On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2016, 4:09 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

300 Scientists Request Explanation for Temperature Shenanigans H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly In support of U.S. House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s investigation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), approximately 300 scientists, engineers, economists, and other experts sent a letter requesting an explanation for what appears to be manipulated temperature data. The letter challenges NOAA’s findings that eliminated the 18-year “pause” in global temperature increase and demands the agency reveal its data and methodology for public examination. READ MORE Parents Lack Honest Data Necessary for School Choice Decisions David V. Anderson, The Hill For any market to work efficiently, there needs to be a free flow of information so consumers can make educated choices. This is a missing ingredient in America’s education system. Accurate consumer information would enable parents to make wise choices in the selection of schools and other educational services. Unfortunately, most parents today operate in a sea of misinformation about school performance levels and other characteristics. READ MORE Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Clean Power Plan H. Sterling Burnett, The Heartlander The U.S. Supreme Court did something remarkable on Tuesday: It respected the separation of powers and finally shouted “ENOUGH!” to the lawless rule of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Court stayed President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” a radical, law-by-decree scheme that would put this nation’s enormously complex energy-delivery system into the hands of central planners in Washington, DC. READ MORE Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep24) – Exploring the World of Think Tanks Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft have tweaked the format of their weekly podcast to highlight the work of think tanks across the country. Segments now include “Better Know a Think Tank,” in which a think tank spokesman talks about his or her organization’s mission, and “Featured Work of the Week,” which highlights recent research from a think tank. Donny and John kick off the feature by talking about (you guessed it) The Heartland Institute, as well as The Heritage Foundation’s “World Economic Freedom Ranking.” LISTEN TO MORE

Never Lose a Debate with a Global Warming Alarmist! The Heartland Institute’s newest book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, demolishes the most pernicious myth in the global warming debate: that “97% of scientists” believe mankind is the cause of a global warming catastrophe. Heartland President Joseph Bast, who edited the book, will discuss his findings and bid a fond farewell to one of the coauthors, Robert Carter who passed away on January 19, at a free event at Heartland’s headquarters in Arlington Heights, Illinois, on March 9. Go to Amazon.com or the Heartland store [store.heartland.org] now and order a copy, or become a Heartland donor and get a free copy! Ride-Sharing Saves Time, Money, and Lives Jesse Hathaway, Real Clear Policy The popular peer-to-peer ride-sharing service, Uber, enjoyed a recent victory in New York City’s “war on ride-sharing.” An impact study released by Mayor Bill de Blasio showed Uber had not contributed significantly to the traffic congestion that has worsened recently in the Big Apple. Perhaps this will convince lawmakers to give up their efforts to hold back the wave of the future, and instead reap the benefits of the refreshingly entrepreneurial sharing economy.  READ MORE The Politics Behind the Anti-Fossil Fuels Campaign Donn Dears and H. Sterling Burnett,Washington Times Political leaders at the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year admitted their push to limit carbon dioxide emissions is not about protecting human health or the environment: It’s about giving governments control over the world’s economy. Said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.” This moment of accidental honesty must not be forgotten.  READ MORE

NYC Public Schools Try to Keep Vouchers to Themselves Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly A little-known fact about public schools is that they have the ability to contract out special-needs children to private schools or tutors. A recent federal investigation found 83 percent of public schools are not “fully accessible” to children with disabilities. The decision to contract these students out lies only with public schools themselves. Parents who want to put their child in a different school do not have that right. READ MORE Medical School Costs Keep Young Doctors Out of Primary Care Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report Health care reform efforts over the past two decades have focused primarily on creating ways to help more Americans obtain health insurance. But little has been done to address the rapid increases in medical school costs plaguing hundreds of thousands of new doctors. Unless those costs come down – via market forces that are currently crowded out by government loans – America is going to see an accelerating drop in vital primary care physicians. READ MORE Featured Podcast: Kyle Maichle: Free Speech on College Campuses The hysteria at Yale University over “offensive” Halloween costumes supposedly threatening “safe” and “comfortable” spaces for students put free speech on campus into the national spotlight. Kyle Maichle, project manager for constitutional reform at The Heartland Institute, joins host Donald Kendal in a conversation about these basic free speech issues. Maichle discusses the history of speech codes on campus and gives an update on some of the more recent threats to freedom of expression at our institutions of higher learning. LISTEN TO MORE Surgeon Posts Prices Online to Improve Transparency, Competition Tony Corvo, The Heartlander One of the major contributing factors to the increasing costs of health care is the failure of hospitals and physicians to tell consumers the cost of procedures and treatments. One surgeon in Oklahoma City has found a simple way to help: He tells his patients the prices. His clinic’s website gives people the opportunity to research prices in advance and choose between the Surgery Center and other providers. How revolutionary! “I’m a free-market guy,” said Dr. Keith Smith. “We decided to put our money where our mouth was and post the prices online for everyone to see.”  READ MORE Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  
Categories: On the Blog

Obama Continues to Impede Domestic Energy Production

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2016, 3:52 PM

With less than a year left in office, President Barack Obama is upping the pressure on America’s fossil fuel industries with a slew of new regulations and tax proposals.

Last month, Obama ordered a moratorium on new coal leasing on federal lands. Unlike oil and gas production, which occurs primarily on private land, 40 percent of U.S. coal mining takes place on federal lands.

Coal use has been declining in power generation for several years, in part because of abundant natural gas.

But it still accounts for 39 percent of our electricity, it remains the cheapest way to generate power and coal is a major export commodity.

Over time, the moratorium will drive up electricity costs for households and businesses, destroy jobs, diminish federal, state and local tax revenues and widen America’s trade deficit.

The administration also wants to put further limits on offshore drilling for oil and gas.

Under the 2012-2017 lease program, no sales were permitted on the Pacific Coast, the Atlantic Coast, the eastern third of the Gulf of Mexico and much of Alaska.

Then last October, the Interior Department canceled two planned lease sales for Arctic drilling rights and denied two companies’ requests for lease extensions.

Now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is putting together its 2017-2022 program for offshore lease sales.

A first draft of the plan, released last year, would allow offshore drilling on the Atlantic outer continental shelf, parts of the Gulf of Mexico and limited tracts of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska.

But environmental groups are pushing for a total moratorium on offshore drilling. More than 100 East Coast communities have passed anti-drilling resolutions, while 100 members of Congress, as well as 650 state and local elected officials, have expressed opposition to Atlantic drilling.

In today’s low-price environment, it might seem counterintuitive that investors would want to bid on leases in fields that have no production history and limited seismic testing. But they’re thinking long term — perhaps 10 to 20 years out.

Should the final 2017-2022 lease plan be modified to prohibit drilling in the Atlantic, not only will imports increase but communities along the East Coast will be forfeiting high-wage jobs, income and tax revenue.

In its most recent attack on hydrocarbons, the Obama administration is proposing a $10-per-barrel tax on oil companies as part of its fiscal 2017 budget.

Ostensibly, the tax — which is equivalent to 30 percent at today’s prices — would help finance the Highway Trust Fund while providing money to invest in “sustainable transportation programs.”

In practice, it would further erode the earnings of an industry going through its greatest financial crisis in 25 years.

Oil imports would rise, because foreign producers would not be subject to the tax.

Today, with the world drowning in oil, and gasoline and diesel prices at their lowest levels in 15 years, the siren song of “keep it in the ground” (or keep it under the ocean floor) may be alluring.

But the American economy runs on energy, and oil, gas and coal will be providing the lion’s share of transportation and power generation fuel for decades to come.

It simply makes more economic and political sense to develop our own hydrocarbon resources, in an environmentally responsible manner, rather than increase our dependency on imported energy.

[Originally published at the Star-Telegram]
Categories: On the Blog

Can “Bright Line” FCC Title II Discrimination Bans Be Just and Reasonable?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2016, 2:58 PM

Net neutrality absolutists are overreaching yet again in their push for a practical FCC ban of ISP zero rating offers under the FCC’s case-by-case “General Conduct Standard” review, by claiming violations of the “bright-line rules” in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

The problem here is that net neutrality absolutists, in exploiting the political pejorative power of the word ‘discrimination,’ have politically oversold their Title II net neutrality policy as “bright-line” ‘non-discrimination’ bans, implying no discrimination allowed, when Title II actually only bans “unjust and unreasonable discrimination.”

This is a distinction here with a huge difference; and it apparently is giving the net neutrality absolutists fits. They want to imagine that Title II prohibits their absolutist ‘no discrimination’ frame when it clearly does not.

They want to find a technical “gotcha” in every zero-rating or sponsored data offering, no matter how unreasonable their conclusion, so they can politically ask it be banned by the FCC under their concept of what a ‘no discrimination’ principle should be.

With T-Mobile’s Binge On, Stanford Professor Van Schewick charges that Binge On violates net neutrality because it favors commercial content over Google-YouTube’s user-generated videos. How is it unreasonably discriminatory when most every other company can interface with T-Mobile’s non-discriminatory Binge On interface, but the world’s most dominant and most technically-advanced digital video distributor, Google-YouTube, somehow can’t figure out what everyone else has figured out?

EFF also tested T-Mobile’s Binge On offering and charges that it violates net neutrality because it throttles everyone the same way to provide more data for less cost. How is that unjust and unreasonable network management?

With the news that Verizon’s Go90 video service is now using Verizon’s FreeBee Data 360 offering, some are insinuating sponsored data plans like this are somehow a net neutrality violation when offered as an “open, non-exclusive service available to other content providers on a non-discriminatory basis.” How is its unreasonably discriminatory when any content provider can enjoy the same thing Go90 does?

