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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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The FCC Delivers the Latest Dose of Obama Cronyism

March 24, 2015, 10:11 AM

The huge-er government gets – the greater its ability to deliver cronyism goodies. The bigger the wallet government has – the larger the regulatory hammer it wields – the more Crony Socialism it can dispense.

Remember when President Barack Obama said this?

“We’re going to punish our enemies and reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”

The Obama Administration is excellent at both. The punishing:

IRS Targets Conservative Groups

Obama Administration Targets Fox News Reporter in ‘Chilling’ Echo of AP Probe

Obama Administration Targets Coal with Controversial Emissions Regulations

Obama Closed and Stole Republican Car Dealerships?

And the rewarding:

80% of DOE Green Energy Loans Went to Obama Backers

How Obama’s Justice Department Selectively Blocked A Merger By Republican CEOs

Obama’s Auto Bailout Was Really a Hefty Union Payoff

US Diplomats Cry Foul as Obama Donors Take Over Top Embassy Jobs

Often there are moments of Crony Socialist harmonic convergence. When government can reward friends – while simultaneously punishing enemies.

Take, for instance, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s latest auction of spectrum – the airwaves we use for all things wireless.

Big Money in ‘Small’-Business Preferences

DISH Network’s brazen abuse of the Federal Communications Commission’s incentives for small businesses at a recent spectrum auction — to the tune of $3 billion, at taxpayers’ expense — was enough to make even a Dickensian villain squirm….

Using multiple shell companies to qualify for “designated entity” (DE) discounts, DISH Network effectively shaved off more than $3 billion in payments….

DE status is reserved for small businesses — not market behemoths like DISH Network.

How behemoth is DISH Network? About $34 billion. A little large for DE eligibility.

DE is Huge Government yet again trying to manipulate the marketplace – allegedly for good and noble purposes – and (shocker) failing miserably.

The DE program was created at Congress’s direction more than 20 years ago. It offers qualifying small companies a taxpayer-funded credit equal to 25 percent of the purchase price to help them compete against their larger counterparts when bidding for spectrum.

DISH got a heck of a deal.  I wonder why?

The co-founder of broadcasting giant DISH Network was accused in a federal complaint last week of intimidating company executives into making political donations that largely went to Democratic causes.

Ahh – that’s why.

DISH’s $3B in Auction Discounts ‘Makes a Mockery’ of AWS-3 Auction, FCC Official Says

Don’t get too excited – it was Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai who said that.

When government plays favorites – everyone else loses. When the Leviathan has its giant thumb on the scale – it is anything but fair.

DISH purchased spectrum on the crony cheap – that could have instead gone to any of the many other bidders. Many of whom are vocally opposed to many Administration power grab policies – including itsrecent Net Neutrality Internet takeover. One of whom – Verizon – successfully sued to undo the last Administration attempt at Net Neutrality imposition.

The Administration rewarding its friends – while punishing its enemies. The Crony Socialist twofer.

It’s way past time for Huge Government to stop trying to micro-manipulate the private sector. The ends never justify the means – and the intended ends are never met.

And it will take a Crony Socialist weapon out of the government’s vast arsenal.

Now that’s a twofer for the better.

[Originally published at Red State]

 

Categories: On the Blog

PARCC and Common Core Undergo Scrutiny in Wealthy Lake County School District

March 23, 2015, 3:49 PM

Thousands of parents across the country and here in Illinois are concerned about Common Core standards, PARCC testing on those standards, and the accumulation and storage of their children’s personal data. Thorner, as a citizen and taxpayer living in a community in northern Illinois, is represented by Lake Forest-Lake Bluff school Districts 65, 67 and 115. All have embraced Common Core standards with enthusiasm.

PARCC testing has already begun in school districts across Illinois, the state having willingly embraced Common Core standards, sight unseen, in 2010. Many parents, having been informed by organizations like Stop Illinois Common Core, are opting their children out of PARCC testing.

Not unlike many school districts in Illinois, PARCC testing is being administered in March on selected classes at Lake Forest District 115, specifically on March 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19, with later testing scheduled for May 12, 13, 14 and 15. Of concern is that for each of those 9 days, LFHS students not taking the test will experience a two hour late start of school, thus depriving students of 18 hours’ instructional time.

As in school districts across Illinois, PARCC testing wasn’t received with open arms in Lake Forest District 115.   An e-mail dated Monday, March 16, from Superintendent Michael Simeck, and sent to parents midday imploring them to send their freshmen to school on Tuesday morning (March17) to participate in the English portion of the PARCC test, was quite telling.  It seems that PARCC testing done in the prior week was “well below” the 95% threshold, meaning there was less than a 95% participation of students taking the PARCC exams.

 Superintendent Simeck stated in his email: “Students’ failure to participate in the PARCC exams will result in the district automatically failing to meet accountability obligations [Not mentioned is that federal funds are contingent upon a 95% participation rate].”In order for our district to be legally compliant, we encourage you to allow your children to take the PARCC exams or have them attend the make- up sessions, if they have missed.”

The Women’s Republican Club of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff , president, Jennifer Neubauer, deserves much credit and praise for hosting a debate on the merits and demerits of Common Core, PARCC testing, and “womb to tomb” personal data collection on students. The event took place on Saturday, March 14 at 9 a.m. at Gorton Community Center’s Stuart Room, Lake Forest. All members of the public were invited to attend the event for free.

Participants at the March 14 Saturday event

  • Bruno Behrend, J.D., a senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute and a Lake Forest High School graduate. The Heartland Institute is a vocal opponent of Common Core and its mandated PARCC testing.
  • Jessica Handy, currently the Government Affairs Director with “Stand For Children”, and a vocal proponent of Common Core and PARCC.  She is a former teacher and former Illinois Senate Democratic staffer, serving in a variety of capacities before becoming the Policy and Budget Analyst for the Education and Pensions committees.
  • Rep. Sheri Jesiel (R-61st), a member of the Elementary and Secondary Education School Committee in the Illinois House, make brief remarks between the solo comments of Ms. Handy and Mr. Behrend.  Representative Jesiel, whose office is in Gurnee, described Common Core as a very polarizing and a highly debated topic.  She sits on the House committee that oversees PARCC testing.

Jessica Handy and Bruno Behrend were each given 20 minutes to address their individual assessments of Common Core.  Ms. Handy, as pro Common Core advocate, is the Chicago organizer of “Stand for Children.” Her extended bio can be read hereMs. Handy described her organization’s mission accordingly:  to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, a college education.” Because Handy believes that every kid has a right to a high quality education, Common Core strikes Jessica Handy as the way forward.

Pro Common Core, Jessica Handy, Stand for Children

As shared by Jessica Handy, the facts are stark.  Roughly a quarter of American children fail to finish high school.  That number translates to nearly one million young people leaving classrooms for the streets every year.  This is a guarantee for a life that will breed low earnings, poor health, and risk of incarceration.

In relating background information, Handy spoke about the forerunner of Common Core, “No Child Left Behind”, a George W. Bush education program that required all children by 2014 to meet NCLB standards.  As states scrambled to set their own standards for children to achieve success, the American Federation of Teachers and Fordham Institute looked at the state standards.  Some states had good standards, while others didn’t.  Illinois received a D.

Such a haphazard approach could not continue, given that 50% of students entering college needed to take remedial education courses.  Students were racking up lots of students loans and no college credits.

Enter Common Core which laid out the following:  1) what was expected of children at each grade level and 2) what children needed to know at each grade level to pass on to the next grade. Common Core was latched on to by Stand for Children in 2010, as a plan that could provide the standards for success in every state.  The organization Stand for Children is now active in 11 states.  Illinois was the 7th state to join forces with Stand for Child in 2010.

Favorable attributes of Common Core as expressed by Ms. Handy:

  • Common Core moves away from rote memorization.
  • Every math problem is a word problem.  It’s not enough to know that 9 + 6 = 15.  The child must understand why this is so, which dictates that the child is able to interpret what the numbers mean, and then be able to interpret the answer in real words.
  • In English, informational texts must be read along with standard literature, because, as adults, children will be required to read and understand informational texts.
  • First year testing assessments of PARCC will not count.  When the test is taken it is best done on a computer. No longer will a child just fill in the bubble.  Critical thinking is required where a written response might be required.
  • Common Core testing will indicate where a child needs help.
  • Common Core will eventually replace the COMPASS test for junior college and will count for college admissions at some colleges.
  • We must move into the 21th century in the way children are assessed.

Con Common Core, Bruno Behrend, Senior Fellow, The Heartland Institute

Bruno Behrend, although a Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute, does his presentations for free.  In that Bruno graduated from Lake Forest High was a definite plus.  In the audience was a classmate of Behren’s when a student at Lake Forest High School.

In listening to Mr. Behrend speak about why he’s not supportive of Common Core, at times Bruno appeared almost apologetic in having to point out how his views differed from those of Jessica Handy.  It often appeared that Bruno was being overly polite in his interactions, out of fear of being considered too aggressive.  But what happens when one of the main faults of Common Core it that its agenda is left-leaning and that the purpose the PARCC testing is to assure that teacher are teaching Common Core curriculum?

In a post event interchange with Mr. Behrend, I became aware that he was well versed on the perceived left-leaning agenda of Common Core. Following are Bruno’s reasons for not fixating on the nature of the Common Core agenda:  1) Confrontation is no way to win an argument; 2) the political bent of Common Core might be upsetting to some in attendance; and 3) the format of the event didn’t lend itself to aggressive debating.  Then too, Jessica Tandy was likewise extremely polite and respectful.  Together Bruno and Jessica created an aura of comaraderie, even though their Common Core positions were on opposite ends of the scale.  But they did share a common goal.  Both Bruno and Jessica wanted all children to receive a good education.

For Bruno Behrend education is a social and an economic problem, not unlike that expressed by his counterpart, Jessica Handy.  But for Mr. Behrend Common Core is the wrong approach to education.  It is not the answer for solving the gap between how American children rank education-wise in comparison to children of other nations.  Such a dismal showing of American children is especially troubling because as a nation we dump so much money into education (Lake Forest High School spends $22,500 per student.), yet during the past 20 or so years test scores have remained flat.  Mr. Behrend did admit that Illinois’s standards were crummy, and that if Common Core standards were good he would have no problem supporting Common Core.

Behrend’s main “beef” with Common core is the centralization of education by the federal government.  As Bruno surmised, “Will we discover after 5 – 10 years that Common Core is not producing the desired educational outcome, that Common Core was an education experiment that was conducted at the expense of our children?”  Behrend mentioned two curriculum experts (one each in English and Math) who helped write the Common Core standards.  Upon disagreeing that the Common Core standards formulated were the best standards in the world, the two experts quit the validation committee and were accordingly forbidden to write a minority report.

Bruno believes that a unified set of standards sounds like a good idea, but with this nation’s diverse population, and 52 million children to educate, decentralization of education works better.  By definition Common Core will narrow the curriculum being taught and what children are learning. Apart from the federally directed Common Core state curriculum, only 15% of what is taught locally in each school district can deviate from these standards.

Bruno Behrend questioned whether Common Core really represents 21century education, as the ways in which children are learning and can learn continue to expand at a rapid pace.  Behrend spoke highly of the Khan Academy and how it is changing the rules of education. Khan Academy is an educational website that aims to let anyone “learn almost anything—for free.” Students, or anyone interested enough to surf by, can watch some 2,400 videos in which the site’s founder, Salman Khan, chattily discusses principles of math, science, and economics (with a smattering of social science topics thrown in).  Khan Academy is on a mission to unlock the world’s potential. Most people think their intelligence is fixed. The science says it’s not. It starts with knowing you can learn anything.   Check out this excellent youtube video about Kahn Academy.

