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Free Market Capitalism vs. Crony Capitalism

July 16, 2014, 1:36 PM

In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets and economic liberty, and laissez-faire capitalism, rightly understood.

During the dark days of Nazi collectivism in Europe, the German economist, Wilhelm Röpke(1899-1966), used the haven of neutral Switzerland to write and lecture on the moral and economic principles of the free society.

“Collectivism,” he warned, “was the fundamental and moral danger of the West.” The triumph of collectivism meant, “nothing less than political and economic tyranny, regimentation, centralization of every department of life, the destruction of personality, totalitarianism and the rigid mechanization of human society.”

If the Western world were to be saved, Röpke said, it would require a “renaissance of [classical] liberalism” springing “from an elementary longing for freedom and for the resuscitation of human individuality.”

 

What is the Meaning of Capitalism?

At the same time, such a renaissance was inseparable from the establishing of a capitalist economy. But what is capitalism? “Now here at once we are faced with a difficulty,” Röpke lamented, because, “capitalism contains so many ambiguities that it becoming every less adapted for an honest spiritual currency.”

As a solution, Röpke suggested that we “make a sharp distinction between the principle of a market economy as such . . . and the actual development which during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has led to the historical foundation of market economy.”

Röpke went on, “If the word ‘Capitalism’ is to be used at all this should be with due reserve and then at most only to designate the historical form of market economy . . . Only in this way are we safe from the danger . . . of making the principle of the market economy responsible for things which are to be attributed to the whole historical combination  . . . of economic, social, legal, moral and cultural elements  . . . in which it [capitalism] appeared in the nineteenth century.”

In more recent times it has become common to use the term “crony capitalism,” implying a “capitalism” that is used, abused, and manipulated by those in political power to benefit and serve well connected special interest groups desiring to obtain wealth, revenues and “market share” that they could successfully acquire on an open, free and competitive market by offering better and less expense goods and services to consumers than their rivals.

 

Corrupted Capitalism vs. Free Market Capitalism

This facet of a corrupted capitalism is, unfortunately, not new. Even as the classical liberal philosophy of political freedom and economic liberty was growing in influence in Europe and America in the nineteenth century, many of the reforms moving society in that freer direction happened within a set of ideas, institutions, and policies that undermined the establishment of a truly free society.

Thus, the historical development of modern capitalism was “deformed” in certain essential aspects virtually from the start. Before all the implications and requirements of a free-market economy could be fully appreciated and implemented in the nineteenth century, it was being opposed and subverted by the residues of feudal privilege and mercantilist ideology.

Even as many of the proponents of free market capitalism and individualist liberalism were proclaiming their victory over oppressive and intrusive government in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, new forces of collectivist reaction were arising in the form of nationalism and socialism.

Three ideas in particular undermined the establishment of the true principles of the free market economy, and as a result, historical capitalism contained elements totally inconsistent with ideal of laissez-faire capitalism – a free competitive capitalism completely severed from the collectivist and power-lusting state.

 

The Ideas of “National Interest” and “Public Policy.”

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the emergence of the modern nation-state in Western Europe produced the idea of a “national interest” superior to the interests of the individual and to which he should be subservient. The purpose of “public policy” was to define what served the interests of the state, and to confine and direct the actions of individuals into those channels and forms that would serve and advance this presumed “national interest.”

In spite of the demise of the notion of the divine right of kings and the rise of the idea of the rights of (individual) man, and in spite of the refutation of mercantilism by the free-market economists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, democratic governments continued to retain the conception of a “national interest.”

Instead of being defined as serving the interests of the king, it was now postulated as serving the interests of “the people” of the nation as a whole. In the twentieth century, public policy came to be assigned the tasks of government guaranteed “full employment,” targeted levels of economic growth, “fair” wages and “reasonable” profits for “labor” and “management,” and the politically influenced direction of investment and resource uses into those activities considered to foster the economic development viewed as advantageous to “the nation” in the eyes of those designing and implementing “public policy.”

Capitalism, therefore, was considered to be compatible with and indeed even requiring activist government. In nineteenth century America it often took the form of what were then called “internal improvements” – the government funded and subsidized “public works” projects to build, roads, canals, and railways, all which transferred taxpayers’ money into the hands of business interests interested in getting the government’s business rather than that of consumers in the marketplace.

It also manifested itself through trade protectionism meant to artificially foster “infant industries” behind high tariff walls. Selected businesses ran to the government insisting that they could never grow and prosper unless they were protected from foreign competition, at the expense, of course, of the consumers who would then have fewer choices at higher prices.

Today, it still includes public works projects, but also manipulation of investment patterns through fiscal policies designed to target “start-up” companies considered environmentally desirable or essential to “national security.” It also takes the form of pervasive economic regulation that controls and dictates methods of manufacturing, types and degrees of competition, and the associations and relationships that are permitted in the arena of commerce and exchange both domestically and in international trade.

In the misplaced use of the phrase “American free market capitalism” there is little that occurs in any corner of society that does not include the long arm of the highly interventionist state, and all with the intended purpose and resulting unintended consequences of political power being applied to benefit some at the expense of many others.

Perversely, the interventionist state in the evolution of historical capitalism has come to mean in too many people’s eyes the inescapable prerequisite for the maintenance of the market economy in the service of an ever-changing meaning of the “national interest.”

 

Central Banking as Monetary Central Planning

Whether in Europe or the United States, the application and practice of the principles of a free market economy were compromised from the start with the existence of monetary central planning in the form of central banking.

First seen as a device for assuring a steady flow of cheap money to finance the operations of government in excess of what those governments could extract from their subjects and citizens directly through taxation, monopolistic central banks were soon rationalized as the essential monetary institution for economic stability.

But the German economist, Gustav Stopler, clearly explained many decades ago in his book, This Age of Fable (1942), the government’s control of money undermines the very notion of a real free market economy:

“Hardly ever do the advocates of free capitalism realize how utterly their ideal was frustrated at the moment the state assumed control of the monetary system . . . A ‘free’ capitalism with governmental responsibility for money and credit has lost its innocence. From that point on it is no longer a matter of principle but one of expediency how far one wishes or permits governmental interference to go. Money control is the supreme and most comprehensive of all governmental controls short of expropriation.”

Once government controls the supply of money, it has the capacity to redistribute wealth, create inflations and cause economic depressions and recessions; distort the structure of relative prices and wages so they no longer reflect the values and choices of the buyers and sellers in the market; and generate misallocations of labor and capital throughout the economy that brings about imbalances of resource uses inconsistent with a market-based pattern of consumer demands for alternative goods and services.

Then, in the face of the market instabilities and distortions caused by the government’s mismanagement of the money supply and the banking system, the political authorities rationalize even more government intervention to “fix” the consequences of the boom-bust cycles their own earlier monetary central panning policies created.

 

The “Cruelty” of Capitalism and the Welfare State

The privileged classes of the pre-capitalist society hated the market. The individual was freed from subservience and obedience to the nobility, the aristocracy, and the landed interests.

For these privileged groups, a free market meant the loss of cheap labor, the disappearance of “proper respect” from their “inferiors,” and the economic uncertainty of changing market-generated circumstances.

For the socialists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, capitalism was viewed as the source of exploitation and economic insecurity for “the working class” who were considered dependent for their livelihood upon the apparent whims of the “capitalist class.”

The welfare state became the “solution” to capitalism’s supposed cruelty, a solution that created a vast and bloated welfare bureaucracy, made tens of millions of people perpetual wards of a paternalistic state, and drained society of the idea that freedom meant self-responsibility and mutual help through voluntary association and human benevolence.

A “capitalist” system with a welfare state is no longer a free society. It penalizes the industrious and the productive for their very success by punishing them through taxes and other redistributive burdens under the rationale of the “victimhood” of others in society who are claimed to have not received their “fair” due.

It weakens and then threatens to destroy the spirit and the reality of individual accomplishment, and spreads a mentality of “entitlement” to what others have honestly produced. And it restores the fearful idea that the state should not be the protector of each citizens individual rights but the compulsory arbiter who determines through force what each one is considered to “rightfully” deserve.

Peaceful and harmonious free market competition in the pursuit of excellence and creative improvement is replaced by the coerced game of mutual political plunder as individuals and groups in society attempt to grab what others have through a redistributive system of government force.

 

Free Market Capitalism was Hampered and Distorted

The ideal and the principle of the free market economy, of capitalism rightly understood were never fulfilled. What is called “capitalism” today is a distorted, twisted and deformed system of increasingly limited market relationships, as well as market processes hampered and repressed by state controls and regulations.

And overlaying the entire system of interventionist “crony” capitalism are the ideologies of eighteenth century mercantilism, nineteenth century socialism and nationalism, and twentieth century paternalistic welfare statism.

In this warped development and evolution of “historical capitalism,” as Wilhelm Röpke called it, the institutions for a truly free-market economy have either been undermined or prevented from emerging.

As the same time, the principles and actual meaning of a free-market economy have become increasingly misunderstood and lost. But it is the principles and the meaning of a free-market economy that must be rediscovered if liberty is to be saved and the burden of “historical capitalism” is to be overcome.

The socialists and “progressives” twisted and stole the good and worthy concept of liberalism as a political philosophy of individual rights and freedom, respect and protection of honestly acquired private property, and peaceful and voluntary industry, production and trade. It was usurped and made into the “modern” notion of liberalism as paternalistic Big Bother government controlling every aspect of life in the name of the “social good.”

 

Restoring the Ideal of Free Market Capitalism

The word “capitalism” was used as a term of abuse by the socialists almost from the beginning. But it also meant a system of creative and productive enterprise and industry by free and self-guiding individuals, each pursuing their peaceful self-interests through honest work, saving, and investment. The “self-made” man of capitalism was an ideal and model for the youth of America. The man who was motivated by his own independent self-responsible vision, who built something, new, better, and greater as a reflection of the potential of the reasoning and acting human being who sets his mind to work.

His wealth, if successfully accumulated, was honorably earned in the marketplace of ideas and industry, not plundered and stolen by force and political power. No individual is robbed or exploited on the truly free market, since all trade is voluntary and no man could be forced into an exchange or association not to his liking and consent.

Free competition sees to it that everyone tends to receive and earn a wage that reflects the estimation of his productive worth to others in society. Each individual is free to improve his talents and abilities to make his services more valuable to others over time, and earn the commensurate higher wages from possessing more marketable skills.

Wealth accumulated enables investment and capital formation for the production of new, better and more goods and services wanted by the consuming public, the majority of whom are the very wage-earning workers employed in the production and manufacture of those goods under the market-determined guiding hands of successful businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Free Market capitalism makes the consumer “king” of the marketplace who determines whether businessmen earn profits or suffer losses, base on what they decide to buy and how much they are willing to pay.

It is free market capitalism that helps make each man and woman a “captain” of their own fate, with the freedom about what work and employment to pursue, and the liberty to spend the income they earn in their own personal, desiring way to live the life they value and want, and that gives meaning and purpose to their own life.

No person need put up with humiliation, abuse or disrespect from a bureaucrat or political official who has control over their fate through the power of government planning, regulation and redistribution.

Free market capitalism offers people opportunities and choices as consumers, workers and producers, with the liberty to change course whenever the benefits from doing so seem to outweigh the costs in the eyes of the individual.

Free market, or laissez-faire, capitalism makes this all possible because it rests on a deeper political philosophical foundation based on the idea and ideal of the right of the individual to his own life, to be lived as he desires and chooses, as long as he respects the equal right of others to do the same.

Free market capitalism insists that there is no higher “national interest” above the individual interests of the separate citizens of a free society. In a system of free market capitalism government should no more control money and the banking system than a limited government should control the production and sale of shoes, soap, or salami.

And free market capitalism calls for each individual’s peacefully earned property and income to be respected and protected from plunder and theft, and that includes any created rationale and attempted justification to rob Peter to redistribute to Paul through the coercive power of government.

The good name of “capitalism” has to be recaptured and restored, just as the good name and concept of “liberalism,” rightly understood, should be returned to the advocates of individual liberty and free enterprise.

But this task requires friends of freedom to explain and make clear to others that what we live under today is not “capitalism” as it could be, should be and properly really means.

The reality of that “historical capitalism,” about which Wilhelm Röpke spoke, is the “crony capitalism” that must be rejected and opposed so that free men may some day live under and benefit from the truly free market capitalism that is the only economic system consist with a society of human liberty.

Originally published at EpicTimes. 

Categories: On the Blog

The Case for Six Californias

July 16, 2014, 11:04 AM

It began as the idea of one eccentric entrepreneur, but now has 1.3 million signatories backing it: the case for breaking California up into six separate states is gathering steam. When the Six Californias campaign began, most serious commentators thought it was crackpot scheme, a pipe-dream of a few people that had no hope of gaining traction. They have been proved wrong. To an extent anyway.

The idea driving Six Californias is that the state is too large and its politics to disparate to be managed by the incompetent and venal state government in Sacramento. Anyone who knows anything about California knows it is choked with regulations to the point where running a business, let alone starting one, is desperately difficult. Indeed, California has recently been placed in the top three least friendly states for small businesses. For a state that relies on start-ups to stay afloat at all, that is a pretty bad sign for things to come.