The problem here is that the net neutrality absolutists demanded the FCC adopt their politically correct, “bright-line” ‘no discrimination’ version of net neutrality, and not what Title II allows under the law and decades of FCC and court precedents.

The FCC’s Open Internet Order states: “Clear, Bright-Line Rules: Because the record overwhelmingly supports adopting rules and demonstrates that three specific practices invariably harm the open Internet—Blocking, Throttling, and Paid Prioritization—this Order bans each of them, applying the same rules to both fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service.” (Para 14) (Bold added for emphasis)

In promising not just net neutrality rules, but “bright line” (i.e. absolute) open Internet rules, and in claiming the three banned practices – blocking, throttling and no paid prioritization – “invariably” (i.e. absolutely always) harm the Open Internet, the FCC has created a real problem for itself.

How can the FCC reasonably rule under its ‘General Conduct Standard’ that any action that blocks or throttles Internet traffic can never be reasonable network management when the FCC itself is requiring ISPs to block robo-calls to users, or when ISPs are expected by the FCC to filter (i.e. block) viruses and malware, and to throttle the traffic of edge-driven denial-of-service-attacks that routinely assault ISP networks.

How can the FCC reasonably enforce absolute “bright-line” bans on blocking and throttling when the FCC Open Internet Order states: “The record broadly supports maintaining an exception for reasonable network management. We agree that a network management exception to the no-blocking rule, the no-throttling rule, and the no-unreasonable interference/disadvantage standard is necessary for broadband providers to optimize overall network performance and maintain a consistent quality experience for consumers while carrying a variety of traffic over their networks.” (para 215)

The FCC once again has got itself in a pickle in promising conflicting outcomes. On one hand it tells the public, industry and the reviewing court absolutely that blocking and throttling harm the Open Internet, but on the other hand it rules an exception is necessary for ‘reasonable network management.’

In conclusion, why FCC net neutrality policy is such a mess is that the absolutists are really not complaining about ISP “blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization.”

Their real beef is much less a Title II regulatory unreasonable discrimination problem, and much more akin to a lawsuit under antitrust law that alleges an ISP is a vertically-integrated monopoly that needs to be forever enjoined by a court from vertical integration.

And it is telling that the net neutrality absolutists effectively are trying to use Title II authority as antitrust law to preemptively ban a whole category of market participants from certain types of market behavior, with no investigation or finding of market power, and with no evidence that the targeted market participants actually did anything wrong, because no court would entertain such a baseless and senseless notion of antitrust law.

At bottom, net neutrality absolutists are demanding the FCC preemptively and absolutely ban market behaviors that no American law considers unreasonable on their face.

[Originally published at the Precursor Blog]

Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, a research consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep25): Georgia Public Policy Foundation, The FDA, and Utah’s Zion Curtain

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2016, 12:28 PM

Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft continue to explore the world of think tanks in episode #25 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, roundtable discussions, stories, and light-hearted segments on a variety of topics on the latest news. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, the Mercatus Center, and the Libertas Institute.

Better Know a Think Tank

In this “Better Know a Think Tank” segment, Donny and John talk to Benita Dodd, Vice President of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. Benita talks about the background, history and mission of the Georgia-based think tank, and what they are currently working on.

Featured Work of the Week

Featured this week is a report by the Mercatus Center titled “The Proper Role of the FDA for the 21st Century.” They explain how the FDA got so far off their originally mission, what their proper role should be, and how to get them back to that narrow role.

Youtube video – Freedom and the FDA: The Matt Bellina Story

In the World of Think Tankery

Today Donny and John discuss a bizarre law out of Utah called the Zion Curtain – a law that requires restaurants and bars to pour alcoholic drinks out of the view of patrons. Our friends at the Libertas Institute, a Utah-based libertarian think tank, brought this to our attention.

They also talk about the work The Heartland Institute has done on the recent Supreme Court ruling which halted the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan.


Here are a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.

Mercatus Center – Conversations with Tyler: A Conversation with Nate Silver (Tuesday, Feb 16) @ George Mason University

Georgia Public Policy Foundation – Leadership Breakfast: Georgia Criminal Justice Reform: Looking Ahead, Staying Ahead – (Wednesday, Feb 17) @ The Georgian Club, Atlanta

Libertas Institute – Annual Liberty Forum with keynote speakers Larry Reed & Matt Kibbe (Saturday, May 7)

Mackinac Center For Public Policy – Let Them Work: Solutions for Michigan’s Overbearing Occupational Licensing Laws (Wednesday, Feb 17) in Lansing, Michigan.

I hope you’ll listen in, subscribe, and leave a review for our podcast on iTunes. We welcome your feedback in our new show’s inbox at InTheTankPodcast@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Marita Noon: Presidential Candidates’ Energy Positions, and The Truth About Renewable Subsidies

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2016, 5:40 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Marita Noon, executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE), joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. Noon joins the podcast to discuss the different Presidential candidates positions on energy and other energy related topics.

Together, Energy Makes America Great Inc. and CARE, work to educate the public and influence policy makers on energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Also in the podcast, Noon talks about some of the positive provisions in an energy bill presently being developed in the Senate, and the truth about renewables and energy subsidies.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Don’t Fence Us in: Western States Seek Return of Land From D.C.

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2016, 11:37 AM

According to the United States Geological Survey, nearly half the land in the Western United States is owned by the federal government. This includes 84.9 percent of land in Nevada (hiding UFOs requires lots of space), 64.9 percent of Utah, 61.6 percent of Idaho, 61.2 percent of Alaska, 52.9 percent of Oregon, 48.1 percent of Wyoming, and 45.8 percent in California. Meanwhile, the federal government owns only about 5 percent of the land in states east of the Mississippi River. Altogether, Uncle Sam owns roughly 640 million acres of land.

In March 2012, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed the Utah Transfer of Public Lands Act into law, which instructs the federal government to relinquish more than 20 million acres of land to the State of Utah. Although Utah has yet to bring forward a suit in an attempt to enforce the law, a move that is expected to bring strong opposition from the federal government, similar legislation is being considered in nine other Western states. These states are arguing if the federal government turns over its property in the West to the states, it will result in better environmental stewardship of the land, lower management costs, and an increase in productivity.

Environmentalists, support federal government land ownership in Western states because they say these lands contain the most biologically and environmentally valuable ecosystems in the nation that need to be protected by federal officials from less environmentally concerned states.  “If not for federal policies for public land management,” University of Wyoming professor Debra Donahue told the New York Times, “America would lack a world-class system of national parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas.” This is undeniably true; however national parks, national monuments, wildlife refuges, and federal wilderness areas (FWAs), essentially the only parts of the West tourists ever lay their eyes on, would be excluded from any future land transfers.

Most of the land held by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, excluding national parks, monuments, and FWAs, is the result of historical accident, not environmental concerns. During the Progressive and New Deal Eras, Congress created federal agencies to control Western lands under the belief central authorities would dispassionately apply science to determine the best use of natural resources. But as Montana State University professor of economics Holly Fretwell writes, “Science cannot determine whether hiking, biking or timber harvest is a higher-valued use. Instead, management decisions—regarding recreation use, commodity production or restoration activities—depend on budget appropriations and special interest battles.”

Fretwell says this leads to gross mismanagement of public lands, leaving Western communities at risk of wildfires, soil erosion, and other environmental problems that impose steep economic costs.

Without allowing market forces to have a greater say in how federal lands are used, Western states will continue to suffer economic and environmental disadvantages. A recent study from the Institute for Energy Research showed, even in a time of stagnant demand, opening up federal lands to just oil, coal, and gas production would bring many benefits to the states, including $663 billion in increased GDP and 2.7 million jobs created over the next 30 years. The report also found a $3.9 trillion increase over federal tax revenues, and a $1.9 trillion increase in state tax revenues, over the next 37 years. (In addition to coal, oil, and natural gas, federal lands are also a major source of softwood timber, hard metals, and grazing areas.)

study comparing state trust lands in Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico to federal multiple-use lands from 2009–13 by the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) found these states earned a combined $14.51 for every dollar spent managing state trust lands, while the federal government earned only 73 cents for every dollar they spent managing federal lands. On a per-acre basis, the states earned $34.60 while the feds lost $4.38.

PERC writes, “State trust management has demonstrated its ability to resist excessive political influence, respond to market signals, and accommodate new resources over time.… Managing these lands should provide a rich source of revenues to benefit the public, but is instead coming at a high cost to taxpayers.”

Not only would a transfer of Western federal lands to the states be better for the preservation of much of the land and the residents of the states, it would also be a better deal for taxpayers nationwide.

[Originally published at American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Nebraska Medicaid Expansion Would Cost $1 Billion

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2016, 10:05 AM

Surgeon with US state flag on background series – Nebraska

After rejecting Medicaid expansion for each of the last three years, Nebraska lawmakers are once again counting the cost.

And once again, the cost is high.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services this week posted a report by Optumas, a private actuarial firm, to analyze the 10-year cost of LB1032, state Sen. John McCollister’s (R-Omaha) bill to expand Medicaid by adopting a Transitional Health Insurance Program.

Using Medicaid dollars, newly eligible enrollees would purchase qualified health plans (QHPs) through the state’s health insurance exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay 100 percent of new Medicaid expansion costs for the first three years, with the federal share declining to 90 percent thereafter.

But the Optumas study finds that even with federal assistance, the 10-year cost of Nebraska’s share for the proposed Medicaid expansion plan would reach almost $1 billion.

