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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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These Policies are on the Ballot

October 30, 2014, 3:48 PM

At a speech October 2, President Obama said, “These policies are on the ballot.  Every single one of them.”  This can be said to be the most truthful statement during the six years of President Obama’s administration.

What follows this paper is an October 26 Wall Street Journal article  “The Other Senate Nuclear Option” by Glenn McCullough.  This article points out Harry Reid and President Obama have stopped work on the Yucca Mountain long-term repository for nuclear waste.  This is after Congress on numerous occasions have approved the repository and spent over $15 billion on site selection and construction.  All rate payers in the U. S. have contributed over $31 billion since 1983 to the fund to solve the nation’s nuclear waste problems.

Harry Reid must be unseated as Senate Majority Leader in order to restore Yucca Mountain as the repository.  This can only be done by electing Republicans in the Senate races November 4.  So, vote on President Obama’s costly policy of derailing the needed nuclear waste repository by voting REPUBLICAN FOR SENATE NOVEMBER 4.

James H. Rust, Professor of nuclear engineering and policy advisor The Heartland Institute

THE OTHER SENATE NUCLEAR OPTION

Glenn McCullough, WSJ 10-26-2014

Much is at stake as Americans vote on Nov. 4. While different races have different issues, the nuclear-energy world is watching to see which party will control the Senate. If Majority Leader Harry Reid becomes minority leader, he would likely no longer be able to sustain opposition to Yucca Mountain, the Energy Department’s chosen nuclear repository.

On Oct. 16 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report 3, stating that the facility meets the government’s long-term regulatory and safety requirements as a nuclear-waste repository, including the benchmark of remaining safe for a million years. The report is a culmination of decades of scientific and technical studies showing the underground facility in south-central Nevada to be safe and secure for storing spent fuel and other nuclear waste. Yet after nearly 30 years of study, at a cost of over $15 billion, Yucca Mountain is stuck in political gridlock.

The idea of a national used-nuclear-fuel repository was conceived in 1987 in an amendment to the 1982 Waste Policy Act, and Yucca Mountain was approved by Congress in 2002. In 2011, however, the Obama administration yanked the project’s funding.

The president had plenty of help. Nevada Sen. Reid has made it his business to personally kill Yucca Mountain. This was despite the fact that ratepayers across the U.S. who use nuclear energy had already contributed $31 billion to the project—until Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz suspended the one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour fee earlier this year, in response to a court order.

Mr. Reid has unleashed his particular brand of heavy-handed politics to get his way on Yucca Mountain. As majority leader, he applied pressure on President Obama’s appointees at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to secure commissioners who advanced his agenda. The NRC chairman who pulled the plug on Yucca Mountain was Gregory Jaczko, a former Senate aide to Mr. Reid.

Just over a year after the administration scuttled the project in early 2010, the Government Accountability Office issued a report saying the Yucca Mountain shutdown was not only strictly political, but would also set back used-fuel storage efforts by two decades. As the New York Times reported at the time, “The Obama administration did not provide a technical or scientific basis for shutting down the site and failed to plan or identify risks associated with its hasty closure.”

The Tennessee Valley Authority—which operates two nuclear plants in Tennessee and one in Alabama—has a deep commitment to producing safe, reliable and affordable nuclear energy for its customers. Over the last four decades, ratepayers in the Tennessee Valley who rely on the TVA and local power-supply companies paid about $53 million a year to the Energy Department to fund a used nuclear-fuel repository. TVA isn’t alone. All told, 100 nuclear reactors in 31 states produce 20% of the total electricity in the U.S. Nuclear is a vital part of our nation’s energy mix as we seek enhanced energy security and lower carbon emissions.

Pursuant to federal law, the government was directed to begin providing storage for spent nuclear fuel in 1998. That didn’t happen. As a result, reactor owner-operators began suing the federal government for its failure to begin picking up and storing the waste. The government has lost every one of the lawsuits. Now the Treasury has to reimburse reactor owners for the expense of on-site storage. The current cost to the taxpayer for the government’s failure to establish a national repository is estimated to be $20 billion, and growing at a rate of $500 million each year.

As House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said when the 2011 GAO report on Yucca Mountain was released, “It is alarming for this administration to discard 30 years of research and billions of taxpayer dollars spent, not for technical or safety reasons, but rather to satisfy temporary political calculations.”

Nuclear energy is here to stay. It is safe, environmentally friendly, affordable and good for the economy, jobs and manufacturing. But the nation needs a safe repository for used nuclear fuel. When Americans go to vote next month, they have a chance to tell Sen. Reid and Democrats in Washington what they think about people who have seized Yucca Mountain and turned it into a political tool at a huge cost to taxpayers and the environment.

[Originally published at the Wall Street Journal]

Categories: On the Blog

Reducing Ohio’s Renewable-Power Mandate is Progress, Not Regression

October 30, 2014, 1:59 PM

Higher energy prices are blowing in the wind.

Thirty states, including Ohio, have renewable portfolio mandates. These laws require a certain percentage of electricity to be generated from renewable sources, primarily wind and solar power.

Such laws were mostly enacted in the early 2000s. More-recent backlashes over rising electricity prices, lost jobs, and capital flight have led to proposals across the country to repeal or curtail these standards.

Last June, Ohio Gov. John Kasich became the first governor to sign a law reducing his state’s alternative-energy portfolio standard. Ohio’s leadership likely will open the door for more such policies to be proposed and passed in other states.

An executive of the Environmental Defense Fund called the Ohio bill a “step backwards.” Those who believe that renewable sources such as wind and solar energy are new, emerging technologies assert that government help is necessary to jump-start these industries. That isn’t true.

In fact, wind and solar power are old, stagnating technologies that date to the 19th century. They have benefited from lavish subsidies, tax credits, and mandates for many years.

Yet wind power provides only 1.4 percent of all energy consumed in the United States today. Solar energy provides less than one-fourth of 1 percent.

Such is the paradox of government interference in the energy sector: People turn to government to spur innovation, but government is a monopoly, shielded from the market forces that create innovation through competition and consumer choice.

That’s why wind and solar energy, propped up by governments everywhere, have stagnated instead of innovating. By contrast, technologies for hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling suggest what market forces can accomplish when government gets out of the way.

The boom in natural gas and oil extraction, in Ohio and other states, has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and lowered energy prices. It has led to a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, as power plants convert from coal-fired generation to cleaner-burning natural gas.

The Economist magazine reports that America’s natural gas boom “seems to be doing as much to reduce pollution as many of the efforts introduced over the years to restrict emissions from vehicles, power stations, and other sources.” Yet many renewable-energy supporters oppose fracking and horizontal drilling, even though lowering greenhouse-gas emissions is the main reason they say we need to force people to buy renewable-generated electricity.

The positive effects of energy breakthroughs are felt everywhere in the economy. But no one — including lawmakers and government officials — can foresee when or where the next energy breakthrough will occur. Conversely, government-created stagnation in energy has negative effects throughout the economy.

A 2011 study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston projected that Ohio’s alternative-energy portfolio standard would cause the state to lose 9,753 jobs by 2025. It predicted Ohio consumers would face $8.6 billion in higher energy prices between 2016 and 2025, including more than $1.4 billion in 2025 alone.

Those figures might be a little lower, now that a modest reduction of the standard has been enacted. But Ohioans should continue to press for outright repeal of the mandate, to avoid these negative consequences altogether. Indeed, Ohio should eliminate all other energy mandates, subsidies, and tax preferences, to increase competition and cut energy prices.

Energy is one of the most crucial inputs of economic growth. The pricing, production, and distribution of energy are embedded in everything people and businesses do and create.

If Ohio lawmakers enact policies that promote competition and lower energy prices, households will benefit directly by having their money freed up for other purposes. They also will benefit from lower prices and more jobs, as money becomes available to businesses to redirect to hiring, investing, and increasing their payrolls.

That is, consumers benefit in both ways. It will take time for these benefits to be fully realized, but they should not be underestimated.

[First published in The Toledo Blade.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Wayne Crews

October 30, 2014, 10:49 AM

Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) Vice President for Policy C. Wayne Crews joins The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor, Jesse Hathaway, to discuss his new working paper, Tip of the Costberg: On the Invalidity of All Cost of Regulation Estimates and the Need to Compile Them Anyway.

In his study, Crews attempts to create a more complete picture of the cost of government over-regulation by compiling information from several official government databases. Through this extensive use of data, Crews tells Hathaway, one can begin to peer into the halos of hidden “regulatory dark matter” exerting its influence upon the economy.

Categories: On the Blog

Regcession—Why Americans aren’t Feeling Obama’s “Vigorous Recovery”

October 29, 2014, 2:59 PM

President Obama is trying, according to CNN, to “convince voters of a vigorous recovery that a majority still doubts.” Describing comments the president made on October 2 at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, CNN calls his attempt, the “political problem inherent in having to describe an economic recovery that many Americans still aren’t feeling.”

The coverage points to polling data that shows the public still sees that the economy is “poor”—with 56 percent disapproving of how Obama has handled the economy.

Perhaps people are beginning to sense what a new documentary makes clear. We may not officially be in a recession, as some numbers have ticked slightly up, but people, as CNN pointed out, aren’t feeling it.

What are they feeling? Higher electricity rates at home, plant closures, and jobs being sent overseas, while few new jobs are being created at home.

On a recent radio interview, a caller told me that companies shouldn’t be allowed to move their business—and the jobs previously held by Americans—overseas. He wanted laws passed that prevented closing an American plant and reopening in China, hiring the locals. I believe laws can be passed that would slow, what Ross Perot called, the “giant sucking sound”—the sound of jobs and economic growth being sucked from America to Mexico, China, or some other country that makes it easier to do business. Instead of controlling whether or not a company can do what is best for its bottom line, wouldn’t it be better to make America the best business environment?

Current government policy is actually the cause of that “giant sucking sound,” the reason people aren’t feeling a supposed economic recovery. These policies, in the form of regulations—especially those from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are keeping people from living the American dream and are even lowering the standard of living from that of our parents.

