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Why Google Can’t Criticize EU Much for Ruling it Dominant & Anticompetitive

February 08, 2016, 11:02 AM

In the next several weeks, expect the EC’s Competition Directorate to decide that Google is in fact dominant with >90% share of Internet search in Europe and that Google has abused its search dominance by biasing its own Shopping service over competitors. It also could formally charge Google for abuse of its search dominance in contractually tying Google Search and other search-driven apps like Maps, YouTube, etc. to Android to extend its search dominance to mobile search and to the operating system market where Android now owns >80% share.

In taking a most extreme and ultimately indefensible legal and PR position, that the EU antitrust case is “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics,” Google has painted itself into a corner, PR-wise and politically, much more than many appreciate. Why?

First, the U.S. DOJ has already officially found Google dominant in search/search-advertising — twice.

It will be very hard for Google to credibly argue that its >90% share of Internet search is not dominance when the EU legal threshold for dominance is just ~40%.

It will also be hard for Google to get the USG to publicly pound the table on their behalf, because it is public knowledge that both the Bush DOJ and the Obama DOJ both officially found Google dominant after in-depth investigations.

The Bush DOJ determined in 2008: “The Department’s investigation revealed that Internet search advertising and Internet search syndication are each relevant antitrust markets and that Google is by far the largest provider of such services, with shares of more than 70 percent in both markets.” The Obama DOJ determined in 2010: “…Google, the firm that now dominates these markets … [“Internet search and paid search advertising”].”

Second, on a factual level, the FTC’s staff report on Google antitrust showed that both the FTC staff investigators, and even Google, viewed Google as dominant.

We learned from the inadvertent release of the FTC staff report that recommended an antitrust case against Google, that FTC investigators concluded that: “Google is clearly the dominant provider of ‘general’ search services in the U.S.” (p. 68).

The FTC also discovered an admission by Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, who stated: “We’re the dominant incumbent in the industry” (footnote 547). In addition, the FTC uncovered email evidence Larry Page personally supported the search bias self-dealing that Google now denies: “Larry [Page] thought product [Google’s shopping service] should get more exposure” (footnote 120).

Third, Google can’t claim to be innocent victim of EU antitrust charges when it is obviously a rare serial antitrust recidivist.   

In 2008, Google dropped its proposed Google-Yahoo Ad Agreement because the DOJ threatened a Section 1 & 2 monopolization case for trying to extend its >70% dominance of Internet search advertising and search syndication to a >90% share via the collusive proposal with Yahoo.

In 2009, the DOJ opposed the proposed Google Book Settlement as anticompetitive, and in 2011, a U.S. Court agreed and rejected the settlement as anti-competitive — a legal position by the way, that was officially supported by Germany and France in their opposition filings.

In 2010, the DOJ and Court prohibited Google and six other companies from continuing to engage is anticompetitive employee solicitation agreements.

In 2013, both the FTC and the EU settled with Google to prohibit it from continuing to anti-competitively abuse its Standard Essential Patent (SEP) portfolio, after the DOJ warnedGoogle to not do so when it approved Google’s acquisition of Motorola.

Fourth, U.S. State AGs are asking the FTC for a new look at the Google antitrust case.

A recent bipartisan letter from the Attorney Generals of Utah and the District of Columbia said: “We encourage the commission to consider new information and developments that have become available both domestically and internationally since closing its Google investigationper Bloomberg.

This is timely and significant because of the pending EU decisions on Google Search-bias and the Android-tying/app-bias investigation, and also because the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule in the coming weeks against Google’s Section 230 lawsuit claiming that state Attorney Generals have no law enforcement jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute Google for violation of state laws. 41 State AGs, including Utah and DC’s, oppose Google’s audacious claim of special legal immunity from state law enforcement.

Fifth, new Android mobile search financials spotlight Google’s market power of tying search to Android.

We recently learned fromthe Oracle v. Google-Android copyright infringement case that Android enjoyed monopoly-size >70% gross profit margins in 2014. We just learned from Google’s earnings, that Google’s mobile search dominance also made Google most valuable company in the world.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said: “Above all, our Q4 results show the great momentum and opportunity we have in mobile search…” Given what we now know from the Oracle 2014 Google-Android financials and Google’s 2015 financials that exceeded revenue and profit expectations, Google Android probably now generates over a third of Google’s revenues and over 40% of Google’s profits. This is not normal competitive growth; this is anticompetitive Google-Android contractual tying in requiring Google Search to be the default and prominent search engine on Android devices – to drive dominance in mobile search.

Finally, neither Google nor the USG want to beg media or EU questions into why the USG is aggressively defending Google in public when the DOJ has previously found Google dominant and anticompetitive.

To the extent that Boss Google uses its influence machine to get the USG, FTC or the DOJ to publicly defend Google against the EU as not dominant, or as an innocent victim of the EU’s antitrust charges, they will put the put the USG, FTC, and DOJ in the embarrassing position of answering logical public accountability questions it does not want asked.

Like why is Google allowed to create at least the perception of a conflict of interest by enthroning so many of its former employees or consultants in so many Federal Government positions of commercial importance to Google?

Why did the DOJ not require Google to fully comply with the requirements in its $500m criminal forfeiture, Non-Prosecution Agreement, when Google broke five laws during the probation period?

Why did the FTC shut down the Google antitrust investigation abruptly over the advice of the FTC’s professional investigators, and why did the FTC put out a press release defending Google at Google’s behest?

 

[Originally published at the Precursor Blog]

Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.

Categories: On the Blog

Demand Lawmakers Enact a Permanent Smart Meter Opt Out for Illinoisans

February 08, 2016, 10:54 AM

Although the installation of Smart Meters by ComEd has already been completed in some areas of Illinois – despite protests from concerned citizens – a recent news account alerted Lake County residents that they have been targeted next for Smart Meter installation.

An article published in the Daily Herald on January 29, 2016, stated how Libertyville, IL, is in the next round of communities in Lake County to have standard analog meters replaced by “smart” devices. Quoted in the article was David Doherty, director of the Smart Meter transformation for ComEd, who explained how “Smart Meters collect energy usage information that can be read remotely, allowing the company to determine and react to power outages more quickly.  The meters also will send a signal when a customer loses power.”

According to company literature that is distributed by ComEd to community leaders in advance of Smart Meter installation: “Smart Meters will provide consumers benefits from the new technology, allowing consumers to access their power usage online so habits can be altered, as needed, to better manage their energy consumption. Smart Meters will likewise provide access to optional pricing programs, such as switching use to times when it costs less to produce.”

Spin vs Truth 

The above benefits most likely sound entirely logical to Illinoisans, especially when coupled with this canned statement frequently made by Smart Meter installers when questioned by home owners about the need for a Smart Meter: Smart Meters will eliminate the need for meter readers.  

But Beware, Illinoisans!  What you are receiving from ComEd is spin instead of facts. It was in July of last year when I took the CUBFacts Smart Meter information (Citizen Utility Board) propaganda sheet with its ComEd supplied facts to the woodshed for its inaccurate information.  In my article, “Beware of Propaganda to Quell Inconvenient Truths About Smart Meters”, the CUBFacts Smart Meter Information sheet was evaluated for misleading statements and edited accordingly.  What is in bold was taken directly from CUBFacts, followed each time by my explanation of what really is true!

It is important to your family’s health security and privacy to say NO to a Smart Meter installation when you are accordingly notified.  Take the op-out delay that is being offered. Realize that the opt-out choice is not a permanent one and that Smart Meter installation is just being delayed until 2018 with no opportunity to oppose installation after that. Other states offer a permanent opt-out to their utility customers. ComEd customers in Illinois do not have that option.

ComEd Lobbyist Contrived No-opt out Law

As to the history of the law that makes Wireless Smart Meters mandatory in Illinois: ComEd lobbyists wrote the law; it was passed by the General Assembly against vehement and persistent opposition from the Attorney General, AARP, and informed citizens aware of the risks. ComEd spent 16 million dollars convincing the General Assembly to over-ride Governor Quinn’s Veto. When elected, Governor Rauner then signed another bill favoring ComEd over the rights of citizens to have a choice. 

It is tragic for consumers that Chicago’s powerful and politically-connected ComEd was able to convince the General Assembly to pass a law that could potentially threaten homes, harm lives, adversely impact nature, invade privacy, and, in a broader scope, undermine the state’s security by making the electric grid more vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Doesn’t every ComEd customer deserve the right to have a choice to opt-out permanently in the face of the real and present dangers that having a Smart Meter on the side of their house or business could engender? It is unjust and un-American to force Wireless Smart Meters on every home without alerting residents to the many risks and offering them a choice.

Reasons to Reject Smart Meters

1. Health and Environment – Smart Meters are installed in a Mesh Network which relays data from one house to another and eventually on to a collector unit, which is an additional wireless network that sends the data back to the utility. ComEd says that Radio Frequency (RF) emissions only take place 4 times a day every 6 hours.

That may be true for one household’s data measurements. However, Smart Meters also send and receive network management messages every few seconds around the clock. In a California Court the utility admitted that a Smart Meter emits from 10 to 190,000 bursts a day. Each burst is sending RF/microwave radiation into the home and throughout the neighborhood. The power level of each burst is about 1,000 milliwatts, making Smart Meters one of the most powerful RF radiators in a community

What this means to ComEd Customers?:  that a Class 2B Carcinogen (the category for wireless RF emissions, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer ‘IARC” of the World Health Organization) is being mandated on ALL homes in the ComEd service territory. Even worse, there is NO PERMANENT OPT-OUT OPTION AVAILABLE.

People who have already had their Smart Meter installed are complaining of headaches, ringing in the ears, rashes, nausea, insomnia, chest pressure, heart palpitations, nose bleeds, and weakness, etc. There is a potential threat to those with medical implants and weakened immune systems. The well-being of pets is also of concern. Studies that have been done on wildlife, trees, plants, and bees show that they will also suffer from the RF/microwave emissions blanketing the state.  

Breaking news on January, 29, 2016:  the Pennsylvania Utility Commission is allowing a hearing to go forward of a nurse who says Smart Meter made her sick.  What makes this so interesting is that PECO is an Exelon Company, like ComEd.  

2. Privacy Invasion — Without your consent, the computer inside the Smart Meter collects private energy behavior patterns that will be available to government agencies and could be at some point be for sale to marketers. A hacker or thief could use this data to know whether or not the home is occupied and if high-end electronics are in the home. 