Following is question of particular interest addressed to Bruno Behrend from a Lake Forest, District 115 parent:  “How will Common Core affect the Lake Forest School System (District 67 and 115)?  What impact will it have?  To which Bruno replied:  “Lake Forest will be the last place to get bad, and the first place to get better, because of the caliber of its students.”

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – James Taylor: Florida Solar Ballot Initiative Hoodwink

March 23, 2015, 3:33 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor of Environment & Climate News, H. Sterling Burnett sits down with James M. Taylor. Taylor is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, focusing on energy and environment issues. Taylor and Burnett discuss an Florida Ballot initiative on solar companies.

Taylor dismantles the argument that the Florida initiative aimed at allowing solar companies to put roof top panels on homes and businesses is a free-market push. Solar wants to keep all its subsidies and be a co-monopolist with utilities. The bill would grant a special exemption to the electricity supply for solar, while keeping wind, geo-thermal, and other renewables sidelined. And taxpayers would foot the bill for a minimum of 30 percent of all solar power installed.  Taylor argues that conservatives, libertarians and free-marketeers in general should not be fooled by this push financed by Tom Steyer.

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

Categories: On the Blog

A World Without the Welfare State

March 23, 2015, 2:43 PM

We live in an era in which few can even conceive of a world without the welfare state. Who would care for the old? How would people provide for their medical needs? What would happen to the disadvantaged and needy that fell upon hard times? In fact, there were free market solutions and non-government answers to these questions long before the modern Big Government Welfare State.

In fact, before the arrival of modern welfare state, voluntary, private-sector institutions had evolved to serve as the market providers for many of those “social services” now viewed as the near-exclusive prerogative of the government. Unfortunately, after nearly a century of increasing political and cultural collectivism, the historical memory of the pre-welfare state era has all but been lost.

Great Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries is an historical case study in how many of these problems were handled without political intervention in the private affairs of society.

The Friendly Societies and Mutual Insurance Protections

The focal point for many of these private-sector answers was the “friendly societies.” When they first arose in the late 18th and early 19th century Britain, the friendly societies were mutual-aid associations for insurance for the cost of funerals of workers or their family members.

But as the 19th century progressed, the friendly societies expanded their activities to encompass four primary services: 1) accident insurance that provided weekly allowances for the families of workers who were injured in their places of employment; 2) medical insurance that covered the cost of medical care and prescribed medicines for workers and their families; 3) life insurance and assistance to maintain family members in case of the death of the primary breadwinner or his spouse; and 4) funeral insurance to cover burial costs for the worker or members of his family. Later on, many of the societies also developed savings and lending facilities for members, fire insurance and loans for home purchases.

By 1910, the year before Britain’s first National Insurance Act was brought into law, approximately three-quarters of the work force of the British economy was covered by the private, voluntary insurance associations of the friendly societies. The memberships in their associations covered the entire income spectrum, from the middle- and higher-income skilled worker to the low-wage, unskilled members of the work force.

The friendly societies also offered instruction in self-responsibility, often rotated their officer positions to teach leadership among the members, and supplied advice on better managing of members’ family financial and related affairs.

In the years before the First World War, the free society had developed and was extending the very social institutions needed to handle all those concerns that in our own time are considered the responsibility of the state. What the modern welfare state did was to preempt and undermine the free market’s solutions to many of what we call today “social services.”

State regulation of the friendly societies, subsidized “free” medical and insurance services, and new taxes to cover the government’s cost for providing these national insurance schemes all resulted in a crowding-out of the voluntary alternatives of the private sector.

Private Charity and Voluntary Assistance to the Poor

 For the 300 years between 1600 and 1900, British society generally took it as axiomatic that charitable work was the responsibility of individual and private corporate effort. Even the notorious English Poor Laws that generated so many negative side effects were considered to be a narrow and limited supplement to the primary activities of the private sector.

British private philanthropy reached its zenith in the 19th century, and this was not an accident. During this epoch of classical liberalism, the state was not regarded as either the proper or most efficient vehicle for the amelioration of poverty.

Especially for the Christian classical liberal, his faith required him to take on the personal responsibility for the saving of souls for God.

Most of the Christians in 19th-century Britain also believed that to help a man in his rebirth in Christ, it was essential to help him improve his earthly life, as well. Soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, training of the unskilled for gainful employment, care for the abandoned or poverty-stricken young, and the nurturing of a sense of self-respect and self-responsibility for an independent and self-supporting life were all seen as complements to the primary task of winning sinners over for salvation.

By the 1890s, most middle-class British families devoted 10 percent of their income for charitable works — an outlay from average family income second only to expenditures on food. Total voluntary giving in Britain was greater than the entire budgets of several European governments, and more than half a million women worked as full-time volunteers for various charitable organizations.

Individual Initiative and Leadership in Voluntary Giving

Individuals of position, wealth, or vision felt it their Christian duty to take up the saving of souls and the caring for these people’s material circumstances as steppingstones to the “remaking” of Christ’s children. For example, Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the seventh Earl of Shaftsbury, who was considered a prominent evangelical Christian, and as one historian of the period put it, “a sort of conscience of the nation, a man of such outstanding virtue that the association of his name with any enterprise gave it instant respectability and mass appeal.”

Thomas Barnardo, associated with the Church of Ireland, founded his own charitable organizations that came to care for, house, and educate tens of thousands of children in the poorest circumstances throughout England. William Booth created the Salvation Army, saving souls as well as teaching those who came to Christ through his organization the importance of self-responsibility and paying their own way through work and honesty in all avenues of life. William Cadbury (of Cadbury chocolates) and William Lever (of Lever Brothers’ soap) created, with their own money, model workplaces and communities for their workers.

An advantage of this world of private charity is that it enabled innovation and experimentation to discover the means most likely to bring people to God and improve their earthly conditions. At the same time, the competition among charities for voluntary contributions rewarded those organizations that demonstrated the effectiveness of the methods they used and weeded out the less successful ones.

The Rise of Socialism and the Demise of the Private Sector

At the turn of the century, however, a sea change began to occur in the philosophy and ideology of many charities and their corporate sponsors. In a period experiencing the rise of socialist ideas, the view developed that government needed to assist or supplant the efforts of private individuals and organizations. And among a growing number of Christian groups concern for earthly improvement of the poor began to take first place over the previously primary task of saving souls.

As the government began to create the welfare state, many of the private charities found it increasingly impossible to compete with the “free” services supplied by the state. And, at the same time, many people now paying higher taxes to finance government welfare programs came to believe they had paid their “fair share” through taxation, so private giving was either not needed or no longer affordable.

Also, as the 20th century has progressed, many private charitable organizations have themselves become dependent upon government funding for large fractions of their activities. This has resulted in increasing government regulation and supervision of their programs. Furthermore, since “he who pays the piper calls the tune,” Christian charities have had to diminish or remove the evangelical element in their activities under government rules against religious proselytizing by those receiving government funds.

From Private Action to Government Control

Another aspect of this politicization and co-opting of these private sector solutions to “social problems” is that it really has involved a massive growth in governmental power and decision-making.

The rhetoric is often of transferring income and wealth from “the rich” to the poor or more disadvantaged. But as a number of critics have pointed out, it has really and mostly involved a transfer of power and control from the hands of the citizenry to that of those in political authority.

This theme was especially emphasized by the French social critic, Bertrand de Jouvenel, in a book on The Ethics of Redistribution(1951). Income is not merely a means for physical maintenance of oneself and one’s family plus a few dollars for leisure activities. What we do with our income is an expression of ourselves, a statement about what we value, how we see ourselves, and what we wish and hope to be.

How We Spend Our Wealth Reflects and Teaches Values

The way we use our income enables us to teach future generations about those things that are considered worthwhile in life. Income acquired above some notion of a “minimum” is also the way individuals have had the means to perform many activities “for free” that are considered the foundation of the social order, from community and church work, to support for the arts and humanities.

Deny an individual the honest income the has earned, even when it is above some hypothetically “reasonable maximum,” and you deny him the ability to formulate, and give expression to, his own purpose as a human being. And you deny him the capacity to make his voluntary contribution to the civilization and society in which he lives, as he sees best

De Jouvenel argued that such contributions have been, and remain essential for a good society. This is demonstrated, he shows, by the common belief of most of those who advocate redistribution: since most people will no longer have the “independent means” to perform such social services and activities, the state must now perform them.

Elitist Contempt for the Common Man

And there is a strong elitist element among redistribution advocates. They do not trust “the poor” to have the intelligence or wisdom to spend their income in “socially desirable ways.” The poor prefer to spend their money on beer rather than Beethoven. So, the state takes over that responsibility for them. And it is in this that de Jouvenel sees the real significance of redistributive policies. What is redistributed is not wealth from the rich to the poor, but power from the people to the state.

Individuals no longer plan their own lives, and use their own money, to fulfill those plans. Individuals no longer care for their own children, teach them how to live as human beings or guide them as to what to value and pursue in life. In terms of time, income and talent, individuals are now reluctant to contribute themselves to the society in which they live.

No, these are now in the hands of the state because, through taxation, the state has denied individuals the capacity to do them. The state plans our lives, cares for our children, and decides what should be supported in society as socially desirable and to what extent.

And as the state grows stronger, the individual grows weaker. We become weaker, not only in relation to the state, but also as human beings because we no longer exercise those qualities and habits of mind that only self-responsibility teaches and makes possible.

In spite of the pervasiveness of the Welfare State in our modern society and the tax burden that is imposed to fund it, it is worth remembering that Americans’ generosity and benevolence still stands as a beacon for the world. In 2013, Americans donated nearly $420 billion to charitable causes, and this was a nearly 13 percent increase over the 2012 level of voluntary philanthropy in the United States.

But a culture of self-responsibility and benevolence can be and is undermined by a paternalistic state, in which the government not only takes away the income and wealth through which individuals can express and reflect their values and beliefs, but weakens the very idea that such decisions and judgments should be in private rather than political hands.

The Welfare State makes us all poorer in character and independence. Confiscation of freedom through abridgements of individuals’ rights to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property, also brings with it a less humane and civil society.

With liberty comes not only the individual’s right to make his own choices concerning how best to live his life. The experience of the Great Britain and the United States before the modern Welfare State makes it clear that free man are also civilized human beings who demonstrate appropriate and reasonable interest and concern with others in society deemed deserving of charitable benevolence.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Radical Environmentalism’s Death Campaigns

March 23, 2015, 2:14 PM

The terms racism, white supremacy, crimes against humanity are bandied about so often that they have become almost meaningless. But they are absolutely appropriate in an arena where they are too rarely applied: radical environmentalism’s campaigns that perpetuate poverty, disease and death, by denying Earth’s most impoverished and powerless people access to modern life-saving technologies.

Imagine activist groups preventing you from having your child vaccinated against polio or hepatitis, or from starting her on chemotherapy for leukemia – because they are “concerned” about “possible side-effects” and the “ethics” of permitting such “risky” procedures. Absurd! you say. Outrageous!

Of course it is. But that is what radical environmentalists are doing to Third World countries. By denying people access to abundant, reliable, affordable electricity, modern fertilizers and biotech seeds, and especially DDT to prevent malaria and other insect-borne diseases, they are killing millions every year.

