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Heartland Daily Podcast – Kevin Chavous: Alliance for School Choice

May 05, 2015, 2:18 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Managing Editor of School Reform News Heather Kays, speaks with Kevin Chavous. Chavous is an executive counsel and founding board member of the American Federation of Children. Chavous discusses a new report about school choice. The report, titled “Alliance for School Choice, School Choice Yearbook 2014-2015, Breaking Down Barriers to Choice,” looks at the state of the school choice movement nationwide.

Kays and Chavous talk about the progress made in the school choice across the country and the difficulties in expanding choice. Chavous says it’s not only Democrats or only Republicans who impede choice, but rather anyone who is afraid of losing support from the established traditional public school education bureaucracy. Chavous says on the issue of school choice politics should be removed from the equation and the focus should be placed on providing children with the best possible education.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Obamacare picking ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in health insurance industry

May 05, 2015, 1:04 PM

A stringent requirement in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandating that health insurance purveyors spend 80 cents of every dollar on medical care, or on total quality improvement initiatives, is proving to be a financial burden. At least one firm, Assurant Health, is poised to go out of business because of just that one requirement in the complex law.

Obamacare has totally torn asunder Assurant’s business model, transforming it almost overnight, in the words of one analyst, to a “blacksmith shop in an automobile era.”  The insurance company, based in Milwaukee, employs 1,700 nationally, and 1,300 in Wisconsin. The business lost $67 million last year and $90 million for the first quarter of this year.

The ACA mandate on spending is not possible for the company to meet, as it comes in at spending 69 cents on the dollar, and does not have the scale to lower administrative costs any further, executives say.

Like other insurance companies, Assurant had to make an educated guess as to whether it could meet the requirements of the ACA. Turns out that its guess was wrong by 11 cents per dollar. The company, and other insurance firms like it,  do not negotiate directly with doctors and other health care providers. Rather, they work with larger insurance firms, and utilize part of their established network of providers. That model of health insurance business has now been made obsolete, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Back in 2010, Assurant was solvent and had $54 million in sales. At its peak, the company provided health insurance coverage 967,000 people. Now, those individuals will have to seek new health care insurance, perhaps through an Obamacare exchange.

Under Obamacare, you can’t keep your doctor, or your health insurance provider, even if you want to. Obama’s health ministry, not American consumers, is picking winners and losers.

Categories: On the Blog

Intellectual Property Issues Are Too Important for Name Calling

May 05, 2015, 12:12 PM

If you’ve seen any discussions of patents and copyrights lately, you’ve probably heard a good deal of name-calling, including terms such as “patent trolls” and “crony capitalism.” Whenever there’s money at stake, passions run high, and there’s a huge amount of money in the patent and copyright industry.

Since the 1980s, the microcomputer, biotechnology, and the Internet have made patent protection services increasingly lucrative businesses. The boom in innovation has been accompanied by a boom in patent litigation, as more entrepreneurs and businesses sought to protect and enforce their patent rights.

Well-capitalized personal injury lawyers and former Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawyers with time on their hands have become “intellectual property law” experts, bringing and defending patent and copyright lawsuits in numbers that have increased with the growth in patents and copyrights granted. Some plaintiffs or their lawyers, who in some cases are one and the same, sit like the proverbial troll under the bridge, waiting to collect a toll from anyone who dares to cross.

The term “patent troll” was born. References to “copyright trolls” soon followed.

Critics of “trolls” paint them as greedy villains waving pieces of paper claiming entitlement to products they never made or processes they never developed in order to extort money from honest folks who actually produce things. Supporters—who may either shun or embrace the term—argue trolls protect individual inventors’ ownership rights against voracious crony capitalists intent on stamping out competition.

Legislation currently pending in Congress to address perceived imbalances is the subject of hot debate. Neither side is entirely correct.

The U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to grant patents and copyrights, but only for “limited times” and for but a single purpose: “to promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts.” All knowledge builds on prior knowledge. By granting limited exclusive rights to creators and discoverers, the government incentivizes them to develop, sell, and license their inventions, discoveries, and works of authorship so others may eventually build upon them.

Although both copyrights and patents are legally “personal property,” they differ from property rights to other items like a tractor or an office leasehold. They bear aspects of grants of government protection, the right to exclude others, again for limited times. Once a patent expires, anyone is free to make, use, sell, offer to sell, or import the patented product, which the patent must teach them how to do.

Copyright law is much more complex in this respect. Copyrights are bundles of rights that can be broken up and separately sold or licensed. A story’s author may grant one person the stage play rights, another the movie rights, and yet another person the publication rights to the exact same story. A computer programmer, or the programmer’s employer, may grant a license to use certain software but limit its use to a specified number of machines or charge a higher fee to use it on more machines or for a longer time. A motion picture producer may sell a compact disk or DVD but limit its use to home viewing purposes rather than to public performances for which a fee is charged.

Here’s where it becomes complicated: The consumer owns the book, the computer, or the disk, but not the rights to the story, the programming, or the performance.

Property rights and intellectual property rights are usually separate and distinct. Once I buy your copyrighted book or patented product, I can resell it to anyone I want for a higher or a lower price and not owe a dime for copyright infringement. I may not be able to reproduce your painting for sale without your permission, but I may resell the painting itself. And 70 years after your death, your grandchildren can republish your book as long as they don’t infringe your trademarks.

However, if I buy your patented plant seeds, I can’t use the seeds from this year’s crop to grow next years’ plants until after your patent has expired. If I buy your patented machine, I’m limited in how many parts I can repair or replace before I’ve gone from maintaining my property to infringing on your intellectual property. And if I buy John Deere’s latest tractor I may not be able to use it at all without paying Deere a fee to use the software embedded in its electronics.

That may sound outrageous to some, but it differs only in degree from my purchase of a computer that uses a Microsoft Office operating system. In that case, I own the computer, which I may freely dispose of as I choose, but I have only a license for the software and I can’t make copies of the computer’s chip.

It’s up to Congress to find a system that protects both intellectual property rights for a limited time, to foster the technological and artistic innovation that patents and copyrights are designed to allow. Only a clearheaded debate can ultimately resolve these complicated issues, not name-calling like “trolls” and “crony capitalists.”

David Applegate is an intellectual property lawyer in Chicago, a legal policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, and a columnist for The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. He writes and speaks frequently on matters of public policy interest.