And it’s not just business that suffers. Public utilities are being stretched to the limit thanks to grossly inefficient investments by the state government. Other public services, like education, have deteriorated in recent decades to being among the worst in the nation.

Conceived and bankrolled by billionaire Timothy Draper, who has been described as one of the world’s most successful venture capitalists, Six Californias is seeking to radically alter the status quo. Draper is famous for making big bets on new technologies, and clearly his betting nature is turning political. His stated aim is to break California into six states that would be better administered and more politically harmonious in their internal affairs.

California is a massive state. With 38 million citizens and the 8th largest economy in the world, California has come to be ungovernable in the traditional model of states. This has not been helped by Sacramento’s attempts to micromanage the affairs of Californians.

Six Californias argues that six smaller states would be far more representative and responsive to their constituents. That is music to the ears of any supporter of liberty. After all, the larger and more centralized the government, the less accountability to the citizens it has. The breakup would divide California into states somewhat closer in size to other states in the union, and would no doubt be much easier for new state government to manage.

The project has succeeded in gaining ballot access. The 1.3 million signatures recorded far exceed the 808 thousand that was necessary to trigger a state-wide referendum. The vote will likely be scheduled for 2016.

What would happen if Californians voted for the breakup? That is a knotty constitutional question already being addressed by scholars and politicians. The Constitution does not allow for the instantaneous inclusion of new states carved out of old ones, so some suggest that each successor state of California would have to petition to be readmitted to the union as full states. However, there is a degree of precedent, albeit a rather old one. During the Civil War, part of Virginia refused to secede from the United States, declaring itself West Virginia in 1861 and was recognized by the federal government as a full state in 1863. Such a process might lie in the future for California.

Other sticky issues persist. The questions of how debt would be divided and the rights over public works and resources would all be disputed by the successor governments. Such disagreements will no doubt be extremely rancorous, probably carrying on for years after the referendum.

The question of what to do in the event of a breakup may, however, be moot since it seems, at least for now, that voters would not choose to break up their home state. For all its flaws, California is still considered home to millions of people, and many of them do identify with the state as a real polity of which they are a part. To sever those bonds and to shatter a state is an exceptionally difficult thing to accomplish. In all likelihood the referendum will fail.

But the prospect of failure to create six Californias does not make the project a waste of time. Indeed, it is extremely valuable whether it succeeds or not. There is clearly an appetite among many Californians for government that is more decentralized and more responsive to the needs of citizens. That can be accomplished without anything so radical as breaking the state apart. Devolution of power to regions, counties, and cities would go a long way toward creating the accountability and better, leaner government Six Californias is after.

The momentum from the Six Californias project should be carried through, no matter what the referendum results in. If the state is to continue to be an important part of the nation’s economy it must be willing to change.

Categories: On the Blog

Supreme Court to Obama Administration: Congress Writes Laws, You Don’t!

July 16, 2014, 10:21 AM

Now that the dust has settled on the Supreme Court’s 2014 session, we can look at the decisions and conclude that the Administration received a serious smack down. Two big cases got most of the news coverage: Hobby Lobby and the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) recess appointments. In both cases, the Administration lost. At the core of both, is the issue of the Administration’s overreach.

Within the cases the Supreme Court heard, one had to do with energy—and it, too, offered a rebuke.

You may not have heard about Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The UARG v. EPA decision came down on June 23. The decision was mixed—with both sides claiming victory. Looking closely, there is cause for optimism from all who question the president’s authority to rewrite laws.

A portion of the UARG v. EPA case was about the EPA’s “Tailoring Rule” in which it “tailored” a statutory provision in the Clean Air Act—designed to regulate traditional pollutants such as particulate matter—to make it work for CO2. In effect, the EPA wanted to rewrite the law to achieve its goals. The decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority, stated:

“Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule, we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers… The power of executing laws…does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice.”

Had the EPA gotten everything it wanted, it could have regulated hundreds of thousands of new sources of CO2—in addition to the already-regulated major industrial sources of pollutants. These new sources would include office buildings and stores that do not emit other pollutants—but that do, for example, through the use of natural gas for heating, emit 250 tons, or more of CO2 a year.

The Supreme Court did allow the EPA to regulate CO2 emissions from sources that already require permits due to other pollutants—and therefore allowed the EPA and environmentalists to claim victory because the decision reaffirmed the EPA does have the authority to regulate CO2 emissions. However, at the same time, the decision restricted the EPA’s expansion of authority. Reflecting the mixed decision, the Washington Post said the decision was: “simultaneously very significant and somewhat inconsequential.”

It is the “very significant” portion of the decision that is noteworthy in light of the new rules the EPA announced on June 2.

Currently, the Clean Air Act is the only vehicle available to the Administration to regulate CO2 from power plant and factory emissions. However, the proposed rules that severely restrict allowable CO2 emissions from existing power plants bear some similarities to what the Supreme Court just invalidated: both involve an expansive interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

Tom Wood, a partner at Stoel Rives LLP who specializes in air quality and hazardous waste permitting and compliance, explains: “Although the EPA’s Section 111 (d) proposals cannot be legally challenged until they are finalized and enacted, such challenges are a certainty.” With that in mind, the UARG v. EPA decision sets an important precedent. “Ultimately,” Wood says, “the Supreme Court decision seems to give more ammunition to those who want to challenge an expansive view of 111 (d).” Wood sees it as a rebuke to the EPA—a warning that in the coming legal battles, the agency should not presume that its efforts will have the Supreme Court’s backing.

Philip A. Wallach, a Brookings fellow in Governance Studies, called the UARG v. EPA case “something of a sideshow,” and sees “the main event” as EPA’s power plant emissions controls, which have “much higher practical stakes.”

In his review of the UARG v. EPA decision, Nathan Richardson, a Resident Scholar at Resources For the Future, says: “In strict legal terms, this decision has no effect on EPA’s plans to regulate new or existing power plants with performance standards. … However, if EPA is looking for something to worry about, it can find it in this line from Scalia:”

When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate “a significant portion of the American economy” . . . we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism. We expect Congress to speak clearly if it wishes to assign an agency decisions of vast “economic and political significance.”

The UARG v. EPA decision is especially important when added to the more widely known Hobby Lobby and NLRB cases, which is aptly summed up in the statement by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers’ General Counsel Rich Moskowitz: “We are pleased that the Court has placed appropriate limits on EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. By doing so, the Court makes clear that an agency cannot rewrite the law to advance its political goals.”

Justice Scalia’s opinion invites Congress to “speak clearly” on agency authority. It is now up to our elected representatives to rise to the occasion and pass legislation that leaves “decisions of vast ‘economic and political significance’” in its hands alone. Such action could rein in many agency abuses including the heavy-handed application of the Endangered Species Act and public lands management.

The decision—while “somewhat inconsequential”—is, in fact, “very significant.” The Supreme Court has, perhaps, outlined the first legislation of the new, reformatted, post-2014 election Congress.

Categories: On the Blog

The Climate Change Truth in Vegas

July 15, 2014, 1:38 PM

Having recently returned from The Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change held in Las Vegas from July 7-9, “Just Don’t Wonder About Global Warming, Understand It,” I was privileged to hear some of the world’s hundreds of leading climate scientists and researcher discuss the latest state of global warming science, all who question whether manmade global warming” will be harmful to plants, animals, or human welfare. Eight hundred participants were on hand to hear 64 speakers from 12 different countries (14 countries if counting the moon with Astronaut Walter Cunningham and Washington, D.C.) despite the fierce heat of Las Vegas in July. At one point 4,000 individuals were listening to the conference as it was streamed live from the conference website in Las Vegas.

This year’s delegates’ speeches showed how the myths of the climate alarmist are false, which shatters the often quoted 97% consensus figure given for those who believe most of the warming since 1959 was man-made. On the contrary, only 0.5 percent of the authors of 11,944 scientific papers on climate and related topics over the past 21 years have said they agreed that most of the warming since 1950 was man-made. Furthermore, according to the RSS satellite record (Remote Sensing Systems), there has been no global warming for 17 years and 10 months.

Obama’s statements conflict with scientific findings:

The above conclusions conflict with the statements made by President ObamaOn Tuesday, May 6, when he warned that “people’s lives are at risk” because of man-made climate change proclaimed during a series of interviews with National and Local television meteorologists. “Not only is climate change a problem in the future, it’s already effecting Americans,” Obama told CBS News, warning that the phenomenon was “increasing the likelihood” of floods, droughts, storms and hurricanes.

Even the U.N.’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said in its last two reports that there has seen no particular change in the frequency or severity of floods worldwide. Neither are droughts getting worse (the fraction of the world’s land under drought has fallen for 30 years), nor are hurricanes getting worse (combined frequency, severity and duration has been at or near the lowest in the 35-year satellite record).

There was an element of truth, however, to be found in President Obama’s remarks on Tuesday, May 6, but as happens time and again, Obama’s spoken version of the truth amounted to fantasy.  Instead of putting people “lives at risk” by failing to take drastic measures to curb CO2, millions of people are dying because Western policies seem more interested in carbon-dioxide levels than in life itself. Such  was the topic of the final panel discussion, “Panel 21:  Global Warming as a Social Movement,” on Wednesday afternoon before adjournment of Heartland’s 9th Annual International Conference on Climate Change   The distinguished panelists included E. Calvin Beisnert, Ph.D., Founder and National Spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance; Paul Driessan, J.D. senior policy advisor with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise; and Peter Ferrara, J.D., general counsel of the American Civil Rights Union at the Heartland Institute.  Minnesota State Rep. Pat Garofalo was the Moderator, a Republican member of the Minnesota House of Representatives representing District 588.

Panelists Beisnert, Driessan and Ferrara laid out a convincing message how climate alarmists, as environmentalists, view people primarily as polluters and consumers who use up Earth’s resources and poison the planet in the process, rather than being good stewards.  It might even be said that environmentalism is the new face of the anti-human, “Pro-Death” agenda.  Through the bogus “crises” of man-made global warming, affordable and reliable energy and other modern blessings are being denied to the developing world.  This despite the $3.5 billion spent around the world to combat climate change.  Worth reading is an opinion piece by Caleb S. Rossitger, updated May 4, 2014, “Sacrificing Africa for Climate Change.” Change.”

Social Impacts of Reducing Carbon Emissions:

  • 90% of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have electricity and lack light to study and work by, refrigeration to prevent food spoilage and power to operate equipment that could multiply their productivity.  Environmentalists’ oppose building large power plants and electric grids.  Each American accounts for 20 times the emissions of each African.  With 15% of the world’s population, Africa produces less than 5% of carbon-dioxide emissions.  Shouldn’t real years added to real lives trump the minimal impact that African carbon emissions could have on a theoretical catastrophe?
  • Because of the lack of electricity, two to three million women and children die annually from lung disease around the world from burning wood and dried dung to cook their food or heat their huts.
  • Another one to two million people die annually from malaria since the banning of DDT.
  • Where energy is available, regulation of greenhouse gas and other environmental regulations drive up the cost of basic necessities such a food, fuel and electricity, stifling economic growth and costing jobs.
  • America’s ethanol policy alone is estimated to cause nearly 200,000 premature deaths every year in the developing world by limiting the amount of corn for human consumption, which, in turn, raises its purchase price.
  • Golden corn seeds could end Vitamin A deficiency in millions of children.  Genetically produced rice with Vitamin E is also available.  Even so, eight million children have died since the invention of this life-saving rice out of fear of using genetically enhanced food items.
  • Proposed caps on emissions, and so-called renewable energy mandates, would cost our nation millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars per year.  Even though Americans are wealthy by world’s standards, poor and single-income families in the U.S. would be hardest hit, while much poorer people around the would suffer even more if required to restrain greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A carbon tax on Cap and Trade is a regressive tax which would hit hardest the poor among us. The poor already pay a higher proportion of their income for energy, plundering the poor, as would state mandates for wind and solar power, which would result in higher energy costs over what is currently being provided by power plant now under fire by the EPA for CO2 emissions linked to Global Warming.
  • Wealth increases more when the overall global temperature is warmer and furthermore correlates with happiness, better health, and longevity. The more we do to fight Global Warming, the less off the poor will be in poorer nations, with higher rates of disease and death.

For Reflection: 

If this nation really cared about the poor, our government would stay off the Global Warming bandwagon and use the billions currently being spent to combat EPA fuel emissions standard, which have no effect, and instead put the billions to where it would do the most good fighting disease and poverty.  Building fossil fuel plants and a grid to provide electricity to all the houses around the globe where dung and wood are still burnt in the absence of electricity, would cost 1/2 billion a year less than compliance with EPA’s fuel emission standards.

Evident is that those who control carbon control our lives.  Shutting down power plants could carry some health benefits by reducing the risk of asthma and heart attacks in areas near the plants, but will cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants by about 25% from 2012 levels by 2020 make the planet healthier?  Greenhouse gasses would still escape into the atmosphere from around the world?  Hence, cutting carbon emissions would be a drag on this nation’s economy.  See this article by Sally Deneen for National Geographic,“One Key Question on Obama’s Push Against Climate Change:  Will It Matter”, for further clarification.

