Yesterday, I visited day two of the Citizens’ Revolutionary Week, an annual liberal activist conference held in Washington, D.C. hosted by far-left activist Ralph Nader.
Day two’s theme was “Breaking Through Media,” a celebration of liberal policy wins such as the Federal Communications Commission’s February 2015 net neutrality regulation. The day was all about figuring out how to build on those wins to use the government’s power over media to freeze out conservative ideas and promote liberal ideas with the power of net neutrality.
Speakers such as liberal activist Kevin Zeese and University of Iowa College of Law professor Nicholas Johnson suggested re-regulating speech in the U.S., by bringing back the “fairness doctrine,” an FCC policy requiring television stations and other broadcasters to distribute government-approved doses of government-approved points of view.
Keep on checking out Somewhat Reasonable all this week as I report from the Citizens’ Revolutionary Week!
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Michael Coons, National Legislative Director of Citizen Initiatives, joins hosts Donald Kendal and Kyle Maichle to talk about the Article V movement to create a Countermand Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The Countermand Amendment would give state legislatures the power of rescission. States would be able to fight back against executive orders. Coons explains how this amendment can fundamentally change how the states interact with the federal government. So far the proposed amendment has only been passed by the state of Alaska. Coons outlines the plan going forward and addresses multiple concerns a criticisms frequently brought up when discussing the Article V process.
On May 13, delegates to the state convention for the Republican Party of Texas approved a plank in the party’s platform that supports an Article V convention.
The plank received the backing of more than 80 percent of the 8,000 delegates present during the convention, which was held from May 12 to May 14 in Dallas, Texas. The topic of an Article V convention was a pretty contentious topic during hearings held by the permanent platform committee of the Texas Republican Party in the days leading up to the plank’s approval. Passionate testimony, both for and against Article V, occurred during the hearing.
A former member of the platform committee wrote a blog post imploring committee members to reject the proposed Article V plank, but the vocal opposition did not sway enough members’ opinions, as the plank was cleared out of committee and eventually approved on the convention floor.
“We support the Bill of Rights as written by our Founding Fathers and assert the authority of the 10th amendment. We urge our Texas State Legislators to call for a limited Article V Convention of States for the specific purpose of reducing the power of the federal government, including implementation of term limits. Any proposed amendments must be ratified by 3/4 of the states,” reads the Texas GOP plank.
The party’s plank on Article V is different from a separate plank in the platform opposing a constitutional convention and calling on the legislature to rescind a 1977 application. The plank does not affect the state’s 1979 application for a convention calling for a balanced budget amendment.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced his support for the Convention of States project in January during an event sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). Convention of States is a multiple amendment application for an Article V convention calling for a balanced budget requirement, term limits on members of Congress, and reductions in federal regulations. At the same event, Abbott called for nine new amendments to the Constitution of the United States, including giving states the authority to override unconstitutional laws from the national government.
Texas has become a prime target for organizations pursuing their own efforts for an Article V convention since Abbott’s announcement in January. The overwhelming approval of Texas Republicans for an Article V convention signals that momentum has shifted in favor of the movement to add additional Article V applications, which could be approved during the 2017 legislative session.
At a press conference held on March 29, 2016, a coalition of 19 Democratic state attorneys general and one Independent – with former Vice President Al Gore as the speaker that they privately tagged as their headline-grabbing “star power” – announced their collective efforts to deal with the problem of climate change. The attorneys general, calling themselves “AGs United for Clean Power,” declared that they planned to “creatively and aggressively” use their powers to force ExxonMobil, think tanks and individuals to comply with their preferred policy on climate change, urged on by activists intolerant of contrary views.
The press that attended had mixed reactions to the show, some overjoyed, some skeptical. Shawn McCoy, publisher of Inside Sources, questioned the AGs, saying: “A Bloomberg Review editorial noted that the Exxon investigation is preposterous and a dangerous affirmation of power. The New York Times has pointed out that Exxon has published research that lines up with mainstream climatology and therefore there’s not a comparison to Big Tobacco. So is this a publicity stunt? Is the investigation a publicity stunt?”
The AGs denied it with vigor, particularly the Independent, Claude Earl Walker, Attorney General of the Virgin Islands of the United States – an unincorporated U.S. Territory in the Caribbean Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.*
Walker took the microphone and called Al Gore “my hero,” then gave an impassioned speech pledging to do something “transformational” to end reliance on fossil fuel, beginning with an investigation into ExxonMobil, which manufactures a product he believes is “destroying this earth.”
After his performance, Walker “destroyed this earth” a bit by benefitting from the expenditure of a considerable amount of Jet A fuel (most likely made by ExxonMobil Aviation) while flying the 1,628 air miles from JFK back to Cyril King Airport near his office in the capital city of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, also known as a popular cruise ship port.
Evidence shows that Walker’s March 29 press conference performance was merely for show. In reality, he had been colluding with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, his colleagues and environmental group leaders for more than a month. Walker sent his 19-page subpoena alleging “conspiracy to obtain money by false pretenses” to ExxonMobil headquarters in Dallas, Texas on March 15 – exactly two weeks before taking the stage in New York City, a fact he did not mention. He had something to hide and he hid it.
When ExxonMobil received the subpoena filed by Walker, the return address was the Washington, D.C. office of Linda Singer. Walker had delegated his territorial powers to her as his “national counsel” who would manage the investigation because his U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Justice was in disorder, according to Gov. Kenneth Mapp. Walker had been nominated for the office by the governor only last August and became “the fourth person in eight months to lead the beleaguered department – one the governor acknowledged remains in a “mess,” according to the Virgin Islands Consortium.
Singer was the perfect lawyer to perform a predatory investigation under the Virgin Islands’ Criminal Influenced and Corrupt Organization law (CICO), a stand-in for the mainland’s federal Mafia-busting Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law (RICO).
Singer is a partner in Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll PLLC, which touts itself as “the most effective law firm in the United States for lawsuits with a strong social and political component.” Singer is so qualified because she is a former attorney general turned plaintiffs’ lawyer with deep experience using questionable tactics to win lucrative cases. She was featured in a 2014 New York Times investigative report, “Lawyers Create Big Paydays by Coaxing Attorneys General to Sue.”
Singer was selected as the Times’ opener for their report, describing how she approached Attorney General Gary King of New Mexico with an “unusual proposition.” She wanted him “to sue the owner of a nursing home in rural New Mexico that Mr. King had never heard of and Ms. Singer had never set foot in.” Her proposed lawsuit did not cite any specific complaints about care, only numbers on staffing levels suggesting that residents were being mistreated. AG King wanted details, and Singer shortly emailed him that, “I finally got the numbers on the nursing home case and would love to discuss it with you briefly.”
