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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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The Incompetent, Pathetically Slow Government Has Placed Itself Between You and the Economy

June 08, 2016, 10:37 AM

Behold “Mother May I?” government. Where the private sector can’t do a thing, make a move, invent or innovate – until after the incompetent, pathetically slow government finally gets around to granting permission to do so. If we’re lucky – more likely than not, they’ll say Nay.

This is why our economic growth has remained stifled and stunted. President Barack Obama will be the first chief executive in our nation’s history to never, ever have a year of even 3.0% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. (By contrast, Ronald Reagan – who inherited a far worse economy than did Obama – AVERAGED 3.5% GDP growth.)

The terrible laws passed by President Obama and his Democrat-majority Congress are bad enough. Obamacare has basically outlawed full-time employment. Dodd-Frank didn’t shrink too-big-too-fail banks – it suffocated and shut down thousands of the small banks we all say we want. Leaving us with just the banking monsters with which to deal.

Which is a lesson of too much government – the monster companies are the only ones who can afford it. It’s the little guys who get crushed under the Leviathan’s weight.

The American people found revolting these Democrat laws – and elected first a Republican House and then a Republican Senate to stop them. Did that cause President Obama even to pause? Of course not. His instead became the Unilateral Fiat Administration.

Blocked by the American people (via the Congress we elected), President Obama’s Executive Branch turned to executing sweeping power grabs – unprecedented in both size and number (20,642 – so far). While their awful laws are killing the likes of the health care and banking sectors, regulations are killing industries like coal.

Compliance with just federal regulations – just last year – cost us $1.9 trillion. And regulations are pernicious in ways laws aren’t. We have the Constitution-protected“right…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Which is much easier to do with an elected Congress. We are all-but-powerless when unelected bureaucrats impersonate Congress – and write laws disguised as regulations.

To wit: The Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Commission’s three unelected Democrat bureaucrats executed a huge power grab – so as to execute myriad subsequent ones.

The HUGE grab was the FCC unilaterally rewriting the law determining how the Internet is regulated. Gone was the light-touch regulatory approach emplaced by Congress via its 1996 Telecommunications Act. You know, the one that allowed the Internet to grow faster than nigh anything in human history. To in two decades go from next-to-nothing – to the free speech-free market Xanadu at which we marvel daily.

The Internet was anything but broken. Obama’s FCC insisted on “fixing” it. By imposing 1934 landline telephone laws and regulations – written a half century before anyone knew what an Internet was. The FCC executed this authoritarian, bizarre, time-warp grab – because the FCC has dramatically more regulatory (and taxing) authority over landline telephones than they do the Web. They did it – to unleash their avalanche of subsequent power grabs.

Behold: Network Neutrality. Which plops down the Leviathan between you and the Internet economy. The ever-expanding, constantly innovating Internet – now has to ask the government for permission before doing anything new or different. Which freezes the Web in amber – and will slowly grind perhaps the greatest economic machine in history to a lurching halt.

Behold: “Zero rating.” An Internet wrinkle – which really isn’t even new or different. “Zero rating” is Internet providing companies allowing you unlimited access to websites – without it counting against your data cap. This is the Web equivalent of pre-paid postage and toll-free phone numbers – nothing new or different.

But the anti-capitalism Left screeches that “zero rating” is <gasp> a Net Neutrality violation. (Yet another example of these Leftist “consumer groups”being anti-consumer and pro-government.)

The FCC imposed Net Neutrality in February 2015. Yet in June 2016, we STILL are getting headlines like this:

‘Zero Rating’ is the Wild Card in the FCC’s New Net Neutrality

Is Zero Rating a Net Neutrality Issue?

Zero Rating Poses a Conundrum for Net Neutrality Advocates

Sixteen months into the Net Neutrality regime advocates spent a decade-plus saying was imminently, vitally important – and the government STILL hasn’t decided whether or not to grant us permission to engage in this mundane economic practice.

So the entire Internet economy waits, and waits, and stagnates, and…. In a holding pattern over LaGuardia while we wait for incompetent, pathetically slow government to get its act together and make a decision – on whether or not Internet providers can do what phone companies and snail mailers have done for decades.

In other words, Democrat FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s incessant mantra about “permission-less innovation” – were talking point lies along the lines of “If you like your health care plan – you can keep your health care plan.”

But when it comes to economy-killing, government-expanding power grabs – the ends justify any means necessary.

And they did it. We’re still stuck with the likes of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank – and Net Neutrality.

And the private sector sinks further beneath the regulatory waves.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Frac Sand Mining Contributing to Cleaner Air

June 08, 2016, 1:01 AM

The rapid development of frac sand mining in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and especially Wisconsin led many people living near mines and processing plants to become concerned about the potential negative impact these facilities could have on local air quality. One of the primary worries some residents cite is the amount of very fine particle pollutants, measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5), that may be generated from these facilities. But what does the best available evidence tell us?

The Institute for Wisconsin’s Health Incorporated conducted a health impact assessment on the impact of frac sand mining and found it isn’t contributing to hazardous levels of particulate matter. A new study released by the World Health Organization has found the United States as a whole has decreased its PM2.5 air pollution over the past five years, even as frac sand mining has boomed. PM2.5 levels have fallen in part because of increasing reliance on natural gas (which is captured as part of the hydraulic fracking process) to generate electricity. In this respect, the small, spherical grains of frac sand mined in the Upper Midwest are helping to bring cleaner air to the entire country.

Natural gas is a clean-burning fuel, and it is helping to reduce the amount of PM2.5 in the air. Burning gas emits only one-third of the nitrogen oxides and only 1 percent of the sulfur oxides that are emitted when coal is burned. These two compounds can combine with water vapor in the atmosphere to create the PM2.5 particles that have been linked to negative health impacts when they are present in very high concentrations. Those negative impacts include increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

Natural gas helps reduce air pollution, and in order to get natural gas, the nation needs more hydraulic fracturing operations. Hydraulic fracturing now accounts for approximately 67 percent of all U.S. natural gas production, making the United States the largest producer of natural gas in the world. Increasing supplies of natural gas have caused energy prices to plummet, making it a significantly cheaper source of fuel to generate electricity with compared to other forms of energy, such as coal.

Low natural gas prices are the reason why the Energy Information Administration has predicted 2016 will be the first year natural gas-fired generation exceeds coal generation in the United States on a year-to-year basis. As natural gas becomes responsible for generating a greater share of the nation’s electricity in the future, and fracking becomes responsible for a greater share of natural gas production, America’s reliance on frac sand mining will only continue to grow.

It’s understandable for people living near industrial sand facilities to be concerned about the potential impacts of sand mining on the environment and human health, but it’s important to understand the best available science on the topic shows industrial sand mines and processing plants pose virtually no harm to air quality near these facilities, and the spherical sand mined in the Upper Midwest is playing an important role in reducing air pollution across the entire nation.

Sand mining must be done in an environmentally responsible manner that minimizes the risks and maximizes the benefits. It’s easy to fixate on what the local impact of a new industry will be, but it’s also important to understand the benefits derived from sand mining extend beyond our own backyards.

[Originally published at the Oklahoman]

Categories: On the Blog

Medicare-Age Patient to Mr. Trump: Let’s Make a Deal

June 07, 2016, 4:05 PM

 

Mr. Trump has been castigated for saying that if the government goes bankrupt, he’d get creditors to accept less. That is standard operating procedure for businesses. Creditors make deals because something is better than nothing, and if a company is utterly destroyed, nothing is what they will get. They may complain, but unless they were actually defrauded, they voluntarily assumed a risk of loss, hoping to make a profit.

The situation with government is not quite the same. But neither is it altogether different.

Every knowledgeable person who is not in deep denial knows that the U.S. government has already accumulated debts that can never be repaid, and made promises it cannot keep. How rude of Mr. Trump to say it out loud!

A huge part of the government’s obligation is owed to recipients of Social Security and Medicare. These programs are already paying out more than they take in from payroll taxes. Their future unfunded liabilities have been variously calculated. Maybe they are $40 trillion, maybe $100 trillion. The lowest estimate might as well be infinite: it is impossible for government to pay.

We already have seniors in the streets with signs that say “Hands off my Medicare!”

Say what? Whose Medicare? Its instigator, Lyndon Baines Johnson, said it was his Medicare. To be sure that hisprogram succeeded, he virtually wiped out the private insurance alternative. Aside from a few employment-related programs for which Medicare is the primary payer, almost all plans for persons over 65 are supplements, which only cover part of what Medicare allows.

If an insurance policy is yours, you have a contract with the company. You probably didn’t read it, but you at least got it and should have kept it. Unlike a retirement fund or a real insurance policy, Social Security and Medicare are entitlements—to whatever Congress chooses to provide at a given time. Congress could cancel your benefits at any time, and it has for selected beneficiaries deemed unworthy. What could you do about it aside from voting them out at the next election?

There’s the “social contract.” It’s not enforceable in court; it’s just an ethical obligation. We Baby Boomers didn’t have a choice about paying the tax, and they promised to take care of us. But what does it really mean? We paid taxes to support older retirees, and in turn we expect the government to tax the younger generation to support us. Like in all pyramid schemes, the early subscribers did well, but eventually the pool of new subscribers will run dry.

How about this deal between me and the hard-working young man who is servicing my pickup truck: “I’ll pay a relatively modest tax to provide older people with good benefits, and you’ll pay a higher tax to take care of me, and when the money runs out, the government might buy you a suicide drug.” Would anyone consent to that?

That’s the deal Congress imposed on Americans, who didn’t understand what it meant—or who possibly think it is ok to mortgage the future of our children.

No healthcare reform is credible unless it addresses the impending crash of Medicare. As Mr. Trump said, everything is negotiable, and I’ll make the first offer. I’ll relinquish all claims on Medicare in return for a monthly annuity of half the expected value of Medicare coverage. I’ll take responsibility for paying for my medical care, and forgo the Medicare claims processing, utilization review, “quality assurance,” compliance auditing, etc. At least half of all Medicare revenue is wasted on such administrative overhead. I’d face the risk of a big hospital bill, but better that than the risk of treatment in a facility that benefits from my early demise. Some hospitals might be willing to treat me in return for assigning my annuity to them. Or if I reject Medicare on ethical grounds, I can join a health sharing ministry. To sweeten the deal, the government could exempt me from capital gains taxes if I sell assets to pay those who help me. Most capital gains are fictitious anyway because of deterioration in the value of the dollar. And the government could allow greatly expanded health savings accounts.

People who like “their” Medicare could keep it. The rest of us are willing to deal, Mr. Trump!

Categories: On the Blog

Finally, Courage to Counterpunch the Green Bullies

June 07, 2016, 3:24 PM

When the name Resolute was chosen in 2011, after the merger of Bowater and Abitibi-Consolidated, the Canadian company, a global leader in the forest products industry and the largest producer of newsprint in the world, likely didn’t know what a harbinger it was. Today, it stands alone, set in purpose, with firmness and determination. Displaying the rare courage to stand up to the typical environmental extremists’ campaign of misinformation and shaming designed to shut it down, Resolute Forest Products is fighting back.

Many people are probably unaware of the shakedown tactics used by groups whose touchy-feely names belie their true goals.

