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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Heartland Weekly – Heartland President Joseph Bast – Why Our Library Is So Valuable

June 24, 2016, 4:22 PM

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.

Reasons to Oppose a Carbon Tax H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an anti-carbon-tax resolution – expressing concerns that a tax on carbon, applied to 85 percent of our nation’s energy, would be detrimental to the economy. Reports by the Congressional Budget Office and the National Association of Manufacturers reveals a carbon tax could eliminate 21 million jobs over the next 40 years. Additionally, CBO notes the tax would be highly regressive, harming the poorest American households the most. READ MORE

David Shestokas Comes to Heartland to Discuss the Constitution In the age of short tweets and even shorter attention spans, stressing the importance of preserving our Constitution often falls on deaf ears. On Wednesday, author and attorney David Shestokas came to The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center to talk about “Constitutional Soundbites,” his multi-media effort to engender respect and love for the Constitution in the twenty-first century. If you missed the live-stream, you can watch the presentation at Heartland’s YouTube page. READ MORE

Heartland President Joseph Bast Explains the Value of Great Books Jane Shaw, National Review Conservative scholar and former Philadelphia Society trustee Jane S. Shaw is impressed by Heartland President Joseph Bast’s description of our new Michael Parry Mazur Library and the enduring importance of books. In a post atNational Review Online, she writes: “Bast observed that the Internet can be manipulated by ‘governments and their allies.’ George Orwell warned in 1949 that ‘totalitarian regimes could exercise control over their citizens by making news of past events and articles about forbidden ideas disappear ‘down the memory hole.’” READ MORE

Featured Podcast: U.S. Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL) on Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Recent government audits reveal IRS has refused to take steps to protect taxpayer data from hackers – which comes on top of the agency’s propensity to abuse its powers to threaten and intimidate conservative organizations. U.S. Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL) joins The Heartland Daily Podcast to talk about the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act. Roskam explains how his bill guards against the abuse of government power and the threat of data breaches, by acknowledging that collecting the identities of donors to private organizations does not promote IRS’ primary function of revenue collection.  LISTEN TO MORE

Heartland Library Book Shelf of the Week – Law
For more, follow Heartland on Twitter @HeartlandInst

Coming Next Week: A Discussion on Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) On Wednesday, June 29, food policy and agriculture writer Julie Kelly will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to discuss how GMOs have helped feed a growing world population and protect the environment. OnThursday, July 7, Cedrick Keith will be here to talk about his 4,000-plus-mile walk through the wilds of the East to help preserve the eastern brook trout. We hope to see you here in Arlington Heights, but if you are unable to attend in person, the events will be live-streamed and archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

Playing Both ‘Cops and Robbers’ on Asset Forfeiture Jesse Hathaway, Orange County Register  A new digital system unveiled by Oklahoma government police is just the latest example of civil asset forfeiture laws encouraging cops to become the robbers they’re supposed to be catching. ERADs, or Electronic Recovery and Access to Data systems, allow highway patrolmen to use asset forfeiture laws to seize individuals’ assets stored in bank accounts or on prepaid debit cards at the press of a button. No conviction required. This outrageous and corrupt violation of our civil liberties by government law enforcement agencies needs to stop now. READ MORE

Education Reform: One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All Robert Holland, American Spectator Education reformers on the right are too often fighting with each other about what they insist are the best paths. Some even lament that the fight against Common Core is a “distraction.” This is not helpful. We must be open to all ideas that can achieve one vital goal: Empowering parents and students and breaking the monopoly of the government school system that is failing on nearly every level. READ MORE

Massachusetts Considers Imposing Statewide Single-Payer Health Care System Ben Johnson, The Heartlander  Learning nothing from the failed single-payer health care system proposed in Vermont, Massachusetts lawmakers are considering two bills that would institute a statewide universal health care system. Opponents of the proposition are already trying to warn citizens of the consequences of such a program – saying it would drive up health care costs, raise taxes, and reduce quality and access to health care. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep43): Rhode Island Center, Natural Gas, and Unconditional Basic Income John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks across the country in Episode #43 of the In The Tank Podcast. Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, joins the show to talk about their work on The Jobs and Opportunity Index – an alternative economic measure to the unemployment rate. We also talk about the possibility of an unconditional basic income (UBI), or reverse income tax – a plan that was once endorsed by economist Milton Friedman. UBI would grant to poor citizens a yearly stipend that would replace the complicated maze of welfare bureaucracies we have today.  LISTEN HERE

Here’s What The New York Times Completely Missed In Its Criticism of Fracking Isaac Orr, Independent Journal Review   Heartland Research Fellow Isaac Orr, “The Fracking Guy,” corrects a series of errors he says appears in a recent article in The New York Times titled “The Sand Mines That Ruin Farmland.” Orr writes, “Having grown up on the same farm where my grandfather was born in 1930, nothing makes my heart sink faster than seeing quality farmland disappear. It’s important, however, to understand the reality of the situation: Frac sand, oil, and natural gas must be harvested to meet the needs of our society, and these needs are being met in an environmentally responsible way.”  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 gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep44): The Brexit, Failing State Pensions, Bad Clean Power Plan Math, and School Funding

June 24, 2016, 3:50 PM

John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks in episode #44 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 Institute of Economic Affairs, the Empire Center for Public Policy, the Manhattan Institute, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Featured Work of the Week

With news breaking about the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and stock markets responding negatively Donny and John thought it necessary to feature work from the UK’s premiere free-market think tank – the Institute of Economic Affairs. In a press release, and report titled “Making the Pieces Fit: Reforming Britain’s relationship with the EU,” the IEA explains that the move grants great opportunity for the UK. Donny and John discuss the potential benefits and costs of the move.

In the World of Think Tankery

In this week’s “think tankery” segment, Donny and John talk about public pensions. The Empire Center for Public Policy published a paper illustrating the increasingly desperate pension situation in the state of New York. This, as well as additional papers from different states, reveals how dire the pension situation really is. According to one expert, featured on a recent edition of The Heartland Daily podcast, estimates that 1 in 6 government pension systems will fail even while incorporating optimistic outlooks.

The next item discussed in this episode comes from the Manhattan Institute in the form of a policy study titled “Missing Benefits, Hidden Costs: The Cloudy Numbers in the EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan.” This comprehensive report dissects the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis about the Clean Power Plan, exposing the flaws in the “study,” revealing wishful thinking of CPP advocates. The report explains how the costs of the plan will be much larger than stated, and the benefits will be much smaller than suggested.

The last item comes from the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The policy brief titled “How Education Choice Affects State and District Budgets,” helps explain why expanding school choice won’t necessarily divert education money away from the public school system.

Events 

I hope you’ll listen in, subscribe, and leave a review for our podcast on iTunes. We welcome your feedback in our new show’s inbox at InTheTankPodcast@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

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

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Categories: On the Blog

Donald Trump Bankrupts American Politics

June 24, 2016, 3:10 PM

Commentators from the political “left” as well as the “right” have attempted to analyze and dissect the rise and appeal of Donald Trump. The reality is, I would suggest, is that he represents the essence of the modern interventionist state, with its regulated economy and redistributive politics.

Those on the “left” see Trump as the epitome of an undercurrent of American racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. Trump represents an appeal to those voters, they believe, who are fearful of foreigners, and who are sexual traditionalists and prudes, as well as subjugators of women and discriminators against those of African or Hispanic descent. And there are, no doubt, some in American society who may wish to practice such prejudices.

