On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Michael Bastasch: Upcoming ICCC10 Panelist, Talking Energy Policy

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 3:42 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Research Fellow Isaac Orr talks with The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch. Bastasch is going to be a panelist at the upcoming International Conference on Climate Change taking place in Washington D.C. on June 11 and 12. Bastasch and Orr discuss energy policy.

During the podcast, Bastasch and Orr touch on many topics including the climate change debate and renewable energy. Orr explains that his preference for oil and coal are based on renewable energy’s inability to compete at this time with fossil fuels. Bastasch explains that the time where renewable efficiencies equal that of fossil fuels may still be a ways off. Bastasch also gives a sneak peek as to the content of his presentation at ICCC10.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly: Global Warming Skeptic Embarrasses Environmental Defense Fund in TV Debate

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 2:09 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 everyFridaywith a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Why Does John Kerry Invest in Fossil Fuel Stocks?
Ron Arnold, The Daily Caller
John Kerry talks a good game about how we should all reduce our carbon footprint, but he doesn’t put his wife’s money where his mouth is. Kerry invests in at least 365 securities connected to fossil fuel industries.  Among the “sinners” in Kerry’s portfolio: ExxonMobil and a Canadian firm with ties to the Keystone XL pipeline. READ MORE


Obamacare Strains Emergency Rooms
Jim Waters, The Heartlander
Yet another Obamacare promise broken: Three-quarters of doctors responding to a nationwide survey conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians indicate they have seen an increase in ER visits since Obamacare became law. READ MORE


Video – Heartland Friend Marc Morano Embarrasses the Environmental Defense Fund in TV Debate
Jim Lakely, Somewhat Reasonable
Carol Andress, director of legislative operations for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), was humiliated in a televised debate with CFACT’s Marc Morano. It is impossible to overstate what a blow-out this debate was for Morano. He was the Harlem Globetrotters to EDF’s Washington Generals.  READ MORE


Featured Podcast: Dr. Brad Rodu on FDA’s Missing Tobacco Data
Heartland Senior Fellow Dr. Brad Rodu urges the Food & Drug Administration to “show its work.” Rodu says the raw data of taxpayer-funded studies on tobacco use are being kept from the public. Meanwhile, government agencies selectively release sound-bites to media outlets and spin the story towards preferred narratives. LISTEN TO MORE




Heartland – A Great Nonprofit If you love The Heartland Institute and its efforts on behalf of individual liberty and smaller government, tell the world! You have an opportunity to help us make even more of a difference. GreatNonprofits – a review site like TripAdvisor – honors highly reviewed nonprofits with its Top-Rated Awards. Won’t you help us raise visibility for our work by posting a review of your experience with us? All reviews will be visible to potential donors and volunteers. It’s easy and takes only 3 minutes! GET STARTED NOW

No, Affordable Oil Will Not Cause A New Great Depression
James M. Taylor and Justin Haskins, Forbes
Fracking for oil and natural gas has created thousands of jobs in the United States. With those jobs come billions of dollars in government tax revenues and immeasurable U.S. economic benefits. What’s not to like? Democratic Party strategist Robert Weiner claims, implausibly, that America’s new energy boom will cause a new Great Depression. READ MORE


A New Threat to Privacy: Automated License-Plate Tracking
Jen Kuznicki, The Heartlander
“It’s alarming that one company said they gathered about three million records a day, scooping up info to sell to other companies and possibly the government,” said Melissa Ngo, privacy consultant and former senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “This is personal information about where you’ve been and where you’re likely go to, because most of us have set patterns for work, school, and home life.” READ MORE


How Google and Netflix Profit From FCC’s Net Neutrality Power Grab
Warner Todd Huston, The Heartlander
“Net neutrality is massive regulatory protectionism for government-crony businesses,” said Seton Motley, president of Less Government. “It outlaws charging bandwidth-hog companies for being bandwidth-hog companies, which means our Internet access prices skyrocket to augment the profits of companies like Google and Netflix.”  READ MORE


Bonus Podcast: Bruno Behrend on Common Core
Heartland Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend joins Dave Elswick to discuss the latest on Common Core. Behrend and Elswick talk about the popular perceptions of Common Core and public education, and why even more government control is not the solution to our educational problems.  LISTEN TO MORE

Obama Threatens States that Refuse to Expand Medicaid
Sean Parnell, The Heartlander
“The real scandal here is the citizens of states send their tax dollars to Washington, DC and the feds will only let them have their money back if they do what Washington wants them to do. It would be a great campaign theme for the various presidential candidates: The only tax money going to Washington should be for what the federal government needs to fulfill its limited, constitutional obligations.” READ MORE



Why Government Deficits and Debt Matter
Richard Ebeling, Epic Times
CBO calculates that by 2025 “modest” annual budget deficits will add more than $7.5 trillion to the existing $18.3 trillion of federal government debt, for a total a decade from now of almost $26 trillion. This will be more than a 40 percent increase in the federal government’s debt over the coming ten-year period.  READ MORE

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Categories: On the Blog

Newly-Released Study Questions Administration’s Conclusions on Ozone

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 1:56 PM

What if “global warming” actually improved ozone levels? A new study from the University of Houston, that collected information the impact of climate change on ozone at ground level, found that when the temperature was routinely higher than normal, in one of the most polluted cities in the country, the ground ozone levels were actually lower, because of other, more impactful side effects of natural climate change. The higher the land surface temperature, the researchers at the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science found, the higher the pressure gradients, which in turn increase offshore winds, which in turn contributed to more days with lower ground-level ozone levels.

This means, of course, that the Obama Administration’s and the EPA’s conclusion that global warming means more higher-ozone days is now in question. Okay – of course, it was always in question, since the conclusion was far from “settled science,” – but in this case, there’s empirical evidence that not only is global warming a phenomenon that could have positive natural impacts, but that the generally-accepted practice of limiting carbon emissions so as to limit land temperature levels so as to limit higher ozone days is flawed, at best. In fact, according to the ICA researchers, higher land temperatures could be responsible for cleaning up cluttered and carbon-choked coastal cities worldwide.

The White House is not likely to acknowledge these results. After all, they’ve claimed that global warming-caused inevitable higher ozone levels are responsible for everything from asthma to hurricanes to the rise in international terrorism. They’ve used such claims as an excuse to throttle industry, including electricity-producing coal plants, and to circumvent the free market, insisting that untested alternative energy sources, not supported by the free market, should receive billions in taxpayer subsidies. After all, they’ve already claimed that such measures will actually reduce global warming, too, and such a conclusion is clearly in question. It’s far from likely that they’ll abandon the “settled science” in order to take a clearer, more comprehensive, fact-based view of climate change and how it truly impacts the human population.

Categories: On the Blog

Updated NASA Data: Global Warming Not Causing Any Polar Ice Retreat

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 9:13 AM

Updated data from NASA satellite instruments reveal the Earth’s polar ice caps have not receded at all since the satellite instruments began measuring the ice caps in 1979. Since the end of 2012, moreover, total polar ice extent has largely remained above the post-1979 average. The updated data contradict one of the most frequently asserted global warming claims – that global warming is causing the polar ice caps to recede.

The timing of the 1979 NASA satellite instrument launch could not have been better for global warming alarmists. The late 1970s marked the end of a 30-year cooling trend. As a result, the polar ice caps were quite likely more extensive than they had been since at least the 1920s. Nevertheless, this abnormally extensive 1979 polar ice extent would appear to be the “normal” baseline when comparing post-1979 polar ice extent.

Updated NASA satellite data show the polar ice caps remained at approximately their 1979 extent until the middle of the last decade. Beginning in 2005, however, polar ice modestly receded for several years. By 2012, polar sea ice had receded by approximately 10 percent from 1979 measurements. (Total polar ice area – factoring in both sea and land ice – had receded by much less than 10 percent, but alarmists focused on the sea ice loss as “proof” of a global warming crisis.)

A 10-percent decline in polar sea ice is not very remarkable, especially considering the 1979 baseline was abnormally high anyway. Regardless, global warming activists and a compliant news media frequently and vociferously claimed the modest polar ice cap retreat was a sign of impending catastrophe. Al Gore even predicted the Arctic ice cap could completely disappear by 2014.

