Michael Mann and Naomi Oreskes certainly showed their true colors in their January 8 letter (“With friends like The Heartland Institute…”). Other writers have done a fine job exposing Mann’s and Oreskes’ utter lack of credibility, so I won’t repeat any of that.
It appears Mann and Oreskes chose the Lakeland Times as a somewhat unlikely venue to put on the record every lie and half-truth about The Heartland Institute spread (with their help) on the Internet. So here, for the record, is some truth-telling.
The Heartland Institute is a 32-year-old independent nonprofit research organization. Approximately 239 academics, scientists, and professional economists write for us and participate in our peer-review process and more than 200 elected officials serve on our Legislative Forum.
We are funded by the contributions of some 6,000 men and women who share our free-market perspective. We address a wide range of issues, not just global warming.
We support and publish the work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), an international network of climate scientists created in 2003 by Dr. S. Fred Singer, one of the world’s most distinguished physicists. NIPCC is currently a project of three independent organizations: Science and Environmental Policy Project, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and The Heartland Institute.
NIPCC’s series of reports, titled Climate Change Reconsidered, has been highly praised by real scientists and cited more than 100 times in peer-reviewed journals. The first two volumes in the series were translated into Chinese and published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The Climate Change Reconsidered volumes are formatted similar to the reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because they are replies to and critiques of the latter. This purpose as well as the identities of the sponsoring organizations, authors, and publisher appear prominently on book covers, prefaces, introductions, online versions, and so on. Anyone capable of reading English (or Mandarin) is able to distinguish NIPCC reports from those of IPCC.
Over the past 25 years, The Heartland Institute has published millions of words about global warming – more than 9 million, according to a recent study published in Global Environmental Change. This work has produced a gale of ridicule, threats, and outright lies about our funding, motives, and work, much of it from Mann and Oreskes themselves. If four of our 9 million words included “madmen” and “queen of smear,” I’m okay with that.
Heartland has never attempted to “equate climate scientists with the Unabomber.” We ran one billboard for one day, with a picture of Theodore Kaczynski and this text: “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” It was satire – look it up – and had its intended effect, generating waves of indignation and mock outrage by climate alarmists. It broke the media’s black-out of the work of Heartland and other climate realists. The circumstances at the time demanded that we not be polite – Google “Fakegate” to read about the vicious attack on us that had occurred a few months earlier.
Heartland is not “a Koch Brothers-funded ‘think tank’” We’ve received one grant, of $25,000 for a health care reform project, in the past 15 years. Mann and Oreskes should apologize for this deliberate smear, but past experience says they won’t.
Heartland has never “served tobacco interests,” another deliberate smear. We defend smokers from excessive taxation and document how public health groups exaggerate the threat of second-hand smoke. Google “Leave Those Poor Smokers Alone!” to read my views and see if you disagree.
For nearly 25 years, I have had the privilege of working with a global community of scientists and policy experts to understand, not just “believe in,” climate change. We conclude the human impact is small, the amount of warming in the coming century is likely to be moderate, and the benefits of such warming, should it occur, are likely to exceed the costs. Our conclusions are widely shared in the scientific community, maybe even shared by a majority of scientists. But we don’t claim the debate is over, and we don’t attack scientists who disagree with us.
I agree with Mann and Oreskes on one thing, though, and that is their conclusion: It is time we stopped repeating nonsense and started working together on solutions.
There is an emerging consensus about the destructiveness of excessive land use regulation, both with respect to its impact on housing affordability but also its overall impacts on economies. This is most evident in a recent New Zealand commentary.
Both the center-Left and center-Right have come together in agreement on the depth of New Zealand’s housing affordability and its principal cause, overly restrictive urban planning regulations. Labour Party housing spokesperson (shadow minister) Phil Twyford and Oliver Hartwich, executive director of the New Zealand Initiative, wrote in a co-authored New Zealand Herald commentary:“Our own research leaves no doubt that planning rules are a root cause of the housing crisis, particularly in Auckland…” (See: “Planning Rules the Cause of Housing Crisis.”).
The Labour Party is the largest opposition party in Parliament, and has traded governing with the currently ruling National Party more than eight decades. The New Zealand Initiative is “an association of business leaders that is also a research institute.”
Planning and the New Zealand Housing Crisis
New Zealand’s housing crisis has been building for more than two decades. New house construction has fallen dramatically. According to Twyford and Hartwich, house construction has declined nearly 40 percent from 1973. At the same time the demand for housing has increased. The authors note that New Zealand’s population has increased 50 percent since that time. The housing shortage is further exacerbated by the falling average size of households, which means more new dwellings are required than indicated by the increase in population
Across the Pacific nation, far more restrictive land use regulations have been adopted, including urban containment boundaries (urban growth boundaries), which have been associated with higher house prices relative to incomes. Before the imposition of strict land use regulation, houses typically cost three times or less that of household incomes. Since then, house prices have double or tripled relative to household incomes. Twyford and Hartich note that houses now cost a “severely unaffordable” 9 times household incomes in Auckland: They say that “A big part of the problem in Auckland is escalating land costs. Linked to this, too few houses are being built. The houses that are being built are too expensive.”
Twyford and Hartwich indicated an even broader general agreement, endorsing comments by the ruling National Party government’s as indicated by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English: “It costs too much and takes too long to build a house in New Zealand. Land has been made artificially scarce by regulation that locks up land for development. This regulation has made land supply on responsive to demand” (also see: “Planning has Become the Externality“)
Twyford and Hartwich starkly described the consequences of New Zealand’s urban planning regime.
“Rising house prices are making us poorer as a nation. They force people to spend an ever larger proportion of their incomes on housing, and it ties up vast amounts of the nation’s wealth in housing instead of investing it in businesses that create jobs and exports.”
Twyford and Hartwich also agreed that there is more than enough blame to go around for the mess that has arisen in New Zealand (a criticism that would be appropriate across Australia, the United Kingdom, some markets in the Unites States and the largest markets in Canada):
“Because this is a national housing crisis that has grown over decades and under governments of different hues, playing political blame games is pointless. You cannot solve problems in retrospect. We need to face the facts and work together for real reform.”
The authors identified three issues for reform: “First, urban growth boundaries driving up section costs. Second, anti-density restrictions stopping affordable housing. Third, the expensive and inefficient way we fund infrastructure.” They also indicated a familiarity with the economics of development fees (also called impact fees”), often missed by planners in Australia, Canada, the United States and elsewhere. “Even though developers nominally pay for all these costs,” “they note, these costs “are immediately passed on to the new home-buyer.”
Twyford and Hartwich propose what they refer to as “modest” reforms:
“• Instead of using urban growth boundaries, empower communities to protect places that are of special character and value to them.
• Free up density and height controls and rely more on high urban design standards including requirements for open and green space, to allow more affordable housing in the city. Let the market discover where and how people want to live.
• Take developers out of the business of financing new infrastructure. Instead, spread the cost over the assets’ lifetime, either by issuing local government bonds or establishing Community Development Districts” (These could be similar to the Municipal Utility Districts of Texas).
Importantly, in their second proposal, Twyford and Hartwich exhibit the appropriateness of consumer choice in housing. As in other goods and services, consumers should be free to make their own housing choices, rather than being limited to those permitted by urban planning decrees. Yet, urban planning, in recent years, has attempted to reduce house sizes and force higher densities, attempting to drive many households into smaller houses and into condominiums who prefer larger detached houses.
The concluded that:
“It is an issue of national importance and concerns all of us – all councils and political parties, developers and the wider business community – and of course the people of this country who would benefit the most from restored housing affordability.
The time for reform is now.”
The Twyford-Hartwich commentary follows other significant developments in New Zealand.
Indicating the depth of concern about the impact of planning policies on housing prices, the city of Auckland’s Chief Economist has proposed setting a target to nearly halve house prices relative to incomes over the next 15 years (to a price-to-income ratio of 5.0, compared to its now reported near 10). This represents an important turnaround in thinking in the city.