For “progressives” and modern American liberals, Trump also depicts their conception of the worst of what they consider to be capitalist society. The brash, arrogant, greedy businessman, who will use any and all means to “make the deal” that gets him ahead, regardless of the honesty, ethics, or legality of how he gets to the top of wealth and power. The media and the movie industry regularly present an imagery of such people as being around nearly every corner.

Trump an Embarrassing Reflection of Some GOP Policies

On the political “right,” on the other hand, Trump is the huckster conman who is not “really” a conservative, who has high-jacked the Republican label to foster a “cult of personality” by playing to a variety of populist emotions and themes among a segment of Republican voters. His promise to build a wall on the Mexican border, to preserve essential programs of the redistributive “social safety net,” to keep out of America all people practicing a particular religious faith, while cutting taxes, building up the military, as well as badgering American businesses to stay in or return to the U.S., seem like a bad dream to mainstream Republican moderates and conservatives, who see their election future going down the drain.

What is disconcerting for Republican Party conservatives is that there is little in the Trump message that has not been part and parcel of their own rhetoric for many years. They have been promising to stem the tide of illegal immigrants along the Mexican border; they have called for reining in entitlement programs while not calling for the repeal of Social Security or Medicare; they, too, have wanted to beef up the American military, while proposing tax cuts; and they have expressed concerns about the arrival of Muslim refugees and others who may bring terrorism to the U.S.

Trump has articulated these conservative political messages and taken them to some of their logical and distasteful conclusions, but has wrapped them in a speaking style and personality type that exaggerates the embarrassment of seeing some of their own policy perspectives reflected back at them through the Trump mirror.

For the political left, Donald Trump reinforces and confirms every belief and prejudice they have held about American conservatism, businessmen, and capitalism as bankrupt, corrupt and evil. For the political right, Trump represents some twisted and distorted view of the conservative vision that is not what they “really meant” or wanted the voting public to believe about them.

But, in fact, Donald Trump as a personality and policy proposer captures the essence of what both modern American liberals and conservatives have been selling to the American citizenry for decades.

Progressives Laid the Groundwork for Trump

For more than a century, now, modern American liberals have insisted that political traditions and constitutional restraints should not stand in the way or bar the door to “progressive” legislation meant to implement a centralizing governmental paternalism of regulation and redistribution in the hands of those knowing what is “right” and “good” for the people of the United States.

Strong presidential leaders with “enlightened” ideas, whether this be Franklin Roosevelt unconstitutionally edging America into war in the early 1940s or Barack Obama using executive orders and federal government arm-twisting to bend state and local governments to adhere to the latest trends and demands of “political correctness” and the special interest groups covered by and under it, must move the country in that direction where “the best and the brightest” know it should go in the name of “good causes.”

Why should they be surprised by a presidential candidate who says he will simply order the military to use torture methods against those considered to be the “enemy” in a war against terrorism? Or implement his own executive orders to impose his will on the country, again, for its own good?

At the same time, has it not been the modern American liberals and progressives who have insisted that an individual’s identity is linked to his or her national or ethic or religious origin? Have they not undermined the traditional American ideal of looking at people as individuals and not inescapable members of tribal groups or cultural collectives? Has not the political left insisted on using government to bestow favors and privilege as well as penalties, based on people’s tribal and collective classification by the government?

Why should they be surprised when a presidential candidate say, yes, we must look at various collective groups as friends or foes, to be let into the country or to be kept out, merely because of their identification as belonging to a particular religious following?

Has it not been American liberals and progressives who have insisted that the actions and intentions of private enterprise should always be looked at with suspicion, and must be regulated and controlled for a greater national good and social welfare?

Why should they be surprised when a candidate comes along and says that where an American enterprise does business is in the “national interest,” and such businesses that try to set up their factories in foreign countries will be compelled to come back or to stay in the U.S.A? Have not the progressives and Democratic Party politicians been among the vocal opponents of “corporative inversions” and moving “American” jobs to other countries?

Trump has merely taken these ideas and policies prescriptions and packed them in “reality show” rhetoric and hype that panders to the lowest common denominator of tribal anger, envy and entitlement. Then those on the “left” are shocked, confused and fearful when they see how these ideas and policy proposals gain traction with seemingly large segments of the U.S. population.

Trumps Unprincipled Deal-Making and American Politics

Furthermore, Trump hails the fact that he has learned the “art of the deal” partly from working with many in the Democratic Party who are now determined to prevent his ascendency to the White House. Yet, they, with many of their Republican Party colleagues, have insisted that there are no invariant principles or restraints on what and for whom government may do things.

Politicians buy votes in exchange for favors, privileges, subsidies, anti-competitive regulations and welfare-statist redistributions of wealth that are given to those who supply the campaign contributions and the votes on election day. Many of Trump’s personal business ventures and successes have been made possible with the active and willing participation of those in or desiring political office at the expense of other citizens whose rights to their income and property have been ignored and violated.

They have made and operate the political system that crony capitalists like Donald Trump have mastered the use of for their own benefit. Why should they be surprised when one of their partners in crony capitalism declares that now when he is running for office he will be as unprincipled and unscrupulous if he becomes president as when he has been their business partner in fleecing parts of the American public?

GOP Hypocrisy and Voter Populism

What about the Republicans? The party establishment was afraid that Trump might run as an independent or third party candidate and steal their chance to regain the White House. So they persuaded him to make the pledge that if he did not win the Republican nomination for the presidency, he would not run as a third alternative, confident that Trump had no chance to gain the required convention delegates.

So they got what they wished for. Trump ran as a Republican candidate and is not a third-party threat. Only he has seemingly won the minimum number of delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot. The ruminations as to why Republican voters turned to Donald Trump in sufficient numbers to hand him the needed delegate votes have been unending. But, two reasons stand out most, in my opinion.

First, many conservatives and mainstream Republicans have become disgusted with and contemptuous of the party establishment. For all of their lifetime, the Republican Party has wrapped itself in the rhetoric of individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited government. Republican candidates were elected and reelected on the basis of the promise that a change would in the country’s direction toward more freedom and less political paternalism.

And . . . nothing changed, other than in the direction of more and bigger government, and very often with the Republicans in Congress or in the White House supporting or even initiating the expansion of more regulation, redistribution, and increased intrusion into people’s private lives and social interactions.

However much Donald Trump may not represent the ideas or ideals of individual liberty, free markets, or constitutionally limited government, he has seemed to some as someone who unabashedly says the emperor has no cloths; that all of Washington, D.C. – Republicans and Democrats – are corrupt, compromised, and contemptible, only wanting to gain and retain political power with no regard for the voters who place them in office.

Second, there is an element in the conservative movement that is thuggish in their expectation that government should protect their jobs from foreign competition; secure their own favored entitlement programs while wanting push back on entitlement programs for others they view as not as deserving for a variety of unattractive reasons best left unmentioned; and who want a “strong leader” to set things right, even if it means ignoring the rule of law and a constitution that they have implicitly concluded has lost its value and legitimacy after decades of being undermined, anyway, by the progressive left for its own purposes.

Trump as an End Product of Corrupted Politics

Donald Trump is, in a sense, the end product of the abandonment and betrayal of the American idea and ideal of individual rights, private property, free markets, impartial rule of law, and constitutionally limited and restrained government.

Unprincipled, manipulative, power lusting, and ruthless in his pursuit of his own gain, with no respect for or recognition of the rights of others, is the imagery of Donald Trump in many people’s minds. But in what way are those not the distinguishing characteristics of the entire political system of government at all levels – federal, state and local?

Whether in the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C., or in the legislatures of the fifty states, politics is nothing more than the pragmatic and expedient “art of the deal,” of selling favors and buying votes; the technique of forming coalitions of special interest groups that will get one politician elected and reelected, rather than a candidate of the competing political party.

