data set you look at, planetary warming has either been much less than predicted or completely non-existent for at least the last 18 years. Since global carbon dioxide concentrations have increased steadily over the time period (even as U.S. CO2emissions slowed temporarily during the recession), it demonstrates that CO2 simply does not have the climate-controlling power that the alarmist industry wants us to believe. Additionally, climate fears are based on an unjustifiable assumption that a modest global warming would be a negative for humanity when it fact the opposite is true.

And then there is Obama’s implicit assumption that the overriding risk to be considered is the climate. Environmentalists who claim to care deeply about the planet should be far more concerned about real, demonstrable risk than about the unproven (and increasingly disproven) hypothesis of human-caused climate change. One such demonstrable risk is that of oil spills and terrible accidents within other forms of oil transportation, particularly the trucks and trains that will continue, in the absence of Keystone XL, to carry the oil through the United States.

Even the Obama administration’s State Department recognizes this: “The increased number of unit trains… would affect communities through elevated air emissions and noise from the trains, and increased risk of spills and collisions.”

This is not to say that one form of transportation is utterly unsafe while another is utterly safe: Spill statistics are a close call: pipelines spill at lower frequencies but higher volumes than rail transportation of oil. Similarly, trains have more accidents but fewer fires and explosions. (There are similar comparisons made for transporting the oil by ship: very few incidents but potentially many barrels may spill in an incident.)

One of the most important statistics should be rates of injury and death, and on this score pipelines fare very well compared to trains: Overall, State concludes that transporting the Canadian oil by rail would add 49 injuries and 6 fatalities each year as compared to one injury and no deaths if the oil goes through Keystone XL.

In fact, State says that “Annual baseline injuries and fatalities without an increase in transport volume from rail transport or pipeline are projected to be approximately 712 injuries and 94 fatalities compared to three injuries and two fatalities for petroleum pipeline.” This argues not only for using Keystone to transport the new Canadian oil production but also to use it, and other new pipelines, to substitute for current rail transportation of oil.

A final point: Some argue against Keystone because they say the oil will make its way to the Gulf Coast to be refined and then exported rather than being used in the United States. Radical environmentalists go so far as to conclude that Keystone is therefore a “scam being played on the American people.”

Exporting American oil would require Congress or the president to lift the current export ban. I expect the upcoming Republican-controlled Congress to send such a measure to the president’s desk in short order. Former Obama chief economic adviser Larry Summerssupports lifting the ban but one of the president’s closest current counselors, John Podesta, has not made clear his position. Podesta’s prior job was running the Center for American Progress whose energy “expert,” Dan Weiss (a card-carrying member of the Cult of Algore and a man who seems proud of his comprehensive economic ignorance), is against lifting the ban.

Not surprisingly, socialist senators and their friends in the environmental fear-mongering industry don’t understand even basic economics. Oil is traded worldwide with the two major benchmarks being the U.S.’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Europe’s Brent Crude. The prices track each other closely, though in recent years American oil has been less expensive because of large supply in the Midwest.

If we export Canada’s increased oil production to the rest of the world, we will lower oil prices in the aggregate, including here in the United States. Yes, there may be regional effects of pipelines and yes, it is possible that Midwestern oil and gas prices would lose their current discount relative to the rest of the United States, but overall the United States would have lower energy prices. And that’s what matters.

Domestically, the more we lower oil prices, the lower Americans’ cost of living is and the more money we have to spend on things we want to buy rather than things we have to buy, such as gasoline and heating oil. Internationally, the more we can lower world oil prices, the more we prevent our enemies like Vladimir Putin and the radicals running Venezuela from being able to fund adventurist, militaristic, and anti-Western foreign policies, and the more we prevent our so-called friends in the Middle East from being able to use American, European, and Chinese money to support Wahhabism, Hamas, ISIS, and CAIR, and others who want us dead or destroyed as a free society.

Given all these factors, President Obama’s suggested calculus — balancing “a couple thousand jobs” versus what he perceives as the risks involved in building and operating the Keystone XL pipeline — is preposterous: The jobs it creates are a nice bonus (and are what the many labor unions who support the project care about), but they are not the most important benefit of the project.

Keystone XL won’t increase pollution but it will save American lives and hurt our enemies. Those who oppose it should be forced to justify their opposition in that context.

[Originally published at the American Spectator

 

Categories: On the Blog

The FCC Is Unnecessarily Undermining its Legitimacy

Somewhat Reasonable - December 20, 2014, 12:59 PM

In directing the Wireless bureau to make two substantial, Commission-level decisions today, without the full Commission vote that was requested by Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, (concerning the release of the annual wireless competition report and regulating cellular data roaming rates), the FCC Chairman unnecessarily undermined the legitimacy of the FCC at a critical time the FCC needs all the actual and perceived legitimacy it can get.

The FCC’s legitimacy comes from the authority of law written by a duly-elected Congress under the U.S. Constitution, and from the official votes from duly-appointed FCC commissioners, who in turn abide by: the powers vested in the Commission by the Communications Act; due process; and the Administrative Procedures Act.

Process matters.

Making rate regulation without an official vote of the Commission can create the public perception that a majority of the Commission may not support some, or all of the new rate regulation.

At this particular time in the FCC’s history, when the FCC is potentially poised to reclassify the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service to impose rate regulation for downstream Internet traffic, (which also could involve some forbearance from other rate regulations via the official forbearance process), the perception of the reliability of the FCC in respecting its own processes and procedures is especially important.

If FCC commissioners cannot predict or count on being included in rate regulation decisions by the FCC under normal expected processes and procedures, what confidence can affected parties have that the FCC will follow the law and the FCC’s process and procedures on other matters that affect their interests?

What confidence could affected parties have that the process and procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act will be legally respected in building the necessary record for the pending Open Internet Order, or for its complex implementation?