In late 2012, however, polar ice dramatically rebounded and quickly surpassed the post-1979 average. Ever since, the polar ice caps have been at a greater average extent than the post-1979 mean.

Now, in May 2015, the updated NASA data show polar sea ice is approximately 5 percent above the post-1979 average.

During the modest decline in 2005 through 2012, the media presented a daily barrage of melting ice cap stories. Since the ice caps rebounded – and then some – how have the media reported the issue?

The frequency of polar ice cap stories may have abated, but the tone and content has not changed at all. Here are some of the titles of news items I pulled yesterday from the front two pages of a GoogleNews search for “polar ice caps”:

Climate change is melting more than just the polar ice caps

2020: Antarctic ice shelf could collapse

An Arctic ice cap’s shockingly rapid slide into the sea

New satellite maps show polar ice caps melting at ‘unprecedented rate’

The only Google News items even hinting that the polar ice caps may not have melted so much (indeed not at all) came from overtly conservative websites. The “mainstream” media is alternating between maintaining radio silence on the extended run of above-average polar ice and falsely asserting the polar ice caps are receding at an alarming rate.

To be sure, receding polar ice caps are an expected result of the modest global warming we can expect in the years ahead. In and of themselves, receding polar ice caps have little if any negative impact on human health and welfare, and likely a positive benefit by opening up previously ice-entombed land to human, animal, and plant life. Nevertheless, polar ice cap extent will likely be a measuring stick for how much the planet is or is not warming.

The Earth has warmed modestly since the Little Ice Age ended a little over 100 years ago, and the Earth will likely continue to warm modestly as a result of natural and human factors. As a result, at some point in time, NASA satellite instruments should begin to report a modest retreat of polar ice caps. The modest retreat – like that which happened briefly from 2005 through 2012 – would not be proof or evidence of a global warming crisis. Such a retreat would merely illustrate that global temperatures are continuing their gradual recovery from the Little Ice Age. Such a recovery – despite alarmist claims to the contrary – would not be uniformly or even on balance detrimental to human health and welfare. Instead, an avalanche of scientific evidence indicates recently warming temperatures have significantly improved human health and welfare, just as warming temperatures have always done.

[Originally published at Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

The Slow Death of Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - May 22, 2015, 9:00 AM

Think about the major policy undertakings of the Obama administration over the past six and a half years. It began with a “stimulus” that wasted trillions in the quest of generating jobs, but did little to nothing in achieving that goal. That was followed by ObamaCare which most agree has been a disaster for the nation’s healthcare sector and, finally, Common Core, a one-size-fits-all testing program intended, we were told, to improve learning standards in the nation’s schools.  The only thing it has achieved is the opposition of parents, teachers unions, and entire states.

In the April edition of The Heartland Institute’s School Reform News, one could find headlines that included “Arizona House Votes to Repeal and Replace Common Core”, “Arizona House Votes to Repeal Common Core”, ”West Virginia  House Passes Common Core Repeal Bill”, and “Ohio Bill Would Protect Students Opting Out of Common Core Tests.”  In March, some 19 states had introduced legislation to either halt or replace Common Core. Do you see a trend here?

One trend of significance was noted in a commentary by Jason L. Riley in the May 6 edition of The Wall Street Journal. “The Soccer Mom Revolt Against Common Core” cited a national poll released by Fairleigh Dickinson University earlier this year that put “approval for the new standards at 17%, against 40% who disapproved and other 42% who were undecided. A breakdown by gender had Common Core support 22% for men and only 12% for women.”

Perhaps the greatest surprise among these numbers is that the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Educational Association, as Rob Bluey of the Heritage Foundation noted in February “is no longer a cheerleader for Common Core national education standards.” In a letter to the union’s three million members, its president, Dennis Van Roekel, took Common Core to task for its failure to even provide information for implementing it in their classrooms.  The American Federation of Teachers had raised similar concerns nearly a year earlier!

Writing on September 2014, Joy Pullman, a Heartland Institute research fellow whose expertise is education held forth on the “Top Ten Things Parents Hate About Common Core.” Among them was “The senseless, infuriating math.”  “If Common Core hadn’t deformed even the most elementary of our math abilities so that simple addition now takes dots, dashes, boxes, hashmarks, and foam cubes, plus an inordinate amount of time”, you are not going to get the right answer.

Parents in growing numbers have discovered, as Pullman notes, that “when they do go to their local school boards, often all they get are disgusted looks and a bored thumb-twiddling during their two-minute public comment allowance.”  Pullman says, “The bottom line is, parents have no choice whether their kids will learn Common Core, no matter what school they put them in.”  That, obviously, is changing as state after state pulls out of the Common Core program.

In a new book by Samuel Blumenfeld and Alex Newman, “Crimes of the Educators: How Utopians are Using Government Schools to Destroy America’s Children”, Blumenfeld points to “Growing levels of illiteracy, plunging international rankings, the decline of critical-thinking skills, mushrooming decadence, mass shootings, and companies that can’t find the skilled workers they need—these have become some of the atrocious hallmarks of U.S. public schools.”

“Common Core schemers are engaged in what can only be described as consumer fraud with monumental implications for education and the future of America.”  The bottom line is that “the scheme was never field-tested before being foisted on America.”

There is no part of student’s education that Common Core does not impede or corrupt. In the area of science, Blumenfeld says “Instead of teaching children about science—real science—the standards will offer students a steady stream of controversial propaganda presented as unchallenged fact.” Regarding climate change “students will be required to learn that human activities are mostly to blame, even though this notion is disputed by countless scientists and a vast, growing body of actual scientific observational evidence.”

Closest to home are Common Core’s “National Sexuality Education Standards” aimed to begin the “sexualization of children in kindergarten” says Blumenfeld. “Is learning about ‘homosexual marriage’ before first grade in government schools really ‘age appropriate’ or necessary?” But it gets more radical “with graphic lessons promoting everything from masturbation and fornication to transgenderism and homosexuality.”

We shouldn’t be surprised at the backlash Common Core has received from both parents and teachers unions among others. Like the “stimulus” and ObamaCare, Common Core demonstrates a thorough lack of understanding of the values of individuality that have underwritten our nation’s free market economy, helped create a respected healthcare system, and which parents have expected the educational system to pass on to new generations.

Instead Common Core teaches collectivism—socialism—and degrades various elements of education from math to English to science.

It cannot be removed from our nation’s schools soon enough.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

EPA Violates the Law, Lobbies for More Power

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2015, 5:20 PM

Environmental Protection Agency building and sign, Washington, DC

President Obama and the cronies in his administration (with his tacit support) continue to violate laws, rules and regulations. Obama and his friends evidently believe the rules don’t apply to them.

Let’s review just a few examples:

* President Obama, who promised to run the most transparent presidential administration in history has instead arguably run the most secretive and opaque administrations. In March, the White House announced it was removing a regulation subjecting its office to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests – in other words the White House was exempting itself from public scrutiny and oversight. An Associated Press investigation showed that secrecy had increased dramatically under the Obama administration. The AP analysis showed the government censored or denied outright 244,675 of the 704,394 requests made, that’s 36 percent of the time, more than any previous President. On another 196,034 other occasions, the government said it couldn’t find records or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper. Requests for NSA records were censored or denied 98 percent of the time. In addition the administration has prosecuted more government whistleblowers for leaks and reporters for not revealing their sources than any administration in history.

* Obama’s Justice Department, against the recommendation of its career prosecutors, dropped charges against and refused to prosecute members of the New Black Panther Party for intimidating white voters at a Philadelphia polling station.

It has steadfastly refused to uphold the nation’s immigration laws by prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants arrested in the U.S. Regardless of how one feels about current immigration laws, the Justice department’s job is to enforce the laws we have not ignore them until the President gets a law more to his liking – the Attorney General is the peoples prosecutor, not the President’s private attorney.

The same justice department, under former Attorney General Eric Holder, aided and abetted gun runners in delivering firearms to Mexican drug cartels and then tried to use the fact that Mexican drug lords got firearms from the U.S. to call for stricter gun laws that it had been pushing for before the ATF let the guns walk, and implement new firearm sales reporting requirements. A number of the agents at the ATF that reported their agency’s wrongdoing were transferred, demoted or forced out, while those in charge of the pernicious program dubbed “Fast and Furious,” were promoted. When Congress wanted to know more botched law enforcement effort, Holder stonewalled, fighting in court Congress’ attempts to obtain e-mails and documents relating to the program to determine, who knew what and when.