Do voters and citizens feel taken advantage of, traded away in terms of tax dollars transferred and redistributed from them to others with more pull and influence? Yes. Many understand that they are treated like suckers promised one thing before an election and screwed over once the election is over and the next session of the Congress or the legislature is in session.

Tired of getting the short end of the stick, they have looked for a champion who says he knows how the system works better than most because he has been in it for decades. He has bought politicians, used them for his own financial gain at the expense of other citizens, and even made some of those politicians come and dance at his children’s weddings.

However, Trump does not promise to end the pandering, plunder and pull. No, he says to those who find him appealing: Elect me president and I will use the same mechanisms and devices of government power to benefit you in place of the “fat cats” in both the Democratic and Republican parties who have made you pay for all their past and present political privileges and benefits.

Trump the Progressive’s Ideas Turned into Their Nightmare

The Democrats stand aghast and horrified at Trump’s rhetoric and policy promises. But they created the intellectual environment and institutional setting in which a Donald Trump could rise to the surface of the political landscape.

They are the one’s who have insisted that the notion of individual rights to life, liberty and property were out of date; that the constitution has to be a “living document” reflecting the changing times and the needs of collective groups defined by race, ethnicity and gender. They argued that a more centralized government had to replace old-fashioned federalism with a strong executive who has wide power to do good things, “socially just” things for selected and favored groups in society.

So here comes along Donald Trump who says: Yes, we must discard looking at people as individuals with rights that government must respect. Instead, we must look at and judge all people from Mexico who may want to come to the United States as murders, rapists, and drug dealers. We must think about and suspect every individual from the Middle East who may practice the Muslim faith as a terrorist and impose a blanket, collective judgment that all of them must be kept out of the United States, since anyone of them might be a potential and plotting mass murderer.

The progressives said that group identity and characteristics were to be a leading classificatory benchmark for evaluating applicability for benefits from the government, and imposed privileged or unprivileged status within the United States. Trump is doing exactly that, but to the progressive’s horror his classifications and judgments for benefit or penalty is radically different than their “politically correct” categories and normative estimations. Yet, they are the ones that have molded and imposed the political template of collective “rights” and status that Trump is using and arranging, but in a different design and arrangement from the one’s the progressives want to impose on American society.

Even Trump’s bulling rhetoric that he will use all executive authority at his disposal as president to get what he wants that frightens those on the political left is merely the crude and guttural formulation, the “impolite” version of their own use of federal government taxing and regulatory power to arm-twist state and local governments to bend to Washington’s will, invariably at the expense not only of state and local government decision-making but at the cost of further lost rights and freedom of action by the citizens in those jurisdictions.

Donald Trump is the dark side of the America that the modern American liberals and the progressive left have made the United States into, and which far too many conservatives and Republicans have been willing to play along with because it offered them, too, power, privilege and plunder potential for their own corrupted purposes.

Having concluded that “big government” was here to stay and political suicide to attempt to reverse, the Republican establishment decided that the best course of action was to continue to peddle the same pro-freedom campaign rhetoric before elections, but play the same interventionist and redistributive games as the Democrats in the everyday affairs of Washington politics.

And so, the Democrats and the Republicans, the progressives on the “left” and the go-along to get-along conservatives on the “right, are the ones who made Donald Trump, the presidential candidate who may end up in the White House in January 2017. He is one of the practical and perverse results of the American interventionist-welfare state. The Democrats and Republicans have no one to blame but themselves.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

There’s Already A Process For Bad Patents, So Let’s Not Destroy All Patents

June 24, 2016, 2:59 PM

There are some people who simply, bizarrely do not like intellectual property.

Some are full-blown Leftists – who do not like private property at all. (But don’t you dare try to take for the Collective the smart phone on which they’re Tweeting their disdain for private property.)

Others are to varying degrees small “L” libertarian. Who somehow bizarrely delineate between physical property (which they’ll protect) and intellectual property (which they won’t). Who would have arrested a thief leaving Tower Records with an armful of CDs – but who is even as I type downloading-without-paying that exact same music.

We are in the 21st Century surrounded by and immersed in the wonderments of a (dwindling-ly, less-and-less) free market economy – largely made possible by the protection of intellectual property. Without it – we would be literally nowhere.

Were Steve Jobs unable to legally safeguard his magic iPhone, not only would there not currently be Iteration 6S – there would never have been an Iteration 1. Because Jobs wasn’t an idiot.

Jobs would not have wasted his time and tens of millions of dollars creating the iPhone – if someone could immediately thereafter steal it. Were Jobs a baker, he would never have baked cakes if people could just walk into his kitchen and take them the moment he’d finished frosting.

This isn’t some metaphysical economic concept – this is common sense.

You know who else liked intellectual property? The Founding Fathers. They liked it so much they ensconced its protection in the Constitution:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

So if you want to treat intellectual property as less than – you’d better gear up to amend our founding document.

You know who else liked intellectual property?Abraham Lincoln:

Lincoln called the introduction of patent laws one of the three most important developments “in the world’s history,” along with the discovery of America and the perfection of printing.

I’m very comfortable siding with Abe and the Founders (prospective band name) – rather than the intellectually-addled urchins of Occupy Wall Street.

We actually have had in recent years a government-caused patent problem. (The original sin is nigh always government’s.) The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) went through a several-years phase of – in Pez-dispenser-fashion – over-approving patents.

So Congress created a patent-review process – which undoes patents that the government never should have issued. Which the Supreme Court justunanimously upheld:

The justices were unanimous in backing the legal standard used to cancel patents by a new appeals board at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Congress created the board in 2011 over concerns federal officials were issuing too many patents and fueling the rise of patent trolls….

Ah yes – the much bemoaned “patent troll.” Which the anti-property people bizarrely, incorrectly define as anyone with a patent who isn’t actively manufacturing the thing patented. In actuality, a “patent troll” is anyone who owns a patent – which someone else is using without remuneration. Which is by any reasonable definition – stealing.

If someone is suing on a patent that the government never should have issued – which “fueled the rise of patent trolls” – there’s already in place a Supreme-Court-unanimously-backed way to deal with it.

Doing anything broader – threatens the entire patent system. Which is miserably bad. Congress’ Innovation Act (House) and PATENT Act (Senate) – are just this miserably bad. And worse.

The way anyone with a patent that is being stolen addresses the thief – is by filing a lawsuit. The Innovation and PATENT Acts make doing this exponentially more difficult.

Government isn’t a precision instrument. It doesn’t wield scalpels – it slams with hammers.

These bills do not carefully delineate between “trolls” – and legitimate people with legitimate patents filing legitimate lawsuits. They slam the entire system – with a whole array of new barriers to patent protection. Which is miserably bad.

If someone is suing based on a patent that shouldn’t exist – there’s already in place a way to address that. That leaves the legitimate patents – which must be protected. The government must absolutely not do anything to lessen these protections.

The Innovation and PATENT Acts dramatically lessen these protections.

So they should never, ever become law.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Green Energy Plans Kill Jobs, Hurt Consumers, and Cost Taxpayers

June 24, 2016, 2:51 PM

Proponents of green energy like to point out how the costs have come down—and they have. Though renewable energy, such as wind and solar, are not expected to equal fossil fuel costs anytime in the near future and recent growth has been propped up by mandates and tax incentives. But there are other, subtler aspects of the Obama Administration’s efforts that have had negative impacts that are not felt for years after the policies are implemented. By then, it will be too late to do much about them.