Many of my articles have documented this. Now a new film written, self-financed and produced by Dr. D. Rutledge Taylor, MD graphically presents powerful new evidence of how the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, other predominantly white environmentalist pressure groups and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conspired to hide and discredit scientific evidence, and wage a campaign of disinformation and outright lies, to ban the most effective weapon yet devised to prevent malaria and other vicious diseases.

3 Billion and Counting: The death toll is mounting shows how DDT was invented on the eve of World War II and became a secret weapon that kept Allied soldiers on the battlefield, instead of in hospitals or graves. After the war, it was sprayed on millions of Europeans to prevent typhus. It then eradicated malaria in Europe, the United States and other developed nations. No one ever got sick from DDT.

Available on demand and through Amazon.com, You Tube, Google Play, iTunes and elsewhere, the film chronicles how Rachel Carson’s wildly inaccurate book Silent Spring helped persuade the Audubon Society to launch the Environmental Defense Fund for the sole purpose of demanding a DDT ban.

Why would Audubon do such a thing? Its own research and Department of the Interior studies showed that bird and animal populations were exploding during the two decades when DDT was used most widely. Countless other studies documented that the life-saving chemical was safe for humans and most wildlife, including bald eagles. People actually tried to kill themselves with DDT – and repeatedly failed.

An EPA scientific panel conducted six months of hearings, compiled 9,312 pages of studies and testimony, and concluded that DDT was safe and effective, was not carcinogenic, and should not be banned. Nevertheless, without attending a single hour of hearings or reading a single page of the panel’s report, EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus banned U.S. production and use of DDT in 1972 – at a time when over 80% of the chemical was being exported for disease control.

Then why the attacks? As EDF scientist Charles Wurster said 1969, “If the environmentalists win on DDT, they will achieve a level of authority they have never had before.” When asked later how he justified human deaths from pesticides that replaced DDT, versus the “mere loss of some birds,” he said “organophosphates act locally and only kill farm workers, and most of them are Mexicans and Negroes.”

Ruckelshaus said he had a political problem, and fixed it. He never considered the plight of malaria victims, and anti-DDT activists still ignore their agony and deaths. Audubon, EDF, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Pesticide Action Network, Natural Resource Defense Council and other radical groups that oppose DDT just don’t give a damn – even as they have become filthy, callously rich by opposing the life-saving chemical and other technologies.

Sierra Club executive director David Brower, Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich and other arch-environmentalists believed the biggest problem facing Planet Earth was “uncontrolled growth” in human populations. Ehrlich argued that the “instant death control” provided by DDT exports was “responsible for the drastic lowering of death rates” in underdeveloped countries. Those countries were not practicing a “birth rate solution” – and thus needed to have “death rate solutions” imposed on them, via campaigns against energy, Golden Rice and other biotech crops, and especially DDT.

Almost 3.5 billion people worldwide are at risk of getting this horrific disease, 207 million are actually infected every year, and over 800,000 die year after year from malaria. The vast majority are children and pregnant women, and some 90% of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa. In that region, a child still dies every minute from malaria, and most African children have been brain-damaged to some degree by malaria. Worldwide, nearly 80% of all infectious diseases are spread by insects.

Malaria is certainly a disease of poverty. But poverty is a disease of malaria. It leaves victims too sick to work or care for their families, for weeks on end. Medicines and hospital stays drain families’ meager savings. The disease costs tens of millions of lost work hours, billions in lost wages, and tens of billions for medicines and care in antiquated hospitals. It leaves entire nations impoverished.

However, spraying small amounts of DDT on the walls and eaves of cinderblock and mud-and-thatch homes, once or twice a year puts a long-lasting mosquito net over entire households. It keeps 80-90% of mosquitoes from even entering the homes; irritates any that do enter, so they leave without biting; and kills any that land. No other chemical, at any price, can do all this.

In response to these facts, anti-DDT pressure groups rail about risks that are trivial, illusory or fabricated. DDT is associated with low birth-weights, slow reflexes and weakened immune systems in babies, and could cause premature birth and lactation failure in nursing mothers, they claim.

Not one peer-reviewed scientific study supports any of this fear-mongering. Every one of these alleged problems is definitely associated with malaria and other endemic Third World diseases. And compared to the death and devastation that DDT could prevent, the alleged DDT risks are irrelevant.

However, constant deception and harassment by these groups have caused many health agencies and aid organizations to not use or fund DDT, and often other pesticides. Instead, they focus on bed nets, education, “capacity building,” and treatment with drugs that are too often unavailable, counterfeit, or ineffective because the malaria parasites have become resistant to them.

Still, the efforts have been somewhat successful. Millions of women and young children now sleep under insecticide-treated nets. Millions now get diagnosed more quickly and receive better care and medicines, often at clinics where two doctors examine up to 400 patients a day. In 2010, the World Health Organization and Roll Back Malaria boasted of an 18% reduction in child mortality, compared with 2000.

But that is not nearly good enough. We would never tolerate 18% as “good enough,” if American or European children’s lives (or Greenpeace and EDF kids’ lives) were at stake and a 90% reduction were possible – as it would be, if health workers were also eradicating mosquitoes and spraying DDT.

Instead, they protect Africans and Asians from minimal or illusory risks, by condemning them to agonizing deaths from readily preventable diseases. “They are using us in anti-DDT experiments,” says Ugandan human rights activist Fiona Kobusingye. “They are playing with our lives.”

They are also playing with American lives. Spraying clothes with DDT once a year would keep infected ticks away and prevent Lyme disease that leaves tens of thousands battling chronic, debilitating pain and illness for years, Dr. Taylor explains. But the same anti-pesticide radicals are dead-set against that.

Dr. Taylor ends his film by drinking 3 grams of DDT … in 2008 – with no ill effects, then or today.

Watch 3 Billion and Counting. Then contact these Big Green pressure groups and their staffs and board members, and the foundations, politicians and bureaucrats who support them. Tell them it’s time to end their eco-manslaughter.

Categories: On the Blog

Oil and Gas Exports—One Policy Change, many Benefits

March 23, 2015, 1:00 PM

“Businesses that sell to foreign markets put more people to work in high-quality jobs, offering more Americans the chance to earn a decent wage,” claimed the Obama administration’s Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in a March 18 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) opinion piece.

She makes a strong case for U.S. exports: “jobs in export-intensive industries pay up to 18% more than jobs not related to exports.” Her premise is: “The U.S. economy ended 2014 on the uptick, and exports added to the momentum.” Noticeably absent is any mention of the potential for “high-quality jobs” and economic “uptick” that would come from the export of America’s abundant oil-and-natural gas resources—something her office should champion.

Pritzker states: “an increasing number of businesses are realizing that their customer base is no longer around the corner, but around the world. …to succeed in the 21st century, they must find a way to reach consumers in ever-expanding markets.”

Due to the modern technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. is producing more oil and natural gas than in decades. But the oil-and-gas industry is prevented from exporting to “foreign markets.”

In trade negotiations, the U.S., according to the New York Times (NYT), “typically argues that countries with excess supplies should export them.” We have excess supplies of both crude oil and natural gas that has driven down prices. We “should export them”—but we aren’t.

“Why can’t we export crude oil and natural gas?” you might ask. The NYT explains: “In 2011, the country pivoted from being the world’s largest importer of petroleum products to becoming one of the leading exporters”—though Pritzker never mentioned that.

The “energy world changed.” But, as NYT points out, exports could soak up the excess production, “but there are still political hurdles.”

For crude oil, the problem is energy policy enacted before the “energy world changed.” Signed into law in 1975, after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the goal of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, according to the International Business Times, was “to stifle the impact of future oil embargos by foreign oil producing countries.” The result was a ban on most U.S. oil exports—though some exceptions can be made and the Commerce Department has recently given export licenses to two companies for particular types of oil.

Exporting natural gas is not prohibited, but it is not encouraged. In order to export natural gas, it must be converted into Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)—which is done at multibillion-dollar facilities with long lead times for permitting and construction. The Financial Times says about two dozen U.S. LNG export facilities have been proposed with four “already under construction, which have contracts to back up their financing.”

Fortunately, there are fixes in the works that, as energy historian Daniel Yergin said, symbolize “a new era in U.S. energy and U.S. energy relations with the rest of the world.”

In January, Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act to expedite Department of Energy decisions on LNG export applications. Breaking Energy states: “The bipartisan bill could garner enough votes to gain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.”

A month later, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) introduced a bill to end the crude oil export ban: HR 702. On March 25, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will meet to debate and vote on the bill.

In October, David Goldwyn, the State Department’s coordinator for international energy affairs in the first Obama administration, said: “The politics are hard.” He added: “When the economics become overwhelming the politics will shift.” The NYT stated: The telltale sign of a glut will be a collapse in the West Texas Intermediate [WTI] price, the principal American oil benchmark, which is currently [October 2014] about $3 below the world Brent price.” It continues, “If the spread cracks open, the economic arguments for free export of domestic crude will probably win the day.”

That day may have come. On March 13, the WSJ editorial board announced: “WTI now trades 20% below the world market price.” Holman Jenkins, who writes the Business World column for the WSJ, says: “Oil producers are already being denied a premium of $12 a barrel by not being allowed to export this oil.”

“U.S. pump prices are mainly tied to the price of Brent crude, which is freely traded on the world market and is higher than it might otherwise be because of the ban on U.S. exports,” explains the WSJ. “If U.S. producers were allowed to compete globally, prices of Brent and WTI would converge over time, and U.S. gasoline prices would come down, all things being equal.”

If Congress could muster up the political will to lift the arcane oil export ban, the U.S. could emerge as a major world exporter, which according to the NYT, would result in the “return to a status that helped make the country a great power in the first half of the 20th century.”

Pritzker brags that the Commerce Department has “worked with the private sector to help businesses reach customers overseas … and to overcome barriers to entry.”

For U.S. oil-and-gas producers the biggest barrier to reaching customers overseas is our own energy policy. With one simple policy change, lawmakers could save and create American jobs and investment, lower gasoline prices, help balance our trade deficit, aid our allies, and increase U.S. influence in the world.

Categories: On the Blog

Let the Budget Battles Begin

March 23, 2015, 11:32 AM

The announcement of a new fiscal budget for the U.S. government always sets the stage for struggles between the spenders and those trying to put some limits on the spending. The spenders usually win because politicians—particularly progressive ones—love to tap the national treasury in order to reward their supporters.

 As the Speaker of the House John Boehner said on the occasion of the March 17 announcement, “For 53 of the last 60 years, the federal government has spent more than it has taken in. It is unacceptable.” Not so unacceptable that one Congress after another has not seen fit to ignore common sense and fiscal prudence.

 The sheer enormity of the budget tends to overwhelm and I suspect that most voters pay little attention to it and the issues it represents except to want assurances that their benefit check arrives. Rarely mentioned or largely unknown is the size of the nation’s unfunded liabilities, long term obligations in Medicare and Social Security. In 2014 they reached nearly $49 trillion with a “T”.

 Our annual Gross Domestic Product, (GDP) what the U.S. takes in for goods and services is about $14 trillion. Our current national debt is $18 trillion and growing. Regarding the unfunded liabilities, Romina Boccia of The Heritage Foundation noted last year that they were “nearly three times the size of the total national debt or more than $150,000 for every person in the U.S.” He predicted that “even the most vulnerable Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries would see their benefits drastically cut after 2030.”

 Here’s another way of looking at our debt. When interest rates return to normal WE are going to be paying several hundred billion in interest on our current $18 trillion debt. In short, we have to desperately start cutting spending NOW to reduce that debt. Or else!