[Originally Published by Human Events]

Categories: On the Blog

Missouri Gov. Nixon Refuses to Save Failing Welfare System

May 05, 2015, 8:43 AM

By Logan Pike and Justin Haskins

According to a recent comprehensive study of state welfare programs, Missouri earned an “F” grade for its dismal welfare policies, finishing dead-last among all states. But despite the wealth of data proving his state’s welfare program is failing, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed legislation today that would have provided needed reforms, thereby killing his opportunity to help thousands of Missourians move out of poverty into self-sufficiency. It appears Nixon’s devotion to his party is stronger than his commitment to improving welfare.

The Strengthening Missouri Families Act (SMFA) recently passed out of conference committee, gaining the final approval from the state’s House of Representatives and the Senate. The legislation would have implemented immediate work requirements, a cash diversion program, increased sanctions for non-compliance, lowered lifetime limits for cash assistance, and provided a variety of programs that would help impoverished individuals and families stay off of welfare rolls entirely.

If Nixon had signed SMFA into law, the bill’s measures would have helped to thwart welfare dependency and increase self-sufficiency. Authors of The Heartland Institute’s 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card estimate Missouri’s welfare program would have jumped from its current rank of 50th up to 23rd if SMFA’s reforms had been enacted.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that out of 100 full-time working adults, only four live in poverty, and out of 100 part-time working adults, 15 live in poverty. It would seem to make sense then that successful anti-poverty reforms should stress the importance of work. So far, this has not been the case in Missouri, where welfare policies have allowed recipients to receive numerous benefits without having to work or enroll in a qualifying program.

Critics claim that it’s unfair to ask individuals to find jobs in order to receive benefits, especially in a struggling economy, but recipients can satisfy work requirements in a variety of ways, including by entering a state-run work training program, attending college, or engaging in job-search activities.

According to a 2013 report from the Cato Institute, only 17 percent of Missouri welfare recipients were engaged in work activities, and since 2013, this rate has fallen to 14.4 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This means 85.6 percent of welfare recipients are not engaged in “work activities,” but they are still receiving cash assistance.

Strengthening the sanctions regime for failing to participate in work activities and requiring Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) aid recipients to begin work immediately upon receiving benefits would cause a substantial increase in work participation in Missouri. That participation would make it more likely recipients would gain the necessary skills to earn an income sufficient for them to leave welfare rolls permanently at some point in the future rather than get stuck in an endless cycle of poverty.

Federal TANF rules set a lifetime eligibility limit of five years, but the SMFA follows the lead of a number of other states that have successfully adopted shorter lifetime limits, helping to create stronger incentives for recipients to prepare for work and accept job opportunities when available.

SMFA was an opportunity for Nixon and the legislature to put in place policies that would help move thousands of Missourians from government dependency to self-sufficiency. It also would have sent a powerful signal to a number of other states that Democrats and Republicans can work together toward improving the lives of struggling Americans. But now, because Nixon was unwilling to put aside politics and sign the Strengthening Missouri Families Act into law, the Missouri General Assembly should do what is best for the people of Missouri and overturn Nixon’s veto.

[Originally Published on Town Hall]

Categories: On the Blog

The Pope and Climate Change

May 04, 2015, 4:27 PM

Perhaps you missed the Vatican-sponsored international symposium on climate change held in Rome on April 28. It was a busy news day. The horrific earthquake killed thousands in Nepal and riots broke out in Baltimore.

Or, maybe, you just didn’t care to tune in. In Crisis magazine, which bills itself as “a voice for the faithful laity,” William M. Briggs writes: “Used to be in the West when the Catholic Church spoke, people listened…. The church was an influence. And it liked being one.” Briggs continues: “Not so now. The West has these past fifty or so years assumed an adversarial stance towards our ancient and venerable institution.”

The one-day “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity” conference, according to BloombergBusiness, “brought together more than 150 accomplished scientists and spiritual leaders from more than a dozen faiths.” The summit served as a teaser of what to expect next month when it is predicted that the Vatican will release a papal encyclical on the “human ecology”—the first time a Catholic leader has dedicated an entire encyclical to environmental issues.

In its reporting on the day-long event, The Financial Times (FT) cites Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who the newspaper calls “a member of the pope’s inner circle” and who wrote an early draft of the encyclical, as saying: “Today, the ever-accelerating burning of fossil fuels that powers our economic engine is disrupting the earth’s delicate ecological balance on an almost unfathomable scale.” The FT refers to Turkson’s statement as “a sign that Pope Francis will aggressively push for climate action.” Turkson also “suggested it was a sin for ‘humans to degrade the integrity of earth by causing changes in its climate.’”

But there is concern that Pope Francis is focused too much on politics and not enough on faith, as those who are shaping his views veer from widely accepted biblical truths. Addressing the dilemma, Bloomberg Business states: “The Encyclical is expected to insert the pope into an American political problem.”

Following the summit, the PAS released a declaration that states: “The Catholic Church working with the leadership of other religions…” The listed authors include knownabortion advocate Jeffrey Sachs. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General and a supporter of abortion, also addressed the Vatican conference.

Genesis 2:15 states: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (NIV).” In the Wall Street Journal, William McGurn addressesthis passage: “Plainly this imposes on mankind an obligation of stewardship. …Still, the first part of that Genesis passage means something too: that the earth is to be worked, and that this work and the fruit it bears are also blessed. After all, what is work but the application of human ingenuity and labor to God’s creation to increase God’s bounty?”

While the Catholic Church, and all of Christianity in general, support life, one has to wonder why the Vatican would invite “darkness” in to advise it on climate change. While the abortion issue is one point of obvious conflict, others involved in the one-day event likely endorse a variety of views that disagree with a biblical perspective. When the advisers’ beliefs are the antithesis of the church’s, why should their opinions be invited and accepted as fact on one narrow topic? Why would the pope join himself with those who are not Christ followers?

One cannot help but admire Pope Francis’ concern for the poor—a totally biblical view. However, the proposed fix for perceived manmade catastrophic climate change (climate change is real and has been happening long before humans burned fossil fuels), the elimination of fossil fuels will create more poor people, not fewer.

“An open letter to Pope Francis on Climate Change” from the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation states: “Today many prominent voices call humanity a scourge on our planet, saying that man is the problem, not the solution. …these voices demand that people surrender their God-given dominium, even if doing so means remaining in or returning to poverty.” The letter continues: “Severe poverty, widespread hunger, rampant disease, and short life spans were the ordinary condition of humankind until the last two-and-a-half centuries. These tragedies are normal when—as much of the environmental movement prefers—human beings, bearing the imago Dei, live, and are treated, as if they were mere animals, which need to submit to nature rather than exercising the dominium God gave them in the beginning (Genesis 1:28). Such dominion should express not the abusive rule of a tyrant but the loving and purposeful rule of our Heavenly King. It should thus express itself by enhancing the fruitfulness, beauty, and safety of the earth, to the glory of God and the benefit of our neighbors.”