Global Warming could rightly be called a social movement, a big green and government movement, not unlike the “Population Bomb” which warned of mass starvation of humans in 1970′s and 1980′s due to overpopulation, and which advocated immediate action to limit population growth.

The emphasis on Climate Change as a urgent threat, propagated by President Obama and being carried out through the EPA, is in actuality a weapon of mass destruction and a war on women and children.  Alarmists use threats as a way to justify their power to decide how much energy is available for use by humanity throughout the world.  As such, big green with its eco-friendly measures appears callous to human destruction.

In Conclusion: 

It is not being denied that global temperature have risen over the last 150 years or more, but it is mostly a natural occurrence, and certainly within the range of natural climate variability over the centuries; i.e. the Medieval Warm Period, an interval from approximately AD1000 to AD1300.  During that time many places around the world exhibited conditions that seem warm compared to today. Heartland and the scientists it works with have never promoted “denial of a changing climate.”  The climate is always changing. The question is whether man’s contribution to climate change rises above statistical noise and whether it is a crisis.

The issue of Climate Change is the greatest moral and ethical battle of our time.  We must stand up for the tyranny resulting from the seizure of that which powers our civilization, sufficient energy production at an affordable cost.  Without this availability, the global death toll will rise before is decreases due to the dark forces of a Climate Change fantasy.

View here videos of all Speakers and Panel Discussions at Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change.

Categories: On the Blog

Blowing Our Dollars in the Wind

July 15, 2014, 9:12 AM

Wind energy produces costly, intermittent, unpredictable electricity. But Government subsidies and mandates have encouraged a massive gamble on wind investments in Australia – over $7 billion has already been spent and another $30 billion is proposed. This expenditure is justified by the claim that by using wind energy there will be less carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere which will help to prevent dangerous global warming.

Incredibly, this claim is not supported by any credible cost-benefit analysis – a searching enquiry is well overdue. Here is a summary of things that should be included in the analysis.

Firstly, no one knows how much global warming is related to carbon dioxide and how much is due to natural variability. However, the historical record shows that carbon dioxide it is not the most important factor, and no one knows whether climate feedbacks are positive or negative. Also, in many ways, the biosphere and humanity would benefit from more warmth, carbon dioxide and moisture in the atmosphere.

However, let’s assume that reducing man’s production of carbon dioxide is a sensible goal and consider whether wind power is likely to achieve it. To do this we need to look at the whole life cycle of a wind tower.

Wind turbines are not just big simple windmills – they are massive complex machines whose manufacture and construction consume much energy and many expensive materials.  These include steel for the tower, concrete for the footings, fibre glass for the nacelle, rare metals for the electro-magnets, steel and copper for the machinery, high quality lubricating oils for the gears, fibre glass or aluminium for the blades, titanium and other materials for weather-proof paints, copper, aluminium and steel for the transmission lines and support towers, and gravel for the access roads.

There is a long production chain for each of these materials. Mining and mineral extraction rely on diesel power for mobile equipment and electrical power for haulage, hoisting, crushing, grinding, milling, smelting, refining. These processes need 24/7 reliable electric power which, in Australia, is most likely to come from coal.

These raw materials then have to be transported to many specialised manufacturing plants, again using large quantities of energy, generating more carbon dioxide.

Then comes the construction phase, starting with building a network of access roads, clearance of transmission routes, and excavation of the massive footings for the towers. Almost all of this energy will come from diesel fuel, with increased production of carbon dioxide. Moreover, every bit of land cleared results in the production of carbon dioxide as the plant material dozed out of the way rots or is burnt, and the exposed soil loses its humus to oxidation.

Once the turbine starts operating, the many towers, transmission lines and access roads need more maintenance and repair than a traditional power plant that produces concentrated energy from one small plot of land using a small number of huge, well-tested, well protected machines. Turbines usually operate in windy, exposed, isolated locations. Blades need to be cleaned using large specialised cranes; towers and machinery need regular inspection and maintenance; and mobile equipment and manpower needs to be on standby for lightning strikes, fires or accidents. All of these activities require diesel powered equipment which produces more carbon dioxide.

Even when they do produce energy, wind towers often produce it at time when demand is low – at night for example. There is no benefit in this unwanted production, but it is usually counted as saving carbon fuels.

Every wind farm also needs backup power to cover the +65% of wind generating capacity that is lost because the wind is not blowing, or blowing such a gale that the turbines have to shut down.

In Australia, most backup is provided by coal or gas plants which are forced to operate intermittently to offset the erratic winds. Coal plants and many gas plants cannot switch on and off quickly but must maintain steam pressure and “spinning reserve” in order to swing in quickly when the fickle wind drops. This causes grid instability and increases the carbon dioxide produced per unit of electricity. This waste should be debited to the wind farm that caused it.

Wind turbines also consume energy from the grid when they are idle – for lubrication, heating, cooling, lights, metering, hydraulic brakes, energising the electro-magnets, even to keep the blades turning lazily (to prevent warping) and to maintain line voltage when there is no wind. A one-month study of the Wonthaggi wind farm in Australia found that the facility consumed more electricity than it produced for 16% of the period studied. A detailed study in USA showed that 8.3% of total wind energy produced was consumed by the towers themselves. This is not usually counted in the carbon equation.

The service life of wind towers is far shorter than traditional power plants. Already many European wind farms have reached the end of their life and contractors are now gearing up for a new boom in the wind farm demolition and scrap removal business. This phase is likely to pose dangers for the environment and require much diesel powered equipment producing yet more carbon dioxide.

Most estimates of carbon dioxide “saved” by using wind power look solely at the carbon dioxide that would be produced by a coal-fired station producing the rated capacity of the wind turbine. They generally ignore all the other ways in which wind power increases carbon energy usage, and they ignore the fact that wind farms seldom produce name-plate capacity.

When all the above factors are taken into account over the life of the wind turbine, only a very few turbines in good wind locations are likely to save any carbon dioxide. Most will be either break-even or carbon-negative – the massive investment in wind may achieve zero climate “benefits” at great cost.

Entrepreneurs or consumers who choose wind power should be free to do so but taxpayers and electricity consumers should not be forced to subsidise their choices for questionable reasons. People who claim climate sainthood for wind energy should be required to prove this by detailed life-of-project analysis before getting legislative support and subsidies.

Otherwise we are just blowing our dollars in the wind.

Categories: On the Blog

The New Rent Seeking?

July 14, 2014, 3:33 PM

According to data released this week, Samsung and Apple make up the majority of the top 20 global smartphone models sold in the first quarter of 2014. While that success demonstrates the robust market prowess of these smartphone manufacturers, the real winners are the customers, getting more services, better products and lower prices. Almost the exact opposite happens when companies resort to lawsuits to gain market advantage, a sort of rent seeking via the courts.

Apple’s long-running lawsuits against Samsung continue despite, or perhaps because of, their mixed results. In the first Apple-Samsung lawsuit, Samsung was forced to pay its rival nearly $1 billion in damages, plus an International Trade Commission exclusion order imposed an importation ban. Apple also sought a full-sales ban on the Samsung products in question, which a judge ultimately blocked.

In a second trial, Apple sought sky-high damages of $40 per device for all Samsung devices sold in the U.S. that were named in the lawsuit, and sought to block the sales of Samsung products. While substantial, that dollar figure likely paled in comparison to the opportunity costs incurred by this fixation on legal action.

In the end, the jury decided that Samsung relied on some of Apple’s patented technology, but Apple too was caught using Samsung’s patented technology. The jury awarded Apple financial damages but not nearly the amount the company sought, which was further offset by an award to Samsung. The decision has been appealed both by Apple and Samsung, with Apple still trying to block Samsung sales, and with Samsung appealing the verdict in total.

If this litigious acrimony continues unabated, consumers, mobile innovation, and perhaps even the companies themselves will suffer. One sign that such damage has already occurred is that technology industry news increasingly seems to be about litigation rather than about new technological advances. And according to observers, Apple innovation may already be flagging.

Moreover, courtroom victories do not necessarily translate into benefits for consumers because they could drastically limit competition in the mobile marketplace. Instead of gaming the courts for potential advantages or trying to ban certain products, mobile device makers should compete in the open marketplace.

The ongoing dispute also raises broader questions about damages awarded in patent cases, particularly for design patents, and especially when the infringement is unknown. In real time, the courts are actively issuing new rulings guiding what is and is not patentable, such as abstract ideas tied to computer systems. Are awards that are so large that a company’s ability to compete is hampered good for consumers or the marketplace?  Are absolute bans on the products in the marketplace best for the free market?

When disputes do arise, companies should put their customers first by negotiating in good faith with their rivals, going to court only as a last resort. Of course, legitimate disputes, including important claims such as intellectual property infringement, may still need a judicial remedy, just not as a first option to hamper one’s competition.

[Originally published at The Institute for Policy Innovation]

Categories: On the Blog

Media Ignorance Is Worse When It’s Intentional

July 14, 2014, 1:57 PM

I hope you all took time to read Mollie Hemingway’s piece this week concerning the problem of media ignorance. The really troublesome aspect of it, as I see it, is not when people are unintentionally ignorant of the matters they cover, which is of course excusable. No one is expected to be an expert on everything they write about, and in practice, it just serves to foster the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect, which you have surely experienced regularly if you are an expert in something and a consumer of media. Yes, it’s a problem when those youngsters in media who got promoted because they are really good at the Instagram don’t know about something because it’s on the second page of the Google results. But leaving something you didn’t know out of a story is more excusable than asserting something inaccurate out of ignorance, which is still more excusable than purposefully putting on blinders and ignoring anything that conflicts with your thesis because you’d rather not engage it. It’s one thing to not know another perspective exists – it’s another to purposefully pretend it doesn’t exist.

I know this is a minor complaint in the scheme of things, but if you want an example of this in practice, I’d draw your attention to the recent staff changes at the Washington Post’s Wonkbook, which has been dramatically reduced in usefulness since Ezra Klein pulled a great deal of their talent into Vox. To his credit, Klein has always understood that even media in pursuit of an ideological agenda gets boring very quickly if it’s entirely one-sided. Good political media requires conflict – it needs someone to take the other position in a debate, which is why his criticisms of Paul Ryan would be followed with an interview with the subject and the like. The overall effect was to provide people with a fairly consistent look at what the major Washington think tanks were doing, and while the reporters obviously leaned in a direction, I’d argue they rarely pretended conservative views didn’t exist or lacked legitimacy.

Unfortunately, ever since Klein, Evan Soltas, and others departed Wonkbook, replaced by Puneet Kollipara, Matt O’Brien, and a new crop of writers, the once-useful morning email has very obviously felt the impact. It has drastically reduced the number of right-leaning links, diminishing them to the point of nonexistence or only featuring critiques of conservative views. It regularly reaches the point of laughability in the context of multi-day debates, in which you can only learn the existence of a perspective through the frame of a liberal critique, or only learn of something gone wrong with Obamacare through a piece explaining why it doesn’t matter.

To pick one recent example: On the day the reform conservatives released their Room to Grow agenda at AEI (a development of significance whatever you think of the actual agenda), Wonkbook didn’t link a single thing about it – not one oped or post in favor of it or any of the source materials. Over the course of the next few days, they gave a few scant nods to pieces in favor of it, while linking a litany of pieces from liberals reacting to the proposals, criticizing something that they hadn’t even acknowledged existed.

A purposefully cloistered attitude, where the only good conservative is the one making the case for lefty ideas, is a real disservice to debate. If most of your links are to a conservative making the case for a universal wage subsidy or a carbon tax or immigration reform, it’s simply not an accurate depiction of where the other side is. And it leads to your site and email sounding less like a fair-minded left-leaning traditional media outlet and more like, well, ThinkProgress.

The impression you get is of a place with an ideological perspective that overwhelms its ability to fairly depict policy debates. The other day, after the GOP announced that it would hold its 2016 convention in Cleveland, Wonkbook sent out their afternoon update with the subject line and first piece headlined “How the Republican platform fails Cleveland”, which to me sounds more like a DNC press release header than an evenhanded evaluation. The piece has since been renamed. But the first title is a more accurate reflection of their perspective, which is disappointing to say the least.

As a postscript: it’s not as if you need to be a younger writer to play pretend and ignore the legitimacy of a different perspective. Back in 2012, I had a particularly frustrating interaction with Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler in which he outright refused to consider an alternate perspective on a question. Kessler gave “Four Pinocchios” to then-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for some testimony the governor gave about Medicaid fraud in his state, noting that people were driving BMWs while claiming they couldn’t afford copays. Kessler’s rationale was so twisted that I still can’t believe he advanced it: his view was that Barbour had to be lying, because BMWs are too expensive for people who qualify for Medicaid to afford. I’m serious – he even did the Cars.com search. Despite citing a half dozen news stories to him from that very week of people being arrested for Medicaid fraud who owned flashy cars and McMansions, and pointing out that people can easily go onto Medicaid after buying BMWs earlier in life, Kessler refused to consider a world in which it is possible for Medicaid fraud or downward social mobility to exist, and got more than a little testy when challenged with the idea there was any gap in his logic.

Perhaps now that his own publication has run a piece about someone driving a Mercedes to pick up food stamps, he’ll reconsider his perspective. But I doubt it. Blinders can be awfully effective once you wear them long enough.

