We are in the midst of a presidential race that is fundamentally changing how many view – and thought they knew – politics. Donald Trump especially is radically altering that map. What many thought were permanent lines – turned out to be drawn on an Etch-a-Sketch. That the presumptive Republican nominee has spent the last year shaking into oblivion.
Much of what Trump has altered – desperately needed to be altered. Change can be a very good thing – especially when terrible ideas and actions have been ensconced and accepted as “the norm” and “that’s how it’s always been done.
That’s certainly the case in many instances with intellectual property (IP). Intellectual property has come to be seen as somehow less than physical property – and thus less worthy of protection from theft. In an ever increasingly digital economy – that’s even less good.
One of the first major purveyors of IP theft was Napster. Launched on June 1, 1999, Napster was a website designed to allow its users to steal digital copies of music. Millions of people downloaded songs – for which they did not pay. These same people – who would never have walked into a brick-and-mortar Tower Records store and stolen the same music on CDs – had no compunction doing the exact same thing digitally. In this way did Napster help begin to artificially, dangerously lessen the perceived value of IP.
But just because you aren’t stealing anything tangible – doesn’t mean you aren’t stealing. By illegally replicating a song (or movie, or book, or….) – you are lessening the value of the legal copies thereof. It is the exact same reason you aren’t allowed to print fake money – because it devalues real money. (Someone please tell the United States Treasury.)
Flash forward nearly two decades – and we have China. Which is Napster on uber-steroids – ensconced as government policy. On May 15 on Fox News Sunday, in defense of Trump’s call for a reanalysis of how we cut trade deals, Republican former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said “When you hear, for example, that the Chinese last year probably stole $360 billion in intellectual property from the United States, I think being tough about that’s a good thing. I think conservatives can be for very tough-minded trade.”
$360 billion is a LOT of heisted coin. Is that a correct count? Uber-Left PolitiFact actually said “It could actually be higher.” Equally uber-Left PundiFact said “The first thing we should note, however, is that the $360 billion figure is only for losses from cyber-hacking — a limitation that Gingrich didn’t specify. Of course, adding in non-cyber losses would only increase that figure beyond $360 billion.”
So Gingrich’s $360 billion of Chinese per annum intellectual property theft is a…conservative estimate. It’s likely much worse. And guess who picks up that massive tab? You do – in the form of higher prices for the music, movies and other things they’re stealing.
Keep that in mind when next you hear how much a “trade war” will cost you. If the “war” is negotiating anti-theft mandates – the benefits will far outweigh the costs. And will restore some sanity to intellectual property perception.
All of this raises another question. Why would our Congress work to undermine any aspect of intellectual property protection? Why would they make it harder for our creators to protect their creations? And thereby easier for the likes of China to continue – and even increase – their thievery?
Sadly, that’s what Republicans are leading the charge to do to patents. Behold the woefully misnamed “Innovation Act”:
‘Innovation Act’ Will Stifle Innovation: “For investors in technology start-ups, things are about to get much more complex and dangerous….(T)his bill actually will kill investment and innovation … The American patent, so indispensable to technology start-ups, is about to be rendered useless when faced with an infringer of disproportionate size … “
The Innovation Act Would Hurt Inventors Like Me, And Thousands Of Others: “(T)he Innovation Act threatens American inventors, particularly individual inventors and those working at small businesses and startups …”
Meanwhile, China and its ilk are licking their chops – hoping this terrible legislation becomes law.
We have decades of bad intellectual property precedent to undo. The Innovation Act isn’t helping.
The nearly-centenarian Elizabeth Clarke is extremely ill after a serious fall and is convalescing at home in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Mrs. Clarke is a doyenne of the conservative movement in the Chicago area, a leader of Eagle Forum and the National Federation of Independent Business, and a staunch supporter of the Lincoln Legal Foundation, the Heartland Institute, the Illinois Policy Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the United Republican Fund of Illinois, the Chicago Conservative Conference, and countless other pro-freedom, pro-market, pro-family, and pro-life causes and groups in Illinois and across America.
Mrs. Clarke and her late husband, Edwin, were fixtures at nearly every conservative, libertarian, and allied meeting, conference, symposium, rally, and celebration held in the Chicago area over the last many decades. As long as health permitted they regularly attended the monthly center-right coalition meeting of the Fort Dearborn Group.
Just before the Fourth of July two years ago, in 2014, when Mrs. Clarke was 96, I had the privilege of interviewing her for an oral history project of the Heartland Institute about her remarkable life and about the changes that she had seen in the world since her birth near the end of World War I.
Elizabeth Clark, age 96, discusses the incredible changes the world has experienced over the past 90 years with Heartland friend Joe Morris. In part two of this two-part series, Clark discusses how education has changed over the years.
Heartland has posted the interviews with Mrs. Clarke in the podcast archive of its website at www.Heartland.org.
Part 1 can be heard here: https://www.heartland.org/podcasts/2014/07/02/elizabeth-clark-96-years-young
I am sure that Mrs. Clarke would welcome cards, letters, and other messages of cheer as she struggles with illness. She is still quite mentally active and alert, and enjoys having messages read to her by her family, friends, and caregivers.
In The Tank Podcast (ep40): Fixing Income Inequality, CON Laws, Telemedicine, and Nutritional Labeling
John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in #40 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 Competitive Enterprise Institute, the John Locke Foundation, the Palmetto Promise Institute, and the Mercatus Center.
Featured Work of the Week
This week’s featured work of the week is from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. John and Donny discuss a two reports recently released titled “People, Not Ratios: Why the Debate over Income Inequality Asks the Wrong Questions,” and “The Rising Tide: Answering the Right Questions in the Inequality Debate.” These two reports seek to explain why focusing on income inequality is a distraction and why we need to focus on how to increase the well-being of those in poverty by reducing barriers to entry and encouraging real free-market reforms.
In the World of Think Tankery
Today Donny and John talk about an article from the John Locke Foundation titled “Economics and Environment: NC CON law is central planning beyond Bernie’s wildest dreams.” This article explains the absurdity of Certificate of Need Laws by comparing the industry to the production of computers. The author shows that if the computer industry was as centrally planned as health care facilities, no one would stand for it. Donny compares these CON laws to the draconian “Directive 10-289” rules from Atlas Shrugged.
