On the Blog
Yet another contentious area of the Obamacare law may lead to litigation. The so-called “Cadillac Tax” on expensive health insurance policies was due to be green-lighted by regulators for 2018. But the IRS hasn’t even written the regulations on that facet of the statute yet, and is now soliciting public comments, for the record, for public policy purposes.
According to a report in Forbes magazine, though the public debate over the law predicted the wealthy would be hit with the tax, the ambiguously written Obamacare bill is now being interpreted by regulators to apply to the insurance companies issuing the health insurance policy in some instances, and the beneficiary’s employer, in other cases.
“Who is liable for the tax? Here’s the easy answer: the coverage provider. That, of course, leads to the next question…” reports Forbes. “Who is the coverage provider? The answer to this question depends on the type of coverage. In the case of an applicable group health plan, the coverage provider is the health insurance issuer – by law, an insurance company, insurance service, or insurance organization, including an HMO. With respect to coverage under an HSA or an Archer MSA, the coverage provider is the employer.”
Under the rule of law – remember that? – laws are supposed to be clear, so one can adjust one’s behavior and comply, with reasonable time to do so. Not anymore. This law is the public policy equivalent of a psychotic patient – changing direction constantly, unpredictably, and not responding to any attempts at a cure. Expect lawsuits that take this subversive statute all the way to the Supreme Court of the U.S., once again, and an outcome that reminds one more of the film Girl, Interrupted than standard case law.
Washington Times: The Science is Not ‘Settled’ on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, But Critics Already Reject Administration’s ‘Dirty Power’ Claim
Congressional Republicans are not pleased, to say the least, with President Obama’s audacious Clean Power Plan, a draconian edict that demands power plants reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 32 percent from 2005 levels in less than 15 years.
Scientists, moreover, are also not enthused with the proposal, unveiled yesterday, and are critical of the unscientific language used by the White House to tout its pseudo-scientific energy strategy, according to a report in The Washington Times.
“Here are some facts: The subject is carbon dioxide emissions, not ‘carbon pollution.’ Power is a physical quantity, not something that is either clean or dirty. Dirty power has no more meaning than, and just as silly as, clean entropy, or dirty momentum. These terms are political terms used to manipulate emotions and impressions of people who do not or should know better,” says Christopher Essex, professor of applied mathematics at the University of Western Ontario, and an adviser to the Heartland Institute.
“They are distortions of scientific language meant to appear scientific. They are anti-scientific. That they continue to be at the heart of leadership discourse in policy about scientific questions that so many otherwise-educated people have bought into, experiencing primal fear and guilt over, signals something,” the professor commented.
In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Devon Herrick, a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, joins managing editor Kenneth Artz to talk about the 50th anniversary of Medicare, the federal/state health care program for the elderly.
Artz and Herrick discuss how increases in life expectancy and the number of people signing up for the program has grown well beyond the scope off what Congress intended in 1965. They also address other problems experts believe the program could have going forward.
One of the advantages Big Government advocates have in their efforts to end the private sector – is the size of the victim. A $17-trillion-a-year economy is so huge – it almost always takes a lot of time to dismantle.
It’s like taking down those giant oliphants in the “Lord of the Rings.” Our economy can take a LOT of government arrows – and continue its march forward. Slowed, bowed – but still moving.
And here’s the really obnoxious part. As the private sector is dragged down by the government assaults – Big Government advocates say it’s proof that the PRIVATE SECTOR doesn’t work.
Which is like being shot – and then having the shooter yell at you for bleeding on them.
Occasionally, the government attack is so huge – it does rapid, recognizable damage. And the line of correlation can be easily drawn. See: ObamaCare.
Far more often, the injuries take time to accrue. An ever-increasingly regulated sector doesn’t go from 60mph to 0mph. It goes from 60 to 55. Then 55 to 50. Then 50 to 45….
So the Big Government advocates get away with the damage they do – and with blaming their victims for ultimately collapsing in a taxes-and-regulations-addled heap.
We Less Government advocates do our best to make people understand all of this. We are, as always, woefully outgunned – but we occasionally win a skirmish here or there.
For instance, we have successfully explained the damage government is poised to do to the Internet. With Network Neutrality. With unilateral regulatory “Reclassification” – which is the Barack Obama Administration all by itself deciding to impose on the Web 1934 land line telephone and railroad law.
We have successfully detailed the looming huge regulations. And huge taxes. And how any new regulation diminishes private investment – and how these huge new regulations will hugely diminish it.
In short, how the Internet was pre-Obama likely the freest part of the private sector – and is now likely the most under government’s thumb.
How do we know we won this fight? Because we never were given a chance to actually fight it.
Big Government advocates didn’t get Congress to pass a law creating Net Neutrality and/or Reclassification – because they couldn’t. Big Government big-footing the Web has never been popular. In 2010, ninety-five Democrats signed a pre-election Net Neutrality pledge. All ninety-five lost.
Having lost the messaging war – Big Government advocates turned to tyranny. And had three unelected Democrat bureaucrats at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unilaterally slam the Net.
How else do we know we won? Because they are spending a lot of time trying do undo our explanations of what they’ve done.
The new imposition has only been in place for less than half a year. Most of the (tens of) thousands of pages of new regulations – haven’t even yet been written.
And the Internet sector is 1/6th of our entire economy – i.e. HUGE. This oliphant won’t immediately keel over.
Thus, to say that the mostly-unwritten rules haven’t yet broken the Net – therefore the rules will NEVER break the Net – is…absurd. But Big Government advocates specialize in the absurd.
The investment argument is especially ridiculous. Many companies plot their investment allocations YEARS in advance. They are currently investing money for which they budgeted – in the 2000s.
What hasn’t taken very long – is Big Government advocates using this newly minted Big Government to attack the sector.
Of course, taking them at their word is always…dubious.