Update: Kessler has since offered a mea culpa.

Subscribe to Ben’s daily newsletter, The Transom.

 

[Originally published at The Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

Greenpeace Co-founder Patrick Moore: I Left When They Became Anti-Science, Anti-Human

July 14, 2014, 8:30 AM

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore trying to save a baby seal in the 1970s.

One of the best keynote presentations at The Heartland Institute’s Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, held last week in Las Vegas, was by Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore.

Moore was with Greenpeace from the beginning in the 1970s, and he literally helped change the world. The whaling and seal-fur industry barely exist today because Moore and others at Greenpeace put their lives on the line on the open seas.

Moore’s “green” credentials are impeccable. But, as he explained at our conference, the eco-movement — and Greenpeace, in particular — was co-opted by radicals … and liars.

A movement that started out with the best of intentions came to dedicate itself to attacking humans — especially those in the developing world, who need cheap and abundant energy to lift themselves above a level of poverty the West barely understands.

That’s why, Moore said, he left Greenpeace.

You must watch AND SHARE the July 8 presentation by Patrick Moore at Heartland’s latest climate conference. Moore’s presentation is so entertaining — and scientifically based for one’s open mind — that I will not excerpt any text. You really need  to watch it below:

 

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Categories: On the Blog

“Free” College is a Dangerous Pipe-Dream

July 12, 2014, 6:04 PM

College education has more and more been described by the political left as a right to which citizens ought to be entitled. This view has been popularized among left-leaning students, many of whom are energized by ruinously expensive college loans. They clamor for the “fair solution”, namely that the government should pay for all of it. The effort to make college a right is a disastrous proposition. It is a dangerous pipe-dream that could devastate an already rickety higher education sector. There are problems with the way student loans and college fees operate at present, but this is not the way to fix it.

There is no fundamental right of individuals to be allowed to take four years free of charge to learn new skills that will benefit them or how to be better citizens. The state’s duty is to provide a baseline of care, which in the case of education secondary school more than provides. If individuals want more they should pay for it themselves.

Higher Education is a Service

College education, like any professional skills-development undertaking, is a service, one that people should pay for. Rights exist to provide people with the necessities of life. Some people may never have the “opportunity” (ie. wealth) to visit Hawai’i, yet that is not unfair and the state should not be expected to fund every citizen’s tropical vacation.

Yet even in the presence of fees, access to scholarships and loans make it possible for people from disadvantaged economic backgrounds to find their way into university. In this way there is a degree of equality of opportunity in so far as those who are able are afforded the opportunities financial incapacity would deny them. If people want to take advantage of the networking opportunities available in university and the employment benefits available to graduates, then they may pay for it.

Endless Entitlements, Endless Costs

Every action has an opportunity cost. If people are willing to take loans to pay for the education that will likely allow them to earn far more than they would without one, then they should be willing to pay for the privilege.

Furthermore, it can actually be quite beneficial to society at large, to an extent, that university graduates seek swift employment due to debt, since it forces them to become productive members of society more rapidly than they might have done. For example, in Ireland where higher education is free graduates often take a year or two to travel and “find themselves” while giving little or nothing back to the society that has financed their degrees. It is good that people begin contributing to the economic life of society after graduating from university, rather than frittering away their youths in unproductive pursuits.

The social-democratic model, most prevalent in Europe, is a failure. The system of paying for universal healthcare, education, pensions, etc. threatens to bankrupt the countries maintaining them; it is simply unsustainable. The cost of paying for free university education is ruinously high. The government money needed to be channeled into universities to provide for free education, as well as into various other generous social welfare benefits, has been a case of borrowing from future generations to finance current consumption. For these countries to survive, and lest other countries attempt to follow suit with similar models, they must rethink what they can afford to provide freely to citizens.

In the case of education, it seems fair to say that all states should offer access to their citizens to primary and secondary education opportunities, since the skills acquired during such education are absolutely necessary for citizens to function effectively within society; reading, writing, basic civics, etc. are essential knowledge which the state is well-served in providing.

University, on the other hand, is not essential to life in the same way. People can be functional and responsible citizens without it; it can be nice to attend, but one can live effectively and prosper without it. For this reason, the government ought to consider university in the same way it does any non-essential service; people may pay for it if they wish to partake, but they cannot view it as an entitlement owed by the state that will simply provide it to everyone. The cost is just too high, and the state must act from a utilitarian perspective in this case. Instituting fees will place the cost of education upon those wishing to reap the benefits of education, and not on the taxpayer.

Inevitable Inefficiency

When the state offers a universal service, inefficiencies inevitably arise with its provision. There are four principal economic problems that arise from free university education.

First, there is a major problem of resources being lost to bureaucracy. In a state-funded university system, tax money is wasted on paying civil servants to deal with procurement questions with regard to funding for universities, as well as in misallocation of funds due to bureaucrats’ lack of expertise and specialist knowledge necessary to know the correct funding decisions, which independent universities would be able to make on their own more efficiently.

Second, when the state funds all university education for free, funding will be allocated to unprofitable courses. As there is no profit motive or price mechanism driving these decisions, there is no way of reaching an efficient decision except by guesswork.

The funding of students who are not really interested in attending university or who are apathetic toward higher education creates the third problem. Such students only attend because it is free to do so, and it would be much better to enact a system whereby such students cannot claim a trip to university as an entitlement. A moral hazard problem emerges among such students. They are allowed to reap all the benefits of education, while needing to incur none of the costs. The student who goes to university to waste three or four years and study an easy liberal arts course imposes an unjust cost on society, who has to pay for these students who are not in university to gain from it, but merely to waste time and not work hard.

The fourth problem of free university education is saturation of degree-holders in the market. In order to have value, a degree must be a signal of quality. When everyone has a degree, the value of such a qualification plummets. The ability for employers to ascertain high quality potential employees is thus presented with greater difficulty in making a selection. The flipside of this is that graduates end up serving in jobs that do not require a degree-holding individual to do them. Thus, a system of fees is superior to free education because it allows for more efficient allocation of resources to universities and to individuals.

Reforming Higher Education

The way forward for higher education demands serious consideration. We are living in the midst of what could well prove to be a true bubble in the higher education market. What will happen when the bubble bursts is an open question.

Reform must focus on removing existent distortions on the incentives of students and education-providers alike. The answer lies in restoring sanity to the marketplace, not increasing the influence of an already over-mighty government in education.

Categories: On the Blog

Liberty and Freedom Under Fire

July 12, 2014, 5:48 PM

Most Americans would agree that liberty and freedom are values fundamental to our nation, but, if questioned, do they really know the intent of their meanings, or have they changed through time?  David Hackett in his book,Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America’s Founding Ideas, shows how liberty and freedom form an intertwined strand that runs through the core of American life. But like DNA, liberty and freedom have been transformed and recombined with every generation. Hence, the earliest colonies shared ideals of liberty and freedom may have evolved into different meanings today.

According to David Hackett, a historian at Brandeis University:

“Most Americans do not think of liberty and freedom as a set of texts, or a source of controversies or a sequence of controversies or a system of abstractions.  They understand these ideas in another way, as inherited values that they have learned early in life and deeply believe.”

The words themselves have differing origins: the Latinate “liberty” implied separation and independence, while the root meaning of “freedom” speaks of attachment, such as the rights of belonging in a community of free people.  In that the root meanings of freedom and liberty are not merely different, but instead are of two opposing concepts — separation vs. connection — it stands to reason that tension between the two values has been a source of conflict and creativity throughout American history.

In “Lincoln about freedom”, Lincoln, when speaking in Chicago in July of 1858, voiced how two different but incompatible ideas could be called “liberty”, further noting the second definition as tyrannical in nature.  Lincoln viewed liberty as the cornerstone of the Republic as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.  To Lincoln, liberty, work and justice were closely connected concepts.  Lincoln reflected that the world has never had a good definition of the word liberty.  Lincoln believed that each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleased with himself and the fruits of his labor, also realizing that others used liberty to mean for some men to do as they pleased with other men and the product of their labors.

Seventy eight years prior to Lincoln’s Chicago liberty remarks, on Christmas Day, 1780, Thomas Jefferson, author of the “Constitution,”  proclaimed his “Empire of Liberty” concept, thus laying out the principle foundations of a very important concept of liberty.

Jefferson believed it was the United States of America’s responsibility to the world to promulgate freedom and liberty wherever possible.  America’s example would assure all people everywhere that they have the ability and right to determine their own lives and commerce without being coerced by brutal despots.

Although Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” laid out a vision of an internationalist America as opposed to a provincial one, Jefferson did warn against America becoming involved in “entangling alliances”, an argument often invoked by American politicians when they oppose aiding those seeking to democratize their countries.

Present day obstacle to Liberty and Freedom

Liberty allows each of us to achieve what we might of our lives.  As stated by Lord Action:  “Liberty is not a means to a higher political end, it is itself the highest political end.”  Matt Kibbe in his book, “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff,” takes a stand for individual liberty, laying out what we must do to preserve our freedom.  In a nutshell, simple and straightforward, Kibbe describes liberty as:  “Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff.”

Continual decisions made in Washington, D.C. about what to do for us, to us, or even against us, are having an adverse impact on the lives of the American people, young and old. Gradually our freedoms are removed, one intrusive law after another, and always with the excuse it is for our own good.  Men must be able to have the liberty to make their own choices, without a “nanny” government deciding what is best for everyone.  We must wean those in society who have become entrapped in a “cradle to grave” dependence upon government.   James Madison proclaimed, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation.”

Young people can’t find jobs, millions of Americans are losing their health care plans; ones they were promised have not materialized.  We are all being targeted, monitored, conscripted, induced, taxed, subsidized, regulated, and otherwise manipulated by someone else’s agenda, all based on someone else’s decisions made in some secret meeting or closed-door legislative deal.

Usurping of Constitution threatens Liberty and Freedom

Obama wasn’t bluffing when he smugly declared, “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.”  President Obama has already acted unilaterally on a wide range of issues, both domestic and foreign, with or without constitutional authority or congressional approval. It was never the intent that any president have the authority to ignore Congress or make and change laws through Executive Orders, and certainly not out of frustration due to an opponent’s refusal to roll over and approve his agenda.

Obama’s actions constitutes an alarming rise of one-man rule and the erosion of the once cherished concepts of liberty and freedom as envisioned by our Founding Fathers.  More than in prior times, Democrats are invariably placing their party’s interests above those of the nation and also above the law. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin noted that a year had passed since the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill, and urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a similar bill to the floor of the House with the warning:  if he does not, the president will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”

Senator Durbin seems to have forgotten it is the duty of the different branches of government to be independent in their judgments when they examine bills, so that each bill is thoroughly examined from different perspectives before being approved into law.  Rushing through an important and controversial bill such as changing our immigration law invites problems. The Affordable Care Act, among other recent examples, provides the proof.  Could many of the resulting problems we are experiencing today be the result of our elected officials not even reading the bills they sign, but instead “rubber stamping” them depending upon their political party leaders’ orders?

The present crisis of children from Central America crossing over our southern border, is an example of the President’s abuse of authority, with heartbreaking results.  Congress refused to pass the DREAM Act, and rather than work with those who had different opinions, Obama side-stepped Congress and issued an executive order to implement important provisions of it.  That sent a signal to Central American countries that children would be allowed sanctuary when they crossed over into America.

In a victory for religious freedom, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, June 30, 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. in the case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (formerly named Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby). The case was the strongest legal challenge to Obamacare since 2012.  However, before Conservatives become too excited, it must be noted the decision was a “one vote” victory demonstrating the strong division within the Supreme Court.

As education involves children and America’s future, under Common Core liberty has been scrubbed as a founding principle.  How could this be when liberty has such a strong, historical significance for Americans. Liberty equates to personal freedom and the right of citizens to live their lives without the intrusion of tyrannical government.

Why the concern?

It is not surprising that according to a Gallup international poll released Tuesday, July 1, Americans have become significantly less satisfied with the freedom to choose what they want to do with their lives. This is a 12-point drop from 2006, which pushes the United States from among the highest in the world in terms of perceived freedom to 36th place.

What has caused this alarming change in our population?  There are many causes to consider.  The federal government has gradually taken power from the states, while giving more authority to the federal government and even the United Nations.  We see the evidence of that in the changes United Nations Agenda 21 has brought to our states.  Individual American freedoms are being forfeited based on a United Nations agenda.

The erosion of our freedoms has concerned citizens searching for ways to reverse that trend by examining the reasons for the changes.  Some blame our elected officials, as many of them seem to lack the courage and convictions of our forefathers.  Rather than make decisions they know are best for America, they choose to take the easy course and follow the crowd.  They should consider this quote from John Quincy:  “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” Others blame liberal professors dominating classrooms across American with their socialist/communists socialist/communist doctrine, infecting their students with anti-American rhetoric.

An interesting suggestion for the decrease in America’s love for freedom, comes from writer Kenneth Minogue, who in his book “The Servile Mind:  How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life”, says that “traditional societies and totalitarian states in the twentieth century suggested that many people are, in most circumstances, happy to sink themselves in some collective enterprise that guides their lives and guarantees them security.”  That is believable knowing that almost half of our nation now receives some type of government assistance. Having left a corrupted government, our forefathers fled to America in a quest and passion for freedom, the chance for every man to make his own way; to be a master of his own life.  We must not let that spirit die.