In the next segment, Donny and John discuss an update from the Palmetto Promise Institute about how “New Technology could Change Lives in South Carolina.” An innovative new online startup, Opternative, is attempting to change the way people go about getting an eye examine. With a new app, people can check their eyesight and obtain a prescription without having to go to the eye doctor. This innovation is now meeting resistance in a number of states. A recently passed bill banning this new technology was vetoed by South Carolina’s Governor Nikki Haley.
- Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2016 Annual Dinner and Reception (Thursday, June 2) @ the Marriott Washington in D.C.
- Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) – Property Rights, Markets, and Freedom (Tuesday, June 21), in Bozeman, Montana.
- Heartland Institute – Funding Education Choice: Jason Bedrick (Wednesday, June 8) @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois
Venezuela is an official Socialist Utopia disaster area. (It would be nice if Team Bernie Sanders and his Democrat cohorts were paying attention – but who are we kidding.)
The United States State Department issued a travel warning back on September 18 (which still appears to be in place). The news, meanwhile, is chock full of horror stories for the people of Venezuela – the victims of full government’s inexorable conclusion.
With Socialism, you end up with just about nothing of everything – except government. There’s always plenty of that.
If you think $170 hamburgers are expensive in Government Xanadu – imagine how expensive “free speech” is. A government run amok – that has ruined its nation – can not allow its people to discuss said damage. So you get:
Venezuela: Research Confirms Censorship of News Platforms, Currency Websites: “A recent study conducted by the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS) in Venezuela has confirmed that at least 43 different websites are being blocked in the country, shedding new light on the filtering practices of the Venezuelan government. The research focused on documenting incidents surrounding web access and net neutrality, zeroing in on the treatment of national networks during the 2015 elections.”
Wait – what? There’s that U.S. buzz phrase – Net Neutrality. We here have been incessantly told that Net Neutrality has nothing to do with content control and government censorship. Venezuela’s government would seem to disagree:
“In 90% of cases, the websites in the study were being blocked consistently across all five of Venezuela’s largest ISPs. All appeared to constitute some violation of the notoriously broad Law on Social Responsibility on Radio, Television and Electronic Media, suggesting that the websites were blocked in compliance with an administrative measureunder the aforementioned law. More specifically, the Institute inferred that the websites are considered to promote disobedience of the law, disavow authorities, or ‘foster unrest’ within society.
Sounds pretty Tea Party-Conservative to me. Here, Net Neutrality will end up being the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – for the Internet.
But we knew all of this before the Barack Obama Administration power grabbed the Web – because one of Net Neutrality’s biggest proponents said so. Behold college professor and avowed Marxist (please pardon the redundancy) Robert McChesney:
“Any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.”
“There is no real answer (to the U.S. economic crisis) but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.”
“At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”
How very Hugo Chavez of him. Speaking of, Professor McChesney was a big fan of what Chavez was doing – and Venezuela continues to do.
“Venezuela is a constitutional republic. Chavez has won landslide victories that would be the envy of almost any elected leader in the world, in internationally monitored elections.”
“Aggressive unqualified political dissent is alive and well in the Venezuelan mainstream media, in a manner few other democratic nations have ever known, including our own.”
Ummm…not so much. In fact, Professor McChesney loved Venezuela’s first forays intoshutting down dissenting media:
“If (critical of Hugo Chavez Venezuelan station) RCTV were broadcasting in the United States, its license would have been revoked years ago. In fact its owners would likely have been tried for criminal offenses, including treason.”
Not yet here, Professor McChesney. But our Net Neutrality is new – give it time.
Venezuela’s head start is not one to emulate. But that’s exactly what we’re doing.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final methane rule on May 12. The 600-page rule is agenda-driven and backed by pseudoscience, emotions, and unicorn dust, and it’s important to note one specific change in the final rule amounts to a regulatory taking. The final rule imposes costly regulations on wells producing fewer than 15 barrels per day, effectively shutting down those businesses.
In North Dakota, there are over 3,000 low-volume wells, often referred to as “stripper wells.” Stripper wells are defined as those wells that produce fewer than 40 barrels of oil per day; the majority produce 15 barrels or less. The drop in oil prices is already impacting the viability of stripper wells, and the state’s oil regulators have recently loosened rules to allow these wells to be idle for up to two years as the operators wait for higher oil prices.
Stripper wells ensure every last drop of oil can be produced in a region, but the low volume means the owners of these wells are very vulnerable to changes in costs related to maintaining and operating each well. When EPA expanded its methane rule to include these low-volume wells, it effectively added significant costs to each well — a decision that will likely lead operators to abandon their projects.
A press release issued by the National Stripper Well Association (NSWA) puts it bluntly. “These new rules will cripple stripper and marginal well owners and operators, and on top of historically low oil prices, we are looking at total disaster,” said NSWA Chairwoman Darlene Wallace. “By requiring the addition of new costly equipment requirements and expensive leak detection the economics within the oil and gas industry as a whole will be fundamentally changed, severely and forever.”
Forcing owners of these low-volume wells to shut them down amounts to a regulatory taking. Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation. Courts have ruled this right, commonly referred to as the Takings Clause, applies to the loss of many kinds of property taken as a result of government regulation.
According to previous court decisions, a regulatory taking must meet the “substantially advances” test, which means the regulation must substantially advance a legitimate government purpose in order to be valid. EPA has attempted to identify the legitimate government purpose behind the new methane rule, but the agency’s estimated benefits, which focus heavily on stopping climate change, are certainly up for debate. But even if it can be proven the broad goals behind the policy are valid, it will be exceptionally difficult for EPA to prove its regulations targeting the very small stripper wells “substantially” accomplish those goals.
In the final rule, EPA discusses the removal of the low-volume exemption, saying, “We were concerned about the burden on small business, in particular, where there may be little emission reduction to be achieved.” This doesn’t sound as though EPA is convinced its rule will have a substantial impact, and in other sections of the rule, EPA offers wildly conflicting views. For instance, the rule in one section says comments in favor of the exemption “did not provide any data,” but in the next paragraph, EPA favorably cites a comment against an exemption for stripper wells: “One commenter indicated that low production well sites have the potential to emit high fugitive emissions.”
Apparently, the lack of data in this instance was not fatal — probably because the term “high fugitive emissions” is so ominous that it simply must be bad.