Here are the report’s 10-year projections:

“Total Spend”: $14,781,000,000

“Federal Share”: $13,803,000,000

“State Share”: $978,000

And that’s a “conservative estimate,” said Calder Lynch, DHHS Director of Medicaid and Long-Term Care in a press release:

“Because there are many uncertainties, these costs could rise with a change of the federal matching rate or the under-collection of member contributions as required in the bill. I have serious concerns from both a fiscal and policy perspective.”

McCollister’s plan follows a Medicaid expansion model Arkansas adopted in 2014, which grossly underestimated the number of enrollees (300,000 vs. 215,000), according to a study by the Platte Institute for Economic Research. In Arkansas’ Failed Medicaid Experiment: Not a Model for Nebraska, authors Jonathan Ingram and Nicholas Horton write that 41 percent of Arkansans are now on the state’s Medicaid rolls. They warn Nebraskans to heed their neighbor-state’s cautionary tale:

This new approach to Medicaid expansion is unaffordable and unpredictable, pushes adults out of private insurance and into taxpayer-funded welfare, puts the truly needy on the chopping block, discourages work, and shrinks the economy. So it should be no surprise that, last year, Iowa policymakers scrapped the model entirely and Arkansas enacted legislation to repeal the expansion altogether at the end of 2016. Nebraska policymakers should learn from these mistakes, not repeat them.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) has made Arkansas’s experiment a pillar in his argument against McCollister’s plan.

The Heartland Institute’s Health Care News will cover Nebraska’s Medicaid deliberations in its next issue.

Image via Thinkstock

Categories: On the Blog

SCOTUS Smackdown of the Obama Clean Power Plan: Top 3 Takeaways

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2016, 12:01 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) did something remarkable on Tuesday: It momentarily respected the separation of powers and finally shouted “ENOUGH!” to the lawless rule of the Environmental Protection Agency. SCOTUS issued a stay on Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” which is a radical law-by-decree scheme to do nothing less than put this nation’s enormously complex energy-delivery system into the hands of central planners in Washington.

It was Clinton advisor Paul Begala who once said: “Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool.” Not any more … at least for now in this case.

Here are the top three take-aways of this historic moment in SCOTUS history.

1. Ding, dong, the Clean Power Plan is dead.

With this stay, the rule is suspended until President Obama is out of office. On the fastest of tracks, SCOTUS will hear arguments this summer and issue a ruling in December (after the election) or in January (after a new president is inaugurated.)  Even if the EPA “Clean Power Plan” rule is upheld, the next Republican president will cancel it. And while it may be likely that a President Hillary Clinton would keep that rule in effect, I don’t think that’s a guarantee. Hillary would want to put her own stamp on a climate agenda, not merely rubber stamp Obama’s. And if she has any hope of setting her own climate agenda, a Republican Congress will demand she start over on this front.

That said, it is not likely that SCOTUS would stay the ruling and then let it go back into effect. This extraordinary move is only justified if the Court thinks the plaintiffs, who want the Clean Power Plan nullified, are most-likely to prevail.

2. The Paris Climate Agreement from COP-21 is now “all dead,” instead of “mostly dead.”

If you took the time to read the eco-left’s comments of woe back in December, you’d clearly see what a defeat COP-21 was for them. Oh, some leftist outfits made happy noises about how this will help “battle climate change,” and the MSM trumpeted the Paris Agreement as an “historic moment.” But the fact of the matter is this: The document that came out of COP-21 was a complete failure. It is a sham. The agreement is not a treaty. It is not legally binding to any nation. It has no enforcement mechanisms. And even what it promises to do — keep the global temperature from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 (because 2.0 degrees would KILL US ALL!!!) — is just as likely to happen as not no matter how much CO2 emissions grow or abate … and they will surely grow.

Global temperatures, measured by satellite, show no upward trend since the late 1990s — despite the fact that about one-third of all human CO2 emissions since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution happened in that time span. Many solar scientists have been noting for years that they’ve observed historically low sunspot activity and solar energy — a possible repeat of the so-called Maunder Minimum, which has been tied to periods of global cooling, such as the “Little Ice Age” that ended in the mid-1800s.

Anyway, back to Obama. He left Paris saying: It doesn’t matter that the Paris Agreement isn’t a treaty. It doesn’t matter that there are no enforcement mechanisms. I will instruct the EPA to essentially outlaw coal-fired power plants in the United States over the next decade. And because the EPA’s rule-making is almost never overturned — by either a court or a subsequent administration — this will be the “law of the land” in the United States due. So let it be written! So let it be done!

Well, so much the president’s will being law, at least in this case. Which brings us to …

3. SCOTUS has had enough of Obama Imperialism

It’s a little late, but SCOTUS has finally put its foot down. As Marita Noon, executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy, noted in a release from The Heartland Institute, this is the first time SCOTUS has stayed an EPA rule. Why? Because the EPA (and Obama) were so obviously and egregiously overstepping their authority — and their arrogance about it throughout the Obama presidency was probably their undoing in the eyes of the Court.

As the applicants for the stay noted in their brief: After SCOTUS ruled in 2015 that EPA was abusing its rule-making authority under the Clean Air Act, the EPA bragged on its own blog that the decision was moot. EPA knew that industry would be compelled to operate under the assumption that the rule would be upheld. To do otherwise was foolish — not only from a business stand-point (can’t be caught flat-footed compared to competitors), but a legal one (we’ll be liable if we don’t comply by the deadline). In other words, EPA spiked the football and said, explicitly, that SCOTUS doesn’t matter — even when it rules against it.

I want to note this bit from the plaintiff’s brief, joined by the attorneys general from 29 of our 50 states:

In short, EPA extracted ‘nearly $10 billion a year’ in compliance from power plants before this Court could even review the rule …

Where did power plants get that $10 billion? From you and me, the consumers of electricity. Obama’s Clean Power Plan is not a rule that punishes Big Energy corporations. It’s a rule that punishes you ane me, the consumers of the energy we need to live. Remember that the next time you plug in your iPhone or hear your heat pump kick in.

Well, it appears that five justices decided they’ve had enough of EPA’s and Obama’s corruption of the law-making process. (BTW: It’s a scandal that the decision on the stay was not unanimous. Even the Court’s liberals should have proper respect for the separation of powers — for ego’s sake, if not the Constitution.)

A rule as sweeping, significant, and expensive to consumers as the Clean Power Plan must originate in Congress, duly pass, and be signed by the president. Or, if part of a treaty, it must be submitted to and approved by the Senate. I think we can now expect (or at least hope) that SCOTUS will finally uphold that basic constitutional principle. We should hope Justice Antonin Scalia gets to write the majority opinion, and not merely contribute a biting concurring opinion. This decision needs to really sting.

Not to get our hopes up, but this is shaping up to be a very rare judicial victory for the rule of law over the rule of bureaucrats and an imperial president. But we need many, many more to turn the ship of state even remotely toward Constitutional governance after eight years of Obama’s rule-by-decree.

[First published at Ricochet.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Kyle Maichle: Free Speech on College Campuses

Somewhat Reasonable - February 10, 2016, 4:50 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Kyle Maichle, project manager for constitutional reform at The Heartland Institute joins Host Donald Kendal to talk about free speech issues on college campuses.

Since the situation at Yale regarding proper Halloween costumes, free speech issues have littered the news. From free speech codes to safe spaces, this topic has gained national attention. Maichle come on to the Podcast to give us background information and updates on these situations. Maichle also brings up the report recently released by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that ranks colleges based on their free speech restrictions.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Misleading Claims About a Climate Crisis in the Arctic Must be Corrected

Somewhat Reasonable - February 10, 2016, 1:55 PM

The January-February 2016 issue of Audubon Magazine  (Figure 1) proclaims “Arctic on the Edge: As global warming opens our most critical bird habitat, the world is closing in.” In reality, the magazine’s writers and editors have gone over the edge, with wildly misleading “reports” on the Arctic.

The magazine is awash in misstatements of fact and plain ignorance of history, science and culture. It epitomizes the false claims that characterize “news coverage” of “dangerous manmade climate change.” The following analysis corrects only some of the most serious errors, but should raise red flags about most every claim Audubon makes.

Figure 1: Cover of the Jan-Feb 2016 Issue of Audubon Magazine.

The first part of this issue devotes pages to each of the countries surrounding the Arctic Ocean. The Finland page says “storms become more severe” with warming. The writers are either clueless or intentionally misleading; they likely did not take Earth Science or Meteorology and are oblivious of atmospheric fluid dynamics.

The pole to equator temperature difference drives the strength of storms. If there actually is Arctic warming, that temperature difference declines, and storm strength becomes less severe – not more so.

The Norway page describes the Black-legged Kittiwake and speculates that warming in the Barents Sea attracts herring which feed on Kittiwake prey. The authors are clearly unaware that natural warming and cooling cycles have been occurring for centuries. On a map derived from the Norwegian Polar Institute’s examination of ship logs (Figure 2), a green dashed line depicting reduced Nordic Sea ice extent demonstrates extensive warming in the Barents Sea in 1769. During that particular warm period, ocean currents and weather conditions made Svalbard and even parts of Novaya Zemlya ice-free.

Figure 2. Map showing maximum (April) sea ice extension in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic (Norwegian Polar Institute 2000). The map is based on a database on sea ice extension in the area shown during the past 400 years, to a high degree based on written records found in ships logbooks.