It does not advance the current or long-term legitimacy of the FCC, if Congress and the public have a perception that the FCC may be operating in an arbitrary or capricious manner, by unnecessarily bypassing normal expected process and procedures.

If the FCC wants affected parties to respect their rules, processes and procedures, shouldn’t the FCC lead by example and be extra careful to respect their own rules, processes, and procedures?

Simply, legitimate authority and process beget legitimate outcomes.

Categories: On the Blog

Common Core Exposed at Heartland Institute Event

Somewhat Reasonable - December 19, 2014, 1:38 PM

(L to R) Joe Bast, Kristen Lombard, Tim Slekar, Marsha Familaro Enright

Teachers, school board members, moms, legislators, and concerned citizens attended an event hosted by The Heartland Institute on Thursday, December 11 at The Cotillion in Palatine, IL, to hear about Common Core State Standards. All had in common a desire to learn more about Common Core, not liking what they were hearing and observing in their local school systems. Heartland Institute’s president and CEO Joe Bast introduced the distinguished panel of Kristen Lombard, Tim Slekar, and Marsha Familaro Enright.

Kristin Lombard is editor and author of “Common Ground on Common Core.”She holds a Ph.D. in Historic Environmental Design: Interior and Landscape from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2009) and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (1988). As a grass roots activist, Kristin couldn’t get a single vote passed by Wisconsin legislators to address Common Core.  Kristin finally realized that she would need critical mass for this to happen.  Hearing about Tim Slekar, as the newly appointed Dean at Edgewood College of Education, Kristin arranged to meet Tim. As a liberal, Tim was very anti Common Core. Their personalities clicked immediately, proving that it is possible to identify with the left when common ground is established through verbal exchange.

Around the same time Kristin became acquainted with Tim Slekar (August of 2013), an idea for a book began to blossom. It would be a book with a collection of essays about Common Core. Lombard’s first book published under Resounding Books, founded by Ms. Lombard in early 2013, was in November of this year, Common Ground on Common Core, a must read. The book serves as a non-partisan exposé of the multiple problems posed by the controversial education reform initiative.  It was edited specifically by Kristin Lombard to be a tool that individuals of whatever political stripe could use to educate themselves and others on this important topic.

Each of the 18 contributor essays in the book sheds lights on a different crucial aspect of the controversial reform package that encompasses Common Core. The authors hold widely varied political and ideological viewpoints, yet they stand firmly united against the Common Core.  Standards expert Sandra Stotsky and prominent mathematician R. James Milgram are among the book’s authors.  Both served on the national Common Core validation committee but refused to sign off on the standards.  Former U.S. Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul contributed to the foreword.

As both editor-in-chief and treasurer, Kirsten worked to secure each of the essays royalty-free, so a percentage of profits from the sale of the book could be directed toward state and local activism projects designed to fight Common Core.  Ms. Lombard has recently devoted herself full time to Resounding Books, its publishing projects, and its activism initiatives. Hear Kirsten talk about “Common Ground on Common Core” on  We The People Radio . To download the show, click here.

Tim Slekar, a liberal and Dean of Education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin

Liberal in his ideology, Tim Slekar has been dean of Edgewood College in Wisconsin since August, 2013.  Slekar has been blogging about the dangers of corporate-backed education reform for years at atthechalkface.com. He is also the cohost of the online chalkface weekly radio show on Sundays at 5 p.m., as well as the founder of United Opt Out, a group that encourages parents and teachers to refuse to participate in high-stakes standardized tests.

Tim Slekar was initially a 2nd grade classroom teacher.  Twenty years ago he could feel what was happening and knew that he couldn’t remain a classroom teacher.  He subsequently returned to college to elevate his teaching credentials to continue earning a living in the educational field. According to Slekar, there are those in the reform movement who are giving money to entities that do not really represent reform.  Mentioned were Governor Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Both say they are against Common Core, but unless Walker and Jindal remove the mandatory assessments they are not really against Common Core.  Mr. Slekar spoke of mathematics as being developmentally inappropriate in many aspects.  Regarding language arts, classic literature is being replaced with informational texts.

Slekar believes that tests take more and more time away from real learning.  According to Slekar the problem isn’t the tests .The problem is the high-stakes nature of the tests. Kids may not get much out of the tests, but their scores determine whether their schools are labeled “failing”, which determines the funding received by schools. Slekar pointed out a trio of foundations — the Walton Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad Foundation — who are pushing tests that produce data to prove public schools are failing.  Parents and teachers are absolutely right to suspect that these tests don’t serve kids well and are instead designed to make schools fail.  Failure, in turn, would  give credence to increasing standards as a way to improve student performance. Slekar encourages students to opt out of the tests. Although this strategy may seem risky to parents and teachers who worry about their schools receiving a failing grade, Slaker dismisses the strategy as short-term thinking, firmly believing that the drive to label all public schools as failing must be stopped.

Slekar likewise believes there is no achievement gap.  It is poverty and the lack of opportunity that are the major drivers of educational disparities. Poor kids need to get more of everything that rich kids get, that includes more music, more art, and rich literature.

Marsha Familaro Enright, Psychotherapist, President of Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, and President/Founder of Council Oak Montessori School

With an M.A. in Psychology from the New School for Social Research, and as a Psychotherapist since 1976 still practicing part-time in Chicago, IL, Marsha Familaro Enright co-founded the Council Oak Montessori School of which she is the president and administrator.  Additionally, Ms. Enright is currently the president of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute and leads the development of the College of the United States and its wholly independent scholarship fund. Enright also writes for The New Individualist, a journal of opinion dedicated to reason, individualism and freedom.  Other accomplishments of Marsha Familaro Enright can be found at this site.

