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Heartland Daily Podcast – State Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (WI): Fighting Federal-Environmental Overreach at a State Level

July 08, 2015, 12:14 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News speaks with State Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, a businessman and two term state rep who chairs the energy and utility committee. Rep. Kuglitsch joins Burnett to discuss his efforts in fighting federal environmental regulations at a state level.

Kuglitsch discussed how attending ICCC-10 armed him with the facts necessary to defeat false climate alarmists claims, the efforts the Wisconsin legislature is taking to ensure outside environmental groups are unable to use local zoning boards or city councils to ban frac sand mining and the threat facing Wisconsin’s energy sector and the economy from what Mike considers to be unconstitutional federal overreach with the EPA’s clean power plan at its new Waters of the United States rules.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Obamacare Now Punishing Employers Who ‘Reimburse’ Workers’ Healthcare Costs

July 07, 2015, 5:18 PM

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), just last week, ruthlessly began fining small businesses who reimburse employees for part of the cost of their private health insurance, or for direct health care expenses.

The enforcement of an obscure provision of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is designed to compel employers to offer full health insurance benefits, or force employees onto the “public exchanges” created by the ACA and find their own, government-subsidized insurance, according to a report in Forbes magazine, online, based on research by watchdog.org.

Reimbursing employees for some of their health insurance was an easy-to-manage process for many. “Businesses do it because that’s a less complicated process than dealing with an official health insurance plan, but continuing to do so after July 1 could cost them hundreds of dollars in fines each day,” the report notes.

According to Kevin Kuhlman, policy director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses,  who was cited in the report,“It’s the biggest penalty that no one is talking about.”

Penalties target firms with fewer than 50 workers.

“The new rule is the result of an Internal Revenue Service interpretation of part of the ACA. It seems intended to force employers to offer a group health insurance plan (or leave their employees to fend for themselves on the health insurance exchanges),” the report said.

So much for Obama’s promise that Americans could keep the form of health insurance they wanted, and could keep going to the doctor they preferred. Now, everyone in the U.S. is under the umbrella of Obamacare for health insurance. Everyone is “covered.” The next time you read statistics showing that health care coverage has risen, you will know that this bullying of businesses is one of the reasons for that “improvement” in market conditions.

The White House now has a role in every health insurance decision made by every American; no more private reimbursements for health expenses by employers allowed.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – James Roberts: Greece’s Economic Collapse

July 07, 2015, 1:27 PM

In this episode of the Budget & Tax News podcast, Jesse Hathaway, managing editor of Budget & Tax News speaks with James Roberts. Roberts is an economic research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Roberts joins Hathaway to talk about Greece’s economic collapse, the “Grexit,” and how problems in the European Union may effect Americans.

Roberts explains how years of mismanagement and over-promising from Greek politicians has led to the nation’s default on International Monetary Fund loans, and the near-collapse of the Greek economy. According to Roberts, Americans can learn from the mistakes made by Greece, hopefully avoiding a similar economic collapse here at home.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Bush Institute Middle School Matters Program Selects Districts to Receive Intensive Support in Improving Education

July 07, 2015, 10:11 AM

Using scientific research to improve education is not a novel idea; it is commonsense and the most effective path to improving educational outcomes. Far too often, doing trials and gathering results is overlooked as new teaching fads come along. It’s refreshing to see the tried-and-true teaching strategies return to the classroom.  The George W. Bush Institute has chosen three school districts to participate in its Middle School Matters program.

The George W. Bush Institute at the George W. Bush Presidential Center today announced the selection of three school districts to receive intensive, district-wide support from nationally recognized educational researchers during the 2015-2016 school year through the Middle School Matters (MSM) initiative. Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District and San Angelo Independent School District from Texas and Etiwanda School District from Southern California have been chosen to receive expert assistance in implementing high-quality, research-based strategies in advanced reasoning, data management, dropout prevention, and in reading, writing, and math instruction.

The districts will receive training and help throughout the year in the implementation of these researched and proven techniques.  The efforts will “translate research into practice” using strategies that have already been tested in 16 individual schools.

This is the proper way to implement change in schools. Test the curriculum and techniques, then make sure they actually work with an independent study of the results. Once the study has confirmed the theory, strategies can then be implemented further while continually testing the results independently.

To learn more about Middle School Matters, visit http://www.bushcenter.org/education-reform/middle-school-matters.

Categories: On the Blog

Greece’s IMF Collapse Shows America what Default Looks Like

July 06, 2015, 4:30 PM

EDITOR’S NOTE: Emily Zanotti also contributed to this blog post.

On June 30th, Greece became the first nation in the European Union to default on payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Greece, which has been struggling with financial difficulties for some time, refused debt restructuring and austerity efforts, resulting in the extreme measure that has impacted financial markets across the globe.

Greek national debt totals $358 billion, of which $273 billion is owed to various international bailout funds, including the IMF. Greece also owes financial debts to France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, countries that attempted to bring Greece out of financial ruin by requiring drastic spending cuts, especially to their social programs. Since its financial crisis began in 2009, the Greek economy has contracted by 25 percent. While the rest of the European Union urged Greece to make proactive cuts, Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras recoiled.

When Greece refused to make these cuts, electing a governing authority that promised to ignore austerity restrictions, European nations became unwilling to assist Greece any further. Greece was expected to come up with a $1.7 billion payment before July 1st to keep themselves in good graces with the IMF.

At the 11th hour, Greek authorities attempted a number of short-term financial restrictions, closing banks and ATM withdrawals to $60. This left citizens hurrying to stock up on essentials like powdered milk. Other European countries were not willing to give Greece the bailout it wanted, and at midnight it became the first European nation to default on an IMF loan. On Wednesday, the European Union felt a financial ripple as European company stocks took drastic hits. Greek voters soundly defeated a referendum on Sunday that would have imposed greater measures of austerity.

