I started covering some of the shenanigans from the solar industry last summer when I wrote about the “Green Tea Party” in Georgia. I had no idea what a can of worms I’d opened. In September, I wrote about the net-metering battle taking place in Arizona—and pointed out the national implications of what was playing out there. The following month, I addressed, what I believe, is an organized effort by the industry, to co-opt the language of the free-market/conservative/limited-government thinking population in an effort to convenience them that government-mandated and -subsidized solar energy was a good thing. Last month I warned consumers of solar scams in a column I wrote titled “Clouds on the solar horizon.”
I have spent months on an investigation into the cronyism, abuse, mismanagement, and violations involved in Abengoa Solar, the Spanish company that received $2.8 billion in taxpayer funding—most of it through the 2009 Stimulus Bill. My exposé was published earlier this week in the Daily Caller.
Within the past few weeks, I’ve been getting harassing phone calls from a solar supporter—so much so, that I’ve had to block his numbers.
I’ve even earned a mention in a Cleantechnica.com post on “How To Write A Hit Piece On The Solar Industry In 6 Steps.”
Apparently there is a perception that I am anti-solar, when in reality I wish I could afford solar panels on my roof because I could use some “free” electricity—but what I am, is strongly free-market. I despise government picking winners and losers. And, my green energy investigations have proven that solar is at the center of the corruption.
Now, I find out that a solar advocate and employee of SunRun—one of the solar leasing companies that Christine Lakatos and I have covered as a part of our “Green-energy crony-corruption scandal”—has been trying to influence Wall Street analysts in an attempt to “damage investor confidence” in Arizona Public Service (APS). APS is the company at the forefront of changing current netmetering policies to avoid having to increase rates on the majority of consumers.
In an email to Rajeev Lalwani, an energy sector analyst with Morgan Stanley, SunRun Inc., public policy manager Kim Sanders attempts to influence Lalwani saying: “I wanted to share a bit more info that indicates this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Do these people have no shame? Or, are they behaving like desperate cornered rats, because they fear the taxpayer-funded gravy train is about to hit the stop block?
In an April 10 letter to SunRun Chief Executive Edward Fenster, Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) Chairman Bob Stump points out that Sanders’ efforts have “the potential to affect adversely millions of ratepayers in APS territory.” Stump points out that these ratepayers are the very people that the ACC is “charged to protect.”
Stump explains that this is because, negatively influencing the “judgement of Wall Street analysts” could “damage investor confidence in APS, undermine its capacity to borrow at reasonable rates, and damage the company’s shareholders, many of whom are Arizonans on fixed incomes and retirees.”
He likens the behavior of the “solar advocacy community” to “bulls in china shops” and concludes the letter stating that “such behavior” inflicts harm to “solar in Arizona.” Stump states: “Attempts to ‘disrupt the utility monopoly model,’ as one solar activist put it, should not entail damaging Arizona ratepayers.”
This shameful behavior addressed in stumps’ letter, and engaged in as revealed in my previous reporting, on the part of the “solar advocacy community” wouldn’t be needed if the industry could stand on its own in a true free market.
Both consumers and regulators need to be cautious when inviting in the wolf in sheep’s clothing that is the commercial solar industry.
For the past several years, the policies that favor certain minority groups at the level of college admissions and public employment, commonly called affirmative action, have been on the back foot. Laws and constitutional amendments in various states, most notably in the liberal stronghold California in 1996, have restricted or banned outright the practice of discrimination on the basis of race, whether favoring the majority ethnic group or a minority. These movements ought to be welcomed by supporters of liberty. Our nation is founded on the principle of equality before the law. It seems inherently unjust to favor one group over another because of the color of their skin or ethnic history. It is doubly unjust that the organization engaging in such practices be the government to which we all pay taxes and from which we are meant to expect equal treatment and consideration.
Despite the strength of the principled opposition, last month Democratic legislators in California embarked on a rearguard effort to restore affirmative action through a partial reversal of the 1996 ban. The proposed law would allow for the restoration of affirmative action to university admissions.
The issue of affirmative action has become deeply knotted up in the American public consciousness. Whenever it is brought up as a policy to be implemented or repealed, passionate champions on both sides come out of the woodwork. Yet more often than not, the debates that arise from these proposals generate far more heat than light. In fact, it is often the case that each side ends up talking past the other, leaving the general public confused as to what each side actually stands for. This has already begun to happen in California.
At the root of the confusion is the fact that affirmative action is not a debate in itself. Rather it is a rickety amalgam of two distinct debates, namely those of racial discrimination and of social inequality. It is only by unpicking these two threads that we can actually understand the debate.
Challenging the Politics of Race
African-Americans, and much more recently Hispanic-Americans, have been the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action. The effects of affirmative action on the level of the playing field between college applicants of different ethnic groups have been widely studied and documented. One of the most influential research programs was conducted by Thomas Espenshade of Princeton University. His research determined the impact of race on admissions by assessing the performance of applicants via SAT scores (on the 1600-point scale). By taking white applicants as a baseline, he was able to determine that African-American applicants are treated as having a bonus score of 230 additional points, and Hispanic-Americans gain a bonus of 185 points. It turned out from the study that the big losers of the affirmative action game were Asian-Americans, who received the equivalent of negative-50 points from the baseline.
The problem Espenshade’s analysis reveals is that young Americans are being measured by different standards simply on the basis of their race. Isn’t that exactly what the Civil Rights movement was about putting a stop to?
The key component of affirmative action that separates it from other kinds of government action on behalf of the economically disadvantaged is that it is inherently identity-based. A person living in poverty is not by nature a poor person. When their economic position is improved through employment and the building of their human capital, “poor” is discarded as a label.
This is not the case in matters of race. When social spending or advantages are aimed at a racial group, the label does not change. If anything, it has been permanently and indelibly imprinted on that group. The result is a defining of a whole race of people as in need of help, or in need of a “boost” compared to the majority population. Such policies and such beliefs are absolutely toxic to the working of a free, fair, and equal society. It shifts the discourse from citizenship as a whole to quasi-tribal groups to which one is bound by blood, not belief. Such a civil society is unworkable and anathema to the founding principles of the American republic.
Indeed, California is a perfect case study of the dangerous thinking that can arise when political and economic spoils are allocated on the basis of race. The Democratic Party establishment of California was shocked when the bill introducing the proposed reintroduction of affirmative action was opposed, and defeated, thanks to Asian-American Democratic legislators jumping ship and voting against. The reason for the opposition was not a matter of principle. Rather, it was pressure from lobby groups, and a large swathe of the Asian-American community, who saw the reintroduction of affirmative action as harmful to their community’s children’s prospects in college applications.
Surely there can be nothing more dangerous in a democratic society than the creation of intractable political battle-lines across which it is actually impossible to cross thanks to their being the product of race-centric politics. Affirmative action is essentially a spoils system that pits majority groups against minorities and minorities against each other. Such disastrous policies certainly don’t sound like a good way to fight either poverty or institutionalized discrimination.
Fighting Inequality of Opportunity
The problem with affirmative action as a mechanism for fighting entrenched disadvantage is that it fundamentally does not address the real issue at play. According to affirmative action’s way of thinking, the substandard education and economic background that some members of certain races or ethnicities come from translates into a need to provide special privileges and allowances to all members of those races or ethnicities at the point of college admissions. The problem with such thinking is two-fold.
In the first instance, it fails to acknowledge that members of a given ethnic group often have very different economic and life experiences. The fact is, entirely unsurprisingly to most people, there are countless successful African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans who are able to send their children to excellent schools where they succeed with aplomb. Affirmative action allocates special privileges to these people, even though the poverty and discrimination that supposedly inheres at the racial level has not in any way manifested. In reality, there is no such thing as an ethnicity-wide solution to a problem.
The second factor is that the problem of performance up to the point of college admission is in no way addressed. All affirmative action does is give the illusion of improved performance when in reality it is simply lowering the bar of performance. The way to actually address the issue of performance is to attack it root-and-branch in primary and secondary schools. What can be done? Weakening the ability of teachers unions to vacuum up money without any expectation of performance and expanding school choice through the promotion of charter schools and school vouchers would be a start.
The problems affirmative action tries to address are not actually cured by the policy. Rather, it masks the initial problem and then generates a cornucopia of new ones. Real answers lie in improving school performance so that when kids compete for places in college, they can do so on a genuinely even footing.