We can’t be sure if the FCC has actually received 2000+ complaints. After all, we were told – about theactually-fifty-fifty nature of the Net Neutrality Comments the FCC received – that they were overwhelmingly pro-Big Government.
Remember when we said the FCC hadn’t yet actually fleshed out the rules? That’s not nearly all of the uncertainty that exists.
What is not clear, however, is exactly how the FCC is supposed to enforce its rules against companies that violate the open Internet laws.
Speaking earlier this week in front of a congressional subcommittee, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler admitted to the commission that the FCC had yet to figure out how exactly it will be able to exercise its authority over ISPs and enforce penalties.
Get that? The FCC has “yet to figure out how exactly it will be able to exercise its authority over ISPs and enforce penalties.” This MASSIVE uncertainty won’t hurt the Internet at all, I’m sure.
But wait a minute. Wheeler and his FCC have in fact already figured out how to use its undefined, amorphous power-grabbed powers to line its pockets at the expense of We the Consumers – I mean, enforce penalties.
Seems pretty figured out to me.
Of course, every penny government forces out of companies – forces companies to charge us more for their goods and services. Because pro-consumer – or something.
Anti-consumer is huge new government power grabs – with prospectively tens of thousands of new pages of regulation. Which are “in place” – but haven’t yet been written.
Anti-consumer is a huge grab that empowers the government to impose confiscatory new taxes. And unlimited fines.
All of that – and more – is what Big Government just did to the Internet.
Think that won’t damage the Web? Not necessarily now – but over time as the government poison seeps throughout the system?
Of course you know it will. So too do the Big Government advocates.
They just can’t admit it – and must instead blame the private sector at which they take perpetual aim.
Is the jury still “out” on nuclear power safety? Or is it ready to issue a verdict? Nuclear power, in the popular imagination, is dangerous because of one of its potential applications: Nuclear weapons.
But for nuclear-generated electricity, should we be worried? A review in the U.K. medical journal Lancet, concludes that nuclear electricity is safer for workers than coal mining, for example.
In terms of fatalities, it’s five times safer for workers in the nuclear industry, including miners, than for those in the carbon-based fuel power industries. But for the general public it’s fifty times safer than the safest form of carbon energy- natural gas. How can this be? Don’t uranium miners have accidents comparable to coal miners? They do. But they extract much more usable energy in a day’s work than those extracting fossil fuels.
What about nuclear power plant accidents such as those at Chernobyl and Fukushima? Surely, workers and civilians living nearby were killed or harmed, but their percentages have been small. For conventional power, it is air pollution that is harmful. It is said to harm far more workers and civilians than mining accidents, power plant disasters, and disposal activities combined. So if you’re downwind from a coal plant, you won’t live as long as if you’re upwind. You should be happy. Uranium is your friend.
Then there is plutonium, a byproduct of uranium fission. Other byproducts of fission, usually called nuclear waste, must be considered as well. Plutonium is good if it is “burned” up in a nuclear reactor, but it can ruin your day if it is used by bad actors to make a nuclear weapon. It costs money to process/recycle nuclear waste and there is controversy over its economic benefits. Long term it probably makes sense to reprocess (and burn) the plutonium and use/dispose the remaining waste components in whatever cost-effective processes make sense. To do otherwise invites trouble.
Quite remarkably, for the second time in a week, The New York Times has shown some economic sense.
Let me repeat that, with some emphasis added: For the second time in a week, The New York Times has shown some economic sense. That it comes in a column by Paul Krugman, quite possibly the silliest person ever to win a Nobel Prize in economics , makes it all the more notable.
In a column explaining why Puerto Rico’s dire financial position is distinguishable from that of Greece, Krugman on Monday, commented that a recent report commissioned by Puerto Rico’s government “could be right” about two basic things that should be known to anyone with even the most basic understanding of economics:
One, that Puerto Rico’s economy is hurt by sharing the same minimum wage with the United States, of which Puerto Rico is merely a territory and a commonwealth, not a state.
Second, that the Puerto Rican economy is hurt by “federal benefits that encourage adults to drop out of the workforce.”
To emphasize both the importance of, and the limits on, this admission, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize-winning economist Mr. Krugman observed only that “[i]n principle these complaints could be right.”
“In particular,” he continued, “even economists who support a higher U.S. minimum wage, myself included, generally agree that it could be a problem if set too high relative to productivity – and Puerto Rican productivity is far below mainland levels.”
Not having won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize myself, I shan’t wander into the thickets of whether, how, or why Puerto Rican productivity may be below mainland levels, but I’m pretty sure Mr. Krugman is on to something when he recognizes the fact that “federal benefits that encourage adults to drop out of the workforce” might have something to do with it.
And that takes us back to the first and irrefutable point, which should be obvious to Sveriges Riksbank Prize-winners and non-winners alike: that having a minimum wage “set too high relative to” – that is, not supported by – productivity will always be a problem.
As we suggested in this space last week, setting a minimum wage by government fiat will almost always cause distortions, except in the rare and likely hypothetical instance when just by happenstance it coincides with the prevailing market wage.
Productivity of workers in competition with workers of other employers – not governments, not labor union bosses, and certainly not Sveriges Riksbank Prize-winners – will always better determine what a given job is worth, no more and no less. Pay too little and you’ll go out of business because no one will want to work for you. Pay too much and you’ll go out of business because customers will not want to pay the higher prices you’ll have to charge to make a profit and stay in business. Barriers to market entry, imperfect information, transaction costs, and labor mobility all factor into the equation, but at bottom it really is as simple as that.
Krugman goes on, as is his wont, to call “the evidence that minimum wages or social benefits are really a problem … ‘surprisingly fragile’,” and to suggest that Puerto Rico’s real problems are caused by the outmigration of younger, healthier workers leaving older, less healthy works behind to take advantage of the safety net of federal benefits. And he concludes incorrectly – as is also his wont – that “the saving grace in this situation is big government.”
But the fact that twice in one week The New York Times would print even a few sentences acknowledging that a higher minimum wage, I and of itself, is no social or economic panacea gives some small reason for hope.