To Marsha Familaro Enright, the education of the human child is of profound importance to anyone dedicated to achieving “the best within us.”  It is especially important to those who have, or wish to have, children of their own, and to those who are or wish to become teachers. Enright is concerned about a child’s nature and needs; how they are different from those of an adult; and how to best foster the child’s development so as to help him maximize his potential for productivity and happiness in life. The emphasis on human nature, needs, and values is in keeping with the The New Intellectual Forum in Chicago, IL, founded by Marsha Familaro Enrightco in 1987.

Attributed to Aristotle:  “All men, by nature, desire to know.”  In other words, very little will stop the young child from exploring the world and trying to learn.  Ms Enright views Aristotle’s words as the state of mind education should strive to achieve in order to create a vibrant, free society. Prior to the era of mass education, children were home- schooled.  Even so, the American populace was fairly literate for the times.  But having lived with tax-supported, government-provided education as a major supporter for 200 year, many people cannot imagine how most children could be educated otherwise.  For Ms. Enright, the free market system is the answer.

Ms. Enright  believes there is no way to give everyone equal advantages no matter how much money is spent.  Why?  Because human beings are individuals with hugely varying talents, abilities, and interests.  Enright advocates that parents and students be treated more like customers of a service business, with private schools competing to do the best job possible for each child.  Not only would schools be run more efficiently with little or no bureaucracy, but they would be responsive to their customers:  parents and teachers. Schools could be of every shape, size, and location, tailored to fit each school’s outlook and purposes.  With an emphasis on individualization, many students would be interested in non-academic areas such as crafts, trades, the arts, and business. Unlike with Common Core, there would be no generated push for everyone to attend college, which has  resulted in an increase of unnecessary degrees and punishing debt for college graduates.

Part 2 will present disturbing facts about Common Core that not only call for, but which demand immediate action by parents and concerned Americans.  Noted is how upwards of 70% of students will fail the PARCC tests (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) when administered here in IL in April-May of 2015, as arbitrary out test scores have been set as a ploy to convince parents and the pubic that even more standards are called for to raise student achievement.  To help combat Common Core in your school system, resources will be provided as ammunition to fight Common Core with other like-minded citizens and friends.

On a side note, The Heartland Institute currently communicates with every national and state elected official in the U.S., and thousands of civic and business leaders, by sending out three of its monthly public policy newspapers. These newspapers contain small, informative articles that are not easy to read.  A recent survey indicated that 50% of legislators read Heartland’s “School Reform News.”  Subscribe here for your copy.

[First published at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

HEARTLAND DAILY PODCAST – Seton Motley: How Title II Classification Could Lead to Internet Tax

Somewhat Reasonable - December 19, 2014, 11:25 AM

Jim Lakely, communications director at The Heartland Institute and co-director of Heartland’s Center on the Digital Economy, talked with one of the best free-market tech experts in Washington: Less Government President Seton Motley, who also happens to be a policy advisor to Heartland.

Jim and Seton talked about the FCC’s attempt to reclassify the Internet under title II. This would, among other things, potentially open the door to a web version of the Universal Service Fund, which could mean Internet taxes are just around the corner.

 

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

Categories: On the Blog

7 Things Slick Politicians Will Say To Make You Think They Oppose Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - December 19, 2014, 10:16 AM

The heat on Common Core was high this spring, but I predict it will be even higher come state legislative sessions this January. It’s the last year states can conceivably avoid joining the train wreck that will be Common Core tests, which are due to replace state tests in March and following. But the earnest moms and dads that comprise the Common Core grassroots have been largely burned by their representatives, who either have responded to serious arguments by relabeling Common Core or diverting blame for it. They’re politicians, man, not representatives.

Post-midterms, Sen. Rand Paul decided to up the ante on his potential 2016 competition, telling Breitbart that any Common Core-supporting presidential candidate is dead in the water: “I’m saying that that hypothetical candidate that’s for Common Core probably doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”

So it’s clearly incumbent on guys with eyes on 2016 to somehow placate voters. But they don’t actually want to do anything about Common Core. Nooo, that might make education bureaucrats, the Obama administration, and the business lobby angry, and these have money and leverage enough to make any politician see fuzzy instead of fuzzy math. So here’s what they’ll do instead of actually addressing the problem.

1. Scott Walker: Let’s Create Another Educrat Committee

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has made a reputation for standing up to education thugs. But it appears that works best when he can use the thugs for fundraising. In July, watching his re-election poll numbers dive, he issued a statement calling on the legislature to repeal Common Core and replace it with “standards set by people in Wisconsin.” Now, there’s a huge difference between a governor issuing a statement and a governor putting muscle behind his statement. Anyone can say anything, and they usually do. The trick is to tell when a politician means something. Walker doesn’t appear to mean anything except “please don’t withhold votes from me as I continue to ignore you, GOP base.” Both state lawmakers and local GOP leaders in Wisconsin have told me Walker’s been essentially running away from Common Core ever since it became an issue. His statement hasn’t changed anything.

We can see that by what Common Core legislation Walker did support during this year’s legislative session. It would have merely had a commission review Common Core and suggest changes to state Superintendent Tony Evers, a Democrat who signed Wisconsin into Common Core with the stroke of his pen months before Common Core was even published. Come to think of it, him signing Common Core before the public could see what was in it—that would qualify as Wisconsin having “standards set by people in Wisconsin.” Right? So nothing needs to change to meet Walker’s criteria. But some people might believe things had changed. How convenient.

By the way, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another often mentioned for 2016, hastaken the same do-nothing tack. Not that that would surprise anyone.

2. Mike Pence: But We Can’t Lose Our NCLB Waiver

Speaking of giving educrats free rein to pretend things have changed, consider the sleight-of-hand voters endured from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Common Core. He and other Republican leaders in the state demanded that any legislation to repeal Common Core (from the final language of the bill Pence signed into law) “[c]omply with federal standards to receive a flexibility waiver” from No Child Left Behind. Remember that? The law everyone hates that Pence refused to vote for while in Congress? Somehow, on the way from Congress to governor, he apparently reversed his opposition to what, as a U.S. representative, he criticized as “a complex regimen of curriculum subsidies and national testing.”