The bottom line is the application of EPA’s methane rule to stripper wells amounts to a regulatory taking. By forcing the abandonment of private property for the owners of low-volume wells, the government will need to compensate each owner for the loss of real property — unless the regulation aimed at each low-volume well substantially advances the stated legitimate purpose, a hard assertion to prove, to say the least.
It has to be noted neither President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan nor his commitment to the Paris agreement were founded on a legitimate government purpose, but even if EPA can conjure a supposedly legitimate purpose for its new methane rule, forcing the abandonment of stripper wells in North Dakota and elsewhere will not substantially advance that purpose.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Arthur Viterito, a professor of Geography of the College of Southern Maryland, joins managing editor for Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his recent research exploring other factors that affect global temperatures.
Viterito’s recent research shows geothermal venting, particularly in the Oceans affecting the transportation of heat, has a significant impact on recent warming. Critically, seismic activity correlates with temperature changes better than carbon dioxide, yet is not accounted for in climate models.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Peter Ferrara, Heartland Senior Fellow and author of the Power to the People, joins host Michael Hamilton to discuss the different proposed plans to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Ferrara talks through the most essential features of GOP repeal and replace plans, including a universal health insurance tax credit (UHITC) promoted by John C. Goodman – Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and president of the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research. Ferrara also drills down into the benefits of block-granting Medicaid to the states.
Los Angeles Times reporter Joy Resmovits reached out to me yesterday for comment about the controversy over the Portland Public Schools board voting unanimously last week to institute a ban on any materials or discussion that express doubts human activity is causing a catastrophic climate crisis. Because Ms. Resmovits is an education reporter, and not an environment reporter, there was some semblance of balance.
The angle of the story, naturally, was sympathetic to the members of the school board, who were now experience a “backlash” from folks who saw the resolution as nutty at best and harmful at worst. Heck, consindering the LA Times has banned any “skeptic” commentary on its pages, I was just happy they gave us a call.
The Heartland Institute, a conservative group, posted on its blog that the school district was “demanding that their unshakable faith in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming be the only thing taught in school.” In an email, Heartland’s director of communications, Jim Lakely, said the resolution was harmful because “it teaches kids in Portland public schools the falsehood that the science is settled.” He said he’s concerned that kids will be “indoctrinated instead of taught how the scientific method works.”
I can only imagine the reaction of some readers and editors. I’m guessing they won’t make the mistake of calling me again and exposing their readers to the truth.
One quibble — aside from the angle that underplayed the radicalism of the school board — is the way Resmovitz played hide the pea with the proof that the district did ban the words “may,” “might,” and “could” from any future materials that mention climate change.
At the school board meeting, [environmental activist Bill Bigelow] pointed to two textbooks — a modern history book and a science book — that he said don’t adequately characterize climate change. “The text is thick with the skeptical language of ‘might’ and ‘could’ and ‘may,’” he said at the time.
That could explain why the story took on a life of its own, Rosenau said. And, in fact, Lakely, the Heartland Institute spokesman, said his organization opposed what he characterized as a ban on textbooks that use the words “might,” “may” and “could” about climate science. The resolution, however, doesn’t actually use those terms.
Yes, it’s technically correct that the board’s resolution on climate change curriculum does use those words. But the man who proposed the resolution said those words in his testimony, and the resolution states that the district “will abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities.” That is the same thing.
I pointed that out to Resmovitz, and she did quote that passage from the resolution in her second paragraph. But readers need to see that passage in the context of my quote — and that means near my quote. Doing so, however, would get in the way of the narrative that right-wing “skeptics” are making a big deal over nothing — and that I’m mischaracterizing the controversy.
I’d be mad, but I was in the mainstream media for 16 years, and I know how this goes. At least this was almost right, which makes it better than most MSM fare.
Yesterday, I visited day two of the Citizens’ Revolutionary Week, an annual liberal activist conference held in Washington, D.C. hosted by far-left activist Ralph Nader.
Day two’s theme was “Breaking Through Media,” a celebration of liberal policy wins such as the Federal Communications Commission’s February 2015 net neutrality regulation. The day was all about figuring out how to build on those wins to use the government’s power over media to freeze out conservative ideas and promote liberal ideas with the power of net neutrality.
Speakers such as liberal activist Kevin Zeese and University of Iowa College of Law professor Nicholas Johnson suggested re-regulating speech in the U.S., by bringing back the “fairness doctrine,” an FCC policy requiring television stations and other broadcasters to distribute government-approved doses of government-approved points of view.
Keep on checking out Somewhat Reasonable all this week as I report from the Citizens’ Revolutionary Week!
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Michael Coons, National Legislative Director of Citizen Initiatives, joins hosts Donald Kendal and Kyle Maichle to talk about the Article V movement to create a Countermand Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The Countermand Amendment would give state legislatures the power of rescission. States would be able to fight back against executive orders. Coons explains how this amendment can fundamentally change how the states interact with the federal government. So far the proposed amendment has only been passed by the state of Alaska. Coons outlines the plan going forward and addresses multiple concerns a criticisms frequently brought up when discussing the Article V process.
On May 13, delegates to the state convention for the Republican Party of Texas approved a plank in the party’s platform that supports an Article V convention.
The plank received the backing of more than 80 percent of the 8,000 delegates present during the convention, which was held from May 12 to May 14 in Dallas, Texas. The topic of an Article V convention was a pretty contentious topic during hearings held by the permanent platform committee of the Texas Republican Party in the days leading up to the plank’s approval. Passionate testimony, both for and against Article V, occurred during the hearing.
A former member of the platform committee wrote a blog post imploring committee members to reject the proposed Article V plank, but the vocal opposition did not sway enough members’ opinions, as the plank was cleared out of committee and eventually approved on the convention floor.
“We support the Bill of Rights as written by our Founding Fathers and assert the authority of the 10th amendment. We urge our Texas State Legislators to call for a limited Article V Convention of States for the specific purpose of reducing the power of the federal government, including implementation of term limits. Any proposed amendments must be ratified by 3/4 of the states,” reads the Texas GOP plank.
The party’s plank on Article V is different from a separate plank in the platform opposing a constitutional convention and calling on the legislature to rescind a 1977 application. The plank does not affect the state’s 1979 application for a convention calling for a balanced budget amendment.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced his support for the Convention of States project in January during an event sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). Convention of States is a multiple amendment application for an Article V convention calling for a balanced budget requirement, term limits on members of Congress, and reductions in federal regulations. At the same event, Abbott called for nine new amendments to the Constitution of the United States, including giving states the authority to override unconstitutional laws from the national government.