Moreover, economic research produced recently for the Productivity Commission of New Zealand indicated that the housing market distortion has become so bad that “After controlling for a range of other influences, the gradient in land prices (per hectare) from Auckland’s CBD to the rural land adjacent to the city undergoes a step change at the point of the MUL [metropolitan urban limit or urban containment boundary].” The differential was identified at approximately 10 times and the Commission noted that the land value gap has “increasingly binding as housing demand pressures have intensified” (Note 1).
The Emerging International Consensus
Consistent with the Productivity Commission recommendation, London School of Economics professors Paul Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry Overman, in their recent book, Urban Economics and Urban Policy: Challenging Conventional Policy Wisdom, that (see: “People Rather than Places, Ends Rather than Means”):
“…observed price discontinuities – the difference in market prices across boundaries categories – should become a ‘material consideration’ leading to a presumption in favour of any proposed development unless (a very important ‘unless’) it could be shown that the observed monetary value of the discontinuity reflected wider environmental, amenity or social values of the land in its current use.”
Shortly after the Twyford-Hartwich article, George Mason University professor Ilya Somin wrote of an “emerging cross-ideological consensus” in his Washington Post column. Somin mentions economists perceived as representative of right of center and left of center positions, such as Harvard’s Edward Glaeser and Nobel Laureate and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, as well as Jason Furman, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. He quotes Krugman: “this is an issue on which you don’t have to be a conservative to believe that we have too much regulation.”
If there is any issue that the Left and Right should be able to unite around, it is policies that keep cities affordable (a prerequisite to livability) not only for both the threatened middle-class and for lower income citizens. More than 40 years ago, legendary urbanist Sir Peter Hall’s raised these as principal points in his critique of urban containment policy. Twyford, Krugman, Cheshire and Harwich are right. This is not an ideological issue but one about the human future in our cities.
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. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.
The world is watching and taking note of the FCC’s blatant competition double standard that totally favors America’s dominant edge platforms above most everyone and everything else.
Consider an apt and illuminating comparison between the competition U.S. wireless broadband providers face versus the competition Silicon Valley’s edge platforms face.
The FCC’s Non-Neutral Internet Competition Policy
The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order has an implicit blind-eye competition premise in that it reclassified the broadband provider half of Internet access, and not the “edge” platform provider half, as subject to FCC Title II common carriage regulation.
That is because the FCC focused only on broadband and concluded its level of competition required the strongest possible net neutrality regulation, while it turned a blind-eye toward “edge” platforms in uncritically assuming that “edge” platform networks were competitive and thus did not have to be neutral, open, or transparent.
Recently the FCC, in its 18th annual Wireless Competition Report to Congress, did not find the U.S. wireless market competitive despite 92% of Americans having access to 4+ providers and 97% having access to 3+ providers.
This FCC nothing-burger is in stark contrast to a recent trenchant analysis of “edge” competition by a well-informed, high-profile, “edge” insider.
Recently Om Malik, a widely-respected Silicon Valley blogger, researcher, and venture capitalist, best known for founding Gigaom, has effectively taken on the warning mantle of a “canary in the coal mine.”
In his outstanding New Yorker op-ed entitled: In Silicon Valley Now, It’s Almost Always Winner Takes All, Mr. Malik concluded that “most competition in Silicon Valley now heads toward there being one monopolistic winner.”
He explains further: “In the course of nearly two decades of closely following (and writing about) Silicon Valley, I have seen products and markets go through three distinct phases… when the dust settles, there are one, two, or three players left standing. Rarely do you end up with true competition.”
In his must-read op-ed, he makes several trenchant competitive assessments of Silicon Valley’s leading “edge” platforms:
“The only competition that matters in ride sharing is between the two largest companies: Uber and Lyft.”
“Google is a winner that has taken it all…Microsoft Bing…currently runs a distant second in the search engine sweepstakes.”
“Facebook has created a near monopoly in social networking. …Twitter is a distant second in the social web.”
“Amazon has run away with online retail, leaving everyone else to fight for scraps.”
“Microsoft, even today, controls the office-productivity business.”
“Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are the two dominant players [in mobile operating systems].
“Even in chips, it is still Intel and some others.”
“There are two companies that dominate the public cloud – Amazon, followed by Microsoft’s Azure.”
Mr. Malik also shares other insights very relevant to the state of “edge” competition andnetwork neutrality as it compares to the broadband competition analyzed in the FCC’s wireless competition report.
“While in the early days of networks, growth was limited by the slowness and cost at numerous points – expensive telephone connections, computers that crashed, browsers that didn’t work – the smartphone has essentially changed all that.” [bold added]
“This loop of algorithms, infrastructure, and data is potent. Add what are called networkeffects to the mix and you start to see virtual monopolies emerge almost overnight.” [bold added]
“… in our connected age, data, infrastructure, and algorithms give companies a distinct advantage…it is a winner-takes-all world.” [bold added]
Please note the stark and unwarranted FCC double standard here toward “network effects” and the consequent expectation of network neutrality.
National/regional scale, physical infrastructure, broadband networks are subject to maximal transparency, utility regulation, and the presumption of anti-competitive discrimination, despite real competitive pressures.
On the other hand, the dramatically-larger and more powerful, global scale “networks” of the world’s dominant “edge” providers are not transparent, totally unregulated, have no expectation to be neutral to content, apps or traffic, and are subject to substantially-less, rivalrous-competitive pressure than broadband providers.
The only explanation for this highly discriminatory treatment of adjacent industries is a highly-political U.S. industrial policy where “edge” providers have been politically chosen to win and broadband providers politically chosen to lose.
The largest edge platforms may relish how they have politically commandeered the FCC regulatory process to help their businesses in the U.S., but they will prove increasingly naïve and unwise long-term, as the rest of the world’s leaders and regulators get this U.S. joke, and follow America’s short-sighted and self-serving lead, and use it for political cover, as they politically choose to favor their own regional/national sovereign interests and citizens as “winners” over America’s dominant “edge” platforms’ commercial interests as “losers,” when they come up with new and revised laws, regulations, and policies on: encryption, privacy, competition/antitrust, tax, copyright, etc.
What happens in the U.S. does not stay in the U.S.
Scott Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He is President of Precursor LLC, a research consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.
Further proof, if any were needed, that the silly season – otherwise known as an election year – is upon us is an op-ed that appeared today in the Boston Globe entitled “A make-or-break moment for Supreme Court appointments” over the name of Hillary Clinton.
Undoubtedly penned by someone other than the candidate herself, the piece is nonetheless a fair statement of Mrs. Clinton’s views of the United States Supreme Court as a progressive policy-making body rather than the impartial judicial tribunal the Framers envisioned when they drafted the Constitution’s Article III.
Mrs. Clinton, who helpfully points out parenthetically that – in addition to being a presidential candidate – she is also, like her predecessor, “a lawyer and former law professor,” rightfully observes that “who sits on the court matters a great deal” and that “[t]he court’s decisions have a profound impact on American families.”
From there, however, what could have been an important analysis of the proper role of the courts in a functioning democratic republic devolves into a plainly partisan campaign commercial for which one hopes the Globe has appropriately charged her campaign or reported to the FEC as an in-kind donation.
As president, candidate Clinton promises:
I’ll appoint justices who will protect the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or political viewpoint; make sure the scales of justice aren’t tipped away from individuals toward corporations and special interests; and protect citizens’ right to vote, rather than billionaires’ right to buy elections.
Oh my. Don’t we already have that? Not according to candidate Clinton.
Under those nasty ol’ justices appointed by the Republicans she’s most proud to enumerate among her “enemies,” for example, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, to be argued on Monday, could make it “harder for working people like teachers, social workers, and first responders to negotiate together for better wages and benefits.” Not to mention harder to deprive municipal employees who don’t agree with union views of their First Amendment rights while simultaneously bankrupting state and local governments whose taxpayers aren’t represented at the bargaining table.
Or “[t]ake abortion rights,” says Mrs. Clinton, who has famously echoed her husband’s equally famous promise while president to help make abortion “safe, legal, and rare,” even personally adding “and by rare I mean rare.” Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, scheduled for argument in March, warns Mrs. Clinton, might help make abortion more rare while doing nothing to make it either less safe or less legal by upholding a Texas law requiring in part that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals in the event of emergencies.