Calling all patriots to make voices heard!

Independence Day is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the amazing history of our country, to consider the men and women who allowed America to prosper.  Let us reflect upon the wise patriots who have dotted our history and changed our lives through their devotion to America.  We would do well to heed their wisdom, because not all of the changes we have recently seen in America have been profitable.   We may need to reflect upon our past for examples of courage and self-reliance.  Our schools must promote the ideals of patriotism, and allow students to know and value our history.  Our children should be proud of our nation, and that will happen as they review our history and recognize the gift they have been given; a gift that must be guarded for our future.

Dinesh D’Souza’s new film, “America,” released in theaters on July 2nd, has a real chance to help shape the future of our nation.  It is a movie that all should be encouraged to see, young and old alike, to be reminded that America is the world’s brightest hope for the future.  The film combats the destructive progressive ideology that seeks to undermine and abolish some of America’s founding ideas.  Check out the trailer here for “America.”

Will this nation remain great?  Can it even be saved.  It is up to Americans who love their country to make their voices heard.  This nation stands at a crossroads.  Will liberty and freedom remain alive and be enjoyed by Americans now and in our future, or will we wander into the dangerous territory of a tyrannical government?  Americans must be vigilant; seek, find, and vote for the candidates who best represent their ideals and those of our forefathers.  Do not be fooled by rhetoric over actions or promises over facts.  America’s future depends upon the actions of patriots, who are vigilant.  Patriots can be found from sea to shining sea, and we suspect all who read and agree with the points in this article are a part of that prestigious group.  Together, we can make a positive difference.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Food Prices Are Soaring And Washington Doesn’t Care

July 12, 2014, 1:26 PM

Today’s economy is driven by Washington in more than just determining the location of Maserati dealerships. We see the ramifications of current government policies in numerous obvious ways. Make full-time employment more expensive with required benefits, and suddenly there are more part-time jobs; provide ample benefits and low eligibility standards for defining disabled workers, and suddenly there are more long-term unemployed going on SSDI; keep interest rates at zero, and suddenly there are more elderly workers; end unemployment insurance, and suddenly you see people accepting jobs they were reluctant to take; and as we’ve seen at the state and local level, raise the minimum wage, and suddenly teens are struggling to find work.

In all the debates over these policies, interested parties go back and forth over how and when to use the knobs and levers of government to achieve certain ends, concerning mobility and inequality and job growth and a host of other goals. But lost in these debates over statistics and trendlines are the ramifications of government policy when it comes to the (less politically sexy) burdens faced by most middle and working class Americans. In these arenas, policy debates are almost completely divorced from the experiences of most Americans – particularly on the right, where Republicans talk over and over again about the burdens of taxes without addressing the costs of energy, food, and health care, all of which are squeezing household budgets.

We have a perfect example of this within the current debate over rising food prices, where a bunch of policy elites are currently debating the question: when is food inflation real?

U.S. food prices are on the rise, raising a sensitive question: When the cost of a hamburger patty soars, does it count as inflation? It does to everyone who eats and especially poorer Americans, whose food costs absorb a larger portion of their income. But central bankers take a more nuanced view. They sometimes look past food-price increases that appear temporary or isolated while trying to control broad and long-term inflation trends, not blips that might soon reverse…

The consumer price of ground beef in May rose 10.4% from a year earlier while pork chop prices climbed 12.7%. The price of fresh fruit rose 7.3% and oranges 17.1%. But prices for cereals and bakery products were up just 0.1% and vegetable prices inched up only 0.5%. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts overall food prices will increase 2.5% to 3.5% this year after rising 1.4% in 2013, as measured by the Labor Department’s consumer-price index. In a typical supermarket, shoppers are seeing higher prices around the store’s periphery, in the produce section and at the meat counter.

Now, a rational person might conclude that measuring food inflation without counting meat, fruit, and vegetables is like measuring the unemployment rate without counting men. Here are the increases in a number of food costs, as well as the average hourly earnings, since the end of the recession (June 2009) through May 2014.

Ouch. The increases since June 2009 are: Beef and veal: +35.2%, Pork: +27%, Fish and seafood: +20.1%, Eggs: +33.1%, Dairy: +16.1%, Fresh Fruits: +13.8%. At the same time, Average Hourly Earnings have increased by 10.1%.

So why aren’t politicians talking about this? It’s absolutely clear that Fed, farm, energy, and trade policy have all served to drive up these costs. Well, tearing down those policies runs contrary to the interests of Washington interest groups heavily invested in controlling those knobs and levers. But a bigger part of the problem is priorities driven by a linguistic trap. Politicians who are small businessmen or attorneys by training talk about the marketplace as a place full of entrepreneurs, and talk about government in terms of its size and tax burdens and barriers to job growth. They’re caught in the trap of viewing all these things in aggregate.

But that’s not how the middle or working class think about the economy. A politician talking about “creating new jobs” or “spurring investment” of “increasing exports” sounds nice, but that’s all it is – nice-sounding. Most Americans worry generally about the lack of jobs and growth, sure, but they are far more worried about what they perceive as a higher cost of living at a time of stagnant wages. They have expectations for the life they can provide for their families and children, and they’re worried they won’t be able to meet those expectations. This is all about delivering the life they want to those they care for. But when they look to government, they don’t see interest in that. Politicians insist that inflation is under control, just so long as you don’t include food, education, health care, housing, or energy, so it’s time to start focusing on More Important Things. You wanted cheeseburgers? Well, the Fed thinks it’s fine if you settle for chicken.

The opportunity is there to change the conversation. In so many of the areas where we’re seeing price inflation, government policy is contributing to the trendline, raising the costs not just of food, but of education, health care, energy, and housing, and putting pressure which multiplies for those with kids. All it takes is a willingness to go after those policies, and for a few smart politicians to start rejecting the priorities of the boardroom table in favor of the kitchen table.

Subscribe to Ben’s daily newsletter, The Transom.

 

[Originally published at The Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

Taxing The King

July 11, 2014, 12:11 PM

Anyone that is remotely a sports fan, or has even glanced at ESPN for more than 15 seconds over the past few days, is well aware that the basketball world is holding its collective breath waiting for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to make their decision on what jersey they will be suiting up in next year.

As of this writing the Twittersphere, and most likely the universe itself, is still waiting on “King James” in particular to make the decision that most likely will open the floodgates and cause the rest of the free agency dominoes to fall. In light of the media circus surrounding this ordeal The Heritage Foundation’s newly launched news site, The Daily Signal, published a graphic and story last week that showed the differences in state income tax James would incur depending on which team he selected of the ones he was considering:

I found it to be an interesting view of a factor in James’ decision that may not be as publicized as “The Letter” or the supporting cast of teammates, but one that James may be seriously considering like many other professional athletes in recent memory.

As the buzz around “Decision 2.0” has grown over the past several days, I felt intrigued to take the numbers a little further and see how much James would owe in state income taxes based on every team in the NBA. To do so I utilized the same factors as Heritage; an estimated $20,700,000 annual salary, no city tax or deductions, and the highest income tax bracket possible. The rates I used in my calculation were the state income tax rates for 2014 listed by the Tax Foundation. Before getting into the numbers, yes, I am aware that he would never go play for Milwaukee:

NBA Teams

Team Owed Taxes Tax Rate Team Owed Taxes Tax Rate Atlanta $1,242,000 6 Golden State $2,753,100 13.3 Boston $1,086,750 5.25 L.A. Clippers $2,753,100 13.3 Brooklyn $1,825,740 8.82 L.A. Lakers $2,753,100 13.3 Charlotte $1,200,600 5.8 Sacramento $2,753,100 13.3 Chicago $1,035,000 5 Portland $2,049,300 9.9 Cleveland $1,116,144 5.392 Minnesota $2,038,950 9.85 Dallas $0 0 Brooklyn $1,825,740 8.82 Denver $958,410 4.63 New York $1,825,740 8.82 Detroit $879,750 4.25 Milwaukee $1,583,550 7.65 Golden State $2,753,100 13.3 Atlanta $1,242,000 6 Houston $0 0 New Orleans $1,242,000 6 Indiana $703,800 3.4 Charlotte $1,200,600 5.8 L.A. Clippers $2,753,100 13.3 Cleveland $1,116,144 5.392 L.A. Lakers $2,753,100 13.3 Boston $1,086,750 5.25 Memphis $0 *0 Oklahoma City $1,086,750 5.25 Miami $0 0 Chicago $1,035,000 5 Milwaukee $1,583,550 7.65 Utah $1,035,000 5 Minnesota $2,038,950 9.85 Denver $958,410 4.63 New Orleans $1,242,000 6 Phoenix $939,780 4.54 New York $1,825,740 8.82 Detroit $879,750 4.25 Oklahoma City $1,086,750 5.25 Indiana $703,800 3.4 Orlando $0 0 Philadelphia $635,490 3.07 Philadelphia $635,490 3.07 Dallas $0 0 Phoenix $939,780 4.54 Houston $0 0 Portland $2,049,300 9.9 Memphis $0 *0 Sacramento $2,753,100 13.3 Miami $0 0 San Antonio $0 0 Orlando $0 0 Utah $1,035,000 5 San Antonio $0 0

The obvious observation here is that James has saved himself quite a nice chunk of change by spending the last 4 years in South Beach as opposed to any of the 22 teams that reside in states which levy state income taxes.

Now on a statistically less conclusive path, is it a coincidence that the past 4 NBA championships have been won by teams that reside in states with no income tax? Maybe. Is it a coincidence that of the ten teams with the highest state income tax burden only the Lakers have won a championship since the 1977 Portland Trailblazers? I will let you decide.

Also, I know that Toronto was not included, but as the Canadian province of Ontario is not part of the greatest country on earth I hope you will understand why I omitted the Raptors.

After finding the state income tax hit James would take for all NBA teams, I wanted to go a little further again, so I went ahead and did the calculation for an imaginary world where all 50 states had an NBA team. Yes, I am aware that there will never be an NBA franchise in Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, etc., but let’s see what it would look like if joining the Alaska Quake was an option:

State Owed Taxes Tax Rate State Owed Taxes Tax Rate Alabama: $1,035,000 5 California: $2,753,100 13.3 Alaska: $0 0 Hawaii: $2,277,000 11 Arizona: $939,780 4.54 Oregon: $2,049,300 9.9 Arkansas: $1,449,000 7 Minnesota: $2,038,950 9.85 California: $2,753,100 13.3 Iowa: $1,858,860 8.98 Colorado: $958,410 4.63 New Jersey: $1,856,790 8.97 Connecticut: $1,386,900 6.7 Vermont: $1,852,650 8.95 Delaware: $1,366,200 6.6 New York: $1,825,740 8.82 Florida: $0 0 Maine: $1,645,650 7.95 Georgia: $1,242,000 6 Wisconsin: $1,583,550 7.65 Hawaii: $2,277,000 11 Idaho: $1,531,000 7.4 Idaho: $1,531,000 7.4 Arkansas: $1,449,000 7 Illinois: $1,035,000 5 South Carolina: $1,449,000 7 Indiana: $703,800 3.4 Montana: $1,428,300 6.9 Iowa: $1,858,860 8.98 Nebraska: $1,415,880 6.84 Kansas: $993,600 4.8 Connecticut: $1,386,900 6.7 Kentucky: $1,242,000 6 Delaware: $1,366,200 6.6 Louisiana: $1,242,000 6 West Virginia: $1,345,500 6.5 Maine: $1,645,650 7.95 Georgia: $1,242,000 6 Maryland: $1,190,250 5.75 Kentucky: $1,242,000 6 Massachusetts: $1,086,750 5.25 Louisiana: $1,242,000 6 Michigan: $879,750 4.25 Missouri: $1,242,000 6 Minnesota: $2,038,950 9.85 Rhode Island: $1,239,930 5.99 Mississippi: $1,035,000 5 North Carolina: $1,200,600 5.8 Missouri: $1,242,000 6 Maryland: $1,190,250 5.75 Montana: $1,428,300 6.9 Virginia: $1,190,250 5.75 Nebraska: $1,415,880 6.84 Ohio: $1,116,144 5.392 Nevada: $0 0 Massachusetts: $1,086,750 5.25 New Hampshire: $1,035,000 5 Oklahoma: $1,086,750 5.25 New Jersey: $1,856,790 8.97 Alabama: $1,035,000 5 New Mexico: $1,014,300 4.9 Illinois: $1,035,000 5 New York: $1,825,740 8.82 Mississippi: $1,035,000 5 North Carolina: $1,200,600 5.8 New Hampshire: $1,035,000 5 North Dakota: $666,540 3.22 Utah: $1,035,000 5 Ohio: $1,116,144 5.392 New Mexico: $1,014,300 4.9 Oklahoma: $1,086,750 5.25 Kansas: $993,600 4.8 Oregon: $2,049,300 9.9 Colorado: $958,410 4.63 Pennsylvania: $635,490 3.07 Arizona: $939,780 4.54 Rhode Island: $1,239,930 5.99 Michigan: $879,750 4.25 South Carolina: $1,449,000 7 Indiana: $703,800 3.4 South Dakota: $0 0 North Dakota: $666,540 3.22 Tennessee $0 *0 Pennsylvania: $635,490 3.07 Texas: $0 0 Alaska: $0 0 Utah: $1,035,000 5 Florida: $0 0 Vermont: $1,852,650 8.95 Nevada: $0 0 Virginia: $1,190,250 5.75 South Dakota: $0 0 Washington: $0 0 Tennessee $0 *0 West Virginia: $1,345,500 6.5 Texas: $0 0 Wisconsin: $1,583,550 7.65 Washington: $0 0 Wyoming: $0 0 Wyoming: $0 0

As interesting as the figures may be to look at and compare, there are not too many surprises. Income taxes are high in states such as California, Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York.