3. Hacking and Cyber-Security – Vulnerabilities in wireless data transmission can pose national security risks to the electric grid. A former CIA Director calls the Smart Grid “really, really STUPID”. ComEd will be installing 4,000,000 access points to the Internet; every private home and business in their service territory.

4. Higher Bills – Smart Meters monitor usage 24/7 as a means of instituting Time-of-Use pricing. Due to escalating charges for peak time usage, bills can double, or worse. Time-of-Use pricing boosts ComEd profits while penalizing those who need lower electric rates the most—stay-at-home moms, the elderly, the unemployed, and those with disabilities. Anyone who is unable to change their behavior, such as washing dishes and doing laundry at off-peak hours, will not benefit from having a Smart Meter.

5. Appliances: RF Radiation and Privacy Invasion – New appliances come with mandated wireless RF transmitters that emit RF signals to the wireless Smart Meter around-the-clock. Manufacturers can also keep track of information about their appliances for future marketing through the wireless transmissions.  Because the Smart Appliance Services are provided through wireless networks and the Internet, communications could be intercepted by others.  

6. Lack of Control – The utility owns and maintains 100% control over computer hardware and software upgrades inside Smart Meters. With Demand Response, a utility company can selectively turn on/off appliances or an entire household.

7. Loss of Property and Safety – There has been hundreds of reports of electrical fires caused by arching and sparking within the Smart Meter. Homes with older wiring may be more susceptible to the risk of fire.  

Corix, the company ComEd is using for installation gives their employees, who have no prior electrical experience, two weeks of classroom instruction and one week of field work. In California, more than a 100 GE Smart Meters (manufacturer ComEd selected) have exploded right on homes due to a power surge. And, Smart Meters have been known to “fry” electronics. 

Should you still have doubts about the dangers posed by Smart Meters, this website deserves careful study. Under the name of SkyVision Solutions, this site  (www.smartgridawareness.org) is dedicated to raising public awareness about the costs and risks associated with smart grid systems as well as the potential hazards related to Radio Frequency Radiation emissions from Smart Meters.

Here is the link to my https://youtu.be/aoodNMI3nzc appearance on a local Comcast TV cable show talking about the dangers posed by Smart Meters, with a warning about cell phones. Both wireless devices produce electromagnetic radiation. There is mounting evidence that that RF-EMF radiation is carcinogenic. The fact that exposure to our population is increasing at an exponential rate, the potential consequences are catastrophic.

Action Required 

1)  Call the ComEd Smart Meter installation line (866) 368-8326 and request a DELAY if a Smart Meter has not already been installed. If one has been installed, call and have it be replaced with a non-transmitting meter.

2)  Contact Governor Bruce Rauner and your elected Illinois General Assembly legislators. Insist the Utility Modernization law be amended and the ICC ruling requiring mandatory compliance be changed. Demand a PERMANENT TRUE OPT-OUT, NOT JUST A DELAY! 

ALL WIRELESS DEVICES, INCLUDING CELL PHONES, ARE VOLUNTARY AND CAN BE TURNED OFF WHEN NOT IN USE. SMART METERS ARE MANDATORY AND ARE ON 24/7, FOREVER.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

True Climate Criminals Facing Trial

February 07, 2016, 2:05 PM

Another prominent climate scientist has been accused of breaking the law. Following on the heels of the resignation of Rajendra Pachauri as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under a cloud of sexual abuse charges, Dr. Daniel Michael Alongi, senior principal research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, was arrested, accused of fraudulently diverting more than half-a-million dollars in government funds intended for climate research into his own pockets during the past seven years. If convicted of all charges, Alongi faces up to 30 years in prison.

The Townsville Bulletin reports Alongi has already admitted to police he made false invoices and credit card statements and created fake email trails to claim expenses over seven years. During the period of Alongi’s alleged fraud, his research focusing on the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, coastal mangroves, and coastal ecosystems was published in national and international journals.

Meanwhile back in the U.S., a trial has begun for five climate activists with Rising Tide Seattle arrested in 2014 for criminal trespass and blocking the passage of a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken Formation in Montana and North Dakota to oil terminals in the Pacific Northwest.

A spokesperson for Rising Tide said the activists “will be the first ever to argue that [otherwise criminal] actions were justified because of the threat of climate change, using the ‘necessity defense.’ The outcome of [the] trial could set a national precedent for climate related civil disobedience. …” Washington state agencies are considering adding six new oil-by-rail facilities in the state; a report commissioned by the Sightline Institute said those facilities could allow as much as 114,000 barrels per day to be produced beyond what would be produced without the terminals.

Responding to the supposed threat, Patrick Mazza, one of the activists arrested for blocking the train, said, “There came a point where I could no longer sit back and wait for the politicians to act. I had to put my body on the line to demand not talk, but action on a massive scale to rapidly replace fossil fuels.”

Climate skeptics exercise their free speech rights and the mainstream media trumpets legislators and climate radicals calls try them for racketeering. Meanwhile, climate alarmists commit real crimes and the mainstream media is virtually silent on the matter.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep24): The Heartland Institute, Economic Freedom Ranking, and Super Bowl I Tape

February 05, 2016, 4:20 PM

The format has been tweaked for episode #24 of the In The Tank Podcast. Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft explore the world of think tanks. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, roundtable discussions, stories, and light-hearted segments on a variety of topics on the latest news. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday.

Moving forward, the In The Tank Podcast will feature several segments that give you a view into what the think tanks around the world are working on. These segments include:

Better Know a Think Tank

This segment will feature a representative from a think tank who will discuss the mission, objectives, and work of their organization.

Since this is the first episode of this new format, we get to know The Heartland Institute better.

Featured Work of the Week

In this segment, we will highlight a study or report produced by a think tank that we feel deserves extra recognition.

We discuss the World Economic Freedom Ranking produced by The Heritage Foundation where America has slipped down to #11.

In the World of Think Tankery

Here is where we discuss other timely, newsworthy stories that think tanks focus on.

Today we discussed The Freedom Foundation‘s report on Washington State’s Failed Minimum Wage Experiment. We also touched on an article by Reason about a person’s struggle over a tape of Super Bowl I with the NFL.

Events

In this last segment, we cover a handful of upcoming events that you may be interested in attending.

Heritage Foundation – The Great Flat Tax Debate (Feb 8) D.C.

Heartland Institute – Forum on Article V Convention (Feb 24) Suburbs of Chicago

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs – Civil Asset Forfeiture: Time for Reform in Oklahoma? (Feb 10) Oklahoma City

Foundation for Economic Freedom – Debunking the Progressive Myth (Feb 8) Suburbs of Denver

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Heartland Celebrates National School Choice Week With Packed Event

February 05, 2016, 2:56 PM

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

Obamacare Paperwork: A Multi-Billion-Dollar Cost Americans Can’t Afford
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama’s signature law, has caused significant premium price increases and has forced millions of Americans out of insurance plans they enjoyed prior to the law’s passage. One of the biggest burdens that is rarely mentioned is the millions of hours of paperwork required for businesses and individuals to keep up with federal regulators’ demands. These added regulatory expenses reduce efficiency and increase costs, hurting businesses and families. READ MORE

Oregon Legislators Move to Make Energy More Expensive
Tim Benson, Heartland Research & Commentary
In the name of combating “man-caused global warming,” legislators in Oregon are taking steps that will guarantee poor and middle-income families pay more for energy. Two pieces of legislation have been proposed that would shutter all of the state’s coal-producing power plants and require utilities to meet 50 percent of customer demand with renewable energy. This is the opposite of moves being made by other states to roll back their renewable energy mandates to enjoy the benefits of cheap and reliable energy.  READ MORE

Heartland National School Choice Event a Great Success
To promote National School Choice Week, The Heartland Institute held a packed event in its new home in Arlington Heights, Illinois, featuring former congressman Joe Walsh, Illinois state Rep. Tom Morrison, and Sister Mary Paul McCaughey of the Chicago Archdiocese. The message: “Fund children, not districts.” Children need an education system flexible enough to meet individual needs instead of the traditional one-size-fits-all approach. If you missed it, the whole event was live-streamed and is archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Marian Tupy – Tracking Human Quality of Life Over the Centuries
Life on Planet Earth has gotten easier and more enjoyable over time, and modern technology has benefitted billions of people. Marian Tupy, editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, joinsBudget & Tax News Managing Editor Jesse Hathaway to discuss a new Cato project that allows people to create, compare, and share statistical indices of how human quality of life has changed over the centuries.  LISTEN TO MORE

Never Lose a Debate with a Global Warming Alarmist!

The Heartland Institute’s newest book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, demolishes the most pernicious myth in the global warming debate: that “97% of scientists” believe mankind is the cause of a global warming catastrophe. Read about Heartland President Joseph Bast’s discussion of the book on the Lynn Woolley Show HERE. Go to Amazon.com or the Heartland store [store.heartland.org] now and order a copy, or become a Heartland donor and get a free copy! READ MORE

What Will Socialized Health Care Do to YOUR Medical Care?
Jane M. Orient, M.D., AAPS
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the socialist Democratic candidate for president, is running a populist campaign with universal health care as one of his central platforms. What would a socialized health care system mean for your medical care? Would it deliver low-quality care, like Medicare, or even lower-quality care like the scandal-prone Veterans Administration? Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and a Heartland Institute policy advisor, asks these questions and more. READ MORE

A Constitutional Convention Can Be Limited in Scope
Kyle Maichle, San Antonio Express-News
The spending problem of the federal government and the skyrocketing national debt have driven many to push for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Some of these supporters include Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. While this movement is picking up steam, others are reluctant to support such a change out of concern that any effort to amend the Constitution might open the door to undesirable changes. Kyle Maichle, Heartland’s project manager for constitutional reform, dispels this myth. READ MORE

Obama’s EPA to Anti-Frackers: You’re Wrong
Tim Benson, Toledo Blade
The hydraulic fracking revolution has done more to reduce energy prices and increase American energy independence than any other innovation in recent history. However, opponents of fracking routinely repeat the same two allegations. They say the disposal of wastewater causes earthquakes and proper regulations are not in place to protect citizens. Two reports released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discredit those claims and show the processes are being done in a safe and proper manner. READ MORE

‘Big Data’ Tries to Zero Out Parents in Common Core Review
Robert Holland, Townhall
When parents began to shine a light on the deception at the root of the Common Core State Standards initiative, some states responded by using an online tool developed with Academic Benchmarks, Inc. that government officials claimed gave parents input into the development of standards. But Academic Benchmarks is not the disinterested party so many have been claiming it is. In fact, there are good reasons for parents and pro-school-choice education activists to be very concerned about the Cincinnati-headquartered firm. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Jessica Sena: Let’s Not ‘Keep it in the Ground’
One of the latest environmental campaigns to capture attention is the “Keep it in the Ground” movement, which advocates leaving 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground forever. Jessica Sena joins research fellow Isaac Orr to explain why this is a disastrous proposition that would lead to higher energy prices and premature death in developing nations. LISTEN TO MORE

Los Angeles Teen One of 12 in the World to Achieve a Perfect AP Calculus Score
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
Seventeen-year-old Cedrick Argueta is only the twelfth student in the world to receive a perfect score on the notoriously difficult Advanced Placement calculus AB exam. He attributes his success to plain-old hard work. “While I think talent is a big part of doing well, hard work definitely trumps that,” he told a local news station, echoing what many researchers have said despite the widespread belief that stupendous academic skills are a fixed trait. Also in this issue of School Choice Weekly: Virginia lawmakers have introduced a bill that would create education savings accounts for any child enrolled in public school or about to enter kindergarten, and Arizona Gov. Mary Fallin has called for education savings account legislation. READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  
Categories: On the Blog

‘Big Data’ Tries to Zero Out Parents in Common Core Review

February 04, 2016, 3:52 PM

When grassroots parents discovered big-education elitists had kept them in the dark about the Common Core (CC) experiment being conducted on their children, they helped to shine a bright light on the gross deception perpetrated by some educators and government officials who desire to radically transform the way the nation’s children are educated.