The Court might also, warns Mrs. Clinton, decide that “one person, one vote” means that states should count actual legal voters instead of including noncitizens, felons, or people not legally in the country to begin with. It could reaffirm that only Congress, not the president, has the power to legislate under Article I of the Constitution and that the president’s constitutional duty is to see that the laws the people pass are faithfully executed. And it could decide that, in a nation in which mixed-race couples and children and grandchildren are now commonplace, it’s time for universities to stop reserving admissions slots for student based on the color of their skin instead of the content of their character. (I think that the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. might once have said something about that.)
“In a single term,” Mrs. Clinton concludes “conservative justices could undermine virtually every pillar of the progressive movement.”
Unless, of course, you vote for her. Then she’ll appoint Supreme Court justices who will continue to create the nation’s public policy as they see fit in cases like Obergefell v. Hodges.
Although a fine political appeal to her progressive constituents, Mrs. Clinton’s op-ed piece is a terrible commentary on the state of American civics literacy – including in particular separation of powers and the proper roles of the courts. By conflating the power of the courts and the Congress at the whim of the executive, what she really advocates is the antithesis of the horizontal separation of powers that the Constitution mandates.
Hasn’t the nation had enough of one-branch government run by a sometime lawyer and former law professor?
If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.
Left Exposed: Union of Concerned Scientists
The Union of Concerned Scientists is a left-wing advocacy organization that spreads unscientific alarmism about environment and energy topics. It is currently bragging about being a major architect and proponent of using the federal RICO Act against executives at fossil fuel companies and nonprofit think tanks, such as The Heartland Institute. Heartland’s Emily Zanotti and Ron Arnold document the organization’s history, funding, and controversies with a new profile posted at LeftExposed.org. READ MORE
New Book! Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming
This week, Heartland released it’s newest book on global warming. Titled Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, the book takes on and demolishes the most pernicious myth in the global warming debate: that “97% of scientists” believe mankind is the cause of a global warming catastrophe. Scientists Craig Idso, Fred Singer, and Robert Carter critique the sources of this myth and present a summary of the physical science that makes it plain beyond any doubt that there is no global warming crisis. Go to the Heartland Store now and order a copy, or become a Heartland donor and get a free copy! READ MORE
Heartland Denounces President Obama’s Executive Order on Guns
President Barack Obama’s recent executive orders on gun control, announced at a tearful press conference earlier this week, won’t reduce gun violence or diminish the real threat of terrorism, but they will continue this president’s pattern of grandstanding, using fear to advance a left-liberal agenda, and violating the Constitution. As Research Fellow Steve Stanek notes, “nationally, the murder rate is less than half what it was in the early 1990s.” Sorry, Mr. President, we aren’t falling for it. READ MORE
The Future of Social Security
Peter Ferrara, National Affairs
Heartland has produced a colorful and easy-to-read guide on how to fix Social Security so benefits promised to today’s seniors are secure and tomorrow’s seniors will have better opportunities to save for their retirements. The future of Social Security will be among the top issues in the 2016 presidential election, as government actuaries predict the Social Security trust funds will run out of money to pay promised benefits by 2029 and Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to take benefits away from seniors. Heartland Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara, who has been writing about Social Security since the 1980s, says there’s a better way. READ MORE
Featured Podcast: Corruption in Chicago Public Schools
Lennie Jarratt, The Heartland Institute’s project manager for education, and Heartland Policy Analyst Tim Benson join host Donald Kendal to discuss a report released this week by the Inspector General of the Chicago Board of Education. The report showed a disturbing pattern of corruption, ranging from record tampering to drug-related criminal activity. This corrupt regime keeps demanding more and more funding while denying parents access to better schools through vouchers and other school choice programs used with great success in other cities. LISTEN TO MORE
Greenland Wants Out of Paris Climate Accord
H. Sterling Burnett, The Heartlander
Even before the ink dried on the climate agreement developed in Paris at the United Nations’ COP-21 summit, Greenland is angling to protect its energy sector by opting out of its commitments under the accord. Greenland’s unique transportation needs, which require the use of small planes, its natural cloudiness, and extended periods of low-light conditions make reductions in carbon emissions especially difficult in the Danish country. READ MORE
Compact for a Balanced Budget
Nick Dranias, The Heartland Institute
Heartland’s new Center for Constitutional Reform has released a new booklet by constitutional scholar Nick Dranias titled “Compact for a Balanced Budget.” Copies of the booklet will be sent along with copies of Budget & Tax News to all national and state elected officials, subscribers, and Heartland donors who ask to receive that monthly publication. The federal debt is fast approaching $20 trillion, a staggering amount that no one would have thought was sustainable just a few years ago. President Obama shares the blame with Congress for the massive surge in spending that caused this fiscal crisis, and neither party has any incentive to solve it. Constitutional reform, in the form of a balanced budget amendment, is our only hope. Dranias succinctly and persuasively explains how it can be done quickly and without raising the threat of a “run-away convention.” READ MORE
West Virginia Education Chief Announces Repeal of Common Core
Bruce Edward Walker, The Heartlander
The West Virginia state superintendent of schools announced on November 13 his plan to repeal Common Core K–12 math and English standards and replace them with College and Career Ready (CCR) standards developed specifically for the state. “I am proud of the work that has occurred throughout the last several months, because this effort was generated from the bottom up, with input from our educators and community members,” state Superintendent Michael Martirano told School Reform News. READ MORE
Bonus Podcast: Florida Solar Power Amendment Is Not Free Market
James Taylor, The Heartland Institute’s vice president of external relations and a senior fellow for environment issues, joins Environment & Climate News Managing Editor H. Sterling Burnett to discuss the proposed solar power amendment in Florida. Despite what solar advocates claim, the move is not “anti-monopoly” or “free market,” but an effort to carve out special privileges and benefits for the solar power industry, to be paid for by ratepayers and taxpayers. READ MORE
For Many, New Year’s Resolution Is to End Obamacare
Justin Haskins, Consumer Power Report
High on the list of many American’s New Year’s resolutions is hope that they will be able to afford to pay for health insurance in 2016 and beyond. The failed Obamacare debacle will cause average health insurance premiums to rise by more than 20 percent in 2016. Millions of people have already lost their insurance and are scrambling to find new policies. The CEO of UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurance provider, announced his company would be leaving the Obamacare exchanges, which could be the beginning of the long-predicted Obamacare death spiral. READ MORE
Taxpayers, States Win When There’s Tax Code Competition
Jesse Hathaway, The Hill
Many state governments facing budget crises are still trying outdated and failed policy ideas, such as higher taxes and increased government spending, hoping they’ll somehow work this time. Instead, they should copy tried-and-true ideas for successfully attracting residents and fostering an economic environment in which people can prosper. Jesse Hathaway, editor of Budget & Tax News, offers a summary of the Tax Foundation’s new State Business Tax Climate Index report, a state-by-state, apples-to-apples comparison of tax systems. READ MORE
Happy New Year, All. ’Tis the time to resolve them if you’ve got them. For Republican presidential primary contenders, here’s an anti-Establishment thought: Pledge to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (There are, after all, fifty state versions thereof. The federal is thus, at the very least, utterly redundant.)
The EPA is all that is wrong with Washington, D.C. It is the result of yet another awful foray into bipartisanship (in DC, if it’s bipartisan – it’s almost always awful). Pseudo-Republican Richard Nixon created the mess in 1970 in typical DC fashion – he pretended to be Congress and signed an executive order. The Democrat-controlled Congress then pretended to be Congress – and “ratified” the EPA with committee hearings, rather than passing actual legislation birthing the bureaucracy.
So the EPA is in its entirety a Constitutional house of cards. What lives via the executive order – can die via the executive order. Republican presidential candidates can simply add it to the list of fiats they intend to undo upon entering office.
Born of executive order – the EPA now operates almost exclusively by executive order. Which continues unabated the violence being done to the Constitution. The EPA – in fact every Executive Branch agency, commission, department and board – is actually (supposed to be) a creation and creature of Congress. Thus no Executive bureaucracy can do anything – unless and until Congress writes a law empowering them to do it. Just about every arm of the Leviathan is far exceeding its legal reach. Arguably none more than the egregious EPA.