Texas has become a prime target for organizations pursuing their own efforts for an Article V convention since Abbott’s announcement in January. The overwhelming approval of Texas Republicans for an Article V convention signals that momentum has shifted in favor of the movement to add additional Article V applications, which could be approved during the 2017 legislative session.
At a press conference held on March 29, 2016, a coalition of 19 Democratic state attorneys general and one Independent – with former Vice President Al Gore as the speaker that they privately tagged as their headline-grabbing “star power” – announced their collective efforts to deal with the problem of climate change. The attorneys general, calling themselves “AGs United for Clean Power,” declared that they planned to “creatively and aggressively” use their powers to force ExxonMobil, think tanks and individuals to comply with their preferred policy on climate change, urged on by activists intolerant of contrary views.
The press that attended had mixed reactions to the show, some overjoyed, some skeptical. Shawn McCoy, publisher of Inside Sources, questioned the AGs, saying: “A Bloomberg Review editorial noted that the Exxon investigation is preposterous and a dangerous affirmation of power. The New York Times has pointed out that Exxon has published research that lines up with mainstream climatology and therefore there’s not a comparison to Big Tobacco. So is this a publicity stunt? Is the investigation a publicity stunt?”
The AGs denied it with vigor, particularly the Independent, Claude Earl Walker, Attorney General of the Virgin Islands of the United States – an unincorporated U.S. Territory in the Caribbean Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.*
Walker took the microphone and called Al Gore “my hero,” then gave an impassioned speech pledging to do something “transformational” to end reliance on fossil fuel, beginning with an investigation into ExxonMobil, which manufactures a product he believes is “destroying this earth.”
After his performance, Walker “destroyed this earth” a bit by benefitting from the expenditure of a considerable amount of Jet A fuel (most likely made by ExxonMobil Aviation) while flying the 1,628 air miles from JFK back to Cyril King Airport near his office in the capital city of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, also known as a popular cruise ship port.
Evidence shows that Walker’s March 29 press conference performance was merely for show. In reality, he had been colluding with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, his colleagues and environmental group leaders for more than a month. Walker sent his 19-page subpoena alleging “conspiracy to obtain money by false pretenses” to ExxonMobil headquarters in Dallas, Texas on March 15 – exactly two weeks before taking the stage in New York City, a fact he did not mention. He had something to hide and he hid it.
When ExxonMobil received the subpoena filed by Walker, the return address was the Washington, D.C. office of Linda Singer. Walker had delegated his territorial powers to her as his “national counsel” who would manage the investigation because his U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Justice was in disorder, according to Gov. Kenneth Mapp. Walker had been nominated for the office by the governor only last August and became “the fourth person in eight months to lead the beleaguered department – one the governor acknowledged remains in a “mess,” according to the Virgin Islands Consortium.
Singer was the perfect lawyer to perform a predatory investigation under the Virgin Islands’ Criminal Influenced and Corrupt Organization law (CICO), a stand-in for the mainland’s federal Mafia-busting Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law (RICO).
Singer is a partner in Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll PLLC, which touts itself as “the most effective law firm in the United States for lawsuits with a strong social and political component.” Singer is so qualified because she is a former attorney general turned plaintiffs’ lawyer with deep experience using questionable tactics to win lucrative cases. She was featured in a 2014 New York Times investigative report, “Lawyers Create Big Paydays by Coaxing Attorneys General to Sue.”
Singer was selected as the Times’ opener for their report, describing how she approached Attorney General Gary King of New Mexico with an “unusual proposition.” She wanted him “to sue the owner of a nursing home in rural New Mexico that Mr. King had never heard of and Ms. Singer had never set foot in.” Her proposed lawsuit did not cite any specific complaints about care, only numbers on staffing levels suggesting that residents were being mistreated. AG King wanted details, and Singer shortly emailed him that, “I finally got the numbers on the nursing home case and would love to discuss it with you briefly.”
The New York Times wryly highlighted “the enormous potential payoff for Ms. Singer’s firm if she could persuade Mr. King to hire her and use his state powers to investigate and sue, which he did.” This legal racket is a thriving industry, the Times continued: “Plaintiffs’ lawyers working on a contingency-fee basis have teamed up mostly with Democratic state attorneys general to file hundreds of lawsuits against businesses that make anything from pharmaceuticals to snack foods.” Not surprisingly, law firm members in this industry give generous election campaign contributions to Democratic Attorneys General candidates and party political organizations.
The payday industry was prompted by the Big Payday of the Big Tobacco case, according to the Times. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal, characterized such sue-and-settle surrogates as “the buccaneers of the trial bar” in his opinion piece, “Exxon Is Big Tobacco? Tell Me Another.”
ExxonMobil did the reasonable thing in the face of the social and political lawsuit: It sued Attorney General Walker, Linda Singer, and Cohen Milstein for violating its “constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process of law and constitute the common law tort of abuse of process.”
Other victims of Walker’s abuse of process have also gone on the attack with lawsuits seeking sanctions against the AG, whose office has withdrawn its subpoena of libertarian think tank, Competitive Enterprise Institute, but still threatens to re-impose it at its whim. CEI is redoubling its efforts against Walker.
The Climate Change Movement and its attorneys general are not so invulnerable as they thought.
*USVI is directly overseen by the U.S. federal government and has no sovereignty such as states possess, but is allowed to elect its own territorial governor and members of its territorial legislature. Residents are citizens of the United States, elect non-voting delegates in the U.S. House of Representatives, but cannot vote in presidential elections. The Territory has its own Department of Justice headed by a governor-nominated and legislature-confirmed attorney general.
Yesterday, I visited the Citizens’ Revolutionary Week event, a big event being held in Washington, D.C. hosted by far-left activist Ralph Nader, a former candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
Karen Friedman is the Pension Rights Center’s (PRI) executive vice president and policy director. Among the Pension Rights Institute’s efforts over the years, PRI joined with other retiree, employee, and consumer groups to launch Retirement USA, a liberal coalition dedicated to transforming the nation’s private retirement system.
Friedman explains how PRI manipulated the media and lobbied lawmakers and regulators to achieve their goals, including some unorthodox yet delicious ways of convincing lawmakers to increase entitlement spending.