* The administration used the IRS as its own personal partisan attack dog, denying or delaying non-profit status for conservative foundations and tea party related groups, and launching tax investigations into critics of the administration that already had non-profit status. When caught out on this, the executive in charge of the IRS office that administers non-profit applications, Lois Lerner, denied targeting the groups, then later admitted the groups were targeted. Lerner was found in contempt of Congress for refusing a subpoena to testify. But, the Obama justice department came to her rescue by refusing to prosecute her for contempt of Congress. Lerner later claimed that her computer crashed resulting in the loss of her e-mails, and remarkably, for a government computer linked to the IRS server, there were no backups. In the months since Lerner was relieved of duty, tens of thousands of these missing e-mails have been found and released; 6,400 of them just last month (more than five years after Lerner’s wrongdoing).

* And then there is the State Department. Under former Secretary of State, now presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, it ignored requests from the diplomatic compound in Benghazi to beef up security, it ignored warnings that an attack was planned, and then after the attack took place and Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel were killed, blamed the attack on riots in response to a film that almost no one had seen or heard of. Subsequent investigations showed the attacks were planned, coordinated acts of terrorism, having nothing to do with a movie and the State Department knew this fact, when it falsely claimed the film was the instigating factor. In the aftermath, it has been revealed that in violation of State Department rules (and federal policies for conducting official business in general) Secretary Clinton conducted official business through a private e-mail account (all official business is supposed to be conducted through an department employees’ government accounts) and rather than preserving those e-mails for the public record, once again as required by department policy, she destroyed them.

I have rehashed these myriad instances of malfeasance, to show a pattern, and by way of revealing how unsurprised and not-shocked I am by the revelation that one more agency in the Obama administration has been found violating the rules that are meant to keep it honest.

The New York Times has revealed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ginned up support for its proposal to expand its control from navigable waters in the United States to basically all waters of the U.S. through grassroots lobbying, in violation of federal law but with the full support of the Obama administration.

The controversial WOTUS rule intended to skirt limits the Supreme Court has placed on the EPA’s control over wetlands, has many critics, but you wouldn’t know if from the comments received by the EPA. Gina McCarthy, the agency’s administrator, told a Senate committee in March that the agency had received more than one million comments, and more than 87 percent favoring the agency’s proposal.

Why so popular? As the Times reports:

The Obama administration is the first to give the E.P.A. a mandate to create broad public outreach campaigns, using the tactics of elections, in support of federal environmental regulations before they are final. Test[ing] the limits of federal lobbying law, the agency orchestrated a drive to … enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.

While federal law permits the president and political appointees, like the E.P.A. administrator, to promote government policy, or to support or oppose pending legislation, the Justice Department, in a series of legal opinions going back nearly three decades, has told federal agencies that they should not engage in substantial “grass-roots” lobbying, defined as “communications by executive officials directed to members of the public at large, or particular segments of the general public, intended to persuade them in turn to communicate with their elected representatives on some issue of concern to the executive.”

Late last year, the E.P.A. sponsored a drive on Facebook and Twitter to promote its proposed clean water rule in conjunction with the Sierra Club. At the same time, Organizing for Action, a grass-roots group with deep ties to Mr. Obama, was also pushing the rule. They urged the public to flood the agency with positive comments to counter opposition from farming and industry groups.

The results were then offered as proof that the proposal was popular.

At minimum, the actions of the agency are highly unusual. “The agency is supposed to be more of an honest broker, not a partisan advocate in this process,” said Jeffrey W. Lubbers, a professor of practice in administrative law at the American University Washington College of Law and the author of the book “A Guide to Federal Agency Rulemaking.”

“I have not seen before from a federal agency this stark of an effort to generate endorsements of a proposal during the open comment period,” he said.

Obama’s EPA has a long history of pushing ethical boundaries and skirting the edges of the law.

In January of this year I reported on a PR move the EPA tried to hide that was discovered through a FOIA request. Recognizing public opinion polls consistently showed the public was not buying the administration’s global warming hype, a memo discovered through a FOIA showed the EPA convince the public that children and minorities faced special health risk due to human caused climate change. As I wrote at the time:

EPA’s decision to shift the debate from concerns about melting ice caps and declining caribou and polar bear populations, to promoting the idea global warming poses a direct threat to public health, especially children’s health, and air and water quality.

Most Americans will never see a polar ice cap, nor will [they] ever have a chance to see a polar bear in its natural habitat. Therefore, it is easy to detach from the seriousness of the issue. Unfortunately, climate change in the abstract is an increasingly – and consistently – unpersuasive argument to make. However, if we shift from making this issue about polar caps [to being] about our neighbor with respiratory illness we can potentially bring this issue home to many Americans

The problem for EPA is, there has been no serious research linking global warming or greenhouse gas emissions to human health problems or air or water pollution.

More recently, as detailed in story in the forthcoming July Environment & Climate News, on March 2, Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blasted EPA for first saying it had conducted a thorough search for the requested documents and then retracting its claim years later in a footnote to another document. Lamberth wrote, “[T]he recurrent instances of disregard that EPA employees display for FOIA obligations should not be tolerated by the agency at large.”

Lamberth accused EPA of foot-dragging on the FOIA requests until after the 2012 presidential election. A February 2014 Environment & Climate News article reported the Energy & Environment Legal Institute had obtained emails showing the Starbucks located in the J.W. Marriott Hotel near EPA’s Washington, DC headquarters served as a an “off campus” meeting place where EPA officials and environmental activists regularly met to plot strategy. By not meeting at EPA headquarters, the activists avoided signing in at the agency. Absent the FOIA request, their meetings would have remained secret.

“Either EPA sought to evade Landmark’s lawful FOIA request so the agency could destroy responsive documents, or EPA demonstrated apathy and carelessness toward Landmark’s request,” Lamberth said. “Either scenario reflects poorly on EPA and surely serves to diminish the public’s trust in the agency.”

With those two scandals as background, and new Obama administration misdeeds being discovered almost daily, I was frankly more surprised the New York Times reported on the EPA’s illicit lobbying efforts than I was by the EPA’s acts.

Sometimes the paper whose motto is “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” actually publishes news fit to print.

Categories: On the Blog

Will Congress Finally Defend Its Constitutional Turf – to Stop the EPA’s Assault on Water?

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2015, 3:13 PM

Boy with rubber boots jumping in…-the EPA’s Jurisdiction 

It is an empirical fact – a metaphysical certitude. Government overreaches.

And the Barack Obama Administration has the longest, most overactive arms ever. With many, many, MANY power-grabbing hands.

Obama’s Legacy of Overreach

Obama Amnesty ‘Unprecedented’ Threat to Constitution

Obama Is Breaking The Law By Repeatedly Making Changes To ObamaCare Without Going Through Congress

Net Neutrality Power Grab Is Worse than ObamaCare

The Coming Climate Onslaught

President Obama readies a sweeping list of executive actions.

And on, and on, and….

Glaringly absent in all of this power-grabbing – has been actual, tangible Congressional opposition to any of it. Which is yet another Constitutional problem.

The Founding Fathers created a limited, delimited federal government. It is only supposed to do what the Document expressly grants it the authority to do.

A fundamental component of this limiting is the balance of powers. The three Branches – Executive, Legislative and Judiciary – are supposed to respectively do what each is expressly told to do. And nothing else.

The Founders envisioned each Branch jealously, vociferously defending its turf – and thus its power. That inter-branch tension would serve as a check on them all.

That protection has been eroding for decades. The Legislative – Congress, the only elected representatives of We the People – has for at least a century been ceding more and more of its power.

To the Judiciary

The Senate has been way too lax in its Advise and Consent authority over the Executive’s appointments of judges and Justices. Far too often the President’s nominees are given a cursory glance – and thoughtless approval.

Those in robes have thus felt increasingly free to perversely find more and more emanations from penumbras in existing statute. They write law – Congress’ job – rather than merely interpret and enforce it.

In response to which Congress has done…nothing. The Senate also has the responsibility of impeaching rogue judges – they almost never do it.

To the Executive

As we noted above, the Obama Administration has been in unprecedentedly huge fashion over-using the overly huge regulatory apparatus. But this, too, precedes this President by decades.