Like most companies, Resolute originally went along. As Peter Foster explains in the Financial Post: “a cabal of radical environmental non-governmental organizations, ENGOs—including Greenpeace, ForestEthics and the David Suzuki Foundation—agreed to stop their campaigns of customer harassment in return for the members of the Forest Products Association of Canada, FPAC, agreeing to sanitize a swathe of the Canadian Boreal forest, and to ‘consult’ on development plans. Astonishingly, governments played no part.” The result was the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The ENGOs ultimately aspired to put the majority of the Boreal forest off limits—ending economic development. Regarding the Greenpeace-promoted concept of “intact forest landscape protection,” Laurent Lessard, Quebec’s Minister of Forest, Wildlife and Parks, says it threatens “absolutely devastating” economic implications.

Resolute had been a major supporter of the Agreement and has participated in other efforts between ENGOs and industry to work out differences. Despite that, using a campaign of lies and intimidation, ENGOs have constantly attacked Resolute. At one point, in 2012, the false claims were so egregious, Resolute threatened legal action against Greenpeace—which garnered an unprecedented apology and retraction from Greenpeace. However, they came back with vengeance. Greenpeace continued to publicize the same false statements and dubbed Resolute a Boreal forest “destroyer.”

Engaged in a war without violence, Greenpeace has since attacked Rite-Aid Pharmacy for “getting millions of pounds of paper from controversial logging giant Resolute Forest Products,” calling Resolute: “a company with a history of environmental destruction.” Greenpeace was successful with a similar harassment campaign against Best-Buy. Resolute was the company’s primary paper supplier, but due to the shaming, Best-Buy announced it would seek other sources. Greenpeace has no plans to stop the tactic. Other targeted companies include Canadian Tire (a retailer with more than 1700 outlets), Home Depot and Office Depot, Proctor & Gamble and 3M. Foster reports: “Greenpeace itself has calculated that its campaigns have cost Resolute at least $100 million.”

Somewhere between the Greenpeace retraction and May 2013, an epiphany—similar to what occurred between the president of the U.S. and the space alien in the movie Independence Day—must have taken place. In the clip, the captured alien is choking someone with its tentacle and the president is trying to negotiate with it. He tries to reason with the alien and suggests that they could “coexist.” He asks the alien what it wants them to do. The alien simply responds: “die.” Resolute must have realized that no matter how many agreements it might sign, the global network of ENGOs come back with more and more rigid requirements until the tentacles choke the company out.

On May 23, 2013, Resolute filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace claiming it damaged the company’s “business, goodwill and reputation.” The suit asserts defamation, malicious falsehood and intentional interference with economic relations and seeks damages of $5 million as well as punitive damages of $2 million, plus costs. Greenpeace says the suit “is an effort to subdue Greenpeace into silence and send a message to other groups that they should stay quiet.” It believes the suit should have been thrown out, but despite several attempts, the Judge has disagreed and allowed unflattering accusations about Greenpeace’s global law-breaking activities to remain.

While the Canadian lawsuit makes its way through the courts and the appeals process, Resolute has just taken another bold step to defend itself against the green bully’s attacks.

On May 31, Resolute took a page from the ENGO’s playbook and, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, filed a civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) suit against Greenpeace and a number of its associates who, though they claim to be independent, act cooperatively. The RICO Act intended to deal with the mob as a loose organization, or “enterprise,” with a pattern of activity and common nefarious purposes, such as extortion. (Greenpeace has asked the Justice Department to use the RICO Act to investigate oil companies and organizations that sow doubts about the risks of climate change.)

The 100-page complaint alleges that Greenpeace and its affiliates are a RICO “enterprise.” According to the Resolute news release, it describes the deliberate falsity of the malicious and defamatory accusations the enterprise has made and details how, to support its false accusations, “Greenpeace has fabricated evidence and events, including, for example, staged photos falsely purporting to show Resolute logging in prohibited areas.”  The suit also calls Greenpeace a “global fraud” out to line its pockets with money from donors and says that “maximizing donations, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace’s true objective.” Additionally, it cites admissions by Greenpeace’s leadership that it “emotionalizes” issues to manipulate audiences.

In the U.S. lawsuit, Resolute is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial, as well as treble and punitive damages.

Patrick Moore, one of the original founders of Greenpeace, is disappointed that the group that originally wanted to help, is now an extortion racket. He told me: “I am very proud to have played a small role in helping Resolute deal with these lying blackmailers and extortionists”

Discovery in both the Canadian and U.S. lawsuits will open up records and could well peel back the moralist tone to expose a global job-destroying, anti-development agenda. For too long ENGOs have been allowed free rein over regulating natural resources in what is really economic warfare on workers.

At a recent meeting, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, according to Foster, “acknowledged that it was time to stand up and recognize ‘the significant economic implication of misinformation’”—though one has to wonder what took them so long.

Resolute is counter-punching the green bullies—and it’s about time. Just ask the coal miners in West Virginia or the farmers in Central California who are wild with enthusiasm for the Trump candidacy that promises to end the regressive regulations and return the U.S. to economic strength.

Hopefully other companies will now tune into the public’s change in attitude and, with firmness and determination, will, also, fight back to protect shareholders and workers.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Adam Michel: How the Tax Code Holds Back Prosperity

June 07, 2016, 3:21 PM

In this episode of The Heartland Institute’s weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Mercatus Center at George Mason University Spending and Budget Initiative program manager Adam Michel about a new study on which he collaborated, about how the U.S. tax code is holding back the nation’s prosperity-building power, and how common-sense tax reforms could unleash the nation’s economic beast and make America great again. 

According to Michel, an ideal tax code is one that’s simple, efficient, equitable, and predictable. Michel explains how our current tax system has none of these qualities, and how these qualities effect the amount of revenue government receives. Americans of all income levels believe the tax code is unfair. This perception is largely fueled by the code’s loopholes,” provisions intended to benefit or penalize select individuals and groups. Instead of benefiting some at the expense of others, Michel explains why lawmakers should reduce or eliminate provisions favoring one group or behavior over others.

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

Categories: On the Blog

#MentalIllnessFeelsLike States Should Remove Barriers to Telehealth

June 07, 2016, 1:52 PM

One obstacle preventing Americans suffering from mental illness from obtaining the treatment they need is a stigma associated with having a sullied bill of mental health.

States can overcome this obstacle in part by expanding digital access to mental health care providers. This would allow patients to obtain preventive and maintenance mental health care from the convenience and comfort of their homes.

The stigma surrounding mental health problems is prevalent on a webpage hosted by the educational nonprofit group Mental Health America aggregating social media posts with the hashtag #mentalillnessfeelslike.

“The struggle of having illness is speaking up about what is affecting you,” Alondra Sanchez posted on May 18. “The want to tell people but yet to hide it is suffocating.”

“Shame prevents people from reaching out for support,” Cara Wykowski posted to the site via Twitter the same day. “You are not alone!”

Indeed, mental health patients are not alone. Approximately 61.5 million Americans, or one out of four adults, experience mental illness in a given year, and 13.6 million, or one out of 17, suffer from schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, or another serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The ubiquity of mentally ill patients notwithstanding, only “60 percent of adults, and almost one-half of youth ages 8 to 15 with a mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year,” according to NAMI.

It is reasonable to attribute some of this lack of treatment, directly or indirectly, to stigma associated with mental illness. “Stigma can result in lower prioritization for public resources allocated to mental health services and poorer quality of care delivered to people with mental illness,” states a 2012 study coauthored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations.

If mental illness stigma leads to decreased access and quality of mental health care, expanding telemental health opportunities and increasing patient access to high-quality mental health care providers could reduce the felt effects of this stigma.

Successfully treating patients with mental illnesses often requires patients to take prescribed medications consistently. Regular visits with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other certified counselor are also commonly called for. Neither of these treatment components derives its inherent value from the patient and counselor’s physical presence in the same room.

Although on-site presence with one’s mental health care provider all or some of the time may be the best form of treatment for some patients, other patients would benefit from being able to access their providers’ expertise through audio/visual teleconferencing and obtain certain prescriptions, or at least prescription renewals, as a result of a digital doctor appointment.

Making telehealth and telemental health treatment so widespread that they are commonplace for qualified patients would result in more consistent care. It could also reduce the incidence of communication breakdowns between providers and their mentally ill patients, such as Molly Cornelius (@MollyMandlin) of The Bronx, New York, was experiencing on May 16, according to her tweet:

“Miserable. Out of 4 meds. Dr. Completely incommunicado. Withdrawl [sic] from medicine that treats both #fibromyalgia pain & #depression. So sick.”

Although not strictly a mental illness – unlike depression, which Cornelius also mentioned – fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and memory and mood complications, according to an October 1, 2015 post by Mayo Clinic staff.

Cornelius’ tweet was reposted to Mental Health America’s dedicated site the same day by a sympathizer who chose to remain anonymous when he or she replied, “#mentalillnessfeelslike your safety net is made of wet toilet paper.”

No one can guess the backstory behind Cornelius running out of medication, being unable to reach her doctor, or resonating with a fellow patient experiencing mental illness. Nevertheless, lawmakers can improve upon “wet toilet paper” safety nets in their states by ensuring policy environments conducive to the growth of telehealth and telemental health services.

Twenty-eight states plus Washington, DC have enacted full parity laws, which require private insurers to cover telemedicine-provided services comparable to services offered by in-person providers, according to a report by the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) published in January 2016.

States should not necessarily require private insurers to cover telehealth or telemental health services, a decision best left to competitive markets. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has amply demonstrated that insurance costs rise when governments mandate private insurers to provide care beyond what they can afford.

Nevertheless, only 22 states plus DC of the 28 states earned “A” ratings from ATA indicating parity laws authorizing statewide coverage without provider or technology restrictions. This means six of the states with parity laws either restrict private insurers from reimbursing providers for telehealth or telemental health services, or restrict providers from treating patients through telehealth. An additional 22 states either lack parity laws or have “numerous artificial barriers to parity,” the ATA report states.

Individuals with mental illness have less of an incentive to make room in their everyday lives for consistent treatment by an in-person provider if doing so mires them in stigma. Although mental telehealth treatment seems a natural alternative, providers have less of an incentive to treat mentally ill patients remotely if the insured’s plan does not extend to telehealth coverage.

Lawmakers should make sure their state laws ensure a free market in which providers and insurers can multiply telehealth and telemental health treatment options for patients.

[Originally published at Townhall]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Burnett: Donald Trump a wild card as Dems push high-cost energy

June 07, 2016, 1:41 PM

Donald Trump’s views on climate change and energy production could hardly be more different than the positions taken by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Trump, a climate skeptic, has said he will reverse the Obama administration’s “war on coal” and rescind the Environmental Protection Agency’s harmful regulations limiting Americans’ ability to access and use fossil fuels.

Trump doubts the claim humans are causing climate change, and says the policies enacted by the Obama administration to fight climate change are harming the United States. On Twitter, Trump has called the climate change theory a “con job,” a “canard,” a “hoax,” and a concept “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”

In a Sept. 21, 2015, appearance on the Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Trump said, “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. I mean, Obama thinks it’s the No. 1 problem of the world today, and I think it’s very low on the list … we have much bigger problems.”

In a questionnaire provided by the American Energy Alliance, Trump says he would review the Obama administration’s conclusion that carbon dioxide endangers public health and welfare and reverse policies such as the Clean Power Plan, bans on offshore oil and gas production, and new fracking regulations that impose unnecessary burdens on business while delivering little if any environmental benefit. Trump also says he would cut EPA’s budget dramatically and review all EPA regulations, eliminating many of them because, “Overregulation presents one of the greatest barriers to entry into markets and one of the greatest costs to businesses that are trying to stay competitive.”