We know that the push toward renewables has hurt the coal industry. As Hillary Clinton gleefully exclaimed: “we’re going to put a whole lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” We are already seeing this happen all over the country. Dozens of coal mining companies have gone bankrupt since President Obama took office and those that are still functioning are doing so with far fewer workers.

One such mine is in the Four Corners region of New Mexico—the San Juan Mine—which is one of the largest underground coal mines in the world. It has been a “top employer” in the region. Westmoreland Coal Company purchased the mine from BHP Billiton, with the sale completed on February 1, 2016. At the time, the mine employed more than 400 people. Shortly thereafter, 11 salaried staff lost their jobs and on June 16, another 85 workers—both salaried and hourly—were laid off. Which, according to the Albuquerque Journal, were “necessary because the San Juan Generating Station, which uses all the mine’s coal, plans to retire two of its four units as part of a negotiated agreement among plant operator Public Service Company of New Mexico [PNM], the Environmental Protection Agency, the Navajo Nation, and the state of New Mexico.”

The “agreement” to shut down half the power plant—thereby cutting the immediate need for coal—is the result of the EPA’s 2011 Regional Haze Program that, according to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “seeks to remedy visibility impairment at federal National Parks and Wilderness Areas.” This, the report states, “is an aesthetic regulation, and not a public health standard”—though the results will be undetectable to the human eye. For this, nearly a quarter of the mine’s workforce has been terminated.

The Albuquerque Journal cites Westmoreland’s executive vice president, Joe Micheletti, as being unwilling to “comment on whether he expected to see more layoffs in the coming months.” It also states that PNM has promised “not to lay off any employees at the stations as a result of the unit closures”—though through attrition employment is down 20 percent from two years ago.

The reality is, anti-fossil fuel groups like the Sierra Club, wanted the entire plant shut down. In 2018, PNM will have to plead their case before the Public Regulatory Commission to keep the San Juan Generating Station functioning past 2022. PNM is currently considering a plan for meeting its needs for electricity without it. If the plant closes, all jobs, approximately 800, at both the mine and the generating station will be gone—greatly impacting the local economy.

Obama’s far-reaching green energy policies are insidious—hurting consumers in ways we don’t even think of. On June 10, Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), gave testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Power. He addressed the nearly 40-year old Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA)—which, he said, “has not been updated to reflect new technologies and economic realities” and “has been misapplied by the Department of Energy [DOE].” The Obama Administration has run amuck in its application of EPCA—issuing regulation after regulation. Yurek backs this up by pointing out the difference in the Clinton and Obama administrations: “While the Clinton Administration’s DOE issued just six major efficiency rules during his eight years in office, the Obama Administration’s DOE issued eight major efficiency rules in 2014 alone—a record according to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. And DOE’s Unified Agenda indicate that between 2015 and the end of the administration, 11 additional major efficiency rules can be expected to be issued.”

These rules, Yurek explained, “use unrealistic assumptions” to create “higher efficiency levels than are economically justified for consumers.” He encourages Congress to force the DOE to “consider the real-world cumulative impact of product efficiency standards among agencies businesses, and consumers” and suggests that “as DOE promulgates rules according to an accelerated regulatory schedule, necessary constructive dialogue falls by the wayside.”

Yurek summarizes: “An endless cycle of efficiency rulemakings continues to have an adverse impact on our global competitiveness and the American jobs we create.” This practice hurts consumers as “When new products and equipment cost more than consumers can afford, they find alternatives, some of which compromise their comfort and safety, while saving less energy or none at all or in some cases using more energy.”

In the name of energy efficiency, on December 6, 2013, Obama issued a memorandum ordering federal buildings to triple renewable energy use. He declared: “Today I am establishing new goals for renewable energy as well as new energy-management practices.” Now, more than three years later, we get a taste of what his federal building initiative is costing taxpayers.

On June 16, 2016, the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) Office of Inspector General released a report—precipitated by an anonymous hotline complaint—on the 53 percent cost escalation at Fannie Mae’s extravagant new downtown DC building. As a result of the financial crisis, mortgage giant Fannie Mae received a bailout of $116.1 billion in taxpayer funds and FHFA now serves as the conservator over Fannie Mae. The Inspector General found that no one in the FHFA Division of Conservatorship “was aware of the 53% increase in the estimated build-out costs for Fannie Mae’s new office space.”

“Because Fannie Mae is an entity in the conservatorship of the U.S. government,” the report states: “FHFA, as conservator, will need to assess the anticipated efficiencies of specific proposed features against estimated costs of those features and determine whether the efficiencies warrant the costs.” The watchdog report found the ballooning costs created “significant financial and reputational risks.”

Addressing the excessive cost, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), chairman of the House subcommittee with oversight over Fannie Mae, said: “Like a child with a credit card in a toy store, the bureaucrats at Fannie Mae just couldn’t help themselves. After being forced to bail out the GSE’s [Government-Sponsored Enterprises] to the tune of nearly $200 billion [which includes Freddie Mac], American taxpayers now get the news that they are underwriting lavish spending at Fannie Mae’s new downtown Washington, D.C. headquarters. So while Americans around the country are living paycheck to paycheck, Washington insiders are blowing through budgets by designing glass enclosed bridges and rooftop decks.”

In response to the call for “immediate, sustained comprehensive oversight from FHFA,” Melvin L. Watt, FHFA director, defended himself. In the face of the Inspector General’s caustic criticism, he claimed that many of the upfront investments would save money over time. Watt’s memorandum only offers two such examples and one is more efficient lighting. He claims: “upfitting space with more expensive LED lighting instead of less expensive fluorescent lighting would result in significantly cheaper operating costs.” The other example he provided was window shades.

These are just three recent examples of Obama Administration policies that were put in place years before the resulting job losses and costs to consumers and taxpayers are felt. Gratefully, for now, the Supreme Court put a stay on one of his most intrusive and expensive programs—the Clean Power Plan. But there are plenty of little rulemakings, programs, and memorandums that will still be impacting jobs and increasing costs long after he is out of office.

Categories: On the Blog

Shocker: The Media As One Cheerlead Another Government Power Grab

June 24, 2016, 2:27 PM

The American media cabal is…ridiculous. They are the Borg of politics – many entities, but of but one Leftist mind.

Led around by their noses by whatever hack government-growing politician is before them at that moment.

Remember this?

Obama Administration Admits They Lied About Iran Deal, ‘Ventriloquized’ The Media

The (New York) Times reports that (White House National Security Advisor Ben) Rhodes and his lackeys have “become adept at ventriloquizing many (media) people at once”:

The easiest way for the White House to shape the news, he explained, is from the briefing podiums, each of which has its own dedicated press corp
s.
“But then there are sort of these force multipliers,” he said, adding, “We have our compadres, I will reach out to a couple people, and you know I wouldn’t want to name them—”

“I can name them,” I said, ticking off a few names of prominent Washington reporters and columnists who often tweet in sync with White House messaging.

Price laughed. “I’ll say, ‘Hey, look, some people are spinning this narrative that this is a sign of American weakness,’ ” he continued, “but — ”

“In fact it’s a sign of strength!” I said, chuckling.

“And I’ll give them some color,” Price continued, “and the next thing I know, lots of these guys are in the dot-com publishing space, and have huge Twitter followings, and they’ll be putting this message out on their own.”….

Says Rhodes, “We created an echo chamber.”…

(T)he Obama administration lied, lied repeatedly, activated shills like Jeffrey Goldberg to market their lies, and watched as the media parroted those lies incessantly.

“Does the media have any questions?”