The Greenland page purports to show “Greenland Warming.” However, it was warmer than today during the Medieval Warm Period, and abundant new ice formed in Greenland during the past century. Enough snow and ice accumulated on the Greenland Ice Sheet that Glacier Girl, the P-38 airplane that landed there in 1942, was buried in 268 ft of ice before she was recovered in 1992. That’s 268 feet in 50 years, well over 5 feet of ice accumulation a year, much of it during a period when Earth was warming and Greenland was supposedly losing ice.

Audubon’s cover photo features a Russian oil rig amid an ice-covered Arctic Ocean. It is intended to instil fear, by suggesting that a once solidly icy Arctic is melting rapidly. However, history shows that the Nordic ice extent has been decreasing since at least the 1860s, and probably since the depth of the Little Ice Age, around 1690. In fact, historic data (Figure 3), indicate that multi-decadal variability of Nordic Sea extent (some 30-45% more or less ice during each cycle) has been occurring for over 150 years.

Figure 3. From Vinje (2001), showing the reduction in April sea ice extent in the Nordic Seas since 1864. Nordic Seas (NS), eastern area (E), and western area (W) time series given by 2-year running mean and regression lines. The blue area to the right shows the time extent of the satellite-era. Apparently, much of the sea ice reduction in this region occurs in concert with planetary warming, as the Little Ice Age ended and with the warming that followed during the twentieth century.

Toward the end of the January-February issue is an account of a visit to Wainwright, Alaska, an Inupiat village of about 556 natives, located on the Arctic Ocean in North Slope Borough. The Native Inupiat much prefer to maintain their subsistence culture, which has been their tradition since their ancestors settled nearby about 13,000 years ago.

The caption to the Audubon photograph of the village emphasizes rising ocean waters. However, most of Alaska has falling sea levels, the result of the isostatic adjustment of northern North America. This rebound effect began with the melting of the Wisconsin Ice Sheet, as Earth emerged from the Wisconsin Ice Age and entered the Holocene between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago. The nearest tide gage to Wainwright is Prudhoe Bay, and sea level rise there is very small: 1.20 mm/year +/- 1.99 mm/year (up to 7.9 inches per century) – so small that sea levels might actually be falling there, as well, when margin of error is considered.

The Audubon writers mention “melting permafrost” numerous times, but when the Natives spoke about this in 1979, they clearly did not view it as a problem. In fact, in their own words, recorded in The Inupiat View, the Natives specifically say melt water is scarce in North Slope Borough. What has happened in the years since?

First, the North Slope has a summer, and from early June until mid-September air temperatures average warmer than 32 degrees F. Wainwright’s extreme maximum once reached 80 degrees Fahrenheit! During summer, the soil melts, creating an “active layer.” The surface is not permanently frozen, but is melted part of the year, every year. Whether there actually is problematical “melting permafrost,” as claimed by Audubon, can be determined only by finding the long-term trend in the thickness of the active layer.

Specialists studying this phenomenon publish reports in the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring Network, in NOAA’s annual Arctic Report Card, and elsewhere. The 2012 Report Card edition had an extensive section on permafrost.  A quote from this edition pours freezing water on Audubon’s “melting permafrost” claim:  “Active-layer thickness on the Alaskan North Slope and in the western Canadian Arctic was relatively stable during 1995-2011,” it notes.

The NOAA Arctic Reports do have a heavy dose of alarmist rhetoric, especially in the boilerplate introductory sections, but the actual measurements and data present nothing that supports the alarmist polemic of the day. The long term pattern shows centuries-long slow warming, with multi-decadal fluctuations; significant or alarming anthropogenic trends are simply not there.

Audubon should stay away from areas where it has no expertise – specifically imagined or invented catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. Audubon’s equivocal policy on wind power ostensibly calls on wind energy developers to consider planning, siting and operating wind farms to avoid bird carnage; the Society claims to support “strong enforcement” of laws protecting birds and wildlife. On the other hand, the same Audubon policy speaks about “species extinctions and other catastrophic effects of climate change” and “pollution from fossil fuels.”

When read together, this schizophrenic policy clearly puts Audubon on the side of climate alarmism – with the loss of birds and bats merely a small price to pay in an effort to “save the planet.”

Another article shows that Audubon’s alarmist climate claims, rather than bird safety, clearly dominate president David Yarnold’s concerns. Beneath a picture of a forest fire, an editorial quotes him: “Climate change is the greatest threat to birds and biodiversity since humans have been on the planet.”

Yarnold’s editorial is rife with  alarmist propaganda: increasing drought (data show drought  decreasing in the United States over the past 110 years in regions where we have temperature and rainfall measurements) … increasing forest fires (not so, according to actual data) …increasing species extinctions  (virtually no extinctions have occurred except on isolated islands where predators were introduced by humans) … and more flooding (there has been nothing outside normal experience).

Audubon needs to concentrate on saving birds and other flying creatures from the very real death machines that kill countless thousands, perhaps millions, of them every year. These killing machines include wind turbines, that chop up raptors, song birds and bats, and heliostats (installations using mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays) that incinerate them.

Bats pollinate crops and consume insects. However, the number of bats killed has been conservatively estimated at 600,000 annually, and may be as high as 900,000.  The Ivanpah solar-to-electrical-energy plant in California’s Mojave Desert actually ignites birds in flight; the dying birds are called “streamers,” because they emit smoke as they fall from the sky. One report estimates that over 100 golden eagles and 300 red tailed hawks are killed yearly by wind turbines at California’s Altamont Pass, but another calculates that millions of birds and bats are killed every year by US wind turbines.

Audubon needs to get some real science in its research and show true empathy for the human-caused deaths that our flying friends face on a daily basis

Robert Endlich served as a weather officer in the US Air Force for 21 Years. He has a BA in geology and an MS in meteorology and is a member of Chi Epsilon Pi, the national Meteorology Honor Society. (A more extensive version of this article can be found on MasterResource.org)

Categories: On the Blog

America’s National Debt Bomb Caused by the Welfare State

Somewhat Reasonable - February 10, 2016, 11:12 AM

The news is filled with the everyday zigzags of those competing against each other for the Democrat and Republican Party nominations to run for the presidency of the United States. But one of the most important issues receiving little or no attention in this circus of political power lusting is the long-term danger from the huge and rising Federal government debt.

The Federal debt has now crossed the $19 trillion mark. When George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001, Uncle Sam’s debt stood at $5 trillion. When President Bush left office in January of 2009, it had increased to $10 trillion. Now into seven years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the Federal debt has almost doubled again.

And it is going to get much worse, according to the Congressional Budget Office. On January 26, 2016, the CBO released it latest “Budget and Economic Outlook” analysis for the next ten years, from 2016 to 2026.

Continuing Deficits and Growing National Debt

The economists at the CBO estimate that the Federal budget deficit for the fiscal year, 2016, will be $544 billion, or $105 billions more than Uncle Sam’s budget deficit in fiscal year 2015. And each year’s budget deficit will continue to be larger than the previous year from here on. Indeed, the CBO estimates the Federal government’s annual deficits will once more be over $1 trillion starting in 2022 and thereafter.

Between 2016 and 2026, the Federal debt, as a result, is projected to increase by a cumulative amount of almost $9.5 trillion, for a total national debt of around $30 trillion just ten years from now.

The reason for the continuing ocean of Federal red ink is the fact that while government revenues are projected to be around 49.5 percent higher in fiscal year 2026 ($5,035 trillion) than in fiscal year 2016 ($3.376 trillion), government spending will be over 63 percent more in fiscal year 2016 ($6,401 trillion) than in fiscal year 2016 ($3,919 trillion).

Understanding the Fiscal History of America

The famous Austrian-born economist, Joseph A. Schumpeter (1883-1950), once wrote an article on, “The Crisis of the Tax State” (1918). He said the following about a country’s fiscal history:

“[A country’s] budget is the skeleton of the state stripped of all misleading ideologies – a collection of hard facts . . . The fiscal history of a people is above all an essential part of its general history. An enormous influence on the fate of nations emanates from the economic bleeding which the needs of the state necessitates, and from the use to which its results are put . . . The view of the state, of its nature, its forms, its fate [are] seen form the fiscal side . . .

“The spirit of a people, its cultural level, its social structure, the deeds its policy may prepare – all this and more is written in its fiscal history, stripped of all phrases. He who know how to listen to its message here discerns the thunder of world history more clearly than anywhere else . . . The public finances are one of the best starting points for an investigation of society, especially though not exclusively of its political life.”

A hundred years ago, around 1913, before the beginning of the First World War, all levels of government in the United States – Federal, State, and local – taxed and spent less than 8 percent of national income, with the Federal government absorbing less than half of this amount.

By 1966, Federal outlays alone took 17.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product and are projected to rise to 21.2 percent in 2016 and will to 23.1 percent of GDP by 2026. Over the fifty years between 1966 and 2016, government outlays as a percentage of GDP increased by nearly 24 percent, and will be growing more over the next decade.

The Welfare State Drives the Deficits and the Debt

What can America’s fiscal history, as Schumpeter suggested, tell us about the direction and drift of government over the last half-century and looking to the future? Perhaps not too surprisingly for both supporters and critiques of the welfare state, it has been and is being driven by the continuing expansion of the “mandatory spending” of the redistributive “entitlement” programs.

In 1966, the intergenerational redistribution program known as Social Security absorbed 2.6 percent of GDP; in 2016, it will suck up 4.9 percent, for a nearly 90 percent increase. And by 2026, Social Security spending will represent 5.9 percent of GDP, for a 20 percent increase over the coming decade. (See my article, “There is No Social Security Santa Claus.”)