These parents skillfully used social media and traditional town hall meetings to expose the ugly foundation underpinning Common Core, thereby turning the tide of public opinion to the extent that two-dozen states now claim to be reviewing Common Core with an eye toward revision or replacing the standards altogether.

Unfortunately, parents now find themselves on the outside peering into this process, as big-education advocates wrap their many tentacles tightly around Common Core in the hopes of preserving this detrimental set of standards. One of those tentacles is called “big data.”

When Kentucky, the first state to adopt Common Core, became the first to initiate a defensive public review in 2014, its Department of Education reported having developed with Academic Benchmarks, Inc. (AB) an online tool to let parents, educators, and others sound off on each and every standard.

With the data collected, Kentucky’s educrats boasted in 2015 88 percent of their respondents gave a big “thumbs up” to Common Core standards and suggested no changes, contrary to public opinion polls showing support for CC below 50 percent.

Several other states, most recently Louisiana, have been using this supposedly unbiased online tool as well, but Academic Benchmarks is not the disinterested party so many have been claiming it is. In fact, there are good reasons for parents and pro-choice education activists to be very concerned about the Cincinnati-headquartered company.

According to an online review by Edmentum, Inc., Academic Benchmarks has “the market’s most comprehensive standards collection maintaining over 3 million domestic and international academic standards including K–12, Career and Technical Education, and early learning.”

Edmentum also says AB is a “premier provider of standards data services, tools, and alignment services for the K-12 education industry. … [It helps the] businesses of education … to meaningfully describe and connect learning objectives, education frameworks, and learning resources to meet district and state compliance requirements.”

Parents, who have the constitutionally protected right to oversee their children’s education, are on their own to connect the dots.

The company’s Twitter handle is @CommonCorner, the place for pithy tracking of Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the two CC assessment consortia.

A look at instructions for Louisiana’s online review of hundreds of standards shows how parent-unfriendly big data can be. The options given for reviewers are:

1. I agree with the Standard as written. (Comments are optional.)

2. The Standard should be in a different grade level. (Grade selection is required.)

3. The Standard should be broken up into several, more specific Standards.(Suggested rewrite is required.)

4. The Standard should be rewritten. (Suggested rewrite is required.)

5. Delete this Standard. (Comments are required.)

This methodology clearly favors those in AB’s Common Core community who wish to preserve the status quo; it takes only one click to agree, and no comment is required. That lends itself to organized amen choirs. Conversely, those who think the educrats should amend or delete standards must offer extensive rewrites or commentary.

Few parents speak that most arcane of languages, educationese, which makes it difficult for them to lay out an academic standard. In addition, few have the time or subject-matter expertise to rewrite the standards themselves. Much of what parents loathe about Common Core, such as the downgrading of classical literature and the mystification of math, is buried in the appendices, footnotes, and teacher training manuals, not in the standalone standards.

“I am an experienced educator and it took me two hours to comment on just one of the subject areas,” former Louisiana teacher Tiffany Guidry told The Hechinger Report for its January 18 story on the Pelican State’s review process. “They made the process so difficult that it was like you were getting penalized if you wanted to make a change to the standards.”

Big data is only one Common Core tentacle. Among others are “big publishing,” notably Pearson Education, “big foundations,” especially those funded by Bills Gates, “big business,” and of course the supporters of “big government” in both political parties.

These players all have huge investments in Common Core, and they are not going to let it go easily. They will try to rig polls and surveys, change the name, rebrand, stack review committees, set up and fund front groups, and do whatever else it takes to ensure these top-down national standards become mandatory in virtually every corner of the United States.

But Common Core advocates should know grassroots parents are going to sneer at their antics and fight back, good and hard. Only a fool would bet against them eventually winning.

[Originally published at Townhall]

Categories: On the Blog

National School Choice Week Forum: Fund Children, Not Districts

February 04, 2016, 3:49 PM

On Saturday, January 30, 2016, The Heartland Institute hosted a National School Choice Week forum. Speakers for the event included Joe Walsh, a former congressman and current radio personality on AM 560 The Answer; Illinois state Rep. Tom Morrison (R-Palatine); Heartland Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend; Sister Mary Paul McCaughey of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who has served as an elementary school teacher, high school teacher, secondary principal, and superintendent; and Michael McHugh, who for 35 years has worked as a homeschool program administrator, lecturer, and textbook author/editor for the Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Over 50 people attended in person and another 200 watched a livestream of the event.

Behrend discussed the current state of school choice and where he thinks the movement is headed in the future. A major point Behrend reiterated is that someone will eventually create an app to disrupt the education cartel in a way that’s similar to how Uber has disrupted the Taxi cartel in cities across the country.

The Chicago Tribune reported on the event, highlighting Behrend’s four-word definition of education choice, “[f]und children, not districts.”

Morrison hosted the event. He also discussed school choice in Illinois and the difficulties reformers in the state have had trying to expand choice. Morrison says much of the problems are related to Republicans in Southern Illinois being too heavily influenced by teachers unions.

Sister Mary Paul McCaughey discussed the number of open seats currently available in Illinois’ Catholic Schools. She said there are 4,200 in Lake County alone and thousands more in Cook County and in surrounding counties. She talked about how school choice is not just about education; it’s about opening our hearts to others and meeting their needs as people. For McCaughey, it all comes down to the child: “We do believe that the money should follow that child to whatever is the best education for that young person.”

McHugh discussed the myriad educational options available in curriculum, online schools, individualizing education, and homeschooling. McHugh also discussed how Christian Liberty Academy has successfully built a network of homeschoolers, developed curriculum, and aided parents in individualizing their child’s education.

Walsh discussed how school choice needs to be a major theme in this year’s presidential race. He also stated Republicans should own the issue and go to the Southside of Chicago and other urban areas to talk about how choice would benefit their children. Walsh said, “If I were king of America, I would allow every parent in this country to decide where their child goes to school: public, private, religious or home.”

The effectiveness of school choice is straightforward. Behrend said it best, “We think that it’s a much more efficient system and more in tune with how people think, work, and benefit rather than one size fits all [education] that does not work as effectively as the money following the child.”

Categories: On the Blog

Soros-Funded Progressive Coalition Misleads Media, Public on an Article V Convention

February 04, 2016, 3:27 PM

George Soros

A coalition of progressive special-interest groups funded by George Soros issued a press statement on Wednesday announcing their opposition to an Article V convention. The Brennan Center for Justice, Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and
Ethics in Washington (CREW), Democracy 21, and People for the American Way announced they were joining forces to prevent the first ever Article V convention in the history of the United States.

The coalition’s statement contained inaccurate and misleading information about an Article V convention. The coalition claimed that an Article V convention is a constitutional convention. This is not the case. Article V is one of two permissible methods under the Constitution of the United States for the creation of amendments. A convention is called by Congress when two-thirds (34) of state legislatures submit applications calling for a constitutional amendment on the same subject.

The coalition argued, “Any existing constitutional right and protection could be up for consideration and revision by a convention. This includes constitutional protections for civil rights, civil liberties, voting rights, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and privacy, among others.”

Constitutional law scholar Rob Natelson said that a convention is strictly limited to the subject matter stated in the applications submitted by state legislatures and in the official call issued by Congress. It would be impossible for delegates to push for constitutional amendments outside of the scope of the official convention call. Seven states have already passed delegate limitation and selection laws that impose criminal penalties for delegates that violate convention rules.

Dave Guldenschuh, a Heartland Policy Adviser for constitutional reform issues, told Somewhat Reasonable that an additional seven states are considering delegate selection and limitation laws in 2016.

Another charge brought up by the coalition is that the rules for a possible Article V convention remain up in the air.

“Furthermore, there are no rules on what would happen if and when a convention is called: no rules on how delegates are chosen, how voting occurs at the convention, how money can be spent to choose and influence delegates, or how the convention would operate,” said the left-wing coalition.

Multiple organizations in the Article V movement have already addressed the issue of convention rules. Compact for America’s model legislation establishes their own convention rules, while Convention of States has proposed rules of their own written by Natelson. The Assembly of State Legislatures (ASL) made considerable progress on their own rules during a meeting in November in Utah. The ASL is expected to vote on full ratification during this summer’s meeting, which will occur in Albany, New York or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Soros-backed Foundation to Promote an Open Society has provided significant funding to the coalition opposing Article V. The Brennan Center received $7.4 million from 2000 to 2010; Center for Media and Democracy received a total of $200,000 in 2010 and 2011; Common Cause received $175,000 in 2011; CREW received $740,000 since 2010; Democracy 21 received $365,000 in 2010 and 2011; and People for the American Way received  $700,000 in 2012 alone.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s EPA to Ohio’s Anti-Frackers: You’re Wrong

February 04, 2016, 2:07 PM

Two recent reports on Ohio’s wastewater injection well program discredit chronic allegations by opponents of hydraulic fracturing. These include claims that the creation of such wells leads directly to earthquakes, and that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has neglected to establish proper regulations to keep Ohioans safe.