Americans can learn from the Greek default. The United States faces an $18 trillion national debt and a federal budget deficit of $439 billion, brought on by unprecedented government spending. As global financial experts struggle to pinpoint the exact genesis of Greece’s troubles, it’s clear excessive borrowing and unsustainable spending habits are to blame.

The United States, with a debt to gross domestic product ratio of 71 percent, may have time before it faces a Greek-style economic collapse, but it’s certainly repeating Greece’s financial mistakes. Greek debt levels are at around 177 percent of their national GDP, but just 25 years ago, they were closer to the same levels as the United States. In the same amount of time, U.S. debt ratio levels are expected to rise  to an unstable – and hauntingly familiar – 156 percent, based on conservative estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office.

If that seems outlandish, consider that the national debt was only $10 billion with President Barack Obama first took office. If his administration’s spending continues at current rates, it will be double that when he leaves office, $20 billion. The spending problem is not limited to a single party, however. Democratic and Republican administrations have actively contributed to the national debt, and the current Congress has shown little interest on limiting expenditures. If Congress – and the rest of the federal government – leaves spending levels as they are, debt levels will soar even higher. Already, programs like Social Security are facing individual bankruptcy.

We may not be facing Greece’s full-scale financial meltdown, but if spending isn’t restricted, and quickly, it’s only a matter of time before Americans find themselves facing long lines at ATM’s and limits on their withdrawals, as their elected leadership try desperately to pull them out of ruin.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

North Dakota Oil ‘Bust’? A Perspective from North Dakota

July 06, 2015, 3:56 PM

Like Mark Twain, the rumors of the death of the Bakken oil revolution are greatly exaggerated. The Atlantic is once again claiming the North Dakota oil “boom” has gone bust. I say ‘once again’ because The Atlantic ran a piece February 12, 2013 stating that the “boom” was over. Doom and gloom sells, truth is optional.

Yes, $100/bbl oil is long gone, yes flaring restrictions and oil conditioning requirements add to the cost of doing business. But, the E & P companies that pioneered and perfected horizontal drilling are looking ahead.

Context

I rarely use the terms “boom” and “bust” because I do not think they are helpful to explain what is actually happening here in North Dakota. Lower oil prices certainly impacted the oil & gas industry here, but a transition to more manageable resource development was already underway.

When the oil companies successfully used horizontal drilling in the Bakken it did set off a race to lease mineral acres and drill wells to hold those leases. Some term this period a “boom” because of pace of drilling activity. By 2014 most mineral acres in North Dakota were under lease and those leases are held by production. Achieving that the oil companies can slow down and drill additional wells based on economics, logistics and common sense.

It Is Different This Time

With North Dakota’s tight oil play we know exactly where the oil is; there is no hunting and guessing – it is just mining. To fully develop the Bakken and Three Forks formations it will take a total of 46,000 wells. To date just under 10,000 wells have been drilled. 22% down and 78% to go!

These wells will be drilled. The price of oil will determine the pace. When we had 200 rigs drilling in North Dakota we added about 2,400 wells per year. At that pace it would take 15 years to drill all the wells necessary to develop the resource. Today, at $60 oil we will drill and complete under 1,000 wells/year and at that pace we will be drilling wells for another 36 years! And the average Bakken well will produce oil for 30 years. We will be here awhile.

Some may call that a “bust”, I call it opportunity and a blessing.

I was born in Williston, ND which is the center of North Dakota’s oil & gas industry.   I have family and business interests in western North Dakota and spend a lot of time in the area.

Is the pace of things slower?   Yes.

Will things pick up again? Yes.

Have they slowed the drilling? Yes.

Will they return? Yes

Is it all gloom and doom? NO.

Jobs

Last month Job Service ND listed 25, 000 jobs open in western ND. These are not the same jobs that were open the last few years, but jobs just the same.

The North Dakota Legislature appropriated over a Billion dollars for infrastructure in western North Dakota. The slowdown in drilling activity means jobs are available in road construction, public infrastructure, school construction.

Pipelines and upgrading the electrical grid are also priorities and teachers are in demand in area schools.

North Dakota is home to the first greenfield oil refinery on 40 years in the USA. There is a petrochemical plant going up, only the 2nd in US, we have 20 Natural gas processing plants built in around the last 5 years. All these facilities are employing hundreds/thousands of people who were not working here 7-10 years ago. Permanent, long-term, jobs. Not to mention the secondary jobs that these bring.

If you focus only on the number of rigs or the drop in oil drilling activity you miss the bigger picture.

Housing

The housing market is finally balancing out. The demand was so high that prices were out of control. Now they are leveling out. Family homes are being built at a more reasonable cost and people are going to be able to settle their families into the communities. Parks and Recreation are catching up with leisure areas for people.

Restaurants, shops, convenience stores, grocery stores, service centers are finally able to put stock on the shelves and manage inventory and staff. The days when it was so busy and such a lack of workers that stores were just setting pallets of goods in the aisles are over; and that is a good thing. Quality of life is improving.

The Bakken Laboratory Is Alive and Well

It is not a “bust” out here – we are just talking about pace & time. We are not drinking from the fire hose in western North Dakota anymore, but our energy pioneers are constantly learning and refining horizontal drilling and fracking techniques to become more efficient.

In another post I will go into greater detail about the exiting advancements the E & P companies are making. The advancements point to a very bright future for North Dakota and the people who live and work here.

Categories: On the Blog

How Proficient is Your State in Educating Children?