 The 2016 budget announced by House Budget Chairman Tom Price represents Republican values. As the Wall Street Journal noted, it “would cut spending by $5.5 trillion relative to the status quo over the next decade, reducing federal spending to 18.2% of the economy by 2024. The share today is 20.3% and is headed toward 22.3% in a decade on present trend.” It’s useful to keep in mind that every dollar the government collects and spends is one less dollar that the private sector can spend on starting and expanding businesses large and small.

 All that money represents opportunities for waste that are mind-boggling. A recent article in CNS News reported that “Medicare and Medicaid made a combined $77.4 billion in improper payments in fiscal 2014, a 20.4 percent increase from fiscal 2013, according to data published by the Government Accountability Office and the federal paymentaccuracy.gov website.” Twelve government programs that wasted money made the Government Accountability Office list including the school lunch and public housing/rental assistance programs.

 The good news about the new fiscal budget is that it openly calls for repealing ObamaCare. It also outlines deregulating Medicaid to give governors more flexibility. It is a terrific fiscal burden. The budget took note of the fact that there are too many duplicative government programs such as 92 antipoverty programs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that consolidating such programs would increase real GDP per capita by 1.5% in 2015. Eliminating a whole bunch of them would save even more.

 Jane M. Orient, M.D., the Executive Director of American Physicians and Surgeons, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, warned that “there seem to be some good first steps, such as block-granting Medicaid to the states. But even Republicans aren’t admitting that their budget also involves fighting over money that we don’t have, that the Federal Reserve will create out of faith and credit.”

 “Also absent,” said Dr. Orient, “is recognition of the crushing burden of regulation, especially EPA rules to destroy a huge portion of our electrical generating capacity, with heavy subsidization of costly, unreliable, environmentally destructive wind and solar projects that can’t possibly replace coal, nuclear, or natural gas. Or recognition of the destructive impact of the Department of Education. How about devolving environmental protection and education back to the states, too, along with Medicaid?”

 “This new House budget,” said Peter Ferrara, a Heartland Senior Fellow for Entitlement and Budget Policy, “shows the passing of the Age of Obama and the broad gulf of difference between today’s conservative Republicans and the modern, ultra-Left, extremist, neo-socialist Democrats. Reagan-life, the plan would balance the budget without tax increases, while modernizing our increasingly dangerously lagging military.”

 The Wall Street Journal editorial pointed out that, “As important, failing to pass a budget would also deprive Republicans of the procedural tool known as reconciliation. This allows the GOP to pass a final budget with a simple majority in the House and Senate, and thus it will be crucial to putting larger reforms of ObamaCare or taxes on Mr. Obama’s desk. A vote against the budget is in that sense a vote for the ObamaCare status quo.”

 In sum, the proposed budget represents a serious effort to enact reforms that are long overdue. These and other measures are needed to encourage economic growth, the heart’s blood of the nation.

Categories: On the Blog

The World’s Ten Largest Megacities

March 23, 2015, 10:52 AM

The world is rapidly becoming urban. More than half the world’s 7-plus billion people live in urban areas (urban cores, suburbs and small towns). Nearly a quarter of the population lives in “cities” of a million or more. Eight percent reside in megacities — urban areas of at least 10 million. And that percentage rises with each new megacity.

What is a City?

Demographers use a slew of terms to reference cities and urban areas. Plainly speaking, urban areas are the continuously built up areas that would be seen in the outline of city lights from a high-flying airplane on a clear night. The New York urban area, for example, contains suburbs in three states but would not contain commuter exurbs separated by rural land. To keep it simple, I will use “cities” to denote “urban areas,” which is one of two generic definitions (the other definition is the metropolitan area, which includes areas outside from which people commute).

Big Cities: A Modern Phenomenon

Massive cities are a modern phenomenon. According to census historian Tertius Chandler, none of the ancient cultural powerhouses — Athens, Rome, Alexandria, or the Chinese capitals such as Chang’An (modern Xi’an) — reached a population of one million. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, Baghdad alone reached a million, in 925, only to suffer catastrophic losses. For nearly a millennium, famine, wars, and disease prevented cities from reaching one million. (Americans are aware that transported disease decimated the American native population. Most don’t realize that waves of transported diseases, especially bubonic plague and smallpox, laid waste to Europe, Asia, India, and the Middle East in turn. The cities were the most vulnerable.)

By 1775, Beijing’s population had grown to one million, a level reached in London by1825. The world was a much poorer then. Since that time there has been an unprecedented improvement in the standard of living. Between 1820 and 2010, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, rose 10 times, according to the Angus Maddison project (inflation-adjusted). This economic progress has been associated with urbanization, which increased first in the now high income world and is spreading in the lower income world, where there have been significant reductions in poverty. That, combined with advances in agriculture, public hygiene, and medicine has made large cities possible.

The Largest Cities

There are now about 500 cities urban areas of more than one million. According to our just released Demographia World Urban Areas, Tokyo-Yokohama, the world’s largest city, has 30 times the population of Beijing in 1800. And, Beijing itself has reached 21 million. Beijing remains one of the ten largest cities, but London with a population of 10 million ranks 32nd.

New York, whose population reached 10 million by 1930, was the world’s first megacity. Tokyo-Yokohama displaced New York by 1955. The rapid growth of Tokyo-Yokohama made it double the population of then second ranked New York in 1990. Today, New York with a population of 21.6 million, ranks 9th among the 34 megacities. Tokyo, with 37.8 million people, remains the world’s largest city with second ranked Jakarta rising rapidly at 30.6 million. Mexico City, which by 1975 was the third city to reach 10 million population, now ranks number 12.

Contrary to popular perception, Delhi, not Mumbai, is India’s second largest city, and the world’s third largest, at 25.0 million. Manila is close behind, at 24.1 million, having recently passed fifth-ranked -Seoul-Incheon (23.5 million). The estimates for Jakarta and Manila are higher than reported by other sources, which exclude the sizeable urbanization extending across the boundaries of the national capital territories (DKI Jakarta and Manila’s National Capital Region).

Three of the top 10 megacities are in high income countries: Tokyo-Yokohama, Seoul-Inchon, and New York. Shanghai (23.4 million), Beijing, and Guangzhou-Foshan (20.6 million), are in middle-income China. The remaining top ten megacities of Jakarta, Delhi, Manila, and Karachi (22.1 million) are low income (Figure: 10 Largest Cities in the World: 2015).

Meanwhile, former growth leaders Mexico City and Sao Paulo have been pushed out of the top ten.

Where the Urban Population Lives

Demographia World Urban Areas is the only annually published compendium of population, land area and urban population density for urban areas with at least 500,000 population. These urban areas comprise 52 percent of the world’s urban population.

Asia has 532 of the 1,009 cities with 500,000 or more population and 57 percent of their population.

North America has 13 percent of the population, slightly more than the 11 percent in Africa and the 10 percent in Europe. South America has eight percent of the population, while Oceania has less than one percent. China’s cities account for more than 20 percent of the total, ahead of India, with 11 percent, the United States with eight percent and the European Union with seven percent.

The rush toward urbanization is expected to continue. The United Nations forecasts a 1.1 billion increase in the urban population of the world in just 15 years. By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s people live in urban areas. And, by 2050, two-thirds of all people will reside in cities. Approximately 95 percent of the urban growth —almost all of the new megacities — is expected to be outside the high-income world.

Categories: On the Blog

Logan Pike and Justin Haskins: R.I. welfare system gets an ‘F’

March 23, 2015, 10:37 AM

Everyone knows newly elected Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, has her hands full in Rhode Island. Only three states — California, Georgia, and Mississippi — have higher unemployment rates, and Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and South Carolina are the only states that have a higher debt-to-GDP ratio.

These economic problems might be manageable for some states, but Rhode Island was hit especially hard by the 2008 recession. More than 175,000 people remain on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rolls, a figure that amounts to more than 16 percent of the total population.

Raimondo acknowledged the tough situation many in the state are facing both before and after her gubernatorial campaign, telling The New York Times in December, “I fall into the camp that [believes] income inequality is the biggest problem we face.”

Governor Raimondo may be right, but legislators at the State House have done little over the past seven years to help move Rhode Islanders out of poverty and into self-sufficiency, according to a new study by The Heartland Institute.

The policy study, titled “2015 Welfare Reform Report Card,” provides an in-depth analysis of every state’s welfare reform policies and outcomes and rates each state with letter grades corresponding to scores assigned based on specific measures that have historically been important for moving individuals off of welfare.

Since 1996, when a Republican-led Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, welfare rolls have declined nationally by 73 percent — from 12.4 million to 3.4 million in October 2014.

Although the number of Rhode Island welfare recipients has declined dramatically over that period, poverty and child poverty rates have increased and work participation and unemployment rates have worsened.

One cause behind many of the state’s troubling statistics, say the study’s authors, is Rhode Island’s failure to implement improvements to its welfare system that many other states have already put into place.

For instance, Rhode Island received a grade of “F” in Heartland’s study for its poor service integration policies. In Rhode Island, the management of various government services often linked to preventing poverty and keeping citizens off of welfare remain in separate departments from welfare management. Without service integration, programs are more likely to allow for fraud, and well-intentioned recipients are often left confused about how to gain access to services that could help them escape poverty.

Rhode Island also received an “F” grade for its poor cash diversion policies. Cash diversion programs let case workers give applicants lump-sum cash payments to meet short-term needs if recipients agree not to participate in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program for some stated period.

Many states across the country, including neighboring Connecticut, successfully use cash diversion to let recipients fix broken cars to get to work or pay for some immediate need without becoming dependent on government services.

The absence of needed reforms led the authors to give Rhode Island an overall welfare reform grade of “F,” ranking the Ocean State tied for sixth-worst state in the nation.

Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin received “A” grades for enacting proven reform policies that help move recipients off of welfare and into self-sufficiency.

Although Rhode Island scored poorly in numerous reform categories, the study’s authors outline several easy-to-implement improvements the state can make to improve its standing.

Rhode Island should reform its cash diversion program to give struggling citizens the ability to get through difficult financial situations without having to become totally dependent on the state. Its services should be integrated and made more efficient. Strict time limits should be established for recipients.

If Governor Raimondo is serious about improving Rhode Island’s economic climate, she should follow in the footsteps of the vast majority of other states and enact serious welfare reform policies that have been proven to work for millions of Americans.

[Published by the Providence Journal]

By Logan Pike and Justin Haskins

Categories: On the Blog

The Question of Evolution

March 23, 2015, 10:05 AM

One of the potential contenders for the Republican nomination for President, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, was surprise-asked the evolution question. The liberal media recurrently seeks to entertain itself with such “gotcha” questions. Their guys can sound as though they are confused about the number of states, or refer to the “inter-continental railroad,” and they’ll dismiss these things as foibles. But, they have a different rule for Republicans. Back in the days of Warren Harding, his supposed lack of intelligence was due, the progressives intimated, to his mixed-race heritage. Nowadays, the progressives consider the white race to be suspect.

Walker responded to the evolution question by saying he wasn’t going to respond to it. This was disappointing. First, the conservatives among us want to know what he says about the nature of our rights. According to the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The words “created” and “Creator” are part of our conceptualization of ourselves. If we are not created, from where do our rights come? The progressives believe that our rights come from government. In our generation, they boldly say this in public. Were we to embrace this philosophy, we would truly transform this country in a fundamental way. But, instead of going forward, with government of the people, by the people and for the people, we would be going backward, to government of, by and for the ruling elite.