So when the Obama Administration executes a ridiculous Internet power grab, and the D.C. Circuit Court ridiculously rules that said power grab is lawful – can we expect this media to respond in any fashion but…ridiculously?

With the same echo chamber, monolithic sameness we’ve seen on the awful Iran deal – and nine million other Leftists inanities? Of course not.

US Appeals Court Upholds Government’s ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules to Ensure Consumers Get Equal Access to Internet (ABC News-Associated Press)

Court Upholds Net Neutrality Rules on Equal Internet Access (CBS News)

U.S. Court Backs Landmark Obama Internet Equal-Access Rules (Reuters)

Court Upholds Net Neutrality Rules on Equal Internet Access (Denver Post)

Court Upholds ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules for Equal Internet Access (Chicago Tribune)

Net Neutrality Rules Guaranteeing An ‘Open Internet’ Finally Prevail In Court (Forbes)

A Win for ‘Net Neutrality’ (The Atlantic): “The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the government’s rules, which ensure consumers get equal access to internet.”

FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules Win Big in Appeals Court (CNet): “The Federal Communications Commission has won a major victory in its decade-long battle to keep the internet open.”

‘Net Neutrality’ Rules for Fair Internet Access Win in Court (Charleston Post & Courier-Associated Press)

Not mentioned by the media? From the Internet’s mid-1990s inception until February 2015, there were zero government regulations mandating “consumers get equal access” to “keep the Internet open.” Yet consumers all received equal access – and the Internet has been perpetually, beautifully wide-open.

Proving: 1) The government power grab was completely unnecessary, because 2) The free market works. And 3) This isn’t about “equal access” or an “open Internet” – it is about a vast expansion of government power.

Court Upholds Obama-Backed Net Neutrality Rules (Politico): “A federal appeals court Tuesday upheld a White House-supported effort to make internet service providers treat all web traffic equally, delivering a major defeat to cable and telephone companies.”

Cable and Telecom Companies Just Lost a Huge Court Battle on Net Neutrality (Washington Post)

Why Federal Net Neutrality Ruling is Huge Loss for Cable, Telecom Companies (Denver Post)

Not mentioned by the media? Past examples of government winning over private companies – and the results being exceptionally awful for our nation and the people in it.

ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank and myriad other government-expanding laws were touted as wins for us by government over the greedy, awful private sector. And what they accomplished – was making things exponentially more awful.

Because when government wins – we lose.

Net Neutrality Ruling is a Win for Consumers (San Francisco Chronicle Editors)

Right. So were ObamaCare, and Dodd-Frank, and….

D.C. Court Upholds FCC’s Net-Neutrality Rules (MarketWatch)

Appeals Court Upholds FCC’s Net Neutrality Order (The Verge)

Court Upholds FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules (U.S. News & World Report)

Court Backs FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules (Houston Chronicle)

U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Net Neutrality Rules In Full (WBUR – Boston Public Radio)

Net Neutrality Wins Big In Appeals Court (Good)

Appeals Court Hands Obama Administration Major Win In Net Neutrality Case (Huffington Post)

FCC’s Win Cements Obama’s Internet Legacy (Politico)

President Obama Just Won a Huge Court Victory on Net Neutrality (Vox)

Court’s Net Neutrality Ruling Vindicates FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (San Francisco Chronicle)

Again, when government wins – we lose.

No one’s legacy is cemented – no one is vindicated – until we see what happens as this latest vast government expansion plays out.

With the likes of ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, the Veterans Administration, the Post Office, the DMV,… – the prognosis ain’t great.

But as this cavalcade of echo chamber, monolithic sameness yet again demonstrates – don’t expect the media to point out any of it.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

On Brexit, the UK/EU Divorce

June 24, 2016, 11:48 AM

Going into yesterday’s vote in the United Kingdom, the smart money was on “remain” – that is, that the UK should remain a member of the European Union. Pre-election polls gave remain the edge, the exchange rate of the British pound was trending up, and the betting markets were giving 3-to-1 odds. But, when the votes were counted, the people were found to have voted to “leave.”

The financial markets today have reverberated with anxiety. There’s talk of Denmark, Italy and Netherlands demanding an opportunity to leave. And, the week prior, Switzerland quietly withdrew its application to join.

The polls were wrong. They often are nowadays. Polling is an art as well as a science. Anybody can pull a sample of beads from a jar in a laboratory, and in so doing estimate the percentage of white- versus red-colored beads remaining in the jar. But surveying people is another matter. The challenges facing real-world pollsters are continually changing. Nowadays, we suspect that people who are disrespected by the elites – called stupid and racist, compared to Nazis and so forth – are reluctant to participate in polls.

The EU has been suffering an on-going crisis since 2008. First, the crisis revealed that certain European countries had been cooking the books all along, running deficits in excess of what was allowed. Already in weak financial condition, these countries were unable to borrow from the marketplace to sustain their spending and, so, turned to the European Central Bank and to the creditor nations of Europe for loans. One after another, bailout loans were approved for them in return for “plans” to bring their deficits under control. But, Greece has been totally unable to comply with these plans, and Portugal, Italy and Spain have been only marginally able. The nations of Europe have since been drifting apart in terms of fiscal and economic performance, with those on the southern tier grousing under “austerity.”

The on-going crisis reveals the fundamental problem with the European project. It is that the culture of the northern countries is different from that of the southern countries. In the north, work and saving are embraced in what was once called The Protestant Ethic. While certain people point out that these countries have generous programs of social insurance, they also require work.

If a person does not find a job in the prescribed period of time in Sweden and the northern states of Germany, the government will place that person into a job, even a make-work job. In contrast, unemployment benefits never end in Spain. The people of northern Europe view those of the south with resentment because of the continuing transfers of income. And, the people of southern Europe view those of the north with scorn for being cheap and demanding.

The cultures of the northern and southern Europeans, while different, can be complementary. Consider a marriage of an accountant and a musician. This marriage can be heaven or hell. One has the ability to earn a living, and the other to bring joy to life. If they appreciate what each brings, it will be heaven. But, if they don’t, if will be hell. One day, perhaps, the northern people of Europe will be able to enter into a partnership with the southern people. But, until they come to appreciate each other, they should have an affair instead of a marriage.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Dr. Gerard Gianoli: Debunking the Hysteria Around Medical Errors Report

June 23, 2016, 4:18 PM

In today’s extended edition of the Health Care News Podcast, Dr. Gerard Gianoli joined Health Care News Managing Editor Michael Hamilton to help set Americans straight on legitimate reasons for disgruntlement with our nation’s health care system–and utterly bogus ones.

In addition to being one of Heartland’s newest policy advisors, Dr. Gianoli is president of the Ear and Balance Institute in Covington Louisiana and a clinical associate professor in otolaryngology and pediatrics at Tulane University School of Medicine.

Gianoli explains how an unscientific article in a medical journal published in May incited mass hysteria about medical error supposedly being the leading cause of death in the U.S.–and debunks it.

He goes on to name smothering federal rules for physician use of electronic medical records and third-party payers (such as government and insurance companies) as chief obstacles to forging better doctor-patient relationships and delivering more affordable, quality care accessible by all Americans.

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

[Please subscribe to the Health Care News Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Don Boyd: The Failure of Public Pension Funds

June 22, 2016, 4:13 PM

In this episode of the Heartland Institute’s weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway talks with Nelson J. Rockefeller Institute of Government director of fiscal studies Don Boyd about a new study examining how the assumptions and gimmicks public pension boards use to fund pensions are affected by investment risks, and how those risks affect taxpayers and government employees.