Pope Francis is not the first pope to opine about the environment. The Economist points out that Pope Benedict XVI’s statements often linked to his belief “in the ‘respect for the human person.’” To which The Economist adds: “to the ears of secular greens, that sort of talk can appear too focused on the welfare of homo sapiens at the expense of all other forms of life.”

And here is the problem, articulated by a commenter in response to Judith Curry’s post: “Pope Francis, climate change and mortality.” Ticketstopper wrote: “The Church is concerned about souls. Animals and plants don’t have souls. I would be very interested to see how a Pope can reconcile the demotion of emphasis on human souls with an emphasis on environmental friendliness.”

The forthcoming encyclical will be on human ecology. As McGurn suggests, it is time we put “the human back in human ecology.”

[Originally Published at Breitbart]

Categories: On the Blog

Smoggy Thinking

May 04, 2015, 4:15 PM

The war on hydro-carbon fuels is based on two feeble legs – “it causes global warming, and it creates pollution.”

Both legs are unsound, especially the pollution claims.

No sensible person approves pollution of air, water, land or public places by humans.

But no pollution whatsoever is caused by carbon dioxide, which is a colourless, non-toxic gas-of-life on which all plants (and animals) depend.

In these days of carbon-neurosis, coal-power gets blamed for all bad things, even the Asian Smog.

What causes the Asian Brown Smog?

Dust is a significant component. Winds whip up dust from dry land, roads and the huge Gobi and Arabian Deserts, or an up-wind volcano explodes. No dust comes from the emissions of a modern well-designed coal-fired power station.

Smogs may also contain soot and ash. These come from open-air fires all over Asia burning wood, cow dung, paper, cardboard, plastic, rubber tyres and other rubbish; from stoves and heaters using unwashed high sulphur coal or high-ash briquettes; from forest fires and uncontrolled coal-seam fires, cremations in India and yeon-tans in Korea. Some comes from worn-out internal combustion engines and old dirty coal/oil power stations, boilers and furnaces. Air is even polluted in classy neighbourhoods by pot-belly stoves and diesel SUV’s. No soot or ash comes from a modern coal-fired power station with full pollution control equipment.

Some smog contains compounds of sulphur, nitrogen or other chemical pollutants. These fumes are produced in open fires and vehicle exhausts, especially from badly-maintained vehicles, boilers and phut-phuts. They are not released by modern coal-power stations whose exhausts contain little other than nitrogen, water vapour and carbon dioxide – the three natural gases-of-life.

Those blaming coal power for smog need to read the history of last century’s deadly smogs in London and Pittsburgh. These were cleared by bans on open-fire heaters and cookers and the provision of “clean-coal-by-wire” – electricity produced in modern power stations with good emission controls and burning washed high-quality coals. Piped coal gas also helped clean the air of London.

Replacing dirty open fires and boilers with clean electricity and cleaning up vehicle exhausts will also clear today’s Asian Smog.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Hal Doiron: Retired NASA Scientist, The Right Climate Stuff

May 04, 2015, 4:07 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Managing Editor of Environment and Climate News H. Sterling Burnett speaks with retired NASA scientist Hal Doiron. Doiron, fresh back from his trip to the Pope’s climate conference in Rome, joins Burnett to discuss his time at NASA and how his views on the climate change debate took shape.

Doiron has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Houston. As a young scientist Doiron joined NASA, developing the software for the Apollo Lunar landing module. He also worked on the Skylab Program and the mars rover “curiosity.” In 2012, his experience with complex systems dynamic simulation models used for safety-critical applications, led him to organize The Right Climate Stuff (TRCS) Research Team of more than 25 NASA Apollo Program veterans, in an independent, objective review of the global warming issue. Doiron discusses why his team of space scientists disagree with the claim that humans are causing dangerous climate change. Their work finds that any influence on temperature from human CO2 emissions will be minimal. He also discusses his disappointment that climate realists were not included as advisors to the Pope at the Vatican conference. He called it a dog and pony show with a predetermined alarmist conclusion.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Welfare Reform Gets People Back To Work, So Why Did Jay Nixon Veto It?

May 04, 2015, 2:41 PM

Federal, state, and local governments spend well over $1 trillion per year on nearly 130 means-tested programs for lower-income Americans. Most of this money is intended to help the 46 million Americans living in poverty, yet we have achieved only minimal advances in getting people on sound financial footing since the “War on Poverty” was declared more than 50 years ago. Instead of helping people become self-sufficient, many states have implemented policies that actually trap people in a loop of government dependency.

In recent weeks, the Kansas and Missouri legislatures each passed welfare reform bills that would help reduce welfare dependency and reward work by strengthening welfare work requirements and removing barriers to self-sufficiency. The tried-and-tested policies that have been effective at lifting people out of poverty since the passage of the 1996 Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act have largely been ignored.

Defenders of the status quo have tried to take the focus off measures that would actually help move people off welfare and into work, often diverting the discussion to one or two minor provisions they cast as draconian.

On April 16, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signed the HOPE Act into law. Opponents of Kansas’s new welfare reform law tried to focus the public’s attention on its restrictions on where welfare recipients can use EBT cards, such as liquor stores and casinos. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed the Strengthening Missouri Families Act on Thursday, which would have enacted similar reforms in Missouri.

In The Heartland Institute’s 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card, Missouri scored an F and ranked dead last overall for its anti-poverty policies. Kansas scored slightly better, with a D+ at 32nd overall.

Like the Kansas law, the Missouri bill would have decreased the lifetime limits for welfare recipients in in the state, from 60 to 45 months. In recent years, many states have decreased their lifetime limits based on the theory five years of dependence on welfare can ingrain habits and lifestyles that make it very difficult to achieve self-sufficiency. Additionally, both the Kansas law and vetoed Missouri bill require TANF recipients to be engaged in work-related activities, a broad definition including not only full- or part-time employment but also on-the-job training, supervised community service, vocational education, and other activities.

The Missouri reforms would have established a “cash diversion program” intended to help prevent people suffering a short-term need from being placed in the welfare system and implement stricter sanctions for noncompliance with the work requirements.

A Rasmussen poll found a full 80 percent of Americans agree with the statement “work is the best solution for poverty.” According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, however, only 29.50 percent of TANF recipients are engaged in “work activities.” Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show out of 100 full-time working adults, only four live in poverty, and out of 100 part-time working adults, 15 live in poverty. It makes sense then to ensure successful anti-poverty reforms stress the importance of work.