Here’s Pence’s statement on the waiver. The governor who insisted Congress “must undo” NCLB now piteously thanks Education Imperialist Arne Duncan for limitlessly expanding the law to exert his own arbitrary mandates over states and schools—which, by the way, upped the ante on national tests and enforced the mother of all curriculum mandates. Notice especially the doublespeak, in which administrative imperialism somehow becomes “local control.”

The approval of Indiana’s waiver request…gives us the ability to maintain local control of how federal education dollars are invested and to maintain the use of Indiana’s A-F school accountability system. The waiver also allows school districts and teachers to educate students in a manner determined by Hoosier educators and families in their local communities.

Since being elected Governor, I have consistently said that the Hoosier state needs to vigorously protect our commitment to high standards and to an accountability system that upholds those standards. I have also been clear that we need maximum flexibility under the law to develop our academic standards and accountability measures.

As Cato’s Neal McCluskey prophesied at the time, bowing to Washington ultimately forced Indiana to replace Common Core with…Common Core. Penceknew it, voted for it anyway, and proceeded to trot around the country telling people he’s the first governor to eliminate Common Core. This would be just politics as usual except that lots of innocent moms, dads, and kids who had trusted Pence to make good on his promise of something better than Common Core were in the process chucked under his campaign bus.

3. Mike Huckabee: It’s Not Common Core, It’s the Name

In February, according to Fox News, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told the people who created Common Core that

state education leaders should be urged to ditch the ‘Common Core’ name, because it had become ‘toxic.’ ‘Rebrand it, refocus it, but don’t retreat,’ Huckabee said.

In other words, parents are stupid. They don’t hate Common Core because it’s an incomprehensible, academically mediocre, coercive, statist project. They hate it because they’re sheep and their talk-show shepherds have given them the secret “go-foaming-at-the-mouth-crazy” stimulus.

Also, the dozens of reputable think tanks, research institutions, and professors who have raised questions about Common Core or produced research showing it’s an inevitable failure, they’re all sheep, too. And if we lie to them and just repaint the crappy old barn, they’ll be too stupid to see through it and will cozy right up. Huckabee literally told people, “Don’t change what you’re doing, change what you’re calling it.” That confirms he’s considering a presidential run.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is among the many politicians taking Huckabee’s advice. He insists the term Common Core is “radioactive,” and that Iowa “need[s] to have Iowa standards,” but has only strengthened his state’s connections with Common Core.

4. John Kasich: We Still Have Local Control

Apparently, Ohio Gov. John Kasich thinks Common Core was, and I quote, “written by local school districts” and he hasn’t seen that it “takes away from local control.”Oh, and, “Until somebody can show me we’re eroding local control, I see no reason to do anything.”

It’s a little alarming Kasich knows so little about an electoral priority of his constituents. Common Core and Medicaid expansion are the two top things Ohioans pester him about. It is really easy to prove school districts did not write Common Core. Even some supporters will acknowledge that two special-interest groups in D.C. convened a bunch of unelected bureaucrats to write Common Core.

The U.S. Department of Education’s former top lawyers have written a report showing both how imposing Common Core will lead inevitably to a national curriculum and that, in making this imposition, the Obama administration has likely broken several federal laws. And when Oklahoma rejected Common Core,the feds yanked funds and imposed extra restrictions. Oh, yeah. States are free as a bird.

I think that’s reason enough to at least consider Common Core ain’t freely chosen by duly elected representatives of the people, and certainly not by the people ourselves. Otherwise, there’d be no mass revolt brewing.

5. Jeb Bush: I Will Never Support a National Curriculum

Here’s former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, perhaps Common Core’s biggest political backer, on the Hugh Hewitt Show:

In fact, standards are different than curriculum, and that where I think the biggest misnomer is where people legitimately get concerned.  I would be concerned if we had a national curriculum influenced by the federal government. My God, I’d break out in a rash.

He’s technically right. The thing educrats call “standards” are actually mandates for what curriculum and lessons must contain and tests must measure. Common Core itself comprises 640 pages of such mandates. So it’s not technically the same thing teachers call “curriculum.” But Common Core does determine what curriculum contains. In other words, this is a distinction with very little difference, because when people such as Sen. Marco Rubio complain about federalizing education or nationalizing curriculum, what they’re criticizing is specifying at a national level exactly what books or lessons or concepts children must learn. And Common Core does this.

6. Bobby Jindal: The Feds Ruined Common Core

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is perhaps the gutsiest prominent elected official who criticizes Common Core, and the most (or perhaps even the only) willing to put his money where his mouth is, but he’s telling an inaccurate story about these mandates. In that, he’s in company with other politicians who are trying to deceive themselves and everyone else about this issue, including Pence, Bush, and Huckabee.

“The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative,”Jindal said, in announcing a lawsuit against the federal government for conditioning education funds and favors on adopting Common Core. Jindal’s nowhere near the only one. A House resolution decrying federal Common Core coercion insists on perpetuating the same technocrat CYA myth: “Whereas the development of the common education standards known as the Common Core State Standards was originally led by national organizations, but has transformed into an incentives-based mandate from the Federal Government…”

No, actually, the people who wrote Common Core asked the federal government to push states into it and to pay for national tests. When the Obama administration came to power, it obliged.

7. Senators: I Can’t Do Anything Because It’s a State Issue

Sen. Lamar Alexander is the incoming chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Labor. He helped create one of the federal forerunners for Common Core, but under heavy pressure during the 2014 election started insisting the feds should “end the national school board and send all the decisions about Common Core back to Tennessee.”