July 06, 2015, 11:08 AM

The Foundation for Excellence in Education just released a new interactive website to all parents, students, legislators, activists, and anyone else interested in learning how proficient their state at educating its citizens. The website is aptly named WhyProficiencyMatters.com.

It defines proficiency as the “difference between [Nations Report Card] and individual states’ proficiency expectations.” This “proficiency gap,” as it’s called, shows how states are able to disguise how students are really performing.

Some of the data discovered show a disturbing picture of education in our K–12 schools:

  • 74 percent of ACT-tested high school graduates fail to score “college ready” in English, reading, math, and science.
  • 23 percent of 17–20 year olds taking the Armed Forces Qualifications Test do not earn a qualifying score.
  • $7 Billion is spent by first-year college students to learn what they should have been taught in high school.

Looking at a few of the larger states, they show the following proficiency rankings for 8th grade reading and math:

  • California is ranked 15th in reading and 4th in math.
  • Florida is ranked 10th in reading and 17th in math.
  • Illinois is ranked 11th in reading and 23rd in math.
  • Massachusetts is ranked 17th in reading and 2nd in math.
  • Ohio is ranked 42nd in reading and 37th in math.
  • New York is ranked 1st in both reading and math.
  • Texas is ranked 24th in reading and 15th in math.

The key when looking at these proficiency rankings is understanding the higher the rank is, the more accurate the picture of how well students are actually learning. The inverse is the lower the rank, the less the students have learned and the more inflating the states have done to hide this fact from parents, students, and legislators.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – State Sen. Carlyle Begay (AZ): Enviro Regs Hurt Navajo Nation

July 06, 2015, 9:18 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News speaks with State Sen. Carlyle Begay. Begay, a state senator of Arizona, is also a member of the Navajo Nation. Begay joins Burnett to discuss the negative impacts of federal energy and environmental regulations.

Being a state senator from Arizona, Begay witnesses first hand the effects federal environmental regulations are having on western states in general and the Navajo nation in particular.  The War on coal is literally undermining the Navajo nation’s sovereignty. Sixty percent of the revenues for the Navajo nation, where unemployment is 50 percent, comes from coal mining and electricity production, yet EPA regulations have already reduced mining by 30 percent and threatens to shutter 60 percent of its power plant units. In addition, Begay stresses that in the West, you can separate water issues from energy and the federal government’s control of water also harmfully impacts Arizona and the Navajo.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Supreme Court May Have Saved Obamacare, but It Doomed Young Americans’ Health Care Options

July 06, 2015, 8:55 AM

US Supreme Court Building, Washington DC

Six Americans in black robes have, yet again, saved the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from a major crisis, but the most important part of this story for young people is their atrocious ruling will cause significant problems for the nation’s youngest and healthiest citizens.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in the highly anticipated case King v. Burwell, pictures of young Americans celebrating at rallies in Washington, DC flooded the Internet and newspapers across the country. Nothing could be more ironic. Since the ACA was first implemented in 2013, prices for all health care insurance consumers have skyrocketed, but price increases have been particularly shocking for people between 18 and 35 years old.

According to a study by HealthPocket, Inc., the average pre-Obamacare premium cost in 2013 for women 23 years old increased by nearly 45 percent in 2014. Women age 30 saw price increases topping 35 percent.

While cost increases for women under age 31 were higher than the increases experienced by men (22.7 percent) and women age 63 (37.5 percent), their price increases were significantly lower than young men. Prices increased by 78.2 percent for men 23 years old and by 73.4 percent for men age 30.

If young Americans’ health care costs composed a significant portion of U.S. health care spending, these price increases might make some sense, but young people, especially young men, are the healthiest demographic in the nation. As John Graham pointed out in his article in Forbes, an analysis by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners says health care costs for 63-year-olds is five times greater than spending on 22-year-olds.

President Barack Obama’s frequent call for all people to “pay their fair share” apparently doesn’t apply to middle-aged and older Americans.

“The Supreme Court decided once again to uphold key parts of the Affordable Care Act—a law that is essentially run on the backs of hardworking, healthy young Americans,” said Ashley Dobson, the editor of Red Alert Politics, an online news and opinion website aimed at right-of-center young people. “Justice Scalia said it best when he dubbed the law ‘SCOTUScare’ in his scorching dissenting opinion. The Court has now decided that it has the ability to choose whether or not to keep Obamacare in place, but it’s all Americans, especially young people, who are left footing the bill.”

Some states are particular hard on their healthiest citizens. For instance, in Vermont—a state whose cost of living is cheaper than the U.S. average—men and women age 23 pay on average 67 percent more for their health insurance than the average American and 50 percent more than their neighbors of the same age in New Hampshire. Costs in Vermont are extremely high for younger people because it spreads costs out across all demographics. Vermonters age 63 pay the same average rate as their 23-year-old neighbors, children, and grandchildren, even though they use significantly more resources.

This hasn’t stopped young people from supporting the ACA or Obama, but this is largely because many Americans simply aren’t aware of the unfair policies imposed on them by control-obsessed bureaucrats in Washington, DC and in state capitals.

In a study published in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Health Economics, only 13 percent of respondents between the ages of 25 and 64 understood basic insurance terms and concepts, such as “deductible, copay, co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximum,” as reported by Bruce Japsen in Forbes.

If conservatives are serious about battling Obamacare, one of the best ways to do it is to spend as much time as possible reaching out to young Americans to make them aware of the policies imposed by the Obama administration that unfairly target them. If young people realized just how destructive Obamacare has been on their own financial situation compared to others, there wouldn’t have been nearly as much celebrating when the Supreme Court determined the ACA should continue to deprive Americans of their rights and the cash in their wallets in King.