The New York Times wryly highlighted “the enormous potential payoff for Ms. Singer’s firm if she could persuade Mr. King to hire her and use his state powers to investigate and sue, which he did.” This legal racket is a thriving industry, the Times continued: “Plaintiffs’ lawyers working on a contingency-fee basis have teamed up mostly with Democratic state attorneys general to file hundreds of lawsuits against businesses that make anything from pharmaceuticals to snack foods.” Not surprisingly, law firm members in this industry give generous election campaign contributions to Democratic Attorneys General candidates and party political organizations.
The payday industry was prompted by the Big Payday of the Big Tobacco case, according to the Times. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal, characterized such sue-and-settle surrogates as “the buccaneers of the trial bar” in his opinion piece, “Exxon Is Big Tobacco? Tell Me Another.”
ExxonMobil did the reasonable thing in the face of the social and political lawsuit: It sued Attorney General Walker, Linda Singer, and Cohen Milstein for violating its “constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process of law and constitute the common law tort of abuse of process.”
Other victims of Walker’s abuse of process have also gone on the attack with lawsuits seeking sanctions against the AG, whose office has withdrawn its subpoena of libertarian think tank, Competitive Enterprise Institute, but still threatens to re-impose it at its whim. CEI is redoubling its efforts against Walker.
The Climate Change Movement and its attorneys general are not so invulnerable as they thought.
*USVI is directly overseen by the U.S. federal government and has no sovereignty such as states possess, but is allowed to elect its own territorial governor and members of its territorial legislature. Residents are citizens of the United States, elect non-voting delegates in the U.S. House of Representatives, but cannot vote in presidential elections. The Territory has its own Department of Justice headed by a governor-nominated and legislature-confirmed attorney general.
Yesterday, I visited the Citizens’ Revolutionary Week event, a big event being held in Washington, D.C. hosted by far-left activist Ralph Nader, a former candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
Karen Friedman is the Pension Rights Center’s (PRI) executive vice president and policy director. Among the Pension Rights Institute’s efforts over the years, PRI joined with other retiree, employee, and consumer groups to launch Retirement USA, a liberal coalition dedicated to transforming the nation’s private retirement system.
Friedman explains how PRI manipulated the media and lobbied lawmakers and regulators to achieve their goals, including some unorthodox yet delicious ways of convincing lawmakers to increase entitlement spending.
Check out this video I made of some of the highlights from today’s events at yesterday’s Citizens’ Revolution Week session, and make sure to keep on checking the blog for more highlights as the week goes on!
In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado, joins host H. Sterling Burnett to discuss the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to bar localities from banning hydraulic fracturing.
In addition, Lockwood discusses Gov. Hickenlooper’s (D) decision to halt work on the state plan to implement the clean power plan.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—also known as the ethanol mandate—was passed by Congress in 2005 and expanded in 2007. Regardless of market conditions, it required ever-increasing quantities of biofuel be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply—though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does have the flexibility to make some adjustments based on conditions, such as availability and infrastructure.
At the time of its passage, it was unfathomable that a decade later Americans would be consuming less gasoline, not more. Instead of requiring a set, or even growing, percentage of ethanol be used, the law called for an increasing amount of gallons—which has created unforeseen complications.
Since the law was passed, due to increased fuel efficiency and a generally sluggish economy (meaning fewer people are driving to and from work every day) we’ve been using less gasoline, not more. Requiring more and more ethanol in less and less gasoline is not what the original law intended.
It was believed that the RFS would help achieve energy independence and reduce CO2 emissions—both ideas from a different era.
The RFS was passed at the low point of a decades long decline in U.S. oil production. At the time, no one knew that the trend line would totally reverse due to American ingenuity and the innovations of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that have unleashed the new era of abundance. Additionally, it was believed that corn-based fuel (which is the primary source for ethanol in the U.S.) would reduce carbon dioxide emissions—though the results have been questionable at best.
Since the RFS became law, numerous studies have been done to determine the environmental benefit of ethanol over gasoline—many of which conclude that ethanol is actually more detrimental than gasoline. At a recent House Oversight Committee hearing, John DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute, said, according to Morning Consult, “the studies assuming biofuels are carbon neutral are flawed.” Morning Consult reports: “he has found ethanol’s net emissions to be as much as 70 percent higher than traditional gasoline.”
Ethanol has an unlikely collection of opponents. Addressing ads put out by the ethanol lobby positing that only “big oil” wants to end the ethanol mandate, FactCheck.org disputes the claim: “Several environmental groups oppose it as well. So does a wide coalition that includes restaurant owners concerned about upward pressure on food prices and boat manufacturers upset at the problems that ethanol can cause in marine engines.”
Despite the controversy, the EPA claims the RFS is a “success.” Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, says: it “has driven biofuel production and use in the U.S. to levels higher than any other nation. This administration is committed to keeping the RFS program on track, spurring continued growth in biofuel production and use, and achieving the climate and energy independence benefits that Congress envisioned from this program.”
With this in mind, it is no surprise that the biofuel industry—which wouldn’t exist without the ethanol mandate—was unhappy when, on May 18, the EPA released its biofuel blending requirements for 2017. Using its ability to make adjustments, the EPA announcement was less than the law required, but more than the market demands. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) states; “EPA officials said they were seeking to strike a balance between Congress’s goal of using more ethanol and the realities of the current fuel market and infrastructure.” Instead, no one was happy.
In Biomass Magazine, McCabe defends the action: “The fact that Congress chose to mandate increasing and substantial amounts of renewable fuel clearly signals that it intended the RFS program to create incentives to increase renewable fuel supplies and overcome constraints in the market. The standards we are proposing would provide those incentives.”
Chet Thompson, president of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents refineries regulated under the standard, responded: “EPA’s proposal threatens to force consumers to use more biofuel than vehicles, engines and fueling infrastructure can handle.” He says: “the proposed volumes still go beyond marketplace realities.”
In contrast, a statement from Chip Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association said: “In the past, the EPA has cited a lack of fuel infrastructure as one reason for failing to follow statute. Our corn farmers and the ethanol industry have responded. Over the past year, we’ve invested millions of dollars along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership to accelerate public and private investment in new ethanol pumps and fuel infrastructure. The fact is, today’s driver has more access than ever to renewable fuel choices.”
Regarding the EPA’s May 18 decision, DeCicco told me: “The EPA is trying to pick an economic middle road between the proponents and the opponents. But, through the RFS, the environment has been run off the road. Contrary to what has been promoted by the Department of Energy and some other government agencies, biofuels make CO2 emissions worse rather than better.”
At the aforementioned House hearing, Representative Jim Jordan’s (R-OH) opening statement called the RFS “a classic example of what happens when you get a bunch of politicians together who think they’re smarter than the marketplace.”
Frank Macchiarola, downstream director at the American Petroleum Institute, is calling on Congress to “repeal or significantly reform the RFS.” He asserts: “Members on both sides of the aisle agree this program is a failure, and we are stepping up our call for Congress to act.”