Second, there is no evidence of macro-evolution. We have evidence of micro-evolution. We have seen with our very eyes the survival of the fittest. Entire species have gone extinct. In other cases, only certain strains within the species have survived. It appears that natural selection has worked itself with us. The so-called races represents strains of us that have survived as we made our way to the far reaches of the planet, encountering widely different environmental challenges. Difference in pigmentation and eye color, resistance to certain diseases and ability to digest milk as an adult, all of these things enabled us to populate the entire planet with all its variegated environments.

What we have evidence of is punctuated equilibrium. It appears that at certain prehistoric times, there were mass extinctions and the emergence of new species. Somebody holding to the Biblical account of creation might suppose that the times of mass change correspond to the “days” in Genesis. God did not simply create the universe in one act, but having brought the universe into existence, intervened several times to bring about changes. The “missing link,” then, does not refer to the past, but to the present. There is nothing like us on the planet. While there are variations among us, we are truly awesome. We are wonderfully made. The Bible tells us, you can’t love God if you don’t love people. How does somebody who denies the creation confirm to us that he believes we have rights that the government must respect?

The third issue concerns our joining in the creation. The Bible puts it this way. We are to go forth and subdue the earth. Thus far, our impact on the planet has mostly been local. For example, using dams to control the flow of water in our rivers. Through such efforts we have made large swaths of the surface of the planet fit for human habitation. We have converted deserts, swamps and prairie grasslands into pastures, farms, cities and parks.

Today, we are becoming aware of our impact or potential impact on the global environment. Without commenting on whether we currently having a discernible impact, I will say with confidence that we will control the global environment the way we have taken control of numerous local environments. The question isn’t whether we will control the global environment, but how. Will we use a bottom-up, market-oriented approach, or will we use a top-down, government-regulation approach. We know what the progressives want. It is time that somebody who believes that we are created with certain inalienable rights, to speak to the matter of climate change.

Categories: On the Blog

Study Reveals the Seven States with ‘Failing’ Welfare Programs

March 23, 2015, 9:42 AM

When the Republican-controlled Congress promoted welfare reform as one of its top priorities in 1995, opponents accused them of being unsympathetic to the plight of impoverished Americans and insisted the proposed policies would end up harming true reforms.

Thomas R. Carper (D), then-Governor of Delaware and currently a U.S. Senator, fought hard against the bill. “The [Republican-support reform bill in Congress] will undercut my own efforts to reform the welfare system in Delaware,” said Carper.

Despite their vociferous objections, Carper and his compatriots, nearly all of whom were Democrats, have been proven wrong.

Since the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was signed into law in 1996, welfare rolls have dropped across the United States by roughly 9 million, a decline of 73 percent. Few—possibly no other—pieces of legislation have had such a meaningful and lasting impact as PRWORA.

The effects of PRWORA have been significant, but some states have done a better job of taking advantage of welfare reform than others. In 2008, The Heartland Institute conducted extensive research on welfare reform practices among the states and published its findings in its welfare reform report card. An updated version of the report card was recently published by Heartland on March 19.

In its report, The Heartland Institute analyzes every state’s welfare program and makes policy recommendations that myriad academic research proves help move welfare recipients off of welfare rolls and into self-sufficient careers.

To create its report card, Heartland studied and scored each state’s welfare program outcomes, which is measured based on overall poverty rates, work participation rates, unemployment figures, teen birthrates, and the decline in the number of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program recipients.

Welfare policies were also examined and scored. Cash diversion, state work requirements, service integration, time limits, and sanctions were all considered when a state’s welfare policy score was developed.

After all of the rankings were completed and scores calculated, seven states stood out as being among the worst in the nation for welfare reform, all receiving grades of “F” for poor performance:

#44 Georgia, Grade: F (52/100 points)

Georgia has the nation’s seventh-worst welfare reform policies and ranked 49th in unemployment. Its “cash diversion” program is a big reason why the state finished so poorly, receiving 0 of 100 possible points in that category. Strong cash diversion policies help case workers provide lump-sum cash payments to meet short-term recipient needs in exchange for agreeing not to enroll in TANF for an established period.

#45 (tied) Alabama, Grade: F (51/100 points)

Heartland’s study identified Alabama as having some of the poorest welfare reform policies in the nation, which contributed to finishing 42nd in TANF recipient decline. The Cotton State received grades of “F” for having poor cash diversion and sanctions programs. Sanctions are tools officials can use to ensure recipients comply with work mandates and other requirements needed to qualify for continued use of government services.

#45 (tied) Oregon, Grade: F (51/100 points)

Oregon may have beautiful scenery, but its welfare policies are about as ugly as it gets. It finished in the bottom 10 for overall poverty rates, work participation rates, and TANF recipient decline. Oregon also received “F” grades for its cash diversion and sanctions policies.

#45 (tied) Rhode Island, Grade: F (51/100 points)

The Ocean State finished 42nd in unemployment and 49th in work participation rates. Rhode Island’s welfare rolls have been flooded in part due to its poor service integration and cash diversion policies, both of which earned “F” grades in Heartland’s study.

#48 Vermont, Grade: F (46/100 points)

It’s called the “Green Mountain State” for the gigantic heaps of cash Vermont wastes due to its poor welfare policies (not really, but it could be with all of that wasted spending!). It earned an “F” grade for having a dismal time limit policy, which is the amount of time a recipient is able to receive aid in a given period, usually a lifetime.

#49 Massachusetts, Grade: F (24.7/100 points)

Massachusetts is home to some of the world’s most prestigious colleges and universities, but there is nothing smart about its welfare program. The Bay State earned “F” grades in nearly all policy categories: cash diversion, time limits, sanctions, and work requirements.

#50 Missouri, Grade: F (24.3/100 points)

The Show Me State has little to show for its poor welfare policies. It earned the title of Heartland’s “worst state in the nation for welfare reform,” finishing third from last in poverty outcomes and receiving “F” grades for its poor cash diversion policies, sanctions, and work requirements. It also earned “D” grades for its weak service integration and for having atrocious time limit policies.

 

Six states—Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin—received “A” grades for strong welfare reform results and, most importantly, for enacting proven reform policies that help the impoverished citizens of their states.

You can read Heartland’s complete welfare reform report card, titled “2015 Welfare Reform Report Card” by going to The Heartland Institute’s website, where the report is available to download for free: www.heartland.org/welfare-reform

[Published on Breitbart]

Categories: On the Blog

A Pox on Politicians

March 21, 2015, 1:12 PM

Nobody likes politicians, but everybody votes for them.

 Perhaps the most quintessential American theme throughout its history has been the role politicians have played in creating it—we call them our Founding Fathers—and the endless role of those who have wanted to take us in the wrong direction or at least tried to.

 I have known a few politicians and some were very good men and others reflected the very human goal of gaining wealth and power. The fact that voters have often made some very good choices says much about democracy and we need to be a bit more optimistic about it.

 What differs today from the past is the enormous, indeed obscene, amount of money required to get elected and reelected. In general, it has always helped to have a bankroll to serve in public office and our first President was not only the most highly regarded man of his times, but a very wealthy plantation owner from Virginia.
  I love reading history because, as the Chinese philosopher Confucius advised, “Study the past if you would define the future.”  One of America’s finest historians, Thomas Fleming, has had a new book published, “The Great Divide: The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation.” It is very entertaining and, over all, very astonishing. Most of the things we learned in school about them and their era are, generally speaking, wrong.

These two great figures of our Revolution, the creation of the Constitution, and their terms in office ended their lives disliking one another. As Fleming notes, “Most Americans are unaware that such discord ever existed.”

 “A series of political clashes had gradually destroyed their friendship and mutual respect the two men had enjoyed at the start of Washington’s presidency. Ultimately, they became enemies. Small, slight James Madison, whose brilliant political theorizing won the admiration of both men, was forced to choose between these two tall antagonists.”  America owes Madison an eternal debt of gratitude, but it was Washington and Jefferson who tend to dominate the teaching of our early history.

 How different are history would have been had there not been a George Washington. Eleven years older than Jefferson, he had no formal education but read voluminously to prepare himself for the leadership that was a natural part of his character. He relentlessly pursued the Revolutionary War for seven years against the greatest power of his time and he won it.

 Jefferson, by contrast, never put his life on the line. He studied law and became a passionate revolutionist most famed for his authorship of the Declaration of Independence. As Governor of Virginia, he was a failure.

 “Washington,” says Fleming was “first, last, and always a realist…but he combined this realism with a surprisingly strong faith that America was destined to become a beacon of freedom for men and women everywhere.” By contrast, “Jefferson tended to see men and events through the lens of a pervasive idealism.”

 It may be an over-simplification to say that Washington was politically conservative while Jefferson was a liberal. Washington had a long relationship with the Continental Congress that gave him a thorough understanding of its failures, not the least of which was to not pay the soldiers putting their lives on the line for a new nation, nor providing pensions. He understood how necessary it was to have a strong central government that could and would pay its bills.

 The need for a Constitution to replace the generally useless Articles of Confederation was evident to men like Washington. His ex-aide, Col. Alexander Hamilton, quit Congress in disgust. A rebellion led by a former Continental Army captain, Daniel Shays, needed to be put down and twelve of the thirteen semi-independent legislatures ignored his demands for payment. Disaster was averted when “wealthy men in Massachusetts raised enough case to hire a local army.”

 Washington was delighted that many of the delegates to the convention to revise the Articles agreed that they needed a major overhaul. Many were former Continental Army officers. They would adopt Madison’s outline of our current government called “The Virginia Plan” and “its most innovative feature was a president to serve as head of the new government, with powers coequal to Congress.”

 While we are inclined to believe that the Constitution was easily achieved by the members of the convention who came together to forge it, as Fleming tells us, “With both sides weighing each word, the compromise was hammered out. “The final vote was 89-79. A shift of six votes would have condemned the Constitution to oblivion,” notes Fleming. What this tells us is that the politicians of those times were often sharply divided in ways that reflect the divisions and debates that fill our newspapers and news programs today.

 Congress sent the Constitution to the states by a unanimous vote, with neither criticism nor praise.” What followed was a campaign to secure its ratification.

 It was the promise of a Bill of Rights, ten Amendments submitted to the first Congress by Madison, that encouraged its acceptance and ratification in 1788. They were approved in 1789 and sent to the states. It was not until Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791 that they became part of the Constitution.

 This early history is worth knowing as we debate today’s issues and as we look to today’s politicians to resolve them.

 We may not like our politicians, but the early ones were not that different. We may want to say a pox on them all, but we need them and, given the right leadership, they will continue to protect and preserve our young republic.

 Today’s headlines are about a Congress, elected to resist a President who has demonstrated his ignorance and indifference to the Constitution. He will be gone in two years and America will still be here to resume its leadership of the free world and spread its message of freedom and liberty.

 

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Not “Global Warming.” It’s “Springtime.”

March 21, 2015, 9:27 AM

After decades of environmental claims that “global warming” would plunge the planet into catastrophic harm to its human and other inhabitants—at the same time blaming humans for causing it—the sheer arrogance and ignorance of these claims always ignores the real power that is represented by the Earth itself and the beginning of Spring should be proof enough for anyone paying any attention.

 This year, Spring begins in the northern hemisphere on Friday, March 20 at 6:45 PM EDT. In the southern hemisphere it marks the beginning of Autumn.

 Spring manifests itself in ways we take for granted yet it is a combination of many events that should make us marvel if we gave them any thought. For example, where does all the snow go? The U.S. and the rest of the world set records of snowfall levels throughout Winter.

 As noted by the U.S. Geological Service, “in the world-wide scheme of the water cycle, runoff from snowmelt is a major component of the global movement of water.”