Major Federal-funded health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid and related programs) siphoned off a mere 0.1 percent of GDP in 1966; in 2016 this will have increased to 5.6 percent of GDP, a more than 500 percent increase over fifty years. By 2026, the CBO estimates, these Federal health care programs (now including ObamaCare) will take 6.6 percent of GDP, for a nearly 18 percent increase in the next ten years. (See my article, “For Healthcare the Best Government Plan is No Plan.”)

Summing over all of these and related mandatory entitlement spending programs, in 1966 the redistributive welfare state absorbed 4.5 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product; in 2016 this will be 13.3 percent of GDP, and 15 percent of GDP in 2026. Or a 317 percent increase over the fifty years between 1966 and 2016, and an additional 13 percent increase between 2016 and 2026.

Due to all of the deficit spending to finance this redistributive largess over what the government collects in tax revenues to fund it, interest on the Federal debt will increase from 1. 4 percent of GDP in 2016 to 3.0 percent of GDP in 2026, or more than a 100 percent increase in the interest cost on the national debt over the next ten years as a percentage of GDP.

Welfare state spending plus mandatory interest payments on the Federal debt now absorbs around 60 percent of everything Uncle Sam spends.

For a point of comparison in this tilted direction of government spending, all non-entitlement spending represented 11. 5 percent of GDP in 1966, and will be down to 6.5 percent of GDP in 2016 and is projected to be 5.2 percent of GDP in 2026. This represents a decrease as a percentage of GDP in non-entitlement spending of 45 percent over the last fifty years, and another 20 percent decline as a percentage of GDP over the coming decade.

Now in absolute terms all government spending has grown over the last fifty years. But what America’s fiscal history highlights, looking over the half-century that is behind us, is that it is the dynamics of a growing domestic welfare state that is fundamentally driving the country’s financial ruin.

The Force of Collectivist Ideology and Political Privilege

This has been coming about due to two fundamental and interconnected factors at work: First, the ideology of a right to other people’s wealth and income, and, second, the democratization of political privilege.

For more than a century, now, the older American political tradition of classical liberalism, with its belief in individual liberty, economic freedom and constitutionally limited government, has been slowly but surely eroded by the “progressive” ideal of political, social and economic collectivism.

These dangers were already present in the late nineteenth century with the rise of the socialist movement, and its then appearance on this side of the Atlantic. “The workers,” however, were not the vanguard of socialism in either Europe or America. It was mostly intellectuals and political philosophers who arrogantly dreamed dreams of new and “better worlds” designed and planned according to what they considered a more moral and “socially just” society. (See my article, “American Progressives are Bismarck’s Grandchildren.”)

Its Not Your Fault and Others Owe You

Over the decades, for a century now, the socialist criticisms of capitalist society have eaten away, little by little, the understanding, belief in, and desire for a truly free market society. Your pay seems to be too low in comparison to what you think or have been told you deserve? It must be due to the exploitation and unfairness of profit-making businessmen.

You’re afraid that you might not have the health care you want or the retirement money you think you’ll need, surely it must because “the rich” have squandered their unearned wealth on things other than what “the people” really need. Your child cannot go to the topnotch college or university you would want them to attend for your offspring’s future? That can be cured along with those other injustices by taxing or regulating those who have more than you, and who don’t deserve it.

The social game is rigged; nothing is your fault, it is all due to those who have more than you, and who don’t pay their “fair share” to fund what “working people” like you need and have a “right” to.

When such thinking is repeated enough, time-after-time over years and, now, generations, a large number of people in our society implicitly take it all to be true. If only government has sufficient taxing and regulating authority, the world can be made better for “the many” against the greed and social disregard of the few (the “one percent.”)

Losing the Spirit and Practice of Individualism

The dangers in all this was warned about long ago, for instance, by J. Laurence Laughlin, an economist who was the founder of the economics department at the University of Chicago. In his 1887 book, The Elements of Political Economy Laughlin said:

“Socialism, or the reliance on the state for help, stands in antagonism to self-help, or the activity of the individual. That body of people certainly is the strongest and the happiest in which each person is thinking for himself, is independent, self-respecting, self-confident, self-controlled and self-mastered. Whenever a man does a thing for himself he values it infinitely more than if it is done for him, and he is better for having done it . . .

“If, on the other hand, men constantly hear it said that they are oppressed and downtrodden, deprived of their own, ground down by the rich, and that the state will set all things right for them in time, what other effect can that teaching have on the character and energy of the ignorant than the complete destruction of all self-help?

“They begin to think that they can have commodities which they have not helped to produce. They begin to believe that two and two make five. It is for this reason that socialistic teaching strikes at the root of individuality and independent character, and lowers the self-respect of men who ought to be taught self-reliance . . .

“The right policy is a matter of supreme importance, and we should not like to see in our country the system of interference as exhibited in the paternal theory of government existing in France and Germany.”

What Professor Laughlin feared and warned about nearly 130 years ago has increasingly come to pass with the social attitudes and political desires and demands of too many of our fellow countrymen. European collectivism invaded and continues to conquer America’s original spirit and politics of individualism.

The Rise of Democratized Privilege

The other force at work in bringing about our growing fiscal socialism is what I would suggest calling democratized privilege. Before the rise of democratic governments in the nineteenth century, the State was seen as a political force for exploitation and abuse. Under monarchy, kings and princes used their taxing and policing powers to plunder their subjects for their own gain as while as for the benefit of the aristocrats and noblemen who gave allegiance, obedience and support to the monarch. Power, privilege and plunder were for the political few at the expense of the many in society.

At first the call for democratic government was to place limits on the powers of kings and their lords-of-the-manor supporters, so to restrain political abuses that threatened or violated individuals’ rights in their lives, liberty and private property.

But with the rise of socialist and welfare-statist ideas as the nineteenth century progressed, there emerged a new ideal: a welfare-providing government for “the masses.” The view came to be that government was no longer a fearful master needed restraint and limits. No, democratically-elected government was now conceived as “the people’s” servant to do its bidding and to provide it with benefits.

People hoping to gain favors and privileges from new democratic governments formed themselves into groups of common economic interests. In this way, they aimed to pool the costs of the lobbying and politicking that was required to obtain what they increasingly came to view as their “right,” that is, to those things to which they were told and demanded they were “entitled.”

No longer were redistributive privileges to be limited to the few, as under the old system of monarchy. Now privileges and favors were to be available to all, heralding a new age, an Age of Democratized Privilege. More and more people are dependent upon government spending of one form or another for significant portions of their income. And what the government does not redistribute directly, it furnishes indirectly through industrial regulations price and production controls, and occupational licensing procedures.

Government Dependency and Resistance to Repeal

As dependency upon the State has expanded, the incentives to resist any diminution in either governmental spending or intervention have increased. All cuts in government spending and repeal of interventions threaten an immediate and often significant reduction in the incomes of the affected, privileged groups.

And since many of the benefits that accrue to society as a whole from greater market competition and more self-responsibility are not immediate but rather are spread out over a period of time, there are few present-day advocates of a comprehensive reversal of all that makes up the modern welfare state, and most certainly not in an election year.

While it may not be the center of political discussion and debate in this election year, the dilemma of ever-worsening government deficits and expanding national debt is not going to go away.

It will have to be, eventually, faced and confronted. But as Joseph Schumpeter pointed out to us, the fiscal history of a country tells us the underlying ideological and cultural currents at work that pull a nation in a particular direction.

The real dilemma is not whether this or that government program can be cut or reduced in terms of how fast it is growing at present and future taxpayers’ expense. The real challenge is to reverse the political and cultural trends toward more and growing fiscal redistributive socialism.

This will require a strong and articulate revival of a culture and a politics of individualism. It is, ultimately, a battle of ideas, not budgetary line items.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

The Zika Virus Disease Outbreak: What Should We Do?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 3:33 PM

The latest public health panic is over a disease most Americans (even doctors) have never heard of. Zika virus disease (ZVD) is carried by the same mosquito, Aedes aegypti, as other Third World diseases, including dengue and chikungunya.

ZVD is asymptomatic in about 80 percent of infected individuals. In about 20 percent, it causes a mild, self-limited disease with fever, rash, joint pains, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

Some 4,000 babies in Brazil have reportedly been born with severe birth defects, including microcephaly (small head), and officials suspect ZVD is the cause.

Mild disease, rash, birth defects: reminds one of rubella (German measles). Viruses can cause birth defects.

On Feb 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the same category as Ebola. American health authorities issued a travel advisory for pregnant women planning to visit Brazil or many other countries in Latin America or the Caribbean

A case of apparent sexual transmission in Dallas led to a warning that men who had been exposed to Zika should abstain from sex with a partner who might be pregnant.

Zika is by no means new. It was first identified in humans in 1947 in Uganda’s Zika Forest. What is new, and “scary,” according to CDC director Thomas Frieden, is the association with microcephaly and other fetal harm.

There is, however, still no definitive proof that microcephaly and associated defects are caused by ZVD. Some interesting facts:

  • So far the microcephaly cases are all in Brazil, not in the 35 other countries with ZVD, though an earlier cluster was observed in 2014 in French Polynesia.
  • As of Feb 3, only 17 of 404 cases of confirmed microcephaly tested positive for Zika.
  • Brazil had seen an increase in pertussis in fully vaccinated children, so early in 2015 officials mandated immunizing all pregnant women with DTaP (diphtheria/tetanus/acellular pertussis) vaccine, without awaiting proof of efficacy or safety in the developing baby. Only 32 pregnant women were enrolled in a trial of this vaccine, and no results are posted yet.
  • A variable number of months after the vaccinations, the number of microcephaly cases increased from essentially zero in October 2015 to 1,200 in November, and continued to climb.
  • Because of a measles outbreak, there was a major vaccination campaign with MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) in Pernambuco, Brazil, in late 2014. This is a live virus vaccine, and many women likely received it in early pregnancy or shortly before becoming pregnant. Congenital rubella syndrome can cause microcephaly among many other problems, but this was not found in surveillance of American women who inadvertently received MMR around the time of conception.