The first report, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, responded to a letter signed by 23 anti-fracking groups in Ohio. They demanded a federal audit of ODNR’s well program and asked the agency to override the department’s regulatory authority. They charged ODNR with violating the Safe Drinking Water Act and providing “inadequate public notice and public participation” in the well permitting process.

Contrary to activists’ claims, the EPA concludes that ODNR runs “a good quality program.” It notes that Ohio has “taken concrete steps to address emerging issues, and in particular has adopted regulations to reduce risk from seismic-related activities.”

The report cites ODNR’s “areas of strong performance”: its handling of inspections, its ability to resolve violations, its permitting processes, and its ability to keep pace with changes in the well program. The EPA says ODNR’s communications decisions are “within the bounds of the EPA-approved program.”

The second report, issued by StatesFirst, a partnership of the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, buttresses the EPA’s findings in Ohio. It praises ODNR’s management and communications operations.

The StatesFirst report refutes the claim that fracking often causes earthquakes — one of the knee-jerk, frequently parroted arguments of fracking opponents. It concludes that most injection wells “do not pose a hazard for induced seismicity” and that “only a few dozen … wells are believed to have induced felt earthquakes.”

Hydraulic fracturing has been used in at least one million wells since 1947. It has proved to be safe and effective.

Isaac Orr, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute, notes that in “nearly 200 instances of man-made earthquakes studied [since 1929], hydraulic fracturing was found to have been responsible for three earthquakes large enough to be felt on the surface.” A Durham University study cited by Mr. Orr concludes that hydraulic fracturing “is not a significant mechanism for inducing felt earthquakes,” and that it is “extremely unlikely any of us will be able to feel [a fracking-caused] earthquake.”

Earthquakes produced by wastewater injection wells are more common, but they are rare and not very powerful. The EPA concluded last year that most injection wells do not cause earthquakes, and that “very few” earthquakes produced by those that do can be felt by humans.

Another study, published in the journal Science in 2014, found that only four of the roughly 4,500 injection wells in Oklahoma were likely to have induced seismic activity.

Using the term “earthquake” to refer to the minor seismic activity produced by the overwhelming number of injection wells is technically correct, but highly misleading. When most people think of an earthquake, they think of something similar to the quakes that occurred in San Francisco in 1906 and Los Angeles in 1994.

Those tragic events included deaths, collapsed buildings, chewed-up roadways, fires, and pandemonium. The seismic activity produced by injection wells comes nowhere close to such disasters.

The biggest “earthquake” produced in Ohio because of an injection well registered only a magnitude of 3 (M3.0) on the moment magnitude scale (MMS). The U.S. Geological Survey notes that such a tremor creates only “vibrations similar to the passing of a truck.”

The MMS is a logarithmic scale; an M4.0 is 10 times as powerful as an M3.0, and an M5.0 is 100 times as powerful. To cause structural damage, an earthquake must usually be above M5.5.

By comparison, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake registered M7.8 — more than 10,000 times as powerful as an M3.0. These measurements indicate why it is more accurate to describe the rarely experienced seismic activity produced by injection wells as tremors, rather than earthquakes.

Despite what fact-challenged anti-frackers claim, sensible precautions and regulations — such as those undertaken by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources — can mitigate the risks of damage from seismic activity created by wastewater disposal injection wells.

The EPA has confirmed this. Other states with a significant fracking presence should follow ODNR’s lead.

[Originally published in the Toledo Blade]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jessica Sena: Let’s Not “Keep it in the Ground”

February 04, 2016, 1:46 PM

Environmental activists, emboldened after their victory over the Keystone XL pipeline are setting their sites on the next political football to tackle. The latest, and not-so-greatest environmental mantra is the “Keep it in the Ground” movement which advocates that 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuels remain in the ground, forever.

Independent Communications Consultant Jessica Sena and research fellow Isaac Orr give the The Heartland Daily Podcast listeners the information they need to debunk advocates of this policy, which is impossible to accomplish from a practical standpoint, and incredibly expensive. “Keeping it in the Ground” will lead to higher prices for low income families in the developed world, and premature death in developing nations.

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

Categories: On the Blog

A Constitutional Convention Can Be Limited in Scope

February 04, 2016, 12:36 PM

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio recently announced that he fully endorses an Article V convention. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made a similar call.

Article V is one of two methods provided by the Constitution to initiate amendments. This approach is implemented when two-thirds of state legislatures, or 34 states, submit applications to Congress calling for a convention.

While winning praise from conservatives, Rubio’s announcement has set off a firestorm of criticism from the Republican Party establishment.

Noah Rothman issued a lengthy column in Commentary magazine on Dec. 31 accusing Rubio of supporting a convention to appease conservative talk radio hosts who have advocated for an Article V convention, such as Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.

Many conservative pundits have been tough on Rubio because of his role in pushing a controversial immigration reform bill in 2013. Rothman calls Rubio’s endorsement of Article V “a dangerous pander to one of the right’s worst ideas.” Rothman’s column is largely a collection of old arguments against the convention process and is peppered with speculative claims about Rubio’s motives.

Far from the superficial treatment characteristic of politicians pandering to audiences’ prejudices, Rubio’s support for a convention shows a grasp of constitutional procedures and an awareness of potential obstacles. In October, he warned special interests would try to hijack the convention process. “But just be aware that the same groups that are trying to pass legislation that violates the Constitution are the same groups of people that are going to try to change that Constitution, and we are going to fight them at that convention,” he said.

Rubio never wavered on that commitment, saying two months later, “I think you’d have to limit the convention, and that’s what they’re proposing: a very limited convention on specific, delineated issues like term limits and like a balanced budget amendment.”

Rothman tries to shoot down Rubio’s assertion that the scope of a convention can be controlled, writing, “Contrary to popular belief, there are no rules for such a convention. Congress has tried on over 20 occasions to craft a uniform set of rules governing a convention process, but it has failed every time.”

But Congress isn’t where the Article V action is at this point. The Assembly of State Legislatures, or ASL, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, has been meeting since 2013 to work on a set of rules for a convention and is expected to finalize rules this summer. The board of directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, has approved a model policy on Article V convention rules.

Both ALEC and ASL are acting on the principle that the states, not Congress, are in charge of running an Article V convention. The role of Congress in the runup to a convention is very limited, as defined in the Constitution. Its duties are to count and receive applications, make the call for a convention, and determine the method of ratification.

Rothman also falsely claims the movement for a balanced budget amendment has limited support, writing, “To induce more states to call for a convention, the scope of such a gathering would have to broaden substantially.”

Rothman is evidently unaware that 27 states have already enacted single-subject resolutions for a convention for the purpose of a balanced budget amendment. Another eight state legislatures will be considering balanced budget amendment applications in 2016. A poll conducted by Fox News in 2013 found 85 percent of Americans want a balanced budget amendment.

As those numbers indicate, there is huge public and legislative support for a convention. The Article V movement is serious about its aims and working hard to meet the challenge of calling a convention to offer a balanced budget amendment.

Rothman does Rubio and the entire Article V movement a disservice by mischaracterizing Rubio’s motives and failing to do basic research on the constitutional reform movement.

[Originally published at the San Antonio Express-News]

Categories: On the Blog

FCC Targets Cable Set-Top Boxes — Why Now?

February 04, 2016, 12:26 PM

With great fanfare, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler is calling for sweeping changes to the way cable television set-top boxes work. In an essay published Jan. 27 by Re/Code, Wheeler began by citing the high prices consumers pay for set-top box rentals and bemoaning the fact that alternatives are not easily available.

Yet for all the talk and tweets about pricing and consumer lock-in, Wheeler did not propose an inquiry into set-top box profit margins, nor whether the supply chain is unduly controlled by the cable companies. Nor did Wheeler propose an investigation into the complaints consumers have made about cable companies’ hassles around CableCards, which under FCC mandate cable companies must provide to customers who buy their own set-top boxes.

In fact, he dropped the pricing issue halfway through and began discussing access to streaming content:

“To receive streaming Internet video, it is necessary to have a smart TV, or to watch it on a tablet or laptop computer that, similarly, do not have access to the channels and content that pay-TV subscribers pay for. The result is multiple devices and controllers, constrained program choice and higher costs.”

This statement seems intentionally misleading. Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire sell boxes that connect to TVs and allow a huge amount of streaming content. True, the devices are still independent of the set-top cable box, but there’s no evidence that this lack of integration is a competitive barrier.

A new generation of devices, called media home gateways (MHGs), is poised to provide this integration, as well as to manage other media-based cloud services on behalf of consumers. This is where Wheeler’s proposal should be worrisome. He writes:

“The new rules would create a framework for providing device manufacturers, software developers and others the information they need to introduce innovative new technologies, while at the same time maintaining strong security, copyright and consumer protections.”

This sounds much more like a plan to dictate operating systems, user interfaces and other hardware and software standards for equipment that, until now, has been unregulated. Wheeler gives no explanation as to how his proposal will lead to lower prices or development of a direct-to-consumer sales channel.

[M]y proposal will pave the way for a competitive marketplace for alternate navigation devices, and could even end the need for multiple remote controls, allowing you to use one for all of the video sources you use.

What Wheeler really wants is FCC management of the transition from today’s set-top boxes to the media home gateways (MHGs) just beginning to appear on the market—a foray into regulating the equipment used on customer premises unseen since the 1960s.

For good reason, the words “media home gateway” never appear in Wheeler’s Re/Code article. By avoiding mention of MHGs, he can play his “lack of competition” card, as he did in last Thursday’s press briefing on his proposal.

There’s more than a whiff of misdirection here. Set-top boxes are a maturing market. An October 2015 TechNavio report forecasts the shipment volume of the global set-top box market to decline at a compound annual rate of 1.34 percent over the period 2014 to 2019. By revenue, the market is expected to decline at a compound annual rate of 1.36 percent during the forecast period. When consumers “cut the cable cord,” as some 21 million have, it’s set-top boxes that get unplugged.

At the same time, TechNavio forecasts the global MHG market to grow at a compound annual rate of 7.82 percent over the same period. Elsewhere, SNL Kagan’s Multimedia Research Groupforecasts MHG shipments will exceed 24 million in 2017, up from 7.7 million in 2012. The long list of MHG manufacturers includes ActionTec, Arris, Ceva, Huawei, Humax, Samsung and Technicolor.

MHGs are the “alternative navigation devices” Wheeler coyly refers to in his Re/Code essay. These devices will replace the set-top boxes in use today, but because of their ability to handle Internet streaming, they are likely to be available through more than one channel. That’s why the only way to view Wheeler’s call to “unlock the set-top box” is as a pre-emptive move to extend the FCC’s regulation into the delivery of streaming media.