Proving Macchiarola’s point, before the 2017 requirements were released, on May 10, U.S. Representatives Bill Flores (R-TX), Peter Welch (D-VT), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve Womack (R-AR), and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) introduced bipartisan RFS reform legislation. The Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act, H.R. 5180, limits the RFS mandate to levels that our nation’s cars, trucks, boats and other small engines can safely accommodate. The bill “directs EPA to consider current market realities and cap the maximum volume of ethanol blended into the transportation fuel supply at 9.7 percent of projected gasoline demand.” Following the news, the bill’s cosponsors issued a statement calling the RFS “unsustainable.”
It is time to get back to allowing the free market—not Congress, not unelected bureaucrats, not mandates, not artificially spurred growth in a chosen industry—to determine our fuel choices. Because ethanol is an effective octane-boosting additive, it will always have market demand. Farmers who’ve invested in it will not be driven out of business. The Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act, while not repealing the RFS outright (which would be tough to pass), offers a reasonable fix to well-intended, but flawed legislation.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
As they don caps and gowns, endure commencement speeches and take their diplomas, many high school and college graduates face bleak prospects in an economy that grew a dismal 0.5% the first quarter.
The United States added a meager 160,000 new non-farm jobs in April, a paltry 4,000 of them in manufacturing. First quarter 2016 averaged just 203,000 jobs per month. The labor force participation rate remains stuck at an abysmal 63% – meaning 93 million working age Americans are still unemployed.
Many who are working hold multiple jobs to make ends meet, while others are toiling at temporary, part-time or “gig” jobs, at lower pay, with few benefits and little job security.
They and the graduates may be hoping that Donald Trump will “Make America great again,” Hillary Clinton will “revitalize” our ailing economy, or Bernie Sanders will “invest” trillions of tax dollars to train and employ millions of young Americans in a 100% clean energy economy.
Like the candidates, they may be blaming our economic woes on China, climate change, Wall Street, the one percent, Mexico, inadequate supervision of greedy capitalist corporations, unpatriotic companies fleeing to foreign shores, or insufficient tax revenues to support essential government programs.
All are appealing excuses, but the real answer is much closer to home and involves multiple self-inflicted wounds. Most legislators and regulators are loath to admit any responsibility for our economic woes, and most graduates will find it hard to analyze the problem. However, the analytical process is essential.
The difficulty for students and graduates is that most were not taught how to think. Their teachers too often present mostly liberal-socialist ideology as unassailable fact, discourage or prohibit discussion and debate, and shelter sensitive snowflakes via speech codes, safe zones and bans on verbal microagression.
While raking in millions of taxpayer dollars for climate research, a cabal of RICO-20 university professors has gone even further. It has asked US and state attorneys general to launch racketeering prosecutions of anyone who disagrees with alarmist views on “dangerous manmade global warming.”
World-renowned physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman’s admonition has been largely discarded in the halls of academia. “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered,” he said, “than answers that can’t be questioned.” Sadly, answers that none dare question now dominate classroom life.
And so, as you and graduates in your family or circle of friends leave those institutions of rote learning, and go into the Real World, you will have to undertake your greatest challenge: learning to think.
Examining, questioning, discussing and challenging hypotheses, assertions and accepted “facts” are always absolutely essential for scientific, technological and societal progress. In this election year, it behooves us all to demand details from candidates, honestly assess whether their proposals will improve or worsen our economic situation, insist on and participate in rigorous debates, and cast informed votes.
As you try to understand why our economy has been so anemic, why so few jobs are being created, and why one in three young American voters supports socialism as better than free enterprise – here are just a few realities to ponder.
God gave Moses Ten Commandments. The federal government has given us tens of thousands of commandments, enforced by millions of nameless, unelected bureaucrats who have nearly unfettered discretion to interpret and administer their rules. Complying with them costs American families and businesses $1.9 trillion per year. That’s more than the entire Russian economy, more than the IRS collected in corporate and personal taxes in 2015, and $15,000 in hidden costs for every family.
The Obama Administration has been publishing 80,000 pages of new regulations per year – and is preparing to unleash 3,000 more rules before it leaves office. Small businesses are hurt most, as they cannot possibly read, comprehend and comply with this regulatory tsunami. They thus live in fear that any unknown or inadvertent violation will result in massive fines or even jail time. Indeed, more than 4,500 federal rules carry criminal penalties, and lack of knowledge or intent is no defense.
Coupled with the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world, new hourly wage and overtime rules, and mountains of state and local regulations, these federal edicts dramatically impair hiring and growth.
This unintended job and economic destruction has shrunk middle class family incomes by more than $1,000 per year during the Obama era, sent 3 million more families into poverty, and added over 600,000 black Americans to the overall poverty number. The intentional damage is even more insidious.
The Obama EPA’s war on fossil fuels has contributed greatly to the loss of nearly 50,000 coal industry jobs since 2008. Mrs. Clinton has made it clear that she will “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” if she is elected. Like Senator Sanders, she also wants to eliminate most US oil and natural gas production – while ignoring the fact that fossil fuels still provide 82% of all US energy.
That would mean vastly more land-intensive, heavily subsidized wind, solar and biofuel substitutes. It would send electricity and motor fuel prices skyrocketing to levels now found in California and New York, or even in Britain and Germany: double, triple or quadruple what most Americans now pay.
For hospitals, factories, school districts and other major energy users, that would bring thousands to millions of dollars per year in higher costs – and thus countless more lost jobs and closed doors.
President Obama, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders, most Democrats and even some Republicans justify these self-inflicted wounds by saying they are necessary to prevent catastrophic global warming and climate change. But even if plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide is a primary culprit – and thousands of scientists say it is not – even shutting down all US fossil fuel use would bring no benefits, amid tremendous pain.
China alone accounts for 80% of the entire world’s increase in coal consumption so far this century. It now consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined. The 155 new coal-fired power plants it is currently planning to build will burn twice as much coal as all of Germany’s existing plants do. Coal generates 67% of China’s electricity, oil and natural gas 23%, hydro 10%, and wind and solar combined only 2 percent. Nearly a billion Chinese still exist on less than $5 per day, and the Middle Kingdom will be burning fossil fuels for decades to improve their living standards.
India, Indonesia, the rest of Asia, all of Africa and much of Latin America are in the same situation. All are burning coal, oil and natural gas to lift billions out of abject poverty – and will continue doing so.
America’s political classes always protect themselves. It is poor, minority, middle-class and blue-collar families that will suffer – along with most of you graduates – from these all pain/no gain climate policies.
Politicians always like to show they care, by giving other people’s money to worthy causes, their favorite voting blocs and their campaign contributors. They are far less charitable with their own money. Joe and Jill Biden raked in $333,182 in 2009 – and gave just $4,820 to charity; during the previous decade, they averaged $369 annually. Between 2007 and 2014, the Clintons “earned” $139 million; they gave $14,959,450 to charity – but 98.7% of that went to the scandal-ridden Clinton Family Foundation.