Check out this video I made of some of the highlights from today’s events at yesterday’s Citizens’ Revolution Week session, and make sure to keep on checking the blog for more highlights as the week goes on!
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to discuss the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to bar localities from banning hydraulic fracturing.
In addition, Lockwood discusses Gov. Hickenlooper’s (D) decision to halt work on the state plan to implement the clean power plan.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—also known as the ethanol mandate—was passed by Congress in 2005 and expanded in 2007. Regardless of market conditions, it required ever-increasing quantities of biofuel be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply—though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does have the flexibility to make some adjustments based on conditions, such as availability and infrastructure.
At the time of its passage, it was unfathomable that a decade later Americans would be consuming less gasoline, not more. Instead of requiring a set, or even growing, percentage of ethanol be used, the law called for an increasing amount of gallons—which has created unforeseen complications.
Since the law was passed, due to increased fuel efficiency and a generally sluggish economy (meaning fewer people are driving to and from work every day) we’ve been using less gasoline, not more. Requiring more and more ethanol in less and less gasoline is not what the original law intended.
It was believed that the RFS would help achieve energy independence and reduce CO2 emissions—both ideas from a different era.
The RFS was passed at the low point of a decades long decline in U.S. oil production. At the time, no one knew that the trend line would totally reverse due to American ingenuity and the innovations of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that have unleashed the new era of abundance. Additionally, it was believed that corn-based fuel (which is the primary source for ethanol in the U.S.) would reduce carbon dioxide emissions—though the results have been questionable at best.
Since the RFS became law, numerous studies have been done to determine the environmental benefit of ethanol over gasoline—many of which conclude that ethanol is actually more detrimental than gasoline. At a recent House Oversight Committee hearing, John DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute, said, according to Morning Consult, “the studies assuming biofuels are carbon neutral are flawed.” Morning Consult reports: “he has found ethanol’s net emissions to be as much as 70 percent higher than traditional gasoline.”
Ethanol has an unlikely collection of opponents. Addressing ads put out by the ethanol lobby positing that only “big oil” wants to end the ethanol mandate, FactCheck.org disputes the claim: “Several environmental groups oppose it as well. So does a wide coalition that includes restaurant owners concerned about upward pressure on food prices and boat manufacturers upset at the problems that ethanol can cause in marine engines.”
Despite the controversy, the EPA claims the RFS is a “success.” Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, says: it “has driven biofuel production and use in the U.S. to levels higher than any other nation. This administration is committed to keeping the RFS program on track, spurring continued growth in biofuel production and use, and achieving the climate and energy independence benefits that Congress envisioned from this program.”
With this in mind, it is no surprise that the biofuel industry—which wouldn’t exist without the ethanol mandate—was unhappy when, on May 18, the EPA released its biofuel blending requirements for 2017. Using its ability to make adjustments, the EPA announcement was less than the law required, but more than the market demands. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) states; “EPA officials said they were seeking to strike a balance between Congress’s goal of using more ethanol and the realities of the current fuel market and infrastructure.” Instead, no one was happy.
In Biomass Magazine, McCabe defends the action: “The fact that Congress chose to mandate increasing and substantial amounts of renewable fuel clearly signals that it intended the RFS program to create incentives to increase renewable fuel supplies and overcome constraints in the market. The standards we are proposing would provide those incentives.”
Chet Thompson, president of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents refineries regulated under the standard, responded: “EPA’s proposal threatens to force consumers to use more biofuel than vehicles, engines and fueling infrastructure can handle.” He says: “the proposed volumes still go beyond marketplace realities.”
In contrast, a statement from Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association said: “In the past, the EPA has cited a lack of fuel infrastructure as one reason for failing to follow statute. Our corn farmers and the ethanol industry have responded. Over the past year, we’ve invested millions of dollars along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership to accelerate public and private investment in new ethanol pumps and fuel infrastructure. The fact is, today’s driver has more access than ever to renewable fuel choices.”
Regarding the EPA’s May 18 decision, DeCicco told me: “The EPA is trying to pick an economic middle road between the proponents and the opponents. But, through the RFS, the environment has been run off the road. Contrary to what has been promoted by the Department of Energy and some other government agencies, biofuels make CO2 emissions worse rather than better.”
At the aforementioned House hearing, Representative Jim Jordan’s (R-OH) opening statement called the RFS “a classic example of what happens when you get a bunch of politicians together who think they’re smarter than the marketplace.”
Frank Macchiarola, downstream director at the American Petroleum Institute, is calling on Congress to “repeal or significantly reform the RFS.” He asserts: “Members on both sides of the aisle agree this program is a failure, and we are stepping up our call for Congress to act.”
Proving Macchiarola’s point, before the 2017 requirements were released, on May 10, U.S. Representatives Bill Flores (R-TX), Peter Welch (D-VT), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve Womack (R-AR), and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) introduced bipartisan RFS reform legislation. The Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act, H.R. 5180, limits the RFS mandate to levels that our nation’s cars, trucks, boats and other small engines can safely accommodate. The bill “directs EPA to consider current market realities and cap the maximum volume of ethanol blended into the transportation fuel supply at 9.7 percent of projected gasoline demand.” Following the news, the bill’s cosponsors issued a statement calling the RFS “unsustainable.”
It is time to get back to allowing the free market—not Congress, not unelected bureaucrats, not mandates, not artificially spurred growth in a chosen industry—to determine our fuel choices. Because ethanol is an effective octane-boosting additive, it will always have market demand. Farmers who’ve invested in it will not be driven out of business. The Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act, while not repealing the RFS outright (which would be tough to pass), offers a reasonable fix to well-intended, but flawed legislation.
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.
As they don caps and gowns, endure commencement speeches and take their diplomas, many high school and college graduates face bleak prospects in an economy that grew a dismal 0.5% the first quarter.
The United States added a meager 160,000 new non-farm jobs in April, a paltry 4,000 of them in manufacturing. First quarter 2016 averaged just 203,000 jobs per month. The labor force participation rate remains stuck at an abysmal 63% – meaning 93 million working age Americans are still unemployed.
Many who are working hold multiple jobs to make ends meet, while others are toiling at temporary, part-time or “gig” jobs, at lower pay, with few benefits and little job security.