Medicaid expansion is an expensive endeavor that studies show does not provide better or more-affordable health care. Many of the expansion plans that Pennsylvania legislators are considering would use federal dollars to expand the state’s Medicaid program to more people, creating new costs that the federal government may not always be willing or able to cover, leaving state taxpayers on the hook for the new liabilities.
Pennsylvania has yet to approve an expansion of Medicaid. But in September 2013, Gov. Tom Corbett released a proposal that would accept federal funds and extend Medicaid to about 500,000 individuals, who would be moved into the ObamaCare federal health insurance exchange.
Like several other programs being considered in other states, Corbett’s proposal, known as “Healthy PA,” emulates Arkansas’ premium assistance model. Under the Arkansas model, the state provides funds for those newly eligible for Medicaid to purchase private insurance through the ObamaCare insurance exchange. Medicaid recipients choosing the private option would face many of the same requirements as traditional Medicaid beneficiaries, including co-pays and a premium-sharing requirement. Participants would be required to pay a portion of their premiums, up to $35 per month.
According to the Commonwealth Foundation, Healthy PA would make several changes to the state’s current Medicaid program, including a reduction in the cap on certain medical services, which would cut the funds managed care organizations use to pay doctors; a reduction in the number of benefit packages in traditional Medicaid from 14 to two; a premium-sharing requirement based on a sliding scale of $1 to $25 per month; and new co-pays for doctor visits..
Healthy PA has several shortcomings. First, despite the private-market feel of the program, it still represents an expansion of Medicaid, where multiple aspects of the insurance plan are dictated by the federal government and the beneficial aspects of real market competition are lost. Second, once expansion occurs, it will be extremely difficult to roll back.
Medicaid expansion is expensive. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, expansion in Pennsylvania would add $43 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a plan like Healthy PA could cost state taxpayers an additional $3,000 per enrollee.
One alternative states should consider is the pilot program currently underway in Florida, known as the “Medicaid Cure.” The program is a premium support model that provides existing Medicaid recipients with a range of premiums and plans from which to choose, dramatically improving health care competition and consumer choice. The results have been promising; the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration found a 64 percent improvement in health outcomes over managed care and an 83 percent satisfaction rate.
Without significant reforms, Medicaid will remain fiscally unsustainable. Instead of expanding a flawed model that is overly costly, delivers subpar health care and shifts more power to the federal government, state lawmakers should focus instead on reform options like those piloted in Florida, which reduce costs and offer better care.
[Originally published at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
Seldom does a new product come along that exposes a company like Google Glass does.
For the few that have not heard of Google Glass yet, it is a hands-free, wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display above one’s eye to provide information to the user and enable video recording of whatever a user sees. What’s recorded is stored in Google’s data centers and that data will be integrated with most Google products and services.
For one day, April 15, Google is offering any American the opportunity to buy Glass for $1,500.
Why such animosity? A recent poll by Toluna of 1,000 Americans found 72% had privacy concerns about Glass. Their second biggest fear was safety and distractibility. And a third of those polled feared being mugged while wearing Glass.
Another reason is visceral. Glass is an in-your-face device that people know can spy and eavesdrop on their private activities and conversations without their knowledge or consent.
So how does Google Glass expose Google?
Glass brings attention to problems Google would rather conceal.
First, as the Toluna poll exposed, Americans understand Google Glass inherently creates privacy concerns.
Already over a dozen bars and restaurants in San Francisco have banned Google Glass as an unwanted invasion of their customers’ privacy. In at least two instances, people were upset enough to physically attack Glass wearers in public. With more Glass “Explorers” outside of the Silicon Valley area, expect more Glass privacy-related incidents in more places.
Google has settled with 38 states for violating tens of millions of Americans privacy. Google also received a record privacy fine from the FTC for breaking a previous FTC-Google privacy settlement by hacking into Safari’s browser to bypass iPhone users’ privacy settings.
Second, the more Glass users attempt to secretly record more private conversations without meaningful notice or consent, the more people will eventually learn of Google’s widespread wiretapping.
Google recently appealed to the Supreme Court a decision that ruled Google Street View’s secret interception of tens of millions of American homeowners’ unencrypted WiFi signals was illegal wiretapping.
And a different Federal Court ruled that Google’s routine interception of more than 100 million American Gmail users’ emails for the purposes of creating advertising profiles also constitutes illegal wiretapping.
Third, more Glass users will mean an increased chance of a Glass distracted driver being involved in an accident that causes harm or death.
In stark contrast to wireless companies proactively running an “it can wait” national advertising against the dangers of using phones while driving, Google is proactively lobbying multiple states to not ban driving with Google Glass when it knows full well Glass is obviously distracting for drivers.
Sadly, the first Glass distracted-driver accident will bring more attention to Google’s history of reckless disregard for the safety of others.
In Google’s initial Glass dos and don’ts for “Explorers,” Google does not appear to be taking reasonable care in preventing foreseeable potential harm to others. There is no admonition about the obviously distracting nature of using Google Glass when driving and the potential risk of harm to the user or others.
Finally, Glass reminds people that Google has become the spy tool of choice, the one-stop-shop for spying and the spymasters dream.
There is good reason that Glass is only being offered to Americans and not foreigners despite more than half of Google’s business coming from the rest of the world.
Given Snowden’s NSA revelations and Google’s strong legal and operational alignment with the NSA and Google’s recent Glass work for the U.S. military, many foreigners and other governments naturally can perceive Glass as SpyGlass or NSA headgear.
In sum, Glass has already proven to be a highly-controversial, in-your-face product that many people not only dislike, but also fear.
On April 15 Google will throw Google Glass at America by selling it to any American who wants to buy it that day.
Time will tell if Glass proves the old adage that those who live in glass houses should not throw stuff at others.
[Originally published at Daily Caller]
When I hear concerns about soil erosion, I always think about my grandma. She was an amazing woman. She grew up in Huron in the heart of the Great Depression, which just happened to coincide with the Dust Bowl. Growing up, my sister and I listened to her stories of dealing with the dust storms, stuffing rags in the window sills and the cracks around the doors in an attempt to keep the dust out of the house. Despite her best efforts, a fine film of dust would still cover the interior of the house.
The dust from the Dust Bowl claimed crops, cattle, and the lives of two children in Huron. To this day, when contractors cut into houses that survived the Dust Bowl, they find sand in between the interior and exterior walls. The Dust Bowl eroded more than the soil; it eroded a way of life.
Erosion is a problem that persists to this day, and it’s responsible for dust storms, mudslides and sinkholes. Fortunately, plants in forests, grasslands, and everywhere else set roots in the soil and help the soil stay put, and plants around the globe are getting a boost from increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Although many people, spurred by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, think “going green” means using less carbon dioxide, plants prefer just the opposite.
We all know plants need carbon dioxide to breathe, but many don’t know plants turn that carbon dioxide into carbon in the form of the roots, stems, trunks, branches, leaves, and fruit with which we are more familiar. And according to a new study by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the greener the planet gets.
The report, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts, published by The Heartland Institute (where I am a research fellow), cites thousands of peer-reviewed studies rising atmospheric CO2 levels are helping almost all plants grow bigger, become more efficient in using water, and better withstand the stress of high air temperature.
In a way, this CO2 enrichment of the atmosphere is to plants like an oxygen mask is to a winded football player — helping to prepare him for the next play.
More CO2 in the atmosphere also means plants start to grow in places they couldn’t before, reducing the amount of erosion and, consequently, dust in the air in places around the globe, while increasing the potential for agriculture and wildlife habitat as the range of certain plant species expands.
Increased levels of CO2 also have been found to increase the fine-root density in some plants by up to 184 percent, and a 55 percent increase in above ground biomass despite water and nutrition limitations — meaning plants become better at anchoring the soil in place and allowing water to permeate the surface, which is especially important during droughts.
This would have been great news for my grandma and everyone else who survived the Dust Bowl. Improved farming techniques have played an important part in reducing the amount of erosion around the world, and these efforts certainly will be helped by having more CO2 in the atmosphere. Instead of being a detriment to plant growth, more CO2 acts as a fertilizer, making plants grow bigger, faster, more resilient, and more abundant, greening the world we live in.
[Originally published in the Argus Leader]
There is an increasing recognition – at least outside the academy, planning organization and urban core developer groups – that the spatial expansion of cities or suburbanization represents the evolving urban form of not only the United States and virtually all of the high income world but also across the developing world, whether middle income or third world.