Under President Barack Obama, what was once obnoxious has now become atrocious – and atrociously routine. The Daily Caller on New Year’s Day published “These Are The Most ABSURD 2015 EPA Power-Grabs Of Dubious Legality.”
“Dubious” – is being very generous. The article chronicles four absolutely huge EPA power grabs – executed just last year. Totally bereft of any legislation from Congress. And looks at the tee-up of a fifth – the power grabs most likely to come as a result of the ridiculous Paris Climate Change summit.
Does the EPA screw up huge? Is water wet? Does the EPA do its best to cover up their huge screw ups? Is water wet? Is the EPA a giant anti-transparency nightmare mess? Is water wet?
This is simply a sampling – just during the Obama Administration. And doesn’t even touch on what the EPA actually exists to do.
Let us consider more fully but one egregiously unConstitutional example of EPA overreach – that hits pretty close to home for all of us. I like food. Do you like food? The EPA apparently doesn’t like food – and doesn’t care that you and I do.
You want to kneecap farmers? And make food exorbitantly more expensive? Turn farmers’ water into a weapon against them.
The issue is the EPA’s proposed changes to the Waters of the United States regulation. In March, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed new rules that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority on streams and wetlands that feed into major rivers and lakes.
The EPA says 60 percent of the nation’s streams and wetlands are not protected from pollution.
That actually means 60% of the nation’s streams and wetlands are protected from government. The EPA won’t stand for that. Except:
(T)wo U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limited what waterways the government can regulate and the proposed rule is meant to clarify which smaller ones they include.
Why would that stop the EPA?
(T)he rules…(would) allow the government to dictate what farmers can and cannot do with their farmland, which often includes small streams, ponds and marshes.
How beyond-all-reason-and-reasonableness is this massive new EPA power grab?
(Small Business Administration) SBA to EPA: Ditch the Waters of the U.S. Proposal
On October 1, 2014, an unexpected ally from within the administration filed comments with EPA claiming that EPA and the Corps “have improperly certified the proposed rule [WOTUS] under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) because it (WOTUS) would have significant effects on small businesses.”
When another arm of the Leviathan thinks you’ve gone light years too far – just how far from the path have you strayed?
The assaults on farmers and the food they produce are reason enough to shut down the EPA. Add to it this cornucopia of terrible ideas, private sector assaults and corruption – and it quickly becomes a litany for immediate agency termination.
Closing the EPA makes eminent policy sense. And in this presidential election cycle – eminent political sense.
A 2016 New Year’s Resolution to do so – would help make for a VERY happy 2017.
In The Tank Podcast (ep20): Oregon Standoff, Federally Owned Land, and ITT’s Guide to Being a Libertarian
In episode #20 of the In The Tank Podcast, Hosts Donny Kendal and John Nothdurft talk about the Oregon “Standoff.” This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, roundtable discussions, stories, and light-hearted segments on a variety of topics on the latest news. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday.
In today’s episode of In The Tank, Donny and John talk about Oregon and what brought us to this point. As John discusses, the Federal Government owns a large portion of the western states. They also develop their version of the “Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide to being a Man,” unofficially named “ITT’s Guide to being a Libertarian.”
The Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama and the Tigers of Clemson University will battle on the football field on January 11th to become college football’s national champion. A new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) finds that these two schools are not national championship material when it comes to free speech rights. The University of Alabama and Clemson University each earned “red light” rankings on the issue of free speech.
FIRE found the University of Alabama has numerous policies restricting free speech on its main campus in Tuscaloosa. Policies on harassment and community living in residence halls are a major reason it earned the red-light ranking. Alabama also received low marks for imposing restrictions on where students can assemble peacefully, Internet usage, and language in printed materials. The University of Alabama has earned a notorious reputation for restricting free speech rights over the past decade, due in part to its disparate treatment of conservative groups, along with speech codes written with overly broad language. The Crimson Tide may be stingy with its defense on the football field, but university administrators are stingy on what types of speech can be said on campus in Tuscaloosa.
Clemson University may come into the national championship game ranked number one, but they earned a dismal ranking on free speech rights. FIRE found that Clemson earned a red light rating because of its anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies. Clemson also was at the center of a free-speech-zone scandal in which administrators targeted a conservative group who assembled a protest outside of a free speech zone in 2006.
When looking at the rest of the top 10 schools ranked in the College Football Playoff (CFP) standings, Florida State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State earned red light rankings, while Iowa, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and Stanford earned “yellow light” rankings. The only CFP school in the top 10 that received a “green light” ranking is North Carolina.
The success of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson represents an anguished shout from Republican voters to the powers-that-be in Washington: The system is broken; it’s not working.
If you want to know why millions of Republicans voters hate their party politics in Washington, D.C., consider what massive GOP majorities in both the House and the Senate did in December of 2015. Not only did GOP majorities pass the catastrophic Omnibus bill, but they also extended and give new life to the failed “No Child Left Behind” bill signed by President George W. Bush in 2002.
By renaming the bill and rigging the game so it would pass, “No Child Left Behind” is now called the “Every Student Succeeds Act.”
The lengthy bill (S 1177) was posted only two days (12/8/2015) before the legislation was voted on, ensuring that few legislators would have time to read it and that the American people would have no time to weigh in. Notwithstanding, the army of highly paid lobbyists had already secured their pieces of the action during months of what are described as intense negotiations.
So it was that after months of secret negotiations to reconcile the House and Senate versions to replace the failed “No Child Left Behind”, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015.Read here the text of the bill.
This bipartisan measure reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — the nation’s national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students passed as a part of United States President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s “War on Poverty” in 1965. President Obama’s quick and willful signature on S 1177 only increases the skepticism that the “Every Student Succeeds Act” will not meaningfully reduce federal meddling in education.
As stated by President at the signing ceremony of S. 1177:
“With this bill, we reaffirm that fundamentally American ideal—that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will.”
According to Jane Robbins, S 1177 is so progressive that it was supported by all Democrats in Congress, President Barack Obama, the owners of the Common Core national standards (National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers), and every other pro-Common Core and pro-progressive education interest group in the country, while the bill was adamantly opposed by over 200 anti-Common Core grassroots organizations. Jane Robbins has written and published numerous articles about education (including Common Core controversy) for “Truth in American Education.”
In the final analysis, ESSA represents a retreat on nearly all of the selling points that accompanied the House-passed H.R. 5 bill (Student Success Act – H.R.5) passed on July 8, 2015, which sought to reduce the federal footprint and restore local control, while empowering parents and education leaders to hold schools accountable for effectively teaching students. As CQ Roll Call noted, the “the final agreement largely resembles” the Senate-passed bill, specifically the conference report.
Republicans should have listened to the more than 200 pro-Constitution, anti-Common Core grassroots groups that laid out in detail their objections to this bill and practically begged their ‘conservative’ elected officials to reject IL 1177. Instead, all but 64 members of the House and 12 senators ignored their knowledgeable constituents and did the bidding of the White House and the Republican leadership.
In a news release of Dec. 9, 2015 Senator Mark Kirk celebrated the passage of S. 1177. As the only member of the Illinois delegation that serves on a Congressional committee overseeing education policy; Kirk helped shepherd ESSA through the committee and conference process. Working with the 10th District congressman, Bob Dold, impact ad assistance was maintained for schools in North Chicago (North Chicago borders Waukegan in northern Illinois.).
As testimony to the final progressive outcome of the bi-partisan “Every Student Succeeds Act”, Dold and Kirk have Republican voting records that are equal or lower than legislators having a “D” after their names. Heritage Action’s Scorecard puts Dold at 23%. Even lower is Kirk’s at 13%. The Heritage Action Scorecard doesn’t separate Republicans from Democrat legislators. They are all lumped together in one list. See how your U.S. senator and representative are rated.
Despite glowing reports from many progressive groups over the re-authorization of ESSA through 2020, less than glowing reports were forthcoming from respectable organizations who believe that education decisions should be made by state and local decision. ESSA neither stops Common core, nor does it rain in Obama’s Department of Education.
In this edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast Independent Communications Consultant Jessica Sena and research fellow Isaac Orr discuss the impact of state regulatory plans to restrict development in areas deemed important habitat for sage grouse, a bird which inhabits eleven western states. Many of these rural states depend upon agriculture, mining, and forestry for economic growth, but each of these industries will be impacted by limitations on development because of the sage grouse.