 Actually, no such thing as the “Nobel Prize in Economics” exists. Alfred Nobel died in 1895, 73 years before Sweden’s central bank, the Sveriges Riksbank, made a donation to the Nobel Foundation on the bank’s 300th anniversary to establish the “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.” The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, not the Nobel Committee, awards the prize, but Paul won it fair and square in 2008 and you can bet he’s not gonna give it up until they pry it from his cold, dead fingers.
An opinion piece in today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal online suggests that states refuse to comply with President Obama’s regulatory regime on climate change – and embrace a strategy known as “nullification” in Constitutional law parlance.
Headlined, Climate Change Putsch, the WSJ piece notes that the President has not even sounded public opinion on the matter, which, increasingly, is skeptical of claims of man-made climate change.
“Mr. Obama is using his last 18 months to dictate U.S. energy choices for the next 20 or 30 years. This abuse of power is regulation without representation,” the paper’s opinion page notes in its Review & Outlook feature. “The so-called Clean Power Plan commands states to cut carbon emissions by 32% (from 2005 levels) by 2030. This final mandate is 9% steeper than the draft the Environmental Protection Agency issued in June 2014. The damage to growth, consumer incomes and U.S. competitiveness will be immense—assuming the rule isn’t tossed by the courts or rescinded by the next Administration.”
According to the paper’s editors, states have good reason to avoid “collaborating in a scheme” that will result in higher prices for all Americans. The regulations, the administration has to know, the paper adds, will be deemed unlawful by the courts. But the White House couldn’t care less about the rule of law, in the final months of Obama’s tempestuous tenure. The climate change campaign is a ruse.
“States can help the resistance by refusing to participate. The Clean Air Act is a creature of cooperative federalism, and Governors have no obligation to craft a compliance plan,” the paper opines. “The feds will try to enforce a fallback, but they can’t commandeer the states, and they lack the money, personnel and bandwidth to overcome a broad boycott. Let’s see how much ‘clean power’ the EPA really has.”
The White House will reportedly launch a major push to address “Climate Change” issues, starting Monday and running through the month of August. The campaign, designed to draw attention to the “carbon footprint” of manufacturing and coal-powered energy plants, will feature an unveiling of the President’s climate agenda ahead of the UN conference on Climate Change, set to take place later this year.
The President is intent on regulating carbon emissions – of any sort – as a pollutant. The White House plan itself seeks to lower carbon emissions from coal-powered energy plants by 32% by the year 2030, and to encourage the use of “alternative” electricity sources, including solar and wind.
But the President plans on delivering his sweeping energy reformation plan, at least in part, from a spot in the Alaskan Arctic circle. Given that he will take a massive entourage with him on his visit, including Air Force One, this single trip will more likely contribute to humanity’s carbon emissions rather than help reduce them.
Obama’s trip to the Arctic will emit lots of carbon dioxide — the very greenhouse gas he blames for causing catastrophic global warming. Yet as he’s prepared to emits tons to highlight why rising emissions are detrimental to the planet, he’s calling the EPA’s carbon dioxide rules for power plants “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”
Using calculations from the president’s flight to the Everglades for Earth Day, Obama will travel at least 3,361 miles from Washington, D.C., to Alaska’s Elmendorf Air Force Base (where Air Force One generally stops to refuel). During that trip, Air Force One will consume some 16,805 gallons of jet fuel, which emits more CO2 when burned than conventional gasoline.
The one trip, according to the Federal government’s own calculation, will emit over 350,000 pounds (161 metric tonnes) of carbon dioxide into the air. President Obama’s contribution to pollution (and, by extension, “global Climate Change”), then, is not insignificant. One trip to Alaska on Air Force One releases as much carbon dioxide into the air as 22 houses or 33 cars driving, without stopping, for a single year.
As the government is regularly asking consumers to cut back on energy use, even to the degree that their habits will have to change (the government would like to see, for example, Americans reduce greatly the amount of electricity they use until alternative fuel sources to coal are found), it’s interesting that they would take such a drastic step to convince Americans of that need.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News speaks with Craig Idso. Idso is founder and chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and its website CO2Science.org. Burnett and Idso discuss the objectives and views for the Center.
Burnett and Idso discuss the work of the center in general and in particular his response to the Pope Francis’s comments and encyclical on climate change. In his recently released paper, “Stewardship and Sustainable Development in a World of Rising Atmospheric CO2: A Biblical Perspective on Humanity’s Relationship to the Biosphere,” Idso agrees with the Pope that we must be concerned with making the world a better place for present and future generations. In contrast to the pontiff, however, Idso argues increased CO2 and continued, broadened use of fossil fuels is the way to accomplish that goal.
Turn and Face the Strain: New Report Shows How Legislators Can Cope with Aging of Baby Boom, Emergence of New Baby Boomlet
The news is filled, every day, with talk of budget deficits, runaway government spending, and potential tax increases. What the media fails to report is that these budget crises are going to get much worse. A tremendous budget strain is coming, for all levels of government, due to the rapidly approaching demographic problem known as the age dependency ratio. This age dependency ratio is being caused by the growth of the aging baby boomer population coupled with a growing child population.
This will squeeze a smaller working class to finance the services for those growing populations. Healthcare for the aging and education for the youth population are already the largest portion of state budgets, typically accounting for more than 50 percent of expenditures. Legislators are heading for some very difficult choices. Do they raise taxes on the working class possibly crushing the economy? Or, do they cut services to education, healthcare or even both?
These coming conditions are a stark wake-up call for legislators. By 2030, 76 percent of the population will be dependent on 24 percent of the population. Currently 41 percent of the population is supporting 59 percent.
There is another option if the states recognize this coming financial strain. There are several options available on the education end of the policy spectrum.
- Student-based budgeting
- Outcome-based funding
- School choice
Student-based budgeting puts the focus of education on the child instead of the system. It provides flexibility allowing creativity across many options and teaching methods.