 “Mountain snow fields act as natural reservoirs for many western United States water-supply systems, storing precipitation from the cool season, when most precipitation falls and forms snowpacks…As much as 75 percent of water supplies in the western states are derived from snowmelt.”  Snowmelt ensures sufficient water for all of us and for the Earth that depends upon it for the growth of all vegetation. 

 How do the flowers know it is Spring? In a 2011 article for the Inside Science News Service, Katherine Gammon noted that “Just in time for the birds and bees to start buzzing, the flowers and the trees somehow know when to open their buds to start flowering. But the exact way that plants get their wake-up call has been something of a mystery.”  A molecular biologist at the University of Texas, Sibum Sung, has been trying to solve that mystery and has discovered “a special molecule in plants that gives them the remarkable ability to recall Winter and to bloom on schedule in the Spring.”

 Nothing on Earth happens by accident. It is a remarkable inter-related system to which we give little thought. The sheer power of all those blooming flowers and trees should tell us something about the power of Nature that dwarfs all the claims that humans have any influence whatever on the events of Spring or any other time of the year.

 Then think about the role of the animals with whom we share the planet. In the Spring many come out of hibernation in their dens, while others such as birds make lengthy migrations from the warmer climes to those in the north. The huge migration of Monarch Butterflies should leave us speechless. Spring is a time when many animals give birth to their young.

 A sign of the Spring that leaves us breathless is the way it is the season for the aurora borealis. Dr. Tony Phillips of NASA notes that “For reasons not fully understood by scientists, the weeks around the vernal equinox are prone to Northern Lights. From Canada to Scandinavia they provide a great show.

 “Such outbursts are called auroral substorms and they have long puzzled physicists,” says UCLA space physicist Vassilis Angelopoulos. They represent “a potent geomagnetic storm.” The equinox in Spring and Autumn is a time when magnetic connections between the Sun and Earth are most favorable.

 One book, “Silent Spring”, by Rachel Carson, first published in September 1962, started the environmental campaign against pesticide use for any reason, leading most famously to the ban on DDT in the U.S. What Carson neglected to tell readers was how they were supposed to cope with the trillions of insects that come with the advent of warm weather.

 No pesticide use does not mean less mosquitoes, less termites, less flies, less ants, or less of any other insect species and the diseases they spread, property damage, and the damage they cause to crops of all descriptions. And, of course, the much of the pollination of crops and other vegetation depends on insect species.

 Carson’s claims of a silent spring bereft of bird species was a blatant lie. Rich Kozlovich, an authority on pest management, noted that “Bird populations were never so high in North America” despite the use of DDT and other pesticides. “Carson’s claim about how the poor robin was going to disappear was not only wrong, she was deliberately lying.”

 “Carson was a science writer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and absolutely had to know that in 1960 there were 12 times more robins, 21 times more cowbirds, 38 times more blackbirds, 131 times more grackles, etc., compared to 1941 numbers.”

 Spring is a time of renewal in the northern hemisphere and it occurs with enormous levels of natural power. Most people, however, are oblivious to that power as they enjoy the sight of flowers and trees blooming.

 I could almost guarantee that you will read or hear about “global warming” or “climate change” being attributed to the arrival of Spring. Do yourself a favor. Keep in mind that those claims, like Rachel Carson’s, represent an anti-humanity, anti-energy, and anti-capitalism agenda of the environmental movement.

 Instead, celebrate the seasonal renewal of life on Earth and give thanks for the energy that permits you to control the environment of the structures where you live and work, that provides you the means to get in your car and go anywhere, and that powers every device you use.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jesse Hathaway: IRS Civil Forfeiture Laws

March 20, 2015, 1:10 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as research fellow Jesse Hathaway joins host Tom Zawistowski to talk about IRS civil forfeiture laws on Tea Party Talk.

According to a new report by the Institute for Justice (IJ), the IRS has been using federal civil asset forfeiture laws to seize millions of dollars from innocent small business owners and citizens. The IJ report, Hathaway says, documents the IRS’ presumption of the guilt of American citizens, as federal agents “seize first, ask questions later,” forcing citizens to prove that they have not committed the crimes of which they were accused… after the IRS seized their assets.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Oregon’s Obamacare Is A Crony Socialist Nightmare, Just Like Washington’s

March 20, 2015, 8:46 AM

Obamacare is an unmitigated, omni-directional disaster.

It’s a disaster as a health care plan. How’s it doing with premiums?

Obamacare Premiums Will Increase Faster Than Private Plans

How about deductibles?  Co-pays?  Medical choices?

Consumers Face Higher Deductibles Under Obamacare Plans 

 

Obamacare Shock: $12,600 Deductible, 40 Percent Co-Pay, Zero Competition

What Obamacare did succeed in doing was giving governments at all levels unfathomable new powers.

Which allows governments at all levels to give deals and favors galore to its friends — and pummel its enemies and the enemies of its friends. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeting scandal, anyone? Net neutrality?

This is crony socialism — because it has nothing to do with capitalism.

Obamacare empowered further still federal and state governments — when governments since time immemorial have proven to be utterly incompetent. Veterans Administration deaths and delays, anyone?

Obamacare website, anyone? And not just the federal site. Behold the roiling nightmare mess that is Oregon’s foray into government medicine — Cover Oregon.

Remember this?

John Kitzhaber Resigns: Oregon Governor Quits Over Conflict-of-Interest Scandal

Crony Socialism brought him down. What, specifically?

Kitzhaber Turned Cover Oregon Decision-Making Over to Campaign Consultant

“There is a very bright line between political activity, which is trying to get the governor re-elected, and doing the state’s business in which the governor is supposed to act in the best interest of taxpayers.”…

“These emails show that a lot of the state’s business was being conducted in secret on private email accounts and far from the scrutiny of the Legislature, or the press, or the public.

Hillary Clinton, anyone?

What exactly happened with Cover Oregon?

Cover Oregon Health Exchange Website to Shut Down

Oregon’s exchange is seen as the worst of the more than a dozen states that developed their own online health insurance marketplaces….

Oregon…received a total of $305 million in federal grants to fund its operations….

That’s a lot of our coin. How did Cover Oregon use it?

Oregon Ranks Last in Health Insurance Sign-Ups 

Outstanding. That explains Kitzhaber’s earnest interest in transparency. Turns out his political consultant wasn’t the optimal choice for the gig.

How has the ex-governor been behaving since becoming ex-governor?

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s and Cylvia Hayes’ Trip to Dump Brings Police Sweeping In

The former governor and Hayes showed up at the Knott Landfill southeast of Bend in a pickup and an SUV about 2 p.m. last Friday and spent a few minutes dumping trash, according to Timm Schimke, the director of the Deschutes County Solid Waste Department.

Even more transparency.

AG: ‘Oregonians Deserve … the Facts

Check the landfill. Bring a mask and some air freshener.

The thing is, this isn’t just an Oregon scandal and a Cover Oregon failure. The Obama administration is absolutely also on the hook.

They kept pouring federal money into Oregon — way, way after it was obvious Oregon’s Obamacare was a train wreck.

But as we’ve seen time and again, program oversight and care for taxpayer coin is decidedly lacking from all things government — and this administration in particular.

Obama, First Lady Fly to Los Angeles on Same Day But Take Separate Flights 

Obama’s Dog Flies to Vacation on Separate Jet

Is anyone in Washington paying any attention?

Congress to Kitzhaber: Send Us Cover Oregon Records

Excellent. But they should expand their investigation all the way up the Obamacare food chain.

When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously responded “Because that’s where the money is.”

The federal Obamacare superstructure is where the real coin is wasted. Our intrepid investigating Congressmen should adhere to Sutton’s maxim — and go there.

[Originally published at The Daily Caller]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Benita Dodd: Georgia’s Solar Subsidy Boondoggle

March 19, 2015, 12:36 PM

In this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, managing editor of Environment and Climate News, H. Sterling Burnett talks with Benita Dodd. Dodd is Vice-president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. Burnett and Dodd discuss the recent solar power boondoggle in Georgia.

Recently, a company promising a new factory, and jobs, and a $25 million dollar investment producing solar panels received more than $12.5 million grants, loans and subsidies from the state went bankrupt.It installed solar panels on a school in Georgia but taxpayers are paying more than $300,000 a year for bonds taken out to install the solar panels, which have saved the school just $87,000 in energy costs. Taxpayers lost, the state lost, and solar is coming up short once again. Dodd also discussed the fact that Georgia is reducing the money it takes from the federal government to avoid the strings and extortion attached to the money.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Behind the Driving Increase

March 19, 2015, 10:10 AM

The Federal Highway Administration reported that driving increased 1.7 percent between 2013 and 2014 in the United States. This compares to virtually no increase over the period from 2004 to 2013. The 2014 increase will come as a disappointment to those who have perceived that the flat driving volumes of recent years signaled a shift in preferences away from driving. It had even been suggested that America had reached “peak car.”

Despite the congruity of such sentiments with urban planning orthodoxy, it’s somewhat risky to divine future economic trends from the perspective of a weak economy. It is rather like predicting future employment trends from realities of the late 1930s, when the world had still not climbed out of the Great Depression

The problem for those who seek to replace the car is that the current form of cities, from Phoenix to Paris, requires cars to support the millions with middle-class standard of living. Of course, with a sufficient decline in the standard of living, cars could become less essential. After all, you don’t need a car to not go to work when you are unemployed.

Nor is “peak oil” coming to rescue; we now live in something more like an oil glut. Even when prices were soaring, the amount of driving barely changed. People may have shifted to more efficient cars, they didn’t give up their cars, they just drove a little bit less.  

The latest driving data may indicate that even the somewhat tepid recovery is speeding up in the United States. This combined with falling gasoline prices is likely to be why driving is increasing again.

Employment Exceeds 2008 Level

Employment is probably the most important factor in the recent recovery of car use

According to data at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank “FRED” website, national employment peaked at 138.3 million in January 2008. By early 2010, employment had dropped to under 130 million. It took until April 2014 to restore the employment level that had been previously achieved more than six years earlier. This was the longest employment trough since before World War I, except for the period of 1929 to 1936, during the Great Depression.

As more people return to employment and incomes rise, driving can be expected to increase. During 2014, the nation’s nonfarm employment rose to the highest level in history. As the year progressed and employment increased, so did driving (Figure 1).

But there is still a long way to go for the economy. The civilian labor force participation rate continues depressed. If early 2008 levels of labor participation were restored, there would be at least 10 million additional jobs.

Falling Gasoline Prices

US Department of Energy data indicates that the average price per gallon of gasoline rose by more than one half between 2005 and 2011. Until the middle for 2014, gasoline prices fluctuated around this level until early summer of 2014. Then the gas price reductions began. By the end of 2014, gasoline prices had dropped to near 2005 levels, which they actually reached in early 2015. Much of the 2014 increase in driving was concentrated since the decline in gasoline prices started in the last half of the year (Figure 2).

Driving and Transit

Ridership and road travel data also shows that there has been little relationship between the annual changes in driving and transit use over the period of the gas price increases and the subsequent decrease. Advocates of greater transit funding have claimed for decades that transit can be effective in attracting drivers from their cars. This was transit’s time.

However, the highly publicized transit ridership increases have been small in context and have shown virtually no relationship to the changes in automobile use in urban areas. This is illustrated in Figure 3. Driving volumes have risen and fallen, with little response in transit ridership. If there were a significant relationship between transit ridership and travel by car, the two lines on the chart would nearly follow one another. However, the lines show virtually no relationship. In relation to the actual changes in travel by car and light vehicle, the changes in transit are imperceivable. Transit ridership remains relatively small, at approximately two percent of all trips and five percent of work trips. An American Public Transportation Association (APTA) press release confirms the weak nexus between driving trends and transit for the most recent period. APTA notes that transit ridership late in the year increased despite the significant reduction in gasoline prices.