The countless Executive Branch Departments, Commissions, Agencies and Boards are supposed to enforce existing law. They are instead incessantly going well beyond these bounds – writing new law with no Congressional tether.

President Obama placidly asserted that he would do this on steroids – unilaterally use his pen and his phone to write law to end-run the Congresses we elected to stop him.

Because he knew the Congresses we elected to stop him – wouldn’t.

Congressional Republicans have only paid lip service to opposition. They talk a big game – and then do nothing.

And Congressional Democrats?

Sheila Jackson Lee: Writing Executive Orders for Obama to Sign ‘Our Number One Agenda’

Well that sort of defeats the purpose of being in Congress, does it not?

Well, there might be an Executive overreach so egregious, its implications so damaging – that Congress in bipartisan fashion might actually, finally do its Constitutional duty.

Farmers, Congress Take Aim at EPA Water Rule

Republicans and some rural Democrats are sharpening their attacks against a forthcoming Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation that they say could vastly extend the agency’s reach over waterways and agriculture.

GOP lawmakers and Democrats from agriculture-heavy districts contend the Waters of the United States rule amounts to executive overreach….

What is the EPA doing?

In March, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed new rules that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority on streams and wetlands that feed into major rivers and lakes.

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

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

This is actually an instance where the Judiciary has done its duty in reining in the Executive. In fact, it’s done it twice.

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

Why would that stop the EPA? Clearly, it won’t. So Congress must.

Congress will play host Tuesday to three hearings that will touch on the rule, including one on Senate legislation that would require the EPA to submit a different regulation that follows certain principles and specifically includes some bodies of water, groundwater and soil water.

The federal government is out of control. One of the fundamental problems is the Branches are failing to stay in their respective lanes.

It is WAY past time for the respective Branches to get back in them. Or be forced therein.

Congress must reclaim its Constitutional lawmaking authority. Starting now.

[Originally published at Red State]


Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dan Ikenson: Export-Import Bank

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2015, 1:22 PM

In this episode of the Budget & Tax News podcast, Cato Institute trade policy expert Dan Ikenson joins managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about the Export-Import Bank, a government export credit agency created in 1934 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Ikenson says the Export-Import Bank, or “Ex-Im,” picks winners and losers in the American economy by favoring some businesses over others. By subsidizing the cost of private businesses’ exports, Ex-Im actually drags down non-subsidized businesses in a wide range of industries. Instead of helping small businesses sell their goods abroad, most Ex-Im spending goes to a small number of large multinational companies, like Boeing.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Scientists Battle Eco-Bullies, ‘March on Monsanto’ Menace

Somewhat Reasonable - May 21, 2015, 8:57 AM

Research scientists are banding together and refuting radical environmental activists who have harassed them and their colleagues, calling the forthcoming progressive “March Against Monsanto” this Saturday in Chicago, and related global protests on genetically modified organisms, a “menace.”

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) include plants which are cross-bred with other flora to resist pesticides, and pests, and increase food production.

Leftists fear this food source is unsafe, and have railed against it, with increasing effectiveness in Europe. At one time, leftist activists claimed that genetic engineering could create “Franken-foods,” or food products as scary and threatening as the Frankenstein monster of movie lore.

The March Against Monsanto stirs up irrational fears and anger in good people by using myths and manipulating the facts,” says geneticist Dr. Haro von Mogel, on his blog, March Against Myths About Modification. “We know that MAM will not be able to marshal the science to support their views, so they will resort to name-calling and innuendo.”

Dr. von Mogel says progressive activists have already called his voluntary association “shills” for the biotechnology industry. “Par for the course,” says the geneticist. “But when we go to our demonstrations we will go with kindness and a desire to help people learn more about genetically engineered crops. We will not stoop to their level.”

Radical leftists are gathering on Saturday at the federal plaza in downtown Chicago, and in other U.S. cities, including Portland, Washington DC and Seattle, and globally in Ottawa, Brisbane, and Amsterdam.

Scientists and science activists plan to simultaneously march in downtown Chicago, and post on social media to help “bust some mammoth-sized myths” about genetically modified organisms.

“We’ve got information to pass out, fully referenced on our site, so people can look up the information themselves,” says Dr. von Mogel. “If we can put a smidgen of doubt, and desire to investigate, into the minds of people, they will gain the power to defend themselves against those myths.’

For more information on the counter-demonstration, go to: http://www.mamyths.org

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Greg Walcher: Solar Still Too Expensive, Unreliable and Inefficient

Somewhat Reasonable - May 20, 2015, 3:56 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Managing Editor of Energy & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett speaks with Greg Walcher. Walcher is president of the Natural Resources Group and a Heartland policy advisor. Walcher discusses his forthcoming paper, “Not Ready Yet: Why Homeowners Still Find Solar Power Too Expensive, Unreliable, Inefficient, and Undependable.”

Walcher has a wealth of experience on energy and environmental issues both from the private sector and the public sector perspective; the latter having served as the Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He discusses the high costs associated with solar power installations, the subsidies non-solar users are paying through net-metering laws to people who install solar power on their homes and the unreliability of solar power.

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

Categories: On the Blog

New CBO ‘Scoring’ Policy May Doom Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - May 20, 2015, 9:52 AM

A new economic “scoring” policy at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), so-called “dynamic scoring,” may dramatically impact Obamacare, revealing further financial flaws in the already controversial healthcare entitlement program.

Presently, according to a report in Modern Healthcare, analyses from the CBO use “static scoring,” a method that looks at the direct economic effects of a proposed law without factoring in how the economy will respond in the long-term. But, “dynamic scoring” incorporates macroeconomic elements, and assumptions, into the analytical mix.

The House of Representatives adopted a resolution earlier this year stating CBO must use dynamic scoring in its cost estimates of all federal legislation “to the greatest extent practicable.” New leadership just installed by the Congress at the CBO is moving forward with that mandate this spring.

“CBO expects to devote considerable attention to further developing its capacity to conduct dynamic analysis in the coming year so that it can effectively carry out the requirements specified in the budget resolution,” Keith Hall, new director of the CBO, told the Senate Budget Committee yesterday.

Hall assumed command of the CBO in April, replacing Douglas Elmendorf. “The agency anticipates that the form in which the information is provided to the Congress will evolve over time depending on what sort of presentation seems most useful.”

The use of dynamic scoring could affect the spending and revenue projections of the Affordable Care Act, Modern Healthcare reports.

“In the coming year, CBO expects to expend a great deal of effort analyzing healthcare spending,” Hall said. “The agency is in the process of analyzing various aspects of the healthcare system and enhancing its analytical capacity to assess the effects of future legislation on that system and on the federal budget.”

Categories: On the Blog

Another Promise Broken: ER Visits up Under Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - May 20, 2015, 9:18 AM

Prior to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) passage in 2010, President Barack Obama spent month after month traveling across the United States to reassure Americans the vast right-wing-manufactured conspiracy theories about the law weren’t true.

Contrary to claims by Republicans and conservative pundits, “If you like your doctor, you’re going to be able to keep your doctor,” Obama pledged at George Mason University.

“If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law,” stated the White House website.

However, once the ACA began to be enforced, it became apparent the Obama administration—not its pro-liberty critics—was the one spewing distortions. Thousands of Americans who did in fact want to keep their doctor or their health insurance plan found themselves pushed into more expensive policies, some of which were not accepted by their doctors.

The numerous problems resulting from Obamacare—the rising premiums, the inconvenience of the health insurance marketplace, and the problems thousands had to face when looking for new doctors after years of building relationships with the ones they preferred—were said to be necessary to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. More than 30 million people were without health insurance, and millions were forced to receive expensive treatment for routine problems at emergency rooms (ER) rather than at primary care facilities.

Obamacare may not have been a perfect proposal, its proponents acknowledged, but it is necessary to improve millions of lives.

“I think that it’s very important that we provide coverage for all people because if everybody’s got coverage, then they’re not going to the emergency room for treatment,” Obama said at a town hall forum in Rio Rancho, New Mexico in 2009.

But like the other failed promises made by the Obama administration, his pledge the passage of the ACA would result in fewer costly emergency room visits has yet to be fulfilled.

According to a poll conducted by Marketing General Incorporated for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), three-quarters of emergency physicians say ER visits are on the rise, a significant increase from one year ago.