By contrast, Sanders and Clinton want to double-down on Obama’s rules, ending the use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible to battle climate change, which Sanders calls “the single greatest threat facing our planet” and Clinton says is “an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our times.” Clinton and Sanders would end fossil-fuel subsidies while massively expanding subsidies and mandates for renewable energy use.

Clinton says she would enact policies that would result in the United States generating enough renewable energy to power every home in the country by the end of her first term, but she shows little recognition this four-fold increase in renewable electric power generation — completed in just four years — would require an even larger expansion of natural-gas-fired power plants. Natural-gas-fired power providers do most of the heavy lifting when intermittent wind and solar power are added to the grid.

Clinton and Sanders are split on fracking and the carbon dioxide tax. Sanders has committed to banning all fracking and imposing a carbon dioxide tax. Clinton would increase regulations related to fracking, but she would allow fracking operations to continue. Clinton also rejects the creation of a carbon dioxide tax.

In an ironic twist, Sanders and Clinton, who claim to be progressives primarily concerned for the welfare of the nation’s poor, support the most regressive energy policy there is: government support for wind and solar power, which radically increase the cost of energy. Solar panels, despite decades of development, still only convert about 20 percent of the sunlight they capture into electricity, resulting in solar power being among the most expensive, least reliable sources of electricity available today — costing four to five times the price of electricity generated by burning coal or natural gas.

Wind turbines are almost as unreliable as solar; they produce electricity only 30 percent of the time. In addition, solar and wind power development require hundreds of miles of transmission wires to ship power from isolated areas, where they work best, to major population centers that are often hundreds of miles away. And, because they are unreliable, every watt of solar or wind power must be matched by an additional watt of electricity from fossil fuels or a nuclear plant, adding unnecessary redundancy and additional costs to the electric supply. Since the poor spend a greater percentage of their income on energy compared to middle-income earners or the wealthy, the added costs of renewables amount to an energy tax on the impoverished among us.

While what Trump has said he would do on energy and climate is generally encouraging, the truth is based on his history of funding far-left politicians, including Clinton, one can hardly know what Trump will actually do concerning energy or climate. He’s a question mark. On the other hand, Sanders and Clinton have promised to expand on policies Obama has implemented that have contributed to a 30 percent rise in electricity prices since Obama took office, undermining our energy security.

What a choice.

[Originally published at the Boston Herald]

Categories: On the Blog

How the West Got Healthy and Prosperous

June 07, 2016, 1:25 PM

Vital ingredients included the scientific method and fossil fuels – truths we forget at our peril

Several years ago, physician, statistician, sword swallower and vibrant lecturer Hans Rosling produced a fascinating 4-minute video that presented 120,000 data points and showcased how mostly western nations became healthy and prosperous in just 200 years – after countless millennia of malnutrition, disease,  wretched poverty and early death.

More recently, professor of history and economics Deidre McCloskey provided some clues as to why and how this happened. In a Wall Street Journal article outlining “how the West (and the rest) got rich,” she notes that it wasn’t just Karl Marx’s “exploited workers” or Adam Smith’s “virtuously saved capital, nor was it only Hernando DeSoto and Douglas North’s essential property rights and other legal institutions.

Perhaps the most vital ingredient was that over those two centuries “ideas started having sex,” as author Matt Ridley described the process in The Rational Optimist. It enabled innovators to make discoveries and devise technological wonders, often through coincidental Connections that historian James Burke found among seemingly unrelated earlier inventions, to bring us television, computers and other marvels.

Why did ideas suddenly start having sex? McCloskey asks. One reason was the printing press, which enabled more people to read and share ideas. However, she cites two other principal developments: liberty and equality. Liberated people are ingenious, she observes – free to pursue happiness, and ideas; free to try and fail, and try again; free to pursue their own self-interests, and thereby better mankind.

Equality of social dignity and before the law emboldened people to invest, invent and take risks. Once accidents of parentage, titles, inherited wealth or formal education no longer controlled destinies or opportunities, the innate inspiration, perspiration and perseverance of a Franklin, Bell, Edison, Wright, Kettering, Steinmetz, Ford, Benz, Borlaug and countless others could be unleashed.

“Supposedly inferior races and classes and ethnicities proved not to be so,” McCloskey says. “Ordinary men and women didn’t need to be directed from above and, when honored and left alone, became immensely creative.” That’s an important message in the splendid British television series Downton Abbey, as well: when societal restrictions are relaxed, many can rise to new callings and heights.

Many other factors played key roles in this incredible progress. Two are especially important.

The scientific method begins with an hypothesis about how some component of the natural world works, and a calculation or forecast of what would happen if the concept is correct. Scientists then subject the hypothesis and prediction to experiment. If confirmed by data and observations, we have a new theory or law of nature; if not, the hypothesis is wrong.

This process brought wondrous advances – often through long, laborious tinkering and testing, and often amid heated, acrimonious debate about which hypothesis was correct (the miasma or germ theory of disease), which system was better (direct or alternating current), and countless other investigations.

Abundant, reliable, affordable energy – the vast majority of it fossil fuels – made all this and much more possible. It carried us from human and animal muscle, wood, dung and water wheels, to densely packed energy that could reliably power factories, laboratories, schools, hospitals, homes and offices. Those fuels also run equipment that removes harmful pollutants from our air and water, and they ended our unsustainable reliance on whale oil, saving those magnificent mammals from extinction.

Today, coal, oil and natural gas still provide 80% of America’s and the world’s energy, for transportation, communication, refrigeration, heat, lights, manufacturing, entertainment and every other component of modern life. Together, the scientific method and industrial-grade energy enable our Ultimate Resource – the human mind – to create more new ideas, institutions and technologies that make life for poor people in wealthier countries better, healthier, fuller and longer than even royalty enjoyed a mere century ago.

Medical research discovered why people died from wounds; the true causes of malaria, smallpox, cholera and other diseases; antibiotics, vaccinations, insecticides and pharmaceuticals to combat disease and improve our overall well-being; anesthesia and surgical techniques that permit life-saving operations and organ transplants; sanitation (toilets, soap, trash removal) and water purification; and countless other advances that raised the average American’s life expectancy from 46 in 1900 to 76 today for men and 81 for women.

Internal combustion engines replaced horses for plows and transportation, and rid city streets of manure, urine and carcasses, while creating new problems that later generations toiled to address. Today we can travel the world in hours and ship produce, clothing and other products to the globe’s farthest corners.

Mechanized agriculture – coupled with modern fertilizers, hybrid and GMO seeds, drip irrigation and other advances – produce bumper crops that feed billions, using less land, water and insecticides.

Houses and other buildings are built better and stronger, to keep out the cold and heat and disease-carrying insects, better survive hurricanes and earthquakes, and connect their inhabitants with entertainment and information centers from all over the planet, and beyond.

Modern mining techniques and technologies find, extract and process the incredible variety of metals and other raw materials required to make the mechanized equipment and factories required to produce the energy we need and grow or make everything we eat, wear or use.

If energy is the Master Resource that makes all of this possible, electricity is the king of modern energy. Imagine your life without electricity – generated by coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind or solar facilities, or batteries. Imagine life before electricity, or before the internet and cell phones put the fullness of human knowledge and entertainment instantly in the palm of your hand.

At least one more factor helped to unleash this sudden surge of invention, progress, health and prosperity. A relatively new legal entity, the corporation, organized, harnessed and directed people, money and other resources toward common purposes. A growing private sector – free enterprises and entrepreneurs – put corporate and other ideas, labor and investors’ money on the line, assisted by evolving financial and investment systems and practices, while legal and government institutions provided the ethical and regulatory frameworks within which these entities are expected to operate.

Numerous “invisible hands” worked together across continents and oceans, often without even knowing their counterparts exist, to bring us products as simple as a pencil or as complex as a cell phone.

So we are left with a profound question. Amid all this health, prosperity and longevity for so many – why do so many still struggle on the edge of survival? Why do two billion still have minimal electricity and another 1.3 people still have none at all? Why do two billion still exist on $3 per day? Why do a half-million still die every year from malaria? five million more from respiratory and intestinal diseases?

The formula for health and prosperity is no secret. It is readily available on your cell phone. Indeed, says Leon Louw, the real “economic miracle” today is not found in South Korea, Singapore or Botswana – but in North Korea, Venezuela and most of Africa.

What should fascinate us is the miracle of poverty – the way inept, corrupt, greedy, centrally planned, hyper-regulated governments have prevented prosperity from happening. What should outrage us is that callous UN bodies, NGOs and activists have imposed their eco-imperialist agendas, and prevented countries from acquiring the property rights and technologies that made so many nations healthy and rich.

What should concern us is that many forces are conspiring to roll back the free enterprise, free speech, scientific method, and reliable, affordable energy that make modern living standards possible. Having them now does not guarantee them tomorrow. Failure to safeguard these essential foundations could take us on the path to joining the ranks of the “miracles of poverty” and FRCs: Formerly Rich Countries.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Naomi Oreskes Warps History

June 07, 2016, 1:11 PM

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

Greenpeace Under Fire – Again
H. Sterling Burnett, Somewhat Reasonable
According to a lawsuit filed on May 31, Greenpeace is “a global fraud” that has “fraudulently induced people throughout the United States and the world to donate millions of dollars based on materially false and misleading claims about its purported environmental purpose and its ‘campaigns’ against targeted companies.” The suit says “maximizing donations, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace’s true objective.” We’ve been reporting that for years. READ MORE

Answering the John Birch Society’s Questions about Article V
Michael Farris, Heartland Policy Brief
The John Birch Society (JBS) is one of the most vocal opponents of convening a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution. Michael Farris, a legal advisor for the Convention of States Project, addresses and debunks 16 objections by JBS, writing, “Only a Convention of States will give us effective solutions to the abuse of power in Washington, D.C. It is our moral obligation to protect liberty for ourselves and our posterity.”  READ MORE

Naomi Oreskes Warps History
Ron Arnold, LeftExposed
Socialist historian Naomi Oreskes took what amounts to climate skeptic vanilla pudding and labeled it as deadly poison in a book titled Merchants of Doubt that became her meal ticket for life. But she never bothered investigating the original source documents and made no effort to interview the clearly named involved parties. That breaks every rule of journalistic ethics, not to mention scholarly historiography. READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Peter Ferrara: Examining Obamacare Repeal and Replace Options
After years of false starts, 2017 may be the year Congress finally repeals Obamacare. Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara, author of Power to the People, joins Michael Hamilton, managing editor of Health Care News, to talk about the proposed plans for replacing the Affordable Care Act. Ferrara and Hamilton discuss universal health insurance tax credits (UHITCs) and the idea of block-granting Medicaid to the states. LISTEN TO MORE

Heartland Library Book Shelf of the Week – Health Care
For more, follow Heartland on Twitter @HeartlandInst

Coming Next Week to Arlington Heights: Funding Education Choice
On Wednesday, June 8, the Cato Institute’s Jason Bedrick will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to explain how your tax dollars can be better used to educate your children. A week later, a panel of experts will discuss our Second Amendment right to bear arms and how the government challenges that right. We hope to see you here in Arlington Heights, but if you are unable to attend in person, the events will be live-streamed and archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