Transit does not provide rapid mobility for most urban trips, which is why it has so little potential to attract people from cars. As higher prices force people to cut back on driving, they simply travel less, rather than getting on transit that cannot take them where they need to go in a reasonable time. That would be different if transit provided mobility competitive throughout the metropolitan area. Indeed, transit’s percentage of urban travel would be far above its current two percent. But to build out a system that reaches most jobs, of course, that would be financially prohibitive.

Transit’s strength is downtown (the central business district, or CBD). The largest CBDs have employment densities are 100 times the urban average, and are well served by rapid, radial transit routes. In four of the nation’s largest CBDs — New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco — transit carries more than half of workers to their job, 77 percent in Manhattan alone. Americans use transit where it is competitive or superior to travel by car, which should dispel any notion that there is a national aversion to transit.

But the city is much more than downtown. According to research by Lee and Gordon only eight percent of employment in the 48 largest metropolitan areas was in CBDs. This is despite the presence of impressive office towers that convey a sense of CBD dominance.

Lee and Gordon also show that about 13 percent of jobs are in employment centers centers outside the CBDs, which are often called “edge cities.” Because these centers do not have the radial networks of direct transit, even their high densities produce little in transit ridership.  My analysis of more than 80 post-World War II form suburban employment centers (mainly edge cities) indicated a transit work trip percentage of only 4.9 percent, which is approximately the national average for all areas. Transit’s share to the remaining nearly 80 percent of jobs dispersed throughout the metropolitan areas is just 4.6 percent.

The basic problem is access. Outside of downtowns, few jobs can be conveniently reached by transit. This means transit takes about twice as long as driving alone and often is either not within walking distance of home or does not drop the passenger off within walking distance of work. This is illustrated by research at the University of Minnesota Accessibility Laboratory, which has shown that in 45 large metropolitan areas, only 10 percent of jobs can be reached by the average employee in 60 minutes by transit. By comparison, American Community Survey data indicates that nearly 65 percent of employees who drive alone in the same metropolitan areas actually reach work — and in half the time (30 minutes).

Even low income workers, whose constrained budgets should make transit more attractive largely use cars to get to work.

Driving and a Middle-Income Lifestyles

I have referred before to the research that equates better economic performance with better mobility for people throughout the labor market (metropolitan area).

Driving is not based on the shallow, arbitrary preference expressed in the threadbare cliché of a “love affair with the automobile.” Cars are essential to realizing the aspirations of a majority of people, not only in the United States but in Europe and beyond.

Categories: On the Blog

States Should Defy Unlawful EPA Carbon Dioxide Rules

March 19, 2015, 9:10 AM

Last June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed its Clean Power Plan as a nationwide regulation to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electrical power plants. Comments to the EPA have now been submitted, and it’s not a surprise that a majority of state governments oppose the plan. In the best interests of US citizens, states should refuse to comply with the proposed EPA Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan (CPP), more formally named the §111(d) rule, Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources, calls for a 30 percent reduction in power plant emissions by the year 2030. The CPP sets specific CO2 reduction targets for each state, based on four building blocks: 1) improved efficiency of coal-fired power plants, 2) increased use of combined cycle natural gas power plants, 3) increased use of renewable and nuclear energy, and 4) increased energy efficiency by consumers and businesses. But the main thrust of the proposal is the shut-down and replacement of coal-fired power plants, which now provide about 40 percent of US electricity.

There are three major strikes against the Clean Power Plan. First, the authority assumed by the CPP is not granted to the EPA by the laws of the United States. Second, efforts to try to implement the CPP will degrade the finest electrical system in the world, hurting consumers and businesses. Third, if implemented, the CPP will not have a measurable effect on global warming.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 authorized the establishment of state and federal regulations to control air pollution, and established the EPA to implement requirements of the act. The Clean Air Act and its amendments of 1977 and 1990 authorize the EPA to establish national ambient pollution standards and to control pollution levels from individual facilities, but not to regulate state electricity markets. A September 2014 letter from 15 state governors stated that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal, “not only exceeds the scope of federal law, but also, in some cases, directly conflicts with established state law.”

State electrical public service commissioners are tasked with providing reliable, low-cost electricity for the citizens of their state, while meeting environmental standards. Commissioners trade off the costs and benefits of hydrocarbon, nuclear, and renewable power sources, and they plan new power plants, electrical transmission lines, natural gas pipelines, and other facilities. CPP restrictions threaten to inflate the price and seriously degrade the reliability of US electricity for negligible environmental benefits.

The State of Indiana requested that EPA withdraw the CPP proposal, predicting an electricity price increase of more than 60 percent due to EPA regulations. The State of Arizona commented that the CPP is “not technically feasible” and will “seriously undermine the reliability of electric service.” The Public Utility Commission of Texas also urged the EPA to withdraw the rule, estimating compliance costs at over $20 billion and that Texas electricity prices would rise by more than 20 percent by 2020. NERA Economic Consulting estimated a consumer cost of up to $479 billion by 2031, or about $1,500 for each man, woman, and child in the US.

Some states have shown support for the Clean Power Plan, led by California and New York. Both states appear to be in a race to achieve the highest residential electricity rates in the lower 48 states. In 2013, California citizens paid 16.19 cents per kilowatt-hour, but New York was number one at a whopping 18.79 cents per kW-hr, well over the US average of 12.12 cents per kW-hr. Paradoxically, New York recently banned hydraulic fracturing of natural gas, a fuel that the CPP heavily promotes.

However, the Clean Power Plan, if implemented, will provide negligible environmental benefits. Evidence is growing that natural cycles of Earth, such as ocean currents driven by the sun, dominate global temperatures and that human influences are small. Today’s storms, droughts, floods, and surface temperatures are neither extreme nor abnormal by historical standards.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has admitted in Congressional testimony that the effects of the CPP and other EPA regulations will not be visible in the more than 25 indicators of climate change on the EPA website. Yet the EPA continues to push regulations based on the ideology of human-caused global warming. Hundreds of billions in consumer cost and degraded electrical reliability appear to be only a small price to pay for an unmeasurable change in global temperatures.

In the best interest of citizens, states should defy the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog

Government and Business Waste Tax Dollars on Solar Projects

March 19, 2015, 8:37 AM

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) published a report February 12, 2015 “Filling the Solar Sinkhole Billions of Bucks Have Delivered Too Little Bang”.  The report summarized,

“In spite of government’s best efforts to encourage innovation by solar energy companies and encourage Americans to rely more heavily on solar electricity, solar power continues to be a losing proposition.  American taxpayers spent an average of $39 billion a year over the past 5 years financing grants, subsidizing tax credits, guaranteeing loans, bailing out failed solar energy boondoggles and otherwise underwriting every idea under the sun to make solar energy cheaper and more popular.  But none of it has worked.  Solar energy remains prohibitively expensive – often three times more than electricity produced from natural gas or other sources.  As a result, less than 1 percent of the electricity consumers by Americans comes from solar energy sources.”

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROMOTING SOLAR ENERGY

On February 10, 2015, the Department of Agriculture issued a press release “USDA Announces Funding for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects” which described the availability of $280 million from the 2014 Farm Bill for their Rural Energy for Americans Program (REAP).  These programs “support clean energy and reduce carbon pollution”.  In the report was the following paragraph:

“Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million for more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide. This includes $361 million in REAP grants and loans for more than 2,900 renewable energy systems. When fully operational, these systems are expected to generate more than 6 billion kilowatt hours annually – enough to power more than 5.5 million homes for a year.”

This paragraph startled me for stating rural homes use 1100 kilowatt-hours per year which is utter nonsense because the average home in the U. S. uses 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year.  In addition it would require 4 million kilowatts of solar panels to generate 6 billion kilowatt-hours annually that would cost possibly 12 billion dollars.   At the end of their news release USDA mentioned if you had any questions visit their Ask the Expert page.  On February 10, I sent in questions for clarifying the REAP annual energy output and received a response I would have an answer in 3 to 5 business days.  With no response by February 19, I repeated the questions to Ask the Expert and received a response of an answer in 3 to 5 business days.  Still no response and I called the contact person for the news release and he said he would direct my question to the proper individuals.  As of March 17, I have received no response.  This is one example of tax dollars being spent to promote solar energy and bogus numbers given by the federal government for performance.

Taxpayer-funded solar projects are announced with great fanfare and then sink into obscurity as they are no longer subject to media scrutiny.  This paper provides costs and performance data for four recent taxpayer-funded solar projects in the Southeast—Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa, FL; Laredo Bus Maintenance Facility in Decatur, GA; Dublin School Board Facility in Dublin, GA: and University of Georgia Solar Demonstration Project in Athens, GA.

Solar energy prospects are not the same across the United States.  The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) publishes solar energy potentialswhich give maximum output for a one square foot solar panel in watt-hours/square-foot/year.  For desert areas in CA, AZ, and NV, the potential is 610; while in FL and GA the potential is 460.  This means solar panels in FL or GA would have three -quarters the number of annual kilowatt-hours as in western deserts.

On January 30, 2015, Tampa Bay Times reporter Ivan Penn wrote “Florida utilities say solar doesn’t work in the Sunshine State, but it sure does in Georgia”.  Mr. Penn wrote, “While Florida energy policy impedes solar power development, Georgia promotes it: The Peach State, with a population half that of its neighbor to the south, expects to reach 900 megawatts of solar power generation by the end of 2016, almost twice Florida’s projected total by that time.  ‘Georgia is going to wind up being a state that everyone looks toward,’ said Ken Johnson, a vice president and spokesman for the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington, D.C.  He said the reason why Georgia is emerging as a solar-power leader is that regulators and utilities have embraced solar as part of the solution for energy demand rather than rejecting it as not cost-effective.  Johnson said Georgia regulators are ‘proactive in trying to bring more solar without any upward pressure on rates.’”

The November 25, 2014 e-mail by the Georgia Chapter Sierra Club reported “Georgia Named #1 Solar Market in the Nation”.  “Solar power is the fastest-growing clean energy technology in Georgia and is projected to increase by 535 percent over the next decade. It is also now more affordable than ever before, out-competing fossil fuel energy across the country. Last month, Georgia Power reported that 56 companies filed bids for over 5,000 megawatts worth of potential new projects, averaging less than 6.5 cents per kilowatt.”

As shown by the following stories, Georgia is becoming more susceptible to expensive solar projects than Florida.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY COURTHOUSE SOLAR PLANT

Performance of the Hillsborough County Courthouse is described in the July 30, 2014 paper by The Heartland Institute’s James Taylor “Solar Panels on Tampa Courthouse Fail to Meet Promises”.  The facility was built with America Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) funds and cost $1.2 million.  The facility is 196 kilowatts and was projected to save $60,000 per year.  In reality the savings are only $27,000 of electricity annually and with an expected lifetime of no more than 20-25 years, the savings are far short of facility cost.  The article provides a link to real-time operating data for the system which is a great education tool.  Real-time operating data should be required on the Internet for all large solar facilities funded with tax dollars.