In recent years, Mexico has made substantial economic progress. Per capita income (purchasing power parity) in Mexico exceeds that of all the “BRIC” nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) except resource-rich Russia.
In Mexico, as almost everywhere, cities continue to expand to provide more living space for an emerging suburban middle-class. This is obvious in the new townhouse (attached house) and detached house developments that ring the urban areas (photograph above). Some of the best evidence of this can be observed on and beyond the southern edge of the nation’s second-largest urban area, Guadalajara (for example on Google Earth).
The Valley of Mexico
Nearly 3 years ago, one of the first Evolving Urban Form articles highlighted the Valley of Mexico metropolitan area, which is Mexico City in its functional (economic) manifestation. That article noted that the core municipality of Mexico City in 1950 had 2.23 million residents out of the urban area’s fewer than 3 million and comprised only 54 square miles (139 square kilometers). By 1970, the city’s population had risen to 2.85 million. However, as has happened in Paris, Copenhagen, Milan, Osaka, Glasgow, Detroit, and many others, the urban core population plummeted. By 2000, the former city had a population of only 1.69 million, a 40 percent loss from 1970. There was a modest population increase between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, but its population seems unlikely to ever be restored to near their previous peak, which mirrors the experience of Paris and Copenhagen.
Instead all population growth in the Valley of Mexico metropolitan area has been outside the 1950 area of Mexico City and in the post-World War II suburbs. While comparable metropolitan area data is not available, the Mexico City urban area added more than 10 million residents between 1970 and 2010. The same period, the suburban areas added more than 11 million residents (Figure 1). The Valley of Mexico metropolitan area is located not only in the Distrito Federal, but also in the states of Mexico and Hidalgo.
The Other Major Metropolitan Areas
While the scale of urbanization in the Valley of Mexico dwarfs that of the rest of the nation, similar dispersion is evident in the nation’s other 11 metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population (Figures 2 and 3).
Guadalajara, capital of state of Jalisco, is Mexico’s second largest metropolitan area. Between 2000 and 2010, the metropolitan area grew nearly 20 per cent, from 3.7 million residents to 4.4 million. The core city (locality) of Guadalajara lost 150,000 residents, registering a population of just under 1.5 million in 2010. Suburbs accounted for approximately all the metropolitan area’s population growth.
Monterey, capital of the state of Nuevo Leon, is currently the third largest metropolitan area in Mexico and is growing slightly more rapidly than Guadalajara. Between 2000 and 2010, Monterey added 22 per cent to its population, which increased from 3.4 million residents to 4.1 million. The central locality grew modestly, but 97 per cent of the metropolitan area growth was in the suburbs.
The Valley of Mexico metropolitan area is encircled by smaller, but major metropolitan areas that are among the fastest-growing in the nation.
Queretaro, the capital of the state of Queretaro, is located 130 miles (220 kilometers) north of Mexico City by freeway. Queretaro is the fastest-growing major metropolitan area in Mexico, having added 34 per cent to its population over the last census period, to reach 1.1 million. More than two thirds of the growth was in the suburbs.
Toluca, capital of the state of Mexico (Note), is located across a mountain range only 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Mexico City. Toluca grew 33 percent to 1.9 million residents in 2010. Nearly 90 per cent of Toluca’s population growth was in the suburbs between 2000 and 2010.
Pueblo, capital of the state of Puebla, is located across mountain range 130 miles (80 kilometers) to the east of Mexico City. Puebla is located in a valley surrounded by some of the most spectacular volcanoes in the world, including Popocateptl and Iztaccihuatl (both more than 17,000 feet, or 5,100 meters), toward Mexico City, La Malinche (14,600 feet or 4,500 meters), only 17 miles from the city center and Orizaba (18,500 feet or 5,600 meters). The three tallest of these reach elevations higher than any in North America outside of the Yukon and Alaska. Puebla was the slowest growing of the Central Mexico metropolitan areas, adding 23 percent to its population, and reaching 2.9 million residents in 2010. Three quarters of Puebla’s growth was in the suburbs. The Puebla metropolitan area extends into the state of Tlaxcala.
Border Metropolitan Areas
In comparison, the large metropolitan areas on the United States border expanded outwards but not as rapidly. Tijuana, which is adjacent to the San Diego metropolitan area now has 1.75 million residents. More than 60 percent of its growth over the preceding 10 years was suburban. Juarez (located in the state of Chihuahua), is across the border from the El Paso metropolitan area and reached a population of 1.5 million, with slightly more than one half of its growth being in the suburbs. Neither San Diego-Tijuana area nor Juarez -El Paso qualify as metropolitan areas because they are not labor markets – there are significant limitations on the movement of labor (employees).
Other Interior Metropolitan Areas
Three other major metropolitan areas are located in the interior. In Torreon (states of Coahuila and Durango), more than 60 percent of the population growth was in the suburbs. A smaller 51 percent of the growth in San Luis Potosi (state of San Luis Potosi) was in the suburbs. The significant exception was Leon (state of Guanajuato), where only 36 percent of the growth was outside the core urban core.
Overall, 5.1 million of the 6.0 residents added to Mexico’s major metropolitan areas between 2000 and 2010 were outside the urban cores (Figure 4). Most of the growth was in the three largest metropolitan areas (Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey), which added 3.2 million residents. The urban cores of these three metropolitan areas together declined approximately 100,000, while the suburbs attracted more than all of the metropolitan area growth. Mexico seems well positioned for continued economic growth and a populace that seeks better standards of living, more often than not in dispersed settings.
[Originally published at New Geography]
From the various reports of briefings about the FCC’s planned rules for the 600 MHz incentive auction, two things appear clear. First, the FCC doesn’t trust market forces. And second, the FCC doesn’t want the highest bidders to win the spectrum.
Apparently, the FCC is trying to produce something for everyone in this now circus-like auction process – a proverbial, dazzling three-ring-circus of political compromises that catch and keep different people’s attention.
At core, the FCC reportedly is adding a third ring to the already-complex, unprecedented, two-ring circus of the incentive auction. The first ring is the incentive reverse auction of broadcasters bidding for what they must earn in order to sell their spectrum, and the second ring is what wireless companies will then pay to own the broadcasters’ spectrum.
The FCC wants to add a third ring to this growing auction spectacle. Reportedly the FCC is going to effectively create yet a third auction process that would commence when certain, not-yet-known auction revenue targets are met in the auction. Below those FCC-determined-revenue-targets anyone can bid. Above those targets, the largest potential bidders’ opportunities to bid further would be dramatically restricted.
This will create big auction dichotomy; some spectrum could garner a very high competitive market price and the rest could go to anyone willing to pay at least the FCC’s reserve price.
The made-up-revenue-number, to be determined by the FCC, sometime in the future, has now become the tent-pole assumption of this now elaborate, and increasingly complex three-ring circus. This FCC expected revenue number will signal how much the FCC wants the auction to collect, regardless of what the market could bear.
This auction rulemaking sounds like it is shaping up to be a complex amalgamation of multiple inherently-conflicted, political compromises to get three votes. It does not sound like an auction award of spectrum to the highest bidder.
The big risk here is that auction politics is not auction economics, and public auction prices are all about economics.
In other words, the FCC imagines political and economic outcomes are the same when they are very different.
Rule-makings may be judged by politics, but auctions are judged by real-life bids based on market economics.
Bottom-line, this auction process is on track to be the most confusing FCC auction ever. Confusion breeds uncertainty.
And uncertainty lower bids.
[Originally published at Precursor Blog]
It’s Tax Day in America. Which brings to mind one of the late, great Ronald Reagan’s many great lines:
“Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the Democrats believe every day is April 15.”
And of course Reagan was right. Taxes damage individuals, families and economies every single day of the year – not just on Collection Day.
Taxes are about the government taking your coin.
Pro-government folks view taxes like Jello – there’s always room for more.
Taxes are also the government wanting less of the taxed activity. Even the most virulent pro-taxers admit it – sometimes.
So if you want less income – tax it.
If you want less investment:
If you want less employers offering health insurance:
Think the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was about a whole lot more government control than just the massive health care power grab?
So if you want more global free trade – you absolutely should tax it less.
A hefty 38.5 per cent Japanese tariff that currently applies on frozen beef will be halved to 19.5 per cent over 18 years, with deep cuts in the first year.
Less taxes on something means more of that something? You bet.
The chairman of the Australian beef industry’s free trade taskforce, Lachie Hart, says the deal will be worth $5.5 billion to the industry over 20 years.