FDA’s Hasty, Irresponsible Regulation of E-Cigarettes Will Harm Consumers
David S. D’Amato, Investor’s Business Daily 
Government’s role in ensuring consumer safety should extend to barring fraud and false or misleading advertising, while otherwise leaving producers and consumers free to bargain and exchange. FDA’s rush to over-regulate e-cigarettes reveals how today’s consumer needs protection from government, not companies offering innovative alternatives to tobacco. READ MORE

Trump Would Renegotiate Paris Climate Agreement
H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly
One piece of good news to come out of the presidential campaign so far is presidential candidate Donald Trump’s bold and uncompromising dissent from global warming alarmism. Trump has said global warming ranks low on the list of problems facing the world, and he would renegotiate the climate agreement that came out of COP-21 in Paris in December. He also said he does not expect China, the world’s top carbon dioxide emitter, to adhere to the toothless and nonbinding pledge. READ MORE

Schools Seek to Reduce Emphasis on Test Scores
Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly
New requirements from the Every Student Succeeds Act are now leading states to judge public schools against “non-academic” criteria. Instead of relying heavily on test scores, new factors may include attendance rates and student perceptions of teacher “warmth.” But if bureaucrats can’t manage a few criteria well, why should they seek to manage more – and why should we allow them to do so?  READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Lennie Jarratt: Nation’s Report Card Shows Falling Education Scores
The latest results of the “Nation’s Report Card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, show yet another decline in student achievement. Lennie Jarratt, project manager for The Heartland Institute’s Center for Transforming Education, joins theMorning News Watch Radio Show to talk about these test scores, some of the first seen during the Common Core era. While it may be too early to lay all the blame on Common Core, Jarratt points to a study showing scores fell most dramatically in states that embraced Common Core. READ MORE

AGs Delegated Powers to Predatory Lawyer in Suit Against ExxonMobil
Ron Arnold, Left Exposed
A group of state attorneys general, calling themselves “AGs United for Clean Power,” declared they planned to “creatively and aggressively” use their powers to harass and intimidate ExxonMobil, think tanks, and individuals who dare to criticize the Obama administration’s war on fossil fuels. One of their tactics is to contract with an infamous trial lawyer, Linda Singer, known for her use of “questionable tactics to win lucrative cases.” READ MORE

States Ought to Remove Barriers to Telehealth
Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report
More than half the states restrict telemedicine-provided services. This fact, along with the stigma surrounding mental health, has served to limit treatment for those most in need. A key step toward increasing access to mental health services is to remove already-in-place barriers. If digital access to mental health services were expanded, patients would be allowed to obtain preventive and maintenance services from the convenience and comfort of their own homes. READ MORE

Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies! Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Many people rely on our profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. David Wojick: How Government Funding Bias Corrupts Science

June 06, 2016, 4:12 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Dr. David Wojick, formerly with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to talk about the government funding bias.

Dr. Wojick has a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science and mathematical logic from the University of Pittsburgh.He discusses his work showing how government funding biases or corrupts science and how some prominent science organization’s following the government money are trying to write nature’s role in climate change out of the picture entirely.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Government Tech Waste Illustrates Disrespect for Taxpayers

June 06, 2016, 4:00 AM

When you’re cleaning out your closet, don’t toss out that pile of outdated computer parts and accessories; the federal government might need it!

A recent report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) — a nonpartisan government agency providing auditing, evaluation, and investigative services for Congress — found federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury, are spending increasingly large amounts of taxpayer money maintaining information technology (IT) computer systems from the 1950s and 1960s.

For example, instead of updating file systems and keeping up with advances in efficiency by improving hardware and software, the Treasury Department maintains the nerve center of the U.S. tax system, the Individual Master File, using hardware and software first developed when Dwight Eisenhower was president.

The Master File, described by the report as “the authoritative data source for individual taxpayer accounts where accounts are updated, taxes are assessed, and refunds are generated during the tax filing period,” runs on hand-crafted code.

The GAO also found the Department of Defense uses 8-inch floppy disks, storage technology invented in 1967 and made obsolete in the 1980s by the 3.5-inch floppy, to maintain the American nuclear missile arsenal. In the report, GAO helpfully provides an illustration of these precursor technologies, because none have been likely to have been seen by the public for decades. According to GAO, over 75 percent of the federal government’s total information technology spending budget went to maintaining obsolete systems. This amount is increasing, the audit finds, crowding out programs to purchase new and more efficient systems.

As time goes on, the problem only gets worse. GAO writes federal government computer systems are getting older and more obsolete, meaning the few people who know how to do bare-metal coding for the government are very expensive to hire, which means taxpayers have to cough up more money.

”OMB staff in the Office of E-Government and Information Technology have recognized the upward trend of IT O&M spending and identified several contributing factors, including the support of O&M activities requires maintaining legacy hardware, which costs more over time, and costs are increased in maintaining applications and systems that use older programming languages, since programmers knowledgeable in these older languages are becoming increasingly rare and thus more expensive,” GAO wrote.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, government waste like this will always be a problem, and lawmakers are unlikely to do anything about it.

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, says everyone loves talking about government waste, but no one seems willing to do anything about it.”Waste, fraud, and abuse squander public resources,” de Rugy wrote in a Mercatus Center study about federal spending. ”Policymakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that the American people have little tolerance for waste, fraud, and abuse. In fact, it is hard, if not impossible, to find a policymaker who don’t tell their constituents that they’ll work to eliminate government waste.”

Instead of just talking about it, lawmakers should begin demanding federal agencies ensure taxpayer money is spent on getting the best bang for their buck. Instead of pumping ever-increasing amounts of money into outdated systems that require software archeologists to navigate, federal agencies should be required to get tough on waste. If they don’t, lawmakers need to get tough on agencies when it’s time to renew agency appropriations.

[Originally published on The Hill] 

Categories: On the Blog

Health Insurers Find Back Door to Limit Choice

June 05, 2016, 12:00 AM

Lost in the noise of political posturing over health care, there’s one widely accepted principle: the importance of the doctor-patient relationship in medical decision-making.

Yet we’ve all heard stories where insurance companies won’t fully cover a drug that both the doctor and patient believe is the right medical choice. Why not? It’s pretty simple: the insurance companies don’t want to pay.

As cutting edge drugs come to market, insurance companies are scrambling to find ways to justify not paying for them.

Insurers will tell you (if you can get them on the phone) the drug isn’t covered because it’s not on their formulary, their own list of preferred medicines. Kids have a term for this: “Sorrynotsorry.” Don’t let the circular reasoning fool you.

Almost as bad, doctors often have to get pre-authorization before prescribing something that is on the formulary. (Because we all need more paperwork.)

The flawed justification was normalized by President Obama in 2009, when he oversimplified pharmacoeconomics, saying, “If there’s a blue pill and a red pill, and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that’s going to make you well?”

Insurance companies are using this concept to cut costs by excluding the red pills. To do so,  they’ve cooked up a clever way to justify exclusions from formularies by founding and funding a group called the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, or ICER.

ICER does a version of something called “comparative effectiveness” to determine whether, across the population, the drugs are worth the cost compared to other treatments. It releases the findings around the same time drugs come to market, just in time for insurance companies, who, not coincidentally, serve on ICER’s governing board, to justify excluding FDA approved drugs from the formulary based, in part, on ICER’s “independent” math.

And so far, it’s working, at least for health insurance companies. According to longtime pharmaceuticals reporter Ed Silverman,”ICER is becoming a de facto arbiter for the nation’s medicine chest.”

Take a closer look at ICER’s modus operandi, and you’ll see why this is a horrifying proposition.

ICER, which holds itself out as a kind of Consumer Reports for drugs, is basically an industry-backed comparative effectiveness calculator. That ICER is industry backed isn’t the problem, it’s that it uses comparative effectiveness to lend an air of legitimacy to the formulary shenanigans.

Different people respond differently to medications. The blue pills don’t always work the same as the red pills. Individuals, it turns out, are different.

Consider the common blood thinner, Plavix, an important drug for the prevention of strokes and heart attacks. Yet we’ve learned from the emerging field of biomarkers that up to nearly a third of the tens of millions of patients who take it have an inferior genetic variant of an enzyme that is needed to convert the drug to the active form, so their bodies can’t fully activate the drug.

We’re also learning more about the role genetics plays in opiate side effects. While morphine and oxycodone are critically important pain killers, we’re getting a better understanding about which people are more susceptible to not only nausea and slowed breathing, but potential for addiction. Similarly, advances in personalized medicine are likely to play important roles in fighting mental illness. Arguing that the less expensive drugs we already have are good enough would be a deadly mistake.

Prior authorization requirements are so burdensome that they’ve prevented patients from access to drugs they need. In the case of two PCSK9 inhibitor drugs, used to treat patients with very high cholesterol who don’t respond to statins, the country’slargest pharmacy benefits manager, Express Scripts allowed them on the formulary, but made the prior authorization requirements so complex, that, as vice president Everett Neville told Reuters, PCSK9 inhibitors aren’t budget busters because, in part, a lot of “physicians are not providing (needed) information.” Conveniently, an ICER report recommended extensive prior authorization.

ICER’s approach appears to be modeled on the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) model, which tries to judge the cost-effectiveness of therapies, in order to help determine which health services the government should provide. ICER and NICE share more than just three letters; ICER’s president, Steven Pearson, was awarded an Atlantic Fellowship by the British Government and acted as Senior Fellow at NICE.

If insurers get to play the role the British government does, determining which pills are cost-effective, we’ll have taken a huge step not only toward rationing, but toward stifling innovation.

What investor would fund research on better cholesterol-lowering drugs, when we’ve already got generic statins? In a NICE-ICER world, we might never have gotten statins because older treatments were cheaper.

What’s more, the approach ignores the futility of such one-size-fits-all prescribing of medicines. For many classes of drugs — not only statins, but antihypertensives, pain relievers and antipsychotic medicines — the selection of the appropriate drug or combination of drugs among many possibilities requires a delicate balancing of effectiveness and acceptable side effects in each patient.

So far, ICER hasn’t received the scrutiny it deserves. ICER’s controversial methods are being used to weigh which drugs we’ll have access to, and insurance companies have their thumbs on the scale.

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

The Culture’s Full Embrace of Radical Environmentalism is Not Inevitable

June 03, 2016, 4:23 PM

I guess I’m past the point of taking essays like Steven Cohen’s “The Culture of Environmentalism and Sustainability” at the Huffington Post at face value. Yes, we are all environmentalists now. We cringe when someone throws trash out of a car window. I’m old enough to remember my dad tossing cigarette butts out the car window without a second thought and us kids yelling at him not to do it. He probably felt like the schools were brainwashing his kids.

But Cohen’s article makes some dishonest, or at least disingenuous, claims:

1. The conflict between Gallup and other surveys he mentions plainly reveals Millennials have learned to repeat the platitudes of political correctness in order to fit in or avoid being penalized by people in positions of authority, but in their own lives they make choices that show they don’t believe them.

Simple observation confirms this. For example, they say they “believe” in global warming and other environmental crises, but they won’t hesitate to jump on a plane and fly half-way around the world for summer break. I read the polls as saying Millennials are more cynical, more materialistic (do you see how much clothes they have, the debt they accumulate?), and less honest with themselves and with others than any prior generation. Other polls show they are much more willing to lie than previous generations were at the same age… doesn’t that tell you something about the reliability of Gallup polls?