However, after looking at this chart I will tell you this, if I was a player for Sacramento back in May 2013 I would have done everything in my power to grease the wheels for that move to Seattle.

The latest report seems to be that James will be heading back home to Cleveland, although that seems to change by the minute from various “sources”, and these sources seem to be as reliable as the Obamacare website. The truth of the matter is that for someone whose net worth is estimated at nearly $270 million, taking the $1.1 million annual hit of income taxes may not matter a whole lot. With that being said  I must mention that signing with my hometown Pistons over the Cavaliers would annually save him $236,394 a year (I am just saying that could buy him one of these).

As I am writing this James could be making his decision  over Twitter, on Good Morning America, or at a UN Global Council Meeting, but will we ever know if taxes played a role? Probably not, but based on the statistics I think the main takeaway is that legislators in states such as Oregon, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin should really consider repealing or lowering (or at least make it flat!) their state income tax rates if they want to bring home some Larry O’Brien trophies in the future. California should be included on that list as well, but I guess that makes the success of the Lakers even that much more impressive.

While the factor of state income taxes may not matter as much to the true megastars such as James and Anthony, it very well could play a crucial role in the decision making process of lower level players with less money to work with.

So good luck to James wherever he ends up, but it will still be hard for me to understand how he could pass up the chance to save $1.1 million a year in taxes if he chooses to leave Florida for Ohio.

 

*While James would not have to pay state income tax on his salary in Tennessee, he would on investments because of the state’s Hall Tax.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Dispersing Millennials

July 11, 2014, 9:38 AM

The very centers of urban cores in many major metropolitan areas are experiencing a resurgence of residential development, including new construction in volumes not seen for decades. There is a general impression, put forward by retro–urbanists and various press outlets that the urban core resurgence reflects a change in the living preferences of younger people – today’s Millennials – who they claim are rejecting the suburban and exurban residential choices of their parents and grandparents.

There is no question that the millennial population has risen in urban cores in recent years. Yet the growth in the younger population in urban cores masks far larger increases in the same population group in other parts of major metropolitan areas and in the nation in general.

Functional Analysis of Metropolitan Areas

This article continues a series examining the 52 major metropolitan areas (those with more than 1,000,000 residents) using the City Sector Model, which allows a more representative functional analysis of urban core, suburban, and exurban areas, by using smaller areas, rather than using municipal boundaries. The City Sector Model thus eliminates the over-statement of urban core data that occurs in conventional analyses, which rely on historical core municipalities, most of which encompass considerable suburbanization.

The City Sector Model classifies 9,000 major metropolitan area zip code tabulation areas using urban form, density, and travel behavior characteristics. There are four functional classifications: the urban core, earlier suburban areas, later suburban areas, and exurban areas. The urban cores have higher densities, older housing and substantially greater reliance on transit, similar to the urban cores that preceded the great automobile oriented post-World War Two suburbanization. Exurban areas are beyond the built up urban areas. The suburban areas constitute the balance of the major metropolitan areas. Earlier suburbs include areas with a median house construction date before 1980. Later suburban areas have later median house construction dates.

20-29s and the Urban Core

The age band best approximating millennials for the period of 2000 to 2010 is people of from 20 to 29 years of age.

Between 2000 and 2010, the total population of 20-29′s living in the functional urban cores increased by 300,000, from 4.3 million to 4.6 million from 2000 to 2010. Yet, the share of 20-29s living in the urban cores actually declined over the decade.

In 2000, 20.2 percent of the major metropolitan area 20- to 29-year-old population was in the urban core. By 2010, it had dropped to 19.3 percent, a 4.4 percent share reduction. This happened because the 300,000 increase in 20-29s in the urban core was dwarfed by the overall 2.6 million increase in the same age group throughout the major metropolitan areas. As a result, only 12 percent of the 20-29 population growth was in the urban core, 40 percent below its 2000 share.

While 80 percent of the 20-29s lived outside the urban cores in 2000, 88 percent of the 20-29 population growth was outside the urban core between 2000 and 2010 (Figure 1). Overall, the suburban and exurban millennial population grew nearly 8 times than in the urban core.

The 20-29s and the Balance of Major Metropolitan Areas

The trend among the 20-29s also tended away from the areas adjacent to the urban cores. These tend to be   earlier suburban areas (generally with median house construction dates before 1980). Between 2000 and 2010, the share of 20-29s living in the earlier suburbs fell from 46.1 percent to 42.0 percent. This was double the urban core loss noted above (4.4 percent), at 8.9 percent.

At the same time, millennials, long said to hate suburbs, have embraced dispersion. The more recently built suburban areas saw their share of 20-29s rise from 20.6 percent to 24.4, an 18 percent gain. A smaller gain was registered in exurban areas, where the share of 20-29s rose from 13.2 percent to 14.3 percent; an 8 percent share gains (Figure 2).

The net effect from 2000 and 2010: a full five percent more of all 20-29s in major metropolitan areas lived in the later suburban and exurban areas, while 5 percent fewer lived in the urban cores and earlier suburbs. The later suburbs and exurbs added 1,500,000 more 20-29s than the urban core and earlier suburbs.

Millennials and the Nation

The numbers of 20-29s continued to increase in the rest of the nation’s small towns and cities, as well as rural areas. In 2000, approximately 44.6 percent of the 20-29 population lived outside the major metropolitan areas. In the next decade, these areas added 20-29s at a lower rate (40.9 percent of the increase), yet this was enough to keep the share of 20-29s at 44.2 percent. In 2010, more than four times as many 20-29s lived outside the major metropolitan areas as lived in the urban cores. Between 2000 and 2010, the growth in 20-29′s living outside the major metropolitan areas was almost six times the growth in the urban cores (Figure 3).

Overall, only 7 percent of the growth in the 20-29 age group was in the functional urban cores between 2000 and 2010. That left 93 percent of the growth to be outside the urban core (Figure 4).

Consistency with Other Research

The trend among the 20-29s in the urban core may seem surprising. However, it is consistent with an analysis of 2000-2010 data by the US Census Bureau, which indicated that the population gains within two miles of the city halls of the largest cities were more than offset by losses in the ring between two and five miles from City Hall. While the gains in the course of the urban cores are impressive, they are much smaller when considered in the context of the entire urban core and even smaller in the context of the entire metropolitan area.

More recent data suggests the dispersion of Millennials is continuing. According to Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Trulia.com Millennials located in larger numbers in suburban areas  than in the urban cores between 2012 and 2013 (more recent data for the city sector analysis is not yet available)

Dispersing, But Not Quite as Quickly

Essentially what we see here is myopic prejudices of contemporary journalism. More than 300,000 new 20-29 residents in the urban cores was more than enough to be noticed by analysts and reporters, since that’s where many of them spend much of their time. Moreover, the share of 20-29s living in urban cores dropped less than one-half the rate for all ages in the urban core.

Simply put, despite the conventional wisdom, 20-29s are not abandoning the suburbs and exurbs for the urban core. The data indicates that the 20-29s have been more inclined to choose the urban core than other age groups, but not enough to prevent their overwhelming numbers living in suburban and exurban communities. Nor has this inclination been sufficient to counter the continuing relative decline in the urban core among the 20-29s.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Building a Libertarian Paradise

July 11, 2014, 9:00 AM

Prominent libertarians have been making the news with various proposals to build libertarian paradises free of government control. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has perhaps been the most vocal, with his support for building floating free cities in international waters well known. While such grand visions may be possible to achieve, they are still a ways off from fruition. If you are looking for a libertarian refuge in the here-and-now, however, there is a place for you to go: New Hampshire.

The Free State Project (FSP) is busily seeking to transform New Hampshire, already a very individualistic state, into a full-on libertarian society. The aim of the FSP is to encourage the immigration of libertarians from other states into New Hampshire in order to develop a critical-mass of voters that can mandate the permanent roll-back of government power over citizens’ lives. The project’s goal is to create a society in which the state is at its most minimalistic: its sole function will be the maintenance of people’s lives, liberty, and property.

The FSP has seen some success. More than 1,000 people have already moved to New Hampshire, and nearly 16,000 more have pledged to eventually do so. There are currently 11 members of the FSP in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. The organization has succeeded in making major inroads into the New Hampshire social and political scene. The dream of the FSP to completely transform the state in a libertarian image is far from realized, though its leaders are optimistic for the future.

All is not entirely well with the project, however. New Hampshire is a state whose citizens have a clear and proud identity not only as individuals, but also as New Hampshirites. As with much of New England, the people of New Hampshire do not take too kindly to carpet-baggers coming in from out of the state to tell them what to do. The reasoning for concentrating like-minded people in order to further libertarian aims may be sound, but the very independent streak on which the Free State Project relies generates the risk of a backlash from the broader populace the greater the larger and more vocal the FSP becomes.

If there is a perception that FSP supporters, particularly those who are not natives of the state, are trying to force massive changes on the people of New Hampshire, even if they are changes in keeping with a large segment of the population’s philosophy, then there will be a very negative response.

If the FSP hopes to succeed it needs to be more than an aggressive libertarian movement. It has to adopt New Hampshire’s cultural and historical legacy, or at least acknowledge and respect it. It has to treat New Hampshire and its people like a true polity, and not just a useful means to an end. If they can do that, perhaps New England will be the cradle of individual liberty once again.

Categories: On the Blog

Correcting the Bloomberg Piece on Heartland’s Climate Conference

July 11, 2014, 2:34 AM

Correcting errors in prominent media reports about Heartland’s just-concluded Ninth International Conference on Climate Change is turning out to be an exhausting job. I did it earlier for Slate’s Will Oremus, and now it’s Abe Streep’s turn over at Bloomberg.

Abe,

An interesting take on our conference. Some errors require correction, however.

1. Pat Garafalo is a state representative in Minnesota. That is, he serves in the Minnesota House of Representatives in St. Paul, not in Congress in Washington. You chatted him up at a two-hour dinner and still made that mistake? Good grief!

2. You wrote: “Called the ICCC for short, the acronym is an intentional echo of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body that has published the most comprehensive studies of global warming. The ICCC, not IPCC, conference has been held in New York, Munich, and Chicago.”

I don’t believe that was intentional, but it could be. I’ve never asked Joe. But you have no possible way of knowing that it was “intentional” — because you didn’t ask me, nor can you read Joe’s mind — so how is that statement true?

Also: We’ve held our conferences in New York, Chicago, Washington, Munich, and Sydney.

3. You wrote: “Bast seemed to be trying to adjust to this shift in his speech, arguing that Heartland does not promote denial of a changing climate, but rather skepticism of the scientific consensus that anthropogenic (man-made) global warming is a grave threat to the planet.”

I’m assuming that you are operating on the constant lie by Heartland’s ideological enemies that we “deny climate change.” Heartland and the scientists it works with have never promoted “denial of a changing climate.” The climate is always changing. The question is whether man’s contribution to climate change rises above statistical noise and whether it is a crisis. So, since Heartland has never denied climate change, what Joe said is not really an adjustment. That’s been a consistent theme throughout now nine conferences on climate change.

4. You wrote that Joe Bastardi “touched the hem of full-blown denial.”

Bastardi did not deny that the climate changes. Watch it again. (He starts at about the 30-minute mark.)

5. You wrote about Peter Gleick.

Peter Gleick admitted to stealing our internal documents by pretending to be a member of Heartland’s board of directors via email. Something he sent to leftist websites to attack us was called a “climate strategy document,” which is a leftist fantasy about how Heartland operates. hat is the forgeddocument, and it’s obvious. Get caught up on all this at Fakegate.org.

6. You wrote of our event at the National Press Club in April to release the latest in the Climate Change Reconsidered series: “Turnout was minimal, the event cut short when multiple reporters asked why much of the science cited within came from the 1970s.”

I don’t recall seeing you there, so by what do you base that characterization? We actually had two consecutive press conferences in that room because of confusion about when the press release said it started. We were available to reporters for two hours. Joe answered questions about the dates of the citations from partisan reporters from the Guardian and a lefty website. We did not “cut it short” because of those questions. Again, how would you know? You weren’t there. Why don’t you share your source for that — if not with me with your readers?

7. You wrote: “Heartland’s strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck.”

We don’t strategize with the scientists and policy experts who present. If there is any unified perspective of the skeptic scientists it’s that various natural factors are the main drivers of climate change. So it is really a surprise that scientists from varied disciplines are going to talk about/advocate for their own discipline as being a main driver?

We’re likely to have another conference next year. Maybe you’ll have a better understanding of what is going on the second time.

Best,

Jim

UPDATE, July 11: Abe replied today.