[Originally published on Human Events.]

Categories: On the Blog

Pope Chooses Penury over Plenty for the Poor

July 06, 2015, 1:18 AM

Judging by the company he has been keeping, it seems the Pope either dislikes capitalism more than he loves the poor, or he simply doesn’t understand all the good that has flowed from capitalism and the horrors that have resulted throughout history under every other economic system.

Two months ago, Pope Francis was getting advice and guidance from Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a German scientist who believes the world’s carrying capacity is 1 billion people give or take a few million – a man wedded to extreme “population control” measures to get the earth back in balance. So much for being fruitful and multiplying.

Now, Pope Francis has invited anti-capitalist useful idiot Naomi Klein for a chat. What could they have in common other than hatred for the market? She’s known for little else, and based on her own comments I’m sure she and the Pope have little else to tie them together. I doubt they shared a laugh over Pope Francis’  social teachings. Nor, I’m sure, did Klein go to the Vatican because she suddenly found herself in agreement the Catholic Church’s views on birth control, marriage and women in the priesthood.

St. Peter’s cathedral in Vatican, Italy

I’ve speculated liberation theology, developed in South America during the formative years of Pope Francis’ development as a priest, tainted his understanding of economics. His recent remarks and the company he has kept, have only served to confirm my suspicions. The Catholic Church long fought to keep the liberation theology wolf at bay, punishing and chastening its most vocal proponents, only now, with Francis, to invite the socialist wolf within the walls of the Vatican.

For all the pope’s expressed concern about the perils climate change poses to the poorest amongst us, it seems he’s really less concerned about the climate and the plight of the poor, than remaking the world’s economy to his liking, even if everyone has to live with less. In this, he is once again following the lead of climate advisors at the U.N. who in a rare moment of candor earlier this year divulged that remaking the economy was what the treaty’s being formulated to fight climate change were really about.

President Obama falsely offered us hope with the change he promised. Now Pope Francis offers change in the form of death through disease and starvation – which is all that would come if capitalism were truly overthrown. He skips the hope, except, perhaps, in the afterlife.

Feudalism and various petty types of tyranny kept the world in a, well, feudal state, for most of human history. People were enslaved to tyrants who wanted to expand their empires on the backs of both those they conquered and their slave class back home. Or, they sacrificed thousands to slake the blood lust of their gods (and in the case of the Aztec’s to provide a steady diet of protein), for the sun to continue shining, the rains to come, the witchcraft to stop, plagues to end … etc.

It was only with the advent of modern, widespread property rights, and the right to exchange one’s labor for capital and, yes, the right to gain one’s own piece of the pie that the vast majority of the people on earth were raised out of the extreme penury the humanity had lived in for the vast majority of human history.

Utopian idealists may believe mankind yearns to be free of wage labor and wishes for the life of idyll back on some commune, but most people never choose such a lifestyle, and those that do, rarely make a go of it for long and rejoin the market economy in fairly short order. Its true many native peoples were never given the opportunity to consciously, as societies, choose to join the modern age, but when modern tools seeped into their communities, they adopted them as soon as possible and asked for more. I know of no native culture, offered modern amenities that have refused them and consciously gone back to their hunter-gatherer existence.

Ron Bailey has a great discussion of the Pope’s failure to grasp the virtues of capitalism, and I encourage him to ponder it.

Even Karl Marx, father of Communism, recognized the virtues of capitalism. Marx thought it both a necessary and desirable state of development – after all, how are you going to dole out all those necessities to those in need, taken from those who produce, unless the latter had property, capitalism and industrialization to produce the plenty.

Marx badly misunderstood human nature, human motivations and the fact that capitalism could bring wealth or at least great comfort to the many, not just the few, but he did understand that capitalism was critical to producing plentiful goods and services out of uncaring nature. Marx was no environmentalist. There were two things in the world for Marx, people and resources and resources were meant for human use and our highest development. One can disagree with Marx’s view of what either any individual’s or societies highest development would or should look like without rejecting his dichotomy between man and the rest of nature.

Nature is indispensible to human well-being, and I wouldn’t want to live in a world absent wildlife and wild places (I spend as much time communing with and in nature as I can) but I believe those things are possible even as we bring the remaining billion or so people still living without access to regular electricity, safe readily accessible drinking water and other modern marvels out of the conditions our ancestors fought so long and hard to bring us out of. But only through capitalism! Every other economic system is just a fantasy, or tyranny cloaked as a fantasy, with the only result being a backward slide into poverty and persistent want.

Next time I’ll tell you how I really feel!

 

Categories: On the Blog

Greek Debt Debacle Diminishes EU Prestige, Threatens Global Warming Talks

July 06, 2015, 12:00 AM

A report on the Reuters newswire yesterday indicated that analysts in Europe fear the debt crisis in Greece may diminish the political prestige of the European Union, and interfere with climate change treaty talks with the UN later this year in Paris.

Voters in Greece on Sunday voted against austerity measures that would placate lenders, primarily in Germany, for billions of dollars of past due government debt. The crisis has been escalating for months now.

Greece accounts for just two percent of the EU’s population, but a state bankruptcy after two mega-debt restructurings in which European central banks loaned it nearly $220 billion is a “massive blow” to EU prestige.

A declaration of bankruptcy by Greece will “affect the European project as a whole. It would set a precedent and it would further undermine the raison d’être of the EU,” Fabian Zuleeg and Janis Emmanouilidis wrote in a new analysis for the think tank, the European Policy Centre.

Reuters reveals that to avoid bankruptcy, the Greek government may turn to the Russians, and in exchange for financing, “offer access to naval facilities once used by the United States.”

That would, to be sure, alter the present geopolitical map.