2. Saying modern environmentalism is “a key part of the cultural shift” away from “racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia” is name-calling. People who oppose the radical views of Earth First and Greenpeace are, by this logic, racists, sexists, xenophobic, and homophobic. Al Gore said basically the same thing at the end of a recent TED lecture on climate change.

Cohen says “these social changes create a nearly irresistible force for political change,” trying to portray the embrace of radical environmentalism as inevitable. Consultants and liberal advocates repeatedly tell Republican elected officials and candidates that in order to win future elections, they have to embrace global warming alarmism, just as they need to embrace affirmative action, unisex bathrooms and showers, Muslim immigration, and abortion. This is nonsense, first because the majority of Americans don’t buy Obama’s vision of America, and second because the case for action to reduce our use of fossil fuels should rise or fall based on climate science and resource economics, not on how it “fits” into someone’s notion of modernity.

I find this guilt-by-association language terribly offensive, demeaning to young people, and feel like demanding an apology. I am not a racist, sexist, xenophobic, or homophobic. How dare he imply otherwise? How dare he say “the science doesn’t matter… because environmentalism is inevitable.” Does he think we are stupid?

3. Folks who don’t watch much TV – and many of us have stopped or cut back in recent years — might not “get” Cohen’s reference to how “our TV images of family have changed from Ozzie and Harriet to the Cosbys to Modern Family.” I’m pretty sure 90% or more of Americans don’t watch “Modern Family,” and many of them/us avoid it primarily because it aggressively promotes a gay lifestyle. The author may wish this TV show reflects the wider public’s changing views of family, but the fact that it airs on TV only provides evidence of how complete the left’s control over Hollywood has become.

4. Finally, this statement is just outrageous and wrong:

“The notion of progress and improvement is being replaced by the more conservative sentiment to retain or sustain what we have.”

No doubt Steven Cohen — who is in his 40th year now as an academic (having been a “Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Environmental Policy” in 1976) and probably makes over $1 million a year with multiple university and nonprofit appointments and pensions — is satisfied with what he’s got and mostly concerned with keeping it. It’s difficult for him to imagine, while driving a Beamer and dining in the best cafes of Paris, why others still strive to improve their place in the world. But how offensive, once again, to pretend to speak for me and others!

Oh well.

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep41): Independent Women’s Forum, Ranking States, Unemployment Rates, and Tax Competition

June 03, 2016, 4:11 PM

John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in #41 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Independent Women’s Forum, the Mercatus Center, The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, and Reason.

Better Know a Think Tank

In today’s edition of Better Know a Think Tank, John and Donny welcome Sabrina Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). Sabrina joins the podcast to talk about the IWF and what they are currently working on. They discuss a newly released report titled “Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women’s Lives.” The report offers many free-market-based solutions that aim to increase the economic well-being of women.

Featured Work of the Week

Featured this week is another study by the Mercatus Center titled “Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition: 2016 edition.” The study, using 5 factors, ranks all 50 states plus Puerto Rico by their fiscal condition. Factors include: case solvency, budget solvency, long-run solvency, service-level solvency, and the trust fund solvency. John and Donny discuss the report and talk about the states that rank last.

In the World of Think Tankery

With the recently released May Jobs numbers showing no growth yet a declining unemployment rate, Donny and John seek different ways to measure how the economy is doing. One policy brief that offers a better measuring tool comes from the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Their policy brief titled “The Jobs & Opportunity Index: Tracing Rhode Island’s Economic Progress” explains why the unemployment rate is a flawed metric and why JOI is a better reflection of the economy.

The last piece Donny and John discuss comes from Reason. The article titled “Why Governments Hate It When Other Countries Have Low Taxes,” explains how competing tax codes help to drive down tax rates. For advocates of big government, this is not good. The article outlines a few examples of how international bureaucrats are attempting to limit the effects of tax competition.

Events 

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

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

heartland daily podcast, hdpodcast, podcast, itt, in the tank, ep41, mercatus, reason, rhode island, center for freedom, joi, unemployment, ranking states, sabrina schaeffer, independent women’s forum, iwf, fiscal, taxes, competition,

Categories: On the Blog

Does the #SendAScepticToSpace Crowd Realize Astronauts are Skeptics Too?

June 03, 2016, 1:43 PM

Friends of the Earth (Australia) has started a crowd-source and social media campaign called #SendASkepticToSpace. The idea, you see, is that if an skeptic of anthroprogenic global warming (AGW) was put in orbit around the Earth, he’d finally see how fragile our planet is, forget what the data says, and join the alarmist camp.

Do these folks realize that at least two heroes from the Apollo program are among the most prominent and learned skeptics of the discredited hypothesis that human activity is causing an unavoidable climate crisis? I’m guessing the answer is no. Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7) and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (Apollo 17) have each been to space, and have spoken about the problems with the AGW hypothesis at Heartland’s International Conferences on Climate Change. [See Cunningham’s presentations here, and Schmitt’s presentations here.]

Someone was kind enough to nominate The Heartland Institute for the trip. I’d be happy to represent the organization (as would Walt Cunningham), but considering the campaign has raised a whopping $170 as of this post, maybe I shouldn’t start taking stress tests just yet. The leading candidates for the trip, by the way, are:

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Tony Abbott
  3. George Christensen
  4. Greg Hunt
  5. Jim Inhofe

Watch the video below for the pitch.

Categories: On the Blog

Comments to the FCC Regarding Privacy and Broadband

June 03, 2016, 4:00 AM

Marlene H. Dortch
Secretary
Federal Communications Commission

Dear Ms. Dortch:

The Commission has proposed, in its words, “to apply the traditional privacy requirements of the Communications Act to the most significant communications technologies of today: broadband Internet access service.”  Further the Commission claims that “both consumers and Internet Service Providers would benefit from additional” rules. The introduction of the NPRM goes on to claim that such rules will be the silver bullet for consumers to protect themselves, that ISPs are the one part of the Internet ecosystem with consumer information and power, and that the FTC is not competent to use its long standing authority in the area of consumer privacy to protect users of modern communications systems.  The entirety of this justification and explanation is nothing short of abusive and breathtakingly wrong.

Let the Consumer Beware

The proposed rule in no way will lead to the stated goal of protecting consumers.  In fact, the logical and obvious result of the proposal is to create a confusing thicket of government privacy rules emanating from both the FCC and FTC which will lead consumer confusion and likely real harm.  Flying in the face of fact based decision making the Commission has proposed to pursue a course founded on illusory correlations and selective perception. As is well known, organizations fail or succeed based on their decision making quality.

Fact based decision making relies on hard facts and verified observations.  While other factors may be part of decision-making, such as a “hunch” or “hope,” those factors are inferior to facts.  Time must be taken to gather facts and data even before determining and framing the issue.  The facts must be weighed and options provided before a legitimate final decision, or a “proposed rule,” can move forward.  In this case, the proposed rules seem to have been created with the intention of completely ignoring reality, and the facts.  Not even a simple cost-benefit analysis has been provided.

The rules single out one part of a complicated and interdependent ecosystem, for intrusive discriminatory regulation.  Consumers need clear and consistent rules, not being left to suffer at the hands of faulty decision making, or to suffer from rules transparently designed to intentionally hamper an arbitrary part of a whole.  An action the will predictably  lead to higher costs and less competition.  Consumers should not be the pawns of a regulatory authority that repeatedly places the protection of consumer data beneath institutional desires.

The FCC has been here before – being arbitrary in trying to layer heavy handed privacy rules on the Internet ecosystem.  In U.S. West, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission the court noted that the FCC failed to justify that their scheme was the least intrusive to free speech, and failed to prove that the government’s interests trumped the constitutional concerns of consumers.  In short, the FCC failed to demonstrate any facts or urgency as compared to the consumer’s best interests.  The proposed scheme at issue today could easily be met with similar concerns and once again be frowned upon by the courts.  Truly putting the consumer first is one way to avoid many problems.  Yet, the FCC does not point to real or even perceived consumer harms to justify an ISP-specific regime.

There is an Internet Eco-system

A change to any part of the ecosystem has an impact on all parts of the ecosystem.  The well-being of the Internet, at least as it exists in the U.S., is dependent on all parts of the ecosystem being healthy, and free from interference.

Platforms such as social networks, search engines, operating systems, webmail, browsers, mobile apps, and e-commerce, all too with access to data, are proliferating.  The relationship between these various layers in the stack of the ecosystem, including service providers is tightly woven in part because of vertical integration but also because of contracts and interdependencies.  Upsetting or isolating one part of the stack does not necessarily lead to linear and predictable results.  In fact, observation informs us that the opposite is typically true.  Innovation in the Internet and communications space moves rapidly but unevenly.  That is a fact.  Perhaps nowhere else is “supply creating its own demand” more observable than in this technology space, yet even understanding that only allows innovation experts the most slender of chances to understand where innovation is headed next.  Regulatory hubris regularly leads to any number of unintended consequences and is damaging pollution to this ecosystem. Desperate attempts to try to bring order to what, to continue to be effective, is not orderly are doomed to failure or will only succeed in suffocating innovation.

These sorts of antics distract from the very real issue at hand – that the Internet ecosystem is often under attack and as such the entire ecosystem needs to respond, not be divided. True success in the digital world is achievable when all parties understand that they cannot stand on their own, that in fact an economically thriving digital ecosystem requires cooperation with an eye towards what is best for the broader ecosystem. The distributed nature of the Internet is a fundamental part of its design, and no one entity can be an island. Stakeholder cooperation is imperative for the success of all – and that includes a FCC that truly understands this ecosystem and does not attempt to use it for its own ends.

The Power in the Ecosystem

Recent news about Facebook and its means of selecting trending topics, as well as Google’s decision to no longer allow ads by certain industries, both demonstrate that there is “power” in various parts of the Internet ecosystem.  In neither case were service providers involved and yet end results were altered. That “power” – market power – is not a bad thing and consumers wield it as well. Contrary to the FCC’s bias as expressed in this rulemaking, it is not the service providers alone that might have some ability to affect a user’s experience, but neither are the consumers powerless. This proven reality exposes that the FCC’s proposed rules will do nothing to increase consumer protection, but instead will burden only one part of the ecosystem with intrusive regulation even while backing away from the so called consumer protections in other areas. In short, the proposal is reckless.

None of this is to say that there is not a real threat posed by hackers whether with malicious intent or simply on a lark.  Instead of taking action to try to alleviate that problem, the FCC is proposing rules that would only be applied to ISPs with respect to consumer data, apparently ignoring how the ecosystem operates.  But access to consumer data is far from unique to ISPs.  As stated by FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen, “The FCC proposal applies to just one segment of the Internet ecosystem, broadband ISPs, even though there is good evidence that ISPs are not uniquely privy to your data.”

And this data, known as Consumer Proprietary Network Information, is not a means for collecting the most intrusive information that some companies in other parts of the ecosystem do collect online.   An analysis earlier this year was stunning clear in its title and the conclusions, “Online Privacy and ISPs: ISP Access to Consumer Data is Limited and Often Less than Access by Others,” Feb. 29, 2016 by Peter Swire, Justin Hemmings, and Alana Kirkland. (http://www.iisp.gatech.edu/working-paper-online-privacy-and-isps).