Assuming current government pension planning trends continue, one out of every six government pension plans will fail, even if lawmakers do everything right. As time goes on, Boyd says, the risks of defined-benefit pension plan failure increases, leaving taxpayers with the bill.

Lawmakers’ current funding policies are inadequate, Boyd says, and, unless big changes are made, the danger of taxpayer-funded pension bailouts is greater than many taxpayers may understand, and greater than lawmakers wish to acknowledge.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Playing Both ‘Cops and Robbers’ on Asset Forfeiture

June 22, 2016, 11:17 AM

A new digital system unveiled by Oklahoma government police is just the latest example of civil asset forfeiture laws encouraging cops to become the robbers they’re supposed to be catching.

Since May, the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol has been deploying “Electronic Recovery and Access to Data” systems. ERADs allow highway patrolmen to use civil asset forfeiture laws to seize individuals’ assets stored in bank accounts or on prepaid debit cards at the press of a button.

Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process by which government law enforcement agents seize private property, including money, believed to have been used in the commission of a crime, even if no criminal conviction has occurred.

Before the 1980s, when there was a brief “tough-on-crime” fad, civil asset forfeiture was relatively obscure. In 1984, Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, permitting local and national law enforcement agencies to share the rewards of seized assets and cash with one another. Between the law’s passage and 1993, a total of $3 billion in cash and property flowed through the nationalized Asset Forfeiture Program to local and national law enforcement agencies.

Instead of using civil asset forfeiture as it was originally intended, police in many jurisdictions have used civil asset forfeiture to enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers.

Studying asset forfeiture rates and law enforcement budgets from government datasets across five states, Harvard School of Public Health professor Katherine Baicker and UC Irvine associate economics professor Mireille Jacobson uncovered an interesting link between asset forfeiture rates and local government budgets. When government police carry out more asset forfeitures, Baicker and Jacobson found, local lawmakers reduce spending on law enforcement, treating the proceeds from law enforcement actions as revenue. In turn, asset forfeiture rates increase, because government police begin treating forfeiture as a fundraising activity.

Baicker and Jacobson write that just as a living thing responds to stimuli, government agencies, such as police departments and county commissioner boards, respond to incentives in complex, interconnected ways.

“Counties and police respond to incentives driven by seizures laws in a sophisticated way that depends both on the reaction of the other party and on the fiscal circumstances that affect their marginal utility of the funds,” Baicker and Jacobson write. “We find that local governments do indeed capture a significant fraction of the seizures that police make by reducing their other allocations to policing, undermining the statutory incentive created by state seizure laws. They are more likely to do so in times of fiscal distress.”

To guard against this unfair and immoral form of taxation, states must reform their laws to require a criminal conviction before private property can be seized and to require that asset forfeiture proceeds be deposited into the general fund, not funneled directly to law enforcement budgets.

Civil asset forfeiture creates too many perverse economic incentives. However well-intentioned the idea may be, the practice of civil asset forfeiture has been corrupted and now infringes on Americans’ right to be free from harassment by money-hungry agents of the government.

The U.S. government’s law enforcement agencies are supposed to be the cops – not the robbers – and it needs to stop now.

[Originally published at the Orange County Register]

Categories: On the Blog

The Nanny State Advances Statement on Passage of Anti-Soda Tax in Philadelphia

June 21, 2016, 4:16 PM

In the first success of its nature for “nanny state” advocates after many years of trying, Philadelphia Thursday became the first major city to attempt to control the non-alcoholic drink choices of its residents by enacting a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on soda, tea, sports and energy drinks. This is expected to embolden nanny state tax advocates across the United States.

The tax, like others on food and food-related items, will fall disproportionately on lower income individuals.

The National Center for Public Policy Research’s director of Risk Analysis, Jeff Stier, is available to speak with reporters and has a statement:

The only good thing about Philadelphia’s newly-imposed soda tax is that proponents were somewhat honest about it, admitting it wasn’t about improving public health. Instead, they admitted it was a money grab, albeit a highly regressive one.

Perhaps it was a wise tactical move, because soda-tax campaigners have failed to persuade scientists or the public that the tax reduces caloric consumption, obesity, or diabetes.

Adding to the absurdity of this tax, Philly’s treats diet soda and full sugar alike, failing to even distinguish between sugary drinks, which, like all caloric food and beverages, can contribute to obesity, and zero or low calorie beverages. Similarly, advocates across the country are pushing to equalize cigarette and e-cigarette sin taxes, the latter of which is primarily used by adult smokers trying to lower their risk. If soda was the new tobacco, now diet soda is the new e-cigarette.

In March, Stier told the Daily Caller that “Soda tax proponents are asking us to suspend normal assumptions about human behavior and simply assume that people who reduce soda consumption to avoid the tax, won’t just make their own sugary drinks and won’t replace the calories with other high-calorie foods or drinks.”

In an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle in 2014, Stier explained the real rationale for soda taxes: “Rather simply, it is Sutton’s Law. The ‘law’ is named after the infamous American bank robber Willie Sutton, who was incorrectly credited with answering a reporter who asked him why he robs banks by saying, ‘That’s where the money is.'”

Mr. Stier has testified before city and state governments and has frequently been quoted in or published in the press or appeared on cable television to discuss “nanny state” issues, including New York City’s ill-fated attempt under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg to govern the size of cups New York City residents were to be permitted to use for their beverages.

Here he is discussing the New York soda ban on CNBC; in one of his many New York Postop-eds, this time discussing a proposed New York City ban on styrofoam; and being quoted in Forbes about nanny state attempts to limit transfats, among perhaps a hundred other prominent examples of his work.

To speak with Jeff Stier, contact Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or cell (703) 477-7476 orjkent@nationalcenter.org.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Rob Lindberg: With Falling Oil Prices, What Has Become of the Booming Bakken?

June 21, 2016, 1:58 PM

The oil boom in the Bakken region of western North Dakota seemed like the closest thing to a gold rush the nation had experienced in more than a century. The boom garnered nation-wide media attention detailing the growing pains; truck traffic, man camps, and skyrocketing rents, along with the prosperity, thousands of jobs being created and starting wages at Walmart of more than $17/hour. Now that oil prices have fallen from more than $100 per barrel to just around $50, people are wondering what has become of the Booming Bakken?

In this edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Rob Lindberg of the group Bakken Backers tells stories about his experience in the oil-producing regions of North Dakota and the opportunities and challenges it has presented to these communities and gives the listeners a glimpse of what this part of North Dakota looks like now that the go-go days of the boom are over.

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

Categories: On the Blog

State Should Switch to 401(k) Style Plans

June 21, 2016, 1:00 AM

South Carolina lawmakers have undertaken reforms to address some of the serious issues with their state’s pension system, but major changes are still needed to prevent future budget problems.

In 2012, the state increased employee and employer contribution rates for the South Carolina Retirement System (SCRS), the state’s public pension fund. The increase affected current members as well as new hires. The 2012 reforms also reduced the expected rate of return for pension investments and reduced the minimum cost-of-living benefit increase. In 2000 and 2002, the state created optional defined-contribution plans for existing and new state and local government employees and teachers.

While these steps toward improving South Carolina’s pension system were much-needed, the state’s pensions still remain in dire need of further reform. According to a report on SCRS released in 2015 by the South Carolina Legislative Audit Council (SCLAC), South Carolina’s five state-run pensions were only about 60 percent funded in 2014 and carried a combined unfunded pension liability of $19 billion.

Due to the generous rate of return estimate used by the state in its pension projections, state Rep. Jeffrey Bradley, R-Hilton Head, says the problem is now even worse than the SCLAC report indicated. In an editorial in the Island Packet, Bradley says over the past 10 years, the rate of return on the fund’s investments has averaged 5.06 percent. This, Bradley insists, is a significant problem, but why?