While we may not technically be in a recession, we are in a regcession—an economic decline caused by excessive regulations. The cost of complying with the regulations makes it virtually impossible to meet them and remain competitive or make a profit. The result of these regulations: Americans lose their jobs, as businesses close or move to more hospitable countries.

Released on October 7, a new documentary (on YouTube): Regcession: The EPA is Destroying America” boldly posits that regulations are actually causing more world-wide pollution, destroying American jobs, and even putting America itself at risk.

Citing President Abraham Lincoln: “If America is to be destroyed, it will be from within,” Regcession makes a strong case illustrating Lincoln’s wisdom.

Regcession proclaims: “Instead of standing up to regulatory insanity, companies have taken the path of least resistance and sent jobs to China.”

Detroit is one such example. President Obama proudly claims the bailout of General Motors (GM) as one of his great successes. We taxpayers had no say in the $49.5 billion we funded to keep GM afloat—supposedly saving jobs and saving Detroit. Yet, as Obama-appointed GM CEO Dan Akerson (2010-2014) said during a 2011 visit to China’s Shanghai Auto Show: “Our commitment to working in China, with China, for China remains strong and focused on the future.” He called the eleven joint ventures with China “eleven keys to success” and bragged that seven out of ten cars GM makes are made outside the U.S. Only one-third of GM’s workers are in America.

We bailed out GM. China’s economy is booming, while Detroit became the largest municipal bankruptcy in history. GM sells more cars in China than in the U.S., while American’s can’t pay their mortgage—let alone buy a new car. Regcession points out that Americans are increasingly driving older cars.

“China’s unregulated industry and underpaid workers, combined with free trade policies make it impractical for American corporations to keep American jobs in America,” states Regcession.

The film features Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) saying: “This administration has generated nothing short of a mountain of red tape—hundreds of new regulations. Of these, at least 219 have been categorized as significant. What that means is that they will cost more than $100 million a year.” It shows TV host John Stossel, author of Give Me a Break and No they Can’t, surrounded by boxes—the 160 thousand pages of new regulations. Yet, the EPA keeps proposing more regulations.

“Anything that hurts the economy, hurts the American worker,” Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D., Principal Research Scientist, University of Alabama in Huntsville, states. “Environmental regulations in general, while originally well intended to try to protect the environment, end up going overboard and ultimately destroying jobs.”

Since the Clean Air Act was revised in 1990, demand for electricity in the U.S.—along with the American lifestyle—has dropped. Concurrently, China’s demand for electricity—and its lifestyle—has gone up. A growing economy requires more electricity, not less.

America used to manufacture goods that the world wanted. But manufacturing is messy and regulations sent industry away. We now send China, for example, our coal and our lumber. Due to regulations and free-trade laws, it is cheaper and easier for companies to use these American raw materials and manufacture products there and then ship the finished goods to the U.S. America loses the jobs, economic growth, increased property values, and the taxes that would have been generated through the entire process. China puts our cash in its pocket.

Using mitigating human-caused climate change as the excuse, EPA regulations increasingly ratchet down on American industry and electricity generation. Hundreds of billions of dollars have already been spent to remove sulfur, mercury, and particulates from emissions—only to have new regulations force those same factories and power plants to shut down over new carbon dioxide regulations. Jobs go overseas, electricity rates rise for the average American, global pollution goes up.

Don Blankenship, Regcession Executive Producer, explained to me, that with the debt trajectory, the U.S. will be broke—thanks to excessive regulations—long before the planet’s projected warming takes place. Yet, the business community is afraid to fight, as regulators have punitive power.

Industrial chemist Chris Skates, author of Going Green, explains it this way: “If we have an amalgam filling in our mouth for a cavity, there’s enough mercury vapor in the vapor of our breath to contaminate the sample. My question is, if the levels we are testing for are that low, who cares?”

Regcession concludes: “The American dream is being eroded by abusive overregulation, corporate greed, union misrepresentation, environmentalists, and a president whose priority is supposed to be protecting and improving lives of Americans, yet is instead hurting Americans.”

But all is not lost. Americans can end the regcession, by abandoning the doomsday-based regulations and instead have practical, meaningful regulations that give American workers a chance to compete. Dumping bad regulations would be an economic shot-in-the-arm, a true “vigorous recovery.”

President Reagan said we needed to do whatever it took to protect the last bastion of freedom that is America—it is too big, too important to fail. Let’s protect America, not change it.

Stand up for America. Stand up for American jobs. Stand up against over-regulation.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Warmists Watch Wrong Weather Warnings

October 28, 2014, 2:24 PM

Climateers keep trumpeting alarms that glaciers and ice sheets are melting, thus threatening land-based life with rising seas and supporting their dubious claims that Earth faces catastrophic global warming.

Life on earth cannot be extinguished by a sun-warmed atmosphere or retreating ice – sea levels merely rise steadily as land-based ice melts, animals and plants migrate and the slowly warming seas expel carbon dioxide. This allows the biosphere to thrive with more ice-free land in a benign, warmer, wetter, carbon-rich world.

The threats we should fear are the periodic violent eras of volcanism and the life-killing ice ages many of which start with massive snow/hail storms such as the one that suddenly extinguished the mammoths. This is why many ancient peoples celebrated the warmth of spring and worshipped the Sun God.

For too long the western world has been misled by alarmist claims that a tiny trace of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere will cause catastrophic global warming. In the continuing drama of natural climate change, global temperatures are the result of far greater forces.  Climate research should focus more on the cycles of the sun and solar system and their effect on global climate and on the periodic eruptions along our vast sub-marine volcanic belts. These control the ebb and flow of ice ages and most of the many extinction events that Earth has suffered.

Most geological eras have ended with massive volcanism on land and in the long volcanic/tectonic rifts beneath the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic Oceans. Outpouring of lava under the seas causes ocean warming and increased evaporation while the dust from land-based volcanoes darkens the skies, creating a frigid atmosphere. Warms seas and cold skies cause heavy precipitation of rain, hail and snow. The increased snow cover then reflects any solar energy that gets through the volcanic dust, thus maintaining surface cooling. That is how the life-killing ice sheets grow.

Atmospheric modellers have dominated the climate debate for too long. It is time to ask well-informed geologists about Earth’s ever-changing climate history which is written indelibly in the rocks. Instead of wasting billions on bigger computers for yet more atmospheric models, let’s do some factual research on volcanoes beneath the oceans. Then ask some astro-physicists about the possible influence of solar cycles, sunspots, cosmic rays, cloud formation, earth magnetism, rogue asteroids and movements of the solar system through the galaxy.

To believe mankind can counter the effect of these powerful natural climate controllers by trading carbon credits and capturing a few sea breezes and sunbeams using green energy toys is indeed a sad sign of the modern climate madness.

Categories: On the Blog

It’s rarely about the environment anymore

October 28, 2014, 12:49 PM

It’s about slashing our energy use, free enterprise, job creation, living standards and freedoms

Paul Driessen

Back in 1970, when I got involved in the first Earth Day and nascent environmental movement, we had real pollution problems. But over time, new laws, regulations, attitudes and technologies cleaned up our air, water and sloppy industry practices. By contrast, today’s battles are rarely about the environment.

As Ron Arnold and I detail in our new book, Cracking Big Green: To save the world from the save-the-Earth money machine, today’s eco-battles pit a $13.4-billion-per-year U.S. environmentalist industry against the reliable, affordable, 82% fossil fuel energy that makes our jobs, living standards, health, welfare and environmental quality possible. A new Senate Minority Staff Report chronicles how today’s battles pit poor, minority and blue-collar families against a far-left “Billionaires Club” and the radical environmentalist groups it supports and directs, in collusion with federal, state and local bureaucrats, politicians and judges – and with thousands of corporate bosses and alarmist scientists who profit mightily from the arrangements.

These ideological comrades in arms run masterful, well-funded, highly coordinated campaigns that have targeted, not just coal, but all hydrocarbon energy, as well as nuclear and even hydroelectric power. They fully support the Obama agenda, largely because they helped create that agenda.

They seek ever-greater control over our lives, livelihoods, living standards, liberties and wealth. They know they will rarely, if ever, be held accountable for the fraudulent science they employ and the callous, careless, even deliberate harm they inflict. They also know their own wealth and power will largely shield them from the deprivations that their policies impose on the vast majority of Americans.

These Radical Greens have impacted coal mines, coal-fired power plants, factories, the jobs that went with them, and the family security, health and welfare that went with those jobs. They have largely eliminated leasing, drilling, mining and timber harvesting across hundreds of millions of acres in the western United States and Alaska – and are now targeting ranchers. In an era of innovative seismic and drilling technologies, they have cut oil production by 6% and gas production by 28% on federally controlled lands.

Meanwhile, thanks to a hydraulic fracturing revolution that somehow flew in under the Radical Green radar, oil production on state and private lands has soared by 60% – from 5 million barrels per day in 2008 (the lowest ebb since 1943) to 8 million bpd in 2014. Natural gas output climbed even more rapidly. This production reduced gas and gasoline prices, and created hundreds of thousands of jobs in hundreds of industries and virtually every state. So now, of course, Big Green is waging war on “fracking” (which the late Total Oil CEO Christophe de Margerie jovially preferred to call “rock massage”).

As Marita Noon recently noted, Environment America has issued a phony “Fracking by the Numbers” screed. It grossly misrepresents this 67-year-old technology and falsely claims the industry deliberately obscures the alleged environmental, health and community impacts of fracking, by limiting its definition to only the actual moment in the extraction process when rock is fractured. For facts about fracking, revisit a few of my previous articles: here, here and here – and another new US Senate report.

Moreover, when it comes to renewable energy, Big Green studiously ignores its own demands for full disclosure and obfuscates the impacts of technologies it promotes. Wind power is a perfect example.

Far from being “free” and “eco-friendly,” wind-based electricity is extremely unreliable and expensive, despite the mandates and subsidies lavished on it. The cradle-to-grave ecological impacts are stunning.

The United States currently has over 40,000 turbines, up to 570 feet tall and 3.0 megawatts in nameplate output. Unpredictable winds mean they generate electricity at 15-20% of this “rated capacity.” The rest of the time mostly fossil fuel generators do the work. That means we need 5 to 15 times more steel, concrete, copper and other raw materials, to build huge wind facilities, transmission lines to far-off urban centers, and “backup” generators – than if we simply built the backups near cities and forgot about the turbines.