Further, a press release by ACEP indicates over 50 percent of the physicians surveyed say the number of Medicaid patients going to the ER has increased as well.

ACEP says one of the reasons for the increase, which directly contradicts the promises made by the Obama administration, is wait times for patients looking to see primary care doctors has notably worsened. This isn’t surprising considering the ACA effectively added millions of insured patients to the health care marketplace without doing anything to increase the supply of doctors.

“There is strong evidence that Medicaid access to primary care and specialty care is not timely, leaving Medicaid patients with few options other than the emergency department,” said Dr. Orlee Panitch, chair of the Emergency Medicine Action Fund and an emergency physician for MEPHealth in Germantown, Maryland.  “In addition, states with punitive policies toward Medicaid patients in the ER may be discouraging low-income patients with serious medical conditions from seeking necessary care, which is dangerous and wrong.”

Obamacare’s failure to accomplish one of its most important goals—moving impoverished people out of emergency rooms and into primary care facilities—is further proof the ACA has been an utter disaster. Costs continue to rise, wait times have increased, patients have lost preferred doctors and health care plans, and the impoverished have continued to be stuck going to hospital emergency rooms instead of receiving the care of a primary care doctor.

Now, more than ever, it’s apparent the ACA needs to be repealed and replaced with legislation that will lower costs and improve the lives of all Americans without infringing individuals’ rights.

[Originally Published in the Washington Examiner]

Categories: On the Blog

What Will America Look Like if the Environmentalists Win?

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2015, 4:34 PM

you can see the stars better at least…

In every war, there are winners and losers. Whether the war is ideological or physical, or even if a truce is declared—there are still battles that end in victory or defeat.

In the United States, and most of the western world, there is an ideological war with dire physical consequences. It is the war on fossil fuels. But, even if you understand (as I hope my readers do) that energy is central to everything in modern society, the war is much bigger than energy. It is about freedom. It is about control. It is about global governance.

In my book Energy Freedom, I make a case for why energy is so important and, therefore, why it is under attack. I posit: “What would the world be like if we could suddenly wave a magic wand and give the environmentalists everything they want?” I then detail how our lives would change and how it would not be the utopia one might first think. I develop the catch phrase: “Take away energy, take away freedom.”

When I speak, I give out an oversized business card that includes a satellite photo of the Korean peninsula—which makes clear that the free-market, democratic, and developed country is light and bright, while the communist country is dark. I often ask my audiences where our current energy policy in America is headed—to which they shout back “North Korea.” It is a good visual and a good talking point. People seem to get it.

While we all know we can’t wave that magic wand, we are headed toward the same result. It is just happening a little at a time—one regulation after another, slowly, with some people, in the name of the planet, willingly giving up freedoms in favor of a promise of security. It comes in the form of the Endangered Species Act, Corporate Average Fuel Economy, and the Clean Power Plan—though the list could go on and on.

Others are not so gullible. They see the bigger plan and are willing to be the brunt of scoff, or even persecution. They fight for the principles upon which this great nation was founded.

This past week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of expats in Mexico. Repeatedly I heard: “If everything goes to hell in the U.S., this is where I am hiding out.” Clearly, they see the need for a plan and are fortunate enough to be able to retire to the moderate climes of Lake Chapala. The “Doomsday Preppers,” perhaps, have the same idea—with a different escape route.

While I was South of the Border, I took a few vacation days and read a novel cover-to-cover—a luxury I seldom have. I read Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun. It was sent to me by the author, who reads my column. It is his debut novel and not the usual light, fluffy stuff I like to read around the pool. I didn’t expect to like it. But I promised I’d read it. I am glad I did.

Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun picks up where Energy Freedom leaves off. Coleman Alderson, using a fiction format, carefully weaves the green narrative into a spell-binding thriller set just slightly more than 25 years from now—when all of the green policies have taken force— and paints a gripping picture of how the Global Energy Enforcement Organization (GEEO) takes control of every aspect of our lives, leaving people struggling to survive a bleak existence.

But not everyone is willing to abandon freedom for the neat and tidy life promised in “Progress City.” They resist being “registered” and moved to work on an organic farm or serve in “the administration.” Even many of those who originally accepted the move are beginning to realize the mistake they made. The friction creates the story as the “retros”—Appalachian Mountain folks, many of whom worked in the now-closed coal mines—resist registration and citification.

I chatted with Alderson about his book. I asked: “Why are cities important?” He explained the view that cities are “manageable regions,” that it is more efficient to have people in cites where they don’t use the resources. They don’t need cars. Instead they use public transportation or bicycles.

One of the lead characters is a young man named Agent Candler Greaves who is sent to round up the rebellious “retros.” Having been raised with the “save the planet” mantra, he genuinely wants to “help guide humanity toward a harmonious existence with the planet.” But, as Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun makes vividly clear, the result of the GEEO’s efforts is a decrease in various public services, more land restrictions, limited availability of food, electricity and medical treatments—while the leadership thrives in spite of it all.

Alderson explains: “You can tell a story and capture people’s emotions. They’ll identify much better than if you read off facts and statistics—which are often hard for people to connect with. But, we all connect with stories. I really tried to dial back on the exposition and instead work it into the fabric of these people’s lives. My goal is to show what happens, what is the impact of these mandates that result in a depopulation of the rural areas and the control of people. Their individual hopes and aspirations are killed in the name of the collective.”

The idea of citizens willingly being chipped (like a dog) and tracked may seem extreme to some, but as I returned to the U.S. and scanned my passport while the kiosk took my picture and printed out a report that allowed me back into the country, I realized it is a closer reality than we think. If you’ve seen advertising pop up on your computer based on websites you’ve visited, or if as you pull out of your driveway on Monday morning, your phone, without your asking it to, tells you how long it will take you to get to work, you know the scenario presented in Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun, while fiction, is totally possible. Unless, like the Appalachian Mountain folks, we get what is going on and fight it while it is still an ideological war that can be won without bloodshed.

The war we are fighting, as Alderson explains in the afterword: “is a saga of two cultures, of two divergent ways of life, and ultimately two paths leading into our future. One way leads to empowerment and living close to the land; the other promotes safety, security, and a global technocracy prescribed to minimize human impact on the environment.”

Alderson is an optimist. In the end, it is going to be OK. If we can figure out how to put a brake on the policies and bring reason into the discussion, we can, then, figure out how to avoid living out the future laid out in Mountain Whispers, Days without Sun. It is that optimism that keeps us fighting.

Categories: On the Blog

The Amtrak Crash: When Government is Ideological Instead of Lawful and Logical

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2015, 4:16 PM

Last week’s deadly Amtrak crash was absolutely horrendous.

For Democrats and their fellow Big Government advocates – it was a serious crisis they are trying desperately to not let go to waste.

They first tried to say the cause of the crash was a lack of government money. Except Amtrak has received over $30 billion since its 1970 inception. The last spending bill signed by President Barack Obama included $1.4 billion for Amtrak.

It gets even bigger:

Never mind that Amtrak has pumped $2.6 billion into the 456-mile track called the northeast corridor over the last decade. The eight states along this route that connects Boston to Washington through New York and Philadelphia supplied another $2.4 billion….

Those are huge budgetary coin infusions. And lest we forget the 2009 $878+ billion alleged “Stimulus.”

According to Recovery.gov, Amtrak received $1,295,804,688 from President Barack Obama’s stimulus law through a grant from the Department of Transportation (DOT) filed under “Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction.

The grant noted that roughly 50 percent of the money went to infrastructure improvements” in the Northeast Corridor.

Steadfastly impervious to facts, Democrats pressed on – and tried to get specific.

Charles Schumer (D-NY) [0%] on Thursday slammed SpeakerJohn Boehner (R-OH) [N/A%] for saying there is no link between Amtrak’s funding and this week’s derailment of a train that left eight people dead.

“Speaker Boehner’s comments are patently false,” Schumer said in a statement. “Experts have made clear that Positive Train Control [PTC] could have prevented the tragedy in Philadelphia.

The PTC system would automatically recognize whether a train is speeding and stop it. Congress has mandated that the system be put in place by the end of the year, and it was not in place on the section of railroad north of Philadelphia where Tuesday night’s crash took place.