In November 2014, State Budget Solutions released a research report that found if the state used a fair market valuation in its pension projects — one based on a more reasonable discount rate of 2.743 percent — South Carolina’s pension system would only have a funded ratio of 32 percent in fiscal year 2013, meaning every South Carolinian would have to pay $13,280 to make the system whole.

The high cost of defined-benefit pensions caused most private sector companies to abandon them in the 1990s for 401k-style defined-contribution plans, but state and local governments, using the hard-earned money of taxpayers, continue to promise these outdated and unsustainable benefits to public workers. We have already seen municipalities such as Detroit and Stockton, California literally bankrupted by these defined-benefit plans. When these plans fail, not only are taxpayers hurt, the public sector workers who were promised these benefits suffer as well.

In 2010, South Carolina received a grade of “F” in The Heartland Institute’s 50-state public pension report card. The state was one of the lowest graded in the nation, and it remains so today. In the report, the state scored low in its efforts to avoid pension spiking, its failure to tax pension benefits, and because of the poor solvency of its pension fund, among other things.

These problems have been compounded in recent years by the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission’s decision to take on additional risky and expensive investments for the pension funds. According to the Post and Courier, since 2007 — when the state eased rules on how pension funds could be invested—more investments were made in stock and hedge funds. The SCLAC report found the state did not see improved returns as a result of this decision, and its investment returns trailed those of most other states. The state also paid high fees for the investments.

“Due to South Carolina’s increase in stocks and ‘alternative investment’ holdings, such as hedge funds, from 2005 to 2014, annual expenses rose from $22.4 million to $467.3 million,” wrote David Slade and Gavin Jackson in the Post and Courier article. “In 2005, expenses amounted to less than one-tenth of a percent of the pension assets—.09 percent, the same as the Vanguard fund. The state’s expenses rose to 1.57 percent by 2014.”

To protect taxpayers and public workers, South Carolina should follow the private sector’s lead and switch its pension plan offerings for new employees to a defined-contribution pension plan system. A defined-contribution system would give retirees direct control over retirement and make it possible for them to move in and out of the private sector without losing their accrued pension benefits. This would also allow governments to budget more accurately, because the benefits would be paid directly to the employee and are set each year, rather than changing along with benefit costs.

Defined-contribution plans benefit taxpayers as well, because the pension plan burden does not rise automatically due to cost of living adjustments and because the defined-contribution model is more transparent, making it harder for government officials to utilize the accounting gimmicks governments currently use to hide liabilities.

Moving state workers into a defined-contribution model would put South Carolina on a path toward more-sustainable budgets and give public employees improved flexibility, a win-win solution to the state’s growing fiscal crisis.

[Originally published at Greenville Online] 

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Packed House for Heartland’s Second Amendment Event

June 20, 2016, 4:45 PM

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 President Fires Back at Liberal AGs’ Suit to Halt Climate Change Dissent With 17 state attorneys general in hot pursuit of the research and records of climate change critics, the head of one of the leading groups targeted for legal action made it clear Wednesday he is fighting back. “If all of a sudden we pulled back on the questions we’ve raised about the threat of climate change and I said it was actually a crisis, I could be a very, very rich man,” said Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, in an interview with Newsmax.com. “But I’m not going to do it. Heartland is in the fight for the duration.” READ MORE

New E-Book: Kids Guide to Climate Change Are you a parent or grandparent looking for a book on climate change appropriate for children and pre-teens? Are you a teacher looking for such a book to share with your elementary school class? We may have found what you’re looking for: an e-book titled Kids Guide to Climate Change. The e-book sets out the current facts about the climate, without the alarmist and theoretical predictions that can scare many kids. Get it today at Amazon.com! READ MORE

Heartland Second Amendment Event Fills the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center Gun-grabbing politicians this week have exploited the atrocity in Orlando to push for new laws that would violate our Constitutional right to own firearms – which made Heartland’s event with two Second Amendment experts extremely timely. John Boch, president of Guns Save Life, and Mike Rioux, CEO of Red Dot Arms, spoke to a packed and impassioned audience in the Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center on Wednesday night. If you missed the live-stream, you can watch the presentation at Heartland’s YouTube page. WATCH IT HERE

Featured Podcast: Leo Huang: Frac PAC, Educating People About Oil and Gas Years of global warming indoctrination in America’s public schools have left millions of young people fearful that using fossil fuels will destroy the planet – so it’s no wonder that demographic is among the most skeptical about the safety and effectiveness of hydraulic fracturing. But help, and truth, is on the way. Leo Huang, a student of petroleum engineering and a founding member of the Hydraulic Fracturing Public Awareness Committee (Frac PAC), joins Research Fellow Isaac Orr to explain how Frac PAC is reaching out to and educating youth about the positive impacts of the oil and gas industry.  LISTEN TO MORE

Heartland Library Book Shelf of the Week – Reagan
For more, follow Heartland on Twitter @HeartlandInst

Coming Next Week: Steve Moore in Chicago, David Shestokas in Arlington Heights  On Monday, June 20, join The Heartland Institute at the Union League Club in Chicago as we welcome Stephen Moore of The Heritage Foundation, who will talk about his new book, Fueling Freedom, an unapologetic case in favor of fossil fuels. Then on Wednesday, June 22, David Shestokas will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to talk about “Constitutional Soundbites,” his effort to engender respect and love for the Constitution in the twenty-first century. We hope to see you there! SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

Study Reports Health Benefits from E-cigarette Use Lindsey Stroud, Heartland Research & Commentary While government bureaucrats are stepping up their efforts to regulate e-cigarettes, studies continue to show e-cigarette use helps reduce the much more harmful habit of smoking. For instance, a study recently published in theBritish Medical Journal found 61 percent of people who switched from cigarettes to vaping remained “abstinent from tobacco” for at least two years. READ MORE

How Obamacare’s Mandates Hurt the Patients They’re Supposed to Help Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report Referring to the sky-high insurance premiums, increasing deductibles, and insurance companies leaving the Obamacare exchanges as “unintended consequences” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a huge understatement. ACA’s mandates create incentives that alter how businesses operate and how insurance plans are crafted. In the end, the employer and individual mandates put affordable health care further out of the reach of many Americans – including many of those was supposed to help. READ MORE

Restoring the Constitution Would Repay a Debt to Veterans Kyle Maichle, Washington Times American veterans fought and sacrificed to preserve the nation they love, but that nation is sliding inexorably into financial turmoil with unsustainable $500 billion annual deficits and a $19 trillion national debt. There is a way to honor their sacrifice and get the country back on sound financial footing: holding an Article V Convention of the States to amend the U.S. Constitution. We owe it to ourselves, but especially our veterans, to use Article V to pass a balanced budget amendment. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep42): DeVoe L. Moore Center, 10 Things Keeping Us Poor, and More John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks across the country in episode #42 of the In The Tank Podcast. Dr. Sam Staley, managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University and a Heartland policy advisor, joins the show to talk about the center as well as a free-market perspective on regulations, sports stadium subsidies, and mass transit. This episode also features work from the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the Mackinac Center, and more.  LISTEN HERE

Whistleblower Hits College Board for SAT Changes Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly The former director of assessment design for College Board, the organization that owns the SAT and Advanced Placement tests kids take to help get into college, is alleging the recent reform of the SAT test is riddled with shoddy work and public deceptions – and in service to the controversial Common Core standards. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to scuttle the SAT and find another way to measure a high school student’s ability to succeed in college. 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 gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – U.S. Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL): Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech

June 20, 2016, 3:44 PM

In this episode of the weekly Budget & Tax News podcast, managing editor and research fellow Jesse Hathaway is joined by U.S. Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL), the sponsor of the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act.