And they’re thinking much, much bigger.
There are also significant advantages for other agricultural products, with fruit and vegetables, seafood, sugar and wine among the winners.
Japanese exporters will see Australian tariffs lowered on electronics, whitegoods and cars….
Australian consumers will see prices lowered as a result.
Japanese consumers too. The less taxes the providers have to pay, the less their customers will have to pay.
Under the deal, Japanese-made cars will be, on average, $1,500 cheaper.
Less taxes is good – no taxes is better.
The duty-free quota for cheese – Australia’s single largest dairy export to Japan – will be boosted from 27,000 tonnes per year to 47,000 tonnes annually.
Unfortunately, not all global trade is trending quite so freely. In fact, sometimes the tariffs are so thick and impacted, they make your teeth hurt.
This isn’t unilateral – imposed in a vacuum. This is one of the globe’s bigger games of tit-for-tat. We manipulate our sugar market – in ways well beyond just taxes. So other producers do too.
(W)e have Brazil dumping money into the sugar industry in a million different directions. India uber-subsidizing production. China gaming the system – stockpiling product, then shifting to direct payments. And Thailand providing multi-billion dollar price supports….
And these are just some of the myriad ways these nations – and many others – are directly and indirectly manipulating the global market. None of this has anything to do with a free exchange of goods.
These huge barriers to the global free trade of sugar – and many, many other goods – make trade scarcer, and consumer prices much higher.
We should all instead emulate the freer trading ways of the likes of Australia and Japan.
If we want more cheap stuff – governments must tax it less. If we want an abundance of cheap stuff – don’t tax it at all.
Looking to get filing help from our federal fleecers is at best a crapshoot.
We self-employed have to every quarter guess what we owe and send it in.
Salaried people get skinned every paycheck – “withholding” that hides governments’ multiple, monstrous bites. And tricks people into getting excited about an annual “refund” – which is really just a return of the interest-free loan they involuntarily made to the Leviathan.
But if any of us under pay – our mistake isn’t interest-free. Nor is it penalty-free. For governments, it’s forgiveness for me – not for thee.
Taxes – already obscenely multitudinous and high – have grown exorbitantly upward and outward in the last five years.
Is the Leviathan slaked? Of course not.
More of just the same ticket for a five-plus year foundering, floundering economy.
The government’s cash drain is historic.
U.S. states took in 6.1 percent more revenue in fiscal 2013 than they did the year before for a record $846.2 billion, according to the Census Bureau.
It was the third consecutive increase, the agency said in a statement today. Revenue rose 4.7 percent from 2011 to 2012, and 7.3 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Yet we’ve added during this time $7+ TRILLION to the federal debt. So it’s clearly a spending problem – not a revenue one.
And that’s just the federal government. Many of the many states are also digging ever-deeper into our wallets.
The absolute last thing we should do is open another vein for these governments to drain. Yet looming before us is the October 31, 2014 end of the Internet tax moratorium.
Since 1998, the Internet Tax Moratorium has protected everyone from the average Internet surfer to small and large businesses from multiple and discriminatory taxes on Internet usage.
This moratorium was extended in 2001 and 2004, both times with bipartisan votes in the House and Senate.
And in 2007.
Which brings us to now. Thankfully, the desire to preempt this new rash of taxes is again bipartisan.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and others introduced HR 3086, the “Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act”.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and 16 other Senators introduced S 1431, the “Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act”.…
And even better – both sides are looking to make the tax ban permanent. Which means we won’t ever again have to play the brinksmanship games for which governments are notorious.
It’s an election year. We the People aren’t too keen on DC’s denizens.
I guess they had to poll on cockroaches and head lice to have something proximate.
Here’s a potential Kumbayah moment. A way for Congress to help themselves politically – and also avoid another concussive blow to a feeble economy.
Let’s get it together and get it done – now, well before November 1.
[Originally published at Daily Caller]
In its recent ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court struck down yet another provision of federal campaign finance law as a violation of the First Amendment‘s free speech guarantee.
This time it was the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s limitation on the aggregate amount of contributions — presently $123,200 — that a donor may contribute to all candidates or party committees in one election cycle.
Of course, McCutcheon follows the now-famous Citizens United ruling, in which the Court held that the BCRA provision restricting corporations and unions from making expenditures advocating the election or defeat of a candidate violates the free speech rights of those entities.
Like Citizens United, McCutcheon was another 5-4 decision. While the case was narrowly decided, the gulf between the understanding of the majority and the dissenters of the First Amendment’s meaning is wide.
Indeed, two different conceptions of the role of individual rights in our constitutional regime emerge.
In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer asserts that “the First Amendment advances not only the individual’s right to engage in political speech, but also the public’s interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters.”
The emphasis on “matters” is Breyer’s. But I think what matters most in his statement is the reference to “collective speech,” a term with somewhat Orwellian overtones.
Contrast Breyer’s language with this from Chief Justice John Roberts‘ majority opinion:
“The First Amendment safeguards an individual’s right to participate in the public debate through political expression and political association.”
Roberts declares the First Amendment is intended to remove governmental restraints from the arena of public discussion, “putting the decision as to what views shall be voiced largely in the hands of each of us.”
The contrast between Breyer’s emphasis on “collective speech” and Roberts’ focus on an “individual’s right” is rather stark.
And to my mind, Breyer’s formulation is disturbing. The Bill of Rights — of which the First Amendment is foremost — were added to the Constitution to protect fundamental individual liberties from abrogation by popular majorities, not to secure some notion of collective rights.
A window into Breyer’s thinking concerning “collective speech” may be gleaned from his citation toJean-Jacques Rousseau, whom the justice rightly calls “an influential 18th century continental philosopher.”
Rousseau was indeed an influential philosopher but, thankfully, not one whose thinking greatly influenced our Founders.
Rousseau is best known for his theory of the “general will,” elaborated in his major work, The Social Contract.
In a nutshell, Rousseau’s philosophy requires the individual to submerge his own ideas to what he calls the “general will,” which Rousseau explains this way:
“When, therefore, the opinion opposed to my own prevails, that simply shows I was mistaken, and what I considered to be the general will was not so. Had my private opinion prevailed, I should have done something other than I wished; and in that case I should not have been free.”
It is easy to see that Rousseau’s philosophy nurtures collectivist thinking — including notions of the primacy of “collective speech” — rather than an appreciation for the role of individual rights in a democratic society.
The pronounced collectivist bent of this philosophical line, with its notions of state supremacy over the individual, differs significantly from the line running from Locke to David Hume, to James Madison and on to John Stuart Mill.
Do not get me wrong. I am not suggesting that Breyer, by relying on Rousseau for support, is a devotee of Hegel or Marx.
I am only suggesting that his conception of the First Amendment, focusing as it does on the promotion of collective speech values, necessarily disfavors protecting an individual’s right to free speech and the other individual liberties that the Bill of Rights are intended to secure.
[Originally published at Washington Examiner]
Having spent decades trying to convince everyone that carbon dioxide (CO2) was a “greenhouse gas” that was going to cause the Earth to heat up, the same environmental charlatans are now embarking on a campaign to do the same with methane. In the U.S. the first move was announced by the White House in late March.
The carbon dioxide hoax fell apart in the wake of a cooling cycle affecting the Earth that began around 1997 and continues to this day. Warming and cooling cycles are natural events and both are tied to the activity or lack of it of the Sun. Humans have nothing to do with the climate other to enjoy or endure it.
Why methane? It has a lot to do with the development of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking”, and the way it unlocks natural gas, aka methane, all of which portends an America that is energy independent, along with its huge reserves of coal and oil. If, of course, the government permits this to occur.
As we know, the Obama administration does not want that. It would mean more jobs, greater prosperity, and the ability to pay down the national debt, not to mention drive down the cost of electricity, gasoline, and everything else that depends on energy.
Despite the cooling cycle that is likely to last for many more years, Steve Hamburg, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was quoted by the Washington Post saying that “ounce for ounce, methane is 84 times as potent as a greenhouse gas over 20 years” compared to carbon dioxide. “More than a third of the warming that we’ll see as a result of today’s emissions over the next couple of decades comes from, essentially, methane. We need to remain focused on carbon dioxide emissions, but doing so is not enough.”
Excuse me, but the Environmental Defense Fund and countless other Green advocacy groups have been focused on carbon dioxide for decades and the Earth is cooling, not warming. What part of this does Hamburg not understand?