Except yet again – Reality ruins the Big Government advocates’ best laid plans.

In 2008, Congress ordered the installation of what are known as positive train control systems, which can detect an out-of-control, speeding train and automatically slow it down.

A little more Reality.

According to a top congressional aide, Amtrak told the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday that the PTC system was installed along the section of track outside Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, where the crash occurred, but it was not operating.

The aide said Amtrak informed the committee it has encountered delays turning the PTC on throughout its system because of the need to get the bandwidths required to upgrade the radios to a higher MHz, which improves reliability.

The system was mandated by law in 2008. It’s 2015. What the heck has the government been doing?

Railroad officials said Thursday that installation of the safety system on tracks across the country was also hampered for more than a year by longstanding (Federal Communications Commission) F.C.C. rules that required environmental and preservation reviews before the safety system’s antennas could be installed in historic areas or near tribal lands.

Government being ideological – rather than logical.

But officials at the F.C.C. said those reviews, which were relaxed at the behest of members of Congress in 2014, were not specifically responsible for Amtrak delays along the largely urban Northeast Corridor because new antennas were not required in that region.

I would bet lots of money the FCC’s ridiculous regulations were in fact a problem. Given regulations cost the private sector nearly $2 trillion last year. But they’re magically not a problem for Amtrak? If not – why would Congress have demanded the FCC relax them?

Where else did the FCC screw up?

The commission also defended its handling of Amtrak’s petition to acquire wireless frequencies, asserting that it had taken Amtrak three years to negotiate the purchase and that the commission had approved the deal within days.

What an absurd sentence – written by the New York Times. Amtrak can’t negotiate by themselves. The FCC was sitting across the table – for three years. They had a hand in the prolonged, pronounced delay.

All the while, on what has the Obama FCC instead been almost myopically focused?

FCC Approves Controversial ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules

December 22, 2010

FCC Approves New Net Neutrality Rules

February 26, 2015

Government being ideological – rather than lawful.

Court (Unanimously) Strikes Down (2010) Net Neutrality Rules

Obama’s FCC should have known Net Neutrality is illegal – because George W. Bush’s FCC tried to impose it.

Appeals Court (Unanimously) Overturns (2008) FCC Rule on Net Neutrality

April 07, 2010

Years and years wasted tilting at illegal, ideological windmills.

Time that would have been much better spent on things the FCC is actually supposed to do.

Like doing its part to get Amtrak’s PTC safety system up and running.

[Originally published at Red State]


Categories: On the Blog

Why Government Deficits and Debt Do Matter

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2015, 3:49 PM

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported in early May that for the month of April 2015 the Federal government ran a budget surplus, taking in more in taxes than it laid out in expenditures. Don’t be fooled by one month, especially when it was a month when people filed and pay their taxes. Government deficits and growing debt are on the horizon for as far as the human eye can predict.

Yes, for right now the trillion-dollar-a year budget deficits that marked the first years of the Obama Administration have abated. For 2015 through 2017, the CBO projects that Washington’s budget deficits will be “only” in the range of $468 billion and $489 billion per year.

But after that, given current “entitlement” legislation for such programs as Social Security, Medicare and ObamaCare, the annual budget deficits will start rising again after 2017, and will be over a trillion dollars once more in 2025.

The CBO calculates that by 2025 these more “modest” annual budget deficits will cumulatively add over $7.5 trillion to the existing $18.3 trillion of Federal government debt, for a total a decade from now of almost $26 trillion. This will be more than a 40 percent increase in the Federal government’s debt over the coming ten year period.

The per capita government debt burden for every American in 2015 is estimated to be about $58,000. In ten years, in 2025, based on demographic estimates of U.S. population growth, that per capita debt burden will have increased to nearly $78,000, for an almost 35 percent increase, while the U.S. population will have only increased by around 8 percent over the decade.

The Government’s Burden Equals What is Taxed and What is Borrowed

Does it matter that the government funds part of its expenses through deficit financing instead of simply raising taxes to cover all of its expenditures? Noble prize-winning free market economist, Milton Friedman (1912-2006), was adamant that what mattered was what government spent, not how it raised the money to pay for it:

“Keep you eye on one thing and one thing only, how much government is spending, because that’s the true tax . . . If you’re not paying for it in the form of explicit taxes, you’re paying for it indirectly in the form of inflation or in the form of borrowing. The thing you should keep your eye on is what government spends, and the real problem is to how down government spending as a fraction of your income, and if you do that, you can stop worrying about the debt.”

If the government taxes the citizenry, the dollars collected and the real resources those dollars have buying power over in the marketplace are transferred from private sector hands to the hands of Uncle Sam, who then decides for what they will be used.

But this is no less the case when the government borrows dollars in financial markets to cover part of its expenses in excess of collected taxes. Instead of a private borrower borrowing those dollars and using the real resources those dollars can buy in the marketplace for investment, capital formation or other purposes, the government borrows them and uses the real resources that can be bought with them for its own political-oriented goals and ends.

Either way, the total amount of the income and resources of the society transferred out of private hands and into the hands of the government is represented by the total spending by that government, even if part has been taxed and part has been borrowed.

Friedman once asked the question: Which is preferable, a situation under which the government taxes and spends $800 billion with a balanced budget; or a situation in which it taxes $400 billion and borrows $100 billion for a total of spending of $500 billion, with a budget deficit?

In terms of the total extraction of wealth and income from the members of society by government, clearly its siphoning off $500 billion is preferable to it taking and using $800 billion of the resources and products produced through the peaceful and productive efforts of the citizen-taxpayers, Friedman reasoned.

America’s Former Balanced Budget Fiscal Rule, and Its Benefits

However, while it may be true that whether the government taxes or borrows the taxpayer-citizens are poorer by that total amount, it is nonetheless the case that government following a balanced budget rule versus a budget deficit expedient has a huge political difference on the institutional ease or difficulty of government growing over time.

Many years ago, Noble Prize economist, James M. Buchanan (1919-2013), and his colleague, Richard Wagner, wrote a book onDemocracy in Deficit (1977). They pointed out that during the first 150 years of the United States, the Federal government followed what they referred to as an “unwritten fiscal constitution.”

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires the government to annually balance its budget. Such a balanced budget “rule” for managing the government’s spending and taxing was considered a way to assure transparency and greater responsibility in the financial affairs of government.

It was argued that a balanced budget made it easier and clearer for the citizen and the taxpayer to compare the “costs” and “benefits” from government spending activities.

Since each dollar spent by the government required a dollar collected in taxes to pay for whatever the government was doing, the citizen and taxpayer could make a more reasonable judgment whether they considered any government spending proposal to be “worth it” in terms of what had to be given up to gain the supposed “benefit” from it.

The trade-off, was explicit and clear: any additional dollar of government spending on some program or activity required an additional dollar of taxes, and therefore, the “cost” of one dollar less in the taxpayer’s pocket to spend on some desired private-sector use, instead.

Or if taxes were not to be increased to pay for a new or expanded government program, the supporter of this increased spending had to explain what other existing government program or activity would have to be reduced or eliminated to transfer the funds to pay for the new proposed spending.

There was an exception to this balanced budget rule, and that was a “national emergency such as a war, when government might needed large amount of extra funds more quickly than they could be raised through higher taxes.

But it was also argued that once the national emergency had passed, the government was expected to manage its finances to run budget surpluses, taking in more than it spent each year. The surplus was to be used to pay off the accumulated debt as quickly as possible to relieve current and future taxpayers from an unnecessary and undesirable burden.

Amazingly, in retrospect, this actually was the fiscal rule and pattern followed by the United States government throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century until the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The Keynesian Call for Budget Deficits to “Stimulate” the Economy

However, starting with the 1930s, this unwritten fiscal constitutional was permanently overturned as part of the Keynesian Revolution. It was argued that the government should not balance its budget on a yearly basis. Instead, the government should balance its budget “over the business cycle.” Government should run budget deficits in “bad” years (recession or depression) and run budget surpluses in “good” years (periods of “full employment” and rising Gross Domestic Product).

This new “rule” of a balanced budget over the business cycle became a generally accepted idea for fiscal policy among many economists and government policy makers.

However, there has been one major problem with this alternative conception of the role and method of managing government spending and taxing: During the 70 years since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the U.S. government has run budget deficits in 58 of those years and had budget surpluses in only 12 years.