The challenge of protecting customer’s online privacy only incidentally involves ISPs.  Rather, the challenge is ecosystem wide as was indicated in a Pew report cited by the FCC.  The report demonstrates the concern about consumers’ expectations of privacy on the Internet at large.  The report does not cite anything specific about ISPs as the FCC tries to make it seem in paragraph 129 of the NPRM, when it writes, “More recently, studies from the Pew Research Center show that the vast majority of adults deem it important to control who can get information about them.”  Further, the FCC refers back to a 2002 FCC order, before any suggestion of mobile apps or an iPhone or even Gmail and writes “Research demonstrates that customers view the use of their personal information by their broadband  provider differently than disclosure to or use by a third party for a variety of reasons.”  In Internet time that “research” is ten generations old – useless.  Taken together, these weak and misleading arguments make a case that even the FCC itself does not believe what it is doing is justifiable.

In fact, the opposite of the FCCs baseless assertion is true. As research published in the Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2015/05/customer-data-designing-for-transparency-and-trust) and by the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2015/05/Privacy-and-Security-Attitudes-5.19.15_FINAL.pdf) have shown, consumers do not seem to think that ISPs are problematic and actually trust their ISPs typically more than they do other operators in the ecosystem.

The FCC again ignores this reality and rushes forward to hinder one part of the ecosystem, inserting greater costs with a proposal that will solve nothing given that the FCC has no authority over the vast majority of the companies in the ecosystem including those best known for manipulative and abusive data strategies.  Under the FCC proposal, these entities will continue to collect and use data for their own ends.

Solutions Should Be Pro-Consumer, Based in reality and Not Simply Pro-Regulatory or Anti-ISP

The thought is not original, but it is accurate and should carry more than fair share of weight in this rulemaking. Chairman Wheeler: “The pace of innovation on the Internet is much, much faster than the pace of a notice-and-comment rulemaking…We cannot hope to keep up if we adopt a prescriptive regulatory approach.”

There was a time when Washington would react negatively to new technologies, being concerned, if not afraid, of the impact that those technologies might cause to privacy – never recognizing that tools are just tools, often equally available to be used for good or for evil.  But the FCC is blazing new trails, fearing technology that is already well known. Instead solving the problem the Commission has dreamt up instead it moves to create a prescriptive regulatory system ensured to create consumer confusion, harming the very protections consumers already enjoy.

The proposed rules will fail, not just ultimately but immediately, primarily because the rules are designed to only burden one part of the Internet ecosystem, ISPs, rather than targeting the presumed problem.  In turn consumers will be left with a confusing message about how online data is collected and shared.

Placing ISPs in a category bound by rigid rules around data, and then arbitrarily limiting what businesses they can pursue, is wrong for consumers and certainly does not comport with any tenant of competition, a level playing field, fairness or a free market.  Just picking one example, Google would have to juggle two different and conflicting sets of privacy regulations even while trying to explain such nonsensical government interference to its customers.  In the end, industry is left holding the bag of liability, and hence costs, when it has no unique access to consumer data.  A lesson should have been learned by the FCC in the case of Netflix in March of this year.  As was noted in the Washington Post, slower Netflix mobile video speeds for Verizon and AT&T customers was not due to actions of the ISPs, but rather occurred because of bad behavior by Netflix – throttling speeds for its customers and blaming the resulting problems of “interconnection congestion” on others.

Yet the FCC declined to investigate claiming that such bad conduct was “outside” the FCC’s purview and rules.  Apparently the Commission has yet to realize that this incident highlights the real problem and is precisely what leads to consumer’s confusion – different rules for different pieces of a consumer’s whole.  Varying rules for various parts of one eco-system is a less than well thought out idea, and will harm the ecosystem itself.

If regulations are needed then the correct regulatory approach is obvious, a consistent treatment with consistent rules of all those who compete in the Internet ecosystem with access to data, much like what the FTC has accomplished.  If the FCC feels it needs to be involved in the policy issue to somehow demonstrate its relevance then again a better approach is obvious – a coordinated multistakeholder process of regulators and the actors in the Internet ecosystem.  Such a process should focus on what regulators can do to enable all parts of the ecosystem to thrive, how artificial barriers to innovation can be removed for an increasingly robust marketplace that drives real benefits to consumers.  Such a process should also be designed to address the Chairman’s correct observation that modern regulatory approaches are a hindrance to innovation, and therefore a drag on consumer benefits.  But to reiterate, the better decision is to forebear from pushing into the privacy space at all.

The goal should not be to engineer excuses to try to discriminate against particular part of the ecosystem, thereby limiting the disruption in online advertising.  ISPs are not even listed among the top ten competitors (and those ten own 70 percent of the market) in the online advertising space. This underscores the lack of a factual foundation for the NPRM.

Why arbitrarily remove service providers from the competitive landscape?  Why hinder competition that would drive more benefits to consumers through greater competition? These are good questions and have to be answered by the FCC. These should be necessary precursors to any discussion, much less a proposed rulemaking.  The real issue should be whether a set of meaningful and consistent protections for consumer online data can be created.

A New Additional Regulatory Agency is Not the Answer

There is a fundamental difference between private and public sector when it comes to the collection and use of consumer information.  Government hardly has a record in protecting data privacy that would lead one to believe that it has the answers to adequately handing such concerns.  The FCC has  recently struggled to handle even simple routine and expected comments with its systems (human and otherwise), much less handling issues that are much more sensitive and that by the day can get worse if not addressed.

This alone argues against more, if any, government intervention but certainly places a cloud on any FCC desire to enter into an area where it lacks expertise and authority. And it is not like there is no government already.

Essentially since the beginning of the World Wide Web the FTC has had oversight of the entirety of the Internet ecosystem, including ISPs.  Specifically the FTC has helmed a regime that has been focused on deceptive and unfair practices and constantly focused on how data has been collected and used.  In that time, an entity’s business model or where they have been in the technology stack has not been a point of concern.  Why this is the case is obvious – consumers are not concerned with those details but rather with how data is used and appreciate that such a system empowers them with more control.  Under this comprehensive FTC approach there have been very few ISP-related privacy or data security issues.  Over the same time the FTC has had to take action on data issues many times against others in the Internet ecosystem.

As MANA National President Amy Hinojosa’s recently wrote in The Huffington Post, “The FTC is the lead federal consumer protection agency and has been a strong cop on the beat for our privacy. But in a classic case of the ‘law of unintended consequences,’ the FTC had the jurisdictional rug pulled from under its feet for a small portion of the internet — broadband providers — due to legal changes contained in the Open Internet rules passed last year.” Hinojosa writes, “As a result, the FCC — which regulates telecommunications — is now eager to put their footprint in this space by knitting a patchwork set of rules that would apply narrowly to broadband companies while exempting everyone else. In fact, the rules under consideration at the FCC would be a huge step backwards for consumers — confusing consumers and increasing the risk of abusive or discriminatory use of our data online.” Hinojosa argues, “Instead of an inconsistent patchwork based on false assumptions and a misreading of the privacy threat, the FCC can and should step back and put consumers ahead of this jurisdictional land grab and learn from the success of the FTC approach that puts consumers in the driver’s seat rather than in a maze.”

Part of the problem is that the FCC dos not have relevant experience in the consumer privacy realm.  While the Communications Act does convey a limited amount of power to cover consumer privacy of satellite and cable subscribers, the actions that the FCC has taken have been almost completely about billing information. The authority conveyed with relation to telephone subscribers is somewhat broader but is silent regarding the broad range of information that can now be gathered.

Further, the FCC lacks the tools to pursue the best enforcement.  The FTC is limited in bringing to bear any forward looking rules but rather conducts enforcement proceedings after a determination that it has the authority to do so under the relevant law.  Such actions send signals to the marketplace as to what is within and outside the bounds of acceptable and legal behavior.  This allows for flexible solutions and for innovation to flourish.  On the other hand, the FCC makes new rules which quickly constrain the marketplace with enforcement actions being brought if the rules are violated.

The FCC lacks the reach to address the issue regardless.  Section 222 of the Communications Act does not provide a basis for the expansion of power that the FCC is seeking.  Specifically, section 222(h)(1) contemplates records of phone calls and billing information, not authority over the sorts of data the FCC is trying to claim.  To say otherwise is not just a stretch, but a story woven of whole cloth.

Regardless the entire focus of the proposal is wrong.  Positive public policy is encouraging, increases competition and cheers on innovation.

Moreover, the private sector should lead. For the information economy and online culture to flourish, the private sector must continue to lead through self-regulation. Innovation, expanded services, broader participation, and lower prices will arise in a market-driven arena, not in an environment burdened by over-regulation.

Government should avoid undue restrictions on the information economy. All parties, consumers, industry and others should be able to buy or use online services with minimal government interference. Unnecessary regulation of online activities will distort development of the information marketplace by decreasing supply and raising the costs of products and services for the consumer.  Governments already possess tools to address the proposed problem presented in the proposed rulemaking.   In fact, the 1996 Telecom Act encouraged intra-modal competition by creating a level playing field.   Companies were overtly encouraged to enter markets they were not currently in.  But now the FCC is charging off in the opposite direction, limiting competition and driving up costs.

Ultimately, too many government entities looking after our privacy means that we do not have any.  Consumers will not have a solid understanding of what signals to watch for that indicate a data breach or a scam.   The result is a less vigilant populous increasingly prone to their data being collected and used inappropriately without the understanding that certain actions are wrong.  The FCC should bear the burden of proving that it is needed in this area or can add something of value, before even considering moving forward.  At the very least, a factual, data-driven analysis of whether consumers will gain or be harmed should be undertaken. Even if the Commission were to imagine the authority to institute of a new and untested regulatory regime does mean that it should do so.

If the FCC insists in playing in the privacy field despite these clear deficiencies and understanding that the area is appropriately covered by the FTC, then rather than creating fantastical windmills of unproven marketplace power for a quixotic FCC to tilt, it should be seeking to create clear rules that consistently protect consumer data end to end while promoting competition and innovation in the online marketplace.

Surprise!  The Marketplace is Working

The market has responded favorably and swiftly to consumer concerns regarding the collection and use of personal information.  Innovators have crafted tools that let users block cookies, advertising, the tracking of Internet browsing behavior, and third party sharing of information. The market is responding to consumer concerns, without burdensome government regulation.

In addition, the market is providing greater service to consumers.  Access to data, whether by ISPs or non-ISPs, leads to more relevant products and services, as well as greater protection for consumers through quicker fraud detection, better cyber-attack prevention.  Prophylactic measures restraining particular business models are not only wrong-headed but also restrict consumer’s freedom of choice.  The proposal to provide lower broadband prices in return for greater use of consumer information is an example where the only entity that loses is the consumer.

Consumers, in fact, are well ahead of the FCC in finding their level of comfort in matters of privacy.  For example, as consumers have increased their use of encryption and secure online services, the ability of ISPs to track or view a consumer’s web history has been reduced.  In fact, by the end of 2016, more than two-thirds of online bits delivered to individuals will be encrypted.  According to Google, 77 percent of the data from its services is already encrypted.

As the market has rapidly moved to mobile, new challenges arose to protecting privacy and were quickly addressed by the market.  Now a typical Internet user moves across a variety of connections and various ISPs.  No one ISP is an Internet gatekeeper.  As consumers increasingly opted for mobility,  consumer protections changed as well.  Today, the mobile operating systems with huge swaths of the market, Apple and Android, actually prevent ISPs from collecting information at all.

And it should be consumers who are directing their own privacy choices. Individuals should be free to select the policy that best fits their needs and take responsibility for their online activities. The Commission can never be as nimble and tailored as the market.  An FCC “one size fits all” so called solution will fit no one.