James M. Taylor, the managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly published by The Heartland Institute, reported in January that “Natural gas fracking is not causing a spike in the U.S. methane emissions”, citing Environmental Protection Agency data. “Methane emissions specific to natural gas are in a long-term decline, down ten percent since 1990 and down seven percent since 2007 when the fracking boom began.”
The Washington Post, however, asserted that emission levels “are set to rise by 2030 as shale oil and shale gas production expands in the United States.” Do you remember all those predictions about the increase of carbon dioxide emissions and how, in ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred years, the Earth would heat up?
This is not about methane, it is about finding a way to shut down fracking and the extraction of natural gas and oil in the same way the Obama administration’s “war on coal” has caused the loss of over 150 coal-fired plants that until it began, were providing electricity. Reducing sources of electricity drives up its cost to everyone. As more natural gas came on line by 2013 it had become the second greatest source of U.S. electricity, but overall the amount of electricity produced was less than in 2007 before the war on coal began.
A natural component of the Earth, it has a number of sources, but one that has also caught the eye of government regulators involves cow flatulence and belching.
The White House has proposed cutting methane emissions from the dairy industry by 25% by 2020. The Environmental Protection Agency has been tracking cow farts since 2012 and now the dairy industry has to worry along with the oil and gas industry. In addition to the EPA, the Bureau of Land Management will be announcing “new standards this fall to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands.”
It’s often best just to let the Greens speak for themselves, revealing their never-ending efforts to attack the energy industry that keeps our lights on, heats and cools our homes, and fuels our cars and trucks. “President Obama’s plan to reduce climate-disrupting methane pollution is an important step in reining in an out of control industry exempt from too many public health protections,” said Deborah Nardone, the director of the Sierra Club’s Keeping Dirty Fuels in the Ground campaign.
“However,” said Ms. Nardone, “even with the most rigorous methane controls in place, we will still fall short of what is needed to fight climate disruption if we do not reduce our reliance on these dirty fossil fuels.”
What the heck is a climate disruption? A blizzard, a hurricane, a flood, tornadoes? None of these phenomena have anything to do with using fossil fuels. This is the kind of utter drivel we have all been hearing for decades.
It has nothing to do with the climate and everything to do with denying access and use of the greatest reserves of coal, oil and natural gas that exist in the greatest nation on Earth, the United States of America.[Originally published at Warning Signs]
So my wife and I are out running errands, and we stop at a big grocery store. As we go through checkout, I see probably the biggest argument against raising the minimum wage I can think of: no cashier.
I look up and down the checkout lanes. Most are self-checkout and bag-your-own. It gets me thinking. When I was a kid, self-serve gasoline was unheard of. You pulled up at a gas pump, rolled over a hose that would “ding-ding” for an attendant, and out would come someone to pump the gas for you, clean your car’s windows, and offer to check your car’s oil level. Today, gas station attendants are almost extinct. It’s almost all self-serve gas now. Also gone are our local movie theater ushers, and our bowling alley pin setters. I’m not old enough to remember elevator operators, but I’ve seen them in old movies. They’re gone too.
Employers are always looking for ways to cut costs. Elevator operators, pin-setters, movie theater ushers, and gas station attendants have all been priced out of existence. Based on what I saw at the grocery store, checkout lane cashiers are being priced out too.
Force employers to pay people so much that they produce less than it costs to hire them, and before long, in comes automation and out go jobs.
The costs of hiring someone go well beyond wages. There’s also unemployment insurance (required), workers compensation insurance (required), Social Security/Medicare tax (required), liability insurance to cover actions of employees (a virtual necessity), and other benefits an employer might offer such as paid sick days (usually optional).
The February unemployment figures recently came out. The national average rate is up a bit to 6.7 percent. But for young people, who have the least education and work experience and therefore are the least-productive workers, the official rate is a Depression-level 11.4 percent—and it’s 15.8 percent if we include the nearly two million persons ages 18 to 29 who are not counted as unemployed because they’re so frustrated they’ve given up looking for work.
It’s even worse for young people who are minorities. Among young blacks the official unemployment rate is 19.3 percent (23.8 percent if we include those who’ve given up looking). Among young Hispanics it’s 12.5 percent (16.6 percent if we include those who’ve given up looking.)
President Obama is agitating for a $10.10 an hour minimum wage, up from the $7.25 an hour federal minimum. Doing this would make it even more expensive to hire people with poor educations, few skills, and little or no work experience. There’d be a bigger gap between what these people produce for an employer and what they would receive in wages and benefits. They won’t get jobs; it’s as simple as that.
The recent Congressional Budget Office report says a higher minimum wage would likely put hundreds of thousands of entry-level people out of work. Those in minimum-wage jobs who manage to stay employed would receive higher pay, but as the example of the cashier-less checkout lanes shows, their employers would surely start looking for ways to eliminate their jobs.
Two more points:
First, throughout the minimum-wage debate we speak as if persons with minimum-wage jobs will always have these low-paying jobs. In fact, however, these are usually first jobs, second jobs, or jobs to tide people over until they can find higher-paying work. In other words, they’re temporary or transient. There is not a permanent group of minimum-wage workers.
Second, what’s magic about $10.10 an hour? If an employer offers $10 an hour, should the government force people to remain unemployed over one thin dime? The White House is crawling with unpaid interns—unpaid. They work for no pay … but not for nothing. The unpaid interns have decided it’s worth receiving no pay to have the experience, the connections they expect to make, the resumé they’ll be able to flaunt. There are many jobs where experience, connections, and impressive resumes might be worth low pay or even no pay.
It’s our lives. We should be able to work for whomever we want for whatever pay and benefits we agree to take.
The story of rancher Cliven Bundy has captured an abundance of media attention and attracted supporters from across the West, who relate to the struggle against the federal management of lands. Bundy’s sister, Susan, was asked: “Who’s behind the uproar?” She blamed the Sierra Club, then Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), and then President Obama. She concluded her comments with: “It’s all about control”—a sentiment that is frequently expressed regarding actions taken in response to some endangered-species claim.
An Associated Press report describes Bundy’s battle this way: “The current showdown pits rancher Cliven Bundy’s claims of ancestral rights to graze his cows on open range against federal claims that the cattle are trespassing on arid and fragile habitat of the endangered desert tortoise.”
Bundy’s story has been percolating for decades—leaving people to question why now. The pundits are, perhaps, missing the real motive. To discover it, you have to dig deep under the surface of the story, below the surface of the earth. I posit: it is all about oil and gas.
On April 10, the Natural News Network posted this: “BLM fracking racket exposed! Armed siege and cattle theft from Bundy ranch really about fracking leases.” It states: “a Natural News investigation has found that BLM is actually in the business of raking in millions of dollars by leasing Nevada lands to energy companies that engage in fracking operations.”
This set off alarms in my head; it didn’t add up. I know that oil-and-gas development and ranching can happily coexist. Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, told me: “The ranching and oil-and-gas communities are the backbone of America. They are the folks who allow the rest of the nation to pursue their hearts’ desire secure in the knowledge that they will have food and energy available in abundant supply. These natural resource users have worked arm-in-arm for nearly a century on the same land. They are constantly developing and employing technologies for ever better outcomes.”
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wouldn’t be enduring the humiliating press it has received, as a result of kicking Bundy off of land his family has ranched for generations and taking away his prior usage rights, just to open up the land for oil-and-gas—the two can both be there.
The Natural News “investigation” includes a map from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology that shows “significant exploratory drilling being conducted in precisely the same area where the Bundy family has been running cattle since the 1870s.” It continues: “What’s also clear is that oil has been found in nearby areas.”
Nevada is not a top-of-mind state when one thinks about oil and gas. Alan Coyner, administrator for the Nevada Division of Minerals, describes his state: “We are not a major oil-producing state. We’re not the Saudi Arabia of the U.S. like we are for gold and geothermal production.” The Las Vegas Review Journal reports: “When it comes to oil, Nevada is largely undiscovered country…. fewer than 1,000 wells have been drilled in the state, and only about 70 are now in production, churning out modest amounts of low-grade petroleum generally used for tar or asphalt. Since an all-time high of 4 million barrels in 1990, oil production in Nevada has plummeted to fewer than 400,000 barrels a year. More oil is pumped from the ground in one day in North Dakota—where the fracking boom has added more than 2,000 new wells in recent years—than Nevada produced in 2012.”
But, Nevada could soon join the ranks of the states that are experiencing an economic boom and job creation due to oil-and-gas development. And, that has got to have the environmental groups, which are hell-bent on stopping it, in panic mode. Until now, their efforts in Nevada have been focused on blocking big solar development.