The 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card also explains “work improves family well-being economically, by providing a stable source of income and the opportunity to acquire assets, as well as socially and culturally.”

Fifty years after the War on Poverty began, and half a decade after the Great Recession, too many Americans are not earning their way out of poverty because they are trapped in a system that makes it difficult to transition from welfare to work. Although each state is diverse with its own set of demographic and economic conditions, the most successful states have been those implementing policies and integrating in a coordinated, holistic, “one-stop” fashion the services needed to help recipients permanently move into the workplace.

As lawmakers in many states continue working to make things better for those living in poverty, the focus of these welfare reforms should be on policies stressing the primacy of work and independence, so that people will be lifted out of poverty, not remain there for generations on end.

[Originally Published by The Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

A Freer Monetary System Would Lead to Better Money

May 04, 2015, 2:26 PM

Since its invention in 2008, Bitcoin, a digital currency system, has slowly gained acceptance in online circles. But Bitcoin is only part of a potential future where a freer economy leads to increased economic growth and more consumer choice.

As one of the more popularly known decentralized digital currencies, Bitcoin is accepted as payment for real-world goods and services by companies such as Dell, DISH Network, Microsoft, Papa John’s Pizza, and

Exchanging otherwise unused spare processing cycles to verify and record other users’ payments in the shared public ledger, called a “blockchain,” for newly created Bitcoins and processing “fees,” payment processing work is spread across the universe of Bitcoin users.

Although Bitcoin solved several problems that plagued past digital currencies, it may not be the endpoint of currency innovation, as private companies and banks begin to question why currency must be issued by a central authority such as the U.S. Federal Reserve.

In Massachusetts, 400 businesses accept “BerkShares,” a local physical currency redeemable for goods and services. Local banks have agreed, without government compulsion, to trade dollars for BerkShares, and businesses may give change for purchases made in dollars with BerkShares.

Some Philadelphia community markets deal in “Equal Dollars,” another local physical currency system. Equal Dollars are traded for goods and services, both in-person and via an online trading post. This alternative currency is designed to reward volunteerism, giving users 25 Equal Dollars in exchange for time spent on volunteer work.

Similar alternative currencies have been successfully adopted in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and other countries. In Hong Kong, private currencies such as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited’s banknotes are actually more popular than government-issued currencies.

Allowing alternative currencies to arise and evolve in the United States could be a boon for the nation’s economy. In a policy paper for the Cato Institute, West Texas A&M University assistant professor of economics Thomas L. Hogan says the Federal Reserve’s money monopoly is holding the economy back.

“Legislation clarifying the rights of private banks to issue currency could help clear the path toward a return to private money,” Hogan wrote.

Hogan says there are strong economic incentives for a freer money market. “Considering that banks issuing private notes in Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, and Scotland earn hundreds of millions of dollars annually, it appears U.S. banks may be missing an opportunity to earn billions of dollars in annual profits,” Hogan wrote.

The creation of alternative currencies is currently hamstrung by concerns over potential government interference. “Congress needs to guarantee the feasibility of private money for the benefit of consumers in the United States and around the world by clarifying the legal status of private banknotes” and “prohibiting the Fed, Treasury, and Justice Department from taking action against private money producers,” Hogan said.

Removing the barriers to entry in the money market would increase the amount of currency experimentation and result in continual improvement of currencies. Allowing consumers to conduct transactions freely and voluntarily using their favored currency would permit the cream-of-the-crop cash to “rise to the top,” as consumers would increasingly adopt the currencies with the characteristics they want most. Safety and reliability are among the most obvious of these, and although the U.S. dollar is widely considered to be safe, the Fed’s currency manipulation makes the dollar anything but reliable.

Breaking government monopolies and allowing the free market to do its work are good ideas—and you can take that to the bank.

[Originally Published on Human Events]

Categories: On the Blog

Iowa Should Embrace Frac Sand Mining

May 04, 2015, 11:31 AM

Lansing, Ia., is located near sizeable deposits of the highly specialized sand used for hydraulic fracturing. The growing demand for this sand, commonly referred to as “frac sand,” has spurred a mining boom that has created thousands of high-paying jobs throughout Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, Lansing and other northeastern Iowa communities have largely missed out on the sand mining boom because local governments, citing environmental concerns, have enacted restrictive ordinances and moratoria severely limiting the growth of the industry. The scientific evidence suggests local officials should embrace, not prohibit, sand mining.

Sand mining has fewer environmental impacts than other types of mining. This is a key reason why Bob Lima, the state geologist for Iowa, recently told Winneshiek County supervisors, “If you just come in and dig sand out, there is very little risk to the water,” noting there would be more impact from processing sand. Lima suggested trout fishing would not be harmed by sand mining because the St. Peter sandstone layer is not a big supplier of water to trout streams.

Allamakee County enacted an impossibly restrictive ordinance on sand mining, which for all intents and purposes prohibits sand mining in the county. Less onerous regulations would have allowed sand to be mined in an environmentally responsible way.

In addition to environmental concerns, the Allamakee County ordinance cites concerns the tourism industry in the area could be threatened by increased traffic caused by mining. In places like Lansing, however, tourism jobs are generally low-paying, seasonal jobs providing only part-time work for full-time residents.

Until all the storefronts in Lansing and other northeastern Iowa cities no longer have signs that say “Space Available,” local governments should reconsider their unscientific opposition to sand mining.

[Originally Published by the Des Moines Register]

Categories: On the Blog

Net Neutrality Slammed as ‘Crony Capitalism’ for Silicon Valley Elite

May 04, 2015, 8:01 AM

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina on Saturday slammed the Net Neutrality rulemaking by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as “crony capitalism” for established Silicon Valley firms, enacted at the expense of Internet entrepreneurs.

“Crony capitalism is alive and well,” said Fiorina, at the National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit on May 2. “Elizabeth Warren, of course, is wrong about what to do about it. She claims that the way to solve crony capitalism is more complexity, more regulations, more legislation, worse tax codes, and of course the more complicated government gets and it’s really complicated now, the less the small and the powerless can deal with it.”

The FCC recently approved the Net Neutrality regulations in a controversial 3-2 vote.

“The dirty little secret of that regulation, which is the same dirty little secret of Obamacare or Dodd-Frank or all of these other huge complicated pieces of regulation or legislation, is that they don’t get written on their own,” Fiorina said. “They get written in part by lobbyists for big companies who want to understand that the rules are going to work for them. . . . Who was in the middle of arguing for net neutrality? Verizon, Comcast, Google, I mean, all these companies were playing. They weren’t saying ‘we don’t need this;’ they were saying ‘we need it.’”