Every one of those materials requires mining, processing, shipping – and fossil fuels. Every turbine, backup generator and transmission line component requires manufacturing, shipping – and fossil fuels. The backups run on fossil fuels, and because they must “ramp up” dozens of times a day, they burn fuel very inefficiently, need far more fuel, and emit far more “greenhouse gases,” than if we simply built the backups and forgot about the wind turbines. The environmental impacts are enormous.

Environmentalists almost never mention any of this – or the outrageous wildlife and human impacts.

Bald and golden eagles and other raptors are attracted to wind turbines, by prey and the prospect of using the towers for perches, nests and resting spots, Save the Eagles International president Mark Duchamp noted in comments to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. As a result, thousands of these magnificent flyers are slaughtered by turbines every year. Indeed, he says, turbines are “the perfect ecological trap” for attracting and killing eagles, especially as more and more are built in and near important habitats.

Every year, Duchamp says, they also butcher millions of other birds and millions of bats that are attracted to turbines by abundant insects – or simply fail to see the turbine blades, whose tips travel at 170 mph.

Indeed, the death toll is orders of magnitude higher than the “only” 440,000 per year admitted to by Big Wind companies and the USFWS. Using careful carcass counts tallied for several European studies, I have estimated that turbines actually kill at least 13,000,000 birds and bats per year in the USA alone!

Wildlife consultant Jim Wiegand has written several articles that document these horrendous impacts on raptors, the devious methods the wind industry uses to hide the slaughter, and the many ways the FWS and Big Green collude with Big Wind operators to exempt wind turbines from endangered species, migratory bird and other laws that are imposed with iron fists on oil, gas, timber and mining companies. The FWS and other Interior Department agencies are using worries about sage grouse and White Nose Bat Syndrome to block mining, drilling and fracking. But wind turbines get a free pass, a license to kill.

Big Green, Big Wind and Big Government regulators likewise almost never mention the human costs – the sleep deprivation and other health impacts from infrasound noise and constant light flickering effects associated with nearby turbines, as documented by Dr. Sarah Laurie and other researchers.

In short, wind power may well be our least sustainable energy source – and the one least able to replace fossil fuels or reduce carbon dioxide emissions that anti-energy activists falsely blame for climate change (that they absurdly claim never happened prior to the modern industrial age). But of course their rants have nothing to do with climate change or environmental protection.

The climate change dangers exist only in computer models, junk-science “studies” and press releases. But as the “People’s Climate March” made clear, today’s watermelon environmentalists (green on the outside, red on the inside) do not merely despise fossil fuels, fracking and the Keystone pipeline. They also detest free enterprise capitalism, modern living standards, private property … and even pro football!

They invent and inflate risks that have nothing to do with reality, and dismiss the incredible benefits that fracking and fossil fuels have brought to people worldwide. They go ballistic over alleged risks of using modern technologies, but are silent about the clear risks of not using those technologies. And when it comes to themselves, Big Green and the Billionaires Club oppose and ignore the transparency, integrity, democracy and accountability standards that they demand from everyone they attack.

The upcoming elections offer an opportunity to start changing this arrogant, totalitarian system – and begin rolling back some of the radical ideologies and agendas that have been too institutionalized in Congress, our courts, Executive Branch and many state governments. May we seize the opportunity.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

Categories: On the Blog

Weather Channel Co-Founder on ‘The Kelly File': Al Gore Got a ‘D’ in Only College Science Class

October 28, 2014, 11:58 AM

John Coleman, a good friend of Heartland and the co-founder of The Weather Channel, was on “The Kelly File” on Fox News Monday night. Megyn Kelly wanted to interview him after viewing the open letter Coleman wrote to UCLA’s Hammer Museum, asking them to offer balance to a one-sided climate change discussion featuring one of the world’s most famous climate alarmists,  Michael Mann. The museum declined.

Kelly was obviously charmed by Coleman (he tends to do that) as he explained how “life is good.” The icecaps are not experiencing accellerated melting, neither are the seas rising faster than historical norms, nor are we seeing an increase in strong storms — all predictions Al Gore made in his movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”

There’s a bit of cross-talk, but Coleman noted that Al Gore took only one science class in college, taught by Roger Revelle, and “Al Gore got a ‘D’ in it … and has made a billion dollars on climate change.” It was a 20-second version of the presentation Coleman gave at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change this past July titled “How the Global Warming Frenzy Began.”

Watch the Fox News segment in the player below:

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Categories: On the Blog

Progressives Offer Bipartisan Plan for Health Care? Not Quite

October 27, 2014, 6:39 PM

Last week the Center for American Progress released a health care reform plan it claimed should draw bipartisan support because it includes Republican ideas. The first four words of an Associated Press article reporting on the plan were “Borrowing a Republican idea.”

But instead of drawing on the best ideas from both sides of the ideological divide, this latest plan simply repackages left-wing ideas on government-run health care while offering a single token concession to those who believe in market-oriented reform. Instead of showcasing a willingness of progressives to seek common ground with free-market advocates, the plan demonstrates just how little progressives understand about what the free-market means when it comes to health care.

The plan itself is hardly novel or groundbreaking. Its two main pillars are government rationing of health care and price controls on medical services, neither of which is market-oriented or likely to appeal to people with a center-right perspective.

The Accountable Care States plan would require participating states to agree to cap total expenditures on health care for both the public and private sectors. Historically, health care costs have grown faster than the economy. Under this plan, states would agree to limit health care spending growth to just one-half of a percent above state economic growth, well under the one- and-a-half to two percent growth that is otherwise projected.

In the first year or two, shaving a percentage point or two off health care spending growth may not have a large impact. But the effect is cumulative, meaning small cuts at first become very large cuts over time.

This leads to the situation Canada finds itself in, with its global budget limiting how much money can be spent on health care: Extremely long waits for needed care are common.

Half of all patients needing hip replacement in British Columbia, for example, wait more than four months, and 10 percent wait longer than 10 months. Overall, patients in Canada wait about 18 weeks between the time a general practitioner refers them to a specialist and the time they actually receive treatment.

In the United States, the cap imposed on health care costs would force doctors, insurers, and hospitals to ration care, because they simply wouldn’t have the funds to provide all the care that is necessary, at least not in the current third-party payer system.

We’ve already seen the result of this policy here in the United States, with the recently uncovered scandal at the Veterans Administration. Patients were denied care while bureaucrats manipulated wait lists in order to pretend they were hitting their budget and treatment goals.

The second pillar of the Accountable Care States plan is the dubious idea price controls in health care can be substantially improved. The plan would effectively require Medicare, Medicaid, and even private insurers to sign on to new payment schemes modeled on HMO practices of the 1990s, where doctors and hospitals are given a limited amount of money to care for all their patients and are rewarded for saving money. One great way to save money, of course, is to withhold treatment.

Having worked for a primary congressional author of the Patients’ Bill of Rights, which was written to rein in HMO abuses, I can predict with some confidence that reviving this payment strategy will not go over well with the public.

What, then, is the “Republican idea” in all of this rationing and price controls? Apparently people on the right are supposed to swoon because state participation in the plan would be voluntary. The generous compromisers at the Center for American Progress won’t force states to adopt this scheme—at least, not yet.

The Accountable Care States plan is in no way bipartisan. It’s simply a scheme to bribe states into enacting policies long-favored by progressive activists.

There may be hope for real bipartisan, pan-ideological reforms on health care—Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon certainly has some good ideas on this—but the Accountable Care States plan isn’t even a decent starting point.

Categories: On the Blog

EU Climate Compromise ~ I Will If You Will

October 27, 2014, 12:41 PM

After the 2009 Copenhagen global climate conference failed to produce a legally-binding global treaty to replace the lapsing Kyoto Protocol, climate campaigners are eager to put some kind of win on the board. Therefore, despite threats to veto the deal and discussions that ran into the wee hours, the European Union’s agreement on a new set of climate and energy goals is being heralded as “a new global standard”—though it is really more “I will, if you will.”

On Thursday October 23, 28 European leaders met at a summit in Brussels to reach a climate deal that would build on previous targets of a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gases, a 20 percent boost in the use of renewable sources, and a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency, from the benchmark year of 1990, by 2020.

Prior to the meeting, countries such as Poland (which wanted to protect its coal industry) and Portugal (which has excess renewable energy that it cannot, currently, export to the rest of Europe)threatened to block the deal. Poorer states in Eastern Europe feared new cuts in carbon output would hurt them economically by slowing business growth. Industrialists complained that the new regulations would discourage business and investment in the bloc, at a time when its faltering economy can ill afford to lose it.

In an interview with Reuters before the summit, Connie Hedegaard, European Climate Commissioner, declared: “There should not be problems that could not be overcome.” As predicated, a deal was struck—though the current team of commissioners steps aside in days and the new commission will have to finesse the implementation.

“It was not easy, not at all, but we managed to reach a fair decision,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy stated.

The “problems” mentioned by Hedegaard were “overcome”—by cash. To get opposing countries, like Poland, to come onboard, Van Rompuy pledged “extra support for lower-income countries, both through adequate targets and through additional funds to help them catch up in their clean-energy transition.” Reports indicate that Poland “secured a complex set of financial incentives …to soften the impact of the target on Polish coal miners and the coal-fired power stations on which its 38 million people depend.”

The “decision” calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of at least 40 percent and a 27 percent increase in renewables and energy efficiency, from 1990 levels, by 2030—though the original plan called for a 30-percent increase in renewables and efficiency.

Already complaining, environmentalists are accusing Europe of abdicating its “climate policy leadership.” The EU accounts for about a tenth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but has generally done more than other major industrial powers to curb them.

Greenpeace claimed the compromise “pulled the handbrake on clean energy” and Oxfam called for targets of 55 percent in emissions cuts, and increases of 40 percent in energy savings (efficiency) and 45 percent for use of renewable energy.

While Environmentalists are not happy, the BBC reports: “Europe’s leaders have been under heavy pressure not to impose much higher costs, especially when the economy is struggling.”