A year ago, the BLM held an oil-and-gas lease sale in Reno. At the sale, 29 federal land leases, totaling about 56 square miles, were auctioned off, bringing in $1.27 million. One of the winning bidders is Houston-based Noble Energy, which plans to drill as many as 20 exploratory wells and could start drilling by the end of the year. Commenting on its acreage, Susan Cunningham, Noble senior vice president, said: “We’re thrilled with the possibilities of this under-explored petroleum system.”
The parcels made available in April 2013 will be developed using hydraulic fracturing, about which Coyner quipped: “If the Silver State’s first big shale play pays off, it could touch off a fracking rush in Nevada.” Despite the fact that fracking has been done safely and successfully for more than 65 years in America, the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Nevada-based senior scientist, Ron Mrowka, told the Las Vegas Review Journal: “Fracking is not a good thing. We don’t feel there is a safe way to do it.”
The BLM made the leases available after someone, or some company, nominated the parcels, and the process to get them ready for auction can easily take a year or longer. One year before the April 2013, sale, CBD filed a “60-day notice of intent to sue” the BLM for its failure to protect the desert tortoise in the Gold Butte area—where Bundy cattle have grazed for more than a century.
Because agencies like the BLM are often staffed by environmental sympathizers, it is possible that CBD was alerted to the pending potential oil-and-gas boom when the April 2013 parcels were nominated—triggering the notice of intent to sue in an attempt to lock up as much land as possible before the “fracking rush” could begin.
A March 25, 2014 CBD press release—which reportedly served as the impetus for the current showdown—states: “Tortoises suffer while BLM allows trespass cattle to eat for free in Nevada desert.” It points out that the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan purchased and then retired grazing leases to protect the endangered tortoise.
Once Bundy’s cattle are kicked off the land to protect the tortoise, the precedent will be set to use the tortoise to block any oil-and-gas development in the area—after all environmentalists hate cattle only slightly less than they hate oil and gas. Admittedly, the April 13 leases are not in the same area as Bundy’s cattle, however, Gold Butte does have some oil-and-gas exploration that CBD’s actions could nip in the bud. Intellihub reports: “The BLM claims that they are seizing land to preserve it, for environmental protection. However, it is obvious that environmental protection is not their goal if they are selling large areas of land to fracking companies. Although the land that was sold last year is 300 and some miles away from the Bundy ranch, the aggressive tactics that have been used by federal agents in this situation are raising the suspicion that this is another BLM land grab that is destined for a private auction.”
The Natural News Network also sees that the tortoise is being used as a scapegoat: “Anyone who thinks this siege is about reptiles is kidding themselves.” It adds: “‘Endangered tortoises’ is merely the government cover story for confiscating land to turn it over to fracking companies for millions of dollars in energy leases.” The Network sees that it isn’t really about the critters; after all, hundreds of desert tortoises are being euthanized in Nevada.
Though the Intellihub and Natural News Network point to the “current showdown” as being about allowing oil-and-gas development, I believe that removing the cattle is really a Trojan horse. The tortoise protection will be used to block any more leasing.
On April 5, 2014, CBD sent out a triumphant press release announcing that the “long-awaited” roundup of cattle had begun.
What I am presenting is only a theory; I am just connecting some dots. But over-and-over, an endangered or threated species or habitat is used to block all kinds of economic development. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the lesser prairie chicken and the huge effort ($26 million) a variety of industries cooperatively engaged in to keep its habitat from being listed as threatened. The effort failed and the chicken’s habitat was listed. In my column on the topic, I predicted that these listings were likely to trigger another sage brush rebellion that will challenge federal land ownership. The Bundy showdown has brought the controversy front and center.
For now, southern Nevada’s last rancher has won the week-long standoff that has been likened to Tiananmen Square. Reports state that “the BLM said it did so because it feared for the safety of employees and members of the public,” not because it has changed its position.
While this chapter may be closing, it may have opened the next chapter in the sage brush rebellion. The Bundy standoff has pointed out the overreach of federal agencies and the use of threatened or endangered species to block economic activity.
On April 9, the United States Senate failed to move forward The Paycheck Fairness Act for a third time. The Act would change the language of the Equal Pay Act and disallow employers to use “factors other than sex” to deny women fair pay. The GOP voted as bloc against what Democrats called an obvious choice. The conclusion? The Republican Party STILL hates women.
As a Republican woman who allegedly hates myself, I want to highlight the rash and colorful language (spattered with untrue numbers) that the Democratic Party uses to claim they support us, the American women. On Tuesday, the Democratic Party tried to push forward a measure that works against women while the Republican Party supported the liberties and freedoms of the average American woman to choose what she wants out of her job and her life.
The elementary level math the U.S. Census Bureau managed to put together shows that women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by a male. In reality, this number is wrong. Although this ‘fact’ was repeated rather publicly during the State of the Union, The United States Department of Labor highlights its falsities. About 60% of the pay gap can be accounted for through choice of occupation, major in college, hours worked per week, and time off. Instead of a 23 cent difference, we are now dealing with a 5 to 10 cent difference, depending on if a conservative or a liberal counting. To be fair, let’s take an average and say that women make 93 cents to every dollar a man makes. Why didn’t President Obama say this number is his SOTU? Because that would not convince women that the Republican Party hates them.
Although this small pay-gap is closing quickly, let’s say the federal government should do something about it right now. This leads me to why the Paycheck Fairness act is horribly restricting to the liberties and freedoms of businesses and women. The amount of red tape and burden this act puts on businesses is frightening. It opens up employers to endless litigation making them prove they did not discriminate, but that they also caught and accounted for any discrimination that may or may not have occurred at past employers. The bill asks for hiring employers to do the impossible, even though there are already laws in place to ensure women are protected at work.
Now let’s say you could care less about the burden placed on businesses. The law impedes on a woman’s most basic right to choose. Republicans are pro-choice?! In this case, yes. Nearly the entire wage gap is accounted for by personal choices made by women. We might not be explicitly choosing to earn less, but we choose our college majors, our careers, and to work part time. This bill takes away that choice. An employer will be so fearful of hiring a woman who accepts a lower salary from a man (likely due to her own choice to work less hours), that many women will be out of work. The cost and threat of litigation would not make it worth hiring a woman who wants a more flexible life style. Women will be unable to negotiate for themselves and will become the true victims of this Act.
I believe there are large cultural and stereotypical trends that push women to different majors, to stay home with children more, and to suffer the brunt of household work. That’s a problem that needs fixing. However, cutting off a woman’s right to choose the lifestyle and work she wants is not the way to fix grander social problems. We need change, but we do not need the Paycheck Fairness Act. If the federal government insisted on involving itself, then show women why the hard sciences might be the better choice, how to negotiate and increase salaries, and encourage men to share the work leave women usually take.
We are buying into a liberal vernacular that convinces us to be a victim. I refuse to be a victim. In my career I might ask for raises, pursue promotions, and fight for a better job or I might make a personal decision to work part time for my family. Either way, I want the option to choose.
Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, and Rachel Maddow is right to not be happy about it, not one little bit. For once, I completely agree with Maddow’s analysis.
This surprise resignation presents Republicans with an unexpected opportunity to refocus the conversation on Obamacare’s negatives, offers a chance to force vulnerable Senate Democrats to take a hard vote on Obamacare six months before the midterms, and serves to disrupt what had been a positive few days of media spin for the health care law into another conversation about its many failings.
About a month ago, in a conversation with a Senate Democratic aide, the topic of Sebelius – “Auntie K” – came up. The assumption was shared that there was no way Sebelius would be leaving HHS prior to the November midterm elections – indeed, the aide claimed that her position was essentially unassailable given the negative attention her resignation or firing would draw. And besides, any nomination fight, no matter who the nominee is, would quickly become an opportunity for Republican Senators to pile on while Democratic Senators were put in an awkward position. No, the conventional wisdom said Sebelius would stay, at least til November 2014.
So much for the conventional wisdom. Reaching out tonight to the aforementioned aide, and to Republican aides as well, I found unanimous surprise at the step – they learned it from the media, not from trial balloons from the administration. Perhaps this move really was a surprise driven by an attempt on the part of the White House to avoid a Donald Rumsfeld situation, where the embattled Defense Secretary was given a presidential vote of confidence just days prior to the 2006 election, and then had his resignation accepted a week later. Interestingly enough, in Erroll Morris’s The Unknown Known, Rumsfeld himself says he wishes George W. Bush had accepted his resignation two years earlier, in the wake of Abu Ghraib. Perhaps President Obama is learning from his predecessors’ second midterm mistake, or attempting to?