Moreover, as one of the world’s leading producers of greenhouse gasses, Russia has been historically ambivalent regarding calls, like that of the UN, for an international global warming treaty. An alliance with the Greeks would bolster Russia’s international influence on that issue. Greeks and Russians share a common religious culture – Eastern Orthodoxy, and have done so for well over 1,000 years.

Beware of Russians bearing gifts.

Categories: On the Blog

Eco-Liberals Loathe Fourth of July Celebrations, Target Burgers, Hotdogs for Destruction

July 04, 2015, 11:22 AM

Don’t enjoy that hamburger or hotdog too much this Independence Day, you running dog lackey of the bourgeoisie. Liberals are out to reduce the “carbon footprint” of backyard chefs like you through any means necessary – bizarre federal court decisions, unlawful executive orders, unhinged essays in once-great opinion magazines — for future Fourth of July holidays.

“The average American already bears more blame for climate change than citizens anywhere else, thanks to the country’s position as the world’s biggest polluter historically and its high emissions-per-capita. So do your part this holiday weekend: Swap that beef burger for a black-bean burger,” opines Rebecca Leber in her essay in The New Republic. “Red meat has the biggest environmental footprint, which is largely a result from the methane produced by cow digestion and manure. Methane is anywhere between 25 to 36 times more potent than carbon over 100 years. The process of raising and delivering beef to your grill results in 27 kilograms of carbon-equivalent emissions, four times as much as chicken, and 13 times as much as vegetarian options.”

And you thought Michelle Obama’s much-publicized interest in the nutrition of schoolchildren was an innocuous project, something any First Lady, even Abigail Adams, could undertake? Don’t be so naive.

“When Americans fire up their grills on Independence Day, they’ll dump up to 882 million pounds of carbon pollution into the atmosphere—the equivalent of burning 2,145 railcars of coal. And that doesn’t even include the carbon burned just by driving to July 4 celebrations or the pollution that leeches from fireworks displays,” The New Republic essay states.

This is all part of the real endgame of the Left – elimination of all vestiges of “American” culture from the Constitution to hot dogs, apple pie, and fossil fuel-burning Chevrolet cars.

Freedom of choice for me, but not for thee?

Sources:

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122240/what-your-hot-dog-and-burger-are-doing-planet

https://www.google.com/search?q=Michelle+Obama,+Fourth+of+July&biw=913&bih=452&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=fwaYVfyLMIrUoATzloSQAQ&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ#imgrc=RHIhmZOh3Kwr5M%3A

 

Categories: On the Blog

A Declaration of Independence Against Big Government

July 04, 2015, 10:27 AM

Many forms of personal liberty are under attack today, from economic regulations that hinder people from their peaceful pursuits of earning a living and improving the material conditions of life to an increasingly intrusive surveillance state that is seems to follow every step we make and every breath we take.

Equally disturbing is the extent to which too many Americans have become desensitized and indifferent to this growth in the size and scope of government. Around this Fourth of July time of the year, after the hotdogs and burgers have been grilled and eaten and the evening firework displays have been enjoyed, it is worth remembering the meaning and significance of this holiday.

The Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence, proclaimed by members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, is the founding document of the American experiment in free government. What is too often forgotten is that what the Founding Fathers argued against in the Declaration was the heavy and intrusive hand of big government.

Most Americans easily recall those eloquent words with which the Founding Fathers expressed the basis of their claim for independence from Great Britain in 1776:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

But what is usually not recalled is the long list of enumerated grievances that make up most of the text of the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers explained how intolerable an absolutist and highly centralized government in faraway London had become. This distant government violated the personal and civil liberties of the people living in the 13 colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America.

Grievances Against the Crown’s Economic Controls

In addition, the king’s ministers imposed rigid and oppressive economic regulations and controls on the colonists that was part of the 18th-century system of government central planning known as mercantilism.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” the signers declared.

Concentrating Power in the Hands of Government

At every turn, the British Crown had concentrated political power and decision-making in its own hands, leaving the American colonists with little ability to manage their own affairs through local and state governments. Laws and rules were imposed without the consent of the governed; local laws and procedures meant to limit abusive or arbitrary government were abrogated or ignored.

The king also had attempted to manipulate the legal system by arbitrarily appointing judges that shared his power-lusting purposes or were open to being influenced to serve the monarch’s policy goals. The king’s officials unjustly placed colonists under arrest in violation of writ of habeas corpus, and sentenced them to prison without trial by jury. Colonists often were violently conscripted to serve in the king’s armed forces and made to fight in foreign wars.

A financially burdensome standing army was imposed on the colonists without the consent of the local legislatures. Soldiers often were quartered among the homes of the colonists without their approval or permission.

In addition, the authors of the Declaration stated, the king fostered civil unrest by creating tensions and conflicts among the different ethnic groups in his colonial domain. (The English settlers and the Native American Indian tribes.)

But what was at the heart of many of their complaints and grievances against King George III were the economic controls that limited their freedom and the taxes imposed that confiscated their wealth and honestly earned income.

Governmental Controls at Every Turn

The fundamental premise behind the mercantilist planning system was the idea that it was the duty and responsibility of the government to manage and direct the economic affairs of society. The British Crown shackled the commercial activities of the colonists with a spider’s web of regulations and restrictions. The British government told them what they could produce, and dictated the resources and the technologies that could be employed. The government prevented the free market from setting prices and wages, and manipulated what goods would be available to the colonial consumers. It dictated what goods might be imported or exported between the 13 colonies and the rest of the world, thus preventing the colonists from benefiting from the gains that could have been theirs under free trade.