Socialist and anti-energy policies boil down to strangling jobs and wealth creation … making the economic pie smaller and smaller … taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to “less fortunate” people who aren’t working but will likely vote for politicians who promise them “free stuff” … and ensuring “more equitable sharing” of ever greater scarcity, poverty and misery (for non-ruling elites).
As to telling poor countries to stop using fossil fuels, it is an unconscionable crime against humanity to impose policies that pretend to protect Earth’s poor, malnourished and energy-deprived masses from hypothetical climate chaos – by perpetuating poverty, malnutrition and disease that kill millions of them every year, right now.
Think about all of this as you take your diploma, evaluate candidates, and head to the polls.
Austin voters have approved a ballot referendum to regulate peer-to-peer transportation network companies such as Lyft and Uber, forcing the companies to suspend service in a city otherwise known for its forward thinking and friendliness toward innovation.
These peer-to-peer businesses directly connect drivers, who are otherwise not using their vehicles, with passengers who need transportation.
In February, Austin City Council members approved an ordinance requiring Uber and Lyft drivers to submit to criminal background checks, which are administered by law enforcement, in addition to the companies’ existing background-check procedures.
Before the new restrictions, Austin consumers were able to choose between getting a lift from one of the city’s 10,000 Uber drivers or the 750 government-approved taxicab industry workers.
Now, Austin consumers’ only option is the one that government officials have talked them into approving: taxicabs.
Considering that in 2012 city officials were working to reduce the availability of for-hire transportation — in order to artificially boost taxicab drivers’ income — it’s clear they are not working in the best interests of consumers.
Instead of protecting the public from supposedly dangerous rogue Uber drivers, restricting consumers’ transportation choices actually negatively impacts public safety.
A study published by Temple University’s Fox School of Business, written by professors Brad Greenwood and Sunil Wattal, studied how the availability of Uber has affected alcohol-related vehicular homicide rates.
Examining drunk-driving rates in six urban California counties over a five-year period during which Uber expanded significantly, Greenwood and Wattal found a “significant drop in the rate of [alcohol-related vehicular] homicides after the introduction of Uber.”
The rates dropped by 3.6 to 5.6 percent in counties Uber started serving.
When the researchers scaled up the data taken from the county level to the national level, they found allowing consumers all over the country to call for an Uber driver after a night of drinking wouldn’t just save lives, it would save billions of dollars otherwise spent on law enforcement, criminal justice and medical care.
“With more than 13,000 deaths occurring nationally each year due to alcohol-related car crashes at a cost of $37 billion, results indicate that a complete implementation of [Uber] would create a public welfare net of over $1.3 billion to American taxpayers and save roughly 500 lives annually,” Greenwood and Wattal wrote.
Evidence collected by Zachary Kalmbach, a research scholar at Texas A&M University, suggests Uber and other peer-to-peer transportation network companies have an outsized effect on drunk-driving rates in the first months after consumers gain access to ride-sharing applications.
Studying driving-under-influence rates in nine cities, including Austin, Kalmbach found a correlation between Uber expansion and safer consumer behavior on the roads.
Controlling for outside variables potentially affecting the results, such as marijuana legalization, Kalmbach estimates the “percentage impact is a reduction in DUIs of about 26 percent in the month that [Uber] is launched,” a result he found “statistically significant.”
Instead of looking to protect the health of politically powerful special-interest groups, such as well-funded taxicab companies, lawmakers should take steps that actually help people.
They should be encouraged, not squashed by regulation and taxes.[Originally published at the Star-Telegram]
Alejandro Garcia Padilla, the governor of Puerto Rico, has skipped out on a $422 million payment owed to private-sector creditors.
The missed payment, due on May 1, was just another scene in the slow-motion train wreck that has been termed “Puerto Rico’s economic crisis,” but to call the territory’s status a “crisis” understates the severity of the problem. Over 12 percent of the workforce in Puerto Rico is unemployed, and one out of every four employed Puerto Ricans works for the government, instead of contributing to the territory’s economy.
The job-sector universe—the raw number of jobs available and filled—in the territory is contracting as well. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 889,200 employed people working in Puerto Rico in October 2015. In March 2016, the most recent month for which BLS statistics are available, there were 893,300 people working, which means an average of 683 more people became unemployed every month for six consecutive months.
Puerto Rico’s territorial government is responsible for some of the problems its people are facing, such as its overly generous entitlement programs for workers, but Washington, DC lawmakers are ultimately responsible for the territory’s economic death spiral. As a territory, Puerto Rico exists at the pleasure of the U.S. Congress. Puerto Rico can elect its own governor, but Congress maintains most of the power.
One Washington, DC policy making things worse for Puerto Rico is called the Jones Act. The Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was passed nearly 100 years ago as part of the fit of anti-trade sentiment that led to the Great Depression. It was intended to require regions of the United States separated by the open ocean to be serviced by all-American crews and ships, built with all-American parts, thereby banning foreign vessels from transporting goods from the United States to states and territories such as Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Instead of promoting economic prosperity by tilting the playing field, protectionist trade policies such as the Jones Act disadvantage consumers and benefit businesses favored by the government.
A 2012 report issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRB-NY) studied the effect of the Jones Act on Puerto Rico and concluded increasing the cost of shipping goods to Puerto Rico from the mainland has resulted in fewer goods being shipped to Puerto Rico and less money available to Puerto Ricans.
According to the American Maritime Congress, a lobbyist organization representing the interests of the merchant marine industry, only 77 ships in the entire world comply with the requirements of the Jones Act. By artificially reducing the volume of shipping, the cost of shipping increases, making everyday goods more expensive for Puerto Ricans.
“It costs an estimated $3,063 to ship a twenty-foot container of household and commercial goods from the East Coast of the United States to Puerto Rico; the same shipment costs $1,504 to nearby Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) and $1,687 to Kingston (Jamaica)—destinations that are not subject to Jones Act restrictions,” the Federal Reserve Bank of New York wrote.
Although other factors have contributed to Puerto Rico’s financial ship of state running aground, Washington, DC lawmakers’ refusal to face the reality of a global economy, by removing protectionist policies and allowing the free market to determine the cost of shipping goods, has played a significant role in making life on the “Island of Enchantment” less enchanting and more miserable.
Instead of considering targeted big-ticket bailouts from the mainland’s treasury to patch over their past mistakes, national lawmakers should enact free-market policies, including repealing the Jones Act, to help make prosperity more readily available to everyone, regardless of whether they live in Chicago, California, or Canóvanas.
The Portland Public Schools board this week voted unanimously to institute a ban on allowing any materials or discussion that express doubts that human activity is causing a catastrophic climate crisis. They might as well have just put out a resolution promoting homeschooling.
The story outlining this in the Portland Tribune is absolutely incredible. It is filled with so many layers of nonsense, ignorance, petty tyranny, and moral preening that it seems a bit much, even for hopelessly lefty Portland. I do wonder, however, if they will host a book-burning ceremony at the football stadium. It’s the logical next step, right? Because, apparently, their text books are infected with terms like “might,” “may,” and “could” in some passages that address climate change. We must make sure those doubts don’t accidentally infect the minds of the children they are charged with educating indoctrinating. So why not purge all the sin from the books by fire.