Outcome-based funding policies reward schools and teachers for academic success rather than simply seat time. States should be paying for success and not promises. These funding policies allow creativity like blended learning models where technology to accelerates learning in appropriate areas. The creativity of these models allow cost savings by allowing education to more efficiently be delivered directly to the students.
School choice provides the state the most funding flexibility options. The optimal way to fund school choice are through Scholarship Tax Credits (STCs) and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). There are several other funding methods as well which can be explored here. School choice is the most cost effective method to improve academic performance while holding down cost.
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Cato Institute’s annual Cato University held in Washington D.C. The five and a half day course provided a wealth of information on a wide range of topics. From literature to lectures, I received a great deal from my experience. The best thing I walked away with was confidence that the Liberty movement has a bright future.
This year’s course focused on a broad range of topics including philosophy, history, jurisprudence, and economics of liberty. Each day attendees listened to several lectures by a number of distinguished scholars including Cato Senior Fellows Tom Palmer and Randy Barnett, Director of Economic Policy Studies Jeff Miron, and many others. The origins of government, the history of the United States, and an examination of the Declaration of Independence were among the topics discussed by the speakers. The speakers and the attendees alike were eager to participate and contribute to the learning experience.
Between the lectures and during meals, we had time to sit and talk with each other. These periods of time were enlightening. The discussions held at the tables I populated included reactions to the speakers, brainstorming sessions and debates. Our talks were often so intellectually stimulating that they continued into the after dinner discussion at the hotel bar. We discussed the future of the liberty movement and questioned how we could garner the same level of energy that we saw out of the Free Brazil movement (a political group presented to us by two Brazilian activists during a dinner). We also delved into the workings and implications of Bitcoin as well as the upcoming 2016 general election. If these are the minds that will be championing the movement moving forward, we are in good hands.
The attendees of the conference were diverse in all demographics. Of the roughly 200 people who attended, nearly half were students. The age-range of the other half was wide. The conference also drew people from all corners of the United States and the world. At one point, I was sitting at a table with students from Columbia, Brazil, Georgia, Connecticut, and a gentleman from London. While we all hailed from different parts of the globe, we were all united in our goal of advancing liberty.
One of the most inspiring presentations was by Tom Palmer titled “The Worldwide Revolution for Liberty.” In this presentation, Palmer discussed the key players in the liberty movement and the tremendous impact they achieved. He also showed, through his experience, how the drive for freedom is alive and well in countries around the world. At the end of the speech, I (and I expect most others in the room) knew I could dedicate the rest of my life to the cause of advancing liberty.
The picture, of course, is the pistol crossed out with a red line as seen above — the ubiquitous “No Gun” sign, otherwise known as a “Criminal Protection Zone.” The recruiting office in Chattanooga, TN, and the theaters in Aurora, CO and Lafayette, LA had signs similar to the above graphic, but exactly whom did they protect?
Anti-gun zealots like Mayor Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton and now Bernie Sanders are lining up to decry our lax gun laws, wanting to restrict this Constitutional right even further. President Obama “regrets” that he failed in this endeavor.
President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union Address promised he would continue his gun control efforts “with or without Congress.” He has followed through with this promise, using multiple secret, backdoor methods to limit an individual’s rights to own certain types of firearms and ammunition. They include:
- Taking Executive Action by signing Executive Orders to circumvent Congress.
- Creating artificial Ammo Shortages through the enormous buying power of the Federal government.
- Forcing closure of a lead smelting plant that is integral in the ammunition production industry through the EPA.
Gun Laws as a Deterrent?
Why did all fail? Because existing laws are not enforced, and the proposals sent to Congress have not worked in the past and will not work in the future to prevent incidents such as what happened in Chattanooga, Aurora, and Lafayette.
First and foremost, criminals by definition do not obey laws, starting with “Thou shalt not kill”, which is an integral part of the Old Testament Law, known as the Sixth Commandment. Ironically, the Sixth Commandment also constitutes the basis upon which many people have come to believe that the Bible is against the death penalty as punishment for the very criminals for whom the Sixth Commandment has no relevance in deterring criminal activities.
Background checks only work when backgrounds are really checked. NICS background checks were started in 1998. To date there have been over 183 million checks, of which about a million were rejected, or 0.59%. A substantial number were falsely rejected due to a mix up in names, but most were for felony or domestic assault convictions. In 2012, out of 34,000 people rejected,only 44 were prosecuted out of 80,000 individuals who made false statements. That’s still a pretty low count for falsifying a federal document.
Mental Illness Addressed
Since 1966 the National Rifle Association has urged the federal government to address the problem of mental illness and violence, while federal law since 1967 has barred the possession or acquisition of firearms by anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” More recently the NRA has supported legislation to ensure that appropriate records of those who have been judged mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed to mental institutions be made available for use in firearms transfer background checks.
Gun zealots, however, aren’t satisfied that adjudicated confinement for mental issues aren’t always reported, so they want nearly anybody who sees a patient, including the receptionist, be given reporting status. Such zealots throw things against the wall; eventually something will stick.
Accordingly, the New York “SAFE” act goes even further. Any mental health professional (including nurses) can add someone’s name to the prohibited list. NY also monitors prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs at pharmacies. The law is similar in California. “Receptionist” is hyperbole. The danger to liberty is the lack of an adjudication process whereby a citizen can contest the opinion with the help of an attorney.
Most Recent Restriction Limits Firearm Magazines
Defying sharp warnings from gun rights groups, Los Angeles recently on Tuesday, July 28, thrust itself into the national debate over gun control when city lawmakers voted unanimously to ban the possession of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Noting that such magazines have been “the common thread” in almost all the mass shooting, backers of the plan described the ban as a small but meaningful step to minimize the bloodshed by forcing the attackers to at least interrupt their rampages to reload.