Fiorina believes that by supporting such stifling regulations, the Internet giants may thwart the emergence of small businesses run out of people’s houses and garages. “Google started out that way too, in a dorm room, but they seem to have forgotten that,” Fiorina said.

Read more at:

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Replies (Again) to Media Matters

May 01, 2015, 4:26 PM

St Peter’s square, Vatican city

On April 29, 2015, Media Matters, a front group and spin machine for the Democratic Party, released another error-filled essay about The Heartland Institute, this one by Andrew Siefter complaining about mainstream media coverage of our presence at a Vatican workshop on global warming held in Rome the previous day. You can read all about that project here.

Siefter reports our presence was covered somewhat accurately by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, and NPR, and as usual inaccurately by the execrable Guardian (a socialist London tabloid). He fails to mention our presence also was reported with widely varying degrees of accuracy and sympathy by American Spectator, Associated Press, Brietbart, Christian Science Monitor, ClimateWire, Daily Caller, International Business Times, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, National Review, Scientific American, The Telegraph, The Independent,, USA Today, Vatican Insider, and probably hundreds or even thousands of other print and online outlets.

Siefter’s complaint is that The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters, and NPR didn’t replay Media Matters’ talking points about global warming realists: that they are all shills of the fossil fuel industry, that “’the vast majority of scientists … hold that climate change is induced by human activity’” (quoting a different story in The New York Times), and therefore global warming realists do not deserve to be heard in the debate over climate change.

Honest reporters don’t repeat Media Matters’ talking points because they are all wrong, refuted so many times by us here at The Heartland Institute (see here and here) and by other prominent and respected sources that it is a bit depressing to have to repeat it all once again. But one more time just for the record:

* Global warming realists, including those affiliated with The Heartland Institute, do not deny climate change, climate science, or even that humans have some effect on the climate. They only argue the human impact is too small or too improbable to justify the sweeping economic policies called for by the left. Climate change is not a crisis.

* Ideology doesn’t determine the views of global warming realists; honesty and real data do. Conservatives and libertarians are more likely than liberals to “look under the hood” at the science driving the global warming movement because they don’t like the direction that vehicle is taking the world. When they do, they discover great uncertainty over the causes and consequences of climate change. If liberals paused for a moment and actually looked at the science, they too would quickly become “skeptics.” Alas, most don’t and never will. It’s called “confirmation bias.”

* Funding sources don’t determine the views of global warming realists, either. Think tanks like The Heartland Institute have policies in place that immunize its researchers from the influence of donors. (Groups on the left, such as Center for American Progress, which created Media Matters, apparently do not.) There is no proof – none – of a scientist ever being paid by the fossil fuel industry to lie or deceive the public about climate science. Check out the source of that myth here.

* Siefter devotes special attention to The Heartland Institute’s funding, so let’s talk about that. Contributions from the fossil fuel industry comprise less than 5 percent of The Heartland Institute’s budget. Media Matters knows this because Peter Gleick, a disgraced former scientist, stole our budget in 2012 and sent it to Media Matters and his other liberal buddies (along with a fake “strategy memo” he has yet to confess to writing) to post on the Internet for all to see. Exxon hasn’t contributed in nearly a decade and once again never gave more than 5 percent of our annual budget. The “Koch brothers” contributed just $25,000 in the past 15 years, and even that small grant was for our work on health care reform, not global warming.

* There is no “scientific consensus” on the causes or consequences of climate change. Claims of a “97% consensus” or “98% consensus” are bogus, based on surveys that ask the wrong questions or deliberately exclude scientists known to be skeptical of alarmist predictions, or abstract-counting exercises that are contradicted by examination of the actual peer-reviewed literature. One thing is certain: Most scientists do not believe man-made global warming is a crisis.

Global warming realists have a right to be heard, just as do alarmists. It is yellow journalism and a violation of journalistic ethics to censor one side in a debate with major social and economic consequences. People who call for biased coverage of the global warming debate, such as Andrew Siefter and his colleagues at Media Matters, are behaving unethically. They, not global warming realists, ought to be excluded from the public arena.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Michi Iljazi: Shining a Light on the Darker Side of Solar

May 01, 2015, 3:59 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett speaks with Michi Iljazi. Iljazi is the communications and policy manager for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. The Taxpayers Alliance has a subsidiary called which is dedicated, in their words, to “shining a light on the darker side of solar power.”

Iljazi points out that the U.S. benefited immensely from the creativity, innovation and prosperity-generating power of the free enterprise system. Yet corporate welfare and corporate cronyism are eclipsing genuine capitalism and threatening innovation and prosperity — and the solar industry is right in the center of the corporate handouts. The Taxpayer Alliance’s new study, “A House of Cards:  Solar Energy’s Subsidy-Based Business Model,” in particular shines light on how much the solar industry has received in subsidies over the past five years and how much money it is losing every year. In addition it exposes the sleazy business practices of one company in particular, SolarCity?

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly: Heartland Brings Climate Realism to Rome

May 01, 2015, 2:40 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 everyFridaywith a highlight show.

Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Consumers Win as SC House Votes to Repeal Certificate of Need Regulations
In a victory for health care consumers, the South Carolina House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously to roll back certificate of need regulations limiting competition and choice in health care. READ MORE New NAEP Scores Show America’s Schools Still Failing
Heather Kays, The Heartlander
“It’s appalling that not even 30 percent of our nation’s 8th graders are proficient in subjects like civics and history that are so fundamental to our nation’s founding and democracy,” said Kara Kerwin. “If we don’t act now and take bold steps to empower parents and accelerate the pace at which they have access to opportunities that dramatically change their children’s learning outcomes, we will not be able to move our nation forward.” READ MORE From Rome: Heartland Brings Climate Realism to the Vatican
Jim Lakely and others
The Heartland Institute sent a delegation of scientists and policy experts to Rome to ensure Pope Francis and others attending a Vatican summit on global warming heard from climate realists and not just alarmists. To our surprise, our presence generated world-wide press attention.  READ MORE Featured Podcast: From Rome: Podcast with Christopher Monckton
Jim Lakely talks to Monckton about what he learned inside the walls of the exclusive climate summit — including his encounter with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon; the shockingly one-sided presentation of the science to Vatican officials; and the remarks of Peter Raver, an author for the UN’s IPCC who not only noticed Heartland’s presence in Rome but expressed his dismay that our contingent might have any effect on the proceedings. LISTEN TO MORE  