It’s not clear there’s much difference between the America 2000 legislation Alexander shepherded and the structures the U.S. Department of Education used to push states into Common Core. And he’s still listed as a Common Core supporteron “Conservatives for Higher Standards.” But he is also sponsoring legislation to remove federal pressure from Common Core, which in this era of partisan gang-ups is notable for not receiving support from all the Republicans. It’s instructive how many GOP senators are simply saying and doing nothing about Common Core. No action equals supporting Common Core, given that it’s Obama administration policy.

Two downed Democrat senators, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, insisted that Common Core was bereft of federal involvement. That didn’t work out so well for them. But Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who moves from HELP chair to former senator, still considers Common Core a “state issue.”

Here’s a statement from Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo’s spokeswoman:

[Crapo] views it as a state issue already decided since the state accepted the standards and there is no need to interfere with the state’s wishes.

Apparently Crapo didn’t know or didn’t think to have a staffer Google up the truth that the federal government has a) funded national Common Core tests, which are its crucial enforcement mechanism and b) required states to adopt Common Core if they want an NCLB waiver or a shot at a $4.35 billion slush fund Congress, in all its intelligence, handed to Czar Duncan.

Oh, and it’s also sending states millions to create identical student databases that plug directly into Common Core K-12 testing pipelines so everyone’s personal information can be collected in a government dossier. Are these senators saying they have no power to stop things they or their predecessors (mostly) authorized? Are they saying they can’t sign onto bills that prevent federal involvement with Common Core, testing, or curriculum? That once an executive decides to run all over Congress and the laws, no one can stop him?

If so, time to get someone else into their offices who thinks Congress is more than a bunch of bobble heads. At the very least, they could be honest like Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who recently went from supporting Common Core to opposing it, and to prove his conversion has introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from mandating or incentivizing curriculum mandates, tests, or curriculum. It seems to be a strong bill, but here’s the problem: The U.S. Department of Education is already ignoring three laws that prohibit its Common Core-pushing. Adding another doesn’t seem likely to change its behavior. That means what really needs to happen is cutting USDOE off at the knees by slashing its budget and responsibilities.

Any takers? Rand Paul? Anyone?

[Originally published at The Federalist]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama to the FCC: Go Ahead and Break the Internet

Somewhat Reasonable - December 18, 2014, 11:01 AM

President Barack Obama’s recent call to the Federal Communications Commission to strictly regulate broadband networks could be the death knell for the open, free, and prosperous Internet that has become one of the key engines of the American economy. That engine is not broken, but bureaucratic meddling will surely do the trick.

In 1996, Congress classified broadband as an “information service” under Title I of the Telecommunications Act, a light regulatory touch that allowed the digital economy to bring us the marvels of the modern age. Unburdened by onerous regulation, telecommunications companies motivated by (gasp!) potential profits took risks and invested heavily in new technology. This is why in 2014 even the poor in America have the world in the palm of their hands, and have fast access to just about any form of media and information on-demand.

Title II, in contrast, is an anachronism; a strict and controlling “common carrier” regulatory regime designed for old style copper-wire telephone networks developed during the Great Depression. It has as much place in today’s vibrant, high-speed broadband world as a hand-crank telephone on the wall of a general store.

Title II classification would give a small, unelected bureaucratic body widespread power and control over the Internet economy – allowing the FCC to play traffic cop and paymaster by controlling rates, infrastructure, mandating levels of access, and interfering with how Internet service providers (ISPs) operate.

Scott Cleland, policy advisor at The Heartland Institute and chairman of NetCompetition, correctly refers to Title II as a “Mother may I?” regulatory regime. It would create a world in which ISPs would need to ask permission from FCC overlords to introduce new products, modify current products, or introduce and deploy new technologies. This would irreparably harm the Internet economy by slowing the pace of business and innovation to the snail’s pace of government.

Closely related to the push for Title II regulation is the debate over net neutrality: the concept that ISPs treat equally all the traffic moving through their broadband networks, not block access to any legal online content, and play no favorites by prioritizing one content provider over another.

For years, this has been a voluntary arrangement regulated by market pressures, and worked well in the dial-up and early broadband days. Having invested billions in their networks, ISPs want to please as many customers as possible. As broadband networks have gotten faster, the popularity of bandwidth-hogging services such as video streaming have skyrocketed – to the point that at peak hours of broadband use in North America, about half of all traffic on the Internet is consumed by just Netflix and YouTube. Half. In light of such unequal use of broadband, the concept of treating all traffic equally is not only impractical; it is a sure-fire way to degrade the digital experience for everyone.

Yet supporters of shoving the square peg of modern broadband into the round hole of Title II regulation would do so to ensure the FCC could strictly enforce net neutrality – replacing the flexible, efficient decisions of millions of people in a free market with the strict-yet-uninformed dictates of a handful of Washington bureaucrats. The user experience would suffer as investment would slow to a crawl, costing all of us the pace of innovation in the digital economy we have come to take for granted.

It is human nature to take for granted the status quo. It is dangerous to think government attempts to “improve” the status quo will do anything of the sort. The Internet is not broken. There is no problem for the FCC to fix. But it will create plenty if it heeds President Obama’s call to apply an early 20th century regulatory regime to the digital wonder of the 21st century.

Jim Lakely (jlakely@heartland.org) is co-director of the Center on the Digital Economy at The Heartland Institute. Matthew Glans (mglans@heartland.org) is a policy analyst at The Heartland Institute.

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA is Turning Water on Farms Into a Weapon Against Farmers

Somewhat Reasonable - December 17, 2014, 2:19 PM

We have noted time and again how government – in the name of helping the Little Guy – eviscerates the Little Guy.

Claude Louis Hector de Villars – the great early 18th Century French general (back when France had them) – rightly observed:

God save me from my friends. I can protect myself from my enemies.