To be sure, if the FCC mandates integration of streaming options into cable-provided MHGs, streaming companies would gain a stronger foothold into consumers’ homes, which would then allow them to share their apps, gather data on users and, perhaps most lucratively, control the interface on which channels are displayed, as noted by The Verge‘s Ashley Carman.

Yet the streaming companies that would appear to benefit most from this proposal have thus far been quiet. This is [erhaps because Wheeler has made no secret that he believes Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku are multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), FCC-speak for “local cable companies.”

Is his “unlock the box” plan precisely the opposite? Is it an effort to fold streaming aggregators into the existing cable TV regulatory platform, with all its myriad rules, regulations, legal obligations and—dare we say it—fees and surcharges? You might roll your eyes, but this is the only analysis in which the proposal, which focuses on “device manufacturers, software developers and others,” makes sense.

But does the FCC have the right to require cable companies to share customer data acquired through the infrastructure and software they built and own? It’s yet another iteration of the old unbundled “network elements” model that is consistently shot down by the courts, yet one the FCC can’t seem to get past.

Arcane details aside, the FCC should not be involved in directing evolution paths, operating software or other product features. It creates too much opportunity for lobbying and rent-seeking. History shows that when the government gets involved at the granular level in promoting a specific direction for technology, costs go up and innovation suffers. Capital is diverted into politically favored choices, where it ends up wasted.

The debacles with the Chevy Volt and Solera are just two recent examples of the dangers inherent when bureaucrats try to pick winners, or give a subset of companies in one industry an assist at the expense of others.

[Originally published at R Street]

Categories: On the Blog

Sanders: What Will His Socialist Plan Do to YOUR Medical Care?

February 04, 2016, 11:35 AM

There is one thing that supporters and detractors of Bernie Sanders might agree on: he seems to be honest about his convictions. He is an avowed socialist, instead of pretending to believe in a role for private insurance. Unlike Barack Obama, his answer to the question “Do you get to keep your insurance plan?” is plainly No. There won’t be any more insurance plans. Everyone will be on Medicare.

Other questions are tougher. Do you get to keep your doctor? That depends on what you mean by YOUR doctor. You might be seeing the same person, in the same office. But he won’t be paid by you, and under Medicare “alternative” payment methodologies he won’t be paid for what he does for you. He might in fact be paid for NOT doing things for you, to meet the savings goals of the New Generation Accountable Care Organization (affectionately known as New Gen ACO) in which you will be automatically enrolled.

You shouldn’t judge a politician by his looks, but people often do. Sanders looks like Grandpa—kind and benign. The face of Medicare, however, is Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt. If you were Central Casting, you would probably cast him in a role like the one he has had in real life: a Goldman Sachs banker and CEO for a UnitedHealth Group subsidiary. Such people get their positions through ruthless dedication to the corporate bottom line. What does Sanders think of him?

Medicare is today’s single payer for the elderly and disabled. All the money is funneled through government, though it is first taken from hundreds of millions of taxpayers and disbursed through private contractors called carriers. Would Sanders replace that with a purely governmental entity like the VA, the single payer for veterans? In the VA it is government bureaucrats who delay and deny care instead of corporate bureaucrats.

Veterans can go outside the system if they like, and pay privately. Medicare beneficiaries cannot, unless they see a physician who is opted out or disenrolled or excluded. What does Sanders plan to do about your liberty to use your own property to pay for goods or services to enhance or extend your own life? Doesn’t he, like Hillary Clinton, plan to “take things away from you, for your own good”? And does that include, like in Canada, your right to private care? It sounds as though it does. The additional $28 trillion in federal spending for his plan is supposed to replace insurance premiums and out-of-pocket payment. With the Sanders tax increases, the money available for discretionary spending will be much less, but if you do have any savings, would you be allowed to spend it on medical care? Or would that be unfair to the people waiting in long lines?

And there’s the $28 trillion question for Sanders: where does the money come from? Even if we could squeeze every last dollar out of billionaires and transform all their wealth into medical care for the masses, we don’t have 28,000 billionaires—or 28,000,000 millionaires.

And what will Sanders do about the more-than-$40 trillion in promises Medicare has already made without provision for the revenue to pay for them? What does he imagine will happen when he adds on the demands of the entire rest of the population, and removes any brakes on utilization like copays and deductibles?

Incremental socialism is already bringing the system to the point of collapse. Hawaii is proposing a response to the fact that 30 percent of physicians are already refusing to work under Medicare: forcing physicians to accept Medicare patients or lose their license. Will Sanders try to conscript physicians?

What will he do about the worsening shortages of essential drugs? One hospital reportedly told physicians there would be no morphine until the end of March. Will Sanders nationalize the pharmaceutical industry? Would that help, or make things worse?

Insurance is voluntary. Socialism is force. How much force will Sanders use to take what remains of your doctors’ liberty—and yours? He needs to tell us that, as well what he intends to use to pay for it.

[Originally published at AAPS]

Categories: On the Blog

Government Drags Us Back in Time – Because Cronies and Ideology Tell It To

February 04, 2016, 9:50 AM

Government by ideological fantasy – at the expense of actual facts – is a terrible idea. So too is government of, by and for the donors. Far too often government regulators and bureaucrats ignore Reality – to tilt at ideological windmills. And WAY too often government becomes one giant stenographer for contributors – writing laws and regulations to accommodate their check-cutters’ every whim and wildest dream.

Thus does equal protection before the law – become special treatment for Friends of Government (FOG, if you will). Donors and dumb ideas are favored – at inordinate expense to the rest of us.

To wit: “green” “energy” (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, ethanol) is neither green nor energy. It’s far worse for the environment than traditional energy sources – that actually produce, you know, affordable energy. Governments here and all around the world have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on this phony energy. It’s been a titanic failure – for decades.

Why has government continued to throw this copious coin out the window – to keep us locked into an uber-failed yesterday? Because their ideological fantasies trump Reality. Why else? Because donors get government money at dollars-on-the-pennies they donated. To wit: President Barack Obama and his Democrats threw $80 billion more at the fake “green energy” industry in the 2009 “Stimulus.” 80% of that money – went to Obama donors.

The more government gets involved – the less the private sector can advance. The more rapidly a sector is advancing – the bigger an impediment government is. Likely no sector is advancing more quickly than the Tech sector. Enter government.

The Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already done egregious damage there. To appease their ridiculous fantasies – and huge donors. About a year ago the Commission’s three unelected Democrat bureaucrats decided to go all the way back in time to1934 landline telephone law – and unilaterally impose it on the Internet. Behold Internet Reclassification – so as to impose the ridiculous Network Neutrality.

The Obama Administration did it – because donors asked for it. Donors like Google. No one did more to get President Obama elected and reelected – than Google. Just about no company swapped staff with the Obama Administration at such prodigious numbers –than did Google.

And after Google greased the skids for Obama – Obama greased the skids for Google. Google spent nearly the entirety of the 2000s trying and failing to get Net Neutrality passed in Congress. Because it is government forcing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to give uber-bandwidth-hogs like Google – unlimited free bandwidth. We the People didn’t want it – Congress couldn’t pass it. So Obama just issued a fiat – and gave it to them.

But the problem with buying support – is that the “supporters” rarely stay bought. Google is now channeling West Wing President Josiah Bartlet – “What’s next?” And most unfortunately, President Obama’s government stenographers have many, many responses to that request.

Here’s one: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has penned a defense of the next backwards-looking power grab – huge new backdoor mandates via television set-top-boxes. Which they have attempted to obfuscate – as a deregulation of set-top-boxes.

Set-top-boxes are the devices we lease from cable companies – to watch their television packages. Which we are doing to a lesser and lesser degree – as the marketplace has already created myriad ways for us to “cut the cord.” Meaning give up cable television – and the set-top-boxes – altogether.

The future (and increasingly the present) of television – isn’t boxes. It’s apps (and alternate hardware like Apple TV and Amazon Firestick). Netflix, Amazon Prime, Roku, Hulu and a host of other companies deliver you (via their apps) unlimited streaming TV and movie content – using only an Internet connection. No cable TV subscription required. And unlike programmed TV, you can watch whenever you want, wherever you want. So more and more people are cutting their cords.

Meanwhile, the government is yet again stuck in the past. The FCC is dubiously invoking a twenty-year-old law (and seriously, how unbelievably different was how we watched TV twenty-years ago?) – to “open” to competitors the collapsing set-top-box market. This is a terrible idea for a number of reasons.

It is just stupid from an evolutionary standpoint. This is like the government issuing mandates to “open” the horse-buggy industry – as Model T Fords are rolling with ever increasing frequency into our driveways and hearts. If you’re “helping” prop up yesterday’s technology – you aren’t helping.

This mandate forces cable companies to spend a LOT of money totally reconfiguring their networks – to accommodate the new boxes. A new configuration for each new box, most likely – because each box will most likely connect uniquely to each network. And cable companies have a LOT of proprietary information and content to protect – so they will have to spend EVEN MORE time and money reconfiguring so as to ensure its protection. For which we will inexorably pay in higher fees – on TV, and the other services cable companies provide (like Internet). All to make room for more devices – of which people want less.

And you will be trading the box lease – for the box purchase. Which requires more coin upfront. And unlike with the lease, when the next upgraded model comes out – you won’t get it for free. You will pay all over again. And given the rapid technological advancement – how often will that purchase have to happen again, and again, and…?

Think how quick is the smart phone tech turnover (which is a MUCH more intensive product). Where you just purchased the “latest” Google Android – only to almost immediately watch Google roll out the next Android. Does Google give you that next version for free? Of course not. Google won’t give you their latest set-top-box either.

Wait – Google wants to get into the going-out-of-business set-top-box business? You bet they do. So the Obama Administration is prepping to issue yet another fiat – to make Google’s wishes come true. Again.

Crony-infested and ideologically-blinded is no way to go through life, Son. It is also absolutely no way to run a government.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Marian Tupy: Human Quality of Life Over the Centuries

February 03, 2016, 4:58 PM

In this episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor Jesse Hathaway talks with Marian Tupy, the editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. HumanProgress, a Cato Institute project, allows people to create, compare, and share statistical indices of how human quality of life has changed over the centuries. 