“Poland has long argued,” according to Reuters, “there is no reason for Europe …to commit to deeper emissions cuts before the rest of the world does”—and this is where “I will, if you will” comes in.

EU leaders claim to be “setting an example for the rest of the world,” yet the final text includes a “flexibility clause,” also called the “Paris review clause.” According to the EU Observer, “The EU agreement—the so-called climate and energy framework—is to be reviewed after an international summit on climate change in Paris in 2015. This means that, in theory, the European Council can change the targets if they are not matched by non-European countries.” The report continued: “Several eastern and central European countries feared that if the EU set too ambitious targets, while other nations like China or the US, slack, it could harm their competitiveness.”

The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch explains it this way: “the EU goals are not legally binding until a new United Nations climate treaty is approved.” He adds: “the EU’s climate targets are only proposals laid out as a bargaining chip before next year’s UN summit in Paris. A clause in the EU agreement would trigger a ‘review’ of key climate targets if the UN summit is a dud.”

Dr. Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation agrees: “The EU announcement was reported in the media as if the EU has already adopted these aggressive new CO2 targets. This is however not the case. In reality the EU Commission only proposed a conditional offer as a negotiation card to be played during the 2015 negotiations at the UN climate conference in Paris. In the absence of an international agreement it is very unlikely that the EU will adopt any new unilateral targets. The EU has made it perfectly clear that it is no longer willing to go it alone.”

The chances of a new global treaty in Paris are slim.

190 countries, that, in 2009, pledged $190 billion in aid for climate-related projects for developing countries, can’t agree on a formula for their aid commitments. Without the aid, island nations won’t agree to emissions reductions.

President Obama, according to the New York Times (NYT), looks toward an “agreement,” a “politically binding” deal, not a “legally binding treaty”—as the Senate will not ratify a new climate treaty (especially if the Republicans take control). The NYT quotes Paul Bledsoe, a top climate-change official in the Clinton administration who works closely with the Obama White House in international climate policy: “If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time.” The “agreement” would include “voluntary pledges.”

Addressing the potential success of a 2015 global climate agreement, Roman Kilisek, in Breaking Energy, posits that “it will be illusive and will at best consist of a plethora of watered down, voluntary, and above all, flexible carbon emission reduction targets and strategies.”

The NYT’s reporting concurs with the “I will, if you will” approach: “unilateral action by the world’s largest economy will not be enough to curb the rise of carbon pollution across the globe. That will be possible only if the world’s largest economies, including India and China, agree to enact similar cuts.”

For more than twenty years, international discussions designed to address climate change have taken place. Parties have signed treaties, pledges, agreements, and accords. Yet, carbon dioxide emissions are higher than ever, predictions haven’t come true, and the planet hasn’t warmed. Polls continue to show that climate change is a low priority for Americans. Even NPR has cut its climate reporting staff by 75 percent.

Engaging in the symbolism over substance that is typical of the climate change campaign, the EU agreed to emissions cuts—but only if everyone else does (the U.S. won’t).     [Originally published on Breitbart.com]
Categories: On the Blog

Activists Push to Censor Texas Textbooks

October 27, 2014, 12:12 PM

There is a controversy over proposed new school textbooks in Texas—not over what is actually in the books but instead over scientific facts environmental lobbyists want the publishers to keep out of them. The activists want to censor the textbooks.

Texas is a huge market for textbook publishers, so publishers listen seriously to questions raised by the Texas Board of Education (TBOE). When TBOE adopts a textbook, much of the nation follows.

The TBOE is in the midst of adopting new social studies textbooks for the first time in 12 years. The books approved will probably be used in schools for more than a decade.

Thus the controversy. With the ability to influence the thoughts of millions of schoolchildren regarding environmental issues, especially climate change, these alarmists want to censor the textbooks. They want to pressure the TBOE to remove passages which are accurate but, in being so, question the alarmists’ beliefs.

The global warming dogma is fairly simple (although the array of arguments used to support it are complex even though simpleminded): Humans are causing climate change; the results will be catastrophic; and governments must force people to use less energy and live poorer and simpler lives in order to prevent disaster. These activists want textbooks to teach students what to think about climate change, not how to think.

The TBOE and textbook publishers are not following the activists’ lesson plan. Instead, they recognize each of the dogma’s key points is still open to question and subject to lively debate within the scientific, economic, and public policy communities.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has been at the forefront in criticizing Texas’ textbook selection process. The NCSE is not a group of scientists or science teachers, but instead an activist group devoted in part to promoting global warming alarmism. That’s why it issued a report condemning the proposed textbooks for recognizing basic questions of climate science are still up for debate. Dr. Minda Berbeco, director of the NCSE, has stated, “The scientific debate over whether climate change is happening and who is responsible has been over for years.” That comes as a big surprise to the plethora of climate scientists who have published and continue to publish peer-reviewed academic journal articles skeptical of one or more of the three tenets of the climate dogma.

The NCSE falls back on the tired old claim that 97 percent of climate scientists agree humans are causing dangerous global warming. First, it’s important to note consensus is a political term, not a scientific one. The ability of a theory to be disproved is essential to the scientific method. Second, although the 97 percent claim is based on faulty (and in fact phony) studies, there is indeed consensus on two points: Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and humans have had some effect on the earth’s climate.

The important questions remain unanswered, however. Are humans or other natural conditions responsible for the majority of the past century’s warming? Would a global warming be bad or good for humanity, on balance? And if humans are responsible and the results are generally harmful, what are the best responses? There is widespread disagreement on each of these points, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

The proposed textbooks don’t deny human-caused global warming is happening; they just accurately report scientists are still debating the matter. They present the evidence and invite the students to make up their own minds. That’s what real scientists do.

Openness to evidence and ongoing questioning are the cornerstones of scientific discovery, but this is what critics of the social studies textbooks fundamentally dispute. They aren’t just questioning the value of continued debate concerning global warming but actually denying the foundations of the scientific method and calling for censorship to enforce their bigotry. The NCSE wants to replace observation, hypothesis, testing, and success or retraction with dodgy polls of self-described experts. Their agenda is not science; it’s censorship.

[Originally published at Human Events]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Ronald Reagan’s ‘A Time for Choosing’ Speech at 50

October 27, 2014, 11:52 AM

Today marks 50 years to the day that, to paraphrase the late great Libertarian Murray Rothbard, Ronald Reagan made ‘The Speech’ entitled ‘A Time For Choosing’, “delivered over nationwide TV during the 1964 Goldwater campaign” and thus “established him as the ‘Great Communicator’ of the right wing” … of the GOP and most Conservatives and many Libertarians throughout the USA and beyond. As recently reported in Breitbart: “This oration on behalf of conservative Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964, put Reagan on the political map and eventually launched him to the presidency.” Interestingly, the LA Times reminded in 2011 that, “if the address has become one [of] the landmarks of Reagan’s political career” since then, “it certainly didn’t start out that way” back-in-the-day.

Regarding ‘The Speech’ itself, Breitbart gives a good overview of the way many, if not most, on the modern American Right would characterize, not only the flavor of this particular 1964 dissertation, but also, Reagan as President and man and in both word and deed. “Reagan’s half-hour performance in front of a live audience drew from American history … and laid out the deep principles that would become the cornerstone of the conservative movement for the next half century. Channeling the American tradition and ideas stemming from the founding, Reagan proposed to set out a bold, new course for American governance that departed from the mantras of a calcified twentieth century progressivism. By appealing to patriotism, the American dream, and simple, common-sense ideas Reagan helped lay the groundwork for a resurgent conservative movement. Reagan energized young people, many of whom would help put him in the White House [for most of the 1980s].”

Regarding ‘Reagan the man’, his former budget director David Stockman recently stated: “I would say he was quite well informed, but his education, particularly on economic matters, was pre-1930. … So a lot of people misunderstood his … old [classical] liberal worldview of economics, for lack of information, or lack of knowledge, or lack of intelligence. I think that was wrong. … [H]e had a tremendous temperament. He had a willingness to listen to people. He gave people an opportunity to do their job. So there are pluses and minuses, but I think a lot of the conventional stereotypes, negative or positive, really don’t capture the more complex reality that existed.”

I am nowadays a self-described Libertarian of the Austrian School rather than of the Chicago School (and more so Rothbardian Austrian than Hayekian Austrian). Fellow Austro-Libertarians have largely taken a dim view of ‘Reagan the President’, particularly given the sorts of pro-liberty things he said over many years during and prior to his Presidency, including of course in ‘The Speech’. (Austro-Libertarians usually provide a small caveat in favour of the Jimmy Carter appointed Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who stopped printing money like a drunken counterfeiter … which has rarely been the case in the past 100 years of US central banking.) Sheldon Richman in 1988 summed up the Austro-Libertarian view as follows: “Ronald Reagan’s faithful followers claim he has used his skills as the ‘Great Communicator’ to reverse the growth of ‘Leviathan’ and inaugurate a new era of liberty and free markets. … Yet after nearly eight years of Reaganism, the clamor for more government intervention in the economy was so formidable that Reagan abandoned the free-market position and acquiesced in further crippling of the economy and our liberties. In fact, the number of free-market achievements by the administration are so few that they can be counted on one hand—with fingers left over.” Paraphrasing Austro-Libertarian historian John Denson who was more charitable a dozen years later: “His often expressed campaign slogan was ‘Government is not the answer, it is the problem’, but, unfortunately, he did not—or was not allowed to—put the idea into practice during either of his two administrations.”

Another Austro-Libertarian historian, Thomas Woods, not too long ago said: “[T]he Thatcher record, like the Reagan record, is less impressive than the legends of Right and Left would have it … [but] even though, with both Reagan and Thatcher, the free-market program was sometimes more rhetorical than real, pro-market rhetoric was better than nothing, especially in the late 1970s [or mid 1960s … or even, regrettably, in 2014].” It is in this spirit that I choose to look at ‘The Speech’, particularly as the words of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (along with the ideas of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman) helped to start me on a positive life’s journey to eventually reach the ideas of Ludwig von Mises and words of Ron Paul, as well as many others.