Conclusion

The egregious lop-sided nature of the proposed rules, arbitrarily singling out one piece of an ecosystem for differentiated treatment runs counter to any sense of fairness.  Bereft of any consumer harm the Commission seems to strike out to regulate simply for regulation sake seeking to envelope anything it can attempt to justify that may come within its purview.

The FCC has tried similar schemes in the past only to ultimately be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional but not before a tremendous waste of time and resources by the private sector, not to mention the squandered tax dollars of Americans.  If these rules are adopted the same fate awaits.

The Commission should be deservedly criticized for designing regulations that will disrupt a vibrant eco-system.  This scheme will throttle the development of new business models, limit consumer choice and opportunity, increase costs, and importantly, dramatically increase consumer confusion.

Sincerely,

Bartlett D. Cleland

[Originally published on Madery Bridge Associates, LLC]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Peter Ferrara: The Sessions-Cassidy Proposal to Replace Obamacare

June 02, 2016, 2:31 PM

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have introduced their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. This plan includes numerous elements The Heartland Institute has been promoting for years, and it has been introduced at time when other GOP plans, covered in the June issue of Health Care News and live here, are being considered.

Peter Ferrara, senior fellow for entitlement and budget policy at The Heartland Institute, joined Michael Hamilton on the Health Care News Podcast to explain why and how the Sessions-Cassidy proposal would result in better, more affordable health care for 100 percent of Americans than the Affordable Care Act has been able to provide for only about 67 percent of Americans.

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

[Please subscribe to the Health Care News Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Keys to Human Prosperity: Individual Liberty and the Rule of Law

June 02, 2016, 1:37 AM

We live at time when, increasingly, the U.S. government operates in arbitrary and discretionary ways. Government regulatory agencies seemingly have unrestrained powers over land-use, business manufacturing and enterprise, the workplace and the environment under broad legislative mandates. And proposals are now frequently being made for ad hoc restrictions and prohibitions on freedoms of speech, press, religion and association.  The principle and practice of individual liberty, therefore, is under serious attack.

The history of liberty and prosperity is inseparable from the practice of free enterprise and respect for the rule of law. Both are products of the spirit of classical liberalism. But a correct understanding of free enterprise, the rule of law, and liberalism (rightly understood) is greatly lacking in the world today.

Historically, liberalism is the political philosophy of individual liberty. It proclaims and insists that the individual is to be free to think, speak, and write as he wishes; to believe and worship as he wishes; and to peacefully live his life as he wishes. Another way of saying this is to quote from Lord Acton’s definition: “By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and custom, and opinion.” For this reason, he declared that the securing of liberty “is the highest political end.”

Lord Acton did not say, you will notice, that liberty is the highest end, but rather the highest political end. In the wider context of a man’s life, political and economic liberty are means to other ends. What ends? Those that give meaning and purpose to man’s sojourn on earth. Classical liberalism does not deny that there may be or is one ultimate Truth, or one moral “right,” or one correct conception of “the good” and “the beautiful.”

Personal Liberty and Human Humility

What classical liberalism has argued is that even the wisest and best men are mere mortals. They lack God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Mortal men look at and understand the world within the confines of their own imperfect knowledge, from the perspective of their own narrow corner of existence, and with extremely limited mental and physical powers compared to those possessed by the Almighty.

As a result, since no man may claim access to an understanding of man and his world equal to God’s, no man can claim a right to deny any other person the freedom to follow his conscience in finding answers to these profound and ultimate questions. They are so crucial to man’s very being as a spiritual and moral person that they must be removed from the arena of politics and political control. They must be left to the private and personal confines of each man and his conscience.

The reason for this should be evident. Political control is fundamentally the power of physical force. It is the right to demand obedience from the citizenry either to do or not do something under the threat of the use of coercion. Political power can be used to command people regarding how they may live, how or what they may read or write, and how they may act. It is one man bending the will of another to his wishes under the threat of physical harm.

Some men have faced such threats or uses of force and not given up their faith or beliefs or ideas. But classical liberalism argues that no man should be confronted with torture or death because of where his conscience leads him. Furthermore, once political power is used to dictate what men may believe and how they may peacefully act, society is faced with an endless struggle as those with conflicting faiths, beliefs, and ideas battle for control of the reins of political authority. It becomes a life-and-death confrontation to determine whose conception of the good, the beautiful, the right, and the just shall be imposed on all. In such a battle over truth and virtue man’s world becomes an earthly hell of human and material destruction.

But how was the political authority—the government—to be prevented from overstepping its boundaries and encroaching on such individual rights as freedom of conscience and other elements of personal liberty? How were men with political power to be restrained from abridging other men’s rights? All law is man-made, regardless of the source of the inspiration for the law. It is men who articulate and agree on the law, who codify it, and who establish and enforce the procedures and mechanisms for its respect and enforcement. Man, therefore, can never be separated from law and the legal process.

The Rule of Law and Public Accountability

A way to assure that society lives under a rule of law and not a rule of men is to insist that even those who implement and enforce the law be held accountable under certain clearly defined procedures in their dealings with the citizenry. Or as the English legal philosopher Albert Venn Dicey expressed it in the late nineteenth century: “With us every official, from the Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification as any other citizen.”

An essential element of the rule of law is that it specifies what government may not do to the citizenry. For example, neither the government nor its various legal agents may hold an individual without bringing charges against him before a judge within a specified period of time. The writ of habeas corpus assures that no man is physically seized and held for an indefinite duration without charges being brought against him in a court of law. If it is not demonstrated to the court that a breach of the law has occurred and that there is sufficient evidence for holding the accused, he must be let go. Or as Dicey explained it, “Liberty is not secure unless the law, in addition to punishing every kind of interference with a man’s lawful freedom, provides adequate security that everyone who, without legal justification, is placed in confinement shall be able to get free.”

A distinctive quality and merit of the rule of law is that it attempts, if not completely eliminate, to reduce as much as possible all arbitrary power in the hands of those who administer the political regime and the legal order. Friedrich Hayek, for example, has emphasized that the rule of law refers to laws of an abstract and general nature equally applied to all men independently of any particular circumstance.

Freedom and End-Independent Rules 

Since this may seem rather nebulous, it can be better understood through the expression end-independent rules. We can think of this, for example, in terms of the rules of road. These rules specify whether cars are to be driven on the right or left side of the road; that all cars must stop and wait while the traffic light is red, and may go when the light turns green; that posted speed limits must be followed; and that if a police car or an ambulance is coming down the road, all other drivers are to pull over and stop until it has passed.

These rules of the road are general and uniform, in that they apply equally to all drivers and do not privilege or burden anyone. Furthermore, as long as every driver follows these rules, he is free to travel on the roads whenever he desires, for whatever purpose he may have in mind. Nor can any driver be pulled over by police patrolling the roads and highways for a traffic violation unless there is an infraction of these general and uniform rules of the road.

The general and abstract rules are “end-independent” because they do not imply or require any particular outcome or result from the actions and interactions of the citizenry, as long as they follow the rules. Thus, whether people follow the rules of the road to get to work, or to visit the family dentist, or simply to get out of the house for a while and just drive around is immaterial. The very nature of a free society under the rule of law is that the society, itself, has no purpose, or “manifest destiny” or “historical role” that it is called upon to play. A free society has no plans or purposes separate from the particular plans and purposes of its individual citizens.

Private Property and Individual Freedom

Classical liberalism has always emphasized the inseparable connection between individual liberty and the right to private property. Partly it has been based on the idea of justice: that which a man produces honestly and peacefully through his own efforts, or which he acquires through voluntary acts of exchange with others, should be considered rightfully his. The case for private property has also been made on the basis of utilitarian efficiency: when men know that the rewards from their work belong to them, they have the motives and the incentives to apply their industry in productive and creative ways.

But in addition, the classical liberal has defended the institution of private property because it provides the individual with a degree of autonomy from potentially abusive political power. Private property gives the individual an arena, or domain, in which he has the ability to shape and design his own life, free from the control of political force.

As a private owner of some of the means of production—even if it were only his own labor—he can search out the employment for himself that he considers most attractive and profitable, given his own personal purposes and plans. A community of individuals, each of whom owns varieties of property that he is at liberty to apply and utilize in various ways, provides a network of potential relationships of production, trade, and association among men outside and independent of the orbit and control of government. Private property gives reality to the ideal of individual freedom.

The networks of voluntary, peaceful, and private association form the elements of what has been called “civil society.” They are the “intermediary institutions” that stand between the power of the state and the single, isolated individual; they supply support and give assistance to the individual in the economic, social, cultural, and spiritual needs of life. But they also offer protection and strength to the lone individual who otherwise would face the power of government on his own.

It is not surprising, therefore, that historically the more the power and intrusive reach of the government extends into the affairs of the citizenry, the more the state attempts in various ways to undermine and replace these voluntary associative institutions of civil society with its own bureaucratic structures. The weakening or elimination of the intermediary institutions of civil society leaves the individual increasingly dependent on the political caprice and largess of those who manage the agencies of government.

The Rule of Law and Free Market Economy

Where the rule of law is practiced and respected, the creative energies of man are set free. Each man is at liberty to utilize his own knowledge for his own purposes, but the very nature of the free-market economy is that he must apply that knowledge and his abilities in ways that serve the ends of others in society as well.

Since no man can attain all his goals, beyond some of the more primitive ones, through his own labor and the particular resources that may be in his ownership and control, he enters into exchange relationships with others in society. Men begin to specialize in producing things for which they have a comparative advantage over their neighbors to extend their trading opportunities with others in the growing community of men. The interdependency that a division of labor creates makes each member of society increasingly conscious that he must serve his fellow men in order to accomplish his own ends.

The individuals form connections, relationships, and associations with those around them as they discover opportunities for mutual improvement. Societal patterns take form; configurations of human interconnection take shape. But these patterns are not planned or designed; they emerge from the relationships that men choose to establish among themselves, with no conscious intention of generating much of the institutional order and structure that result from their market and social interactions.

The Benefits of the “Unplanned” Society

As Hayek pointed out, drawing on the insights of some of the political economists of the eighteenth century, the social order that develops in a free society is to a great extent “the results of human action, but not of human design.” And, as Hayek emphasized, it is all to the better that this is the case. Why? Because the emergent social patterns, order, and institutional arrangements incorporate the knowledge, ability, and creativity of the multitudes of human participants.

No single mind or group of minds—no matter how wise and well-intentioned—could ever know, understand, and appreciate all the fragmented knowledge, insight, and ability that exist as divided knowledge and creative potential in the minds of all the members of humanity as a whole. If all that man knows, that he can do or might imagine, is to be taken advantage of and brought into play for the general good of all mankind as well as primarily for himself, then every individual must be left free to use what he knows, and do what he wants to do, according to his own design.

What irks the social engineer when he looks around at the free society is that it appears to be a world without a “plan,” a jumble of social chaos. What the classical liberal sees is a world of multitudes of plans, each one being the plan given by an individual to his own life. There is order, pattern, and structure to this world, but an order, pattern, and structure generated out of the interconnections that individuals have formed among themselves through their voluntary market and social relationships.

The rule of law provides the societal rules of the road within which those individuals may freely move about as they see fit. The rules for the free society are fairly simple and straightforward: thou shall not kill; thou shall not steal; thou shall not bear false witness—no fraud or deception in relationships with others. Beyond these types of simple rules, each individual is free to follow his own conscience and interests in practically all other matters.