Everywhere, the king appointed various “czars” who were to control and command much of the people’s daily affairs of earning a living. Layer after layer of new bureaucracies were imposed over every facet of life. “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance,” the Founding Fathers explain.

In addition, the king and his government imposed taxes upon the colonists without their consent. Their income was taxed to finance expensive and growing projects that the king wanted and that he thought was good for the people, whether the people themselves wanted them or not.

The 1760s and early 1770s saw a series of royal taxes that burdened the American colonists and aroused their ire: the Sugar Act of 1764, the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townsend Acts of 1767, the Tea Act of 1773 (which resulted in the Boston Tea Party), and a wide variety of other fiscal impositions.

The American colonists often were extremely creative at avoiding and evading the Crown’s regulations and taxes through smuggling and bribery (Paul Revere smuggled Boston pewter into the West Indies in exchange for contraband molasses.)

The British government’s response to the American colonists’ “civil disobedience” against their regulations and taxes was harsh. The king’s army and navy killed civilians and wantonly ruined people’s private property. “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people,” the Declaration laments.

Defending Freedom as the Last Resort Against Tyranny

After enumerating these and other complaints, the Founding Fathers said in the Declaration:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Thus, the momentous step was taken to declare their independence from the British Crown. The signers of the Declaration then did“mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor,” in their common cause of establishing a free government and the individual liberty of the, then, three million occupants of those original 13 colonies.

Never before in history had a people declared and then established a government based on the principles of the individual’s right to his life, liberty, and property. Never before was a society founded on the ideal of economic freedom, under which free men may peacefully produce and exchange with each other on the terms they find mutually beneficial without the stranglehold of regulating and planning government.

Never before had a people made clear that self-government meant not only the right of electing those who would hold political office and pass the laws of the land, but also meant that each human being had the right to be self-governing over his own life. Indeed, in those inspiring words in the Declaration, the Founding Fathers were insisting that each man should be considered as owning himself, and not be viewed as the property of the state to be manipulated by either king or Parliament.

It is worth remembering, therefore, that what we celebrate every July 4 is the idea and the ideal of each human being’s right to his life and liberty, and his freedom to pursue happiness in his own way, without paternalistic and plundering government getting in his way.

[First posted at Epic Times.]

Categories: On the Blog

Commuting in London

July 04, 2015, 10:01 AM

According to the 2011 census, the London commuter shed — defined here as the of London (the Greater London Authority, or GLA) and the East and Southeast regions of England — had a 2013 population of 23.2 million, spread over an area of 15,400 square miles (39,800 square miles).

For this analysis, the area is divided into five parts, including the central business district (CBD), the balance of Inner London, Outer London, the inner counties, which are largely adjacent to London and the outer counties. Counties are largely only ceremonial at this point and used for geographical convenience. In many counties, unitary local authorities have been established that replace part or all of the previous county geographic authority.

The central business district is situated in a wide corridor on both sides of the Thames River. It is contained in five local authority areas, including the city of London, the city of Westminster and the boroughs of Camden, Southwark and Lambeth. All of central London’s eight largest rail stations are in these five areas, and central business district commuters rely to a substantial degree on its suburban rail system.

Inner London roughly corresponds to the London County Council area as it existed before creation of the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1965. Outer London includes the boroughs that were added in the establishment of the GLC which was abolished in 1986. A new, London authority (the GLC) was created  in 2000, with a considerably scaled back portfolio of responsibilities, principally transport, police, fire, emergency services and planning. GLA has 33 local authorities, 32 of which are popularly referred to as boroughs, plus the City of London (the one square mile historic core). The local authorities which are responsible for a many local public services, and constituted London’s only local government between 1986 and 2000.

The inner counties border on the metropolitan greenbelt, which surrounds London (Note). They are Berkshire Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey. The outer counties are Cambridgeshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Suffolk and West Sussex.

Distribution of Employment

As of the 2011 census, the local authority areas containing the central business district had approximately 1.4 million jobs, or approximately 15 percent of the jobs in the London area. The rest of GLA, including the balance of inner London and Outer London has 25 percent of the employment. The outer counties have the largest number of jobs, at 2.7 million, comprising 30 percent of London area employment. The inner counties have nearly as many jobs, at 2.6 million, or 29 percent of employment. Thus, the suburban areas outside the Greenbelt have nearly 60 percent of the London area employment (Figure 1).

Where People Live and Work

The local authority areas containing the CBD have the greatest imbalance between resident workers and jobs. There are 3.35 jobs for each resident worker in these areas. The ratio of jobs to resident workers is much closer in the balance of Inner London, with a ratio of 1.04 jobs per employee. The least balanced is Outer London, with only 0.73 jobs per employee. The inner counties have the second highest ratio, at 0.93 jobs per employee. Surprisingly, the outer counties have the ratio closest to 1.00, at 0.99 jobs per employee (Figure 2). This parallels our findings of America’s only city with anything like London’s pedigree, New York.

Most employees work in the sector of their residence. About 65 percent of CBD local authority area residents work in the CBD area (Figure 3). Outside-the-greenbelt commuters work in their own sector to a greater degree. In the outer counties 88 percent work in their home sectors, while 75 percent of inner counties commuters work in their own sectors. The balance of Inner London has the lowest percentage of employees working in their own sectors (41 percent), while Outer London is somewhat higher, at 50 percent.

Commuting to Central London

Despite its strong CBD, the London area is anything but monocentric. Approximately 85 percent of London area jobs are outside the central business district. Yet London comparative data from nearly two decades ago placed London’s CBD at fourth largest in the world, trailing Tokyo, New York and slightly behind Osaka. With London’s strong economic growth since that time, London has probably passed Osaka, which has faced more difficult economic times.