Hence, as Buchanan and Wagner referred to it, “democracy in deficit.”

With the elimination of the balanced budget “rule” as the guide for fiscal policy, it has been possible for politicians to create the economic illusion that is it possible to give voters “something for nothing” – a “free lunch.”

The Fiscal Illusion of Giving Voters Partly “Something for Nothing”

Politicians have been able to offer more and more government spending to special interest groups to obtain campaign contributions and votes in the attempt to be elected and re-elected to political office.

They can offer benefits in the present in the form of new or additional government spending, but they no longer have to explain where all the money will come from to pay for it. The “costs” of that deficit spending is be paid for by some unknown future taxpayers in some amount that can be put off discussing until that “some time” in the future.

Thus, politicians can supply benefits in the present – “now” – to targeted groups whose votes are wanted on election day, and avoid answering how the money will be paid back (with interest) because that can be delayed until the future – a period later in time, years ahead, when someone else will hold political office and will have to deal with the problem.

It is not as if the danger from unrestrained government borrowing was never warned about before John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) made deficit spending a “virtue” in the name of “stimulating” the economy in his famous book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936).

Warnings about Deficits and Government Debt from Long Ago

The famous Scottish philosopher, historian and economist, David Hume (1711-1776), expressed the danger in his essay, “Of Public Credit” (1741), over two hundred and fifty year ago:

“It is very tempting to a minister [in the government] to employ such an expediency, as enables him to make a great figure during his administration, without overburdening the people with taxes, or exciting any immediate clamors against himself. The practice, therefore, of contracting debt will almost infallibly be abused, in every government. It would scarcely be more imprudent to given a prodigal son a credit in every banker’s shop in London, than to empower a statesman to draw bills[borrow money], in this manner, upon posterity.”

And almost 150 years ago, the American economist, Dudley Baxter (1827-1875), very clearly contrasted the incentives at work on those running for and holding political office when the institutional rule is a balanced budget versus deficit spending and accumulated debt in his book, National Debts (1871):

“When money is raised by taxation within the year for which it is needed, the amount that can be raised is limited by the tax-enduring habits of the people, and must be as small as possible in order not to provide discontent [among the voters]. By the same reason it must be spent economically, and made to go as far as possible.

 “But when the money is raised by loans, it is limited only by the necessity of the interest [payment] not to be too large for the taxable endurance of the people, or provoking their discontent. Hence the limits of borrowing are about twenty times larger than the limits to taxation, and an amount that is monstrous as a tax, is (apparently) a very light burden as a loan. In consequence, borrowing is freed from the most powerful check that restrains taxation . . .

 “When a loan is obtained the reason for economical expenditure is equally wanting, and borrowed money is commonly expended with much greater profuseness, and even wastefulness, than would be the case with taxes.”

Keynesian Economics served as an additional and powerful rationale for politicians to do what they like to do: spend other people’s money. In the process, it pushed aside the warnings of those like David Hume and Dudley Baxter, and many other economists, who understood clearly the dangers of unrestricted government authority to both tax and borrow.

The Moral Dimension of Government Debt Financing

There is an additional moral dimension to the issue of government deficit spending and its resulting accumulation of debt. This was a theme especially addressed by economist, James M. Buchanan.

Normally, when a private individual or enterprise undertakes debt financing of some portion of his current expenditures, the legal obligation to pay back the contracted principle and interest falls upon the borrower. If he defaults or passes away before repayment of all that had been borrowed, creditors have a lien on the borrower’s positively valued assets.

The “benefits” of having the use of a greater sum of money in the present than his own income would enable him to spend, imposes on the borrower a “cost” of an obligation to pay back the loan out of his future income and assets. The cost and the benefit are linked together within the same person.

It is not the same, Buchanan argued, with government deficit spending and repayment of accumulated debt:

“If I borrow $1,000 personally, I create a future obligation against myself or my estate in the present value of $1,000. Regardless of my usage of the funds, I cannot, by the act of borrowing, impose an external cost on others. Unless I leave positively valued assets against which my debts can be satisfied, my creditors cannot oblige my heirs to pay off their claims.

 “By contrast, suppose I ‘vote for’ an issue of public debt in the amount of $1,000 per person. I may recognize that this debt embodies a future tax liability on some persons, but I need not reckon on the full $1,000 liability being assigned to me. If I leave no positively valued assets, the government’s creditors can still enforce claims on my progeny as members of the future-period taxpaying group.

 “Further, the membership in the taxpaying group itself shifts over time. New entrants, and not only those who descend directly from those of us who make a borrowing-spending decision, are obligated to meet debt, interest and amortization charges.

“In sum, the institution of public debt introduces a unique problem that is usually absent with private debt; persons who are decision makers in one period are allowed to impose possible financial losses on persons in future generations. It follows that the institution [government] is liable to abuse this and overextend its borrowing practices. There are moral and ethical problems with government deficit financing that simply are not present with the private counterpart.”

Government debt is a way to impose part of the cost of what special interest group voters and politicians want “today” on those who “tomorrow” will have to be taxed to pay back the borrowed money.

Even if a current recipient of such governmental deficit spending largess is, himself, one of the future taxpayers, he is usually likely to have received a greater benefit than his personal portion of the future tax burden. Suppose that he is a farmer, for instance, who receives “today” $100,000 from the government for not growing a crop. When “tomorrow” comes and taxes have to be raised to pay back that $100,000 to the creditors who lent that sum to the government, that particular farmer’s additional tax burden will be a small fraction of that total amount.

To continue with the same example, many farmers who may have benefited from agricultural price-support programs decades ago have passed away. The burden of paying back whatever portion of that farm price support spending originally financed by deficit spending now falls upon others who even may not have been born at the time the recipient received this special privilege from the government.

What is the ethics, James Buchanan asked, of a fiscal system under which incentives exist and come into play that enable the current generation of taxpayers and recipients of government programs to shift part of the burden to pay for them to future generations? Is that a culturally and economically healthy legacy to leave to our children and grandchildren?

The Importance of Balanced Budgets and Debt Limits

This is why it would desirable to incorporate a balanced budget amendment into the U.S. Constitution. It would not guarantee that government did not tax and spend more. But it would impose a greater clarity and transparency to the fiscal dimension of government decision-making that would make it far more difficult for those offering other people’s money in exchange for votes to do so without having to also explain who would be paying for the favors and privilege given to some, and how much they would have to pay.

In lieu of adding such an amendment to the Constitution, it is imperative that the Congress does not give up its authority to raise the Federal debt limit. While raising the debt limit has become more or less a rubber stamp after a number of congressmen make some verbal objections to more government borrowing, the fact is if Congress were to ever have sufficient pressure from voting constituents to say, “NO,” that very act would impose a balanced budget on the Federal government. Since once Uncle Sam had reached the hard debt limit, he would only be able to spend what he had taken in taxes.

This, combined with a strong educational and political campaign to reawaken the principles and ideals of individual liberty and limited government can bring the seemingly the unlimited growth in the size and scope of government to a halt.

Once halted, then a repeal and retrenchment drive can begin to reverse that size and scope of Big Government so to restore a society of freedom grounded in individual rights and economic liberty.


[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Free the Bees – From the Government

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2015, 3:25 PM

This morning, the Obama Administration announced an ambitious plan to reverse what they consider to be one of the worst environmental disasters of our time: the decline of the American bee population.

The plan, which does not yet have a total price tag, includes updating millions of acres of Federal land to be more “bee friendly,” and an additional $50 million in Federal dollars earmarked specifically for “bee research,” increasing the “bee research” budget from around $50 million to a whopping $82.5 million in next year’s Federal budget- just to watch and study bees and find out whether they are declining in population.

Unfortunately for the administration – but fortunately for the bees – their emergency bee rescue program may be a touch too late. According to Paul Dreissen of CFACT, while the agenda behind the bee assistance programs has remained the same since it was first discovered that American bees were declining in population some time ago, the bee population itself has reversed course, and even been slowly increasing. According to one wild bee specialist with the U.S. Geological Study, most bee breeds are actually doing fine, and we’ve been holding steady at around 2.5 million honey-producing hives in the United States since 1995. Obviously, a thriving population has never stopped the slow march of any Federal government rescue program, but it is at least worth noting that the bees seem to prefer the embrace of their own free market solutions.