Garofalo’s title has been corrected. We regret that one. I’m sorry if you dispute other characterizations in the story, but we stand by it. 

Categories: On the Blog

Informing a Slate Reporter About Heartland’s Climate Skeptic Conference

July 10, 2014, 6:30 PM

Slate reporter Will Oremus reached out to me on Tuesday afternoon seeking comment about Heartland’s climate conference in Las Vegas this week. We talked for about 20 minutes and I tried to fill in what he might have missed while he watched the conference from home.

Oremus was cordial enough — as was I — but the information I tried to impart didn’t take in his story for Slate.

Below is the email I sent Ormeus to correct the record:

Will,

After wrapping up The Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change, I saw your piece in Slate titled “The Climate Optimists.” That term has a good ring to it, and is a pretty accurate description of the views expressed at the world’s leading conference of scientific “skeptics” of man-caused global warming. Considering all the doom and gloom the media has reported about the climate over the last couple of decades, the optimistic and data-based truth needs quite a bit more play in the media.

As I explained over the phone to you, the term “denier” is a calumny the eco-left has long employed to equate skepticism of catastrophic man-caused global warming with Holocaust denial. It is shameful, and I’m disappointed to see you employed that slur in your story. Nonetheless, I appreciate your efforts to write a story about Heartland’s latest climate conference remotely by watching some of the live feed.

You would have served yourself and Slate’s readers better, however, if you had come to Las Vegas in person. Your understanding of the data and viewpoints of the speakers and scientists would have been greatly enhanced by a chance to talk to them on the side between sessions, as other journalists did. Since you were not able to do that, let me correct some errors, and fill in some of the facts and context your story lacked.

For starters, a lot more than “several” of the speakers at the conference were scientists. Twenty-eight of the 61 presenters have earned PH.Ds, while others have masters degrees. Also, you note that many of the scientists who presented aren’t “climate scientists.” But what is a “climate scientist”?

Bob Carter, Ph.D., is a paleogeologist. His expertise allows him to closely examine the historical climate record. Is understanding that climatic history irrelevant to examining what’s been happening since the Industrial Revolution? Of course not. So he is a “climate scientist.”

Willie Soon, Ph.D., specializes in solar activity. Indeed, he is among the world’s leading scientists in that field. Sebastian Lüning, Ph.D., is a geologist who has also been keenly focused on how the sun affects the climate and is a leader in this field. Is solar activity irrelevant to the earth’s climate? Of course not. So they are “climate scientists.”

Jennifer Marohasy, Ph.D., specializes in analyzing and interpreting historical rainfall data. Is an examination of precipitation patterns over a long period of time irrelevant to the earth’s climate? Of course not. So she is also a “climate scientist.”

I could do that all day with only the 28 Ph.D.s who presented at our conference. As I explained in our phone interview, gaining the full picture of what is happening to our climate requires bringing together experts in various disciplines to share their data and analysis. Any single person who claims to be strictly a “climate scientist” — and suggests he has definitive authority — is merely preening for the sake of PR. Understanding the climate is a team effort, as the scientists who presented at The Heartland Institute’s latest conference would attest.

You write: “Still, the Heartland crowd is careful to frame its arguments in terms of science and skepticism rather than dogma.”

The “Heartland crowd” was not being “careful” about that. It just happens — because the scientists who speak at our conferences actually do frame their arguments in terms of science. You really should have come to or watched more of the conference, which you can still do here by clicking on the links below the “live feed.”

You write: The nearly 18-years of no global warming “has been a godsend for those looking for holes in the prevailing models of catastrophic future warming.”

Another way to write that sentence would be:

“The lack of global warming for almost 18 years pokes holes in the prevailing models of catastrophic future warming.”

The models the IPCC and alarmists rely upon to make policy have been wrong for decades. (See Dr. Roy Spencer’s presentation at our conference here.) If they couldn’t accurately predict what’s happened for the last 30 years, why should we trust them to be right in predicting the next 100 years? You should have a little more healthy skepticism about that, and be asking the alarmists why their models have failed so spectacularly.

You write: “Many are still focused on disputing the basic link between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures. As I watched the conference, it became clear that some have little trouble flipping between the two viewpoints.”

As I explained to you over the phone, unlike the alarmists — who all sing in perfect harmony about man-caused climate calamity from the group-think hymnal — the scientists who speak at our conferences don’t all agree on everything. That’s the nature of bringing together scientists who study the climate from diverse disciplines. That’s healthy for science, as well as the goal of advancing greater public understanding of what is actually happening to the climate.

Also, there is no “basic link” between CO2 levels and global temperatures. As I mentioned to you on the phone, global human-caused CO2 emissions have increased over the last 17 years and 10 months, but global temperatures have not risen along with it. Yet 95 percent of the UN IPCC’s climate models said temperatures would. Doesn’t that tend to disprove the “basic link”?

As Patrick Moore showed in his presentation at the conference — and others did in their turns at bat — the long-term historical record shows no causal connection between CO2 and global temperature. Correlation is not causation, and there isn’t even a strong correlation — as we’ve seen for the last 17 years and 10 months.

You write: “That doesn’t mean, of course, that the evidence on both sides is equal. There’s a reason the climate deniers are losing the scientific debate, and it isn’t because academia is better funded than the energy industry.”

This is a non sequitur that presumes the climate realist side is swimming in “energy industry” money. As I told you on the phone, Heartland’s conference was not funded by the energy industry, and no skeptic scientist is getting rich. To the contrary, many of the scientists at our conferences suffer professionally because they do not toe the alarmist line, but instead concentrate on the data that contradicts the alarmist, always-wrong computer models. That level of basic scientific and personal integrity has cost the skeptic scientists plenty. There’s an excellent story for you in that fact, shared often during the conference.

You single out Patrick Michaels, and dismiss him as receiving “fossil-fuel industry” money. Dr. Michaels was past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. He was a professor at the University of Virginia for 30 years. His credentials are impeccable. Michaels’ presentation this year focused on how science has been corrupted because anyone who dares to apply the scientific method to the alarmist conclusions is blackballed from science journals — and also doesn’t receive university support or grants. You really ought to watch Michaels’ presentation. There’s another story just in that.

Academia is better funded than the “energy industry” in the only aspect that matters: funding to support climate research. The federal grants flow only to university professors who will toe the alarmist line. Exxon, which stopped donating to Heartland in 2006 (two years before our first climate conference) donates generously to green groups. Chesapeake Energy has donated (as of 2012) $26 million to the Sierra Club. There are scores more examples of the “fossil fuel industry” supporting alarmists and green groups a whole lot more than any skeptic scientist.

One last thing on the idea that the skeptics are “losing the scientific debate.” A Rasmussen poll released July 9, the last day of Heartland’s conference, showed that only 20 percent of Americans “think the global warming debate is over.” Sixty-three percent said “the debate about global warming is not over” and another 17 percent is “not sure.” That means this: Decades of media and academic alarmist indocrination have left only 20 percent of Americans agreeing with Al Gore, various climate alarmist groups, Hollywood, and the mainstream media’s insistence that “the debate is over” about the hypothesis that human activity is causing a climate crisis.

The Heartland Institute is proud to have played any part in that poll result. For what it’s worth, a Gallup poll from January showed that 23 percent of Americans identify themselves as “liberal.” Most liberals believe in man-caused global warming and have little interest in hearing the other side of the scientific argument. While I’m not a fan of correlation studies, the data match is interesting and something to explore.

You write: “Touting the recent slowdown in global average surface temperatures, for example, implies that such temperatures do in fact tell us a lot about the health of the climate. That will become an awkward stance in a hurry if the temperatures soon resume their climb.”

Again, isn’t the “recent slowdown in global average temperature” a much more troubling problem for the alarmists? None of them predicted it. But for them, the rising temperatures from about 1950 forward in the 20th Century was “proof” that AGW is a “fact” — a huge problem that requires massive, government-directed reorganization of the energy economy. As Patrick Moore and others pointed out at our conference, we’re actually not all that warm today from a long-term (epochal) perspective. And even if you want to shrink that perspective down to the dawn of human history, the earth has still often been significantly warmer in the past than it is today. Those periods of warming, by the way, have been beneficial to humans, plants, and animals.

Indeed, many of the scientists at our conference agree with what Patrick Moore stated in his plenary address: Living things on Earth would benefit from even more CO2 in the atmosphere, not less. You surely think that is a radical statement, but the science backs it up. Again, watch Moore’s presentation.

Finally, “extreme weather events” are not on the rise. Category 3 hurricanes striking the US are at an all-time low since record-keeping began — which means tomorrow and the next day set a new record for major hurricanes not hitting the US. Tornadoes, especially the number of strong ones, are significantly fewer these days than the most recent 20th century peak in the 1970s. And Joe Bastardi was right: Wildfires have burned up less acreage of land in 2013 than in many years past.

That is all directly opposite of what climate alarmists predicted. Maybe you should ask them some questions.

Best,

Jim

Categories: On the Blog

ICCC Panel 8 – Costs and Benefits of Renewable Energy

July 10, 2014, 1:36 PM

Panel 8 of the 9th International Conference on Climate Change was on the subject of “Costs and Benefits of Renewable Energy.” The panel was focused on the subject of renewable energy, specifically the high cost and potentially devastating economic consequences produced by the federal government’s efforts to replace the current energy sources with renewables.

The featured speakers in this panel were Dr. Howard Hayden, Steve Goreham, and Marita Noon. These three panelists argued that the consequences of the renewable energy regime in America, and in Europe, will have ruinous effects on the economy and people’s lives.

In his talk, Dr. Hayden discusses the relative market share of various energy sources. He points out that renewables as a whole still account for just 13% of electricity generation in the United States. Breaking that percentage down into its constituent parts, hydroelectric power makes up 62%, wind power 23%, and solar a measly 0.35%.

Hayden spends some time articulating the many issues with wind power. He calls it a “capricious” energy source, one that operates only about 35% of the time, and has consistent problems with maintaining power-grid stability.

Hayden also has time to bash biofuels, which he points out are a complete waste of time. He deftly points out that even if all of the arable land in the United States was used to produce biofuels, it would still be insufficient to meet the energy needs of Americans.

The fact is the renewable energy industry has consistently failed to live up to the hype promoted by the political left. Hayden says, “The wind, solar, biofuel, and geothermal industries are not fledgling industries,” and it is time to stop treating them like they are. It is not hard to come to the conclusion that it is time for governments to stop propping these industries up with vast subsidies and let them stand or fall on their own.

Steve Goreham furthers Hayden’s case by highlighting the various economic madnesses produced by energy regulators around the world. In Denmark, 5,000 wind towers, that’s one for every 1,000 citizens, dot the landscape producing the energy of just one conventional power plant. Danes pay for the privilege of all this wind power by having some of the highest energy prices in the developed world (three times that of America).

In Germany, coal has been experiencing a resurgence thanks to the subsidies and privileges of the solar and wind industries having driven gas plants out of business. In the United Kingdom, coal-burning plants have been converted at enormous cost to burn less efficient wood because the country’s environmental regulators do not measure carbon dioxide output of wood burning.

Goreham also takes time to discuss the pressures on the American power-grid, and how they are being made worse by the promotion of renewable energy. The past winter pushed the nation’s grid to the limit, and needed 89% of all extant coal plants just to prevent blackouts. Yet these plants face closure thanks to dangerously ruinous regulations put out by the Obama administration. Nuclear plants also face closure thanks to new regulations expunging profits. These policies are pure folly.

Marita Noon’s presentation looks at renewable energy by following the money. She describes the mind-boggling use of money from the 2009 stimulus package to green energy projects. In all, the stimulus provided just shy of $100 billion on renewable energy projects. Noon’s research has found personal or financial connections between 90% of all the projects receiving this funding and senior Democratic Party figures. And since 2009, more than 50 of those projects have failed or are on their last legs.

Renewable energy projects have devoured taxpayer money for years with virtually no return on the investment. It is about time that governments cut their losses.

Categories: On the Blog

The Vicious Cycle: Government Warps Markets Until Government Stops Warping Markets

July 10, 2014, 12:17 PM

The pernicious effect of government warping markets is absolute – and the evidence is obvious and everywhere.

When 300+ million Americans (and when 8+ billion worldwide are able to) make their own decisions, markets constantly morph to accommodate those decisions – and the maximum amount of success and happiness is achieved.

When government sticks its prodigious proboscis into the private sector, things quickly go sideways and upside down.  When government makes decisions for us – the market is mutated into a grossly less efficient government-accomodation model.  The examples are myriad.

Green energy – which is neither green nor energy – is a fabulously terrible one.  “Sustainable” energy isn’t sustainable unless and until it no longer requires government rafts of cash and policy favoritism to stay afloat. It must – all on its own – produce energy at least as prodigiously and cheaply as traditional sources.  You know, the actually sustainable ones.

Government-propped-up ethanol has been a decades-long disaster.

Ethanol Uses More Energy Than It Makes

EPA Acknowledges Ethanol Damages Engines

Government pouring its money and favors on something makes it less agile, athletic and quick to adapt – that something gets quite comfortable in the Leviathan-provided hammock.