Heartland Is Hiring!
Do you believe in smaller government and more individual liberty? Do you believe free markets solve social and economic problems better than government planning? The Heartland Institute might have just the job for you! We’re looking for eager self-starters to manage several important projects that will have a real impact on policy in this country. READ MORE

  From Rome: A Message for Pope Francis
Paul Driessen, Somewhat Reasonable
Heartland Policy Advisor Paul Driessen writes a powerful essay to Pope Francis warning him that fossil fuel restrictions and renewable energy mandates – in the name of stabilizing planetary climate that has never been stable – would perpetuate Third World poverty, disease, and death.  READ MORE There’s No Such Thing as “Too Much Stuff”
Richard Ebeling, Epic Times
Heartland Policy Advisor Richard Ebeling critiques a Wall Street Journal article alleging the world is “awash” in too many goods. “There have been few fallacies as fundamentally absurd and so frequently pronounced as the notion of economic ‘bad times’ due to general gluts of too much production in comparison to a presumed limited demand.” READ MORE

UN Backs Coal Power for the Poor
H. Sterling Burnett, The Heartlander
The United Nations’ Green Climate Fund refused during its March meeting in Songdo, South Korea to explicitly ban fossil fuel projects, backing away from the war on coal being conducted by the World Bank and the Obama administration. The International Energy Agency welcomed the UN’s decision to fund coal power in developing countries, citing the important role coal plays in helping many people in developing countries to escape poverty. READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Why Bitcoin Is Different, and the Difference It Makes
Jeffrey Tucker, the chief liberty officer and founder of and a Heartland policy advisor, says Bitcoin exists and operates differently than almost anything in human history. Existing outside of national and geopolitical boundaries, Bitcoin’s system rewards users’ donation of computer time, using those extra processor cycles to ensure and verify the accuracy of the entire currency system.  LISTEN TO MORE Are Government Housing Policies Responsible for Inequality?
Wendell Cox, New Geography
House prices have doubled, tripled, or more relative to incomes, as regulators have banned or seriously limited new housing on the urban periphery. Younger households have been unable to afford houses as older households have watched their wealth increase.  READ MORE Most Polls Shows Americans Still Split Along Partisan Lines on ‘Obamacare’
Gene Koprowski, Somewhat Reasonable
Americans are almost evenly split in their opinions concerning Obamacare, with 43 percent of those polled reporting a favorable view and 42 percent reporting an unfavorable view. Sixty-five percent of Republicans reported a very or somewhat unfavorable view while 70 percent of Democrats reported very or somewhat favorable views. READ MORE Invest in the Future of Freedom!
Are you considering 2015 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make.

Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at  

Categories: On the Blog

Green Energy Policy? – “Nothing that Works”

May 01, 2015, 9:30 AM

Modern industrial society commenced with the use of coal and oil to power factories, trains, ships and agriculture and to generate electricity. With abundant energy, prosperity increased, and people could save enough to support leisure, education, culture and environmental concerns.

But the dark greens have a dream to dismantle all this, and return society to the hunter/gatherer era.

In an unguarded moment Maurice Strong, a leader of the international green movement, said:

Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?

Greens have thus gleefully spread the global warming scare to justify a massive political war on hydro-carbon fuels. Timothy Wirth, ex-President of the UN Foundation, spilt the beans: 

We’ve got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.

To mask their real aim of de-energising modern industry, they continually promote “alternative energy”.

The only alternatives to coal, oil and gas for stable, reliable and economical grid power are nuclear energy, and in favourable locations, hydro or geothermal. 

Nuclear power could be one of our cheapest and safest energy sources. However greens have opposed and denigrated it for decades, and erected such bureaucratic and financial hurdles that it is seldom considered in most pampered western societies.

They are in favour of hydro, providing it does not disturb one fish or frog on their favourite river.

But they continually spruik the benefits of wind and solar power.

Wind/solar can be useful in some mobile or remote locations, and for some people with deep pockets who wish to become independent of the grid. But being totally unable to supply 24/7 grid power, they need reliable backup (or massive batteries) for about 75% of their rated capacity. Once we subtract the energy and resources needed to build and maintain the towers/panels, plus the roads and transmission lines, plus backup/batteries and then run it all intermittently, the whole-of-life net-contribution of wind/solar to energy supply or emission reduction is negligible or negative.

Another dark green leader, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountains Institute, said: 

It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it.

Green energy policy promotes this dictum by supporting “Nothing that Works”.

Categories: On the Blog

Student Privacy Laws Need Strengthening

May 01, 2015, 9:16 AM

If there ever was an issue to unite all parents, teachers, and any educational stakeholder—which ultimately includes all of us—it should be student privacy. Yet, lawmakers on both the national and state levels have failed to develop meaningful legislation to protect student data and parents’ rights.

The gutting of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by both the Bush and Obama administrations has left children and parents in a vulnerable position. As a result, some organizations and individuals are making it their mission to raise student privacy issues and push governments to protect sensitive information about children.

The most recent skirmish was over the Pearson testing company monitoring social media posts regarding Common Core-aligned PARCC testing in New Jersey. Pearson contacted the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) over a Twitter post the company found objectionable. NJDOE then contacted the school district of the student who posted the tweet, and the student removed the post. Parents were understandably furious.

“This issue is both a free speech and a privacy issue,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. “Pearson has good reason to suppress any discussion of its exams, which have been shown to be very low quality in the past.”

“Parents are upset across the spectrum,” said Julia Rubin, a volunteer for Save Our Schools NJ. “Nobody knew what was going on. Not just that they were monitoring. I think it’s the idea that they are monitoring in coordination with the NJDOE. NJDOE then went to the district.”

Rubin says students were not told they couldn’t talk about the testing at all; they had only been told they couldn’t take photos of the tests.

“I put a lot of the blame on the NJDOE,” said Rubin. “This type of behavior may lead to an environment where students are afraid to talk about the standardized tests at all.

“You get to a point where students don’t know what is and is not allowed, which means you might not say anything,” Rubin said. “That definitely infringes on the free-speech rights of these students.”

Haimson and Rubin both question how realistic and plausible it is to keep students as young as eight from speaking about testing that takes place over the course of a month. Many parents and activists say they feel students should be able to speak about the tests, including talking about questions and content after the taking the tests, unless the students are cheating.

“[Pearson representatives] provided staggering information about the personally identifiable information that districts upload to the Pearson testing system, as well as ‘device and response’ information they gather during test administration,” said Rachael Stickland, co-chair of Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

According to Stickland, among the information collected during PARCC testing is data on economic status, race, and ethnicity, whether a student has migrant or immigrant status, whether a student is homeless, and even whether a student has ever been expelled or not.

“Pearson told our state board that any student data they collect belongs solely [to] the state and that they, Pearson, are expressly limited in their contract with the State of Colorado to ‘use’ student data only under specified terms,” said Stickland. “I would like to know if there is a provision in the contract that allows Pearson employees to access student-level information in their database to identify individual students with the intent to locate those children. If so, this puts children at great risk of identity theft as well as other vulnerabilities. If not, how will the Pearson employees be disciplined for unauthorized access to student records?”

Haimson, Rubin, Stickland, and many other parents and activists are demanding better laws to protect student data and allow students the freedom to speak openly about the tests they are taking. It’s the job of legislators to listen to their constituents, and they have a moral responsibility to protect children in their states. Both state and federal laws need strengthening to do so.

[Originally Published on The Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Response to Pope Francis’s Intervention into Global Warming

May 01, 2015, 8:46 AM

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has released its climate document “Climate Change and The Common Good” which may be the Encyclical on climate issued by Pope Francis this June.

Pope Francis is making a grievous mistake entering the debate on fossil fuels causing catastrophic global warming due to live-giving combustion gases carbon dioxide. History has not forgotten the Church’s 17th century involvement with science caused the Inquisition in 1633 to force Galileo Galilei to recant the Sun was the center of our universe instead of the Earth. Galileo was held in house arrest until his death in 1642. The consequences of the Church’s actions may have set astronomy back a few years; but did not lead to calamitous future for the planet. In 1992 the Vatican formally announced its mistake in condemning Galileo.

April 22 was Earth Day that was hijacked by environmental groups who want to use it to promote their agenda of forcing the abandonment of the earth’s abundant, inexpensive, and geographically distributed fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas. Their reasoning is carbon dioxide from using fossil fuels is causing catastrophic global warming (climate change). Nothing could be further from the truth.

Abundant energy is needed for achieving Earth Day’s goal. It takes energy to produce clean water and dispose of sewage. Fossil fuel energy is preferable for transportation than animals used in the past that despoiled roads. Fossil fuel supported energy is far cleaner and healthier for heating and cooking than wood and dung used in the past. Electricity is preferable for lighting than whale oil or candles use centuries ago. The list goes on and on.  All of the prosperity and good health of developed nations is attributed to fossil fuels.

Environmental groups, and now Pope Francis, want to replace fossil fuel energy sources with solar, wind, biomass (wood), ethanol from corn, other biofuels, etc. as future energy sources.  These energy sources are too expensive for developing nations. In addition, these energy sources require vast land areas in order to produce significant amounts of energy. This requires destroying millions of square miles of forest land that cleans our air and water, creates oxygen, helps cool the planet, and provides recreation.

Thus Pope Francis wants to turn upside down the original goals of Earth Day and leave the planet poorer, less healthy, drudgery for a lifestyle, and lacking creature comforts. If these goals are achieved, a day will come when the Vatican renounces Pope Francis’s intervention into the global warming debate as was done on Church’s treatment of Galileo.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Bette Grande: Fracking and Earthquake Misconceptions

April 30, 2015, 4:26 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Research Fellow Isaac Orr and Research Fellow Bette Grande discuss earthquakes and their relationship with hydraulic fracturing. Grande also gives the listeners an inside look at the state of oil production in North Dakota as a result of low oil prices.

Anti-fracking groups are trumpeting a new study published in Nature Communications as a smoking gun proving hydraulic fracturing has been causing earthquakes in Texas and Oklahoma. However, this is another case of these groups being just informed enough on the subject to be dangerous, because the increase in earthquakes in these two states is due to disposing of the wastewater generated during the hydraulic fracturing process, not the hydraulic fracturing process itself.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Time to Move on from the Endangered Species Act

April 30, 2015, 3:34 PM

The Endangered Species Act, and how the Act is being used, should be a priority both in the States and in Washington, D.C.

The Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) in its current form has been around since 1973.  Supposed environmental legislation from the early 70’s (the ESA, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the EPA itself) was pushed and passed by the Nixon administration and has been the foundation for environmental activism ever since.  In 1973 there were 137 species listed under the Act and by August, 2014 the number had grown to 1,560 with over 757 additional species under consideration by 2018.

Lately the ESA has been used to limit energy development, or at least make it more expensive.  But it is far more than energy development that is affected.   Agriculture and personal property rights are targets as well.   The overreach by the federal government reaches across the country.

The ESA and the other Acts mentioned above come with impressive titles, but the results are not very impressive.  The federal government has gained control of more and more private property, and worked with environmentalists to slow and stop economic development in vast areas of our country costing taxpayers millions of dollars.  And after all of that, the record of saving “endangered species” is incredibly poor.

For a good background on the ESA see “It’s time to Endanger the Endangered Species Act”  by Taylor Smith of the Heartland Institute.

North Dakota

In North Dakota, the US Fish & Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) has placed the Dakota Skipper and the Poweshiek Skipperling on the protected list of the ESA.  USFWS is looking at adding the Rufa Red Knot, Sprague’s Pipit, Greater Sage Grouse, Monarch Butterfly, Sturgeon Chub and Sicklefin Chub to the protected list as well.

Based on history, protection of any of these species under the ESA will not result in actual benefits for the species, but it will increase federal government control over private property and limit authorized uses of that private property.

Once a species is protected under the ESA the federal government exerts full control over the “habitat” including a large buffer zone in which economic activity is effectively stopped.  In addition, landowners face fines of $100,000.00 and jail time if they violate the USFWS rules.  And, after all of that there is no evidence that the ESA actually benefits the listed species.  In fact, the only evidence available shows it actually harms the species it is supposed to protect.

Sue and Settle

The ESA and the other Acts mentioned have been a financial windfall for extreme environmental groups.  These groups work closely with allies in the federal government to file friendly lawsuits that the federal government promptly settles without giving property owners the opportunity to challenge the allegations.  This ‘Sue & Settle’ scam works because the people directly affected by the “lawsuit” are usually unaware it is happening.  By the time the case is settled it is too late.  But there’s more.  Because the federal agency agrees to settle these “lawsuits”, we the taxpayer get to pay the attorney fees for both sides.  The extreme environmental groups are financing their efforts with our money.  And their goal is not the protection of “endangered species” or the betterment of the people of the United States.