The whole of ‘The Speech’ can be viewed here (or in the embedded video above) and read here. What also follows below (in order of their appearance within) is a sample of just some of the many quotes that, are not only still inspiring for tomorrow, but are sadly still pertinent for today. Enjoy:

Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector’s share, and yet our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in. We haven’t balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We’ve raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world. … And we’ve just had announced that the dollar of 1939 will now purchase 45 cents in its total value.

We’re at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it’s been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.

If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.

This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down: [up] man’s old — old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.

‘[T]he full power of centralized government — this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

Private property rights [are] so diluted that public interest is almost anything a few government planners decide it should be.

For … decades, we’ve sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan.

And when the government tells you you’re depressed, lie down and be depressed. [tongue-in-cheek]

We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one.

So [the Democrats are] going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer — and they’ve had almost 30 years of it [more like 100+ years] — shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? … But the reverse is true.

Course, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency. [tongue-in-cheek

Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we’re denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we’re always “against” things — we’re never “for” anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

[The Democrats] called [Social Security] “insurance” to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified it was a welfare program. They only use the term “insurance” to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax.

[W]as Barry Goldwater so irresponsible when he suggested that our government give up its program of deliberate, planned inflation, so that when you do get your Social Security pension, a dollar will buy a dollar’s worth … ?

I think we’re against the hypocrisy of assailing our allies because here and there they cling to a colony, while we engage in a conspiracy of silence and never open our mouths about the millions of people enslaved in the Soviet colonies in the satellite nations.

I think we’re for aiding our allies by sharing of our material blessings with those nations which share in our fundamental beliefs, but we’re against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So, governments’ programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.

These proliferating [federal, state, and local] bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards.

But as a former Democrat, I can tell you … back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his Party was taking the Party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And … to this day, the leadership of that Party has been taking that Party, that honorable Party, down the road in the image of the labor Socialist Party of England.

Now it doesn’t require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the — or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists.

Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state …

They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer — not an easy answer — but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery.

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

 

Bibliography

1st Best

http://www.reaganfoundation.org/tgcdetail.aspx?p=TG0923RRS&h1=0&h2=0&sw=&lm=reagan&args_a=cms&args_b=1&argsb=N&tx=1736

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXBswFfh6AY

http://www.reaganfoundation.org/pdf/ATimeForChoosing.pdf

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2011/02/ronald-reagan-and-a-time-for-choosing.html

http://tomwoods.com/blog/the-thatcher-legacies/

http://tomwoods.com/blog/transcript-david-stockman-on-the-fed-and-war-plus-his-journey-from-leftism/

https://mises.org/books/reassessingpresidency.pdf

http://mises.org/freemarket_detail.aspx?control=488

http://mises.org/daily/6455/Unshackling-the-Fed

http://mises.org/daily/535

http://mises.org/daily/5011/

 

2nd Best

http://mises.org/daily/5009/the-reagan-fraud-and-after

http://mises.org/daily/1544

http://mises.org/daily/5010/the-two-faces-of-ronald-reagan

http://tomwoods.com/?s=reagan

http://mises.org/daily/5595/The-Many-Collapses-of-Keynesianism

 

3rd Best

http://mises.org/econsense/ch12.asp

http://mises.org/daily/1579/Debt-and-Delusion

http://mises.org/daily/6787/Why-the-Fed-Is-Nothing-to-Celebrate

http://mises.org/daily/4875

 

http://mises.org/daily/3116

Categories: On the Blog

Net Metering Gives Big Advantage to the Wealthy

October 27, 2014, 10:38 AM

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams are coming true thanks to a government policy called net metering, which allows wealthy environmentalists who have installed solar panels on their roofs to profit unfairly at the expense of economically-disadvantaged people who can’t afford the technology themselves.

Here’s how it works.

Solar panels and special electricity meters that run both forward and backward are installed at a residence and hooked up to the grid. The panels generate electricity that can be used in the household, and any extra electricity generated by the system is sent into the grid and is credited to the homeowner’s account by rolling back the numbers on the meter.

When the solar panels cannot produce enough electricity because of lack of sunshine at night or on cloudy days, these homes use electricity from the grid (typically generated from coal or natural gas), causing the meter to move forward.

At the end of the billing cycle, the homeowner is charged for the electricity purchased from the local power plant (the grid) minus the amount of electricity generated from solar “sold” to the grid, resulting in households paying for the “net” difference of electricity used, hence the name “net metering.”

Here’s where it becomes unfair: Many states require power companies to pay the full retail price for electricity generated from rooftop solar, instead of wholesale prices, even though it is generally less expensive for them to generate this power themselves. In Arizona, this means utilities are forced to pay nearly 300 percent more for electricity than if they were allowed to buy power on the open market.

This is a problem because the retail price of electricity is calculated to include the costs of upkeep for the entire grid, such as power lines, electric poles, transformers, traditional power plants (which people with solar panels still use on a daily basis), the salaries of people who work at utility companies, and taxes. When power companies are forced to buy solar electricity at full retail prices, owners of solar panels are not paying their fair share, because they don’t support the costs of the grid.

In fact, because net-metered customers are both buying and selling electricity, they rely on the grid more than customers without rooftop solar, but they are paying less into the system. As a result, utility companies must raise electricity prices for everyone else to make up this cost. Wealthier people are predominant among those who can afford solar panels, which means a shift in the cost burden from the well-to-do to those who can afford it least has now occurred.

Solar panels are undoubtedly a rich person’s game. The average home solar power system costs $20,000 to $30,000, a barrier for most middle and lower income households.

This barrier isn’t just speculation; it’s supported by the numbers. The California Public Utilities Commission conducted a study on the state’s net-metering policy and found 78 percent of solar-customers had higher incomes than the median California household. In fact, the average annual household income of solar customers was $91,210, much more than the $54,283 average for non-solar customers.

Another study shows just 4.1 percent of solar installations occur in ZIP code areas where households earn below $40,000 dollars median income. Imagine what the percentage of households with solar panels is for families with even lower yearly incomes, and then imagine how people in this situation must feel when they see their electricity bills rising and know there is nothing they can do about it.

In its current form, net metering encourages wealthy people to install solar panels on their roofs by forcing utilities to pay full-retail costs for the electricity generated from the panels. This increases the costs for everyone who doesn’t have solar panels, including those who already live in poverty.

The obvious way to remedy this is to change the compensation price for the electricity solar customers produce so that it reflect the costs of grid upkeep. Unfortunately for the poor, wealthy environmentalists tend to wield inordinate political power, and they don’t like it when you try to take away their subsidies, even if it hurts everyone else.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: David Schnare

October 27, 2014, 10:30 AM

The Energy and the Environment Legal Institute promotes free-market environmentalism through strategic litigation.  David Schnare, General Counsel of E&E Legal, discusses several ongoing actions, including E & E Legals’ request that the IRS and FEC investigate the Sierra Club for illegal fundraising and improper electioneering activities.

E & E Legal requested that the FEC investigate the Sierra Club for potential federal and state financial disclosure violations. The Sierra Club recently bought $1 million in ads aimed at smearing and defeating Iowa Republican State Senator Joni Ernst in her bid for the U.S. Senate.

The FEC complaint argues that the Sierra Club has taken money donated to it for environmental programs, but then spend that money on political activities, which E & E Legal believes violates campaign finance laws.

Categories: On the Blog

EPA Ripping Off Taxpayers to Support its Policies

October 27, 2014, 9:54 AM

For those concerned about the U. S. government going in debt $1.5 billion every day, rejoice.  Here is a chief example–EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will be in Atlanta October 26 to address the National Congress of American Indians.  (The News Announcement follows this article.)  No doubt she will be giving out large amounts of ‘wampum’ to keep tribal support for EPA regulations that inhibit economic growth of the United States.

EPA gives out grant money (your tax dollars) to insure support for its economy killing policies like the most recent Carbon Pollution Standards (Clean Power Plan).  Look at this waste in the past ten years–6398 grants for $1.8 billion for Indian Tribes. “In its war against fossil fuels, the EPA has a variety of tools of which one powerful help is the grants to a variety of organizations such as governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations called non-government organizations (NGOs). The database shows grants for the past ten years, including earlier grants that started before that time and still continuing, are 34,208 for a total cost of $58.724 billion.  Using a conservative estimate of $100,000 grant money equaling one man-year of effort, this sum represents 590,000 man-years of employment. Many of these workers do the bidding of EPA on supporting its policies.  Enthusiastic support may be necessary for grant renewals.

These grants from EPA included 6398 grants for $1.807 billion to Indian Tribes.  With the U. S. government going into debt $1.5 billion per day, all grants are an extraordinary waste of tax dollars. This activity should be stopped.”

It would be great if a demonstration can be held in front of the hotel protesting this waste of tax dollars.  Going to the link–grants to a variety of organizations shows detail about individual grants.

James H. Rust, Professor of nuclear engineering and policy advisor The Heartland Institute.

Categories: On the Blog

Missouri Parents Fight for School Transfer Law

October 26, 2014, 10:56 AM

The ongoing struggle between parents and the Missouri government over the state’s school transfer law is another example of politics and bureaucracy winning out over parents, children, and their futures.

A judge ruled in late August in favor of parents and allowed students to return to the accredited districts to which they had legally transferred under a state law the previous year. This is a victory, but it has been largely limited to the families directly involved in the fight. The history of this conflict shows there is every reason to believe politicians and officials will continue to manipulate the school transfer law in order to stop it from functioning as it should.

The law says students attending school in an unaccredited district are allowed to transfer out to a nearby district that has accreditation.

School and state officials have been doing everything in their power to stop this from happening. The tactics have included requesting special, temporary accreditation of some sort and trying to claim the state has taken over and that should be considered accreditation. The education bureaucrats are trying to make students who successfully left the unaccredited districts return to those districts this school year.

Two thousand students transferred out of the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts last year. Officials have gone out of their way to fight as few as 10 families representing 17 students at a time to keep the transfer law from standing.