For many people living in the Midwest, South, or East Coast, the sage grouse is probably something that rarely registers on our collective radars. However, this is impossible in portions of California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming where federal officials have declared sage grouse protection will take precedent over economic development.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Project Manager for Education Lennie Jarratt and Policy Analyst Tim Benson join Host Donald Kendal to discuss the recently released report by the Inspector General of the Chicago Board of Education. The report showed a disturbing pattern of corruption throughout the system.
This annually produced report showed numerous examples of corruption ranging from record tampering to drug-related criminal activity. Jarratt and Benson comb through the report and bring to light the most egregious items listed. They also discuss potential solutions to combat this overwhelming problem.
On December 30, presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced he would endorse an Article V convention for the purpose of enacting a federal balanced budget amendment, along with term limits for Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
“One of the things I’m going to do on my first day in office: I will announce that I am a supporter, and as president I will put the weight of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states so we can pass term limits on members of Congress and the Supreme Court and so we can pass a balanced budget amendment,” said Rubio during a campaign rally in Iowa.
Opponents of the Article V movement, such as Common Cause and the John Birch Society, have long alleged an Article V convention could be opened up to special-interest lobbying and the possibility of a complete rewrite of the U.S. Constitution. Rubio acknowledged that a convention would have to be limited in its scope.
“I think you’d have to limit the convention, and that’s what they’re proposing: a very limited convention on specific, delineated issues like term limits and like a balanced budget amendment,” said Rubio.
Rubio did acknowledge limitations on the scope of the convention would be necessary to prevent delegates from going rogue.
Twenty-seven states have already enacted applications calling for an Article V convention that would be limited to just a single subject: a balanced budget amendment. Convention of States, another proposal that combines a balanced budget amendment and term limits, has been enacted in four states. Compact for America has also been enacted in four states.
The compact proposal is a hybrid method that combines a balanced budget amendment along with a separate interstate compact agreement that would outline the procedures for calling a convention.
Rubio joins many other Republican presidential candidates who have called for a convention, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Sen. Rand Paul (KY).
Media bias is hydra-headed in its perniciousness. It operates on many levels – in many ways. One of its practitioners’ favorite moves is the terrible headline. In which they knowingly – or unknowingly – tip their hand on the story at hand. These heinous headlines can effectively work to sway casual, drive-by media consumers – who don’t go deep into multiple articles to get a more fully-formed idea.
Mega-website Facebook is currently on the wrong side of this media treatment. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is trying – via his Free Basics program – to connect to the Internet prospectively billions of very poor people throughout the world. For free. How awful of him.
But because Facebook’s – again, FREE – connection is alleged to violate the ridiculous government policy known as Network Neutrality, a tiny cadre of pro-government fetishists are out in force. To stop billions of very poor people from accessing the Web.
We will for the moment ignore this story’s petard-hoisting nature – because in the United States, Facebook is one of the biggest Net Neutrality proponents going. (Here’s hoping Zuckerberg, Inc. now sees how foolish that is.)
As soon as Facebook went from a user of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to an ISP their own selves – the Net Neutrality mini-gaggle they championed turned viciously upon them. Including most certainly the media. And this is where it gets particularly stupid.
Why on Earth would it? Because the rabble-rousing fetishists – in the media and elsewhere – insist that it does.
The Leftists who constantly demand companies give stuff away – freak out when they actually do.
It is ridiculous he even has to do so.
“PLEASE – allow India to have free Internet access.”
But there actually is currently no “digital India” – not really. 80% of India’s 1.3 billion people do not have Internet access. Facebook is trying to address this – and getting assaulted for it.
The one billion Indians being denied free Internet access – not so tech-savvy.
The Academics – most of whom have free Internet access provided for them by their academies – oppose the Indian people joining them online. Because that won’t help them academically, obviously.
Neither do one billion Indians.
Really? Is that factually accurate? Of course not.
1.4 million people commented – mostly in favor of their getting access. Does the government bureaucrat in question care? Of course not.
The definition of an “astroturf army?” Any mass of humanity in support of non-Leftist policy. And ignore the people India’s bureaucrat has.
And this wanton ignorance is spreading.
Facebook’s Free Basics launched in Egypt only two months ago – and three million people rushed to sign up. And now the Net Neutrality fetishists have pulled their plugs.
I’m sure many other poor countries had hopes of Facebook delivering them Internet access. And these Leftists are happily dashing them.
There are a few voices of media sanity.
But they are far and away the outliers – much like people in poor countries with Internet access.
So congratulations to the world’s “journalists.” You exponentially amplified a tiny cadre of anti-poor-people regulatory fetishists – and are shutting down Internet access for billions. Well done.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Heartland Vice President of External Relations James Taylor sits down with Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. James joins Burnett to discuss the proposed solar amendment in Florida.
James gives an update concerning the status of the solar power industry’s attempts to get a monopoly carve out for solar power inserted into the Florida constitution. James discussed the high costs of electricity it would lock in, why it is anti-market and pro-monopoly and how it looks to be going down in defeat.
If advocates of freedom were to make up a list of New Year’s resolutions for 2016, one of the most important items should be ending government’s monopoly control over money. In a free society, people in the marketplace should decide what they wish to use as money, not the government.
For more than two hundred years, practically all of even the most free market advocates have assumed that money and banking were different from other types of goods and markets. From Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, the presumption has been that competitive markets and free consumer choice are far better than government control and planning – except in the realm of money and financial intermediation.
This belief has been taken to the extreme over the last one hundred years, during which governments have claimed virtually absolute and unlimited authority over national monetary systems through the institution of paper money.
At least before the First World War (1914-1918) the general consensus among economists, many political leaders, and the vast majority of the citizenry was that governments could not be completely trusted with management of the monetary system. Abuse of the monetary printing press would always be too tempting for demagogues, special interest groups, and shortsighted politicians looking for easy ways to fund their way to power, privilege, and political advantage.
The Gold Standard and the Monetary “Rules of the Game”
Thus, before 1914 the national currencies of practically all the major countries of what used to be called the “civilized world” were anchored to market-based commodities, either gold or silver. This was meant to place money outside the immediate and arbitrary manipulation of governments. Any increase in gold or silver money required private individuals to find it profitable to prospect for it in various parts of the world; mine it out of the ground and transport it to where it might be refined into usable forms; and then mint part of any new supplies into coins and bullion, with the rest made into various commercial and industrial products demanded on the market.
The paper currencies controlled by governments and their central banks were supposed to be issued only as claims to – as money substitutes for – quantities of the real gold or silver money deposited by members of the society in banks for safekeeping and the convenience of everyday business in the marketplace.
Government central banks were meant to see that the society’s medium of exchange was properly assayed and minted, and to monitor and police private banks and itself to make sure that the “rules” of the gold (or silver) standard were properly followed.
Bank notes were to be issued or deposit accounts increased in the banking system as a whole only when there had been net additions to the quantity of the commodity money within the economy. Any withdrawals of the commodity money from the banking system was to be matched by a decrease in the total quantity of bank notes in circulation and in deposit accounts payable in money.
Did government’s always play by these “rules”? Unfortunately, the answer is, “No.” But, by and large, in the half-century or so before the beginning of the First World War, governments and their central banks managed their national currencies with surprising restraint.
If we look for a reason for this restraint, a leading one was that for a good part of this earlier era the predominant set of ideas was that of political and economic liberalism. But we need to remember that at that time “liberalism” meant an advocacy and defense of individual liberty, secure private property rights, free markets, free trade, and limited government constitutional under impartial rule of law.
But, nonetheless, these national currencies were government-managed paper monies linked to gold or silver by history and tradition, and more or less left fairly free of direct and abusive political manipulation, due to the prevailing political philosophy of the time that considered governments as protectors of individuals’ rights to their lives, liberty and honestly acquired property.
Political Paternalism and Monetary Central Planning
However, in the decades leading up to the First World War the political trends began to change. New ideals and ideologies started to appear and gained increasing hold over people’s minds. The core conception was a growing belief in the necessity for and the good that could come from political paternalism. Government’s were not simply to be impartial “umpires” who enforced the rule of law and protected people and their property from violence and fraud. No, government was to intervene into the social and economic affairs of men, to regulate markets, redistribute wealth, and pursue visions of national greatness and collective welfare.
This meant a change in the political philosophy behind the government’s control of the monetary system, as well. In the decades after the First World War, in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, the government monetary managers increasingly became monetary central planners. The central bankers were to manipulate the supply of money and credit in the economy to achieve various goals: stabilize the price level; maintain full employment; peg or change foreign exchange rates; lower or raise interest rates to influence the amount and the types of investments undertaken by private borrowers and investors; and, whenever and however necessary, increase the quantity of money to fund government deficits needed by politicians and interest groups to feed their insatiable appetite for power, privilege and political plunder.
The triumph of Keynesian Economics in the post-World War II period resulted in a near monopoly of academic and public policy advocates who argued that private enterprise was inherently unstable and frequently unfair, and could only be allowed to exist and function in a wider environment of dominating government control. The consequence was a government constantly increasing in size, scope, and pervasive supervision and intrusion into every corner of personal, social, and economic life.
Big Government, Big Spending and the Monetary Printing Press
But big governments cost big sums of money. About a hundred years ago in America, in 1913, all levels of government combined – Federal, state, and local – absorbed only around eight percent of the nation’s income and output. Today, all levels of government seize nearly fifty percent of all that is earned and produced in the United States. That cost of government is even more if we add the financial burdens imposed on private enterprise to comply with the strangling spider’s web of regulations and controls imposed on businessmen going about their business.
During the seven years of the Obama Administration, the Federal government has accumulated over eight trillion dollars in additional debt. About at the same time, the Federal Reserve – America’s central bank – had created around four trillion dollars of new money in the banking system. In other words, the Federal Reserve has, in fact, produced out of thin air a sum of new money equal to fifty percent of all the Federal government has borrowed during this period.
The economics textbooks usually sanitize this type of process with a sterile terminology that calls it, “monetizing the debt.” An earlier generation of economists and critics of political paternalism used to call this process paper money inflation and debauchery of the currency: the diluting of the value of the money in people’s pockets through monetary depreciation and currency devaluation.
Political Demagogy, Fiscal Burdens and the Danger of Inflation
As a result of the growth of the modern welfare state, America and the other major Western countries of the world have become, in the words of the late Nobel Prize-winning economist, James Buchanan, perpetual democracies in deficit, funded in total or in good part by, now, trillions of dollars created by government monetary monopolies – the central banks.
Today, we are reaping the whirlwind of decades of political paternalism and monetary central planning. Nations like Greece have been at the edge of financial bankruptcy and debt default. And countries like the United States, which are woven tightly with networks of special interest groups living off the redistributed plunder of other more productive members of society, seem to regularly lurch from one fiscal crisis to another. The current politics of redistributive paternalism seems to offer little way to stop the worsening avalanche of massive annual deficits and mounting national debt.
The demagogues and political tricksters harangue about “soaking the rich” to fund the unfunded “entitlements” of social security and Medicare through the rest of the 21st century. They demand that “big business” pay for the government’s misguided economic policies and to cover the costs of other parts of the welfare state.
The politicians of plunder have also taken recourse to that last refuge of every political scoundrel: a call to “patriotism.” It is your duty as a “good citizen” to pay an increasingly higher and higher “fair share” in taxes; to cooperatively be subservient and obedient to the demands and needs of government; and to sacrifice your freedom and the fruits of your own hard-earned honest labor for “the national interest” and “the common good.”
It is worth remembering that those in the political arena who claim to know what is in “the national interest” and for “the common good” are the same ones who also assert the right to compel you to conform to their vision of a “just” and “fair” America, regardless of much you may honestly disagree or desire to peacefully go your own way.
A central tool for governments to maintain their authority in society and their control over people’s lives is the ability to make the citizenry accept and use their monopoly medium of exchange. This is a lynchpin in the government’s ability to transfer the people’s wealth and privately produced output to satisfy the “needs” of government spending.
It makes each and every citizen an existing and potential victim of government abuse of the monetary printing press, since paper currencies are no longer in anyway linked to or limited by a market-based supply of a real commodity such as gold or silver. We should not presume that runaway hyperinflations and the accompanying destruction of a society’s medium of exchange only occur in places like 1920s Germany or contemporary African nations like Zimbabwe. That, “it can’t happen here.” It can happen anywhere.
The Bankruptcy of the Welfare State and Redistributive Dependency
The fact is, the modern welfare state is bankrupt. It is bankrupt ideologically; no one really any longer believes that the Interventionist- Redistributive State will bring mankind material happiness or social harmony. Everyone knows that it is nothing more than a vast and corrupt political machine through which, as Frederic Bastiat said long ago, everyone tries to live at everyone else’s expense.
In the process, the productive capacity of the society slowly grinds to a halt, as more and more people turn from productive self-responsibility to redistributive dependency. It also generates a mental attitude and a political presumption of legitimacy to that redistributive dependence that pervades each and every income group and social category throughout the nation.
Most opinion polls show that a fairly sizable majority of the American people think that government is too big, spends too much, and taxes far too excessively. But once the questions turn to “specifics” of cutting particular government programs, it is soon seen how the tentacles of the welfare state reach into virtually everyone’s pocket.
It is not only that government taxes people in varying amounts to feed the redistributive process. It is also the case that there are few people in the land who do not have some type of money, program, or benefit put into their pockets by government. Most people cannot imagine living without their government redistributive “fix.” And, admittedly, breaking people’s addiction to their government benefits, subsidies, protections, and special favors would and will involve serious withdrawal pains.
This also means that the welfare state is rapidly reaching financial bankruptcy, as well. Neither taxation nor borrowing of private savings can or will be able to cover all the costs of current and future government spending under existing interventionist and redistributive legislation and regulation.
The government may very well, therefore, use its most important financial resource to keep moving the wheels of political spending. They may more and more turn the handle of the monetary printing press, and they may turn it faster and faster.
Hyperinflations and Opting Out of Government Monopoly Money
Time after time, history has demonstrated that when serious price inflations move into disastrous hyperinflations, people first discount and then abandon the government’s monopoly money. They shift into alternative currencies of choice that they consider more stable, more predictable, and more wealth and income preserving that the increasingly worthless pieces of paper money that their own government spews out in increasing quantities.
Now such a monetary disaster is not preordained. It is not written in some “big book” in the sky. Governments and societies have in the past pulled back and stopped short of following a path leading to social and economic ruin. America, too, may yet slow down or bring to a halt the political course it is currently traveling. The future is unpredictable and trends have changed many times in the past.
But . . . forewarned is forearmed. So how might any of us be able to shelter ourselves from the possible coming fiscal and monetary storms? Central to such precautionary actions is to hedge against the possible radical depreciation and or even destruction of the government’s currency.
To the extent that one sees such a danger and has the financial wherewithal to “plan ahead,” individuals should be legally allowed to opt-out of the government’s monopoly money. In other words, every American should be free from the government’s power to compel its citizens to use and accept in trade and in settlement of debts its own monopoly money.
We should not be lulled into a false sense of currency security due to the low rate of price inflation as measured by the Consumer’s Price Index, or the declared fears of “price deflation” mostly resulting from the steep declines in some important commodity prices such as the cost of a barrel of crude oil. These things, in the right circumstances, can turn around faster than is often imagined.
F. A. Hayek and Choice in Currency
Everyone should be free to choose the currency or commodity they wish to hold and use as a medium of exchange without legal restriction, penalty, or political prejudice.
Monetary freedom would not only give every citizen a legal right to protect and secure his income, wealth and market transactions from abusive mismanagement of the government’s monopoly monetary printing press. It could also serve as a check on the degree of such government abuse.
A little more than forty years ago, in September 1975, Austrian economist and Nobel Laureate, Friedrich A. Hayek, delivered a lecture on, Choice in Currency: A Way to Stop Inflation, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and said:
“There could be no more effective check against the abuse of money by the government than if people were free to refuse any money they distrusted and to prefer money in which they had confidence. Nor could there be a stronger inducement to governments to ensure the stability of their money than the knowledge that, so long as they kept the supply below the demand for it, that demand would tend to grow. Therefore, let us deprive governments (or their monetary authorities) of all power to protect their money against competition: if they can no longer conceal that their money is becoming bad, they will have to restrict the issue.
“Make it merely legal and people will be very quick indeed to refuse to use the national currency once it depreciates noticeably, and they will make their dealings in a currency they trust.
“The upshot would probably be that the currencies of those countries trusted to pursue a responsible monetary policy would tend to displace gradually those of a less reliable character. The reputation of financial righteousness would become a jealously guarded asset of all issuers of money, since they would know that even the slightest deviation from the path of honesty would reduce the demand for their product.”
Taking away from the government its power of compelling the citizenry to accept money that it monopolistically controls and abuses may serve as an important legal and economic change to force the government and those who live at its spending trough to face the reality of the welfare state’s ideological and fiscal bankruptcy before it is too late to avert a complete collapse of the society.
Choice in currency may be a valuable avenue for helping to restore the American tradition and practice of individual rights, free markets, and limited government under the rule of law. And it can be an important legacy for our children and grandchildren, so they may, hopefully, live out their lives in more liberty for the remainder of the twenty-first century.
Don Fotheringham’s Nov. 17 op-ed titled “Americans pay a high price for ignorance,” which is about the Assembly of State Legislatures’ (ASL) annual convention on Nov. 11–13 in Salt Lake City, completely misunderstands the motivations and the careful constitutional path planned out by advocates of invoking Article V for constitutional reform. The members of this movement wish to restore the sovereignty of the people, not usurp it.
“Constitutional conventions are not lawmaking assemblies,” Fotheringham writes. “They are sovereign assemblies empowered by sovereign citizens who alone have the authority to make the rules, modify, create or disband their government.”
Although Fotheringham states this with some dread, he has nothing to fear. Americans are well-represented by those attempting to implement an Article V convention. The states have the authority to appoint delegates, who are duly elected and closely accountable state legislators, to make decisions on whether to approve amendments to the U.S. Constitution. States have already gone to great lengths to ensure the protection of our constitutional freedoms in the event an Article V convention is called.
Another safeguard rests with the states’ governors, who have the authority, through delegate limitation and selection acts, to remove legislators who violate the rules of a convention. In addition, the prospect of a state legislator moving to disband the national government is slim to none, because a potential Article V convention would be limited to one subject only — a federal balanced budget amendment.
Fotheringham seems most intent on reducing the powers of the states rather than ensuring all levels of government are invested with the proper amount of authority. “During the drafting of Article V our Founders noted the absence of regulations for future conventions and they purposely left it that way. Why? Because the people are superior to the states and superior to the federal system they had just created,” Fotheringham writes.
Eighty legislators met in Salt Lake City to determine how to set regulations and limit the scope of an Article V convention, which is exactly what the Founders intended them to do when the people determine a new amendment is necessary and Congress fails to act. Why is this happening now? Because the federal government has become superior to the people who created it. Our federal government has racked up a national debt of $18 trillion, with no end to fiscal ruin in sight. There is no other way to stop this madness other than invoking Article V. Failing to do so will expose the United States to the same kind of fiscal catastrophe that is happening in Brazil and Portugal right now.
Fotheringham wrote: “If [the Assembly of State Legislatures] succeed in beguiling the legislatures of 34 states to opt for a new convention, it will certainly not be run by them.” This, too, is incorrect. The only authority Congress has in an Article V convention is to receive the application for a convention and then, by constitutional mandate, to call the convention, which would be run by the states. The rules proposed by ASL specify which state officers will preside over the convention, along with (again) setting strict rules for debate.
The Assembly of State Legislatures did not finalize any rules coming out of the 2015 meeting in Salt Lake City, but state legislators are one step closer to ensuring a structure for the first Article V convention in the nation’s history. The likely final verdict on ASL’s rules will come in summer 2016, when the group plans to meet in New York or Pennsylvania.
Fotheringham should be happy to hear his fears about an Article V convention, as deliberated by the ASL, are unfounded. The Heartland Institute recently released a new Policy Brief by attorney David F. Guldenschuh on the current state of the Article V movement in the United States. Fotheringham, and anyone else who wishes to be informed about this topic, should read this comprehensive and evenhanded document before reaching any conclusions about this nascent but growing movement.
Like it or not, lawmakers’ decisions have a large effect on our everyday lives. From increasing the cost of a car people need to take their children to soccer practice or go to work, to restricting job opportunities using occupational licensing rules (which reduce the supply of providers and raises prices), lawmakers’ actions have a serious and quantifiable effect on how much Americans pay for the things they need and want.
“Costly Mistakes: How Bad Policies Raise the Cost of Living,” a report by Heritage Foundation Research Fellow Salim Furth, attempts to quantify just how much lawmakers’ bad ideas cost people throughout the course of their lives.
For example, Furth says occupational licensing rules, often enacted by state and local governments, add about $1,033 to each and every family’s annual cost of living. Such rules are often passed into law with the stated intention of protecting consumers from low-quality service providers. However, in modern America, where there are near-instant consumer feedback platforms such as Yelp and Angie’s List, occupational licensing rules are unnecessary and often make things worse for consumers.
They drive up prices, insulate less-than-stellar existing businesses from competition, and prevent people from using their talents to earn a living in ways that might serve consumers better.
According to a study by Morris Kleiner, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies, “It is well understood that occupational licensing can serve as a barrier to occupational entry resulting in reduced employment, monopoly rents for workers in the occupation, and higher prices for consumers.”
In a 2006 essay for the journal Regulation, Kleiner wrote, “Occupational regulation has grown because it serves the interests of those in the occupation as well as government.”
By the government’s own admission, mandatory fuel efficiency standards make buying a new automobile increase. In the federal rules themselves, the sticker price of light-duty trucks will rise by $3,000 over the next 14 years.
By requiring the production of cars getting nearly 55 miles to the gallon, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency are forcing car companies to produce models with features desired by regulators, but not necessarily desired by consumers.
When consumers buy a new car, they take a number of factors into consideration, such as cargo space, look and feel, price, safety, and so on. By requiring fuel efficiency to nearly double over an arbitrary period, consumers’ considerations are left out of the equation, and government regulators effectively become the driving force for new car designs, not consumers.
In addition to the problems created by federal bureaucrats, Americans face a growing number of government-created burdens at the local level. For example, land-use policies directly alter the cost of housing in communities, and housing is often one of the largest line items in a family’s budget.
Furth calculates that land-use regulations add $1,700 to the cost of living for every family each year, which means land-use policies alone can cause more harm to homeowners’ wallets than the federal government policies Furth mentions.
Urban growth boundaries, which is just one example of how land-use regulations affect people, prevents new housing from being built to meet demand by creating “no-go” zones for developers in the interest of preserving parks and other green spaces. Artificial, government-imposed restrictions on where new houses may be built cause the prices of existing houses to go up.
Called “smart growth,” urban growth boundaries have the not-very-smart outcome of forcing consumers to spend more on a place to live, leaving less money for other needs and wants in their lives.
In the coming new year, lawmakers at all levels of government should pause and consider whether their decisions are actually helping people live well or if those policy decisions are just well-intentioned without being well-considered. On the other side, voters should press lawmakers to fix these problematic and costly policies that are hurting American families. As the numbers show, it will be well worth the investment.
Big happenings on climate front folks. On the science side, a new study presented at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in mid-December finds temperatures are warming at a significantly slower pace than claimed by government officials. A team of scientists examined the 1,218 U.S. temperature stations comprising the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN), determining just 410 of the stations have sufficient reliability and consistency in their equipment, procedures, and surrounding environment to provide accurate temperature data since 1979. When scientists compared the temperature trends at these 410 stations with the U.S. temperature trends reported by U.S. government officials, they found temperatures warming one-third more slowly than government officials claim. The findings suggest when government officials adjust raw measurements to account for inconsistencies in equipment, procedures, and surrounding environments, the adjustments are biased toward reporting more warming than is actually occurring.
“The majority of weather stations used by NOAA to detect climate change temperature signal have been compromised by encroachment of artificial surfaces like concrete, asphalt, and heat sources like air conditioner exhausts,” said Anthony Watts, one of the study’s authors. “This study demonstrates conclusively that this issue affects temperature trend and that NOAA’s methods are not correcting for this problem, resulting in an inflated temperature trend.”
And on the policy front, a new group of gladiators joined the battle against the Obama administration’s clean power plan.
The Hill reports, a flurry of last-minute lawsuits were filed challenging the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s fight against global warming, the Clean Power Plan, just before the December 22 deadline to challenge the regulations. At least 10 parties filed lawsuits challenging the rules in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Those joining the dozens of states, energy companies, business groups, and others who have already filed suit to block the rules include the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Forest & Paper Association, American Wood Council, Energy-Intensive Manufacturers’ Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Regulation, Local Government Coalition for Renewable Energy, National Alliance of Forest Owners, Minnesota Power, Prairie State Generating Co., Denbury Onshore, and Biogenic CO2 Coalition.
“EPA’s Clean Power Plan violates constitutionally protected state rights by forcing set emissions standards for each state’s energy section,” said Sam Kazman, general counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a statement. “The Clean Power Plan will also result in less power at higher prices.” The lawsuits are likely to be combined with cases led by West Virginia and North Dakota challenging the rules for existing and new power plants, respectively, and are likely to eventually reach the Supreme Court, which could decide whether the rules are in line with the powers granted to the Environmental Protection Agency by Congress in the Clean Air Act and the limits placed on executive action in the Constitution.
The battle for sound science and sound policy related to global warming just keeps heating up (pun fully intended).
If you own a business—maybe a taco stand, a dress shop, or an insurance agency—you know it takes a lot of hard work, good market analysis, a better product or service than your competition, and advertising. Add in a bit of luck, and you hope to grow your business—though vacant storefronts and boarded up buildings in towns and cities across America show that isn’t always enough. Each going-out-of-business sale represents the death of someone’s dream.
If, however, you are a politically favored business—say solar—your story is different. Your growth is dependent on government generosity. And, when people, who may never buy your product or use your service, balk at underwriting your venture and convince their Congressmen to take away the taxpayer largesse, like a badly behaved toddler, you threaten to take your marbles and go home—leaving former staffers unemployed and customers without service.
Such is the story of SolarCity—which has taken advantage of the favored status and bilked government programs to grow into being the nation’s largest installer of rooftop solar panels. Despite that distinction, SolarCity still loses millions of dollars. SolarCity doesn’t manufacturer solar panels—though, thanks to $750 million in funding from New York’s taxpayers—that will soon change.
Despite “major changes and growing competition in an already competitive industry,” as The Associated Press called it, Governor Andrew Cuomo is, essentially, giving SolarCity a state-owned, rent-free factory—a decision that Michael Hicks, a professor of economics and director for the Center for Business Research at Ball State University, says is “an eye-popping deal, a very questionable use of state funds, but a huge windfall for the investors of SolarCity.” In return, SolarCity promises to “create 1,460 high-tech jobs” at the Buffalo, NY, factory scheduled to begin operations late this year. The company also expects to have 1,440 “manufacturing support and service provider jobs,” as well as at least 2,000 other jobs in the state—which Hicks claims is “small, given the investment.” The New York “gigafactory” will manufacture a “radically new type of solar technology” that is, according to MIT Technology Review, “a huge risk” and “a big gamble.” About SolarCity’s new move to manufacturing, the Review states: “scaling up the production processes quickly and doing so while maintaining the efficiencies of the modules and without increasing costs could be difficult. And there are no guarantees that by the time the modules are commercially available they will still be the best on the planet.”
SolarCity has no qualms about throwing a tantrum and leaving a state that doesn’t play by its rules—as it has done in Arizona, Nevada, and, even in the UK. Even uber-green California is being threatened by an exodus and states such as Washington and New Hampshire received warnings that SolarCity won’t come to the state if subsidies don’t favor its operational model.
Last week, Nevada became the latest state to “roll back” its “net-metering electricity scam,” as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) calls it. As a result, “SolarCity reacted by announcing that it would cease sales and installations in the state.” Back in 2013, with great fanfare, SolarCity announced that it was coming to Nevada “after securing incentives worth up to $1.2 million from the state’s Governor’s Office of Economic Development,” reported the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Like in New York, SolarCity claimed it would create “hundreds of jobs” near Las Vegas. But times have changed.
Nevada is just one of many states considering changes to the subsidies offered to encourage rooftop solar installations. Arizona already made the change, causing SolarCity to shift resources to other states where the profit margins are higher. In April, the Arizona Republic announced that SolarCity was relocating 85 workers out of state. SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive called the changes: “Too restrictive.” He declared that they “eliminate the potential to save money with solar for nearly all customers.” The changes made Arizona “the most challenging for his company.”
What states have found, is that the increasing implementation of solar, results in higher costs for non-solar customers—who as the WSJ states: “tend to be lower income.”
The net-metering policies are at the center of the debate. In short, net metering compensates solar customers for the excess solar power they generate. The problem is that these individual generators get paid retail for the power, rather than the wholesale rate utilities pay for typical power supplies. As a result, customers with solar panels can completely avoid paying the utility—even though they still use power, transmission lines, and services from the company. States are seeing costs shifted from solar customers to those who can least afford it. As a result, several states, including Nevada, California, and Washington have mandated policy changes. Generally, the changes reduce the payment to wholesale and add a grid connection fee or demand fee.
The WSJ called net metering “regressive political income redistribution in support of a putatively progressive cause.” Frank O’Sullivan, director of research and analysis at MIT Energy Initiative explains it: “Net metering, in its most plain, vanilla form, is certainly a subsidy to rooftop solar owners. Obviously there has to be a cost transfer to others who don’t have solar on their roofs.”
In response to SolarCity subsidiary Zep Solar’s closure in the UK, due to cuts in solar subsidies, energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd said she was “concerned at job losses” but “she had to control costs to consumers.”
Nevada’s Governor, Brian Sandoval, stated: “Nevada has provided tremendous support to the solar industry” but the government must ensure that “families who consume traditional energy sources are not paying more just to finance the rooftop solar marketplace.”
In Arizona, the changes to the net-metering policies grandfathered in current users, but added grid usage/demand fees. In Nevada, payments to existing customers have been slashed and connection fees have been raised. The current proposal in California would cut payments for excess electricity almost in half and solar customers would pay a monthly fee. In Washington, utilities are pushing for a charge on solar customers.
The solar industry is filing legal action as, admittedly, these “proposals threaten to undermine the economics of their systems.” WSJ explains: “corporate welfare encourages dependency and entitlement that’s difficult to break.”
Despite being the largest installer of rooftop solar in the country, SolarCity has not been profitable—with losses of $56 million in one year and $293 million cumulatively. As more and more states look toward revising the generous solar subsidies as a way to rein in exploding costs and balance budgets, companies like SolarCity become a bad investment. When Congress extended the tax credits for solar as part of the 2015 omnibus budget deal, Solar City “saw its share price skyrocket.” The rich get richer and the poor get soaked.
Explaining the industry’s reaction to changing policy, Rep. Jeff Morris, the sponsor of proposed legislation in Washington, HB 2045, said: “The reason they are going off the rails on this is because they are afraid that it’s going to sweep across the 50 states.”
It is the state and federal incentives, not free markets, which have created a burgeoning solar industry. Congress foolishly extended the federal credits. But with “recent improvements in solar costs and efficiencies,” as Lori Christian, president of Solar Installers of Washington says: “it is time for all states to reassess the outdated incentive structure currently in place.”
When even California is proposing policy changes that would result in solar power being less-cost effective for homeowners and businesses, it is time to realize this business model has to change. And, that includes taking the silver spoon out of the mouth of SolarCity. Although they’ll likely throw a temper tantrum, take their marbles and go home, it will save taxpayers millions and force solar to operate on a level playing field like other businesses have to do.
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.
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, State Senator Jennifer Fielder (MT) sits down with Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. Fielder joins Burnett to discuss the federal mismanagement of public lands.
Fielder explains how his mismanagement of public lands and wildlife has resulted in catastrophic wildfires which harm people, the environment and the economy.