Despite what some people may say, life on Planet Earth has gotten easier and more enjoyable as history has progressed, and modern technology has changed billions of people’s lives for the better. Tupy says the average person alive today has opportunities available to him or her that emperors and kings would have never even dreamed of enjoying, much less taken for granted. HumanProgress is a tool helping to correcting misconceptions regarding the state of humanity, through the presentation of empirical data collected from third parties, including the World Bank, the OECD, the Eurostat, and the United Nations, focusing on long-term developments. 

The progress of technology and the innovations spurred by free-market competition and capitalism, Tupy says, have created an almost asymptotic increase in human quality of life in every imaginable way, from the eradication of crippling diseases to increased economic wealth, all over the world.

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

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Too Early to Prove Absolute Safety, But Smokers Shouldn’t Wait to Vape

February 02, 2016, 5:30 PM

Tobacco opponents say that we’ve had too little experience with e-cigarettes to know whether they are safe.  While it is true that we don’t yet know the health consequences of long-term use, that should not discourage smokers from switching.

We know that smoke contains high levels of thousands of agents, many of which are toxic or carcinogenic.  In contrast, e-cigarette vapor contains water, propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, nicotine, flavors and perhaps a few contaminants at minuscule levels.  None of these – with the exception of buttery flavors (here) – are linked to any specific disease.  This difference alone justifies encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes.

In the case of cigarettes, the effects of long-term use were not apparent for 20 years.

As I discuss in my book, For Smokers Only, smoking prevalence increased substantially around World War I (1914-1918).  The first clinical report of an increase in lung cancer and the suggestion of a link to smoking was published in 1939 by Alton Oschner and Michael Debakey in the journal Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics (68: 435-451, 1939). “Until recently,” they wrote, “[cancer] of the lung has been considered a relatively infrequent condition.  However, recent studies demonstrate that [lung cancer] is one of the most frequent [cancers] of the body.”  But they acknowledged, “…it is controversial whether the increase in [lung cancer] is apparent or real.”  Oschner and DeBakey described 79 previous cases and presented seven cases that they had seen.

German pathologist Dietrich Eberhard Schairer and colleague Erich Schöniger published perhaps the first epidemiologic case-control study of smoking and lung cancer in their native language in 1943. Now considered a groundbreaking study, it was republished in English by the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2001 (reference here).  They confirmed “the [earlier] report of Müller [1940] that non-smokers rarely get lung cancer whereas heavy smokers get it more frequently than average.”

The smoking-lung cancer link did not appear in mainstream medical literature until 1950, when studies by Ernst Wynder and Evarts Graham (Journal of the American Medical Association,here), and by Richard Doll and Austin Hill in the (British Medical Journal, here) were published.

While the strong link between smoking and lung cancer was not discovered for decades, today’s advanced surveillance techniques may detect a vapor-linked problem sooner.  It should be noted, however, that evaluating the effects of vaping will likely be complicated by the fact that most vapers already have smoking histories.

Smokers shouldn’t wait to vape.

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Shawn Regan: Western Lands and Government Ownership

February 02, 2016, 4:47 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Shawn Regan, Director of Publications and research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) joins H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his paper “Managing Conflicts over Western Rangelands.”

It is a timely exploration of the history and present problems regarding the management of Western public lands that has resulted in highly publicized conflicts between public land ranchers and the federal government. This includes the ongoing seizure of the wildlife reserve in Oregon and 2014’s standoff at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada.

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

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Panel Discusses the Urgency of School Choice

February 02, 2016, 3:46 PM

National School Choice Week is held every January. This year’s event took place from January 24 – 30, 2016. Throughout the U.S. over 16,000 events were held, with Illinois having 918 events, the most of any state. Here in Illlinois, 300,000 take advantage of personal tax credits, a form of school choice. Illinois allows families to claim credits worth 25% of their educational expenses. Worthwhile checking out is A History of School Choice from 1923 to 2015.

Those who attended the National School Choice Week Event sponsored by The Heartland Institute, 3939 North Wilke Road in Arlington Heights, IL, on Saturday, January 30, 2016, were privileged to hear a rostrum of fine speakers talk about how education choice benefits all students across Chicagoland and across the country, for doesn’t every child deserve access to a quality education? 

Lennie Jarratt, project manager for education transformation at The Heartland Institute, organized the event.  For those who couldn’t attend Heartland’s stellar National School Choice Week event, the occasion was live-streamed.  Here is the link to view the entire event: https://youtu.be/6DJzBywtovU?t=3m16s .   

Illinois State Rep. Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) introduced each speaker to an attentive audience. Morrison is convinced, from his own teaching days, that when parents become more involved, the likelihood of children succeeding is much higher. Morrison further believes that the new government under Governor Rauner speaks well for a dramatic shift to take place in Illinois on the issue of school choice. As a champion of fighting for school choice in the House,Morrison sponsored HB0427 in the 99th General Assembly to require the State Board of Education to create the Education Savings Account Program.

Other poignant school choice thoughts expressed by Rep. Morrison:

  • Choice is not just about academics.  A host of other reasons come into play to explain the popularity of school choice.
  • A wide desire for school choice exists across party lines.
  • 1960 marks the year when a Renaissance of home schooling took place.
  •  Currently 1 to 1-1/2 children in this nation are being home schooled. They are doing well.  Colleges want them.

Heartland Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend:  to view – https://youtu.be/6DJzBywtovU?t=10m50s

The first speaker, Bruno Behrend, J.D., a senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute, spoke on the current state of school choice and where it goes from here. Bruno’s involvement with the school choice issue date back to August, 2010, when he co-authored a Heartland Policy Brief with Joe Bast, CEO and president of Heartland, and Policy Advisor Ben Boychuk, titled “The Parent Trigger:  A Model for Transforming Education.”

These four words are golden to Mr. Behrnd:  “Fund Children, Not Districts.”  Despite massive run-ups in educational funding, the results aren’t student-oriented when 85% of a school budget is spent on staff and teacher salaries. Bruno spoke with concern about the shifting ground of education, while concurrently expressing hope for the future of education.  Rated highly by Bruno was the on-line Khan Academy, where children can learn anything for free through 10-minute videos on every subject. To track student achievement, a Dashboard exists so students can note each positive learning experience as it occurs.

Basic to Mr. Behrend’s thinking is that it’s time to begin the process of dismantling the public school structure. This question was entertained by Bruno: “Do we really need to save or reform a 19th century system of education that existed because of an agrarian society that needed a three month break to tend the fields?” 

The current educational system doesn’t need fixing or reforming, but instead we must transcend from a brick and mortar system designed in the19th century which costs way too much. Skipping the 20th century, we must progress toward a system where money follows children to an array of choices. 

It is choice that is under attack. For Mr. Behrend choice constitutes a political debate, not a scientific one.  A common complaint heard from those who oppose school choice: “Don’t take money away from my district!”  But isn’t that the whole idea to fund children and not the district with money following the children?  

Might something else come along, mused Bruno, that would disrupt the whole system now run by the educational cartel in much the same as what Uber did to taxis and price line did to travel agencies?  It could possibly be an app developed for a phone where parents could pick the educational system best suited for their children.  In time the established educational cartel would cease to exist when its participation rate hollowed out with fewer and fewer students participating. We have education literally falling out of the sky to free education from its traditional brick and mortar status. 

Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, spoke with pride of Catholic schools and how they provide quality seats for school choice.  As superintendent of the Archdioceses of Chicago Catholic Schools from 2008 to 2014 (includes Cook and Lake County), Sr. Mary Paul oversaw the largest Catholic school system in the United States, with nearly 85,000 students and more than 7,000 educators in 244 elementary and high schools. 

Sister Mary Paul describes Catholic schools as “private schools that have a public good.”  Accordingly, Catholic schools have an impact on the community in which they are located. If a Catholic school closes in a neighborhood, violence goes up.  Stats given: 

  • Children are twice or three times more likely to graduate from high school if they attend a Catholic elementary school. 
  • The graduation rate from a Catholic high school is 95%, 96% go on to college.
  • The Chicago Archduchesses is trying to raise $350 million to fund school scholarships and provide discounts.
  • 92% of 8th graders attending a Catholic schools obtain scholarships or discounts. Up to 95% of Catholic high school students receive the same.

Sister Mary Paul views it as a right and the responsibility of parents to educate their children.  The Chicago Archdioceses receives nothing in monetary gain from its Catholic schools, believing it is the right thing to do as children represent the face of God. Advanced by Sister Mary Paul is the inherent dignity of each child, along with her conviction that money should follow the child.   

Unfortunately Catholic schools aren’t able to open their classroom to every special education students who might wish to attend, because of the high cost factor involved in teaching these special needs students.  Nevertheless, Sister Mary Paul does want Catholic schools to convey the following:  “You are welcome.  This is your home, and we will teach you the best we know how.”  Algebra is taught in the 7th grade. Further recognized is that unless a child learns to read by the 3rd grade, that child’s future will be negatively impacted. 

Although former Congressman Joe Walsh was listed as Keynote speaker on the notice sent out to advance Heartland’s school choice event, Walsh was not announced in this manner by Representative Morrison, nor was it necessary to do so.  In actuality, Joe Walsh, former Congressman and current radio personality on AM 560 The Answer, needed no special introduction as he took his place behind the podium.  Elected in 2010, Joe Walsh is known for refusing his congressional health benefits and pensions, sleeping in his office, limiting himself to no more than three terms in office, and holding more town hall meetings than any member of Congress. 

It was surprising when Walsh related how he had worked for the Heartland Institute at its first location in Arlington Heights 22 years ago, before Heartland moved to Chicago, and now Heartland is back in Arlington Heights with its recent move.  Walsh reflected, with his usual show of passion and enthusiasm, how Blacks and Latinos support school choice, yet they don’t have it.  While Democrats are firmly planted with the teacher unions, Walsh is displeased over the failure of Republicans to grab the mantle of school choice for their own.

Walsh spoke of a disruption going on in American today.  Education is likewise being disrupted. Americans fully realize there is something very wrong and amiss happening in this nation.  If Walsh were king for a day, first and foremost, he would allow every parent in the nation to decide where their children would attend school.  This one change, reflected Walsh, would foster the most positive change for good in this nation.  Joe Walsh sees school choice all about politics, for the debate has been won.  It is now a political fight to get what is right for students, which involves empowering parents, not the system.

Walsh further mused: It’s so easy to jump on our politicians, and we should blame our politicians, but what about ourselves?   Many people aren’t sufficiently educated to understand that freedom is better than a government who tries to take care of us. Its therefore makes sense for parents to decide where their children will attend school? Teacher unions are afraid of only one thing, as commonly stated by members:  “We cannot let these kids escape.” 