The complex symphony of human development can be thrown off by many things—even a little alcohol. Some birth defects might be related to ZVD. But all environmental exposures need to be scrutinized, including drugs, agricultural chemicals, contaminated water, and vaccines. Remember thalidomide?

The unfortunate babies are being used to promote political causes: legalization of abortion in Latin America, or the fight against “climate change.”

With warmer temperatures, mosquitoes might be able to move further north, it is claimed. But Aedes aegypti arrived in North America around 1980 in a shipment of used tires, not waiting for a temperature increase. And mosquito-transmitted malaria was prevalent in Minnesota during the Little Ice Age. Climate change or not, mosquitoes will not be inconvenienced if we bankrupt our coal industry or ban SUVs.

Travel restrictions would greatly harm the economy of Latin American countries, especially as Brazil is preparing to host the Olympics. Of course there is no screening at all of illegal entrants to the U.S. The key public health measure is mosquito control. Mosquito-borne diseases, after a time when it was thought that even malaria might be wiped out, began increasing worldwide when the U.S. banned the most effective public health weapon of all time: DDT. If Zika causes rethinking of this disastrous decision, even though other deadly threats like malaria have not, it will save millions of lives—and even help us win the war on bed bugs.

The damaged babies are a terrible tragedy. How can we prevent more? Instead of waiting for some future vaccine against a virus that may prove innocent, we could stop transmission now with effective mosquito control in affected areas. We could also immediately stop deliberately exposing women who might be pregnant to medicines or vaccines without thorough safety testing.

[Originally published at Sunshine State News]

Categories: On the Blog

The Meaning of Conservatism

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 3:27 PM

At Saturday’s Republican debate, several candidates were asked to define “conservatism.” Marco Rubio gave a politically-astute answer. He said conservatism embodies three principles: (1) limited government under the framework of the Constitution, (2) free-market economics and (3) peace through strength. Donald Trump gave an answer in keeping with the root word “conserve,” he conserve that which one has.

Russell Kirk, in his book The Conservative Mind, inferred the meaning of conservatism from his study of great “conservative minds” of the past. As summarized by the Kirk Center, conservatism involves six principles. As he wrote more than sixty years ago, I thought I would take the liberty of considering certain great conservative minds of more recent history. I’ll work from the Kirk Center’s template, except for a wholesale substitute for #5.

  1. Belief in a transcendent order or body of natural law that rules society as well as conscience. There is objective truth in the universe, and we can know it. All sources of knowledge testify to this truth, and therefore faith and reason must be reconciled. Furthermore, our knowledge of “self-evident truths” grows over time as we become more aware of our nature and that of the universe.
  1. Affection for the variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrow uniformity and egalitarianism of “radical” systems. We love people, not merely “the people,” and we enjoy our culture as well as other cultures. We love the planet on which we find ourselves and the entire universe in its vastness and in its tiniest details. It is all utterly amazing and beyond full comprehension. And, we are suspicious of those who would seek to impose their designs on society, as they only reveal they have no idea of the limits of their knowledge.
  1. Civilization needs the rule of law and something Adam Smith described as “useful inequality.” This is in contrast to the notion of a “classless society.” Conservatives believe there are natural distinctions among men, leading to inequalities of condition. Conservatives affirm equality before God and the law; anything more leads not only to servitude but also to boredom.
  1. The argument for property is more than economic efficiency. As Pope John Paul II taught, it is that by having something a person can call his own, and by earning his living as opposed to depending on the apparatus of the state, a person is enabled to see himself as a unique and wonderful creature, and to love himself; and, loving himself thusly, and relating to others on the basis of mutual advantage and affection, he is enabled to love others as he loves himself.
  1. That social institutions such as the family, churches, fraternal organizations, for-profit business organizations, charities and even governments, are animated and justified by the choices made by those entering into them. Edmund Burke recognized the “little platoons” of society, John Marshall, “eleemosynary institutions,” and they were the reason Alexis de Tocqueville said “America is great because America is good.” James Buchanan generalized the concept of self-forming social institutions with his theory of clubs. It is the nexus of libertarian and conservative thought, libertarians being concerned with freedom, and conservatives with social institutions.
  1. Conservatives recognize risk and reward involved in change. While we believe in progress, we accept that mistakes are and will be made by those engaged in the process of discovery. Hayek dedicated his book The Constitution of Liberty to “The unknown civilization taking shape in America.” Hopefully, after the election this fall we will again be excited about the great adventure we embarked upon with the founding of this country.
Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Audrey Boerner: Is Frac Sand Mining Safe?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 2:01 PM

In today’s episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Audrey Boerner from the Institute for Wisconsin’s Health Inc. joins research fellow Isaac Orr to talk about the safety of frac sand mining.

Is frac sand mining safe? Audrey Boerner recently authored an extensive, 94-page report identifying potential impacts of frac sand mining and public health in Western Wisconsin. This extensive report examines air quality, water quality and quantity, as well as potential impacts from restoring mined land to non-mining uses (such as agriculture or prairie environments) and quality of life issues.

This scientific, data-driven report found that human health is unlikely to be affected by impacts from air or water quality, and that stress associated from changing land use –similar to Not In My Backyard– sentiments can cause some health-related issues.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland’s Michael Hamilton on What’s UP Radio: Obamacare Squeezes Small Businesses

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 11:32 AM

Michael Hamilton joined The What’s UP Radio Program with Terry Lowry this week to discuss how the Affordable Care Act is squeezing small businesses, and by extension, individuals. Here’s the synopsis from TerryLowry.com:

Obamacare is failing – miserably. Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law in 2010, millions of Americans have been forced to obtain a new – often inferior – health insurance plan. Health insurance premiums have risen dramatically, especially for young adults, and many health insurance companies operating in the Obamacare exchanges have lost millions of dollars. The nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, recently announced it is expecting losses totaling more than $500 million on its 2016 Obamacare plans.

New guest, Michael Hamilton, is the managing editor of Heath Care News  with the Heartland Institute. Michael says there are two categories of people who are feeling the real brunt of Obamacare: The average taxpaying citizen and small business owners. Michael discusses a recent survey conducted by Level Funded Health. Of the more than 2,500 small business questioned, over 85% had an increase of over 25% in their premium rates! The statistics just get worse from there. Listen in!

Now, it is one thing to have an insurance card and health coverage. But what good does it do if you can’t use it? If your doctor doesn’t accept your insurance, you have to find one who does! Many doctors are even opting out of accepting insurance all-together, especially Medicaid of Medicare. Michael Hamilton says, “The government can do three things well: protect life and liberty and property. But what we’ve seen with Obamacare…it’s done the opposite with all three of those things.” People are less free to do what they want with their money in regards to healthcare.

There is hope on the horizon, however. Michael believes it is imperative for everyone to get as many people to vote this March 1 and November 8. “Americans must continue to call out the truth about policies that are being enacted,” he warns.

For more information, see Justin Haskins’ Consumer Power Report #491: “Small Businesses Suffering Under Obamacare.” 

Image via Thinkstock


Categories: On the Blog

When Government Makes Your Choices for You – You End Up with No Choices

Somewhat Reasonable - February 09, 2016, 11:30 AM

The old politician saw is: “The most dangerous place for you in Washington – is between (fill in name of pol) and a camera.” We’ll coin a government saw: “The most dangerous place for you anywhere on the planet – is government between you and the free market.”

Any and every tax, law and regulation – is government placing itself between you and the free market. And, conversely, between the free market and you. And, of course, it makes the market less free. It’s inherent. The bigger the tax – the less money you have for the market, and the less money marketeers have to operate. The bigger the laws and regulations – the less freedom we and the marketeers have to maneuver.

Think of government as a straight jacket. The bigger government is – the tighter are the arms constricting the marketplace.

We have spent years now warning you of the unbelievably narrowing nature of the ridiculous regulation known as Network Neutrality. Which is an all-encompassing government straight jacket locked onto the Internet. So huge is this regulatory power grab – it makes the government the preemptive decider on all things Internet marketplace.

We Net Neutrality realists warned of a Mother-May-I regulatory regime. Where every once-free marketeer would be reduced to having to ask government for permission before trying anything new – otherwise known as innovating, a crucial component of a free market.

Net Neutrality proponents repeatedly denied that this obvious reality – was an obvious reality. Now that the Barack Obama Administration has slammed Net Neutrality down upon us – this obvious reality is playing out. The once-free market – is now totally un-free.

Rather than testing new ideas in the marketplace to see if We the Consumers will like them – the marketeers must first go to our government overlords and see if they will approve them.

To wit: Zero-rating. A fancy phrase for a routine free market feature. Zero-rating toll-free phone numbers – are the companies you’re calling paying for the calls so you don’t. Zero-rating free shipping – is the companies from whom you’re purchasing paying for delivery so you don’t. Under Net Neutrality, bandwidth hog companies paying for their bandwidth so you don’t – may be outlawed.

We don’t yet know – our government overlords haven’t yet decided. So the $1 trillion Internet marketplace twists in the wind – while we await permission to try zero-rating online. Uncertainty is a huge bane of the market – Net Neutrality is uber-uncertainty on steroids.