Have these lefties not even an inkling of self-awareness? Do they not see how they have created a climate alarmist parallel to the Scopes Monkey Trial? They are demanding that their unshakable faith in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming be the only thing taught in school. Because, “science.” But even today, proponents for Intelligent Design don’t demand that’s all that’s taught in school, only that it be included in the discussion. Right or wrong, it’s a more open-minded approach than the Climate Cultists — especially considering there are volumes of peer-reviewed evidence that “might,” “may,” and “could” are conservative hedges.
Some of my favorite/most-outrageous parts of this story:
“It is unacceptable that we have textbooks in our schools that spread doubt about the human causes and urgency of the crisis,” said Lincoln High School student Gaby Lemieux in board testimony. “Climate education is not a niche or a specialization, it is the minimum requirement for my generation to be successful in our changing world.”
That’s right. The first quote in the story to bolster this idea, in the second graph, is from a high school senior, everyone’s go-to expert for identifying credible and effective curriculum. Gaby also sees her generation as already uniquely informed and wise enough to save the world previous generations have ruined. Of course she does. She’s gone to Portland public schools her whole life.
Here’s a shocker: This drive to purge doubt about the dogma is being driven by a radical environmentalist group.
Bill Bigelow, a former PPS teacher and current curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools, a magazine devoted to education issues, worked with 350PDX and other environmental groups to present the resolution.
“A lot of the text materials are kind of thick with the language of doubt, and obviously the science says otherwise,” Bigelow says, accusing the publishing industry to bowing to pressure from fossil fuels companies. “We don’t want kids in Portland learning material courtesy of the fossil fuel industry.”
So, a former teacher has apparently long entertained the fantastical and paranoid idea that just having the words “may,” “might,” and “could” in any discussion about the causes and consequences of climate change was slipped in there “courtesy of the fossil fuel industry.” Big Oil. What can’t it do!?
Another shocker: That former teacher and radical environmentalist also happens just so happens to produce a text book for children titled “A People’s Curriculum for the Earth.” That sure sounds like science to me, with not a hint of radical politics. Asked if his interest in producing climate science books for schools might be a conflict of interest, he says it doesn’t’ because his organization is “a nonprofit, not a money-maker.” OK, then.
Oh, almost forgot. The school board member who introduced the resolution — which, again, passed unanimously — has a pretty large conflict of interest, too:
School board member Mike Rosen … leads NW Ecoliteracy Collaborative, a project focused on environmental curriculum standards. However, he says that work has been on hold.
“I have become concerned about its ability to make progress and not have a conflict with being a school board member,” Rosen said, noting that he is now instead working part-time for the Audubon Society of Portland. “I don’t want there to be a conflict between my school board work and this nonprofit.”
No worries, Mike. You’ve made progress … toward 16th Century thinking. It’s hard to imagine what else full victory over “climate deniers” would look like short of scarlet letters, stockades, and pyres ready to set aflame.
UPDATE: Read the board’s resolution for yourself here.
Co-authored by: Logan Pike & Matthew Glans
Decades of overregulation of the health-care labor market, an aging population and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act have created a shortage of primary-care doctors nationwide.
This isn’t a problem that has snuck up on lawmakers. Even before the ACA’s passage, many states faced the prospect of a doctor shortage. In 2011, a study published in the Milbank Quarterly found the ACA would create a need for between 4,300 and 7,000 more physicians in the United States by 2019.
A new report suggests the Milbank authors were correct about the looming shortage of primary-care physicians, especially in the state of Florida. The Robert Graham Center estimates Florida alone will need an additional 4,671 primary-care physicians by 2030 (based on the 2010 figure of 12,228 primary-care physicians) to accommodate the rising need for health-care services.
Some efforts are already underway in Florida to help fix this growing problem. On April 15, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill making Florida the last state to allow advanced nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe certain controlled substances. This will significantly decrease the demand currently placed on many primary-care doctors.
A 2014 survey by the Physicians Foundation found most doctors have little or no room to add patients, with 81 percent of physicians describing themselves as “either over-extended or at full capacity.” Only 19 percent of the respondents “indicate they have time to see more patients.” The report also found 44 percent of physicians surveyed plan to take steps that would reduce patient access to their services, including “cutting back on patients seen, retiring, working part-time, closing their practice to new patients or seeking nonclinical jobs.”
Strict licensing standards have become a significant barrier to entry in many fields, but nowhere is the influence of licensing more sharply felt than in the health-care industry. Supporters of strict state licensing standards argue they assure quality, but critics say the arduous and often expensive licensing process harms the health-care market by hindering entry for new physicians, thereby impeding the market competition needed to lower costs and improve access for patients.
There are several paths Florida legislators and medical boards can choose to lower regulatory barriers in the health-care industry to reduce the physician shortfall. The first proposal, recently introduced as model legislation by the Federation of State Medical Boards, would make it easier for doctors licensed in one state to treat patients in another.
Reporter Robert Pear wrote in The New York Times that this reform would not only cover in-person visits but also videoconferencing and online visits. The proposed legislation would create an interstate compact, and the Times reports it has political support from both sides of the aisle.
The second proposal, supported by the Institute of Medicine and National Governors Association, would further expand the scope of responsibilities for nurse practitioners, allowing them to provide additional health-care services. These additional services would include expanding the scope of practice to services like the initial evaluation of new symptoms, ongoing care for chronic diseases and preventive services, such as immunizations and screenings. This extension would only apply to registered nurses who have also received a graduate degree in nursing. Allowing nurse practitioners to administer care would greatly reduce the doctor shortage and increase access to care.
Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow nurse practitioners to diagnose and provide some form of treatment for certain illnesses. Although critics of these efforts claim expanding the scope of practice will lower the overall quality of care, a 2012 article in Health Affairs reviewing 26 studies noted the “health status, treatment practices, and prescribing behavior [of NPs] were consistent between nurse practitioners and physicians.”
Further, according to research from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the average American would rather see a nurse practitioner or physician assistant than wait to see a primary-care physician. But nurse practitioners and physician assistants cannot serve as practical alternatives when they lack the authority to prescribe controlled substances.
In a time when many health-care-policy debates at the state level are gridlocked, there are still policies that would improve access to care without increasing costs or decreasing quality. Allowing physicians to treat patients across state lines and expanding the scope of practice of nurse practitioners are two incremental steps Florida can take to address the doctor shortage.
A new study by the Manhattan Institute shows the aggressive policies adopted by the European Union to fight climate change have resulted in dramatic increases in electricity costs for residential and industrial consumers. For instance, between 2005, when the E.U. adopted its emissions trading scheme, and 2014, residential electricity rates in the E.U. increased by an average of 63 percent. In addition, E.U. countries intervening the most in their energy markets – Germany, Spain, and the U.K. – have seen their electricity costs increase the fastest.
Higher energy costs are undermining European companies’ international competitiveness. In 2013, the Center for European Policy Studies found European steelmakers were paying twice as much for electricity and four times as much for natural gas as U.S. steel producers. A 2014 International Energy Agency (IEA) report warned continued energy imports, along with expensive climate policies, will likely hurt European industry for the next two decades or more, predicting the E.U.’s share of “the global export market for energy-intensive goods, especially for chemicals, is expected to fall (by around 10% across all energy-intensive goods, i.e., cement, chemicals, pulp and paper, iron and steel).” By contrast, IEA expects the United States and emerging economies to be able to increase their shares of the global export markets for these goods.
With these facts in mind, in January 2014, Germany’s energy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, declared that his country had reached “the limit” with renewable-energy subsidies and that Germany had to reduce its electricity prices or risk “ deindustrialization.”
The study also found Europe’s sacrifices failed to affect global carbon dioxide emissions. Since 2005, while the E.U. reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 600 million tons per year, the combined emissions of four developing countries – Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia – increased by 4.7 billion tons per year, nearly eight times the reduction achieved in the European Union.
If you are online, you can’t escape Google’s myriad of ways it tracks you, but you can leave your ISP.
A famous 2009 Google Blog post boasted that: “Google is not the Hotel California — you can check out any time you like and you CAN, in fact, leave!”
Since Google chose that apt metaphor, and boasted about how easy Google makes it to “check out” your private data and “leave” to a competitor, lets test if you can ever “in fact leave” Google-Eye’s pervasively invasive online surveillance — from a privacy perspective.
But first, why is this point a relevant exercise for people who care about privacy at this particular point in time?
Right now in the U.S., the FCC is trying to justify differential treatment of ISPs and dominant edge platforms like Google in its Title II privacy proceeding and its AllVid set top box proceeding, by claiming that ISPs are more “sticky” and harder to leave than dominant edge platforms like Google.
The Senate Judiciary Committee last week heard testimony from the FCC that: “…we can choose not to visit a website or not to sign up for a social network, or we can choose to drop one and switch to another in milliseconds. But broadband service is fundamentally different. Once we subscribe to an ISP—for our home or for our smartphone—most of us have little flexibility to change our mind or to do so quickly.”
The FCC Chairman also said: “I go to WebMD, and WebMD collects information on me. I go to Weather.com, and Weather.com collects information on me,” he said. “I go to Facebook, and Facebook collects information on me. But only one entity collects all of that information, that I’m going to all of those different sites, and can turn around and monetize it.”
I don’t challenge that there is a real time hassle to switch ISPs.
What I do respectfully challenge is that first, Google essentially doesn’t “collect all of that information” because they do (see here), and second, that Google somehow is easy to escape,when it comes to collecting one’s private information, because it is not, as I will prove below.
Let’s return to Google as a “Hotel California” where “you can check out but never leave.”
Google likes to present the mirage of freedom by touting that they allow users to leave by easily exporting their private information to take elsewhere. As with most things Google, that’s the truth, but not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
One can take a copy of one’s data, and leave, but Google generally retains a copy of it all and can use it for all sorts of purposes. Tellingly, Google’s Cloud Platform director Tom Kershaw told the New York Times last year: “Never delete anything, always use data – it’s what Google does…”
Most importantly, when you leave Google, it can still track most all you do. How?
First, if you surf the web, you need to know that ~98% of the top ~15 million websites use Google Analytics so most everywhere you go on the net, Google can track you.
Second, two million of the most popular websites use the Google YouTube Display Ad Network to serve you video and other display ads so they can track you.
Third, 1.2 million of the top websites about physical locations like stores, restaurants, hotels etc. have Google Maps embedded by default enabling Google to track your location and intent.
Fourth, even if you are not one of the billion plus Gmail users, Google’s Gmail algorithm secretly reads your emails that are sent to Gmail users.
Finally, if you use any type of smartphone 93% of all mobile searches use Google Search because it is installed by default by manufacturers on Android and Apple smartphones/tablets, and if you are the half of U.S. users who use Android, the dominant licensable operating system in the U.S., multiple Google mobile services track your usage and location in order to function as designed.
In sum, if you are a consumer who values their privacy and seeks to control the use of their private information, it is likely a more involved ongoing hassle to quit all Google services and avoid Google’s ongoing pervasive tracking of non-Google users, than it is to leave an ISP.
That’s because once the time hassle of leaving your ISP is done, the privacy concern is done. However, if one tries to leave Google-Eye’s persistent surveillance, the hassle and switching cost of proactively protecting one’s private information from Google is not over, it persists indefinitely.
If you want to learn about all the things one has to do to fully quit Google’s omnifarious products and services, see these accounts of what it involves to leave Google completely from: Slate, TechRepublic, ieee.org, MacWorld, PCWorld, Time, and MakeUseOf.com.
Simply, with Google you may be able to check out, but when you think you’ve left them, they still secretly follow you most wherever you go online.
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, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.
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.
Heartland Joins Fight Against the Abuse of RICO Power Jim Lakely, Somewhat Reasonable Five weeks have passed since our friends at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) were served a subpoena for their climate thought crimes. To the displeasure of the group of attorneys general, they are not rolling over. In fact, CEI and a coalition of supporters are fighting back harder than ever. A full-page ad in this week’s New York Times, which included Heartland’s public support, makes it clear this legal action is an affront to free speech and will not be taken lightly. READ MORE
Recognizing May as Mental Health Awareness Month In recognition of National Mental Health Awareness Month, The Heartland Institute has constructed a page containing all recent Heartland news, research, and commentary related to this important subject. These articles seek to promote innovation in reaching and treating those with mental illness and improving the quality of care they receive, as well as identifying solutions to public policies that obstruct innovation and the delivery of mental health services. READ MORE
Heartland Reprints Robert Zubrin’s Merchants of Despair Combining riveting tales from history with powerful policy arguments, Merchants of Despair provides scientific refutations to environmentalists’ pseudo-scientific claims, including its tirades against nuclear power, pesticides, population growth, biotech foods, resource depletion, industrial development, and, most recently, fear-mongering about global warming. Merchants of Despair exposes this dangerous agenda and makes the definitive scientific and moral case against it. ORDER A COPY
Featured Podcast: Dr. Keli’i Akina: Hawaii Moving to Ban Gasoline and Diesel Vehicles In a move that puts appearance ahead of practicality, two state representatives from Hawaii have introduced legislation banning from the state vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel fuel. Dr. Keli’i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, joins The Heartland Daily Podcast to explain how bad this wacky idea really is, and why the government should stand aside and let the free market pick winners and losers in the energy sector. LISTEN TO MORE
Get Your Popcorn Ready: Heartland Movie Night – Atlas Shrugged Part 2 Join us and fellow lovers of liberty for the second part of our special series of Heartland Movie Nights, in which we’re showing each part of the Atlas Shrugged trilogy on three Wednesdays in a row – May 18, May 25, andJune 1. Based upon the enormously influential 1957 novel by Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged: Part 2 follows the struggles of Dagny Taggart, a railroad heiress trying to maintain her integrity and keep her family’s railroad alive in the midst of a rapidly decaying world. Doors to Heartland’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center open at 5:30 p.m. Film starts at 6:00 p.m.Group discussion follows. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE
Florida Can Curb Doctor Shortage, in Part, By Empowering Nurses Logan Pike and Matthew Glans, Orlando Sentinel Even before the implementation of Obamacare, many states were suffering from doctor shortages. Now the problem is even worse. Florida alone may need an additional 4,600 primary-care physicians by 2030. Proposed in this article are several solutions that would help increase access to care without increasing costs or decreasing quality. READ MORE
Remaining Contenders Differ Radically on Climate, Fuels H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly Donald Trump’s views on climate change and energy production differ radically from those held by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Trump, a climate change skeptic, has said he will reverse regulations issued by the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit access to and use of fossil fuels, regulations he says harm the economy for little or no environmental benefit. READ MORE
Obamacare Court Rulings Protect Employers and Taxpayers’ Rights Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report Patients and taxpayers won two important battles against the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in court this week. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Zubik v. Burwell, instructed multiple courts of appeal to reconsider the constitutionality of a mandate the federal government admits needlessly violates employers’ First Amendment rights. In a separate U.S. District Court case, the judge ruled against unlawful spending under Obamacare for which no funds were appropriated. READ MORE
Bonus Podcast: Cynthia Cabrera: FDA’s War on E-Cigarettes and Vaping Power-hungry bureaucrats in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are about to put electronic cigarettes – a relatively new and increasingly popular smoking cessation product – through a long and arduous federal approval process, potentially putting thousands of small companies out of business. Cynthia Cabrera, president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, joins The Heartland Daily Podcast to talk about how the new regulations will take many products off shelves and effectively promote smoking traditional cigarettes. READ MORE
Trans Bathrooms Edict Proves Feds Have Too Much Power Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly Regardless of one’s views about transgender issues, it’s clear the Obama administration’s edict last week Friday – requiring all 13,506 U.S. school districts to give transgender children access to the bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and sports teams of their choice – proves the federal government has too much power over American schools. What fuels the culture war like perhaps nothing else is putting the force of government behind one side. READ MORE
Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies! Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Many people rely on our profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE
Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in #39 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Cato Institute, the Palmetto Promise Institute, and the Goldwater Institute.
Featured Work of the Week
This week’s featured work of the week is from the Cato Institute. John and Donny discuss a paper from Cato titled “End the TSA.” Recently, the news has been filled with stories of astonishingly long security lines at airports across the country. The problem: a shortage of TSA employees paired with the busy travel season. The paper gives a short historical context to airport security. Then, it shows how private firms are shown to be a better option the the current government-run system.
In the World of Think Tankery
Today Donny and John talk about a new Policy Brief by the Palmetto Promise Institute titled “Volunteer Care: More Healthcare without More Government.” The Brief outlines the growing imbalance of South Carolina’s health care system. According to the Brief, nearly 1 in 4 citizens are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. It then proposes a system called Volunteer Care – a program that has proven successful in Florida. This innovative idea has the potential to benefit thousands while saving the state government millions.
The next item Donny and John discuss is an article from Wallethub. While this study did not originate from a think tank, it does add to several discussions that have taken place on the podcast. The article, titled “2016’s Most & Least Federally Dependent States,” shows that support from the federal government is not equal. Some states receive less money from the federal government than others. This could factor into how much taxes states extract from their citizens.
The last item from the Goldwater Institute explores how technology could increase the efficiency of school choice programs like Educational Savings Accounts. Titled, “The Future of Money and Giving Every Child the Chance at a Successful Future.” this report shows how smartphone apps could hold the key to unlocking a transparent, efficient, and far-reaching school choice system for millions.
- Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2016 Annual Dinner and Reception (Thursday, June 2) @ the Marriott Washington in D.C.
- Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) – Property Rights, Markets, and Freedom (Tuesday, June 21), in Bozeman, Montana.
- Heartland Institute – Funding Education Choice: Jason Bedrick (Wednesday, June 8) @ The Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois
The Sunday Telegraph reports that the EU is poised to fine Google an EU record ~€3b for “web search monopoly abuse” and that “Google will be banned from continuing to manipulate search results to favour itself and harm rivals.”
Assuming this occurs in the reported June-July timeframe, and just like the EU’s 2015 Statement of Objections charged, the long-term ramifications for Google will be much broader and more serious than most appreciate.
That’s because Google has been so masterful in managing public, media and investor expectations that this day would never arrive, (because Google had done nothing wrong and Google was on the right side of competition in offering free, high-quality, and innovative services that benefited consumers); and that it was really EU regulators who were in the wrong because they were protectionists who were also “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics.”
Why is the pending outcome here so problematic for Google?
First, Google has long maintained it is not a monopoly and has done nothing wrong, critical premises undergirding the public’s trust in Google, its algorithms, the objectivity of its search results, and its brands.
The EU’s pending decision per the Statement of Objections, will rule that Google “has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages…” and that “Google has a dominant position in providing general online search services throughout the EEA, with market shares above 90% in most EEA countries.”
Simply, the EU will be ruling as a matter of law that Google is in fact a monopoly that has done wrong.
Second, what’s different here is this will be the first official search antitrust conviction of Google in the world, and it will be for abusing its search dominance to the detriment of consumers, competition and innovation.
Both the U.S. FTC’s negotiated settlement with Google in 2013, and the Canada Competition Bureau’s negotiated settlement with Google in 2016, afforded Google the opportunity to continue to represent itself publicly as not a monopoly, and that it had done nothing wrong.
Third, the EU’s pending ruling that Google “abused its dominant position” in search “by systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages,” and its pending mandated remedy, that “Google should treat its own comparison shopping service and those of rivals in the same way,” both expose that Google has long fundamentally misrepresented its business model to the public, i.e. that it’s algorithms are neutral and unbiased, when they are not.
For over ten years, Google’s current “About” page has publicly asserted: “Ten things we know to be true. We first wrote these “10 things” when Google was just a few years old. From time to time we revisit this list to see if it still holds true. We hope it does—and you can hold us to that.” … “Focus on the user and all else will follow. Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible.”… “We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results and no one can buy better PageRank. Our users trust our objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust.” [bold added] … “It is best to do one thing really really well. We do search.”
Simply, the expected EU ruling will conclude that Google has manipulated its search results since 2008, which means what Google claims it knows to be true – in fact, is not. Google lied.
In sum, this pending outcome is highly problematic for Google because its cuts to the heart of who Google is, what it does, and what it promises to be.
It officially exposes Google as a search monopoly that systematically manipulates search results in ways that undermine trust in Google, its search algorithms, and its public claims of neutrality and objectivity.
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, an emergent enterprise risk consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, some of which are Google competitors, and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests. He is also author of “Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.” Cleland has testified before both the Senate and House antitrust subcommittees on Google and also before the relevant House oversight subcommittee on Google’s privacy problems.
Like the camel that gets its nose under the tent, once the federal government butts into people’s business it’s very hard to get it out. But in a per curiam decision in Zubik v. Burwell on May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court may have indicated that even in the age of the nanny state, even Supreme Court Justices can abide only so much.
Zubik may be better known to the public as “The Little Sisters of the Poor” case. There, the high court granted certiorari to review appeals by seven Christian or Roman Catholic groups or organizations in suits against the Department of Health and Human Services, currently headed by Sylvia Burwell, who, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare, may find herself in the caption of more Supreme Court cases than she ever dreamed.
The question is Zubik is akin to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Thanks to the Supreme Court in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the ACA requires every adult American to carry health insurance or to pay a penalty – John Roberts calls it a “tax” – to the federal government for not doing so. Thanks to the lobbyists who actually wrote the law and the regulators who draft its implementing provisions, every employer who provides health care to its employees under the Act must also, in the words of Zubik, “cover certain contraceptives.”
To many religious groups and orders, including Priests for Life, the Roman Catholic Archbishops of Washington, D.C., East Baptist University, and the aforementioned Little Sisters of the Poor, this is anathema. Not only do their sincerely held religious beliefs teach against contraception, but they also in some cases at least vociferously oppose abortifacients, which prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted or otherwise interfere with the growth of human life from the moment of conception.
But the Supreme Court held in 1973 in Roe v. Wade that abortion is a woman’s constitutional right, and in 2012 it held in Sebelius that Congress can force everyone to buy, and employers to provide, health insurance that, through the Code of Federal Regulation, must include birth control. So what to do about that pesky First Amendment, which requires no emanations from the penumbra to guarantee the free exercise of religion, especially since Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993?
RFRA provides in part that Americans don’t have to abide by otherwise generally applicable laws if those laws “substantially burden” the exercise of their religion. It would seem that requiring the Little Sisters of the Poor and a group called “Priests for Life” to provide abortifacients to their “employees” easily meets this test: What could be a more substantial burden than requiring you to do something that literally, in your view, may eternally damn you to hell?
Never passing up the opportunity to make people fill out a form, though, the government has a solution. It says that religious objectors don’t have to provide otherwise required contraceptive coverage if they fill out a form stating that they object on religious grounds to doing so, and submit that form to either their health insurer or the federal government.
But in much the same way that some people argue they shouldn’t have to get a permit to exercise their freedom of speech, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the other objectors in Zubik argue that even filling out the form imposes a “substantial burden” on their religious freedom.
Even in this post-Obergefell same-sex marriage environment, the Supreme Court doesn’t get paid enough to decide this delicate question. So following oral argument, it asked the parties to address in supplemental briefs ”whether contraceptive coverage could be provided … without any such notice from petitioners.”
In other words, might it be okay with everyone if the Little Sisters of the Poor and others looked the other way while their own insurers provided such coverage, so long as the Little Sisters of the Poor didn’t have to pay for it and didn’t have to say that they object?
Remarkably, all parties agreed that this would be okay, although just how they’re going to work it out remains unclear. In this case, the Court found, filing suit was a pretty good indication that the objectors “have made the Government aware of their view that they meet ‘the requirements for exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement …’” But isn’t filing suit rather more burdensome (and expensive) than simply filling out the form? What must future Zubiks, et al, do? Choose between filling out a form and filing a federal court lawsuit?
In copping out in this case, the Court made plain that it “expresses no view on the merits of the cases” before it, and cited a few precedents for not doing so. In particular, it gave no guidance on “whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.”
Perhaps with an evenly-divided court with just eight justices this is the best we can do for now. So excuse me for asking, but isn’t answering the hard questions exactly what the taxpayers of this country pay Supreme Court Justices to do?
Despite claims of helping low-income earners access the Internet, and thereby joining the digital economic revolution, taxpayer-funded Internet infrastructure projects have a long and expensive history of failing to achieve their stated goals, even though government Internet services enjoy advantages over private businesses.
In Los Angeles, a 2015 taxpayer-funded municipal Wi-Fi program spent nearly $500,000 to build a series of government-owned Internet access points, also called hotspots, but users seeking to get online while outside were left high and dry, because none of the access points actually worked.
Between late 2015 and March 2016, reporters from the Los Angeles Times surveyed 24 California locations between Long Beach and Pasadena, testing the quality of municipal Wi-Fi hotspots serviced and maintained by the South Bay Regional Broadband Consortium, a municipal wireless-Internet program funded with telecom taxes added to Californians’ telephone bills. What the reporters found may surprise some: Nearly $500,000 had been flushed down the drain by the project.
An initial check of 18 hotspot locations, conducted in late 2015, revealed that none of the taxpayer-funded access points were even broadcasting a Wi-Fi signal.
In January 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission, the government agency commissioning SBRBC’s seemingly results-free project, determined only two of 24 locations were online. A follow-up investigation in March 2016 by Times reporters found three of the 24 taxpayer-funded hotspots were broadcasting availability but were unusable for getting online.
“The best results were on a section of Crenshaw Boulevard in Leimert Park where several businesses were broadcasting free Wi-Fi on a community network,” Times reporter Doug Smith wrote in an April 1 article.
In other words, the voluntary donations of private individuals were objectively more effective than a government program funded by the compulsory extraction of taxpayers’ money. The privately donated Wi-Fi access worked, and the taxpayer-funded Wi-Fi access didn’t work.
Despite the long trail of failed taxpayer-funded Internet programs, beginning in places such as Provo, Utah, and running through California’s South Bay region, lawmakers in other cities continue to insist these programs can work if properly administered.
Most recently, Washington, D.C., city councilmembers began exploring the creation of large-scale taxpayer-funded Internet services. Councilmember Vincent Orange proposed creating a government task force to study creating a citywide network of Wi-Fi hotspots at taxpayers’ expense, competing with private-sector businesses for users.
But as government Internet programs fail in spite of the uncompetitive advantages they enjoy over the private sector, and taxpayers are the losers.
When government tries to be everything to all people, it almost always becomes nothing but a burden on everyone — and an expensive one at that.
Instead of extracting more money from taxpayers to provide services the private sector can and does provide, city lawmakers such as those in California’s South Bay and in Washington, D.C., should stick to providing core services, such as ensuring public safety and protecting property rights.
In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Lennie Jarratt, project manager for education at The Heartland Institute, joins the Morning News Watch Radio Show to talk about the nation’s falling scores on the NAEP test – more commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card.
Jarratt explains how the test scores are some of the first seen during the Common Core era. While it may be too early to lay all of the blame on Common Core, Jarratt points to a study that shows that states which embraced Common Core had scores that fell the fastest.