Missouri uses students’ performance on the Annual Performance Report (APR) in grading the effectiveness of schools and determining accreditation status. The system takes into account academic achievement, achievement in subgroups such as students with limited proficiency in English, college- and career- or high-school readiness, attendance rate, and graduation rate. In 2014, Normandy scored 7.1 percent on the APR. Riverview Gardens scored 45.4 percent. The graduation rate in Normandy is just 45.5 percent, and in Riverview Gardens it is 64 percent.

Alleged attempts to improve or fix the transfer law have turned out to be nothing more than efforts to stop transfers and prevent the law from working. Some Democrats support overhauling the transfer law in hopes of keeping students, and their state education funds, trapped in the unaccredited districts. Some Republicans have supported the overhaul because affluent residents do not want low-income students transferring into their schools.

Both sides have tried to gin up sympathy for the education establishment by noting the sending school districts lose money when students transfer. But the system should be designed to benefit the students, not the districts.

The Missouri Supreme Court has already upheld the transfer law. In August another judge decided in favor of the parents, who are trying only to provide the best education their children are allowed under the letter of the law.

But in districts such as Francis Howell, only families named in the original lawsuit are allowed to send their children back to the school districts to which they transferred. The districts have refused to accept the court’s decision as a precedent and will not allow all the transfer students to return to the accredited districts. A class-action lawsuit is in the works to force them to do so. Until now, parents have been individually filing petitions with the courts.

Among those fighting to be allowed to transfer are the families of 300 students who want to return to the accredited Ferguson-Florissant School District. Despite the recent events and unrest in Ferguson, these families are doing everything in their power to guarantee their children go to the district’s schools rather than be forced back to Normandy. If that doesn’t make state and school officials examine the quality of education being provided by the Normandy district, what will?

 

Categories: On the Blog

Fear the Day Government’s Great Fiction Lies Exposed

October 26, 2014, 10:39 AM

“Government is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else,” wrote the celebrated French legislator, economist, and political theorist Frederic Bastiat 165 years ago. With recent reports out of the Census Bureau indicating nearly half of all Americans are receiving some form of direct government subsidy – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, veterans’ benefits, etc. – can there be any doubt he was right?

Among the Census Bureau’s findings: More than 100 million Americans (more than one- third of the population) were receiving “means-tested” welfare assistance at the end of 2012, including 51 million on food stamps and 83 million on Medicaid. Many households received both. If we include Social Security, Medicare benefits, and veterans’ benefits, which do not depend on means testing for eligibility, nearly half of all households are receiving money from the other half.

That’s really what all this comes down to: some Americans taking from others. There is no doubt some Social Security recipients are already beginning to sputter with fury: “I paid into that!”

Yes, you did, and your payments – even with supposed investments – don’t come close to covering what you’re taking out of it. One of the great fictions of Social Security (and Medicare, which is part of Social Security) is that the government takes money from us while we work so that it will be there for us when we retire. In fact, no money is set aside. It’s all spent to pay for benefits or siphoned away to finance other government projects in years when tax revenues fall short of benefit payments.

If our tax dollars were really set aside for our retirement years, the government should have no problem letting Americans opt out of Social Security, right? The government wouldn’t need other people’s money to fund our benefits. But suggest an opt-out to someone in Congress and see what response you get.

As for the means-tested welfare programs, astonishingly, the number of welfare recipients has climbed since 2009, when the recession supposedly ended. The economy is growing and unemployment is falling, at least according to the Obama administration. Yet the government’s own records show government dependency is climbing.

In 2013, according to the Federal Bureau of Fiscal Services, the federal government paid more than $2 trillion in social benefits, nearly 70 percent of which went toward Social Security and Medicare. This is out of federal spending totaling $3.4 trillion. Far more money is spent on social programs than on everything else the federal government funds, including the military, education, agriculture, and transportation systems.

During the George W. Bush presidency, from 2001 to 2009, the federal debt climbed from $5.7 trillion to $10.4 trillion. Since 2009, trillions more have been added, and it’s now nearly $18 trillion. If the government’s promises are being properly funded, the debt would not be soaring.

President Lyndon Johnson launched the “War on Poverty” 50 years ago. Have we won the war? Are we about to win the war? Is there any end to the war in sight?

“Government is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.” The War on Poverty promoted the fiction, with new chapters added regularly since then, including those added by supposedly stingy Republicans. The Medicare drug program during Republican George W. Bush’s reign was the single largest entitlement expansion since the 1960s, and it was done without money being designated to fund it.

Fear the day when reality shatters the fiction. The longer the fiction lasts, the more shattering the reality will be.

Categories: On the Blog

Will the FCC Break the Internet? – My Daily Caller Op-ed

October 25, 2014, 10:42 AM

Actions speak louder than words.

The world is watching to see where the FCC’s actions will lead international telecommunications regulators going forward.

Will FCC leadership reinforce the successful Internet policy status quo?

Or will the FCC reverse course and risk breaking the global Internet by leading international telecommunications regulators to price-regulate their sovereign parts of the global Internet to restore the national postal and telecom utilities of the 20th century?

Currently the FCC is considering reversing the legal status of American Internet services from lightly-regulated information services to utility-regulated “telecommunications” services in response to a 2014 appeals court decision that limited a portion of the FCC’s net neutrality regulatory authority.

Neither the FCC nor the Internet operates in a vacuum. Most everything is now interconnected.

The big point here is if the FCC unilaterally changes the legal status of American Internet service to utility-regulated “telecommunications,” it could lead to big negative global repercussions that could seriously undermine U.S. trade and foreign policy interests going forward.

Strong Clinton Administration policy leadership was critical to enabling the current global free flow of information that we now know as the Internet.

In the 1990s, America successfully persuaded the world to not subject the Internet to “telecommunications” utility regulation via treaties and agreements overseen by the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

That’s because ITU agreement ITU-T D.50 recognizes the sovereign right of each state to regulate “telecommunications” as that state determines.

Thus, if the FCC puts domestic politics first in “telecommunications” regulation, every other country can too.

So how could the wrong kind of FCC leadership break the Internet?

Today the Internet is unique because it is global with no borders. The Internet’s free flow of virtual information is not subject to the normal sovereign border inspection or tariffs that physical international travel, delivery or trade must endure.

In stark contrast, the raison d’être of the ITU’s “telecommunications” utility-regulation regime is to create and enforce sovereign borders and tariffs.

Thus over time, redefining the Internet to be common “telecommunications” easily could devolve the Internet back to the 1990’s telephone and postal national utility model, yielding a de facto broken and Balkanized splinter-net.

Trade Policy

What’s the risk to U.S. trade?

The current Internet status quo is as near to perfect-free-trade for American interests as America could aspire.

There is almost unfettered free flow of information from the U.S. to the world, subject to no national customs border inspection, transit accountability, or import tariffs.

In addition, America’s Internet and big data companies have benefited richly from the lax U.S.-EU data protection safe harbor that allows U.S. companies to annually self-certify, with no meaningful system of accountability, that they comply with EU data protection law.

But apparently this as-good-as-it-gets Internet free-trade dynamic is not good enough for Silicon Valley companies.

They now want the FCC to officially subsidize their massive Internet infrastructure-use via a clever re-branding of net neutrality to mean “no-fast-lane” and “no-paid-prioritization” allowed.

Specifically, Silicon Valley companies are heavily lobbying the FCC for a permanent, FCC-set, zero-price for its downstream traffic to consumers and businesses.

How could these FCC subsidies cause trade policy problems?

The ITU’s “telecommunications” settlements regime, “sender-party-pays,” is just like the sender of a letter or package paying for a stamp or postage for delivery domestically or internationally.

Today Silicon Valley companies “export” vastly more volume of Internet traffic to the rest of the world (in videos streamed, content displayed, and services provided) than other countries digitally export to the U.S. via the Internet.

While the FCC may imagine that it is in its political interests to subsidize Silicon Valley as a “national champion” as part of an FCC industrial policy, the political interests of foreign regulators is not America’s.

Any potential FCC revival of the 1990’s ITU “telecommunications” international settlement regime puts Silicon Valley companies like Google-YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, etc., at great risk of having to pay many billions of dollars net to foreign governments to reach their foreign consumers and businesses.

And foreign governments could charge that U.S. governmental infrastructure-use subsidies for Silicon Valley constitute an unfair protectionist trade advantage.

The digital section of US-EU trade negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) already faces enough trade problems given the EU’s opening positions to end the US-EU data protection safe harbor and its high priority to create a Single European Digital Market.

U.S. trade negotiators certainly don’t need the FCC effectively commandeering U.S. digital trade policy by unilaterally redefining un-tariffed Internet trade to be tariffed “telecommunications” trade.

Foreign Policy

What’s the risk here to U.S. foreign policy?

First, American foreign policy has promoted freedom of speech and no censorship as important to democracy, trade and civil society.

However, in the post-Snowden context, the world fears widespread NSA deep-packet-inspection of Internet traffic.

Thus it would not be helpful to U.S. interests for the FCC to redefine the Internet to be “telecommunications” trade because that could invite autocratic governments around the world to deploy their own deep-packet-inspection at their borders for the purposes of censorship, under the political cover of an FCC-legitimized “sender-party-pays” Internet “telecommunications” trade regime.

Second, another foreign policy problem with the FCC asserting utility regulation authority over the American Internet would be the de facto FCC abandonment of the multistakeholder process of Internet governance.

Just this month, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker at an ICANN Internet governance forum promised to “not allow the global Internet to be co-opted by any person, entity, or nation seeking to substitute their parochial worldview for the collective wisdom of this community.”

Certainly it is not helpful to this particular U.S. foreign policy for the American FCC to be the most visible parochial entity “seeking to substitute their parochial worldview for the collective wisdom of this community.”

Third and most importantly, is the foreign policy risk of unwittingly playing into the hands of China’s and Russia’s geopolitical machinations to “de-Americanize” the Internet.

Anyone who pays attention to world affairs knows that China and Russia are aggressively extending their geopolitical spheres of influence at America’s expense.

They know China’s cyber-forces have massively infiltrated most all major American tech companies and stolen an incalculable amount of American trade secrets and intellectual property.

They also know that the U.S. government suspects that Russian-backed cyber-forces may be responsible for many of the biggest cyber-attacks on U.S. retail companies that have made away with tens of millions of Americans’ credit card numbers.