The overwhelming majority of jobs in the London CBD are filled by GLA residents, with more than 75 percent of commuters living in the balance of Inner London or Outer London (Figure 4). This leaves only a quarter living in the exurban areas beyond the greenbelt. Approximately 17 percent of CBD commuters travel from the inner counties, adjacent to the Greenbelt. Only 5 percent travel from the outer counties. Less than three percent of CBD commuters travel from beyond the London area, which may be surprising given the plentiful higher speed (as opposed to genuine high speed) rail services.

How Commuters Travel

More than half of Londoners commute to work by car or other light vehicles (including car pools). Transit accounts for about a quarter of commuting, while about 10 percent of commuters walk to work. Approximately six percent usually labor mainly at or from home (Figure 5).

Among mass transit commuters, suburban rail systems account for the largest share, at 37 percent, underground (metro) and light rail 33 percent and buses 30 percent. Over the past three decades there has been a substantial increase in bus ridership, principally from expanded services financed with savings from competitive tendering (also called competitive contracting) and additional services added later in conjunction with London’s inner congestion pricing zone. Competitive contracting involves use of competitively selected private companies to operate services. London’s “red bus” system — which is fully integrated in its fare, route structure and vehicle livery with its many double deck buses is virtually all operated by the private sector through competitive tendering.

Minicentric London?

In some ways, London is one of the world’s most dispersed cities, largely due to the discontinuous development encouraged by the greenbelt. The greenbelt imposes a substantial distance penalty for commuters from the inner and outer counties to the CBD, whether by car or train. This is in considerable contrast to Western Europe’s other megacity, Paris, which is far more compact in its metropolitan development, despite having a considerably weaker CBD. London also demonstrates that the age of the monocentric metropolitan area is largely a thing of the past in high income world cities. With less than one-sixth of metropolitan employment in the CBD, “minicentric” might be a more accurate characterization.

Note: Housing development is prohibited on the metropolitan greenbelt, which surrounds London (GLA). The metropolitan greenbelt covers three times the land area of the GLA. Virtually all population growth over the past 85 years in the London area has occurred outside the greenbelt. The inner and outer counties have added more than 7 million residents over the since the 1931 census, while London itself has added approximately 500,000 residents.

The metropolitan is a cornerstone of London’s urban containment policy, which also applies throughout the United Kingdom. Housing development is banned on the greenbelt and the U.K.’s urban containment policy has been associated with a substantial rise in house prices relative to incomes (see: The Barker Review of Housing Supply, the Barker Review of Land Use Planningand The Costs of Smart Growth: A 40 Year Perspective).

Wendell Cox is Chair, Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University (California) and principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm.

Photo: Traffic in London (by author)

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Test Your Knowledge of the Declaration of Independence

July 03, 2015, 9:39 PM

You’re a red-blooded American who loves his country and honors its Founders. You cherish the freedoms we celebrate on on Independence Day. Maybe you’ve read a biography or two of our Founders, watched HBO’s “John Adams” (highly recommended), or seen “The American Revolution” running this week on cable TV.

But how much do you really know about the Declaration of Independence and the brave and principled lovers of liberty who signed it?

Test your knowledge in the quiz at the link below. You’ll likely learn some things that you can chat about over hot dogs and fireworks this weekend. I did.

Declaration of Independence Quiz

Categories: On the Blog

Why Nature’s Editors Love Sen. Lindsey Graham, Climate Comrade

July 03, 2015, 3:12 PM

Graham embraces the Left on climate change, and they give him a bear hug in return in Nature.

The noted scientific journal, Nature, has fallen for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Though it was not quite love at first sight, it is clear that the editors are smitten with the Senator. His announcement last month that he is seeking the American presidency did not charm them.

But his declaration that the GOP must have a coherent “climate policy” certainly did. Graham is now a climate comrade, just like Nature’s editorial team, and other fellow travelers in the “scientific establishment,” who don’t rely on science to inform their ecological opinions. In their love note to Sen. Graham, the editors state that “climate change is the “defining social, and therefore, political issue for the 21st century.” (Scientific issue, eh, not so much.)

The editors are also into the fact that Graham is calling on all Republican candidates, no matter how inconsequential the office they are running for, to articulate their views, in the affirmative only, on climate change.

“Here’s a question you need to ask everybody running as a Republican: What is the environmental policy of the Republican Party?” said the Senator. “When I ask that, I get a blank stare.”

Nature approves, lovingly, of this call for climate alarmist cant to be incorporated into the GOP’s talking points. “Graham could not be more correct,” the editors enthuse, in the June 18, 2015 issue of the journal, in an article entitled, The right climate: A Republican U.S. presidential candidate speaks on climate change, but will his party listen?

 

Categories: On the Blog

School choice is the latest battle for liberty: Guest commentary

July 03, 2015, 11:03 AM

As we approach the birthday of the land of the free and the home of the brave, we have much to be thankful for.

But this year we are especially grateful that the school choice movement has won many victories that embody our All-American values of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and equal opportunity for all.

While charter schools, our public schools of choice, have long flourished in most states, new private school choice programs are now being passed in many of them at an accelerating rate. We currently have 56 different school private choice programs in 28 states and D.C., their number doubling every four years since 2000.

Just a few weeks ago, Nevada passed the nation’s first universal choice program, giving almost every child in the state the right to a school chosen by their parents. When Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill, it was a reminder that the greatest moments in our nation’s history have involved striving for liberty.

The inspiring words of Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War, when he spoke of “… a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created free and equal,” embody the fundamental value of the school choice movement. The overarching tenet that undergirds this movement is that the poor as well as the rich shall get to choose the best school for their children.