Action in ND

Many states are taking action to address legitimate endangered species issues.   North Dakota has a strong history of stewardship of our natural resources and has programs in place that actually achieve the goal of species preservation.  Going forward the States should work individually and regionally to develop locally based programs that work with our farmers, ranchers and businesses, not against them.

North Dakota is blessed in many ways and one significant blessing is low proportion of federal owned land in the state.  Federal agencies are working to change that fact by using the ESA to “claim” private property.  The situation is worse in many western states where over 50% of land is owned or controlled by the federal government.

Still, the federal government’s appetite for more land continues to grow.  The ‘Cromnibus’ Bill passed by Congress last December included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act giving wilderness designation to an additional 250,000 acres and removing 400,000 acres from commercial use.

The North Dakota Legislature just passed HB 1432 that provides the framework and resources to fight these federal land grabs.  The Statute establishes a Committee headed by North Dakota’s Commissioner of Agriculture to review the actions and administrative rules from Federal agencies which have, or may have, a detrimental impact on the State’s agriculture, coal and oil & gas industries.  The Legislature also appropriated funds to cover costs from “sue & settle” actions and other litigation. This legislation also allows for private donations to this fund to defray costs and assist in the cause.

All the States should stand together on the issues of state sovereignty and federalism.

Action in Washington D.C.

Congress should also take a hard look at how the executive branch is implementing the ESA and the other Acts mentioned earlier.  Congress created these Acts and passed the laws that the Federal agencies are now using against State and private property interests.  To the extent that agency rule making exceeds the legislative intent Congress must regain its authority.

In North Dakota, the Legislature reviews and approves the rules that agencies adopt to carry out legislative intent.  Agency rules and procedures must be directly related to legislative intent and the executive branch is not authorized to make new laws by interpreting or modifying statutes.

Federal agencies are not authorized to make law, but that would come as a surprise to many farmers and ranchers.  Federal agencies were intended to implement and enforce legislation passed by Congress.  However, through the rule making process Federal agencies have “interpreted” and expanded legislative acts to the point that original legislative intent is unrecognizable.   Whether driven by ideology, the quest for power, or both, Federal agencies have far more power and authority than was intended.  Congress is the branch with the ultimate authority and it is time to reclaim that constitutional role.

If Congress wants to have an immediate and lasting impact on the economy, environmental stewardship, jobs and basic property rights it should take its role as the legislative branch seriously.  It should revise or repeal the ESA, and the other Acts mentioned, develop stronger oversight of agency rules and return authority over environment and land issues to the states.

Endanger species – and endangered industries – are counting on you.

Categories: On the Blog

Report on School Choice Avoids Facts, Protects Status Quo

April 30, 2015, 1:46 PM

Teachers unions and other defenders of the education status quo are terrified of school choice. As a result, they frequently present misleading reports as truthful. A new report by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) in Illinois is a good example. Attempting to discredit the voucher program in Indiana and school choice as a whole, the report is incomplete, full of logical flaws, half-truths, and omission of key facts.

With six union members on its board, CTBA is hardly an unbiased observer. In fact, the president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and government affairs director of the Illinois Education Association all sit on CTBA’s board.

Such obvious bias in favor of the education status quo makes the following claim in the study utterly laughable:

“This paper will not utilize in its analysis studies conducted by organizations with a clear bias, be it provoucher or anti-voucher. It instead draws on objective, peer-reviewed analyses. The goal is to answer two key questions about the Indiana Choice Legislation as objectively as possible.”

What that translates to is this: CTBA ignored every piece of evidence that did not line up with its self-serving thesis that education choice is dangerous. CTBA completely ignored data and studies from researchers at Harvard, Princeton, the University of Chicago, the Brookings Institution, and other eminently reputable sources.

CTBA didn’t even use the most recent available data when citing a longitudinal study coauthored by Dr. Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas. CTBA uses 2008–09 findings, published in 2010, instead of the most recent, 2012 report. Wolf says his research found “school choice in Milwaukee has had a modest but clearly positive effect on student outcomes.”

Numerous peer-reviewed, gold-standard studies show school choice has had statistically significant positive outcomes for all children or certain subgroups, especially low-income and minority students.

“Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program” was conducted by Cecilia Elena Rouse in 1997. Rouse says of the study, “I find that students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program had faster math score gains than, but similar reading score gains to, the comparison groups.”

A 2002 study, revised in 2006, by William G. Howell and Paul E. Peterson, “The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools,” found after two years black voucher students had combined reading and math scores 6.5 percentage points higher than the control group.

In 2008, in his study titled “School Choice as a Latent Variable: Estimating ‘Complier Average Casual Effect’ of Vouchers in Charlotte,” Joshua M. Cowen found after one year, voucher students had higher math and reading scores than the control group.

Tosha Salyers of Hoosiers for Quality Education says CTBA failed to include Indiana student achievement data in its analysis.

“A quick check of student achievement data on the Indiana Department of Education website shows that student achievement is up by every measure in our state,” Salyers said. “Since school voucher legislation was passed in 2011, we have seen an increase in ISTEP+ pass rates, graduation rates, IREAD-3 pass rates, end-of-course assessment pass rates, Advanced Placement participation, and Advanced Placement assessment pass rates. Additionally, data from the Indiana Department of Education indicate the number of A-rated schools has increased from 856 in 2011 to 1,124 in 2014, while the number of F-rated schools has decreased from 144 in 2011 to 84 in 2014.”

Contrast that with the CTBA report, which claims, “Indeed, based on the available evidence, rather than improve student performance and the overall public education system in Indiana, the Indiana Choice Legislation may actually impede student achievement specifically and harm the education system generally. At a time when public resources are scarce, it is not advisable for state decision makers to divert public education funding to programs that cannot be expected to help children learn or improve the education system.”

The studies cited above and numerous others show positive outcomes for students participating in voucher programs. The CTBA report ignores all of this evidence, instead claiming, “Subsidizing individual decisions that do not generate a public good or service—even legitimate ones well within the rights of, in this case, the parents making them—is an inappropriate use of public money.”

The reality is school choice programs are less expensive than traditional public schools, and student achievement is generally at least as good as in traditional public schools.

The cost savings of school choice help every taxpayer in the state, and choice gives parents a voice in an educational system that rarely listens to them otherwise. Vouchers, charters, and other choice programs across the country consistently demonstrate this success. That’s why thousands of families are on waiting lists to enter these programs and thousands upon thousands more are calling for greater choice.

The CTBA report doesn’t get absolutely everything wrong, but as the research makes clear, it is far from truthful. CTBA has a right to oppose choice in schools, but it shouldn’t get to choose its own facts.

[Originally Published on Human Events]

Categories: On the Blog