Los Angeles decision to limit firearm magazines is foolish for the following reasons:
- The standard magazines for most handguns hold more than 10 rounds. Compliant magazines are often hard to get.
- Magazines can be exchanged in a couple of seconds after a little practice. Ten rounds quickly becomes thirty.
- Small bore weapons often require multiple hits to stop a determined attacker in self defense. That’s why police carry larger magazines, and why responsible citizens need them too.
- Criminals can buy magazines in other states without restriction. It’s illegal to bring them into California, but shooting people with criminal intent is illegal too. Criminals will have them anyway, and have little to lose if caught.
- Magazine capacity rarely figures into shootings. Holmes’ large magazine jammed, forcing him to use his pistol. In Charleston, the shooter used a standard pistol, as did the shooter at Virginia Tech (it took police 3 hours to respond). In the Navy Yard shooting, a 5 round shotgun was used. The shooter of Gabby Giffords fumbled trying to reload using a ridiculously long magazine, allowing him to be tackled and disar
What About Gun-free Zones?
Gun Free Zones don’t exclude criminals, but deny people trained and licensed to carry weapons as is their Constitutional rights to do so for self-defense. Thestudy by the Crime Prevention Research Center in 2014 found that 11.1 million Americans now have permits to carry concealed weapons, up from 4.5 million in 2007. The 146 percent increase has come even as both murder and violent crime rates have dropped by 22 percent, yet only a handful have been convicted of violent crimes using those weapons in the last 20 years. An innocent civilian is three times safer around a concealed carrier than an armed policeman.
In Illinois, there are 23 listed areas where concealed carry is forbidden, including public transportation, city parks and government buildings (including outhouses in parks). Furthermore, any private business can post his establishment with the force of law. Chicago has gone one step further, and requires any restaurant with a liquor license to post on pain of losing his license (only those with liquor sales 51% or more are required to post by Illinois law)
How has that worked out? Criminals are drawn to “gun free zones” such as train platforms, because they know they will be unopposed. The same places “protected” by zealots under the law are the most likely to subject citizens to violent attacks.
Whether or not military recruiters are armed is a small subset of the real issue. Those “No Guns” signs must come down with few exceptions, under both State and Federal law. Perhaps replace them with “Zombie Free Zones”, because those fictional beings are more likely to cause harm than legally armed citizens.
China’s cities continue to add population at a rapid rate, despite a significant slowdown in population growth. Although overall population is expected to peak around 2030, the urban population will continue growing until after 2050. China’s cities will be adding more than 250 million new residents in the next quarter century, according to United Nations projections. China’s cities will add nearly as many people as live in Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country, more than live in Brazil and 10 times as many as live in Australia.
Two of China’s six megacities (urban areas with more than 10 million population) are nearly adjacent, within 90 miles (150 kilometers) of one another. The urban areas of Beijing and Tianjin have a combined population of 35 million and are among the fastest growing in the world. This is an increase of nearly 60% from the 2000 population of 21 million.
The Jing-Jin-Ji Megalopolis
The faster growing of the two, Beijing, is the national capital. Beijing is encircled by five freeway standard ring roads or beltways. These are numbered 2 through 6, with the first ring road being surrounding the Forbidden City. Its population is served by a number of additional expressways and the world’s longest subway. For some time there has been discussion of integrating the metropolitan areas of a much larger region. A principal purpose is dispersion — to redistribute activities, such as government administration and manufacturing away from Beijing’s congested core to peripheral locations.
Over the past year, there have been various announcements describing the process. The megalopolis would be called Jing-Jin-Ji, and would be composed of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province. An alternative name would be the “Capital Economic Circle.” The name, Jing-Jin-Ji is constructed of the last syllables of “Beijing” and “Tianjin,” along with “ji,” which is the pronunciation of the one character Mandarin abbreviation for Hebei.
The Need for Dispersal
Beijing has just become too dense and too crowded. Traffic congestion already is among the worst in the world. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the situation has become so bad that officials intended to limit the population of the Beijing municipality (province) to 23 million, only slightly above the population that is nearing 22 million. They also intend to reduce the population of central districts by 15%.
Important steps are already being taken. Construction has begun on a new facility to house Beijing municipality functions in the suburban district (“qu”) of Tongzhou. This subsidiary center is a 40 minute drive from the city center. Tongzhou borders the municipality of Tianjin and, according to the Beijing Municipality government is itself growing about one-quarter faster than the Beijing municipality itself.
There are also plans to move many of the manufacturing facilities that have located in Beijing to the other jurisdictions. The extent of the manufacturing dominance of Beijing is illustrated by the much larger “floating population,” of Beijing, which consists of migrants from other parts of the country who lack local residence permission (hukou). According to data in the China Yearbook 2014, Beijing has more than double the ratio to its population of migrant workers as Tianjin and nearly 10 times the ratio of Hebei, which has more than two-thirds of the megalopolis population.
One large automobile manufacturer has already completed moving out of Beijing to Huanghua, a county level city in the Hebei municipality of Cangzhou, which borders Tianjin to the south.