Mr. Taylor writes, In 2010, local politicians eagerly lined up for the news cameras to take credit for purportedly saving taxpayers money through the solar panels.  ‘I’d like to welcome and thank everybody who has come out this morning to help us celebrate Hillsborough County’s government going solar,’ said Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner at an October 2010 press conference.  ‘It is so wonderful to see the Recovery Act at work in our community, creating jobs and saving money’ said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa).  ‘This is a nice initiative that will allow the county to put a little money back into the pockets of taxpayers at a time that they need it most, and to create jobs,’ said Castor.  ‘Hillsborough County is a great example of how the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program is being utilized across the country,’ said U.S. Department of Energy grant project office Jennifer Holman.  ‘The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program is one of the signature programs of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,’ said Holman.

The solar panels were installed horizontally on the building roof.  For stationary panels, the optimum position to achieve maximum power output is for panels to face south and be tilted at an angle off horizontal equal to the latitude.  Tampa, FL is located 27 degrees north; thus the best positioning of the solar panels would have been facing south tilted off horizontal 27 degrees.  This positioning would have increased output approximately 15 percent.  Naturally installation costs would have been higher.  The return on investment (ROI) for this solar plant is zero.

LAREDO BUS FACILITY SOLAR PLANT

For a similar project in Georgia, we have 1.2 Megawatts of solar panels installed at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s (MARTA) Laredo Bus Facility in Decatur, GA.  This facility has 1.2 Megawatts of solar panels installed on bus canopies covering 190,000 square feet.

The cost of the project was $10.8 million and it was supposed to supply 1.2 million kilowatt-hours per year.  This project was also paid for with ARRA funds.  The solar panels were also installed horizontally instead of 33 degrees (the latitude of Decatur, GA) from horizontal facing south.  This means a loss of more than 15 percent of generating capability.

Operating data and maintenance problems are described in MARTA’s November 20, 2014 report “MARTA Sustainability Analysis”.  Excess electricity produced is sold back to Georgia Power Company.  For the period from August 1, 2013 to July 31, 2014, the report had a chart of monthly totals of electricity produced and paybacks to Georgia Power Company.  The annual results were the solar plant produced 1,438395 kilowatt-hours electricity and received $48,157.99 in paybacks from Georgia Power Company.  The report stated, “This chart does not show the savings of the electricity that the facility uses as a result of the canopy. The amount of electricity that exceeds the demand is sold back into the grid. It is estimated that the total monthly savings is $20-$25K per month. So the estimated annual savings can be estimated at $300K annually.”

The report further stated, “One of the challenges of sustainability is the commitment to a sustainable project that has an extended return on investment (ROI). The solar canopy, although funded by a Federal grant, generates roughly $300K per year for MARTA. The estimated ROI is 30 years. The Solar Canopy project has brought tremendous awareness about these types of efforts but some of the dangers are as follows. Suniva, the company that installed the Solar Canopy is now out of business drastically increasing the cost of support services and maintenance to keep the canopy working at top efficiency. The inverters, which are necessary to convert the solar energy into usable electricity, are failing 4 years into the life of the canopies. The cost of replacement is $100,000 per inverter, the total cost of replacement estimates to about a million dollars. At this time, MARTA has no funding or plan that can cover the premature failure of these items. Although this provided a clean source of energy and actually produced in dollar terms, the technology is still new and needs time to develop further.”

When operating, the Laredo solar plant’s output exceeded initial estimates of 1.2 million kilowatt-hours per year with a value of 1,438,395 kilowatt-hours for 2014.  This still does not have an annual value of $300,000 stated in MARTA’s report.  For Georgia,  USEIA rates for electricity in 2014 year-to-date  kilowatt-hours are 11.57 cents residential, 10.28 cents commercial, and 6.52 cents industrial.  Thus the value of electricity is approximately $150,000 which gives a return on investment (ROI) of zero.

DUBLIN SCHOOL DISTRICT SOLAR PLANT

Another area of investigation is the Dublin School District solar plant in Dublin, GA.  A 1.08 Megawatt solar facility was built on the grounds of the local high school.  The school board signed a 25-year contract to pay the solar company that built the solar facility $300,000 per year for 25 years. The solar plant is financed by $3.6 million bond issue from the City of Dublin which loaned the funds to Greenavations Power, LLC for construction of the solar plant.  Greenavations Power, LLC leases the facility to the Laurens County Public Facilities Authority which in turn subleases the facility to City of Dublin School District.  The solar company has access to the federal 30 percent tax credit for solar facilities, five-year accelerated depreciation, and the $7.5 million in payments over the 25-year period.  The school district is responsible for all taxes, insurance, and repairs on the solar facility.

A remarkable description of the history of solar energy in Dublin, GA is written by Benita Dodd, Vice-president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation (GPPF), published March 17, 2015 titled “Cronyism vs. Kids:  High School Solar in Georgia ($7.5 million for $3.5 million)” which covers the period from 2010 to present.  A German renewable energy company located its American subsidiary Mage Solar USA in Dublin, GA after entreaties by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue who is shown wearing a green jacket in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony September 22, 2010.  GPPF reported,“Mage was persuaded with a $1.25 million OneGeorgia EDGE grant in December 2010, and “committed to create 350 jobs and to spur the investment of capital in the amount of $25 million within 60 months.” The total potential value of state incentives (including job tax credits, port tax credits, sales and use tax exemptions, QuickStart training and the EDGE grant) was estimated at $12,444,500, according to the Department of Economic Development”.  Mage Solar was contracted by Greenavations Power, LLC for construction of the Dublin School District solar plant.  GPPF investigations showed, “At the same time, Greenavations, which was paid by the county, has yet to pay Mage for the panels installed at the school. Mage is suing Greenavations and Robert Green in Laurens Superior Court for nearly $1.4 million.”  “Today – less than five years later – Mage’s Dublin facility is shuttered. Its parking lot is deserted, a promised solar academy shut down, too.”

Numerous times the Dublin School System was contacted for operating data, maintenance problems, and insurance costs starting January 29, 2015.  My e-mail address was provided and no reply given to these requests.  However, on June 12, 2014 the Macon NBC affiliate 41 WMGT interviewed Michelle Thubin with Dublin City Schools.  The interview contained this information, “We’re already seeing some changes on our checks for sure,” Michelle Thublin with Dublin City Schools said.  Dublin City Schools turned on the power to the 4,000 solar panels at Dublin High School six months ago. Thublin said in that amount of time, they are already seeing savings.  “We got our power bill back from this May and then we compared it to last May,” she said. “Last May it was about $18,000 and then this year, our power bill has dropped to $3,600.”

The apparent savings on the power bill is $18,000 – $3,600 = $14,400.  However, the school system paid $25,000 for that month’s electricity; thus their power bill for May 2014 was $28,600.  The GPPF article reported, “No numbers have been published yet for the total 2014 energy bill, but the superintendent of Dublin City Schools, Dr. Chuck Ledbetter, told the Georgia Public Policy Foundation the high school saved $87,000 on its 2014 energy bill.”  We’re pleased with what it’s doing,” Ledbetter said. “It’s right about where we thought it would be.”  This result explains the Dublin School Board’s failure to provide operating data.  One could speculate what type of mathematical analysis could show a profit from this 25-year lease agreement.  Perhaps Dublin students are being shortchanged in their education.

Showing the solar industries reward for those promoting dubious solar projects, Dublin City Schools Superintendent Dr. Chuck Ledbetter accepted The Solar Foundation’s K-12 Schools Award for his outstanding dedication to install more than a megawatt of solar energy at Dublin High School.  Specifically, the DHS solar panels were chosen for saving the entire school district significant costs over the life of the project.  No saving will take place and the school system will be stuck with a broken down solar plant after 25 years.  Again the return on investment is zero.

UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA SOLAR DEMONSTATION PROJECT

Giving into demands by students, facility, and staff, the University of Georgia in Athens, GA agreed to place a Solar Demonstration Projecton one of their campus building.  The unit was estimated to have an annual output of 30,000 kilowatt-hours and an approximate construction cost of $60,000.  Mage Solar was contracted in 2012 to supply solar panels which were placed on the Jackson Street Building of the new College of Environment and Design with a maximum power output of 19 kilowatts.  Private communications with the University of Georgia said the materials cost for the solar panels was $46,000; thus a $60,000 cost for the system seems reasonable.

Operating data for the year 2014 showed a total energy output of 11,732 kilowatt-hours—about one-third the projected value.  This was to be expected because the original estimated output is too optimistic for solar plants located in Georgia.  In addition, observing the placement of the solar panels on the Jackson Street Building shows they are at too steep an angle for locations at the latitude of 33 degrees for Athens, GA.  This degrades system performance in the summer when solar output is at its peak.  The USEIA 2014 year-to-date commercial rate for Georgia is 10.28 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity.  Thus the annual value of electricity for the Georgia Solar Demonstration Project is less than $1250 which means this facility will not pay for itself before it is no longer functional in 25 years.  Once again the return on investment is zero.

All solar power plants examined in this study show electricity costs two or more times conventional sources of “reliable” electricity provided by coal, natural gas, or nuclear power.  Overly enthusiastic promotions of solar energy by government officials, environmental groups, and those selling solar energy has led to grievous losses to taxpayers in the Southeast.

Categories: On the Blog

GOP: The Grade School Boy Trying Too Hard to Get the Silicon Valley Girl

March 18, 2015, 1:11 PM

The GOP wants the Silicon Valley’s love. And by love we mean the millions of donation dollars that currently go mostly to Democrats. And sadly, it appears some Republicans will go to nearly any length to curry some of that coin.

Including giving up core conservative principles. Currently on the Win Your Love sacrificial altar – private property rights.

Behold Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)’s latest love missive to their Valley Girl. Published in the Valley’s Tiger Beat – Wired.

It’s Time to Kill Patent Trolls for Good

Since 2011, Overstock.com, from my home state of Utah, has been targeted by 28 so-called patent“trolls, seeking to enforce vague patents.

Patents are private property – and deserve all the protections a personal parcel of land does.

If a patent is vague, that is the fault of the U.S. government – the Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) – for approving it. Once the USPTO approves, though, that patent is private property – with all the ownership rights pertaining thereto.

If Overstock doesn’t like it – work with Congress to tighten up the USPTO’s approval process. Don’t get government to undermine a fundamental component of our intellectual property system.

Behold the fundamental issue in this whole “patent troll” discussion. We don’t need “patent troll” reform – we need Patent Office reform.

Often these trolling lawsuits come from shell corporations that don’t make or sell anything.

“Shell companies” – otherwise known as property owners. These companies in many cases purchased the patents from those who invented the patent-able product – the people from whom sprung forth the miracle that is creation.

Inventors often have zero desire to actually implement their ideas. Their joy is in the inventing. They are often more than happy to sell an idea (to a “shell company”) – to fund their work on their next idea.

This is an amazing, virtuous cycle of innovation. Why would we want to fundamentally undermine it?

(P)atent trolls are crippling growth across all sectors of our innovation economy – from small businesses to America’s largest companies.

There’s a very easy way to avoid this litigation, Ladies and Gentlemen – pay the people whose property you are using. Or don’t use it.

If I were squatting in your office building and renting the space out – would you be pleased if I got Congress to outlaw your ability to collect rent or evict me? You absolutely would not. Congratulations – you’re an “office troll.”

This is the Silicon Valley looking to “rent seek” – which means getting government to pass laws that tilt the playing field in their favor. And, of course, getting favors from government costs money – otherwise known as political donations.

Of course Democrats are – as always – for Crony Socialist sale. It’s disheartening when the allegedly free market, private-property-protecting Republicans are too.

Hey GOP – sometimes the girl ain’t worth it.

[Originally published at Red State]

 

Categories: On the Blog