School choice was depicted by Walsh as the civil rights issue of our time.  It is all about where children go to school.  Sixty to eighty percent of Backs and Latino want this freedom, but teacher unions and Black leadership say NO.  Walsh believes that the only way school choice will happen is if Blacks and Latinos demand this freedom. Consider how voucher programs had their start in both Milwaukee and Cleveland. It was through Black advocates fighting for choice.  

It’s an oxymoron that the Democrat Party is owned by the teacher’s union, yet Blacks vote Democrat in large numbers despite desiring better schools for their children. Republicans have been given an opportunity to get out of their think tank to advance school choice in areas that are home to many Black and Hispanic voters.  

Thirty years ago Bill Bennett posed this questioned when serving in the Reagan administration as Education Secretary:  “Why is it that when you make a bad burger you go out of business, but nothing happens if the education system is bad. This same point was made by Bill Bennett to Joe Walsh at a recent meeting. Both agreed that the Republican Party must use language that can be easily understand, if the status quo of the educational cartel is to be dismantled.

Gaining in popularity is homeschooling as a school choice option.  Over the past 35 years, Michael McHugh has worked as a home school program administrator, lecturer, and textbook author/editor for the Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights.  He has written numerous articles about home education for newsletters and scholarly journals across the United States and abroad.  McHugh lives in the Chicago with his wife and seven children and has been actively engaged in home schooling since 1988. 

To Mr. McHugh school choice represents freedom, the ultimate expression of liberty. Mass government control of education is lousy education and does not consider the needs of children or family. 

Home schooling, however, is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a big commitment and takes lots of hard work. You also get out of it what you put into it.  As McHugh described his own home school experience: The home schooling journey was well worth it, although not an easy one to pursue. But there is a substantial pay day, for home schools frees the minds and souls of children from brainwashing and social experimentation.  

McHugh emphasized the importance of personalizing home school curriculum.  Why?  Because each child is created with a unique set of skills and must be prepared for a mission in life for which he/she is best suited.  Material must therefore be selected that best cultivates the individual potential of each child, brought home when Mr. McHugh compared children to arrows.  Initially made by hand, no two arrows were alike.  Parents can personally direct instruction to the individual needs of each child on a daily basis, not possible to do in a classroom situation. For who knows children the best but their parents, who have nurtured them from infancy through maturity?  

The learning style of each child must be considered  Shared by Michael McHugh were the following:

1.  Hands on:  Learning by doing stuff such as tasting, feeling, and touching.

2.  Visual stimulation:  Learning by seeing and observing.

3.  Listening or auditory learning: Learning by having things explained.

4.  Multi-sensory learning: All of the above work equally as well. 

Mr. McHugh suggests initially trying a curriculum that uses different learning experiences and then selecting the one that works best. Also to be considered:  What do you want the curriculum to do for your family?  What are your strengths?  

McHugh recommends reaching out to tutors, such as retired teachers and fellow church members.  Administrating a standard achievement test is helpful to determine how your child is measuring up.  Most helpful is attending home school conventions to see and compare what is available in home schooling curriculum. This site was shared as an excellent one to help design your own home school curriculum.  Because there is a maze of excellent curriculum, the problem now lies in sorting through those offered to find the right one.   

 Michael McHugh believes that a curriculum promoting values is as important as what it presents education-wise, for “only a virtuous people can remain a free people.” 

A very lively and engaged Q&A with all the panelists:  to view:  https://youtu.be/6DJzBywtovU?t=1h15m43s

The session had a sprinkling of “friendly” clashing of thoughts, as the four speakers answered questions directed to them by attendees who wrote their questions on cards available on each table.  Noted below are some interesting responses by the panelists.

Although there are many fine teachers and they do try, Bruno Behrend believes there is no silver bullet to solve every problem; however, it is important that money follows the child. 

Sister Margaret called for the need to have SGO (Choice Scholarships) here in Illinois, where the state provides funding to qualifying students that can be used to offset tuition costs at participating schools. Students qualify based on student eligibility criteria and household income.  Sister Margaret was in disagreement with Bruno Behrend on the value of traditional brick and mortar school in the 21st century.

To advance the cause of school choice, Joe Walsh suggested that a political coalition be formed with minority parents and Republican legislators to confront the existing political battle against school choice.

In winning the hearts and minds of so-called soccer moms, Bruno spoke of the need to persuade soccer moms that choice is not a threat.  Instead, choice is good for society.  Don’t suburban public school parents already have a choice with Catholic or private schools?

Suggestions to advance school choice included:

  • Become a precinct committeeman.
  • If possible, run for office.
  • Visit your district office, letting your legislator know about the need for additional school choice here in IL.  Visiting your local legislator’s office might be more productive than visiting Springfield when conducting one-on-one discussions about sponsoring school choice legislation.

Ask lawmakers who don’t want vouchers where they send their own children to school.  Also inquire if they benefited from a school other than a public school as a child. 

JIm Lakely, Communications Director at Heartland, opened the program with remarks about the Heartland Institute, relating its purpose and presenting a brief summary of Heartland’s outreach to legislators throughout the U.S.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Individual Rights Must Be Preserved Without Interference From The Government

February 02, 2016, 3:33 PM

What is the role of government in society? This has been and remains the most fundamental question in all political discussions and debates. Its answer determines the nature of the social order and how people are expected and allowed to interact with one another – on the basis of either force or freedom.

The alternatives are really rather simple. Government may be narrowly limited to perform the essential task of protecting each individual’s right to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. Or it may be used to try to modify, influence, or dictate the conduct of the citizenry.

In the first case, the government is assigned the duty of impartial umpire, enforcing the societal rules against assault, murder, robbery, and fraud. All human relationships are to be based on mutual consent and voluntary association and exchange.

In the second case, government is an active player in people’s affairs, using its legitimized power of coercion to determine how the members of the society may live, work, and associate with each other. The government tries to assure certain outcomes or forms of behavior considered desirable by those who wield political authority.

More Government Means Increased Government Force

We need to remember what government ultimately is all about. The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises concisely explained this:

“Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, of gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.”

Under a political regime of liberty, each individual gives purpose and moral compass to his own life. He is treated as independent and self-governing; as long as he does not violate the rights of others he is sovereign over his own affairs. He may choose and act wisely or absurdly, but it is his life to live as he pleases.

If any of us – family members, friends, or just concerned fellow human beings – believe someone has chosen a path to perdition, we may try to persuade him to mend his ways. But we are expected to respect his freedom; we may not threaten or use force to make him change course.

Nor are we allowed to use political power to manipulate his options so that he does what we want him to do. Using taxation and regulation to induce conduct more to our liking is no less a political imposition than the sterner and more explicit police power.

The totalitarian systems of the twentieth century used the direct means of command and prohibition to get people to do what a Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, or Mao wanted done. In the interventionist-welfare state such brute means are normally shunned for the more indirect and subtle method of influencing people’s behavior through manipulation of incentives.

Government Control Through Choice Manipulation

Suppose an individual stands at a crossroads and is told he may choose which way to go. But in front of one of the roads is a government tollbooth that charges him a fee if he chooses that route; while in front of the other is a machine that dispenses a cash subsidy from the state, if the individual decides to follow that road. The choice is his, but the tradeoffs he faces have been manipulated to influence his decision.

In the 1950s the French coined a term for this type of political control: indicative planning. Through the use of fiscal and regulatory powers the government could get people to do what the politicians, bureaucrats, and various special-interest groups wanted, all the while maintaining the illusion that people were freely deciding where to invest or work or carry on their business.

We see this at work in America with government tax credits up to 30 percent of the purchase and installation costs to induce people to invest in solar panels on the roofs of their homes or office buildings; or the use of a similar tax credit of up to $7,500 if an individual purchases the Tesla electric automobile.

On the other hand, there is the use of taxes to induce less consumption or use of a product. A leading example of this is taxes on cigarettes. To the manufacturers’ retail prices are added “sin taxes” for indulging in a “vice” that others in society consider disgusting and/or an unnecessary health risk.

While in Missouri it is as low as merely 17 cents per pack, in New York City, the state and municipal taxes add an additional $5.85 per pack to the manufacturers’ retail price. Chicago has the highest of these sin taxes in the United States, with $6.16 in taxes added to the price of a pack of cigarettes.

The new code name for this type of political paternalism is “nudging.” Those in power and those among the behavioral “experts” who claim to know how individuals should better live their lives than when left on their own, do not assert the right to directly command people to live “right” and “rational” for themselves or society.

No, instead, they merely wish to influence and modify the incentives in society to get people to live and act in that better way, when if they were as enlightened as the government-advising experts those people would realize was the way they should and would live and act without the manipulation of the trade-offs people face in the marketplace.

The Danger from “Soft” Tyranny

We might call this a “soft” tyranny under which the commanding hand remains hidden behind an outward veneer seeming to respect the right of people to live and choose as they like and desire, but all the time manipulating the taxing and regulatory surroundings to see that the citizenry really ends up doing what the regulators and planners want them to do, or at least more it.

This form of “democratic despotism” over the conduct of the citizenry was, of course, explained, feared and warned about 180 years ago in Alexis de Tocqueville’s deservedly famous Democracy in America, written in the 1830s after an extended visit by the Frenchman to the United States:

“After having thus taken each individual one by one into its powerful hands, and having molded him as it pleases, the sovereign power extends its arms over the entire society; it covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated, minute, and uniform rules, which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot break through to go beyond the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

“I have always believed that this sort of servitude, regulated, mild and peaceful, of which I have just done the portrait, could be combined better than we imagine with some of the external forms of liberty, and that it would not be impossible for it to be established in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.”

There is a duel hubris in the thinking and attitude of such paternalistic “experts.” First, they presume to possess superior knowledge and insights greater than and superior to that of the ordinary citizen about how best people should live their lives. Second, they unreflectively presume that they, even though mere mortals as like the rest of us, do not suffer from similar behavior, psychological and social shortcomings, and therefore are intellectual demi-gods sitting atop a self-positioned political Mount Olympus far above the common man.

The Hubris of the Paternalist

Some psychological and behavioral scientists frequently claim that they are able to demonstrate the failings and conceptual and logical errors that the ordinary man commits, and on the basis of which they can assert a judgment concerning the “rationality” or “irrationality” of human beings and their choices and decision-making.

For instance, the person who consumes large quantities of “junk food” when they get anxious or depressed; or the cigarette smoker who can’t quit because he needs the “nicotine fix” during or after a rough day at the office; or the individual who doesn’t weigh on the basis of objective, rational statistical calculation whether it is really worth spending money on a lottery ticket; or a person who fails to logically plan for his own future retirement needs when they are in the 20s or 30s. And on-and-on.

The fact is that these and similar human “failings” have plagued mankind for all of its time on this earth. Read the accounts of the ancient Greeks written 2,500 years ago by those living among the people of that time, or the words of advice on good and ethical living given by the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, to his disciples and the political leaders of his time, also around 2,500 years ago.

It soon becomes clear that human nature, when compared and judged against some notion of a machine-like rational calculating device, appears to be stumbling, bumbling, and unfit for successful existence on this planet.

Human Improvement Without the Political Paternalists

Yet, here we are, the human race having survived in spite of its frailties, imperfections and less than perfect rationally logical thinking processes. Of course, we have become more intelligent, informed, and rational. We no longer pray to rain gods for precipitation or (well, at least, rarely!) throw human beings into volcanoes to appease the angered gods; we stopped burning people as witches or heretics (at least in the Western world for the most part); and we’ve learned to harness the forces of nature to serve man’s purposes (and often without too much of a screw up).

With only a limited degree of nagging and bullying, the number of people smoking in the U.S. has decreased from over 42 percent of the population in 1965 to barely more than 14 percent fifty years later in 2015. “Sin taxes” have certainly raised the cost of smoking, but it is also likely the case that a large majority of those who have given up the habit, did so because they decided to live a healthier life, through information and non-coercive peer-pressure by family members and friends – a method far more consistent with liberty than armies of busy-buddies playing political paternalists.

Obesity has increased from around 45 percent of the U.S. population in the 1960s to nearly 65 percent in the early part of the twenty-first century. But in one sense this is an indication of how wealthy we are and how inexpensive in general foods of all kinds have become compared to the past. In 1900 Americans spent around 43 percent of their family budget on food; in the first decade of the twenty-first century that had fallen to around 13 percent, or a 70 percent decline in the cost of putting food on the family dining table.

But at the same time, over the decades a significant number of people have gotten off the couch and gotten to the gym or on the park trails to run or bike regularly. More people try to eat and drink right. Since 1980, per capita alcohol consumption in the U.S. has decreased by about 15 percent.

Life expectance has dramatically improved over the last 75 years in the United States. In 1940 the average expected life span of all Americans was about 63 years; by 2010, this had increased to almost 79 years, for around a 25 percent increase in how long you can, on average, look forward to living. (For whites, in general, there has been a 23.5 percent increase in life expectancy between 1940 and the present. For blacks, in general, the increase in life expectancy during this period has been a dramatic 41.5 percent!)

Now, certainly, a good part of this improvement in the human condition has been due to advances in medicine, and improved education and information accessibility. But, nonetheless, the changes for the better are also due to people making their own choices and decisions about how to live their own lives based on what they consider to be a good and happy existence in a general economic and social environment of improved opportunities and choices.

In other words, Americans have not needed paternalist “experts” to control and manipulate their lives and twist the choice sets that such political elites think is necessary and “good” for the masses of the population.

Whose Life: Yours or the Government’s?

And this gets, I would suggest, to the heart of the matter. Whose life is it anyway? Even if individuals make decisions and act in ways that others may consider misguided and harmful to themselves, the first principle of any free society should and must be that the individual is sovereign over his own life.

Otherwise, he is a pawn to the paternalistic presumptions of those who arrogantly claim a right to control his existence in both small and great ways. Which gets to the second assumption behind the thinking and desires of the political “nudgers,” that they have the knowledge, wisdom and ability to know better the right choices that people should make for a rational, productive, and meaningful life.

Are not some of these “experts” the same people who were shown in the release of confidential emails a few years ago that they were determined to suppress and professionally bury any scientific evidence that ran counter to their absolute certainty that global warming was man-made and a threat to all living things on Earth?

Are not some of them the same people who have been found occasionally to falsify statistical and related data in their professional articles upon which they attempt to build their academic careers for purposes of position and financial reward?

Are not some of them the same people who before their appointment to positions as an economic advisor or bureaucratic overseer in government may have said that economic theory and historical evidence demonstrates that minimum wage laws tend to cause unemployment by pricing the unskilled or the low skilled out the labor market, but once in those positions of political authority suddenly say that such government regulations have little or none of such negative effects on such workers in general, if that fits in with the ideological and political agenda of those whom they serve in government?

In other words, are they not people just like some of the ones they criticize and “scientifically” sneer at for their claimed “irrationalities” and presumed emotional short-sightedness, for which they say there is only one answer: their guiding hand to dictate or “nudge” the “common man” into the elite’s conception of the “good,” the “right” and the “rational”?

Paternalism on the “Left” and the “Right”

At the same time, too many people believe that the only problem with all this is that the “wrong” individuals have been given such power and authority. Too often both American “progressives” on the political left and political conservatives on the right want government to intervention, regulate and “nudge” people into directions different than the ones they might have peacefully followed if left alone; their only difference being into which direction they want people to be nudged and who they would like to see elected or appointed to do the regulatory restricting, manipulating and controlling.

For too long, too many conservatives have forgotten or chosen to ignore in their quest for political control that once the state is given the responsibility to see that we do the “right thing,” they have no certainty that those empowered to implement the necessary policies will share their values and beliefs. They may be setting up or reinforcing or extending the political institutional mechanisms for the government to undermine the very ideals, values and beliefs you hold most dear when others they don’t like get into power.

It is only in the arena of freedom that individuals can find their own way, guided by their own beliefs, values and purposes without the fear of some others attempting to bend them to a vision, ideal or a meaning for life different to their own.

But to secure the opportunity to live your life and practice the values you consider important, there must be a “first principle.” That first principle must be the right of the individual to his own life, liberty and honestly acquired property without violence or political manipulative interference by the government powers-that-be.

This requires, at the same time, a rejection of the prevailing alternative first principle of modern society: the collectivist premise that the individual is subordinate and subject to the national, ethnic, religious, or social groups or tribes into which accident of birth or circumstances have placed him.

This should be the burning issue and alternatives debated and discussed in an election year: individualism versus collectivism. Instead, the campaign trail is filled with those who are more focused on trying to persuade the electorate on how they, respectively, have the “plan” to set everything right and assure every one of a better life and a happy future.

All of them are implicitly paternalistic “nudgers” and manipulators, merely arguing over how they each would better design society and control various aspects of people’s lives.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Tax Cuts to Cut Carbon, an Idea Whose Time has Yet to Come

February 02, 2016, 11:21 AM

Some on the political right are floating a new “supply-side” idea for reducing carbon dioxide emissions without creating more market distortions: clean tax cuts. Proponents of the cuts want to reduce or end all taxes on investments in technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In theory, tax cuts on so-called “clean” technologies should dramatically increase investments in these industries, because investors would not have to pay taxes on the profits. Because taxes would still be paid by companies using fossil fuels to produce electricity or churn out popular products not as energy-efficient as alternative models in their class, stock prices would fall and investment in them would wane. Proponents have described it as “an all carrot, no-stick” approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

There are multiple problems with this approach, the most glaring of which is, as an old mentor of mine used to say, “There’s never a good time to do the wrong thing.” One can pursue more or less efficient means to cut carbon dioxide emissions: coerced emission reductions through command-and-control regulations, a carbon tax, cap-and-trade, and now clean tax cuts. The latter may reduce carbon dioxide by larger amounts, more quickly, or with less negative effects on the economy than the other options, but why bother? The only reason to discourage the use of fossil fuels is to prevent dangerous climate change. Yet, the best evidence—as opposed to dubious computer model predictions—suggests humans aren’t causing the climate to change in ways even remotely threatening to human health or environmental integrity.

Almost every testable projection made by computer models concerning the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet has been proven wrong. Hurricanes aren’t getting worse; sea level rise has slowed; Antarctica and the Arctic are adding ice; scientists can show no species to have been lost due to climate change; droughts continue to wax and wane as they always have; and crop production continues to set records. Even actual measured temperatures are much lower than computer model predictions, indicating global temperature is most likely less sensitive to greenhouse gases being added to the atmosphere than computer models suggest.

If humans aren’t causing apocalyptic global warming, there’s no good reason why governments should manipulate energy markets, even with a supposedly efficient clean tax cut.

Discouraging fossil fuels is an especially bad idea because expanding the use of fossil fuels is almost certainly the quickest, surest way to decrease poverty and increase economic progress in the United States and abroad. Further, higher carbon dioxide levels are demonstrably beneficial for plants, increasing agricultural yields, improving plants’ water use efficiency, and greening Earth by shrinking deserts and expanding forest cover.

More than one billion people don’t have access to regular supplies of electricity today, with millions dying from preventable cardiopulmonary diseases each year from indoor air pollution caused by their use of wood, charcoal, dung, and other flammable materials used to light and heat their homes. Millions more die prematurely from a lack of access to safe drinking water, modern transportation, and hospitals with working electric lights, medical equipment, and refrigeration. In the West, we take these necessities for granted, but they were all brought about on a large scale by the use of fossil fuels. The use of coal, gasoline, natural gas, and oil makes modern life possible. Where fossil fuels are in regular use, people are wealthy, and where their use is absent, poverty, disease, and hunger are rife.

In addition to the inanity and immorality of efforts to restrict the use of fossil fuels, clean tax cuts face practical political hurdles. Proponents say they do not wish to bankrupt the fossil-fuel industry; they instead hope the clean tax cut will wean the nation off of fossil fuels gradually, providing a soft landing for coal, gas, and oil companies and their workers. Accordingly, the proposal suggests phasing out other subsidies and mandates. The intent is to encourage people to use cleaner energy while minimizing market distortions.

I agree that energy subsidies and mandates should be ended, but the clean tax plan contains a significant Achilles’ heel: Wind and solar power aren’t profitable without significant subsidies and mandates. Depending on the location and source of generation, the electricity they produce is up to five times more expensive than electricity generated using fossil fuels, and that’s with the subsidies and mandates. Take the latter away, and they are big money losers. If you take away the subsidies and mandates, investors won’t have to worry about paying taxes, because they will be writing off huge losses. As a result, although green tech companies may embrace a clean tax cut plan, they will do so only alongside the special treatment they already receive, not as a replacement for the politically created economic advantages they have already won.

Clean tax cuts are a solution in search of a problem, and they would only impose an additional distortion on energy markets. The truly clean approach is to get rid of all subsidies and manipulations to the tax code, a move that would allow the energy mix to reflect economic realities.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

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