Geography of Jing-Jin-Ji
The jurisdictions comprising Jing-Jin-Ji have approximately 110 million residents. The gross land area is approximately 216,000 square kilometers (83,000 square miles), approximately the land area of Romania or the US state of Idaho. No one, however, should imagine a Phoenix or Portland type sprawl of such a magnitude. As is indicated the Table, the overall population density of Jing-Jin-Ji is only 500 residents per square kilometer (1,300 per square mile). The largest urban areas comprise only 3.5% of the land area, yet contain approximately 40% of the population. Despite the massive urbanization of Beijing and Tianjin, and the other large urban areas, Jing-Jin-Ji has a population that is 40% rural.Components of Jing-Jin-Ji Jurisdiction Total Population (2013) Density (per KM2) Principal Urban Area Population (2015) Urban Density (per KM2) Beijing 21.2 1,300 20.2 5,100 Tianjin 14.7 1,200 10.9 5,400 Jing-Jin-Ji Core 35.9 1,300 31.1 5,200 Baoding 10.2 500 1.3 5,900 Langfang 4.4 700 0.5 3,800 Canzhou 7.2 500 0.5 3,800 Tangshan 7.5 600 2.4 8,700 Zhangzhiakow 4.6 100 1.2 9,200 Qinhuangdao 2.9 400 1.0 6,500 Chengde 3.7 100 0.1 4,300 Inner Jing-Jin-Ji 40.5 300 7.0 6,600 Shijiazhuang 10.4 700 3.4 17,000 Handan 9.2 800 2.0 11,900 Xingtai 7.1 600 0.7 6,000 Henshui 4.3 500 0.4 11,800 Outer Jing-Jin-Ji 31.0 600 6.5 12,500 Jng-Jin-Ji 109.2 500 44.6 5,900 Population in millions. Jurisdition population from government sources Urban area population from Demographia World Urban Areas
The Nearby Urban Areas
In addition to Tianjin, other urban areas are expected to gain functions, jobs and residents from Beijing. Baoding, an urban area to the southwest of Beijing is expected to gain hospitals, educational institutions and government offices. Baoding has a population of 1.3 million and is a former capital Hebei, but was displaced by Shijiazhuang in 1967. Shijiazhuang, with a population of 3,4 million, is located in the outer ring of Jing-Jin-Ji.
Langfang is unusual in being a discontinuous municipality, part of which is an enclave surrounded by Beijing and Tianjin (as is Hebei province), and the other part located to the south of both jurisdictions. Langfang is in the path of growth of both Beijing and Tianjin. The urban area of Langfang is still relatively small, with 500,000 residents. The urbanization along the Jingtang Expressway through Langfang nearly reaches the development of Beijing to the northwest and Tianjin to the southeast.
Tangshan is directly north of Tianjin and east of Beijing. Tangshan seems likely to benefit from the dispersion of functions, jobs and residences by virtue of its proximity to both of the megacities. A new high speed rail line has just been announced that would connect Tangshan with Beijing in 30 minutes. Tangshan gained international notoriety in 1976 when it was struck by a devastating earthquake (photo here) that virtually flattened the city and killed at least 240,000 people (estimates of the earthquake death toll reach 800,000). Tangshan has been completely rebuilt, with impressive modern architecture (photograph above, taken from an earthquake memorial), but not appreciated by all. One architectural critic has insensitively bloviated that the new architecture “has been more destructive to Tangshan’s urban history than the great earthquake.” Today, Tangshan is an urban area of 2.4 million.
Qinhuangdao, an urban area of 1 million, lies just beyond (northeast of) Tangshan on the way to Shenyang and China’s Dongbei (Manchuria). Qinhuangdao could profit from its well placed seaport.
Important transportation improvements have been announced. There are plans to expand Beijing’s subway, which already has the highest ridership in the world and is second longest (after Shanghai). New suburban train lines will be built and new high speed rail lines will connect the cities within Jing-Jin-Ji that are farther apart. There will be considerable expansion of the already comprehensive expressway system, including Beijing’s seventh ring road, which is to be fully completed by 2017. Already, approximately 400 kilometers have been completed, much of it through the mountains to the west of Beijing.
Jing-Jin-Ji would be China’s third megalopolis, joining with the Yangtze Delta (centered on Shanghai) and Pearl River Delta (centered on an axis from Guangzhou to Shenzhen). But Jing-Jin-Ji is substantially different and not so obvious a candidate for integration. Jing-jin-ji’s urban areas are located farther apart than in the Pearl or the Yangtze. Yet its concentration of development is greater, especially in the Beijing core, which provides much of the justification for decentralization.
Wendell Cox is Chair, Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California) and principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm.
He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.
Photograph: Tangshan’s modern architecture, from an earthquake memorial (by author)[Originally Published at New Geography]
Even a blind pig roots up a truffle every now and again.
Still, it was with some shock and amusement that I read in The New York Times a story by Josh Barro entitled “Fast-Food Minimum Wage Has Unintended Effects.”
Gee, do ya think?
The proposed wage New York State wage increase, limited to fast food restaurants with thirty or more locations, “doesn’t do much to raise incomes for workers who don’t work at fast-food chains,” the Times helpfully points out, “[a]nd it imposes higher costs on some businesses than others; in this case, much higher, because fast-food chains will be required to pay about $6 an hour more than their nonchain competitors.” Good points, both.
Not only that, The Times continues, “[t]he rule could cause owners to change their business models to avoid the higher wage.” Some fast-food operators might instead choose to open non-fast food restaurants, not to expand if they are just below the minimum threshold of 30 locations that trigger the required raise, or even to install iPads (unpaid product placement announcement alert!) for taking orders instead of hiring real live cashiers.
Others still might decide to purchase and serve food prepared by outside vendors, to hire fewer workers, or to relocate to adjacent jurisdictions. Imagine that!
All of these alternatives are, The Times points out, what economists call “distortions,” and all of them have negative effects: fewer workers than intended will receive the new minimum wage, and businesses will wind up doing things that customers may not prefer.
That’s why markets determine wages and prices better than bureaucrats, no matter how smart and well-educated they may be. The market, is after all, simply the aggregate of millions of individuals expressing their individual preferences and making their individual needs known when allowed freely to exchange their labor, wages, and services, for the goods and services they prefer.
When people don’t want Big Mac® burgers and fries they don’t go to a McDonald’s restaurant, and when they prefer some brie and pinot grigio they will go to a wine bar instead. If they don’t care about brand names or high-priced service they’ll go shopping at street fairs or at Wal-Mart, and if they’re really brand-conscious they’ll buy their handbags at Gucci and Louie Vuitton instead. And, most likely, if they have to spend $15.00 to buy a Big Mac® hamburger and fries they’ll choose the wine bar instead.