They and the graduates may be hoping that Donald Trump will “Make America great again,” Hillary Clinton will “revitalize” our ailing economy, or Bernie Sanders will “invest” trillions of tax dollars to train and employ millions of young Americans in a 100% clean energy economy.
Like the candidates, they may be blaming our economic woes on China, climate change, Wall Street, the one percent, Mexico, inadequate supervision of greedy capitalist corporations, unpatriotic companies fleeing to foreign shores, or insufficient tax revenues to support essential government programs.
All are appealing excuses, but the real answer is much closer to home and involves multiple self-inflicted wounds. Most legislators and regulators are loath to admit any responsibility for our economic woes, and most graduates will find it hard to analyze the problem. However, the analytical process is essential.
The difficulty for students and graduates is that most were not taught how to think. Their teachers too often present mostly liberal-socialist ideology as unassailable fact, discourage or prohibit discussion and debate, and shelter sensitive snowflakes via speech codes, safe zones and bans on verbal microagression.
While raking in millions of taxpayer dollars for climate research, a cabal of RICO-20 university professors has gone even further. It has asked US and state attorneys general to launch racketeering prosecutions of anyone who disagrees with alarmist views on “dangerous manmade global warming.”
World-renowned physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman’s admonition has been largely discarded in the halls of academia. “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered,” he said, “than answers that can’t be questioned.” Sadly, answers that none dare question now dominate classroom life.
And so, as you and graduates in your family or circle of friends leave those institutions of rote learning, and go into the Real World, you will have to undertake your greatest challenge: learning to think.
Examining, questioning, discussing and challenging hypotheses, assertions and accepted “facts” are always absolutely essential for scientific, technological and societal progress. In this election year, it behooves us all to demand details from candidates, honestly assess whether their proposals will improve or worsen our economic situation, insist on and participate in rigorous debates, and cast informed votes.
As you try to understand why our economy has been so anemic, why so few jobs are being created, and why one in three young American voters supports socialism as better than free enterprise – here are just a few realities to ponder.
God gave Moses Ten Commandments. The federal government has given us tens of thousands of commandments, enforced by millions of nameless, unelected bureaucrats who have nearly unfettered discretion to interpret and administer their rules. Complying with them costs American families and businesses $1.9 trillion per year. That’s more than the entire Russian economy, more than the IRS collected in corporate and personal taxes in 2015, and $15,000 in hidden costs for every family.
The Obama Administration has been publishing 80,000 pages of new regulations per year – and is preparing to unleash 3,000 more rules before it leaves office. Small businesses are hurt most, as they cannot possibly read, comprehend and comply with this regulatory tsunami. They thus live in fear that any unknown or inadvertent violation will result in massive fines or even jail time. Indeed, more than 4,500 federal rules carry criminal penalties, and lack of knowledge or intent is no defense.
Coupled with the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world, new hourly wage and overtime rules, and mountains of state and local regulations, these federal edicts dramatically impair hiring and growth.
This unintended job and economic destruction has shrunk middle class family incomes by more than $1,000 per year during the Obama era, sent 3 million more families into poverty, and added over 600,000 black Americans to the overall poverty number. The intentional damage is even more insidious.
The Obama EPA’s war on fossil fuels has contributed greatly to the loss of nearly 50,000 coal industry jobs since 2008. Mrs. Clinton has made it clear that she will “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” if she is elected. Like Senator Sanders, she also wants to eliminate most US oil and natural gas production – while ignoring the fact that fossil fuels still provide 82% of all US energy.
That would mean vastly more land-intensive, heavily subsidized wind, solar and biofuel substitutes. It would send electricity and motor fuel prices skyrocketing to levels now found in California and New York, or even in Britain and Germany: double, triple or quadruple what most Americans now pay.
For hospitals, factories, school districts and other major energy users, that would bring thousands to millions of dollars per year in higher costs – and thus countless more lost jobs and closed doors.
President Obama, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders, most Democrats and even some Republicans justify these self-inflicted wounds by saying they are necessary to prevent catastrophic global warming and climate change. But even if plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide is a primary culprit – and thousands of scientists say it is not – even shutting down all US fossil fuel use would bring no benefits, amid tremendous pain.
China alone accounts for 80% of the entire world’s increase in coal consumption so far this century. It now consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined. The 155 new coal-fired power plants it is currently planning to build will burn twice as much coal as all of Germany’s existing plants do. Coal generates 67% of China’s electricity, oil and natural gas 23%, hydro 10%, and wind and solar combined only 2 percent. Nearly a billion Chinese still exist on less than $5 per day, and the Middle Kingdom will be burning fossil fuels for decades to improve their living standards.
India, Indonesia, the rest of Asia, all of Africa and much of Latin America are in the same situation. All are burning coal, oil and natural gas to lift billions out of abject poverty – and will continue doing so.
America’s political classes always protect themselves. It is poor, minority, middle-class and blue-collar families that will suffer – along with most of you graduates – from these all pain/no gain climate policies.
Politicians always like to show they care, by giving other people’s money to worthy causes, their favorite voting blocs and their campaign contributors. They are far less charitable with their own money. Joe and Jill Biden raked in $333,182 in 2009 – and gave just $4,820 to charity; during the previous decade, they averaged $369 annually. Between 2007 and 2014, the Clintons “earned” $139 million; they gave $14,959,450 to charity – but 98.7% of that went to the scandal-ridden Clinton Family Foundation.
Socialist and anti-energy policies boil down to strangling jobs and wealth creation … making the economic pie smaller and smaller … taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to “less fortunate” people who aren’t working but will likely vote for politicians who promise them “free stuff” … and ensuring “more equitable sharing” of ever greater scarcity, poverty and misery (for non-ruling elites).
As to telling poor countries to stop using fossil fuels, it is an unconscionable crime against humanity to impose policies that pretend to protect Earth’s poor, malnourished and energy-deprived masses from hypothetical climate chaos – by perpetuating poverty, malnutrition and disease that kill millions of them every year, right now.
Think about all of this as you take your diploma, evaluate candidates, and head to the polls.
Austin voters have approved a ballot referendum to regulate peer-to-peer transportation network companies such as Lyft and Uber, forcing the companies to suspend service in a city otherwise known for its forward thinking and friendliness toward innovation.
These peer-to-peer businesses directly connect drivers, who are otherwise not using their vehicles, with passengers who need transportation.