On the Web – the biggest bandwidth hog is video. So we’re talking companies like Netflix and Google’s YouTube (who together, all by themselves, consume half of all U.S. bandwidth). To address this, different cellular phone companies want to try different variations of zero-rating.

T-Mobile’s Binge On would allow you unlimited access to twenty-four different video-intensive sites (with more likely to come) – without them counting against your data cap. (Their list includes Netflix – not Google’s YouTube.) Verizon’s FreeBee would allow any company that wishes to pay for their bandwidth (or per-click, another routine marketplace wrinkle) and join Verizon’s unlimited list plan (that list too would likely grow).

All of which are new and innovative ways to try new pricing models – and address the bandwidth shortage issues the market faces (largely because of government failure). All of which means We the Consumers would be able to afford to do a whole lot more Web surfing – which is good for us, and for every Web company on the planet.

This would be a free marketplace – where We the Consumers choose which plans we prefer. If we watch a lot of YouTube, we’d probably stay away from T-Mobile and choose another provider that includes YouTube in their package. If we don’t care about YouTube, but like Netflix – T-Mobile may be the one for us. Different providers would provide different packages – and constantly update them to make them as attractive to us as possible (for instance, T-Mobile might rush to add YouTube should it prove to be a popular offering).

We the Consumers would have the power. To determine which plans succeed – and which do not. We would have maximum choices – at the lowest price.

Government and its absurd Net Neutrality take this vibrant, choice-rich prospective marketplace – and preemptively strangle it in the crib. Rather than trying out Binge On and FreeBee on us – T-Mobile and Verizon have to beg our government overlords for approval.

Which makes it far less likely we will see either program – or any others from any other providers. Why subject yourself to the time-and-money-waste and egregious annoyance of genuflecting before government – all for permission to offer We the Consumers more for less? These companies don’t need the headache – and can’t afford it.

And how likely is it that an uber-regulatory government that slammed us with Net Neutrality – will be in an un-regulatory mood when it comes to these zero-rating plans? I am not particularly optimistic.

The result of this Net Neutrality inanity? Far fewer choices for us – at much higher prices. (See: ObamaCare.)

And ultimately, just one choice – government: “(T)he ultimate goal (of Net Neutrality) is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” (See: ObamaCare.)

It is and always will be the case: When government makes your choices for you – you end up with no choices.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Tim Bishop: EPA Taking Authority Over Land Using Clean Water Act

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 4:03 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Tim Bishop, a partner in the Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice at MayerBrown LLP, who is serving as counsel for the American Farm Bureau Federation, joins Host H. Sterling Burnett to discuss new EPA regulations that give it authority over land that is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes land in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Delaware and the District of Columbia. These regulations amount to federal zoning imposed on states and localities in the Chesapeake bay watershed under the guise of the clean water act. Bishop shows why this is contrary to the intention and language of the clean water act and of a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers and designed federalism.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Will the American People Be Suckered or Given Succor?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 2:20 PM

The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA), receiving a large bi-partisan approval in the House of Representatives earlier this year, is supposedly going to be taken up in the Senate this week. The provision has been added into the conference report (the final version of a bill to be considered by both chambers of congress) of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015.

PITFA would continue the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) which was extended multiple times over the last seventeen years. ITFA was first signed into law in 1998. Originally intended to be permanent but negotiated to be temporary, the Act bans federal, state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on online sales and Internet access, and protects consumers by limiting taxes on transactions to one state.

If ITFA expires then Internet using consumers will be burdened with at least $16.4 billion a year in new taxes. Given a still sluggish economy one may be tempted to think that passage the Senate would be eager to avoid this tax. After all, what politician wants to go on the campaign trail this fall bragging that they have imposed a massive new tax specifically targeting Internet users? What politician wants to explain why that while the federal government spends millions on making broadband available to citizens that they voted to fleece those very same citizens, driving up costs and hence reducing the amount of broadband usage in the U.S.?

To date, only one thing has prevented passage of a permanent moratorium and the elimination of disparate, discriminatory tax treatment of the Internet–politics. That threat remains for the upcoming vote but the tactics have gotten even more desperate.

For years, big-government pro-taxers, particularly in the Senate have put off a permanent fix in an effort to force Congress, and the nation, to accept a massive tax increase and the radical expansion of government authority with a legislative vehicle once oxymoronically named the Mainstreet Fairness Act. They have often deployed the parliamentary tricks that voters increasingly reject to thwart the vote. This time, however, there may be nowhere to hide.

Rumor has it that Senators Enzi of Wyoming, Alexander of Tennessee, and Durbin of Illinois will attempt to strip the PITFA language from the proposal and support the tax using a parliamentary trick. To be successful the three Senators need 57 other Senators to side with them.

Simply put, Senators who side with Senators Enzi and Alexander are supporting a massive tax increase. Those who oppose this trick are voting against a tax increase, standing to protect the Internet and its users from a discriminatory tax.

Opposing the Internet crushing tax, a broad coalition of 45 organizations from across the country, including Madery Bridge, recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging its leadership to finally, permanently ban taxes on Internet access and end the game-playing with national policy.

The vote is an easy one to make for those who oppose massive government and huge tax increases. Finally called out of the shadows to vote in the light of day, the people will see where their Senators line up on the issue allowing citizens to decide for themselves whether their Senators should be ordered out of the U.S. Senate.

Categories: On the Blog

“Keep it in the Ground” at Work in the Real World

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 12:35 PM

Going forward, we know what the new year of environmental activism looks like. They have told us. They have made it perfectly clear. They call it: “Keep it in the ground.”

The campaign is about all fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal. Instead of an “all of the above” energy policy, when it comes to fossil fuels, they want “none of the above.” A big part of the effort is focused on preventing the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands—which is supported by presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton. The recent moratorium of leasing federal lands for coal mining, announced by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, is considered a great victory for “keep it in the ground.”

I wrote about the movement in December. Last month, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion editorial for one of its leaders, Bill McKibben: “How to drive a stake through the heart of zombie fossil fuel.” In it, McKibben states: “In May, a coalition across six continents is being organized to engage in mass civil disobedience to ‘keep it in the ground.’”

While big news items fuel the fight, smaller, symbolic wins are part of the strategy. Introducing the plan late last year, The Hill states: “It stretches into local fights, over small drilling wells, coal mines and infrastructure.”

Here’s what keep it in the ground looks like in the real world—in “local fights” and “over small drilling wells.”

In a suburb of Albuquerque known more for computer chip-making than crude oil extraction, the anti-fossil fuel crowd is doing everything they can to prevent a “small drilling well” from being developed.

In Rio Rancho, New Mexico, the major employer is Intel. It is also home to several call centers—though the Sprint call center just announced it is closing and cutting 394 jobs. New Mexico has the nation’s highest jobless rate: 6.8%.

Rio Rancho is in Sandoval County—which currently, in the northern part of the county, has 600 oil-and-gas wells on tribal or federal lands. According to the NM Tax Research Institute, in 2013, when oil prices were higher, Sandoval County producers shipped 1.08 million barrels of oil worth $86 million and 394.1 million MCF (one MCF = one thousand cubic feet) of natural gas worth $1.6 billion.

After leasing the mineral rights last year, an Oklahoma company, SandRidge Energy Inc., is hoping to drill an exploratory well. The well, which has already received approval from the state Oil and Conversation Division (OCD), is “about four miles outside of the Rio Rancho city limits,” reports the Albuquerque Journal. It will be a vertical well, drilled to a depth of 10,500 feet—which is expected to take about 25 days. Until the well is drilled and logged, engineers will not know whether the resource will warrant development or, if it does, if it will require hydraulic fracturing. The OCD permit is to drill, complete, and produce the well. Jami Grindatto, president and CEO of the Sandoval Economic Alliance says the environmental footprint would be “small.”

Several previous exploratory wells have been drilled in the Albuquerque Basin that were determined not to be economically viable—though oil was found.

To begin drilling, SandRidge needs a zoning variance from the county. On December 10, the Planning and Zoning Committee held a contentious meeting to hear public comment on the SandRidge application. So many wanted to speak, there wasn’t time, nor space, to accommodate them. Another meeting, in a larger venue, was scheduled for January 28. There, dozens of people spewed generic talking points against fracking; speaking vaguely about pollution, earthquakes, and/or water contamination. The Committee, to no avail, asked presenters to stay on topic and address just this one well—this application.

A few folks braved the hostile crowd and spoke in support of the project—only to be booed.

It was in this atmosphere that the Committee recommended that the County Commissioners deny the request. Essentially, they threw up their hands and acknowledged that they weren’t equipped to deal with the intricacies of the application—which is why such decisions are better made at the state levels, where there are engineers and geologists who understand the process.

The Sandoval County Commissioners may still approve the special use permit at the February 18 meeting—as they are the final decision makers.

In December, Sandoval County Commissioner James Dominguez, District 1, said he “has some major concerns that the drilling could compromise the water supply and air quality in Rio Rancho.” KOAT News cites Dominguez as saying: “I know that eventually, in time, it will pollute our water sources”—this despite the definitive August 2015 EPA study released that confirmed hydraulic fracturing does not pollute the water supply.

In the past few years, when oil prices were higher, Encana and WPX drilled some 200 wells in the same geology, 70 of them in Sandoval County. Not one single instance of any interference, damage, or invasion of fresh water aquifers has occurred. For that matter, over the past 50 years of production in Sandoval County, even with technology and safety standards that were not as advanced or rigorous as todays, there has not been one instance of aquifer harm. Perhaps the upcoming meeting will be an opportunity to provide more factual information to the political decision makers. (Readers are encouraged to send supportive comments to the commissioners and/or attend the February 18 meeting.)