In any case, it appears that this resignation presents Republicans with a golden opportunity to reignite their crusade against Obamacare with Sylvia Burwell’s nomination as a proxy for all the problems with the law.Burwell is a political loyalist and a veteran of the shutdown fight with no record on health care, and will likely be coached to avoid answering questions about specific challenges with implementation at HHS. Senate Republicans actually have an advantage here in the wake of the Nuclear Option’s implementation: they can easily come up with a list of facts they claim the administration has hidden, details kicked aside, statutes ignored, and a host of other challenging questions on accountability over the implementation (and non-implementation) of the law. A list of every question Sebelius has dodged over the past several years would suffice. By demanding answers before the HHS nomination moves forward and refusing to rubber stamp the president’s pick, Republicans could force more vulnerable Democrats to take a vote that ties them both to the Nuclear Option and Obamacare six months before a critical election.
And Democrats know this. Here’s Tom Daschle talking to The Daily Beast:
While the invocation of the “nuclear option” by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last fall means that Burwell’s confirmation would only require 51 votes and not be subject to a filibuster, it doesn’t mean the process will be easy. Senate Republicans will surely use the process to push their message on Obamacare and to get more information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act from the administration. Although Burwell was confirmed to head OMB by a vote of 96-0, Daschle cautioned that he thought she wouldn’t have an “easy ride.” As he noted because Obamacare “is such a contentious issue that will be reflected in the hearings.”
Other factions of the left are out there claiming that this resignation is a good thing – a sign of Sebelius’s huge success with Obamacare – not an acceptance of responsibility for Klendathu. But even if that’s what the White House thinks, Maddow’s frustration, in my view, is a wiser assessment of how this will play, and her description will be absolutely accurate if Republicans are smart enough to seize this opportunity. Maddow herself compared it to a sports team that “stops halfway through their victory lap to fire the coach” – no one thinks that’s the way it works. And given that Sebelius was just days ago committing to staying through November to see the next round of implementation through, only the most severe partisan is going to believe this wasn’t a step taken through the lens of 2014. Even the media frame on this from the New York Times, of all places, is “Sebelius Resigns After Troubles Over Health Site”.
A narrative this obvious writes itself. Anyone not interested in believing the lemon tree was haunted knows thinking otherwise is just pretending to enjoy a cool glass of turnip juice.
[First published at The Federalist.]
Those of us who have chronicled the global warming hoax, now called “climate change”, know that it is based on decades of lies about carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gas” with predictions that the Earth will heat up and cause massive problems unless those emissions are drastically reduced by not using coal, oil and natural gas.
Two American think tanks, The Heartland Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) have been among those exposing those lies for years. The lies have been generated and led by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“Despite the panel’s insistence that the Earth is getting hotter, five different datasets show that there have been no observable warming for 17 and a half years even as carbon dioxide levels have risen 12%,” notes Christopher Monckton, a science advisor to Britain’s former Prime Minister Thatcher. “The discrepancy between prediction and observation continues to grow.”
Recently, two Chinese assistant professors of economics, Fuhai Hong and Xiaojian Zhao, were published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Their paper, “Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements”, openly advocated lying about global warming/climate change in order to get nations to sign on to the International Environmental Agreement.
“It appears that news media and some pro-environmental organizations,” they noted, “have the tendency to accentuate or even exaggerate the damage caused by climate change. This article provides a rationale for this tendency.”
Craig Rucker, CFACT’s Executive Director, responded to the Chinese authors saying “They’re shameless.” Theirs and others ends-justify-the-means tactics reflects the attitudes and actions of environmental organizations and serves as a warning to never accept anything they say on any aspect of this huge hoax.
CFACT’s President and co-founder, David Rothbard, noted that “Global warming skeptics have long charged that alarmists are over-hyping the dangers of climate change.” How long? Back in 1989, the late Stanford University professor, Stephen Schneider, said, “So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ which we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance between being effective and being honest.”
There is no “right balance” between telling lies and telling the truth when it comes to science or any other aspect of our lives. Suffice to say that thousands of scientists who participated in the IPCC reports over the years supported the lies, but many have since left and some have openly denounced the reports.
As the latest IPCC summary of its report has garnered the usual verbatim media coverage of its outlandish predictions, The Heartland Institute has released its own 1,062 page report from the “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) called “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts. An 18-page summery is available at http://climatechangereconsidered.org.
Among its findings:
- Atmospheric carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.
- There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels.
- Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels do not pose a significant threat to aquatic life.- A modest warming of the planet will result in a net reduction of human mortality from temperature-related events.
Based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, the NIPCC report is free of the lies that are found in the IPCC report whose studies have been, at best, dubious, and at worst, deliberately deceptive.In light of the natural cooling cycle the Earth has been in that is good news and it will be even better news when the planet emerges from the cycle that reflects the lower levels of radiation from the Sun.
On March 31, CNS News reported that “The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report estimates it will cost developed nations an additional $100 billion each year to help poorer nations adapt to the devastating effects of ‘unequivocal’ global warming, including food shortages, infrastructure breakdown, and civil violence. But that figure was deleted from the report’s executive summary after industrial nations, including the United States, objected to the high price tag.”
The price tag reveals the IPCC’s real agenda, the transfer of funds from industrial nations to those less developed. It’s about the money and always has been. It’s not global warming the planet needs to survive, it is the costly lies about it.[First published at Warning Signs]
The Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 was designed to promote the growth of the Internet by placing a moratorium on state and local taxation of Internet access and the creation of discriminatory taxes on emails and other data. The moratorium is set to expire in 2014, but two proposals being considered in Congress, the Senate’s Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act and its companion bill in the House, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, would permanently extend the ban on Internet access taxes. Neither of the bills being considered or the moratorium exempts Internet sales from general state sales taxes.
Making the Internet access tax moratorium permanent is a necessary step in promoting wider access to the Internet while keeping the cost down and eliminating discriminatory taxes. As the Internet has become one of the driving forces behind economic growth across the United States, ensuring affordable access for businesses and consumers is crucial. An online petition sponsored by MyWireless.org calling on Congress to permanently ban taxes on Internet access has drawn over 44,000 signatures.
On April 10, the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) Coalition, a group of communications and technology companies, business associations and consumer groups released a letter to Congress calling for legislators to support the current efforts to avoid a tax increase on Internet access. Lawmakers currently have until November 1, 2014, the end of the current moratorium to stop the new tax. Tom Schatz, President of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, a signatory of the letter noted that preserving the Internet moratorium is a rare issue that crosses the aisle. “It is not often that an issue receives bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., but the Internet tax moratorium is a rare area where both liberals and conservatives have found common ground,” said Schatz.
Annabelle Canning, executive director of the ITFA argued in a statement that the goal of mobilizing the Internet economy to promote economic growth would “be better achieved by ensuring all Americans have access to broadband Internet access, free from burdensome state and local taxation. Permanently extending ITFA would allow Americans to reap the benefits provided by broadband Internet access through increased access to job training, education, employment opportunities and government services without excess taxation.”
Supporters of both bills argue that increased Internet access taxes say allowing these taxes could quickly make ISP bills resemble phone bills, with more and more taxes added and more people being unable to afford Internet access. Wireless tax rates have reached all-time highs with almost half the states nationwide now impose a wireless tax above 10 percent, according to the Tax Foundation; the national average is more than 16.3 percent.
In the letter, Steve Pociask, President of The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI) argues Internet access must remain free if the digital economy is going to continue to grow. “While Congress and the President want consumer adoption, investment, deployment and innovation in broadband services, allowing the imposition of onerous taxes would nullify these goals. We need to not tax what we should encourage.”
The twin bills would also prevent state and local governments from imposing multiple taxes on digital goods, such as apps and music, as many governments have begun to do with wireless phone service. Under the moratorium, the digital economy for apps and digital music has boomed, according to the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, the lack of an Internet access tax has “enabled the app economy to create nearly 500,000 jobs, and digital music downloads from the iTunes store alone accounted for over 25 billion songs at this point.”
Internet access taxes place an unnecessary burden on consumers in order to do something the market is already handling quite effectively. Making the Internet access tax moratorium permanent would help broadband access and development expand while reducing the need for government broadband spending.