In February, Austin City Council members approved an ordinance requiring Uber and Lyft drivers to submit to criminal background checks, which are administered by law enforcement, in addition to the companies’ existing background-check procedures.
Before the new restrictions, Austin consumers were able to choose between getting a lift from one of the city’s 10,000 Uber drivers or the 750 government-approved taxicab industry workers.
Now, Austin consumers’ only option is the one that government officials have talked them into approving: taxicabs.
Considering that in 2012 city officials were working to reduce the availability of for-hire transportation — in order to artificially boost taxicab drivers’ income — it’s clear they are not working in the best interests of consumers.
Instead of protecting the public from supposedly dangerous rogue Uber drivers, restricting consumers’ transportation choices actually negatively impacts public safety.
A study published by Temple University’s Fox School of Business, written by professors Brad Greenwood and Sunil Wattal, studied how the availability of Uber has affected alcohol-related vehicular homicide rates.
Examining drunk-driving rates in six urban California counties over a five-year period during which Uber expanded significantly, Greenwood and Wattal found a “significant drop in the rate of [alcohol-related vehicular] homicides after the introduction of Uber.”
The rates dropped by 3.6 to 5.6 percent in counties Uber started serving.
When the researchers scaled up the data taken from the county level to the national level, they found allowing consumers all over the country to call for an Uber driver after a night of drinking wouldn’t just save lives, it would save billions of dollars otherwise spent on law enforcement, criminal justice and medical care.
“With more than 13,000 deaths occurring nationally each year due to alcohol-related car crashes at a cost of $37 billion, results indicate that a complete implementation of [Uber] would create a public welfare net of over $1.3 billion to American taxpayers and save roughly 500 lives annually,” Greenwood and Wattal wrote.
Evidence collected by Zachary Kalmbach, a research scholar at Texas A&M University, suggests Uber and other peer-to-peer transportation network companies have an outsized effect on drunk-driving rates in the first months after consumers gain access to ride-sharing applications.
Studying driving-under-influence rates in nine cities, including Austin, Kalmbach found a correlation between Uber expansion and safer consumer behavior on the roads.
Controlling for outside variables potentially affecting the results, such as marijuana legalization, Kalmbach estimates the “percentage impact is a reduction in DUIs of about 26 percent in the month that [Uber] is launched,” a result he found “statistically significant.”
Instead of looking to protect the health of politically powerful special-interest groups, such as well-funded taxicab companies, lawmakers should take steps that actually help people.
They should be encouraged, not squashed by regulation and taxes.[Originally published at the Star-Telegram]
Alejandro Garcia Padilla, the governor of Puerto Rico, has skipped out on a $422 million payment owed to private-sector creditors.
The missed payment, due on May 1, was just another scene in the slow-motion train wreck that has been termed “Puerto Rico’s economic crisis,” but to call the territory’s status a “crisis” understates the severity of the problem. Over 12 percent of the workforce in Puerto Rico is unemployed, and one out of every four employed Puerto Ricans works for the government, instead of contributing to the territory’s economy.
The job-sector universe—the raw number of jobs available and filled—in the territory is contracting as well. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 889,200 employed people working in Puerto Rico in October 2015. In March 2016, the most recent month for which BLS statistics are available, there were 893,300 people working, which means an average of 683 more people became unemployed every month for six consecutive months.
Puerto Rico’s territorial government is responsible for some of the problems its people are facing, such as its overly generous entitlement programs for workers, but Washington, DC lawmakers are ultimately responsible for the territory’s economic death spiral. As a territory, Puerto Rico exists at the pleasure of the U.S. Congress. Puerto Rico can elect its own governor, but Congress maintains most of the power.
One Washington, DC policy making things worse for Puerto Rico is called the Jones Act. The Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was passed nearly 100 years ago as part of the fit of anti-trade sentiment that led to the Great Depression. It was intended to require regions of the United States separated by the open ocean to be serviced by all-American crews and ships, built with all-American parts, thereby banning foreign vessels from transporting goods from the United States to states and territories such as Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Instead of promoting economic prosperity by tilting the playing field, protectionist trade policies such as the Jones Act disadvantage consumers and benefit businesses favored by the government.
A 2012 report issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRB-NY) studied the effect of the Jones Act on Puerto Rico and concluded increasing the cost of shipping goods to Puerto Rico from the mainland has resulted in fewer goods being shipped to Puerto Rico and less money available to Puerto Ricans.
According to the American Maritime Congress, a lobbyist organization representing the interests of the merchant marine industry, only 77 ships in the entire world comply with the requirements of the Jones Act. By artificially reducing the volume of shipping, the cost of shipping increases, making everyday goods more expensive for Puerto Ricans.
“It costs an estimated $3,063 to ship a twenty-foot container of household and commercial goods from the East Coast of the United States to Puerto Rico; the same shipment costs $1,504 to nearby Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and $1,687 to Kingston (Jamaica)—destinations that are not subject to Jones Act restrictions,” the Federal Reserve Bank of New York wrote.
Although other factors have contributed to Puerto Rico’s financial ship of state running aground, Washington, DC lawmakers’ refusal to face the reality of a global economy, by removing protectionist policies and allowing the free market to determine the cost of shipping goods, has played a significant role in making life on the “Island of Enchantment” less enchanting and more miserable.
Instead of considering targeted big-ticket bailouts from the mainland’s treasury to patch over their past mistakes, national lawmakers should enact free-market policies, including repealing the Jones Act, to help make prosperity more readily available to everyone, regardless of whether they live in Chicago, California, or Canóvanas.
The Portland Public Schools board this week voted unanimously to institute a ban on allowing any materials or discussion that express doubts that human activity is causing a catastrophic climate crisis. They might as well have just put out a resolution promoting homeschooling.
The story outlining this in the Portland Tribune is absolutely incredible. It is filled with so many layers of nonsense, ignorance, petty tyranny, and moral preening that it seems a bit much, even for hopelessly lefty Portland. I do wonder, however, if they will host a book-burning ceremony at the football stadium. It’s the logical next step, right? Because, apparently, their text books are infected with terms like “might,” “may,” and “could” in some passages that address climate change. We must make sure those doubts don’t accidentally infect the minds of the children they are charged with educating indoctrinating. So why not purge all the sin from the books by fire.