In addition to these Chinese and Russian covert efforts, China and Russia are overtly trying to have the International Telecommunications Union replace the U.S.-backed ICANN and the international multistakeholder community in governing the Internet.

The next Secretary General of the UN International Telecommunications Union is expected to be China’s Houlin Zhao, who is currently Deputy Secretary General of the ITU.

To bring this geopolitical point home, there are two things that China and Russia hopes the U.S. will do to unwittingly advance their plans to “de-Americanize” the Internet and weaken America’s economic and technological leadership.

First they want the U.S. to surrender control of the Internet’s “root zone file,” which is the Internet’s global address book that enables anyone to connect to anything on the Internet, to the multistakeholder community so the ITU can then eventually take it over.

China, Russia and their many autocratic allies around the world know that if the Internet’s address book does not remain on U.S. soil enjoying American sovereign protection, the current global “root-zone-file” could be broken up into sovereign root-zone-files under other sovereign countries’ control, thus breaking the global Internet.

Second, China and Russia could only dream that America’s FCC would redefine the Internet to be “telecommunications” because that would give them perfect political cover to effectively take control of Internet governance via the ITU.

Thus the open question for the FCC and the U.S. government: is the potential risk of partial gaps in the FCC’s domestic net neutrality authority more important to address than causing the very real risks of unwittingly abetting foreign interests bent on breaking up the global Internet?

The FCC is not “independent” of the United States government or free to set its own trade or foreign policy.

On international matters, the FCC knows it must tread softly and carry no stick.

The FCC also appreciates that the Internet has major geopolitical, trade, and economic import, and that the Internet has become a new tacit cyber-battleground with China and Russia, which seek to “de-Americanize” the Internet.

Clearly, the FCC is at a crossroads.

Will the Wheeler-FCC advance the successful Internet status quo?

Or will the Wheeler-FCC reverse course for parochial reasons and lead the international telecom regulator community down a utility-regulation “telecommunications” path that risks the sovereign break-up of the global Internet?

History will be the judge of the FCC’s actions, not its words.

***

FCC Open Internet Order Series

Part 1: The Many Vulnerabilities of an Open Internet [9-24-09]

Part 2: Why FCC proposed net neutrality regs unconstitutional, NPR Online Op-ed [9-24-09]

Part 3: Takeaways from FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regs [10-22-09]

Part 4: How FCC Regulation Would Change the Internet [10-30-09]

Part 5: Is FCC Declaring ‘Open Season’ on Internet Freedom? [11-17-09]

Part 6: Critical Gaps in FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regulations [11-30-09]

Part 7: Takeaways from the FCC’s Open Internet Further Inquiry [9-2-10]

Part 8: An FCC “Data-Driven” Double Standard? [10-27-10]

Part 9: Election Takeaways for the FCC [11-3-10]

Part 10: Irony of Little Openness in FCC Open Internet Reg-making [11-19-10]

Part 11: FCC Regulating Internet to Prevent Companies from Regulating Internet [11-22-10]

Part 12: Where is the FCC’s Legitimacy? [11-22-10]

Part 13: Will FCC Preserve or Change the Internet? [12-17-10]

Part 14: FCC Internet Price Regulation & Micro-management? [12-20-10]

Part 15: FCC Open Internet Decision Take-aways [12-21-10]

Part 16: FCC Defines Broadband Service as “BIAS”-ed [12-22-10]

Part 17: Why FCC’s Net Regs Need Administration/Congressional Regulatory Review [1-3-11]

Part 18: Welcome to the FCC-Centric Internet [1-25-11]

Part 19: FCC’s Net Regs in Conflict with President’s Pledges [1-26-11]

Part 20: Will FCC Respect President’s Call for “Least Burdensome” Regulation? [2-3-11]

Part 21: FCC’s In Search of Relevance in 706 Report [5-23-11]

Part 22: The FCC’s public wireless network blocks lawful Internet traffic [6-13-11]

Part 23: Why FCC Net Neutrality Regs Are So Vulnerable [9-8-11]

Part 24: Why Verizon Wins Appeal of FCC’s Net Regs [9-30-11]

Part 25: Supreme Court likely to leash FCC to the law [10-10-12]

Part 26: What Court Data Roaming Decision Means for FCC Open Internet Order [12-4-12]

Part 27: Oops! Crawford’s Model Broadband Nation, Korea, Opposes Net Neutrality [2-26-13]

Part 28: Little Impact on FCC Open Internet Order from SCOTUS Chevron Decision [5-21-13]

Part 29: More Legal Trouble for FCC’s Open Internet Order & Net Neutrality [6-2-13]

Part 30: U.S. Competition Beats EU Regulation in Broadband Race [6-21-13]

Part 31: Defending Google Fiber’s Reasonable Network Management [7-30-13]

Part 32: Capricious Net Neutrality Charges [8-7-13]

Part 33: Why FCC won’t pass Appeals Court’s oral exam [9-2-13]

Part 34: 5 BIG Implications from Court Signals on Net Neutrality – A Special Report [9-13-13]

Part 35: Dial-up Rules for the Broadband Age? My Daily Caller Op-ed Rebutting Marvin Ammori’s [11-6-13]

Part 36: Nattering Net Neutrality Nonsense Over AT&T’s Sponsored Data Offering [1-6-14]

Part 37: Is Net Neutrality Trying to Mutate into an Economic Entitlement? [1-12-14]

Part 38: Why Professor Crawford Has Title II Reclassification All Wrong [1-16-14]

Part 39: Title II Reclassification Would Violate President’s Executive Order [1-22-14]

Part 40: The Narrowing Net Neutrality Dispute [2-24-14]

Part 41: FCC’s Open Internet Order Do-over – Key Going Forward Takeaways [3-5-14]

Part 42: Net Neutrality is about Consumer Benefit not Corporate Welfare for Netflix [3-21-14]

Part 43: The Multi-speed Internet is Getting More Faster Speeds [4-28-14]

Part 44: Reality Check on the Electoral Politics of Net Neutrality [5-2-14]

Part 45: The “Aristechracy” Demands Consumers Subsidize Their Net Neutrality Free Lunch [5-8-14]

Part 46: Read AT&T’s Filing that Totally Debunks Title II Reclassification [5-9-14]

Part 47: Statement on FCC Open Internet NPRM [5-15-14]

Part 48: Net Neutrality Rhetoric: “Believe it or not!” [5-16-14]

Part 49: Top Ten Reasons Broadband Internet is not a Public Utility [5-20-14]

Part 50: Top Ten Reasons to Oppose Broadband Utility Regulation [5-28-14]

Part 51: Google’s Title II Broadband Utility Regulation Risks [6-3-14]

Part 52:  Exposing Netflix’ Biggest Net Neutrality Deceptions [6-5-14]

Part 53: Silicon Valley Naïve on Broadband Regulation (3 min video) [6-15-14]

Part 54: FCC’s Netflix Internet Peering Inquiry – Top Ten Questions [6-17-14]

Part 55: Interconnection is Different for Internet than Railroads or Electricity [6-26-14]

Part 56: Top Ten Failures of FCC Title II Utility Regulation [7-7-14]

Part 57: NetCompetition Statement & Comments on FCC Open Internet Order Remand [7-11-14]

Part 58: MD Rules Uber is a Common Carrier – Will FCC Agree? [8-6-14]

Part 59: Internet Peering Doesn’t Need Fixing – NetComp CommActUpdate Submission [8-11-14]

Part 60: Why is Silicon Valley Rebranding/Redefining Net Neutrality?  [9-2-14]

Part 61: the FCC’s Redefinition of Broadband Competition [9-4-14]

Part 62: NetCompetition Comments to FCC Opposing Title II Utility Regulation of Broadband [9-9-14]

Part 63: De-competition De-competition De-competition [9-14-14]

Part 64: The Forgotten Consumer in the Fast Lane Net Neutrality Debate [9-18-14]

Part 65: FTC Implicitly Urges FCC to Not Reclassify Broadband as a Utility [9-23-14]

Part 66: Evaluating the Title II Rainbow of Proposals for the FCC to Go Nuclear [9-29-14]

Part 67: Why Waxman’s FCC Internet Utility Regulation Plan Would Be Unlawful [10-5-14]

Part 68: Silicon Valley’s Biggest Internet Mistake [10-15-14]

[Originally published at The Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Predictions of Doom Caused by Tax Relief Measures Ring Hollow

October 24, 2014, 11:23 AM

Many years ago, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu opined, “Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.”

He was most likely observing human behavior in the aggregate, but local government officials who fought against tax relief measures for the state’s Local Government Fund (LGF) subsidies would be wise to heed Lao Tzu’s words in the future.

In 2011, numerous local-government special-interest groups and elected officials fought against Gov. John Kasich’s proposed reduction to the Local Government Fund, a pool of taxpayers’ money collected by the state government and redistributed to local governments’ general revenue funds.

The LGF, created by Gov. George White, was born with great fanfare and pomp. Writing of his plan to enact a 3 percent sales tax in Ohio, White proclaimed forcing taxpayers to subsidize communities in which they did not reside would save the state—and the hundreds of municipalities within it—“from bankruptcy and chaos.” Not one to set a low bar for expectations for “spreading the wealth around,” White announced his plan would allow him a peaceful slumber: “I know now that the poor will be fed and clothed and our children given the opportunity of a free education which is the birthright of every American school child and that the safety and health of our people will be guaranteed.”

In 2011, when Kasich and legislators began cutting the LGF, numerous municipalities began ringing the alarm, forecasting the return of White’s predicted “bankruptcy and chaos” should their access to other people’s money be restricted at all. Circleville Mayor Chuck Taylor told the Columbus Dispatch his city’s budget already had been “cut to the bone,” complaining, “It’s going to be devastating to us, to be honest.”

Ohio Sen. Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard) bemoaned the 5.3 percent cut in subsidies, warning, “the state is creating a fiscal crisis for local governments that will likely lead to tax increases, reduced services and additional layoffs.”

After local governments have spent three years without their fire-hose access to money extracted from other communities’ workers, the predicted apocalypse has failed to appear.