One “small drilling well” outside of a community on the edge of Albuquerque that could create jobs and help the local and state economy could be blocked because of a few dozen agitators who could cause the county to “keep it in the ground.”

One day later, another small band from the anti-fossil-fuel movement also celebrated an almost insignificant victory that adds to the momentum. This one in California.

On January 29, a settlement was reached in a lawsuit environmental groups filed two years against two federal agencies that they claim permitted offshore fracking and other forms of high-pressure well stimulation techniques: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). The settlement requires public notice for any future offshore applications for fracking and acidification. Additionally, the agencies have agreed to provide what’s termed “a programmatic” environmental assessment of the potential impacts of such techniques on the coastal environment.

To read the press releases from the environmental groups, one would think that these government agencies were in cahoots with ExxonMobil and that they were sneaking around, letting the oil companies run amok. In fact, the companies who’ve applied for drilling permits, have followed a very stringent application process—under which they were approved. However, once exploratory wells were drilled, they were found not to be good candidates for hydraulic fracturing.

A consulting petroleum geologist, with more than 30 years’ experience—almost exclusively in California—explained it to me this way: “There’s not a lot of hydraulic fracturing going on offshore, because, similar to most of California, it simply isn’t effective. Most of the rocks are adequately fractured by Mother Nature. Generally speaking fracking is effective in a few places where it has been used without incident since the 1940s. It is not an issue.”

The settlement requires “a programmatic” environmental assessment be completed by May 28—during which time “the agencies will withhold approval of drilling permits.” Sources I spoke with, told me that this, too, was not a big deal—which would explain why ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute agreed not to oppose the settlement. In the current low-priced oil environment companies are not clamoring for new drilling targets. It is believed that once the assessment is complete, the existing requirements will be found to be appropriate and permitting can move forward.

Additionally, offshore rigs are currently shutdown in the region—an overreaction to a pipeline break last spring.

So, if this “settlement” is much ado about nothing, why even bring it up? Because, it is an example of those “local fights;” the little “wins” that motive the “keep it in the ground” movement and encourage them for the bigger fights—like hydraulic fracturing in the deep water Gulf of Mexico.

These two stories are likely just a sampling of the battles being played out in county commissions and government agencies throughout America. As in these cases, a small handful of activists are shaping policy that affects all of us and impacts the economics of our communities by, potentially, cutting funding for education and public services.

“Keep it in the ground” is the new face of environmental activism. If those who understand the role energy plays in America and our freedoms don’t engage, don’t attend meetings and send statements, and don’t vote, the policy makers have almost no choice but to think these vocal few represent the many.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Categories: On the Blog

Obama, Democrats and Bureaucrats Bury America’s Future Under More Federal Regulations

Somewhat Reasonable - February 08, 2016, 11:10 AM

America’s abysmal 0.7% economic growth during the fourth quarter of 2015 meant the annual growth rate was an anemic 2.4% … and average annual growth for the six-year Obama era a pathetic 2.2 percent.

This is “dead last compared to six other recession recoveries since 1960,” Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore points out. The six averaged a robust 4.0% while the Reagan era recovery averaged a “sizzling” 4.8% over six years. That means the Obama recovery lost $1.8 trillion (in constant 2009 money) that would have been pumped into the economy under an average recovery, and $2.8 trillion under a Reagan-style rebound, Moore says, citing a congressional Joint Economic Committee analysis.

But job growth is “strong,” the White House insists, averaging 280,000 each of the last three months of 2015 (and a mere 151,000 last month). This deceptive claim hides the fact that 94 million Americans over age 16 are not working. The horrid 62.7% labor force participation rate remains the worst in decades.

Under an average post-1960 recovery, 5 million more Americans would be working today than actually are; a Reagan recovery would have 12 million more working now. Even an average recovery would have given every American an after-tax annual income $3,339 higher than he or she is actually getting today, the JEC calculates. That’s why tens of millions are on unemployment, disability and food stamps.

Many jobs created during the Obama era are part-time, held by people who want full-time work but cannot find it – and those part-time slots offer lower salaries, benefits and job security. That means family bread winners must work several jobs to make ends meet, often suffering the adverse health effects of increased stress and sleep deprivation: ulcers, weight gain, strokes, heart attacks, alcohol, drugs, suicide.

While the official jobless rate is 5.0% the real one is 10% or higher, since the official rate ignores those who have given up looking and dropped out of the analysis – or have entered the cash only, barter, pay-little-income-tax economy. Moreover, jobless rates for black and Hispanic Americans are much higher. The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger notes that black unemployment is 9% in Texas, 12% in South Carolina, and 13% in Arkansas, again not counting those too demoralized to look for work.

What has gone wrong with the American economy and job-creating machine?

First of all, the Obama Administration has deliberately destroyed tens of thousands of jobs in the name of preventing “dangerous manmade climate change” and “fundamentally transforming” our energy, economic, social and legal systems – via its war on coal, oil, natural gas, manufacturing, and the vast majority of economic activities on government controlled lands in the western states and Alaska.

Entire communities, states and regions are being hammered. If these policies continue, millions more Americans will lose their jobs in the next few years.

Second, government has simply gotten much too big, powerful and unaccountable – at the local and state level, and especially at the federal level. It is not coincidental that five of the ten wealthiest counties in the United States are in the Washington, DC area. Members of Congress and 20% of federal bureaucrats earn well into six-figure incomes, while many lawyers and lobbyists working the legislative and regulatory hallways and back rooms earn millions annually.

According to carefully nurtured mythology, our “public servants” are more knowledgeable and altruistic than almost anyone in the private sector; and they are dedicated to finding and punishing miscreants who would routinely rob, cheat and pollute if it weren’t for the lawmakers and regulators. It does happen. But IRS, VA, EPA, Benghazi, Gold King, Flint, Michigan and countless other examples dramatize how false this narrative is – as do multiple studies by Congress, Ron Arnold, E&E Legal, myself and many others.

In far too many cases, the president and his regulators are arrogant, incompetent, negligent, abusive and vindictive. While they still employ the formal regulatory process (draft rules, comment periods, reviews and final rulemaking), they increasingly avoid it via executive orders, guidance memos, informal bulletins and other tactics that have equally effective regulatory impact. They also use investigations, tax exemption denials, tax audits, warning letters, land and property seizures, and selective arrests, fines and prosecutions, to compel businesses, nonprofits, political groups and individuals to kowtow to them.

Government agencies and officials routinely coordinate or collude with activist groups to develop and promote policies and regulations, often employing secret personal email accounts, off-site meetings that avoid transparency, and million-dollar payments to activists who rubberstamp and promote the rules. They exaggerate and manipulate data and studies to justify policies and regulations, while demanding larger budgets, more personnel, more power to control our lives, livelihoods and business operations.

And yet even shady, incompetent or blatantly illegal actions are shielded by colleagues, judges, laws, politicians and the media from any accountability, liability or penalty. And policies and rules arising from these questionable to illegal means are rarely overturned by the courts.

Large corporations and wealthy individuals can often survive, even thrive, under these conditions – especially if they secure mandates, subsidies and government-guaranteed loans for their products. They also use laws, regulations and bureaucracies to stifle competition. Small businesses cannot even read the mountains of laws and regulations, much less comprehend them or know they are in compliance.

* The Tax Code is 74,000 pages and 33 million words long, counting important cases and interpretations. America’s 35% corporate tax rate is the highest among all developed countries.

* The Code of Federal Regulations is 175,000 pages long and coupled with more than 1.4 million pages of ten-point-type Federal Register proposed and final rules published just since 1993.

* The 2015 Federal Register contained a record 81,611 pages. The 2016 FR will likely be even longer, as some 60 federal departments, agencies and commissions have more than 3,000 regulations in the pipeline, to implement and impose every remaining item on the Obama agenda.

* Over 4,450 federal crimes are embedded in those laws and regulations – and neither an inability to understand the complex edicts nor an absence of intent to violate them is a defense.

* Complying with all these regulations costs American businesses and families $1.9 trillion per year. That’s one-tenth of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product – $5,900 a year for every American citizen.

* EPA’s new 70 ppb ozone standard will likely put half of all U.S. counties out of compliance and close down transportation, housing and factory projects, for minuscule to imaginary health benefits.

* EPA’s Clean Power Plan will cost up to $73 billion annually in higher electricity prices, force states to shutter their coal-fired power plants, and destroy numerous mining, utility and factory jobs – to prevent a hypothetical and undetectable 0.018 degrees C (0.032 degrees F) of warming 85 years from now.

* The 2015 Paris climate treaty will cost some $484 billion per year for the next 25 years, just to replace carbon-based energy with wind, solar and biofuel energy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance calculates.

Now climate activists want EPA to use the Clean Air Act and Paris treaty to regulate and eliminate all vehicle, drilling, pipeline, landfill, gas-fired generator and other CO2 and methane sources, crippling our economy – and then still send hundreds of billions to developing countries for “climate reparations.”

But as climate scientist John Christy recently told Congress, the entire Obama climate agenda is based on computer models that do not work. “The real word is not going along with rapid warming” assertions, he emphasized. “The models need to go back to the drawing board.” And EPA’s rules need to be scrapped.

You may despise politics. But the politicians and bureaucrats are hot on your trail – and Democrats running for president would put Obama’s policies on steroids. (So would Michael Bloomberg). So get motivated, informed and involved – before our vibrant free enterprise republic is only a dim memory.

Categories: On the Blog
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