Sixteen days after D-Day, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law our nation’s first voucher program, the G.I. Bill of Rights, and honored the returning soldiers with public funding of their choice of college.

In 1972, federal scholarships — which came to be known as Pell Grants — were instituted. More than five million students can use their grants at any one of more than 5,000 colleges, many of which are private and religious institutions.

In 1991, Polly Williams, an African-American welfare mother of four, led the battle in Milwaukee for our nation’s first voucher program, which, with the help of Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, passed in the Wisconsin legislature with bipartisan support. The across-the-aisle aspect of choice continues today. At a recent pro-school choice conference, Democrats including strategist James Carville and former D.C. mayor Anthony Williams shared a stage with Republican governors and presidential hopefuls Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker. Jindal summed up the event by saying, “This shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic issue, this should be an American issue.”

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, comprised mostly of poor and minority students, was established in 2004. Today it boasts a 91 percent graduation rate for participants, compared to just 70 percent for kids in public schools.

Parents are still battling for liberty when it involves their kids’ schooling. But today’s conflict is not with a monarch, but rather the teachers unions and other entrenched special interests that refuse to cede any ground in their grip on the government monopoly. One of their rallying cries is that public dollars should not go to religious schools, though they support Pell Grants which are nothing more than vouchers on the college level. Additionally, in 2002 the Supreme Court ruled in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that because educational funding goes to the parents and not the school, it in no way breaches the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Our Statue of Liberty is engraved with words that greet immigrants to our shores: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” That door has begun to open for more than immigrants. As school choice spreads across the land, both immigrant and native born, rich and poor, black and white, special ed and gifted — everyone — will benefit as all parents will be empowered to make the best educational choices for their children. Freedom of school choice is quintessentially American. And We, the People, are making it a reality in our time.

Alan Bonsteel is president of California Parents for Educational Choice. Larry Sand, a retired teacher, is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

Posted with permission of Larry Sand. Originally published at Los Angeles Daily News.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Amanda Maxham: Defeating Alarmism and Helping People Flourish

July 03, 2015, 9:58 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News speaks with Amanda Maxham. Maxham, a writer and research associate at the Ayn Rand Institute, is a physicist who became a policy wonk. Maxham joins Burnett to discuss how alarmism regarding climate and science is preventing society from thriving.

In this podcast, Maxham argues that public policies should be directed at helping people flourish, and improving human lives and how that necessarily conflicts with environmentalists stated aim that human not impact nature. She believes that climate change alarmism is not about science but rather about the moral view that humans are wrong to have an impact on nature — even if that impact improves human lives. Fossil fuel, she argues, are the great benefactor of human civilization, rather then being the bane of human existence.

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

Categories: On the Blog

‘Big Oil’ Collaborating With U.N. on Climate Change Carbon Cap, Tax Plans

July 02, 2015, 8:04 PM

Eco-liberals who love to hate “Big Oil” — prepare to be shocked. U.N. climate change treaty negotiators recently received a proposal from Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and four other European petroleum companies to collaborate with the international body on the climate change treaty, according to Christiana Figueres, the senior global warming official at the U.N.

In an interview with The Financial Times, Figueres said the European oil companies have endorsed the proposals for carbon taxes, and cap and trade emissions credits as a component of the treaty. Delegates will meet in November and December of this year in Paris for treaty talks.

U.S. companies  Chevron and ExxonMobil are, however, refusing to go along with a treaty agreement, and the CEO of Chevron, John Watson, told the FT that he did not share the Europeans’ taste for taxes and regulations.

U.S. consumers want “low energy prices, not high energy prices,” Watson told the FT.

Cui bono?

Who benefits from BP and Royal Dutch Shell’s concord with the U.N. That’s the key question here for this quite questionable deal.

Noted expert on all things liberal. Robert ‘The Sundance Kid’ Redford, and other celebrities, have endorsed the climate change hypothesis. Is that persuasive to BP, Royal Dutch Shell, et al? Or is there a secret benefit for them in the U.N. climate change treaty?

Categories: On the Blog

Milwaukee Bus Drivers Strike Leaves Summerfest Goers Scrambling for a Safe Ride Home

July 02, 2015, 11:48 AM

Bus Drivers for Milwaukee County, Wisconsin’s transit system announced on Tuesday evening they will go on a three day strike beginning on Wednesday at 3:00 AM. News of a work stoppage could severely impact economic activity during the final weekend of the 2015 Summerfest music festival held in the city’s lakefront area.

The Amalgated Transit Union Local (ATU) 988 is striking over drivers being asked to contribute more to their health insurance along with hiring part-time drivers to cut down on overtime pay. The Milwaukee County Transit System offered the union a 2 percent pay increase and a 1.3 percent reduction in the employee contribution to pensions. The average bus driver in Milwaukee County makes $62,000 annually in salary, including overtime pay.

Roughly 150,000 individuals use the bus system every day in Milwaukee County. Daily ridership increases by about 20,000 during the 11 day music festival. Some people will take the bus to get home from Summerfest if they plan to have a few beers during an evening of music. With the bus off the table as a safe transportation option, some concertgoers will have to look at alternatives. Ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber may see increased demand during the three days bus drivers are on strike.

County Supervisor Deanna Alexander warned of the potential of increased incidents of drunk driving during the strike. “This is a major public safety concern and I can hardly believe that the ATU would choose to take the thousands of people drinking at Summerfest hostage during this strike, increasing the risk that those who can’t find a bus they are accustomed to relying on, may get behind the wheel,” said Alexander.

Wisconsin, known for its beer drinking culture, is the only state in the nation that treats first offense drunken driving as a traffic citation. This results in a fine of $872.50 and a suspension of the offender’s driver’s license for up to nine months.

Categories: On the Blog