The late, inordinately great United States President Ronald Reagan believed it – and applied it directly to the worst “friend” of all:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

Anytime government does anything, it costs We the People money – in (at least) two directions.

At the front end – because before government can do anything it must take from us the coin to do it.

And at the back end – because anything the government makes us do costs us more coin.  What wise man Mark Steyn calls complying with the Department of Compliance.

The cost of just the federal government “helping” We the “Friends” is gi-normous.

Costs for Americans to comply with federal regulations reached $1.863 trillion in 2013. That is more than the (Gross Domestic Product) GDPs of Canada or Australia.

Every good and service we purchase – or try to sell – is thus in the aggregate nearly $2 trillion more expensive.  Thanks for the assistance, Uncle Sam.

Some economic sectors are more abused than others.  This is most often due to regulatory attrition – and addition.

Government gets a little involved – and of course things get worse.  So the government assails the damage its done – as a failing of the (now less) free market.  Spinning it into justification for further government involvement.  And of course things worsen further.  Lather, rinse repeat.

As we should all know by now, the solution to government – isn’t more government.

One of the most abused parts of the economy is the Farm Sector.  The Department of Agriculture (USDA) alone is way beyond control.

When another arm of the Leviathan thinks you’ve gone light years too far – just how far from the path have you strayed? 

Using 105,000 total USDA employees and the BLS figure of 1.2 million farmers and farm workers — you get a ratio of 1 employee for every 11.4 farmers.

Except it’s 1 for every 11.4 members of the sector – anyone involved in any way in farming.  Not just farmers.  That bureaucrat-to-useful-person ratio is absurd.

The tens of thousands of pages of regulations the USDA has issued these past 152 years to lord over the Farm Sector are cumulatively crushing.

But the USDA is a lightweight compared to the meteoric, merely 45-year-old Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA is ridiculously anti-free market – it’s its sole reason for being.  And more and more, it is setting its sites on the Farm Sector.

You want to kneecap farmers?  And make food exorbitantly more expensive?  Turn farmers’ water into a weapon against them.

The issue is the EPA’s proposed changes to the Waters of the United States regulation. In March, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed new rules that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority on streams and wetlands that feed into major rivers and lakes.

The EPA says 60 percent of the nation’s streams and wetlands are not protected from pollution.

That actually means 60% of the nation’s streams and wetlands are protected from government.  The EPA won’t stand for that.  Except:

(T)wo U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limited what waterways the government can regulate and the proposed rule is meant to clarify which smaller ones they include.

Why would that stop the EPA?

(T)he rules…(would) allow the government to dictate what farmers can and cannot do with their farmland, which often includes small streams, ponds and marshes.

How beyond-all-reason-and-reasonableness is this massive new EPA power grab?

(Small Business Administration) SBA to EPA: Ditch the Waters of the U.S. Proposal

On October 1, 2014, an unexpected ally from within the administration filed comments with EPA claiming that EPA and the Corps “have improperly certified the proposed rule [WOTUS] under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) because it (WOTUS) would have significant effects on small businesses.”

When another arm of the Leviathan thinks you’ve gone light years too far – just how far from the path have you strayed?

EPA, of course, said its rule would not have a significant effect on small businesses.

Of course it says that.  And if you like your health care plan – you can keep it.

The RFA requires any federal agency to consider the impact of a proposed rule on a small business or small local government. Moreover if an agency determines there will be a significant economic impact, then less burdensome alternatives must be reviewed and in EPA’s case it is required to convene a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel.

As you might guess EPA ignored SBA requirements.

Of course it did.

SBA says that EPA and the Corps mislead the public by claiming that using a 1986 definition of the scope of the waters of the U.S. EPA is actually narrowing its jurisdiction.

SBA points out correctly, as does the Office of Management and Budget, that EPA should not be using the 1986 definition but use its current method for determining jurisdiction. SBA claims “Using an obsolete baseline improperly diminishes the effects of this rule.”

Again, it appears EPA is attempting to mislead citizens and farmers.

Really?  The EPA – dishonest and devious?

EPA Chief’s Secret ‘Alias’ Email Account Revealed

Ranchers, Farmers Fear Eco-Terrorists After EPA Releases Private Info

The SBA is right.  We’re right.  The EPA needs to back off its Farm-Sector-abusing Waters of the U.S. uber-overreach – and a whole lot of others.

EPA Power Grabs Bypass Congress

EPA Costs (2012) US Economy $353 Billion Per Year

Our food – and everything else – would be a whole lot cheaper.

[This article first appeared on RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Hot 2014 Doesn’t Prove Manmade Global Warming Hysteria Right

Somewhat Reasonable - December 17, 2014, 12:38 PM

The data may show Earth experienced its hottest year on record in 2014, but that would not be proof humans are causing global warming. It wouldn’t even prove the year was the hottest on record, or even particularly hot.

As early as September, global warming alarmists were claiming 2014 would set the record for highest average global temperature.

While cities and regions in the United States have been breaking record after record for cold temperatures and snowfall, most of the rest of the globe, including the oceans that make up most of Earth’s surface, has been warmer than average. Looking only at the badly flawed land-based temperature measurements, 2014 may be the “hottest year on record.”

But it may not be, since much more accurate satellite temperature measurements indicate 2014 will be a year with only slightly above average temperatures at best.

Assuming for the sake of argument the satellite measurements are wrong, record high temperatures in 2014 would be consistent with climate models, but any good scientist will point out a single record-setting year, just as a single climate catastrophe like a bad hurricane or an anomalous drought, cannot be definitively linked to human activities.

Indeed, when climate realists like myself point out Earth experienced below-average temperatures during the 1940s through the 1970s, alarmists regularly respond, “two or three decades is too short a time to make general claims about climate.” If three decades of records is too short a time period to leap to conclusions about human-caused climate change, a single year, even a record-setting year, provides far too little data to come to any firm conclusions.