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President Obama and many of his fellow Democrat politicians think they have identified a terrible injustice in the “gender pay gap.” But with almost no effort, anyone who can access the Internet can go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and find information showing a far greater injustice: the pay gap between young people and older workers.
Obama and company are scandalized that women are paid 77 percent of what men are paid. Yet I have heard them say nothing about BLS numbers showing 16- to 24-year olds are paid only 54 percent of what workers 25 and older are paid.
Sex discrimination in the workplace? Apparently it’s nothing compared to age discrimination in the workplace!
The BLS informs us: “Median weekly earnings were highest for women age 35 to 64 in 2012, with little difference in the earnings of 35- to 44-year-olds ($747), 45- to 54-year-olds ($746), and 55- to 64-year-olds ($766).” Women 16 to 24 years old were paid only $416 a week, according to the BLS.
“Among men,” the BLS tells us, “workers who were age 45 to 64 had the highest earnings, with 45- to 54-year-olds ($994) making about the same as 55- to 64-year-olds ($1,005).” Men 16 to 24 years old were paid only $468 a week, according to the BLS.
Outrageous! And the more we delve into the BLS report, the more discrimination we find! For instance:
“Asian women and men earned more than their White, Black, and Hispanic or Latino counterparts in 2012. Among women, Whites ($710) earned 92 percent as much as Asians ($770), while Blacks ($599) and Hispanics ($521) earned 78 percent and 68 percent as much as Asians, respectively. In comparison, White men ($879) earned 83 percent as much as Asian men ($1,055); Black men ($665) earned 63 percent as much as Asians; and Hispanic men ($592), 56 percent.”
It’s clear as crystal: Employers discriminate against Whites, Blacks and Hispanics of both sexes while favoring Asians of both sexes!
Oh, no. We read a little farther and find this: “Earnings growth has been largest for White women, outpacing that of their Black and Hispanic counterparts. Between 1979 and 2012, inflation-adjusted earnings (also called constant-dollar earnings) rose by 31 percent for White women, compared with an increase of 20 percent for Black women and 13 percent for Hispanic women. In contrast, earnings for White and Black men in 2012 showed little or no change from their 1979 constant-dollar levels, while Hispanic men’s earnings were down by 8 percent after adjusting for inflation. . . . Asians were not included in this analysis because comparable data for the group are not available until 2003.”
So, since 1979, in constant-dollar terms, employers have been discriminating against men, holding down their earnings while giving White, Black and Hispanic women double-digit increases in their earnings!
Oh, and it gets worse!
“At each level of education, women have fared better than men with respect to earnings growth. Although both women and men without a high school diploma have experienced declines in inflation-adjusted earnings since 1979, the drop for women was significantly less than that for men: a 14-percent decrease for women as opposed to a 32-percent decline for men. On an inflation-adjusted basis, earnings for women with a college degree have increased by 28 percent since 1979, while those of male college graduates have risen by 17 percent.”
So employers have gone more than 30 years discriminating against men regardless of education!
I can’t stand to read any further. Paragraph after paragraph of discrimination laid out for us by the government’s own Bureau of Labor Statistics! Read it all yourself, if you have the stomach for it.
President Obama has not been shy about wielding that famous pen of his to right all sorts of workplace wrongs. Recently he has decreed a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour for federal government contractors. On Tuesday he signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation. And he signed a Presidential Memorandum “instructing the Secretary of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race,” according to a White House press release. “The Department of Labor will use the data to encourage compliance with equal pay laws and to target enforcement more effectively by focusing efforts where there are discrepancies and reducing burdens on other employers.”
Equal pay laws? After reading the BLS report, it appears there is no such thing as equal pay. Discrimination is the only possible explanation for all these numbers! The mystery to me is why President Obama and other Democrat leaders have so narrowly focused their attention on the gender pay gap when the BLS has highlighted so many other egregious workplace injustices that scream to be righted.
They’re all actively preparing to enter the over-the-top online video business with their own streaming service or proprietary online programming to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and facilities-based pay-TV providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Dish, AT&T, Verizon, and others.
Why all this new competition now?
Several big recent changes have converged to create a tipping point for new broad scale, over-the-top (OTT) video competition.
The FCC made clear net neutrality does not apply to the Internet backbone market. Broadband providers are fiercely competing to offer plentiful wireless bandwidth for online video streaming. And several companies worth $1.5 trillion collectively have plans to compete as over-the-top online video streamers and programmers. Competition in this space is clearly intensifying.
First, in just the last three months, the U.S. regulatory environment has turned around 180 degrees in terms of facilitating market negotiations, economics and competition in the Internet backbone market. The removal of regulatory uncertainty has jumpstarted market negotiations between ISPs and multiple new competitive entrants seeking necessary quality of services guarantees for their planned OTT offerings.
Specifically, the D.C. Court of Appeals in its January Verizon v. FCC decision outlawed the FCC from regulating unregulated broadband ISPs as regulated common carriers. That means part of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet order that implicitly set a zero price for downstream Internet backbone traffic (i.e. video streaming) was illegal.
Since then the FCC has decided to not appeal, and hence live with that ruling as law. In addition, FCC Chairman Wheeler and the agency at large have publicly affirmed the FCC would not include new Internet backbone regulation in the FCC’s redo of the partially overturned Open Internet order.
Competitively this is a big deal. The FCC’s old net neutrality rules fostered huge uneconomic arbitrage, where perversely the biggest corporate users of Internet bandwidth contributed the least to the infrastructure upgrade costs necessary to keep pace with exploding bandwidth consumption.
Now market forces can naturally balance costs with prices. And importantly new OTT entrants can negotiate the specialized quality assurance guarantees necessary for a viable competitive offering. That’s why Netflix and Comcast recently completed a multi-year, Internet backbone interconnection deal.
This is a big deal for growth as well. This change enables the creation of an entirely new business-to-business marketplace of specialized services to meet the various and different needs for specialized speed, capacity and quality for OTT video, telemedicine, industrial operations, connected cars, and the Internet of things.
Second, in just the last year, broadband competition has spurred a game-changing amount of new Internet infrastructure investment that has created a competitive tipping point for new OTT video and other specialized services.
America now leads the world in wireless 4G-LTE infrastructure investment. This means by year’s end, America’s four national wireless broadband ISPs will be offering speeds capable of supporting new OTT video streaming services, nearly ubiquitously. And Dish has aggregated enough spectrum nationally to offer a fifth ubiquitous, MVNO wireless broadband service to enable OTT video services.
On top of that world-leading LTE investment, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and the rest of the cable industry have been furiously adding more free WiFi hotspots to provide mobility to their wire line customers. Furthermore the FCC just freed-up another 100 MHz of unlicensed spectrum for WiFi to enable even more capacity for mobile video streaming.
The advent of broad scale mobile OTT competition should be of no surprise. This is just a continuation of the long back-and-forth competition between wireless and wire line infrastructures. In the 1980s cable TV largely replaced free broadcast TV. In the 1990s and the aughts Direct Broadcast Satellite took a third of cable share.
And now America’s wireless broadband infrastructure has reached the tipping point of increasingly delivering the video streaming throughputs necessary to enable mobile OTT video competition.
Third, new competitive entrants grasp the new competitive opportunity created by the more growth-friendly regulatory environment and the higher-bandwidth wireless infrastructure.
News reports indicate that at least six new OTT video competitors worth over $1.5 trillion – Amazon, Verizon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – are all individually readying new competitive assaults.
If it was only one or two companies planning this new big effort, one could be skeptical that a tipping point had been reached. But when at least six companies of this size are targeting the same opportunity at the same time in very similar ways, something big is afoot.
The broadband and pay-TV businesses are facing a tipping point of new game-changing OTT competition, because three necessary competitive prerequisites have been met.
The court/FCC removed a big regulatory overhang from the business-to-business Internet backbone space, opening up a whole new growth marketplace for mass specialized services in need of special quality of service guarantees. This in turn opens up new economic arrangements like AT&T’s Sponsored Data offering where businesses can pay for their consumers’ bandwidth usage to attract customers.
Competitive forces have goaded multiple ISPs to invest big in upgrading infrastructure to enable mass mobile OTT services.
Several companies that already serve most Americans, and that have among the deepest pockets of any businesses in America, are hungrily eying the OTT marketplace for growth and expansion.
This is more than just a competitive tipping point – it’s a perfect storm of pro-competition developments.
[Originally published at Daily Caller]