The minimum wage – if there is to be one – should be a starter wage, not something on which a breadwinner can expect to support a family of four. And anyone who wishes to earn more than the minimum wage should work his or her way up inside an organization into a managerial position, become an entrepreneur, or obtain the training and education necessary to start in a career filed likely to pay more than a starter job at a fast-food chain is worth.
MacDonald’s, Jack-in-the-Box, White Castle, Chik-Fil-A, and a host of other fast-food restaurants I don’t have the time or space to name all serve fine food at a good price in ways that look and taste the same the world around. But not every job they can offer is worth $15.00 per hour if they are to compete fairly in the marketplace for consumer’s fast-food dollars. Competition among them will determine what those jobs are worth – nor more, no less – and well-meaning fools in the New York State Legislature (or elsewhere) cannot and will not change that by fiat no matter how hard they try.
It’s been said that progressives think the only reason that socialism never works is because the wrong people are in charge. The truth is, no matter who’s in charge, you can’t repeal the basic laws of supply and demand. Anyone who tries to do so is foreordained to fail.
Cato Institute Vice President of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies Christopher Preble presented on U.S. foreign policy on Thursday. He argued that the United States is in a good position to adopt a libertarian foreign policy—reducing defense spending and participating in fewer conflicts abroad. According to Preble, some misconceptions about American foreign policy are that counterterrorism requires nation building, most security threats are imminent, allies reduce the country’s defense burden, and the United States should maximize its relative military advantage over other countries. Preble said the country should only go to war when it has public support, a clearly defined and attainable mission, and if its national interest is at stake.
Cato Institute Director of Monetary and Financial Alternatives
George Selgin discussed the government monopoly of currency. A currency can emerge organically like cigarettes did in prisoners of war camps; the most successful currencies are durable, retain value, and are easy to carry. During the Appalachian and California gold rushes in the 19th century, American private companies competed for public acceptance with their various currencies. The highest-quality currency won out and equaled or exceeded that of the government. With the establishment of national banks in the United States, the government claimed a monopoly on currency. Selgin noted that with no more currency competition and the ability of the Federal Reserve to print large amounts of money, it has become difficult to hold the U.S. central bank accountable.
Atlas Network Co-Director of the Sound Money Project Judy Shelton lectured on the need for a reformed international monetary system, calling the current floating exchange rate system an “antisystem” governments can exploit by artificially setting its currency value. Shelton argued currency should be a reliable tool of measurement, not a policy instrument. She called for a return to the Bretton Woods system, in which currencies were backed by gold and fixed exchange rates. The 2008 crisis and subsequent Eurozone troubles signaled the need for a return to a coherent international monetary system.
That afternoon, Georgetown Law School Professor Randy Barnett lectured on the modesty of libertarianism. He identified three prominent political approaches: the social justice advocates, legal moralists, and libertarians. The first two approaches are problematic since advocates disagree on how much societal redistribution or moral reform is needed, require overly interventionist governments to achieve their goals, and violate private rights to achieve utopian goals. Libertarians call for a limited government that supports a national defense and the Lockean conception of property—the ability to do what you will with what is yours, provided you do not harm others. Barnett also highlighted their belief in the sovereignty of self.
During dinner, Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz discussed libertarianism in the 21st century. He summarized the past successes of classical liberalism and libertarianism: the abolition of slavery, promotion of women’s rights, and codification of limited government and property rights protection in the U.S. Constitution and other documents around the world. Boaz highlighted the role of liberty in the 1989 European revolutions and the failed 1989 Tiananmen Square rebellion in Communist China. Because there is an increasing consensus on libertarian principles around the world and a new generation that is receptive to libertarian ideas, Boaz expressed hope for the future of liberty.
On Wednesday, Georgetown Law School Professor Randy Barnett started with a lecture on the two traditional visions of the Constitution. Proponents of the well-known democratic Constitution contend rights are derived from government, believe popular sovereignty is found in the group as a while, and support majoritarian rule. Supporters of the republican Constitution believe popular sovereignty points to individual rights and uphold the primacy of natural rights and limited government. Barnett defended the latter vision and maintained these visions are incompatible with each other.
Four-time New York Times bestselling author and libertarian
columnist Amity Shlaes then presented on the Great Depression, a crisis which influenced policymakers’ decisions in the 2008 recession. A short but severe economic downturn in the early 1920s was truncated when President Calvin Coolidge cut government and hiked interest rates. President Herbert Hoover used Keynesian policies in the late 1920s when the economy was overheating, raising taxes and minimum wages and imposing tariffs. Shlaes called President Franklin Roosevelt’s response to the subsequent depression adding “an Affordable Care Act in every sector of the economy.” Roosevelt heavily regulated businesses and rewarded labor, farming, and other special interest groups to gain their support. After World War II began, Roosevelt loosened the reins on businesses and the U.S. economy finally began to rebound.
During a dinner at one of the U.S. Senate office buildings later that day, we had the honor to hear a speech from Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona). Senator Flake discussed the United States’ warming relations with Cuba, the persistent problem of high earmark spending in Congress, and the recent surge in federal spending on entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. He called for an immigration system that makes it easier to become an American citizen and prioritizes legal immigrants over illegal ones in gaining citizenship.
Policies that Promote Environmental Results, Not Regulations, Could be Attractive to Millennial Voters
A science and the environment policy brief in the Hoover Institution’s summer 2015 digest indicates that millennial voters are interested in real environmental results, rather than regulations. The author of the piece suggests that this fact should shape GOP policies for the 2016 election, and beyond, and could refashion electoral politics in the U.S.
“The 2016 presidential campaign gives Republicans a chance to speak to those millennials, and the Republican environmental policy message could be a starting point,” writes Terry L. Anderson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, in the piece entitled, Green Allies: What would bring conservationists and conservatives together? Environmental solutions that really work. “Command-and-control regulations, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, to mention a few, from Nixon-era Republicans, may have played well with boomers, but millennials want results, not regulations.”