Recent studies of Ohio municipalities’ financial status have confirmed the world has not ended. A groundbreaking, comprehensive database compiled by ace Gannett Media reporters Chrissie Thompson, Jessie Balmert, and Jona Ison showed “counties and cities are largely weathering cuts in state money.” In fact, they note municipalities are actually exceeding state minimums for “rainy-day funds.” Clearly, the sun is shining on local governments’ budget sheets.

A parallel study, conducted by the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, found local government tax revenues have increased by $310 million since the state slowed its subsidization of local governments. Confirming Gannett Media’s deep-dive, the Buckeye Institute study found 90 percent of all county governments are running budget surpluses, saving unassigned general revenue funds for possible leaner times ahead.

A general fear of the future—the “undiscovered country,” as Shakespeare called it—is understandable, but the hysteria over LGF subsidy cuts and the resulting relief for the state’s taxpayers has clearly proven unwarranted. Should future sessions of the General Assembly decide on further relief of the taxpayer burden, the predictable prognostications of peril from our elected officials and their surrounding nebula of pro-taxation policy advisors will have less credibility than ever.

Categories: On the Blog

FCC’s Secret Meetings Raise Significant Process Concerns

October 23, 2014, 3:49 PM

A little-noticed article in the Wall Street Journal over Labor Day Weekend concerning the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger caught my eye, not only because the article obviously concerns an important matter of communications policy, but also because it raises questions regarding a matter of proper administrative agency process.

In the online version, the article is titled, “Comcast Targeted by Entertainment Giants.” This presages the article’s focus on the substantive communications policy matter. Along with my colleague, Seth Cooper, I filed public comments in the FCC’s proceeding that set forth our views concerning the proper way for the FCC to consider the merger proposal. You can read our comments, and I don’t intend to discuss the substance of the merger proposal here.

Instead, what I want to focus on is the matter of proper agency process. The article’s subtitle says a lot about my process concern: “FCC Encourages Media Companies to Provide Confidential Complaints on Time Warner Cable Purchase.”According to the WSJ, the FCC “is encouraging those big companies to offer feedback confidentially, people familiar with the matter say.”

In my decades-long experience with FCC matters, it is fairly unusual, if not unprecedented, for the FCC to take the initiative in encouraging confidential complaints in the context of an on-the-record merger review proceeding. The fact that it is doing so here caught my “administrative law” eye. (As a former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, a current member of the Administrative Conference of the United States, and a current Fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration, I do have such an “administrative law” eye. But, of course, I am speaking here only for myself.)

The theory spun out in the WSJ article is that the so-called “Entertainment Giants” may be too intimidated to put whatever concerns they may have about the merger on the public record. Unless these companies are able to meet with Commission officials on a confidential basis, so the story goes, they may not present their concerns at all because they fear that they may be subject to retribution by Comcast.

I can follow the theory, but nevertheless I do question the use of secret meetings in the context of the FCC’s transaction review proceedings. The practice of conducting off-the-record meetings raises questions of fundamental fairness that go to the integrity of the agency’s decision-making process. This is because no one –including Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the parties most directly affected – is in a position to rebut claims made by the parties during the confidential meetings.

In administrative law terms, the FCC’s merger review proceeding – a proceeding in which the FCC is considering applications to approve the transfer of specific spectrum licenses and other specific authorizations – is an adjudicatory proceeding affecting the legal rights of the parties to the applications. In most cases, adjudicatory proceedings are “restricted” proceedings. This means that ex parte, or off-the-record, contacts between interested parties and Commission decision-making officials are not allowed. In restricted proceedings, all communications between interested parties and FCC officials must be on-the-record.

But in certain adjudicatory proceedings that may have significant public policy implications beyond the rights of the immediately affected parties, the FCC may invoke what it calls a “permit-but-disclose” process. The agency typically designates major merger reviews “permit-but-disclose” proceedings under Section 1.1206(b) of its rules, and it did so in a public notice in this case. As the name implies, in a “permit-but-disclose” proceeding, an interested party may make an ex parte presentation to Commission decision-making personnel, as long as the person promptly places in the public record the substance of the presentation.

The “permit-but-disclose” process allows interested parties to present their views to Commission officials considering the transaction, while ensuring, at the same time, that the substance of those views is placed in the record so that other interested parties, including the applicants seeking approval of the transaction, have notice of the presentation and an opportunity to respond.

If the Wall Street Journal reporting is accurate, and in fact the FCC is deviating from the “permit-but-disclose” practice in the case of the Comcast-TWC merger proceeding, then I have concerns. Providing fair notice and an opportunity to respond are fundamental elements of due process, even in a constitutional sense. A “permit-but-non-disclose” process, which by definition lacks fair notice and an opportunity to respond, is problematic from the perspective of proper conduct of an adjudicatory proceeding.

Now, I understand that perhaps in this instance the FCC may be invoking a further exception to the restricted proceeding requirements that otherwise apply to adjudicatory matters. Section 1.1204(a)(9) of the Commission’s rules provides that the Commission may allow a secret presentation to be made “to protect an individual from the possibility of reprisal, or [if] there is a reasonable expectation that disclosure would endanger the life or physical safety of an individual.” I understand that this provision may have a role to play as a “safety valve” in very rare situations, including when life or limb may be threatened.

Despite some of the exaggerated and unhelpful heated rhetoric bandied about regarding so-called “media giants” – whether they be cable operators like Comcast and Time Warner Cable on the one hand or content programmers on the other – no one seriously entertains the notion that anyone’s life or physical safety is threatened by on-the-record participation in the merger proceeding. So, perhaps agency officials are reading “reprisal” in the sense of an interested party’s possible fears that it might not be treated as well as it otherwise would like in a business negotiation if it expresses concerns about the proposed merger.

Well, of course. It is understandable that one business “giant” (or even little giant) might prefer not to tick off another by expressing concerns in a public proceeding. But this worry, such as it is, must be balanced by concerns about maintaining the integrity of the agency’s administrative process. I don’t know what is said in the secret meetings – well, that’s obvious – but, without knowing more, my sense is that here the balance tips in favor of putting the substance of the claims on the public record. After all, remedies are available if anticompetitive retaliatory conduct is proven, and they will remain available whether or not the Comcast-TWC merger is approved.

Finally, I understand that the Department of Justice, in investigating proposed mergers, conducts secret meetings just like the FCC apparently is conducting in this instance. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that DOJ is conducting confidential meetings with some of the very same parties with whom FCC officials are meeting. To some extent this just serves to highlight the duplication of effort, in many instances unnecessary duplication of effort, when both DOJ and the FCC investigate the same merger.

But in a more fundamental sense, DOJ’s conduct of confidential meetings just serves to highlight my concern about the FCC’s process. DOJ, an executive branch antitrust enforcement agency, presumably is investigating whatever competitive concerns it may have about the proposed merger, including those brought to its attention by competitors of Comcast and TWC and those who deal with them. But, ultimately, if DOJ concludes the merger presents competitive concerns, it must either file a complaint in court seeking to block or condition it. This would begin an on-the-record process in federal court that will be conducted in full public view.

In the case of the FCC, ultimately it will adopt a public order regarding the applications seeking transfer of specific licenses. But the substance of the secret meetings will never be put on the public record before this official action is taken. Comcast and Time Warner Cable most likely won’t even know who met with whom, and they won’t have an opportunity to respond.

There may be more than I know as to why the FCC is proceeding in the unusual fashion it is. But based on what I know, I think this is a problematic way for the Commission, acting in its quasi-judicial capacity, to proceed in an adjudicatory proceeding.

Alexander Bickel, the prominent constitutional law scholar, wrote in his 1975 book, The Morality of Consent, that “the highest form of morality almost always is the morality of process.” I share Professor Bickel’s view regarding the importance of process.

In this case, converting a “permit-but-disclose” proceeding into a “permit-but-non-disclose” one raises significant process concerns.

[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

Wisconsin Wind Health Hazard

October 23, 2014, 12:06 PM

Wind farms in particular and wind power in general create a number of problems.

We at The Heartland Institute have written extensively concerning the death toll wind farm operations inflict on birds and bats.

Anyone who travels across this country or lives near the vicinity of wind farms can describe the increasing industrial blight wind farms impose on previously unmarred vistas and formerly wild, undeveloped locales.  Wind farms, sprawling across thousands of miles, have an unmatched footprint on the basis of the land required per unit of energy produced.

Wind power is expensive and unreliable.

All of these points are becoming evident, not just to we policy wonks who study the issue, but increasingly to the public at large.

Now, issues in Wisconsin highlight another possible problem caused by wind farms, perhaps the most damning of all: more and more people who reside near wind farms are claiming the turbines’ operations are making them sick. If, in fact, industrial wind turbines do cause human health problems, it could result in significant restrictions on their placement and operations — making them even less popular and unprofitable (absent large subsidies) than they already are. Lawsuits could also be in the offing.

Wisconsin’s Brown County Health Board has gone on record this week declaring the Shirley Wind Project, owned by Duke Energy, a “human health hazard.” The Board’s action puts Duke on the defensive to prove the farm is not a health risk.

It is the duty of health departments to collect information regarding human health within in their respective counties.  If other county or state health departments take the Brown County Health Board’s declaration seriously, they may start investigating the issues in their areas.  This could bring on onslaught of health complaints, which would become a problem for wind farm operators around the nation.

For more on the Brown County/Shirley Wind Farm situation see:

http://www.rightwisconsin.com/perspectives/A-Game-Changer-for-the-Wind-Energy-Debate-out-of-Brown-County-279728222.html

http://www.fdlreporter.com/story/opinion/2014/10/19/wind-turbines-rotten-cuts-ways/17454793/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=

http://www.jrn.com/nbc26/news/Health-Board-Says-the-Shirley-Wind-Project-is-a-Health-Hazard-279626362.html

http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2014/10/duke-energys-shirley-wind-farm-declared-health-hazard/

One wonders where the mainstream media coverage is on this question of human health risk.  Major media players cover every oil spill, pollution from farming operations and the slightest possible health risk from chemicals, yet when the issue is a possible health risk from the environmental left’s sacred cow, wind energy, there is a deafening silence from national media outlets on the issue.

Categories: On the Blog