Oddly enough, despite the good news about the bees and the Federal government’s sudden, if tardy, interest and investment, environmental groups, like the Center for Biological Diversity and the Friends of the Earth, are rather unhappy about the President’s new “bee plan.” It seems that, despite their demonstrated compassionate concern for the bee population, a hidden agenda – the control and regulation of certain pesticides – was actually behind their bee priorities the whole time. The President’s plan stopped short of banning or even regulating what’s known as “neonicotinoid” pesticides, which environmental groups claim is behind every bee-related infirmity, despite cries from environmentalists that neonicotinoids are a “crisis” and that the bees “cannot wait” for further scientific studies to discern whether it is truly necessary to take on these “bee-killing” pesticides before they usher in a “bee-pocalypse.”

But while environmental groups have been successful at persuading certain corporate entities into taking neonics out of their stores with their claims of “settled science,” it seems unlikely that neonicotinoids are responsible for fabled bee die-off – so unlikely that even a clearly predisposed Environmental Protection Agency and eco-conscious administration were reticent to take their claims at face value. Field studies have shown that bees have been unaffected by the rise in neonic pesticide use, and claims of a “bee-pocalypse” at the hands of pesticide use have, like the chemicals used to protect crops, dissipated. As part of the President’s plan, the EPA will “investigate” the use of neonicotinoid pesticides with an eye to their impact on bees, but they won’t take the environmentalist studies, many of which are flawed, at face value.

As far as the bees are concerned, as special interest groups and politicians in Washington quibble over how to ensure their future, they seem more than happy to continue on with their lives in a productive and expansive fashion. To paraphrase Rousseau, “the bees are born free – but it is in Washington that they are in chains!”

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Bruno Behrend: Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2015, 1:56 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Heartland Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend joins the Dave Elswick show to discuss the latest on Common Core. Behrend and Elswick talk about the the popular perceptions of common core and public education and why they are not the solution to our educational problems.

Elswick makes a comparison to the “New math” program in the past and how that led to more problems than it fixed. Behrend explains that this is just a symptom of a larger problem. In the second half of the podcast, Behrend answers questions from callers.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Medicaid Enrollment Grows Under Obamacare Expansion, Threatening State Budgets

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2015, 11:40 AM

Enrollment by the poor, unemployed, and children in Medicaid has soared as a result of the Obamacare insurance mandates. Policy analysts – and some conservative politicians – fear that this could lead to financial stress for states even sooner than they had anticipated.

Since 2014, more than 12 million Americans have signed up for Medicaid, the state-and-federal, subsidized program of health insurance for the impoverished in the U.S. That includes 634,000 in Illinois, far in excess of the 199,000 the former governor, Pat Quinn, and his aides had predicted. That also creates a budgeting problem for the current Illinois governor, a Republican, who was looking to cut $1.5 billion from the Medicaid budget this year.

According to a report in Politico.com, the federal government is financing 100 percent of the expansion costs through 2016. Gradually, that will be pared back to 90 percent. “But some conservatives say the costs that will fall on the states are just too big a burden, and they see vindication in the signup numbers, proof that costs will be more than projected as they have warned all along,” Politico.com reports.

“Obamacare originally expanded Medicaid — which traditionally served poor children, pregnant women and the disabled — to all childless low-income adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $16,250 for an individual — across the country. But the Supreme Court made expansion optional in 2012. And 21 states, mostly with GOP governors, have resisted.”

The expansion of Obamacare will cost state taxpayers $5 billion in Florida, alone, over the next decade, according to the report.

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA Myth of “Clean Power”

Somewhat Reasonable - May 18, 2015, 4:16 PM

There are many things I do not like about the Environmental Protection Agency, but what angers me most are the lies that stream forth from it to justify programs that have no basis in fact or science and which threaten the economy.

Currently, its “Clean Power” plan is generating its latest and most duplicitous Administer, Gina McCarthy, to go around saying that it will not be costly, nor cost jobs. “Clean Power” is the name given to the EPA policy to reduce overall U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. It is requiring each state to cut its emissions by varying amounts using a baseline established by the EPA.

Simply said, there is no need whatever to reduce CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide is not “a pollutant” as the EPA claims. It is, along with oxygen for all living creatures, vital to the growth of all vegetation. The more CO2 the better crops yields will occur, healthier forests, and greener lawns. From a purely scientific point of view, it is absurd to reduce emissions.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal on April 22, Kenneth C. Hill, Director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, said “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) set off a firestorm when he advised states not to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Yet that advice isn’t as radical as his detractors make it sound. As a state public utilities commissioner who deals with the effects of federal regulations on a regular basis, I also recommend that states not comply.”

Noting its final due date in June, that refusal would impose a Federal Implementation Plan on states “that risks even greater harm,” said Hill. “But the problem for the EPA is that the federal government lacks the legal authority under either the Constitution or the Clean Air Act to enforce most of the regulation’s ‘building blocks’ without states’ acquiescence.”

As this is being written there is are two joined cases before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, State of West Virginia v EPA and Murray Energy v EPA. They are a challenge to President Obama’s “War on Coal” and the EPA efforts to regulate its use. Fifteen states, along with select coal companies, have sued for an “extraordinary whit” to prevent the EPA from promulgating the new carbon regulations found it the Clean Power plan.

Writing in The Hill, Richard O. Faulk, an attorney and senior director for Energy Natural Resources and the Environment for the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University, noted that “The EPA’s argument confidently hinges on convincing the courts that the Clean Air Act doesn’t mean what it says. By its plain language, the billprohibits the EPA from regulating the power plants from which these emissions derive. Moreover, coal plants are already addressed under an entirely different section of the bill than the one EPA insists justifies its powers.”

The latest news as reported by Myron Ebell, the director for energy and environment of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is that “Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) this week introduced a bill to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. S. 1324, the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act, has 26 original co-sponsors, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Democrat Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).”

“Both Majority Leader McConnell and Chairman Inhofe have said that they are determined to stop EPA’s greenhouse gas rules, so I expect quick action to move Capito’s bill.  In the House, a bill to block the rules, H. R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act, was voted out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on 29th April and is awaiting floor action.”

It’s worth noting that, when Obama took office, fifty percent of America’s electrical energy was supplied by coal-fired plants and, just six years later, that has been reduced by ten percent. What kind of President would deliberately reduce American’s access to affordable power?

It’s the same kind of President that believes—or says he does—the pronouncements of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC’s “Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report” claims that world will face “severe, pervasive and irreversible damage” if coal-fired and other carbon-based—coal, oil, and natural gas—energy sources aren’t replaced with “renewable energy sources”—wind and solar—by 2050. It wants fossil-fueled power generation “phased out almost entirely by 2100.”  Now this is just insanity, unless your agenda is to destroy the world’s economic system and kill millions. That would be the only outcome of the IPCC recommendations.

The columnist Larry Bell, a professor at the University of Houston, points out that “As for expecting renewables to fill in the power curve, European Union experiences offer a painful reality check. Approximately 7.8 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from wind, 4.5 percent from solar. Large as a result, German households already fork out for the second highest power costs in Europe—often as much as 30 percent above the levels seen in other European countries. Power interruptions add to buyer’s remorse.”

As reported in The Heartland Institute’s Environment & Climate News “European governments, once at the vanguard of renewable energy mandates, appear to be having second thoughts about their reliance on giant wind farms…” There has been a sharp drop in such projects with installations plunging 90% in Denmark, 75% in Italy, and 84% in Spain.

What the EPA is attempting to impose on America is a drain on our production of electricity coupled with an increase in its price. It is an obscene attack on our economy.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. Brad Rodu: FDA’s Missing Tobacco Data

Somewhat Reasonable - May 18, 2015, 3:44 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we join the Managing Editor of Budget & Tax News, Jesse Hathaway as he speaks with Dr. Brad Rodu. Rodu is a Senior Fellow for The Heartland Institute as well as a researcher for the University of Louisville. Rodu and Hathaway discuss the FDA’s missing data regarding tobacco harm reductions.

In the podcast, Rodu urges the Food & Drug Administration to “show their work.” Rodu says taxpayer-funded studies are being kept from the public, as government agencies selectively release sound-bites to media outlets and spin the story towards preferred narratives. 

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

Categories: On the Blog
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