Research shows that the younger generation does care about the environment as a pocket book issue, as Generation Y has a concern with securing an “economic benefit” when making “eco-friendly purchases.”
Furthermore, another 2014 poll showed that half of the voters between the ages of 18 and 29 are “unwedded” to either party. “Environmental policies based on markets, incentives, and entrepreneurship, offer Republicans a chance to win them over,” Anderson writes.
Hedge fund managers are telling politicians and school administrators in Puerto Rico to fire teachers so they can get paid, according to several recent articles on the debt situation in San Juan. A few other, actual headlines are:
- Alternet: “Hedge Funds Tell Puerto Rico: Lay Off Teachers and Close Schools to Pay Us Back”
- The Guardian: “Hedge funds tell Puerto Rico: lay off teachers and close schools to pay us back”
- The Higher Learning: “Hedge Funds to Puerto Rico: Fire Teachers and Close Schools to Pay Off Your Debt”
- The Independent: “Puerto Rico should close schools and sack teachers to pay back its debts, hedge funds say”
- Latina: “Really? Hedge Funds Are Telling Puerto Rico to Close Their Schools & Fire Teachers”
- Orlando Weekly: “Hedge funds: Puerto Rico, it’s us or the kids”
- Time: “Hedge Fund Economists Want Puerto Rico to Lay Off Teachers to Fix Debt Crisis”
These headlines certainly aimed to inflame emotions. The question is what did the report actually say and are these headlines accurate? The report called for higher taxes, cutting expenses and structural reforms. To focus on education here, the report stated, “Reduce number of teachers to fit the size of the student population”. The following chart was included: As the chart states, “Education expenditures increased 39% or $1.4 billion in the past decade while total school enrollment declined ~25%.” While, the report did call for a reduction in the teaching workforce, the call was much broader in nature and aimed at helping Puerto Rico become fiscally stable again. The Guardian reported, “Puerto Rico’s current education spending works out at $8,400 per student, below the US national average of $10,667.” This amount is 78.7 percent of the US national average in spending. While the Puerto Rico education expenditures increased 39 percent from 2004 – 2013, the US national average has increased only 11 percent. US student population grew by about 2.6 percent over this time period contrasted to Puerto Rico’s student population decline of approximately 25%. The reality of the expenditure growth versus the population decline clearly demonstrate the politicized nature of education and its associated spending. The mantra of “it’s for the children” is ingrained with in society and allows those within the education system and its defenders an attack vehicle to silence debate, demonize any dissenting voices, and protect the system from economic realities.
The planet is in a nearly two-decade global warming standstill; an Arctic research expedition to study warm was halted due to too much ice; polar bear habitat is healthy; another quiet hurricane season is expected; and a paper on sea level rise by climate alarmism founder Dr. James Hansen has been dismissed by his fear-mongering colleagues as “flimsy.”
Nonetheless the corporate world has loyally marched to the White House doorstep to pledge fealty to President Obama’s carbon dioxide reduction agenda. On Monday 13 large companies announced they would collectively spend $140 billion on various initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and expand so-called “clean” energy. The collective action has been dubbed the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” by the White House, and is intended to enhance the president’s negotiating position at international climate talks in Paris at the end of the year.
“Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries, all of which imperil public health, particularly for vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color,” the White House press office said in a statement. “No corner of the planet and no sector of the global economy will remain unaffected by climate change in the years ahead.”
Upon that false premise Obama brought in many of the usual renewable corporate cronyism suspects for the White House dog-and-pony show:Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart. Some are known for taking advantage of government-distorted “markets” (i.e., subsidies and mandates) that keep renewable energy profitable; others have been big supporters of Obama during his campaigns; others were recipients of bailout funds from the administration; and others just purely pander to the “green” agenda. Some fit two or more of the categories.
Would any of the above companies be so environmentally altruistic if government – meaning the Obama administration – wasn’t manipulating regulations and extending corporate welfare as a carrot? It’s hard to imagine that would be the case. For example, Bank of America says it has poured billions of dollars into its “environmental business initiative.”
“We are putting our financial capital, our intellectual capital, and the strength of our partnerships to work to help create a better future for all of us,” said BofA CEO Brian Moynihan.
The mega-bank announced in its press release that it would increase its “environmental business initiative” from $50 billion to $125 billion in “low carbon (dioxide) business” by 2025. It claims to have provided more than $39 billion to finance “low-carbon (dioxide)” activities since 2007 – 40 percent of which went to renewable energy projects and 33 percent funded energy efficiency. Similarly, Goldman Sachs says in 2012 it committed to invest $40 billion in clean energy and plans to expand that pledge.
It’s doubtful that BofA, Goldman Sachs or others would be so ambitious throwing money at these sectors if taxpayers weren’t on the hook for the majority of their costs. As NLPC has reported in the past, investors in renewables enjoy a wealth of revenue-generating benefits from government that include accelerated depreciation (which frees up cash flow and reduces the corporate tax burden), a bevy of tax credits, and various grants and government contracts that assure income. In addition, as archived at theDatabase of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, there are hundreds of additional incentives across the country offered at the state and local level.
As Obama supporter Warren Buffett – the financial brawn behind Berkshire Hathaway Energy – said last year, “On wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”
In recent years NLPC president Peter Flaherty has called Walmart to account, via shareholder actions, for its support of cap-and-trade and for initiatives such as the use of 100-percent renewable energy, and creating “zero waste,” as policies that he said “are neither achievable nor desirable.” Likewise Apple – with Al Gore among its directors – has been shown by NLPC to make fraudulent claims that its data centers are powered completely by renewable energy, when in fact they enjoy consistent, cheap electricity supplied by Duke Energy while pushing expensive, intermittent solar onto the utility grid. There are countless other schemes under which businesses profit, while taxpayers foot the bill, without benefit.
The corporate “climate pledge” to Obama is no noble commitment. It’s a scam.
[Originally Posted at NLPC]