The American Ethanol Industry Needs to Innovate to Avoid Disaster

This was written forty-plus years into the ethanol experiment.  Ummm…way too late – that SS Disasterhas long since sailed.

When the government acts, it doesn’t do so in a vacuum – actions always have reactions.  And when the actions are government-level bad – so too are the reactions.

75,000 Protest Tortilla Prices in Mexico

Water Shortages Leading Right Back to Ethanol

Ethanol Fuel Faulted as ‘Unsustainable Subsidized Food Burning’

And government action crowds out private sector action.  What company wants to get into a shoving match with the Leviathan?

Company Stayed Fit by Reducing Sugar

The world’s biggest sugar producer has lost its appetite for sugar.

Cosan, which controls top producer Raizen Energia in a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell, is cutting investments in sugar cane amid a global glut of the sweetener and Brazilian government policies that hold down the price of ethanol, Chief Financial Officer Marcelo Martins said….

“Reinvestment in the sector will be made only if returns become satisfactory, and we don’t see it happening now,” Martins said at Bloomberg’s office in Sao Paulo….

Government-induced over-production and under-pricing making the market…unsustainable.  When there’s been this much government for this long – even the biggest private companies bail.

Unintended government consequences.  The Leviathan crowding out the private sector.  Anyone still surprised by any of this is willfully ignorant – or has been really, really sleepy the past century-plus.

Originally published at RedState.

Categories: On the Blog

The Sky Fell last month, but almost nobody noticed.

July 10, 2014, 11:35 AM

The sky fell on Hawaii last month, all because carbon dioxide levels peeped above the much-hyped 400 ppm hurdle. Chicken Littles all over the world squawked into their friendly media megaphones about numerous imminent global warming disasters. One warned: “the fate of the world hangs in the balance.” (Similar alarms were rung when the 350 ppm level was passed).

But nobody else noticed anything scary.

Four pieces of well-established evidence say that 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not a concern.

Firstly, there has been no increase in global temperatures since 1998 despite 16 years of rising carbon dioxide levels and heavy usage of carbon fuels. Clearly, CO2 is not the main driver of global temperatures.

Secondly, the ice core records show clearly, with no exceptions, that all recent ice ages have commenced when the atmosphere contained relatively high levels of carbon dioxide. The temperature fell first, and then carbon dioxide levels fell. This proves that high carbon dioxide levels do not guarantee a warm globe, but could suggest that they may be a harbinger of a coming ice age. Ice will cause far more damage to the biosphere than the even the worst warming forecast.

Thirdly, current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are not extreme or unusual. Carbon dioxide reached 2,000 ppm in the luxuriant era of the dinosaurs, and ten times current levels (4,000 ppm) when the great Devonian coral reefs were flourishing. There is no tipping point into runaway global warming, or we would have tipped eons ago.

Finally, current carbon dioxide levels are just above starvation levels for plants. All vegetation would grow stronger, faster, and be more drought resistant and heat resistant if carbon dioxide levels trebled to 1,200 ppm. Such levels are no threat to humans – US submarines operate at up to 8,000 ppm for cruises of 90 days. Topping 400 ppm should be a cause for celebration – it shows that Earth is emerging from the cold hungry years of the ice ages.

Climate Cassandras have blown false trumpets once again.

Categories: On the Blog

The Pied Piper of Permisos

July 10, 2014, 11:33 AM

It’s beginning to sink in with the intelligentsia: The flood of illegal aliens (yes, I said “illegal”) and particularly the tsunami of children traveling alone — parents risking their youngsters’ lives by sending them from Central America through gang-ravaged Mexico — threatens to turn the immigration debate into a major political liability for Democrats in November.

While immigration is typically low on the list of issues Americans care most about, it was to be a trump card for the left in turning out otherwise apathetic or demoralized Hispanic and liberal voters four months from now. But, as seems to be the result of almost every Obama administration policy, reality is blowing up the best laid plans of the DNC.

As liberals are wont to do, their responses to the collapse of their one potentially winning issue fall into two main categories: demonizing critics of the president and others who are troubled by current events along our southern border and trying to change both the direction and actual words of the conversation about the problem. The latter is a particular sign of desperation.

Murrieta, California, a city of just over 100,000 people in Riverside County, was the site last week of protesters waving American flags and blocking buses transportingillegal aliens who had been apprehended illegally crossing the border into Texas. They were being moved to California because of overcrowding of Texas holding facilities. Not least due to health concerns, residents of Murrieta wanted no part of it.

In the last six months, over 52,000 mostly Central American children have been caught at the border. The estimated cost of taking care of them is $252 per child per day, with a total cost to American taxpayers of over $2 billion expected for 2014.

CNN’s Candy “I’m here for you, Barack” Crowley interviewed Murrieta mayor Alan Long on Sunday using language that should be journalistically disqualifying: “As you look at these protests, the overwhelming concern did not seem to be ‘Oh my goodness, the poor children.’ The overwhelming concern seemed to be ‘Go away. Not here.’”

The problem with Ms. Crowley’s attempt to reframe the question as a purely humanitarian one is twofold: First, there are real costs to American taxpayers and burdens on our law enforcement system that may be allowing criminal elements to “flood the zone” and infiltrate violent lawbreakers into the U.S. while Border Patrol agents are busy playing babysitter.

Second, Crowley’s approach is nearly identical to the mindset behind President Obama’s 2012 implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy which all but invited the current flood of children into the country; the moral hazard cannot be overstated, even by those (like me) who support increased legal immigration into the United States.

The macro impacts of making the conversation about “the poor children” would be, first, to redouble the number of Central American parents willing to risk their children’s lives (albeit in the hope of bettering those lives) to get them across our border and, second — and this was the goal all along — eventually to create many more Democratic voters. Republicans, even those who favor reform, shouldn’t take the “it’s for the children” bait, and they’re not.

Candy continued: “Are you at all rethinking the idea that a town can turn away busloads of children without documents who are heading to a federal processing center?” Again, to the Obama protectors the children — for whom we should all have real sympathy — are little more than a moral and charitable obligation of Americans.

But they are simply not that. They are a cost, a burden, a risk, and fundamentally the responsibility of their parents, not of Americans. And they are, like it or not, because they are “without documents” which are required to enter the United States, illegal aliens.

But, argues leftist commentator Sally Kohn, you can’t use the “i-word” because doing so is as un-American as using the “n-word” for blacks or the (other) “f-word” for gay men. According to Kohn, “That those terms seem radically inappropriate and out of step with mainstream culture now is only because social movements and legal and political changes have shifted the landscape.” It’s hard to disagree with her on the use of terms that have no purpose or meaning other than to insult, degrade, and diminish blacks, gays, Jews, or any other group.

But “illegal,” contrary to Ms. Kohn’s overwrought assertions, is not in the same category as “n**ger.” It is a statement of fact about the status of the person, one designed to clarify or amplify the alien’s status under the law rather than to cast the person as inferior. No doubt some people use the term “illegal alien” with derision. No doubt some people who object to their presence within our borders do so out of xenophobia or what is frequently called “racism” (even though most Hispanics are Caucasians).

But not most of us. And that’s why their arguments are failing.

Americans are not buying what the left is selling, the myth that many or most of those who recognize illegal aliens as illegal aliens do so out of malice. Rather, even for those (again, like me) who support immigration reform that increases legal immigration into the United States, the recognition of the magnetic power of an implicitly open border — and the relative sophistication of those who game loopholes in our laws (since children from Central America are treated differently from adults and differently from Mexican children) — makes absolutely plain what most Democrats don’t want to admit: controlling the border is a necessary first step in any conceivable immigration reform.

An added liberal non-admission: President Obama has yet another massive policy failure on his hands.

Crowley and Kohn are therefore desperate to change the conversation with the latter asking, “Even if you don’t support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, can’t you find some compassion for them as human beings who live on the same planet?” Sure I can, Sally, but that’s well down the list of priorities when it comes to making sound public policy.

But then sound public policy is not the left’s goal. Increasing the size of government and the number of Democratic voters is.

And therefore, liberal partisans and pundits must attempt to make the conversation about us, about “incredibly offensive” Americans using the “i-word” to describe people here illegally, about “nativists” whose only goal is to “dehumanize” people whose first language isn’t English and who have better tans than I do.

But it just isn’t working.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday says that 46 percent of Americans believe that the Obama administration’s policies have “prompted the flood of illegal immigrant children at the border, and most want them sent back home right away.” Thirty-one percent disagree. Even prior to the news of this flood across the border, more than half of Americans believed that “the government is not aggressive enough in deporting illegal immigrants”; only 14 percent think Obama has been too aggressive.

“Immigrant rights” groups — which is to say organizations aiming at fleecing taxpayers while eroding the rule of law — frequently complain that the Obama administration has been too aggressive in its deportation policies. And the administration is trying desperately to have it both ways, to portray itself as both pro-immigration and strong on enforcement.

However, like all “data” from this government, claims of diligent enforcement of immigration law is somewhere between misleading and untruthful: studies of government data show large declines in deportations in recent years. Furthermore certain removals are now being classified as deportations even though they would not have been reported as deportations in prior years — thus goosing Obama’s credibility of being strong on border security. (Why the administration would either want or expect to have credibility given their political goals and allies remains unclear.)

The willingness to lie about everything from a Syrian red line to what counts as “enrolled” in Obamacare to every aspect of the immigration debate explains why Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) amusingly ruffled the feathers of David Gregory, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, by saying the show’s tag line should be, “If it’s Sunday, it’s another administration official making stuff up on Meet the Press.”

While support for immigration has been trending higher during the Obama presidency and while Americans still believe by roughly a 2-to-1 margin that immigration “on the whole is a good thing for this country,” the support fordecreasing immigration levels into the U.S. has increased substantially in just the last four months; current events on the border will only exacerbate that trend.

When it comes to immigration (and presumably everything else Obama has failed at), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is “really getting fed up with some of the critics of this administration, particularly from House Republicans.” But the Senate’s “comprehensive” immigration reform bill is fundamentally flawed; both because of the policy and the politics, House Republicans are right to ignore it and insist on one-step-at-a-time reform. They are also obviously correct to mistrust President Obama’s commitment to enforce any duly passed law. Given Obama’s consistentlawlessness, a view that “I just don’t trust him to secure the border” is entirely reasonable. Mix in Texas Governor Rick Perry’s unrebutted suggestion that President Obama doesn’t “particularly care” whether the border is secure, and add a dash of thin-skinned Obama’s “so sue me” and you have the makings of a bitter political stew for Democrats.

Liberals were hoping to belittle the view of the president as unreliable and use Republican “obstructionism” on immigration reform to gin up their base in November’s elections. It was already a heavy lift given how disappointing this president has been (even to many liberals) and because immigration consistently polls near the bottom of any list of issues when voters are asked about the most important problems facing the country. Still, the left was hoping to raise the significance of immigration policy in voters’ minds — and some pro-reform Republicans shared that hope though for different reasons.

To the extent that immigration is now more “front of mind” than in recent memory — thanks to images of busloads of illegal immigrant children traveling without their parents — it can only hurt Democrats election hopes in November along with the chances for any policy reform no matter how modest, at least while this man remains president.

No amount of trying to change the language, trying to demonize critics of Barack Obama or those who accurately use the term “illegal” to describe people crossing our border illegally, will help Democrats heading into November’s critical elections. And while liberal talking heads do their best to obfuscate the utter failure of yet another Obama policy, some Democratic politicians are speaking the truth.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) speaking to the very same Candy Crowley moments after her shameful performance with the mayor of Murrieta said, “With all due respect to the administration, they’re one step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago.… There is an incentive [to send a child here].”

Cuellar also voiced support for changing the 2008 human trafficking law that provides the loophole for Central American children who can make their way illegally into the United States. A Republican House member will propose such a bill in coming days. President Obama himself suggested such a change but the Los Angeles Times reports a senior Senate Democratic staffer as saying that Obama “can’t get it passed” because of Democratic opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will do everything possible to avoid putting vulnerable Senate Democrats in the position of having to cast that vote, not least because he wouldn’t want it to pass. It’s about time for the Democrats to form their own circular firing squad, typically the exclusive formation of the GOP.

And so, with the message becoming impossible even for Team Obama to ignore, the White House, turning the tables on Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’snon-answers on Sunday, announced on Monday that “most of these kids… will not have a legal basis for remaining in this country and will be returned.”

From a policy and moral hazard perspective, it’s a good start. However, the current situation in which Central American children are not immediately deported represents the unusual spectacle of the Obama administration actually following current law. Prejudging whether courts will in fact return “most of these kids” to their countries of origin is foolhardy and smacks of “unlawful command influence,” which has caused trouble for this big-mouth president in the past. The president is in a box of his own construction. Republicans have no interest in helping him out of it and the president’s own remarkable lack of comity with congressional members of his own party leaves him precious few allies, particularly going into an election in which many Democrats, if offered the chance to have President Obama campaign with them, are saying “thanks, but no thanks.”

From a political perspective, the Democrats’ hoped-for trump card of immigration is now being played against them — and against much-needed immigration reform more broadly — with great effect.

The cynical Barack Obama, facing the humanitarian and political crisis of thousands of hungry children for whom he has played the Pied Piper of Permisos, has no one to blame but himself.

 

[Originally published in the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog