In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, H. Sterling Burnett, managing editor of Environment & Climate News speaks with Craig Idso. Idso is founder and chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and its website CO2Science.org. Burnett and Idso discuss the objectives and views for the Center.
Burnett and Idso discuss the work of the center in general and in particular his response to the Pope Francis’s comments and encyclical on climate change. In his recently released paper, “Stewardship and Sustainable Development in a World of Rising Atmospheric CO2: A Biblical Perspective on Humanity’s Relationship to the Biosphere,” Idso agrees with the Pope that we must be concerned with making the world a better place for present and future generations. In contrast to the pontiff, however, Idso argues increased CO2 and continued, broadened use of fossil fuels is the way to accomplish that goal.
Turn and Face the Strain: New Report Shows How Legislators Can Cope with Aging of Baby Boom, Emergence of New Baby Boomlet
The news is filled, every day, with talk of budget deficits, runaway government spending, and potential tax increases. What the media fails to report is that these budget crises are going to get much worse. A tremendous budget strain is coming, for all levels of government, due to the rapidly approaching demographic problem known as the age dependency ratio. This age dependency ratio is being caused by the growth of the aging baby boomer population coupled with a growing child population.
This will squeeze a smaller working class to finance the services for those growing populations. Healthcare for the aging and education for the youth population are already the largest portion of state budgets, typically accounting for more than 50 percent of expenditures. Legislators are heading for some very difficult choices. Do they raise taxes on the working class possibly crushing the economy? Or, do they cut services to education, healthcare or even both?
These coming conditions are a stark wake-up call for legislators. By 2030, 76 percent of the population will be dependent on 24 percent of the population. Currently 41 percent of the population is supporting 59 percent.
There is another option if the states recognize this coming financial strain. There are several options available on the education end of the policy spectrum.
- Student-based budgeting
- Outcome-based funding
- School choice
Student-based budgeting puts the focus of education on the child instead of the system. It provides flexibility allowing creativity across many options and teaching methods.
Outcome-based funding policies reward schools and teachers for academic success rather than simply seat time. States should be paying for success and not promises. These funding policies allow creativity like blended learning models where technology to accelerates learning in appropriate areas. The creativity of these models allow cost savings by allowing education to more efficiently be delivered directly to the students.
School choice provides the state the most funding flexibility options. The optimal way to fund school choice are through Scholarship Tax Credits (STCs) and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). There are several other funding methods as well which can be explored here. School choice is the most cost effective method to improve academic performance while holding down cost.
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Cato Institute’s annual Cato University held in Washington D.C. The five and a half day course provided a wealth of information on a wide range of topics. From literature to lectures, I received a great deal from my experience. The best thing I walked away with was confidence that the Liberty movement has a bright future.
This year’s course focused on a broad range of topics including philosophy, history, jurisprudence, and economics of liberty. Each day attendees listened to several lectures by a number of distinguished scholars including Cato Senior Fellows Tom Palmer and Randy Barnett, Director of Economic Policy Studies Jeff Miron, and many others. The origins of government, the history of the United States, and an examination of the Declaration of Independence were among the topics discussed by the speakers. The speakers and the attendees alike were eager to participate and contribute to the learning experience.
Between the lectures and during meals, we had time to sit and talk with each other. These periods of time were enlightening. The discussions held at the tables I populated included reactions to the speakers, brainstorming sessions and debates. Our talks were often so intellectually stimulating that they continued into the after dinner discussion at the hotel bar. We discussed the future of the liberty movement and questioned how we could garner the same level of energy that we saw out of the Free Brazil movement (a political group presented to us by two Brazilian activists during a dinner). We also delved into the workings and implications of Bitcoin as well as the upcoming 2016 general election. If these are the minds that will be championing the movement moving forward, we are in good hands.
The attendees of the conference were diverse in all demographics. Of the roughly 200 people who attended, nearly half were students. The age-range of the other half was wide. The conference also drew people from all corners of the United States and the world. At one point, I was sitting at a table with students from Columbia, Brazil, Georgia, Connecticut, and a gentleman from London. While we all hailed from different parts of the globe, we were all united in our goal of advancing liberty.
One of the most inspiring presentations was by Tom Palmer titled “The Worldwide Revolution for Liberty.” In this presentation, Palmer discussed the key players in the liberty movement and the tremendous impact they achieved. He also showed, through his experience, how the drive for freedom is alive and well in countries around the world. At the end of the speech, I (and I expect most others in the room) knew I could dedicate the rest of my life to the cause of advancing liberty.
The picture, of course, is the pistol crossed out with a red line as seen above — the ubiquitous “No Gun” sign, otherwise known as a “Criminal Protection Zone.” The recruiting office in Chattanooga, TN, and the theaters in Aurora, CO and Lafayette, LA had signs similar to the above graphic, but exactly whom did they protect?
Anti-gun zealots like Mayor Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton and now Bernie Sanders are lining up to decry our lax gun laws, wanting to restrict this Constitutional right even further. President Obama “regrets” that he failed in this endeavor.
President Obama in his 2012 State of the Union Address promised he would continue his gun control efforts “with or without Congress.” He has followed through with this promise, using multiple secret, backdoor methods to limit an individual’s rights to own certain types of firearms and ammunition. They include:
- Taking Executive Action by signing Executive Orders to circumvent Congress.
- Creating artificial Ammo Shortages through the enormous buying power of the Federal government.
- Forcing closure of a lead smelting plant that is integral in the ammunition production industry through the EPA.
Gun Laws as a Deterrent?
Why did all fail? Because existing laws are not enforced, and the proposals sent to Congress have not worked in the past and will not work in the future to prevent incidents such as what happened in Chattanooga, Aurora, and Lafayette.
First and foremost, criminals by definition do not obey laws, starting with “Thou shalt not kill”, which is an integral part of the Old Testament Law, known as the Sixth Commandment. Ironically, the Sixth Commandment also constitutes the basis upon which many people have come to believe that the Bible is against the death penalty as punishment for the very criminals for whom the Sixth Commandment has no relevance in deterring criminal activities.
Background checks only work when backgrounds are really checked. NICS background checks were started in 1998. To date there have been over 183 million checks, of which about a million were rejected, or 0.59%. A substantial number were falsely rejected due to a mix up in names, but most were for felony or domestic assault convictions. In 2012, out of 34,000 people rejected,only 44 were prosecuted out of 80,000 individuals who made false statements. That’s still a pretty low count for falsifying a federal document.
Mental Illness Addressed
Since 1966 the National Rifle Association has urged the federal government to address the problem of mental illness and violence, while federal law since 1967 has barred the possession or acquisition of firearms by anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution.” More recently the NRA has supported legislation to ensure that appropriate records of those who have been judged mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed to mental institutions be made available for use in firearms transfer background checks.
Gun zealots, however, aren’t satisfied that adjudicated confinement for mental issues aren’t always reported, so they want nearly anybody who sees a patient, including the receptionist, be given reporting status. Such zealots throw things against the wall; eventually something will stick.
Accordingly, the New York “SAFE” act goes even further. Any mental health professional (including nurses) can add someone’s name to the prohibited list. NY also monitors prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs at pharmacies. The law is similar in California. “Receptionist” is hyperbole. The danger to liberty is the lack of an adjudication process whereby a citizen can contest the opinion with the help of an attorney.
Most Recent Restriction Limits Firearm Magazines
Defying sharp warnings from gun rights groups, Los Angeles recently on Tuesday, July 28, thrust itself into the national debate over gun control when city lawmakers voted unanimously to ban the possession of firearm magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Noting that such magazines have been “the common thread” in almost all the mass shooting, backers of the plan described the ban as a small but meaningful step to minimize the bloodshed by forcing the attackers to at least interrupt their rampages to reload.
Los Angeles decision to limit firearm magazines is foolish for the following reasons:
- The standard magazines for most handguns hold more than 10 rounds. Compliant magazines are often hard to get.
- Magazines can be exchanged in a couple of seconds after a little practice. Ten rounds quickly becomes thirty.
- Small bore weapons often require multiple hits to stop a determined attacker in self defense. That’s why police carry larger magazines, and why responsible citizens need them too.
- Criminals can buy magazines in other states without restriction. It’s illegal to bring them into California, but shooting people with criminal intent is illegal too. Criminals will have them anyway, and have little to lose if caught.
- Magazine capacity rarely figures into shootings. Holmes’ large magazine jammed, forcing him to use his pistol. In Charleston, the shooter used a standard pistol, as did the shooter at Virginia Tech (it took police 3 hours to respond). In the Navy Yard shooting, a 5 round shotgun was used. The shooter of Gabby Giffords fumbled trying to reload using a ridiculously long magazine, allowing him to be tackled and disar
What About Gun-free Zones?
Gun Free Zones don’t exclude criminals, but deny people trained and licensed to carry weapons as is their Constitutional rights to do so for self-defense. Thestudy by the Crime Prevention Research Center in 2014 found that 11.1 million Americans now have permits to carry concealed weapons, up from 4.5 million in 2007. The 146 percent increase has come even as both murder and violent crime rates have dropped by 22 percent, yet only a handful have been convicted of violent crimes using those weapons in the last 20 years. An innocent civilian is three times safer around a concealed carrier than an armed policeman.
In Illinois, there are 23 listed areas where concealed carry is forbidden, including public transportation, city parks and government buildings (including outhouses in parks). Furthermore, any private business can post his establishment with the force of law. Chicago has gone one step further, and requires any restaurant with a liquor license to post on pain of losing his license (only those with liquor sales 51% or more are required to post by Illinois law)
How has that worked out? Criminals are drawn to “gun free zones” such as train platforms, because they know they will be unopposed. The same places “protected” by zealots under the law are the most likely to subject citizens to violent attacks.
Whether or not military recruiters are armed is a small subset of the real issue. Those “No Guns” signs must come down with few exceptions, under both State and Federal law. Perhaps replace them with “Zombie Free Zones”, because those fictional beings are more likely to cause harm than legally armed citizens.
China’s cities continue to add population at a rapid rate, despite a significant slowdown in population growth. Although overall population is expected to peak around 2030, the urban population will continue growing until after 2050. China’s cities will be adding more than 250 million new residents in the next quarter century, according to United Nations projections. China’s cities will add nearly as many people as live in Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country, more than live in Brazil and 10 times as many as live in Australia.
Two of China’s six megacities (urban areas with more than 10 million population) are nearly adjacent, within 90 miles (150 kilometers) of one another. The urban areas of Beijing and Tianjin have a combined population of 35 million and are among the fastest growing in the world. This is an increase of nearly 60% from the 2000 population of 21 million.
The Jing-Jin-Ji Megalopolis
The faster growing of the two, Beijing, is the national capital. Beijing is encircled by five freeway standard ring roads or beltways. These are numbered 2 through 6, with the first ring road being surrounding the Forbidden City. Its population is served by a number of additional expressways and the world’s longest subway. For some time there has been discussion of integrating the metropolitan areas of a much larger region. A principal purpose is dispersion — to redistribute activities, such as government administration and manufacturing away from Beijing’s congested core to peripheral locations.
Over the past year, there have been various announcements describing the process. The megalopolis would be called Jing-Jin-Ji, and would be composed of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province. An alternative name would be the “Capital Economic Circle.” The name, Jing-Jin-Ji is constructed of the last syllables of “Beijing” and “Tianjin,” along with “ji,” which is the pronunciation of the one character Mandarin abbreviation for Hebei.
The Need for Dispersal
Beijing has just become too dense and too crowded. Traffic congestion already is among the worst in the world. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the situation has become so bad that officials intended to limit the population of the Beijing municipality (province) to 23 million, only slightly above the population that is nearing 22 million. They also intend to reduce the population of central districts by 15%.
Important steps are already being taken. Construction has begun on a new facility to house Beijing municipality functions in the suburban district (“qu”) of Tongzhou. This subsidiary center is a 40 minute drive from the city center. Tongzhou borders the municipality of Tianjin and, according to the Beijing Municipality government is itself growing about one-quarter faster than the Beijing municipality itself.
There are also plans to move many of the manufacturing facilities that have located in Beijing to the other jurisdictions. The extent of the manufacturing dominance of Beijing is illustrated by the much larger “floating population,” of Beijing, which consists of migrants from other parts of the country who lack local residence permission (hukou). According to data in the China Yearbook 2014, Beijing has more than double the ratio to its population of migrant workers as Tianjin and nearly 10 times the ratio of Hebei, which has more than two-thirds of the megalopolis population.
One large automobile manufacturer has already completed moving out of Beijing to Huanghua, a county level city in the Hebei municipality of Cangzhou, which borders Tianjin to the south.
Geography of Jing-Jin-Ji
The jurisdictions comprising Jing-Jin-Ji have approximately 110 million residents. The gross land area is approximately 216,000 square kilometers (83,000 square miles), approximately the land area of Romania or the US state of Idaho. No one, however, should imagine a Phoenix or Portland type sprawl of such a magnitude. As is indicated the Table, the overall population density of Jing-Jin-Ji is only 500 residents per square kilometer (1,300 per square mile). The largest urban areas comprise only 3.5% of the land area, yet contain approximately 40% of the population. Despite the massive urbanization of Beijing and Tianjin, and the other large urban areas, Jing-Jin-Ji has a population that is 40% rural.Components of Jing-Jin-Ji Jurisdiction Total Population (2013) Density (per KM2) Principal Urban Area Population (2015) Urban Density (per KM2) Beijing 21.2 1,300 20.2 5,100 Tianjin 14.7 1,200 10.9 5,400 Jing-Jin-Ji Core 35.9 1,300 31.1 5,200 Baoding 10.2 500 1.3 5,900 Langfang 4.4 700 0.5 3,800 Canzhou 7.2 500 0.5 3,800 Tangshan 7.5 600 2.4 8,700 Zhangzhiakow 4.6 100 1.2 9,200 Qinhuangdao 2.9 400 1.0 6,500 Chengde 3.7 100 0.1 4,300 Inner Jing-Jin-Ji 40.5 300 7.0 6,600 Shijiazhuang 10.4 700 3.4 17,000 Handan 9.2 800 2.0 11,900 Xingtai 7.1 600 0.7 6,000 Henshui 4.3 500 0.4 11,800 Outer Jing-Jin-Ji 31.0 600 6.5 12,500 Jng-Jin-Ji 109.2 500 44.6 5,900 Population in millions. Jurisdition population from government sources Urban area population from Demographia World Urban Areas
The Nearby Urban Areas
In addition to Tianjin, other urban areas are expected to gain functions, jobs and residents from Beijing. Baoding, an urban area to the southwest of Beijing is expected to gain hospitals, educational institutions and government offices. Baoding has a population of 1.3 million and is a former capital Hebei, but was displaced by Shijiazhuang in 1967. Shijiazhuang, with a population of 3,4 million, is located in the outer ring of Jing-Jin-Ji.
Langfang is unusual in being a discontinuous municipality, part of which is an enclave surrounded by Beijing and Tianjin (as is Hebei province), and the other part located to the south of both jurisdictions. Langfang is in the path of growth of both Beijing and Tianjin. The urban area of Langfang is still relatively small, with 500,000 residents. The urbanization along the Jingtang Expressway through Langfang nearly reaches the development of Beijing to the northwest and Tianjin to the southeast.
Tangshan is directly north of Tianjin and east of Beijing. Tangshan seems likely to benefit from the dispersion of functions, jobs and residences by virtue of its proximity to both of the megacities. A new high speed rail line has just been announced that would connect Tangshan with Beijing in 30 minutes. Tangshan gained international notoriety in 1976 when it was struck by a devastating earthquake (photo here) that virtually flattened the city and killed at least 240,000 people (estimates of the earthquake death toll reach 800,000). Tangshan has been completely rebuilt, with impressive modern architecture (photograph above, taken from an earthquake memorial), but not appreciated by all. One architectural critic has insensitively bloviated that the new architecture “has been more destructive to Tangshan’s urban history than the great earthquake.” Today, Tangshan is an urban area of 2.4 million.
Qinhuangdao, an urban area of 1 million, lies just beyond (northeast of) Tangshan on the way to Shenyang and China’s Dongbei (Manchuria). Qinhuangdao could profit from its well placed seaport.
Important transportation improvements have been announced. There are plans to expand Beijing’s subway, which already has the highest ridership in the world and is second longest (after Shanghai). New suburban train lines will be built and new high speed rail lines will connect the cities within Jing-Jin-Ji that are farther apart. There will be considerable expansion of the already comprehensive expressway system, including Beijing’s seventh ring road, which is to be fully completed by 2017. Already, approximately 400 kilometers have been completed, much of it through the mountains to the west of Beijing.
Jing-Jin-Ji would be China’s third megalopolis, joining with the Yangtze Delta (centered on Shanghai) and Pearl River Delta (centered on an axis from Guangzhou to Shenzhen). But Jing-Jin-Ji is substantially different and not so obvious a candidate for integration. Jing-jin-ji’s urban areas are located farther apart than in the Pearl or the Yangtze. Yet its concentration of development is greater, especially in the Beijing core, which provides much of the justification for decentralization.
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.
Photograph: Tangshan’s modern architecture, from an earthquake memorial (by author)[Originally Published at New Geography]
Even a blind pig roots up a truffle every now and again.
Still, it was with some shock and amusement that I read in The New York Times a story by Josh Barro entitled “Fast-Food Minimum Wage Has Unintended Effects.”
Gee, do ya think?
The proposed wage New York State wage increase, limited to fast food restaurants with thirty or more locations, “doesn’t do much to raise incomes for workers who don’t work at fast-food chains,” the Times helpfully points out, “[a]nd it imposes higher costs on some businesses than others; in this case, much higher, because fast-food chains will be required to pay about $6 an hour more than their nonchain competitors.” Good points, both.
Not only that, The Times continues, “[t]he rule could cause owners to change their business models to avoid the higher wage.” Some fast-food operators might instead choose to open non-fast food restaurants, not to expand if they are just below the minimum threshold of 30 locations that trigger the required raise, or even to install iPads (unpaid product placement announcement alert!) for taking orders instead of hiring real live cashiers.
Others still might decide to purchase and serve food prepared by outside vendors, to hire fewer workers, or to relocate to adjacent jurisdictions. Imagine that!
All of these alternatives are, The Times points out, what economists call “distortions,” and all of them have negative effects: fewer workers than intended will receive the new minimum wage, and businesses will wind up doing things that customers may not prefer.
That’s why markets determine wages and prices better than bureaucrats, no matter how smart and well-educated they may be. The market, is after all, simply the aggregate of millions of individuals expressing their individual preferences and making their individual needs known when allowed freely to exchange their labor, wages, and services, for the goods and services they prefer.
When people don’t want Big Mac® burgers and fries they don’t go to a McDonald’s restaurant, and when they prefer some brie and pinot grigio they will go to a wine bar instead. If they don’t care about brand names or high-priced service they’ll go shopping at street fairs or at Wal-Mart, and if they’re really brand-conscious they’ll buy their handbags at Gucci and Louie Vuitton instead. And, most likely, if they have to spend $15.00 to buy a Big Mac® hamburger and fries they’ll choose the wine bar instead.
The minimum wage – if there is to be one – should be a starter wage, not something on which a breadwinner can expect to support a family of four. And anyone who wishes to earn more than the minimum wage should work his or her way up inside an organization into a managerial position, become an entrepreneur, or obtain the training and education necessary to start in a career filed likely to pay more than a starter job at a fast-food chain is worth.
MacDonald’s, Jack-in-the-Box, White Castle, Chik-Fil-A, and a host of other fast-food restaurants I don’t have the time or space to name all serve fine food at a good price in ways that look and taste the same the world around. But not every job they can offer is worth $15.00 per hour if they are to compete fairly in the marketplace for consumer’s fast-food dollars. Competition among them will determine what those jobs are worth – nor more, no less – and well-meaning fools in the New York State Legislature (or elsewhere) cannot and will not change that by fiat no matter how hard they try.
It’s been said that progressives think the only reason that socialism never works is because the wrong people are in charge. The truth is, no matter who’s in charge, you can’t repeal the basic laws of supply and demand. Anyone who tries to do so is foreordained to fail.
Cato Institute Vice President of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies Christopher Preble presented on U.S. foreign policy on Thursday. He argued that the United States is in a good position to adopt a libertarian foreign policy—reducing defense spending and participating in fewer conflicts abroad. According to Preble, some misconceptions about American foreign policy are that counterterrorism requires nation building, most security threats are imminent, allies reduce the country’s defense burden, and the United States should maximize its relative military advantage over other countries. Preble said the country should only go to war when it has public support, a clearly defined and attainable mission, and if its national interest is at stake.
Cato Institute Director of Monetary and Financial Alternatives
George Selgin discussed the government monopoly of currency. A currency can emerge organically like cigarettes did in prisoners of war camps; the most successful currencies are durable, retain value, and are easy to carry. During the Appalachian and California gold rushes in the 19th century, American private companies competed for public acceptance with their various currencies. The highest-quality currency won out and equaled or exceeded that of the government. With the establishment of national banks in the United States, the government claimed a monopoly on currency. Selgin noted that with no more currency competition and the ability of the Federal Reserve to print large amounts of money, it has become difficult to hold the U.S. central bank accountable.
Atlas Network Co-Director of the Sound Money Project Judy Shelton lectured on the need for a reformed international monetary system, calling the current floating exchange rate system an “antisystem” governments can exploit by artificially setting its currency value. Shelton argued currency should be a reliable tool of measurement, not a policy instrument. She called for a return to the Bretton Woods system, in which currencies were backed by gold and fixed exchange rates. The 2008 crisis and subsequent Eurozone troubles signaled the need for a return to a coherent international monetary system.
That afternoon, Georgetown Law School Professor Randy Barnett lectured on the modesty of libertarianism. He identified three prominent political approaches: the social justice advocates, legal moralists, and libertarians. The first two approaches are problematic since advocates disagree on how much societal redistribution or moral reform is needed, require overly interventionist governments to achieve their goals, and violate private rights to achieve utopian goals. Libertarians call for a limited government that supports a national defense and the Lockean conception of property—the ability to do what you will with what is yours, provided you do not harm others. Barnett also highlighted their belief in the sovereignty of self.
During dinner, Cato Institute Executive Vice President David Boaz discussed libertarianism in the 21st century. He summarized the past successes of classical liberalism and libertarianism: the abolition of slavery, promotion of women’s rights, and codification of limited government and property rights protection in the U.S. Constitution and other documents around the world. Boaz highlighted the role of liberty in the 1989 European revolutions and the failed 1989 Tiananmen Square rebellion in Communist China. Because there is an increasing consensus on libertarian principles around the world and a new generation that is receptive to libertarian ideas, Boaz expressed hope for the future of liberty.
On Wednesday, Georgetown Law School Professor Randy Barnett started with a lecture on the two traditional visions of the Constitution. Proponents of the well-known democratic Constitution contend rights are derived from government, believe popular sovereignty is found in the group as a while, and support majoritarian rule. Supporters of the republican Constitution believe popular sovereignty points to individual rights and uphold the primacy of natural rights and limited government. Barnett defended the latter vision and maintained these visions are incompatible with each other.
Four-time New York Times bestselling author and libertarian
columnist Amity Shlaes then presented on the Great Depression, a crisis which influenced policymakers’ decisions in the 2008 recession. A short but severe economic downturn in the early 1920s was truncated when President Calvin Coolidge cut government and hiked interest rates. President Herbert Hoover used Keynesian policies in the late 1920s when the economy was overheating, raising taxes and minimum wages and imposing tariffs. Shlaes called President Franklin Roosevelt’s response to the subsequent depression adding “an Affordable Care Act in every sector of the economy.” Roosevelt heavily regulated businesses and rewarded labor, farming, and other special interest groups to gain their support. After World War II began, Roosevelt loosened the reins on businesses and the U.S. economy finally began to rebound.
During a dinner at one of the U.S. Senate office buildings later that day, we had the honor to hear a speech from Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona). Senator Flake discussed the United States’ warming relations with Cuba, the persistent problem of high earmark spending in Congress, and the recent surge in federal spending on entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. He called for an immigration system that makes it easier to become an American citizen and prioritizes legal immigrants over illegal ones in gaining citizenship.
Policies that Promote Environmental Results, Not Regulations, Could be Attractive to Millennial Voters
A science and the environment policy brief in the Hoover Institution’s summer 2015 digest indicates that millennial voters are interested in real environmental results, rather than regulations. The author of the piece suggests that this fact should shape GOP policies for the 2016 election, and beyond, and could refashion electoral politics in the U.S.
“The 2016 presidential campaign gives Republicans a chance to speak to those millennials, and the Republican environmental policy message could be a starting point,” writes Terry L. Anderson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, in the piece entitled, Green Allies: What would bring conservationists and conservatives together? Environmental solutions that really work. “Command-and-control regulations, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, to mention a few, from Nixon-era Republicans, may have played well with boomers, but millennials want results, not regulations.”
Research shows that the younger generation does care about the environment as a pocket book issue, as Generation Y has a concern with securing an “economic benefit” when making “eco-friendly purchases.”
Furthermore, another 2014 poll showed that half of the voters between the ages of 18 and 29 are “unwedded” to either party. “Environmental policies based on markets, incentives, and entrepreneurship, offer Republicans a chance to win them over,” Anderson writes.
Hedge fund managers are telling politicians and school administrators in Puerto Rico to fire teachers so they can get paid, according to several recent articles on the debt situation in San Juan. A few other, actual headlines are:
- Alternet: “Hedge Funds Tell Puerto Rico: Lay Off Teachers and Close Schools to Pay Us Back”
- The Guardian: “Hedge funds tell Puerto Rico: lay off teachers and close schools to pay us back”
- The Higher Learning: “Hedge Funds to Puerto Rico: Fire Teachers and Close Schools to Pay Off Your Debt”
- The Independent: “Puerto Rico should close schools and sack teachers to pay back its debts, hedge funds say”
- Latina: “Really? Hedge Funds Are Telling Puerto Rico to Close Their Schools & Fire Teachers”
- Orlando Weekly: “Hedge funds: Puerto Rico, it’s us or the kids”
- Time: “Hedge Fund Economists Want Puerto Rico to Lay Off Teachers to Fix Debt Crisis”
These headlines certainly aimed to inflame emotions. The question is what did the report actually say and are these headlines accurate? The report called for higher taxes, cutting expenses and structural reforms. To focus on education here, the report stated, “Reduce number of teachers to fit the size of the student population”. The following chart was included: As the chart states, “Education expenditures increased 39% or $1.4 billion in the past decade while total school enrollment declined ~25%.” While, the report did call for a reduction in the teaching workforce, the call was much broader in nature and aimed at helping Puerto Rico become fiscally stable again. The Guardian reported, “Puerto Rico’s current education spending works out at $8,400 per student, below the US national average of $10,667.” This amount is 78.7 percent of the US national average in spending. While the Puerto Rico education expenditures increased 39 percent from 2004 – 2013, the US national average has increased only 11 percent. US student population grew by about 2.6 percent over this time period contrasted to Puerto Rico’s student population decline of approximately 25%. The reality of the expenditure growth versus the population decline clearly demonstrate the politicized nature of education and its associated spending. The mantra of “it’s for the children” is ingrained with in society and allows those within the education system and its defenders an attack vehicle to silence debate, demonize any dissenting voices, and protect the system from economic realities.
The planet is in a nearly two-decade global warming standstill; an Arctic research expedition to study warm was halted due to too much ice; polar bear habitat is healthy; another quiet hurricane season is expected; and a paper on sea level rise by climate alarmism founder Dr. James Hansen has been dismissed by his fear-mongering colleagues as “flimsy.”
Nonetheless the corporate world has loyally marched to the White House doorstep to pledge fealty to President Obama’s carbon dioxide reduction agenda. On Monday 13 large companies announced they would collectively spend $140 billion on various initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and expand so-called “clean” energy. The collective action has been dubbed the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” by the White House, and is intended to enhance the president’s negotiating position at international climate talks in Paris at the end of the year.
“Rising temperatures can lead to more smog, longer allergy seasons, and an increased incidence of extreme-weather-related injuries, all of which imperil public health, particularly for vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color,” the White House press office said in a statement. “No corner of the planet and no sector of the global economy will remain unaffected by climate change in the years ahead.”
Upon that false premise Obama brought in many of the usual renewable corporate cronyism suspects for the White House dog-and-pony show:Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart. Some are known for taking advantage of government-distorted “markets” (i.e., subsidies and mandates) that keep renewable energy profitable; others have been big supporters of Obama during his campaigns; others were recipients of bailout funds from the administration; and others just purely pander to the “green” agenda. Some fit two or more of the categories.
Would any of the above companies be so environmentally altruistic if government – meaning the Obama administration – wasn’t manipulating regulations and extending corporate welfare as a carrot? It’s hard to imagine that would be the case. For example, Bank of America says it has poured billions of dollars into its “environmental business initiative.”
“We are putting our financial capital, our intellectual capital, and the strength of our partnerships to work to help create a better future for all of us,” said BofA CEO Brian Moynihan.
The mega-bank announced in its press release that it would increase its “environmental business initiative” from $50 billion to $125 billion in “low carbon (dioxide) business” by 2025. It claims to have provided more than $39 billion to finance “low-carbon (dioxide)” activities since 2007 – 40 percent of which went to renewable energy projects and 33 percent funded energy efficiency. Similarly, Goldman Sachs says in 2012 it committed to invest $40 billion in clean energy and plans to expand that pledge.
It’s doubtful that BofA, Goldman Sachs or others would be so ambitious throwing money at these sectors if taxpayers weren’t on the hook for the majority of their costs. As NLPC has reported in the past, investors in renewables enjoy a wealth of revenue-generating benefits from government that include accelerated depreciation (which frees up cash flow and reduces the corporate tax burden), a bevy of tax credits, and various grants and government contracts that assure income. In addition, as archived at theDatabase of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, there are hundreds of additional incentives across the country offered at the state and local level.
As Obama supporter Warren Buffett – the financial brawn behind Berkshire Hathaway Energy – said last year, “On wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”
In recent years NLPC president Peter Flaherty has called Walmart to account, via shareholder actions, for its support of cap-and-trade and for initiatives such as the use of 100-percent renewable energy, and creating “zero waste,” as policies that he said “are neither achievable nor desirable.” Likewise Apple – with Al Gore among its directors – has been shown by NLPC to make fraudulent claims that its data centers are powered completely by renewable energy, when in fact they enjoy consistent, cheap electricity supplied by Duke Energy while pushing expensive, intermittent solar onto the utility grid. There are countless other schemes under which businesses profit, while taxpayers foot the bill, without benefit.
The corporate “climate pledge” to Obama is no noble commitment. It’s a scam.
[Originally Posted at NLPC]
Noted environmentalist, philanthropist, and con artist, Hillary Clinton, is seeking the allegiance of big donors in Hollywood. It’s not an easy sell, for producers, writers and directors would rather see yet another sequel for the handsome star of “Hope and Change.” But their hero Barack Obama — on hiatus, permanently, from seeking re-election to a third term as president of the U.S., and readying himself for a return to his true homeland, Indonesia, or where ever it may be — is not available.
Powered by volunteer fundraiser Tobey Maguire, star of sci-fi action films Spiderman, Spiderman 2, and Spiderman 3, as well as Spiderman video games, Clinton’s fundraising web caught $47.5 million during the second quarter of this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Even the pickiest Obama supporters have come away from Clinton’s events feeling better about her candidacy,” reports the trade newspaper.
One trick of the trade for tinsel town fundraisers — holding three versions of the same fundraising event, at the same location, say the Beverly Hills Hilton, on the same night. This allows them to evade fundraising caps, as set by federal election laws.
Leftist directors and producers Norman Lear and Rob Reiner and Jeffrey Katzenberg are now said to be fans of Clinton, who during her career has played roles as a liberal, a moderate, an extreme liberal, or progressive, with one, stunning cameo appearance as a klutzy Secretary of State who seems to have lost her e-mail about some place called Benghazi, which is a city in Libya, or, she guesses in testimony before the U.S. Congress, somewhere in the Middle East.
Even producer/executive Tom Rothman, whose e-mails were hacked by Korean spies, and whose complaints about Clinton were publicly aired, has come around. He donated $2700 recently to HRC.
Now all she needs is super-agent Ari Gold to help her spin the inevitable primary flops in Iowa, and New Hampshire 2016. With a c.v. like hers, though, including big accomplishments like the failed HillaryCare health care push in the early 1990s, she is likely to vanquish threats from Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Chauncey Gardner.
On Monday, Hillary Clinton, the presumed front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination for President and noted environmentalist, unveiled a “Climate Plan” that she claims would help foment the rise of solar power as a cheap and effective alternative to fossil fuels, thus combating “Climate Change.”
Her choice of solar power, though, as a leading fuel technology is mystifying to some, as solar has seen its share of recent instability. After a two-year skid, which saw some solar stocks decline by up to 20% because of rapidly decreasing crude oil prices, solar is just now evening out. And even then, that’s thanks to investors who picked up the stocks at bargain basement prices, on speculation that the industry, rife with government funding unconnected to evidence of success, would continue to flow. As of 2012, according to the CBO, alternative energy companies received $24 billion in federal support, including $20.5 billion in special tax rates, tax credits and grants, and $3.5 in spending, through the Department of Energy.
It turns out, of course, that Hillary Clinton is targeting solar for just that reason – some her most ardent supporters are primary investors in major solar energy companies and connected to major environmental policy shops – and her “Climate Plan” would heavily benefit “Big Green” and it’s policy affiliates.
Hillary Clinton’s plan to dramatically boost U.S. solar power production and installation could benefit a number of companies that have paid or donated to various arms of the former secretary of state’s expansive political network.
Leading solar panel manufactures and installers have donated to the Democratic presidential candidate’s family foundation, employed members of her inner circle, bankrolled a group providing policy advice to her campaign, and enlisted the services of lobbying and public relations firms run by her top supporters.
The solar industry will see a major boost if Clinton is elected and enacts her newly unveiled climate and energy policy plan. Released on Monday, the plan calls for a seven-fold increase in solar power capacity by 2020.
Much of the “boondoggle-to-be” can likely be traced back to Clinton ally Jon Podesta, a founding member of the Center for American Progress, recruited for the organization specifically for his connections to other Clinton allies. Podesta was instrumental in getting George Soros, among other anchor donors, to underwrite millions in startup costs for CAP, even as Democratic “big money” donors were moving away from the concept of financing think tanks. Podesta served as CAP’s President until 2013.
It seems to be no coincidence, then, that Clinton’s “green strategy” is the work of major environmental policymakers at the Center for American Progress. Clinton’s track record on environmentalism is shaky, earning, initially, support only from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund (which, of course, features at least one CAP environmental policy group alumni, Senior VP Daniel Weiss, in its administration, and shares at least one board member with CAP).
And it also seems to be no coincidence that Clinton’s green strategy, were it to be enacted, would greatly benefit some of the Center for American Progress’s top donors.
Clinton’s climate strategy would likely benefit solar companies such as First Solar, whose donations to the Center for American Progress came under scrutiny after the policy group actively promoted the company’s positions on key legislative issues.
“First Solar gave money to CAP and CAP’s staff advocated for First Solar before Congress and in articles on CAP’s website without disclosing that pertinent piece of information,” wrote the Nation’s Ken Silverstein in a 2013 story about the group’s corporate supporters.
More recent corporate donors to the group include the Albright Stonebridge Group a political intelligence firm founded by Madeline Albright, the former secretary of state, that boasts of its ability to connect businesses to Washington power-brokers.
Albright Stonebridge represented First Solar in its efforts to secure a contract with the Chinese government to build a huge solar plant in Inner Mongolia. And the Free Beacon turned up evidence that Wendy Sherman, who worked at Albright Stonebridge, and is close with Hillary Clinton, has also worked closely with First Solar as a consultant.
And then, there’s the donations First Solar has made to the Clinton Foundation, between $25,000 and $50,000. NRG Energy, also a major solar energy company, gave to the Clinton Foundation, as well. Podesta also has ties to other solar energy companies, including Elon Musk’s SolarCity, which hired Podesta’s firm to lobby on its behalf.
Much is frequently made about “dark money” in political campaigns, often as a critique of major donors to Republican candidates, looking for corporate handouts in return for their financial fecundity, but Big Green is very closely aligned with the political process as well, giving, as demonstrated, thousands in carefully placed donations, in an effort to prime future administrations to keep government funds flowing, even to alternative energy sources that the market has clearly indicated are economically – if not environmentally – unsustainable.
We hear the charge leveled all the time: “Flip-flopper.” When someone fundamentally changes their position on an issue.
We are naturally left to wonder if the move is genuine. Are they are saying what they think – or what they think we want to hear?
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has rocketed to to the top of the sixteen-candidate heap – in large part because of his anti-illegal immigration stance. Which is from all appearances a relatively new position for him. Here’s November 2012 Trump:
“(Mitt Romney) had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”
Trump’s current illegal immigration stance is…slightly more staunch. And it appears to be working for him.
(Of course, Trump is by no means the only 2016 candidate to radically reconfigure his immigration position – Hello, Senator Marco “Gang of Eight” Rubio.)
If a pol flip-flops to the right side of an issue – we shouldn’t mindlessly attack. Because we can not with any certitude know why they did it. What we can do is hail their correction – and hold them to it.
So it is with the awful Innovation Act.
The Innovation Act is fundamental transformation of the Constitutionally-protected patent process – without benefit of the Constitutional amendment process. All under the (intentional or accidental) false flags of “litigation reform” – to deal with “patent trolls.”
But “patent trolls” are almost always nothing more than people with patents – defending them against patent thieves. The patent holders usually have to sue to do that – this “litigation reform” makes it exponentially more difficult for them to do so.
An Innovation Act House vote is expected after the August recess. Except:
The House Judiciary Committee’s lopsided approval of patent reform legislation last month would not have looked as overwhelming if every member showed up.
Six of the seven members of the committee who were absent told The Hill they are leaning toward opposing the measure in its current form. Five of those opponents supported a similar bill last Congress….
Flip-floppers all, potentially. Hopefully.
House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 62% (R-Calif.) had put it on the July schedule and it appeared to be heading toward quick approval after a similar bill passed the full House last Congress 325-91.
But after a series of meetings, which opponents say did not go well, the bill was taken off the July calendar. McCarthy said last week that “there is more work to be done on it.”
But why waste any more lipstick on this pig? When there are actual attractive bills to be had?
This is not fundamental transformation. It specifically reforms demand letter abuse – without total system disruption.
It gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to deal with bad demand letter writers – on an a la carte basis. The FTC examines each case as it comes – rather then preemptive, all-encompassing legislation where every single patent holder trying to protect their intellectual property is assumed to be acting in bad faith.
And that’s about it. With DC – less is almost always more….
This isn’t fundamental transformation either. It reforms demand letter abuse – and cleans up some previous DC mistakes.
The last patent reform bill – the America Invents Act – established overly broad standards for when and how patents can be challenged at the patent office. This bill tightens them.
And it uses the TROL Act language that ends abusive demand letters.
As Ronald Reagan said of his treaty dealings with the Soviet Union – “Trust, but verify.”
We should (almost always) give flip-floppers to correct positions the benefit of the doubt – and thereafter the totality of our scrutiny.
If actually elected, Trump should absolutely be held to his new anti-illegal immigration stance – which will have helped deliver him to the White House.
And to these new tentatively anti-Innovation Act Republicans and Democrats – we say “Welcome (almost) home. Do the right thing – and vote No.”
Better still, House Leadership should take further note – and not waste any more makeup on this swine.
Let’s permanently leave it in the legislative pen. And move on to much better looking bills.
[Originally published at RedState]
It appears – two years after Boeing had fire incidents from installed lithium ion batteries that shut down deliveries of its vaunted Dreamliner 787 – that its “solution” to “vent” heat and flames outside the aircrafts has prevented any catastrophes, so far.
But it hasn’t alleviated concerns about the batteries’ physics and makeup. Last week Boeing issued a warning to its airline customers to not carry bulk shipments of lithium-ions because if they catch fire or overheat, they’re unstoppable. A spokesman told the Associated Press that the manufacturer has advised airlines not to transport the batteries “until safer methods of packaging and transport are established and implemented.” Likewise, the FAA simultaneously stated that its research has found that carriage of lithium ion batteries “presents a risk.”
The alert was industry-wide. At a safety forum held last week in Washington by the Air Line Pilots Association, Boeing’s fire protection system specialist Doug Ferguson explained what led to the decision to issue the warning. He said standard fire suppression systems employed on aircraft, called Halon 1301, are ineffective against the “thermal runaway” that bulk quantities of lithium ion batteries are known for.
“Unrestricted quantities of lithium batteries that are involved in a cargo fire…can still create hazards that would effect the continued safe flight and landing of the aircraft,” Ferguson said, “particularly depending on the location, the type and quantity of batteries and the time required for a safe landing.”
Boeing, after dismissing any fears about fires in the lithium-ion batteries that power most of the Dreamliner’s systems (saying “it almost doesn’t matter” what caused them), apparently had an intervention from a higher power. According to Aviation International News, the International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations issued recommendations regarding transport of lith-ions. Boeing and fellow manufacturers Airbus, Embraer and Bombardier participated in developing the advisory, with plans to meet soon to work on packaging that can contain or mitigate thermal runaway fires.
“What has happened,” Ferguson added, “is that testing has shown that there are higher rates of smoke production, flammable vapor, pressures and temperatures that occur with fires that involve…lithium-ion batteries….than with ordinary Class A type combustibles – paper products for instance.”
So did Boeing learn something new all of a sudden? Or was the company pressed by industry groups to align with them over their serious concerns about the dangers of lithium-ion batteries? According to a physicist who has closely followed the Boeing situation, and battery fires in general, the dangers of bundled lith-ions and the shortcomings of Halon are nothing new.
“It was already very well-known 5 years ago that Halon has no chance whatsoever to extinguish a fire involving significant numbers of Lithium-ion batteries in air cargo,” said Lewis Larsen of Chicago-based Lattice Energy. “The notion that it would take yet another 5 years for this particular epiphany to finally dawn on them is simply not believable.”
At the safety forum Ferguson said in testing, the Halon controlled flames, but the thermal heat that migrated from battery to battery was unaffected. It’s a phenomenon with which Ferguson and Boeing’s safety team should be well experienced. Two Japanese airlines suffered battery fires on Dreamliners in January 2013, which spurred the Federal Aviation Administration to shut down operations while the incidents were investigated. And in 2006 a 787 battery explosion caused a “devastating lab fire” in Arizona, burning a 10,000-square-foot facility to the ground.
Two years ago Larsen said debris from a thermal runaway event on a Japan Air Lines Dreamliner showed that heat from internal shorts reached temperatures far higher than Boeing engineers likely contemplated in their design. The evidence showed that temperatures reached to the boiling point for stainless steel and then turned into gaseous vapor.
Boeing, however, was not to be deterred from its celebrated, fuel-efficient “green” Dreamliner, which is loaded with the troublesome batteries. Despite never finding out what caused the Japanese airlines’ fires, the company took measures designed to vent heat and flames outside the fuselage and thus mitigate risk, rather than try to detect the cause of the fires in the first place.
The FAA says the solution is good enough, but that may not instill confidence since the agency certified the airworthiness of the Dreamliner batteries in the first place. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the original fires determined that both FAA and Boeing failed to sufficiently oversee the batteries’ manufacturing process, which opened the door to design flaws. The list of failures in the safety inspection process is reportedly lengthy.
The problems haven’t fully dissipated. In January 2014 Japan Air Lines suffered another malfunction with a Dreamliner battery overheating, with reported smoke and liquid coming out. Last month an Aeromexico Dreamliner made an emergency landing in Ireland due to an alert in the cargo hold, but a spokesman said there was no fire. The cause has not yet been announced. And in May the FAA issued a maintenance mandate for the Dreamliner, after testing showed the plane could lose all electrical power after being continuously powered for 248 days.
[Originally posted at NLPC]
The Conservative Party of the U.K. – the Tories, Winston Churchill’s political bloc back in the day – is giving new meaning to the old pejorative “the nanny state” when it comes to health care policy.
A report in the Daily Mail, republished in the Conservative Home daily, the newsletter of the Conservative Party, indicates that the government of Prime Minister David Cameron has floated a plan that would force the obese to lose weight, or lose their disability benefits.
“Obese people who refuse medical treatment to help them lose weight could have their benefits cut, the Prime Minister will announce today,” The Daily Mail reported. “David Cameron will launch a review to work out the cost to taxpayers and the economy of ‘preventable’ conditions such as obesity and drug and alcohol addiction. He has asked a government health adviser to examine plans to force people with health problems to undertake treatment when claiming benefits.”
Approximately 1,800 men and women in the U.K. receive “ incapacity benefits,” what Americans call disability, with the main reason listed as “weight-related issues,” the report added. “The claimants currently get offered treatment such as courses and medication to help them get better and back to work, but there is no legal requirement to accept the help.”
According to The Conservative Home daily, the Prime Minister has also asked a government health adviser to examine the feasibility of these plans to “force people with health problems to undertake treatment when claiming benefits.” The reports did not note at what weight level — or Body Mass Index (BMI) score one is considered overweight by the government.
One wonders what Michelle Obama – the dietary doyenne and First Lady of the U.S. – thinks about this intrusive policy of the newfangled nanny state, called the United Kingdom, and whether her husband, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, would ever consider making this kind of a policy integral to Obamacare.
Standing on a soapbox giving a political speech sounds like fun. That was the order of business this past Saturday at Bug House Square. This is the informal name of Washington Square, a park at Clark and Walton on the near north side of Chicago. The event was sponsored by the Newberry Library, which is across the street.
I came out to hear my friend Bruno Behrend speak on the subject “Public or Private? What should be the future of public schools in Chicago?” He debated Troy LaRaviere, a Chicago Public School principal.
You can imagine the topics. Bruno spoke of school choice, charter schools, right to work, vouchers, private schools, with focus on the residents, taxpayers, and children. Bruno is known for using the term, “government education complex.”
This from his Heartland Institute blog: “The ‘Government Education Complex’ is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation. The explosion of spending, debt, and taxation we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years was used to fund the growth of this Complex.”
The other side spoke of higher taxes and more spending. Much of his focus was on the importance of teachers. In true “soapbox debate” fashion, the audience of about 1000 cheered, booed, groaned, and heckled.
Many people look at the Chicago Public Schools as a jobs program for teachers and as a political activist group. Of course there are millions of dollars available for vendors and contractors. Recently I wrote about the $20 million no bid contract for SUPES, an outsourced educational firm to train principles now under investigation. This led to the dismissal of Barbara Byrd Bennett, the superintendent and part of the school board. Many refer to it as a scandal, but few media stories about it lately.
I would call it the appearance of impropriety or better yet, waste, fraud, mismanagement, and corruption.
There were several other smaller debates throughout the park all day. There were about 20 tables of activist groups including Planned Parenthood, The Green Party, and Socialists of America. The socialists were promoting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. It appeared that the attendees could be categorized as left-leaning. The term “socialism” was used openly throughout the afternoon. Of course, there was a handful of us conservatives promoting limited government with freedom, liberty, and opportunity.
The debate went well, as I declared Bruno the winner. Bruno is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. They just moved their offices to Arlington Heights and are planning an open house on Saturday, August 23, 2015 from 10:00 AM till 6:00 PM. More details can be found on their website.
Next year I would encourage more conservatives to attend this event. It is important to get the message out of limited government with less taxes, less spending, and less borrowing. This will create more freedom, liberty, and opportunity for all. I welcome the debate, even if I have to stand on a soapbox.
[First posted at Illinois Review.]
Today, Cato University Director Tom Palmer concluded his lecture series on the origins of state and government. He showed how guilds, churches, and other associations served as an alternative to government in mediating disputes between private citizens. He also showed how earlier documents like the Magna Carta and Kosice and Hungarian tracts served as predecessors to the American republic because of their emphasis on limiting arbitrary monarchic rule. He also showed how the unique feudal system in Europe, while imperfect, introduced more equal relations between lord and subject and a contractual system of reciprocal obligations that would be echoed in today’s democracies.
Georgetown Law School Professor Randy Barnett gave Cato University attendees a treat when he interpreted various portions of the Declaration of Independence for us. Barnett discussed how natural rights are naturally found in humans, noting that the primary function of the government is to preserve its citizens’ natural rights. He discouraged the judiciary from “discovering” rights in the Constitution and to consider how their rulings may unintentionally benefit special interest groups. Barnett also showed how the theme of unalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—is also echoed throughout the Constitution.
United States Military Academy Professor Robert McDonald gave two lectures in the afternoon. The first concerned the role of property rights in improving the lots of the American colonists. In the settlements Jamestown and Plymouth, many inhabitants initially starved to death in the early 17th century because of the collective farming system imposed on the populations by the British government. Men were mandated to work together in the fields, give their crops to the state, and receive an equal amount of the total yield. Morale soon fell as they were disincentivized to work and committed themselves to other endeavors like seeking gold. When men in those towns were allowed to plant and keep their crops privately a few decades later, production skyrocketed and the overall population and life expectancies increased. These formerly backward colonies became so successful with newfound property rights that indentured servants and later slaves were brought from across the Atlantic Ocean to satisfy European demands for crops.
McDonald’s second lecture concerned liberty and the American experience. Oppressive tax laws by the British on the American colonies were repealed time and time again before the tragic Boston Massacre in 1770. The Tea Act taxed the colonies on that highly demanded good and led to the Boston Tea Party. Although the newly formed United States won the Revolutionary War a few years later, liberty was difficult to preserve. Contentious elections in 1800, 1860, 2000 and other years divided the country even while the United States grappled with an increasingly activist judiciary and the legacy of slavery and Native American displacement. McDonald argued that the American experiment, while fraught with tragedy and errors, is well-worth maintaining because of its unique history and the Founding Fathers’ emphasis on small government and liberty.
Our customary dinner lecture was given by Palmer on the history of the liberty movement in the world. Palmer highlighted every society has two narratives: one of power and domination and the other of liberty. Statist and individualist forces have often fought throughout history. Palmer located the American Revolution as a link in the chain of pro-liberty Atlantic Revolutions. Classical liberalism emphasizes the unalienable rights of individuals and has been used to promote the women’s movement and eliminate slavery and serfdom in the 19th century. The 20th century was tragic in that many nations became dominated by statist and fascist factions and wreaked havoc on their own people. Since the dawn of the 21st century, the liberty movement has shown promise due to new communications technologies and the appeal of the libertarian virtues of individual rights and responsibilities, solidarity, respect for peaceful diversity, and a belief in the dignity of mankind, he concluded.
Remember that recurring Saturday Night Live skit where the late Chris Farley was the ultimate fanboy – interviewing those for whom he was the ultimate fanboy?
Sniveling and sweaty, he would bring up some of his favorite memories of his interviewees – pretending they were questions by prefacing them with “Remember…?”
And when the interviewee said he did in fact remember, Farley would blurt out “That was AWESOME.”
“You remember Beatle Mania? Where those four guys went on stage and looked like you and then they played Beatles songs and….”
“Yeah, I heard about that.”
“That was AWESOME.”
But with the eternally overreaching Obama Administration, I am starting to feel more and more like the Anti-Farley.
This Administration issues executive fiat after executive fiat – piling the power grabs skyward.
And again and again, the allegedly opposition Republican Party – emplaced by We the People in control of the Legislative Branch – acts outraged and issues stern press releases. But does nothing to actually rein them in.
The President keeps encroaching on Congress’ lawmaking turf – and the lawmakers keep ceding the field.
Leaving us Less Government types to turn to one another and ask “Remember when it was Congress that made law? And defended their Constitutional prerogative to do so? That was AWESOME.”
President Obama and every one of his Departments, Agencies, Commissions and Boards are working non-stop as stealth, unelected, unaccountable “law”makers.
Likely the biggest Obama Administration power grabs have come from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Because they have so much more of the still-private sector to grab.
Because the FCC has set its sites on the Internet. Which – unlike just about every other economic sector – didn’t really have an agency (or eight) assigned to crush regulate it.
Back at the Internet’s dawn – during the Bill Clinton Administration – two unbelievably unleashing government decisions were made. The World Wide Web was privatized – and deemed to be basically regulation-free.
As always happens when the government doesn’t “help” – the Web has exploded. Becoming an always-evolving, ever-expanding, free-speech-free-market Xanadu.
President Obama could not let that stand. So he sicced on the Internet the FCC. Which is supposed to an independent agency – free from political arm-twisting.
President Obama’s FCC happily obliged. And unilaterally declared the Internet subject to 1934 law. Written for…land line telephones – and railroads. Seems eminently applicable, yes?
Of course the FCC has by no means stopped there. Behold their abuse of the merger approval process.
When any two or more companies want to become one – the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department both have to give their approval. If those companies have anything to do with anything communications – the FCC piles in and piles on.
As does the FTC and Justice – when the FCC goes into merger-approval-mode, they grab their “law”-writing pens. And impose countless a la carte regulations they could never get through Congress. All three agencies take their licks – but the FCC usually hits the hardest.
These are called merger “conditions” or “concessions.” But that’s like saying I conceded my wallet to the guy with the gun and the mask. The merging companies are government hostages – to get out they have to give in. These are merger capitulations.
(T)he FCC is largely free to ask firms for an almost unlimited range of concessions in exchange for favorable outcomes in matters before the commission. Such rent-seeking is business as usual.
In the merger context, the only practical limit on what the commission can request is however much the parties are willing to give up before walking away from the deal.
The FCC almost always takes full advantage.
- The soon-to-be single entity must expand high speed fiber Internet access to at least 12.5 million customer locations, E-rate eligible schools and libraries within the next four years.
- AT&T must offer broadband access to low-income consumers at discounted rates. AT&T responded it will start with plans of 3Mbps service at $5 per month and 10Mbps for $10 per month.
These two capitulations will cost a LOT of money. These exorbitant costs will of course be passed along to AT&T and DirecTV customers – in the form of much higher monthly rates. Because “pro-consumer” – or something.
- AT&T cannot write its own rules on data caps and providing access to online video, circling back into the tangled web that is net neutrality.
The FCC mandated a la carte Net Neutrality – in case the courts dump the whole-hog-grab. Something the Commission also did in the Comcast-NBC merger.
And remember this?
When the FCC Chair turned his law-writing pen into a waiter’s order-taking pen. Allowing huge President-Obama-and-Democrat-donating Google to order customized a la carte changes to the grab.
Fellow bandwidth-uber-hog Netflix is also in Waiter Wheeler’s section. And also gets to order way off the menu.
So – merging companies now have to get Obama’s cronies’ approval, too. Which they will grant – in exchange for self-tailored capitulations, of course.
Netflix Inc. will support Charter Communications Inc.’s $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. in exchange for free access to Charter’s customers….
To quote another Saturday Night Live skit: “Well isn’t that special.”
So in the Age of Obama – the unelected regulatory agencies get to write “laws.” Their Crony Socialist donors get to write “laws.”
The only people who don’t get to write (actual) laws – are the Representatives elected and Constitutionally-mandated to do so.
All of which is anything but awesome.
[Originally published atRedState]