Have these lefties not even an inkling of self-awareness? Do they not see how they have created a climate alarmist parallel to the Scopes Monkey Trial? They are demanding that their unshakable faith in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming be the only thing taught in school. Because, “science.” But even today, proponents for Intelligent Design don’t demand that’s all that’s taught in school, only that it be included in the discussion. Right or wrong, it’s a more open-minded approach than the Climate Cultists — especially considering there are volumes of peer-reviewed evidence that “might,” “may,” and “could” are conservative hedges.
Some of my favorite/most-outrageous parts of this story:
“It is unacceptable that we have textbooks in our schools that spread doubt about the human causes and urgency of the crisis,” said Lincoln High School student Gaby Lemieux in board testimony. “Climate education is not a niche or a specialization, it is the minimum requirement for my generation to be successful in our changing world.”
That’s right. The first quote in the story to bolster this idea, in the second graph, is from a high school senior, everyone’s go-to expert for identifying credible and effective curriculum. Gaby also sees her generation as already uniquely informed and wise enough to save the world previous generations have ruined. Of course she does. She’s gone to Portland public schools her whole life.
Here’s a shocker: This drive to purge doubt about the dogma is being driven by a radical environmentalist group.
Bill Bigelow, a former PPS teacher and current curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools, a magazine devoted to education issues, worked with 350PDX and other environmental groups to present the resolution.
“A lot of the text materials are kind of thick with the language of doubt, and obviously the science says otherwise,” Bigelow says, accusing the publishing industry to bowing to pressure from fossil fuels companies. “We don’t want kids in Portland learning material courtesy of the fossil fuel industry.”
So, a former teacher has apparently long entertained the fantastical and paranoid idea that just having the words “may,” “might,” and “could” in any discussion about the causes and consequences of climate change was slipped in there “courtesy of the fossil fuel industry.” Big Oil. What can’t it do!?
Another shocker: That former teacher and radical environmentalist also happens just so happens to produce a text book for children titled “A People’s Curriculum for the Earth.” That sure sounds like science to me, with not a hint of radical politics. Asked if his interest in producing climate science books for schools might be a conflict of interest, he says it doesn’t’ because his organization is “a nonprofit, not a money-maker.” OK, then.
Oh, almost forgot. The school board member who introduced the resolution — which, again, passed unanimously — has a pretty large conflict of interest, too:
School board member Mike Rosen … leads NW Ecoliteracy Collaborative, a project focused on environmental curriculum standards. However, he says that work has been on hold.
“I have become concerned about its ability to make progress and not have a conflict with being a school board member,” Rosen said, noting that he is now instead working part-time for the Audubon Society of Portland. “I don’t want there to be a conflict between my school board work and this nonprofit.”
No worries, Mike. You’ve made progress … toward 16th Century thinking. It’s hard to imagine what else full victory over “climate deniers” would look like short of scarlet letters, stockades, and pyres ready to set aflame.
UPDATE: Read the board’s resolution for yourself here.
Co-authored by: Logan Pike & Matthew Glans
Decades of overregulation of the health-care labor market, an aging population and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act have created a shortage of primary-care doctors nationwide.
This isn’t a problem that has snuck up on lawmakers. Even before the ACA’s passage, many states faced the prospect of a doctor shortage. In 2011, a study published in the Milbank Quarterly found the ACA would create a need for between 4,300 and 7,000 more physicians in the United States by 2019.
A new report suggests the Milbank authors were correct about the looming shortage of primary-care physicians, especially in the state of Florida. The Robert Graham Center estimates Florida alone will need an additional 4,671 primary-care physicians by 2030 (based on the 2010 figure of 12,228 primary-care physicians) to accommodate the rising need for health-care services.
Some efforts are already underway in Florida to help fix this growing problem. On April 15, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill making Florida the last state to allow advanced nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe certain controlled substances. This will significantly decrease the demand currently placed on many primary-care doctors.
A 2014 survey by the Physicians Foundation found most doctors have little or no room to add patients, with 81 percent of physicians describing themselves as “either over-extended or at full capacity.” Only 19 percent of the respondents “indicate they have time to see more patients.” The report also found 44 percent of physicians surveyed plan to take steps that would reduce patient access to their services, including “cutting back on patients seen, retiring, working part-time, closing their practice to new patients or seeking nonclinical jobs.”
Strict licensing standards have become a significant barrier to entry in many fields, but nowhere is the influence of licensing more sharply felt than in the health-care industry. Supporters of strict state licensing standards argue they assure quality, but critics say the arduous and often expensive licensing process harms the health-care market by hindering entry for new physicians, thereby impeding the market competition needed to lower costs and improve access for patients.
There are several paths Florida legislators and medical boards can choose to lower regulatory barriers in the health-care industry to reduce the physician shortfall. The first proposal, recently introduced as model legislation by the Federation of State Medical Boards, would make it easier for doctors licensed in one state to treat patients in another.
Reporter Robert Pear wrote in The New York Times that this reform would not only cover in-person visits but also videoconferencing and online visits. The proposed legislation would create an interstate compact, and the Times reports it has political support from both sides of the aisle.
The second proposal, supported by the Institute of Medicine and National Governors Association, would further expand the scope of responsibilities for nurse practitioners, allowing them to provide additional health-care services. These additional services would include expanding the scope of practice to services like the initial evaluation of new symptoms, ongoing care for chronic diseases and preventive services, such as immunizations and screenings. This extension would only apply to registered nurses who have also received a graduate degree in nursing. Allowing nurse practitioners to administer care would greatly reduce the doctor shortage and increase access to care.
Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow nurse practitioners to diagnose and provide some form of treatment for certain illnesses. Although critics of these efforts claim expanding the scope of practice will lower the overall quality of care, a 2012 article in Health Affairs reviewing 26 studies noted the “health status, treatment practices, and prescribing behavior [of NPs] were consistent between nurse practitioners and physicians.”
Further, according to research from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the average American would rather see a nurse practitioner or physician assistant than wait to see a primary-care physician. But nurse practitioners and physician assistants cannot serve as practical alternatives when they lack the authority to prescribe controlled substances.
In a time when many health-care-policy debates at the state level are gridlocked, there are still policies that would improve access to care without increasing costs or decreasing quality. Allowing physicians to treat patients across state lines and expanding the scope of practice of nurse practitioners are two incremental steps Florida can take to address the doctor shortage.