An Increasingly Lawless World 

The world in which we live today is to a growing extent a lawless world, if by lawless we mean circumstances in which the rule of law is increasingly not respected or even understood. The law, in practice, is more and more end-dependent in its purpose and application. Some in society do not like the pattern of relative income shares that results from the interactions between employers and employees, so they use the power of the state to redistribute income and wealth according to their conception of material justice and fairness.

Others do not approve that some in society still like—indeed enjoy—smoking, especially while they are having a drink and after a meal, so they restrict or ban private establishments from setting their own rules on the basis of what they consider the preferences and desires of their customers, by totally prohibiting smoking in what they declare to be “public” places.

Still others believe that the citizenry cannot be trusted to make sufficiently wise choices concerning their own retirement planning or their medical-insurance coverage, so they enact laws and regulations that impose rules that will guarantee the creation of the social engineer’s preferred patterns for such social behavior on the part of those whose choices and decisions he considers less enlightened than his own.

Unfounded Fears of Global Trade

Another trend in this direction is the growing fear that the new global economy threatens the livelihood and material standards of living of the American people. A chorus of special-interest groups and politicians are warning that investment opportunities and many relatively well-paying jobs are being lost to other countries around the world. They conjure up nightmare visions in which America buys everything from the rest of the world, where labor is cheaper and production costs are much lower, and that America is left with nothing to manufacture at home. International trade and investment will leave the United States an economic wasteland of poverty and dependency on cheap products made in China and outsourced labor services supplied by India.

What we are hearing is the twenty-first century’s version of the early nineteenth-century Luddites, who at that time raised the alarm that the Industrial Revolution would soon result in unemployment for the vast majority as the emerging machine age made human labor redundant. The industrial machine age did indeed result in the replacement of a wide variety of human labor. But this freed tens of millions of hands to then do new and different work with the assistance of more and better tools, so that the quality, variety, and quantities of goods and services available to all were expanded beyond anything that could be imagined at the time. Our modern standard of living began with the Industrial Revolution and the machine age that it introduced.

After thousands of years of appalling poverty, more and more parts of the world are beginning to join and catch up to the West in terms of standards and quality of living. We should be hailing this as one of man’s greatest hours in his long existence on this earth. This great transformation will, of course, bring changes, even dramatic changes, in the structure and patterns of the global system of division of labor, as billions of people on other continents find new and more productive and profitable niches in the world’s network of trade, commerce, and industry.

America’s Role in the World

Inevitably, this will change, as well, America’s role and place in the global community of nations. Some industries and service sectors will diminish or be entirely replaced by producers and suppliers in other parts of the world. But trade is a two-way street. Imports are paid for with exports. In fact, the only reason a nation exports anything is to use those foreign sales as the means of paying for goods and services that can be purchased from abroad less expensively than if they were to be made at home.

Other industries and service sectors will emerge or expand in America, instead, as the citizens of the United States discover in the arena of international commerce and competition their better and more efficient niches to serve their neighbors at home and their fellow human beings around the world. When the next generation looks back at our present time, say, 25 years from now, they will be able to see the market processes by which these new patterns and trading relationships emerged and took shape. And they will see the improvements and gains that resulted from these processes in a way that we cannot yet imagine, any more than those who feared the machine age in the early decades of the nineteenth century could imagine the wondrous improvements in the human condition that were visible when one looked back at the beginning of the twentieth century.

We can never possess tomorrow’s knowledge today. We can never know what innovations, creative ideas, and useful improvements will be generated in the minds of free men in the years to come. That is why we must leave men and their minds free. The man of system, the social engineer, who sees only the apparent problems from these global changes, wants to plan America’s place in the new, emerging global economy. But to do so, he must confine and straitjacket all of us to what his mind sees as the possible, profitable, and desirable from his own narrow perspective with the knowledge he possesses in the present.

Soviet-style central planning may seem to have been cast into the dustbin of history (to use a Marxian phrase), but in fact the underlying idea is alive and well around the world, including the United States. Ideological elites and voting majorities not only do not recognize the individual rights of others to live their lives in ways of their own choosing, but they increasingly do not even show tolerance for any range of difference of opinion and action. They are determined to plan our lives and our futures—and indeed even our thoughts in this increasingly anti-liberal age.

If we are to regain the liberty that we have lost, and the fully and consistently applied rule of law that once was the guardian of our liberty and freedom of enterprise, we must reawaken in our fellow citizens an understanding of what liberty, the rule of law, and individual self-responsibility mean. But this cannot come about unless each of us is willing to participate in a process of self-education in which we become knowledgeable about liberty and its opposite. And we must be willing and courageous enough to consistently defend freedom, self-responsibility, and all of their implications.

None of us who care about liberty can avoid in good conscience our responsibility in this matter. I will close with the words of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, who was one of the greatest voices for liberty in the twentieth century: “Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction . . . What is needed to stop the trend towards socialism and despotism is common sense and moral courage.”

[Originally published at The Future of Freedom Foundation] 

Categories: On the Blog

Government Subsidizes, Government Warps and Distorts – Government Bails Out

June 02, 2016, 1:00 AM

My favorite joke about government and its inanity goes something like this:

A guy is running late for a meeting. He’s in his car – stuck on a single lane blacktop behind a county government truck. He can’t pass – it’s a double yellow line.

Every fifty yards the county truck stops and two guys jump out of the back. Right beside the road, one guy digs a hole – and the other fills it back up. Then back into the truck they go. Fifty yards later, same thing. Lather, rinse, repeat.  

After about the sixth time, the guy stuck behind the truck is steaming. He checks to see if it’s clear to pass the truck – and it is. So he whips around and up to beside the truck’s driver.

doing?” he asks, infuriated.“What the heck are you guys

“The guy who plants the trees called in sick.”  

This is what government does when it sticks its enormous proboscis into the private sector. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t pick winners and losers – it picks losers at the expense of winners. (See: subsidizing non-green, non-energy like solar and wind – by taxing the likes of actual energy companies like oil and coal).

This government money warps and distorts the marketplace – as otherwise productively-directed time and effort is instead spent chasing the government coin. Producers produce not what the marketplace needs – but for what the government pays.

And because the government doesn’t have a clue what its doing – its coin creates unneeded surpluses of the things it subsidizes. So the government then spends more money – bailing out the producers it stupidly subsidized to create the surpluses.

The one government guy who actually has a clue – is on permanent sick leave.

We just saw this in India:

“The nose-dive in global commodity prices has had an unexpected repercussion in India: a giant new subsidy bill as New Delhi spends billions to mop up wheat, rice, sugar and cotton at government-fixed prices.’…

“‘This is a crisis of plenty,’ said Harish Galipelli, a trader at Inditrade Derivatives and Commodities.”…The (government coin) market support…encourages farmers to produce much more of the subsidized commodities than they would have otherwise, exacerbating the global glut.”

Government digs the hole – government fills the hole back in.

And now it looks like we’re just about there in Spain. From Politico Europe:

“Spanish farmers Thursday bewailed their historical – 20 percent above average – crop harvest at a time where prices have already fallen below €160 per ton….(Read it in full [in Spanish]: http://bit.ly/1qL35oJ.)”

Why have prices fallen so low? Because government subsidies created a glut – and the market is flooded. And bizarrely, the European Union (EU) is proud of of its contribution to this mess. So proud, the EU provides a level of transparency for which we can only wish here in the United States. Behold FarmSubsidy.org:

“The European Union spends around €59 billion a year on farm subsidies. This site tells you who receives the money.”

And the boasting doesn’t stop there. The EU has created a Spain-specific fact sheet:

“During the next 7 years, the new CAP is going to invest almost EUR 45 billion in Spain’s farming sector and rural areas.”

Government digging more holes with money. And it’s likely only a matter of time before more government money is thrown into the holes to fill them back in. Just like in India.

(#Brexit, anyone?)

Just about every country that grows just about anything has been stuck in this government money rut for decades. Domestically, it largely explains our age-old Farm Bill ridiculousness.

So here’s a thought – let’s negotiate our way out. Of our mess – and theirs. We go to the EU, India and anyone else growing anything – and trade away our subsidies in exchange for their trading away theirs.

Less subsidies mean less gluts – which mean less bailouts.

Food prices will then be lower – not because of government stupidity, but because of free market rational determinism. And we’ll all be saving per annum hundreds of billions of wasted government dollars.

It’s high time we all learn from each others’ mega-mistakes.

[Originally published at RedState] 

Categories: On the Blog

Greenpeace Under Fire — Again!

June 01, 2016, 3:40 PM

It hasn’t been a great 1 1/2 years for Greenpeace, the world’s largest, most well-funded, and arguably its least honest, environmental activist organization.

Greenpeace has been controversial for years, engaging in direct action, legal actions, and consumer boycott campaigns under the false guise of protecting the environment when time after time, its activities are shown to be little more than venal fundraising tools. Many of Greenpeace’s questionable actions are detailed at the Environmental Policy Alliance’s Big Green Radicals website, which provides a litany of misdeeds I advocate readers peruse at their leisure.

In an interview I conducted with Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, he shared about the disreputable turn Greenpeace had taken since its founding.

In late 2014 and 2015, Greenpeace ran afoul of both the governments of Peru and India for their activities which violated the law. In the Peruvian case, a Greenpeace stunt damaged a world heritage site.

Now, it seems Greenpeace will find itself in court once again. On May 31, Resolute Forest Products Inc. filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace USA, Greenpeace Fund, Inc., STAND (formerly ForestEthics) and a number of their associates alleging a campaign embarked upon by Greenpeace,  “Resolute: Forest Destroyer,” violates federal racketeering, trademark, defamation and tortious interference laws claims under Georgia and federal law.

Resolute’s complaint, worth reading in its entirety, claims Greenpeace has falsely accusing the company of, among other things: (a) “destroying endangered forests,” and “operating and sourcing wood . . . in violation of law”; (b) causing the “destruction of endangered species” and “critical caribou habitat” and risking a “Caribou Herd Death Spiral,” “extirpation” and “extinction;” (c) “abandoning” and “impoverishing” the Boreal’s indigenous communities; and (d) impairing the Boreal’s ability to mitigate climate change. The creation, promotion and spread of these falsehoods, including through email and boycott  campaigns has harmed Resolute’s reputation and cost it income.

In truth, Resolute’s federal case is just one step in an ongoing legal and PR battle the company has been waging against Greenpeace since 2010. As detailed by the Media Research Center, in late 2012, after Greenpeace had spread the false information that Resolute had breached the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement by illegally logging in “suspended harvest” areas, it was forced to issue a “Notice of Correction,” owning up to the lies they’d spread. Indeed, Greenpeace has been fighting not to be brought before the bar and too account in Canada since Resolute sued it in Canadian courts in 2013.

Not too prejudge the outcome or pick sides of course, but I look forward to the bully Greenpeace getting its legal comeuppance. May it be forced to pay millions of dollars in fines and punitive damages. Perhaps that would force donors who still have an open mind and really care about the environment — as opposed to the blind Greenpeace acolytes who have drunk its radical Kool-Aid —  to consider whether they want their scarce conservation dollars going to an organization that spends more than 60 percent of its income on salaries and an increasing portion of its remaining funds paying off legal claims for its malicious, unwarranted actions.

Categories: On the Blog