To believe humans are causing global warming, one must blindly embrace admittedly incomplete climate models to the exclusion of all evidence to the contrary.

Climate model temperatures projections have consistently been much higher than actual temperatures, and each year the gap between model temperature predictions and actual measured temperatures grows. In addition, whereas climate models have projected steadily rising temperatures over the past two decades, global temperatures have in fact stagnated for 18 years despite a significant increase in greenhouse gases.

Some climate scientists, citing the models, claim we should be experiencing more severe hurricanes, but only one of the top ten deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history has occurred since 1957, with eight of the ten deadliest hurricanes having hit the United States before 1935. In fact, although greenhouse gas levels have risen dramatically since the 1950s, the average number of hurricanes and the number of strong hurricanes have declined substantially.

Biologists have predicted species will go extinct due to human-induced global warming, yet they can’t point to a single species that has. The iconic polar bear, the poster child for species endangered by a warming planet, is thriving. At more than 25,000 bears, the polar bear population increased substantially during the warming of the past half-century. In fact, polar bears numbers are growing in regions of their habitat experiencing higher-than-normal temperatures and lower-than-average sea ice thickness and extent.

Speaking of sea ice, the Arctic experienced dramatic declines in sea ice over the past decade, declines projected by climate models. In the past couple of years, however, Arctic ice has recovered to its average levels for the past decade; the decline has frozen (pardon the pun), as have global temperatures.

In addition, contrary to model projections, Antarctic sea ice has been growing to record levels year after year, setting new records multiple times in 2014 alone. Even climate modelers admit they can’t explain why Antarctica has been growing. Once again, the facts confound the models.

Climate models indicate global warming should be causing more and more-prolonged droughts and increased episodes of extreme rainfall, yet studies show recent droughts fall well within the historical average for frequency, length, and severity, and frequency of flooding events has not increased.

Despite the reported recent warming, deaths related to temperatures or extreme weather events have declined dramatically during the past century, a trend that shows no indication of abating.

The real bugaboo raised by environmental radicals is that sea levels are rising and will rise even more dramatically if global warming is not halted or at least slowed. Sea levels are rising, as they always do between ice ages, but the current rate of rise is well below the average for the past 18,000 years. The rate of rise has not increased over the past two centuries, and a recent study found the rate of sea-level rise has slowed 31 percent since 2002, and by 44 percent since 2004. At this pace, scientists expect sea-level rise of less than seven inches per century.

Whereas none of the climate disaster scenarios spun out by environmental alarmists and faithfully publicized by the mainstream media is being borne out in reality, one significant climate benefit is proving true. Globally, Earth is greening, as increased CO2 levels have proved to be a powerful steroid enhancing plant growth. Farmland and farm yields are both increasing.

How would climate alarmists have world leaders respond to all this good news? By killing fossil fuels.

As author Alex Epstein argues, instead of taking a safe climate and making it dangerous through the use of fossil fuels, we have been transforming a dangerous climate into a safer, more manageable one for human flourishing. This has particular benefits for people in developing countries, for whom additional fossil fuel energy is an economic godsend.

Humans have long fought a war with climate, and to the extent we’ve won, it has been through the use of technology, most recently including fossil fuels. I say let’s keep taking the battle to the climate on behalf of the millions of people still living in poverty.

Categories: On the Blog

Millennials Hit Hard by Government Intrusion

Somewhat Reasonable - December 17, 2014, 12:30 PM

For decades, the quality of life of the incoming generation of Americans has built on and improved on that of the previous generation. According to new data released by the United States Census Bureau, however, that is not the case for the current incoming generation, the Millennials. They have government to blame for their rotten economic conditions.

According to a new Census Bureau report based on its American Community Survey Five-Year Statistics, young adults today are faring worse than those of the 1980s, who are now entering middle age.

“One in five young adults lives in poverty,” the Census Bureau release explains, “up from one in seven in 1980.”

Census data show the U.S. young-adult poverty rate remained relatively unchanged for two decades but began climbing sharply in 2009. In 1980, 14.1 percent of individuals ages 18 to 34 lived on incomes meeting the federal government’s definition of poverty. In 2009, 19.7 percent of that demographic group lived in poverty.

Meanwhile, the age group’s employment rate has fallen from a high of 70.6 percent in 1990 to 65 percent in 2009. And median wages for those two out of three employed Millennials have declined. Fewer young adults are able to find employment, and those who are do are earning less money for their work.

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a similarly bleak picture for young adults beginning their careers. In November, the effective unemployment rate for young adults, including the 1.91 million people who have entirely given up on job searching, was 14.7 percent.

Each and every new rule and regulation issued by Washington regulators is accompanied by seen and unseen costs that discourage business owners from hiring new workers. Thousands of new planned industry rules were released just before Thanksgiving, including rules allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate small puddles on farms or businesses’ private property.

Surveys by regional Federal Reserve Banks show businesses are responding to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by cutting workers’ hours, from full-time to part-time, in response to ACA’s impact on labor costs. Other businesses are deliberately understaffing in order to avoid triggering ACA requirements.

As President John F. Kennedy noted, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Removing the millstone the national government places around job creators’ necks would allow economic prosperity to flourish and benefit all Americans, including the current generation of young adults who are currently among the hardest-hit.

Categories: On the Blog

HEARTLAND DAILY PODCAST – Jessica Sena: Sierra Club’s most deceptive videos ever made on Fracking

Somewhat Reasonable - December 17, 2014, 11:23 AM

The Sierra Club was founded in the hope that preserving the natural environment could coexist with the responsible development of the natural resources our society relies on everyday. However, despite the intentions of the groups founders, the Sierra Club has turned into an environmental activist group that is less concerned with conservation efforts than they are with promoting their agenda. This fact is made readily apparent by the recent video “Fracking 101″ released by the organization, which by many accounts is one of the most deceptive videos ever made on the topic.

Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr and Jessica Sena debunk the claims made by this video in a 30 minute podcast. Among the inaccurate claims debunked are: the world is running out of fossil fuels, fracking is more dangerous than traditional oil and natural gas production, hydraulic fracturing creates more greenhouse gasses than other forms of energy, fracking will contaminate our water, and that the world could be powered on 100 percent renewable energy.

Categories: On the Blog

Want a Balanced Budget Amendment that’s Flexible Enough to Handle Genuine Crises Without Loopholes? Join Compact for America

Somewhat Reasonable - December 16, 2014, 5:19 PM

The Balanced Budget Amendment at the heart of the Compact for a Balanced Budget contains no exceptions for war or natural disaster, but it remains the only practical solution to our runaway federal debt. The reason is two-fold.

First of all, the Compact’s Balanced Budget Amendment is flexible enough to handle genuine crises. The initial debt limit it enforces can be lifted for any reason that can command the support and approval of 26 state legislatures–including war or natural disaster. The initial debt limit is set at 105% of the outstanding federal debt at ratification. This gives Congress upwards of $600 billion cushion of additional debt spending–enough for about a year of borrowing under current spending trajectories before the initial debt limit kicks in.

Keep in mind, cash flow from taxes will continue during all but the most devastating crises and it can be prioritized to address immediate exigencies (if a crisis were so devastating that tax revenue ceases, it is unlikely markets would exist to purchase public debt either, so an exception for borrowing during such crises would be meaningless). During that time, Congress has the power to seek state legislative approval to raise the debt limit either based on a persuasive budget or based on a clearly defined crisis contingency–like war or natural disaster.

If the states nevertheless refuse such approval, that would mean that a wide national consensus does not support additional federal debt under the circumstances proffered by Congress, which would be reason enough to disapprove the request. Military adventures and pork barrel spending disguised as crises will have a hard time getting financing. But the practical reality, as evidenced by Pearl Harbor and 9-11, is that our Nation has always risen to the occasion when challenged by a genuine crisis.

Secondly, the problem with writing in an exception to balancing the budget is that it will become a loophole when interpreted by Washington. Congress and the President clearly have an addiction to unsustainable debt spending. The temptation to interpret a crisis exception to allow needless borrowing is too great. It is like telling an alcoholic to avoid liquor except for medicinal purposes.

Giving Washington the opportunity to borrow through exceptions that Washington alone would interpret would defeat the purpose of the Balanced Budget Amendment, which is to divide the otherwise unlimited power of borrowing between Washington and state legislatures acting as a fiscal control board. State legislatures–not Washington–need to be the ultimate judge about the legitimacy of any request to lift the federal debt limit because an addict cannot be trusted.

[First posted at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Peter Ferrara: Power to the People: Repealing and Replacing Obamacare with Patient Power

Somewhat Reasonable - December 16, 2014, 5:18 PM

Heartland Institute Senior Fellow for Entitlement and Budget Policy Peter Ferrera joints The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to discuss a new Policy Brief published by the Heartland Institute, “Power to the People: Repealing and Replacing Obamacare with Patient Power.”

Ferrera explains how repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) with universal health insurance tax credits and state Medicaid block grants would give Americans more control over health care decisions, by allowing the power of the free market to deliver superior health care outcomes for people.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Senator Coburn’s Farewell Address

Somewhat Reasonable - December 16, 2014, 4:42 PM

On December 11th 2014, Senator Tom Coburn gave an emotional farewell address on the Senate floor. In his speech, Coburn reflected on his time as a congressman, explained his worldview, gave advice to colleagues and gave thanks to those that helped and supported him.

Coburn, a three term Representative, was elected to the Senate in 2004 and then re-elected in 2010. However, at the beginning of 2014, he announced he would be retiring at the end of the year. His farewell address on Thursday would be his last speech on the Senate floor.

The speech started off with a sentimental thank you list to many of his staff members. Occasionally unable to hold back his emotion, Coburn thanked his staff members and his chief of staff saying, “We’re only able to function because of all the people who enable us to do it.”

He then began to reflect on his time in Congress. “To those of you, through the years, who I have offended,” Corburn said, “I truly apologize.” He mentioned that no offense was intended; it was merely the result of his worldview that placed liberty and the constitution above all else.

“I believe our founders were absolutely brilliant. Far smarter than us,” Coburn explained. He said we would not begin to solve our country’s problems until we once again accept the instruction of the constitution and restore individual liberty to everyone. “But I don’t believe we can if we continue to ignore the wisdom of our founding documents,” said Coburn.

Today, the state of the country is in bad shape, according to Coburn. He said the struggling economy and loss of freedom has created a country that his father would not recognize. Corburn attributes these problems to a centralized government that is too involved in decision-making instead of leaving it to the power of the free market.

He stops short of blaming his colleagues of opposition though when he said their intentions were not bad. “The intentions are great. The motivations of the people in this body are wonderful. But the perspective of how we do it, and what the long-term consequences of how we do it really do matter,” said Coburn. These intentions don’t prevent unintended consequences, however.

To prevent the occurrence of these unintended consequences, Coburn stands by specific principles. When reading legislation, Coburn determines if it may negatively impact life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He then makes sure the bill is consistent with the oath congressmen take when sworn into office.

While giving words of advice to his colleagues, the Senator took the time to read the oath in full. “Your state is not mentioned one time in that oath,” Coburn said to his fellow Senators. He told them their goal was to defend liberty and the constitution, not to pursue benefits for your individual state.

At the closing of his speech, Coburn began giving thanks again. He thanked his family for their sacrifice and he thanked his staff. He then gave thanks to his fellow Senators, who he said were “working for a better country for us all.” The Senator then yielded the floor to a standing ovation.

Categories: On the Blog
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