The bill, just recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, seeks to reduce government employees’ temptation to use the power with which taxpayers have entrusted them to win political battles.

Given recent government audits revealing IRS’ refusal to take steps to protect taxpayer data from hackers, both domestic and foreign, Roskam explains how his bill guards against the abuse of government power and the threat of data breaches, by acknowledging that collecting the identities of donors to private organizations does not promote IRS’ primary function of revenue collection.

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Categories: On the Blog

Much at Steak in EPA’s Latest Beef

June 20, 2016, 3:18 PM

The recent release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 600-page methane rule was the latest skirmish in the war on methane, but the next battle will be felt at your supermarket. According to EPA, the oil and gas industry is the top methane offender, but livestock — especially cattle — is a close number-two, making ranchers and their cattle radical environmentalists’ next targets.

In November 2015, John Sutter wrote an article for CNN titled “Why Beef is the New SUV,” in which he stated reducing beef consumption is vital if the United States is going to play its part in limiting the increasing global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius as originally set out in the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Sutter then went into great detail about how this can be done and why it’s imperative. The “solutions” being studied range from requiring backpacks to be strapped to the backs of cattle to capture methane, injections to aid the cattle’s digest process, and genetically modifying cattle to produce less methane. Scientists at Modern Meadow are even attempting to engineer meat from cell cultures.

Sound healthy to you?

I have to admit I did not take the cattle-methane story seriously in the past. I was probably distracted by the New York Strip I was enjoying, but once I started to look carefully into EPA’s new methane rule for the oil and gas industry, I was surprised to find a large number of stories talking about how the dire need to control cattle methane. Progressives are laying the groundwork for the next step.

Left-wing media outlet Think Progress published a related article in March titled “Methane Emissions Spiking, But It Might Be More Cow Than Car.” In the piece, Brent Newell, legal director for the Center on Race Poverty and the Environment argues, “Decarbonizing what we eat is just as important as decarbonizing what we drive or what we use to heat our homes.”

My spellcheck does not like the word “decarbonizing,” and neither do I.

To decarbonize what we eat, the price of beef — as well as other “bad” food — must necessarily skyrocket; consumers will need to be nudged to decrease their consumption of beef. The Think Progress article states California has already started to regulate methane from livestock operations in the hopes of accomplishing this purpose.

Climate change alarmists are busy building their case against cattle farmers. A combination of scholarly sounding studies, environmental nonprofit research, and the green media are compiling the data EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will use as they turn their attention to your hamburger. The United Nations and the World Bank are already behind the effort.

The scary numbers cited vary significantly from article to article — which is not surprising since the “data” is mostly made up in the first place — but the solutions offered by the methane police are always the same: Make no mistake, your food is next.

And don’t forget if you are planning on grilling some beef for the July 4th holiday, radical environmentalists are discouraging you from using a charcoal grill, because burning charcoal releases volatile organic compounds and ground-level ozone that will supposedly destroy the world. Helpful green websites suggest propane or electric grills. Now, you might ask, “Where do the propane and electricity come from?” Oh, never mind.

We can laugh off the progressive left as they plant the seeds to remove beef from our diets, but we have to admit that they have an objective and a long-term plan to accomplish their goals. We are fools if we let these radical seedlings see the light of day. By then, it will be too late… again.

It is a lot to take in. I think I’ll drive home in my gas-guzzling SUV and fire-up the charcoal grill to contemplate things further. Steaks anyone?

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Policy Positions: Free Trade vs. Political Ignorance

June 20, 2016, 1:53 PM

The current political campaign for the U.S. presidency has brought out the worst in both the personalities and the policy positions among many of those running for that high political office, and this has been especially the case with international trade and the global economy.

Listening to the presumptive Republican and Democratic candidates for the White House, the average voter would think that international trade and investment is a zero sum game in which there is a “winner” and a “loser.” Their economic policy assumption is that other countries are gaining at the international trade game at the expense of the United States.

The fact is America is economically interconnected and interdependent with the rest of the world. About 20 percent of the American work force is employed in foreign trade and investment related jobs, and represents more than 25 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

American Global Trade Policy Positions

In its latest update released on June 3, 2016 on America’s import-export trade with the rest of the world, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that for calendar year 2015, the total market value of imports and exports came to over $5 trillion. The U.S. exported over $2.26 trillion of goods and services to other countries, while America imported more than $2.76 trillion in goods and services from the rest of the world.

For a point of comparison, total U.S. Gross Domestic Product for calendar year 2015 was about $18.5 trillion. So the total trade in imports and exports between the America and the rest of the world was equal to more than 25 percent of the total market value of all finished goods and services produced in the United States last year. International trade, clearly, represents a huge part of the economic well-being of the United States.

American Jobs Interconnected With Global Trade

In its May 31, 2016 report, the U.S. International Trade Administration (ITA) estimated that in 2015, exported-related employments accounted for 11.5 million jobs in the U.S., about 6.7 million jobs connected with exporting goods to the rest of the world, and 4.8 million jobs relating to selling services to other countries. At the same time direct and indirect foreign investment in the United States supported 12 million more jobs, according to an ITA report in February 2016.

With over 150 million Americans employed in 2015, this means that over 15 percent of all jobs in the United States were dependent on export trade with and investment from other nations around the world.

But this underestimates the employment affect from trade. Due to the wrong-headed belief that the primary benefits from international trade come from exporting to the rest of the world, while imports are somehow a “drag” on the country’s economic betterment, it is far more difficult to readily get the numbers for imported-related employments in the U.S.

But it should be kept in mind that every good manufactured in another country requires a business selling it to potential American consumers, with supply-chain related jobs having to be filled from the dockworkers unloading the ships bringing those goods to an American port to the sales people selling them in retail outlets in cities or towns all across the United States.

Thus, it would not be too unreasonable to presume that nearly as many jobs have been created selling imported goods to American consumers and enterprises as estimated to exist because of America’s export trade in goods. Then, the total number of jobs in the U.S. that are related to both exports and imports as well as foreign investment might well come to almost 20 percent of all employment in the American economy, or one out of every five jobs in the country.

America is interconnected and interdependent with the rest of the world. Anything that impedes or breaks these global connections, therefore, would inevitably have devastating affects on enterprises and employments here at home in America.

But what the Republican and Democratic candidates for the presidency are offering are policies that would make the maintenance and growth of international trade more difficult for the U.S.

Trade Benefits All Those Who Peacefully Participate

Let us remember why people trade. The fact is that none of us has the ability to produce for ourselves all the necessities and conveniences to make our life as livable and comfortable as we would like it to be. Our knowledge and knowhow is limited. The resources at our personal disposal to produce these desirable things are insufficient in their quantities and qualities. And our own human labor is incapable of doing all that would need to be done.

But human beings have discovered and seen the opportunity in improving their circumstances by trading with their neighbors. Of course, you could try to rob from or even kill your neighbor to get what you want, but you run the risk of failing in your attempt and find yourself robbed or injured or even murdered by the person whom you assaulted.

It is far better and safer, in the long run, to appeal to your neighbor’s self-interest by offering to him something that he wants in trade for what he possesses that you desire to obtain. Reaching mutually agreeable terms of exchange, both you and your neighbor walk away from the trade viewing yourselves as equally better off.

Violence has been avoided, peaceful relations have been established between you and your neighbor, and each of you will have helped create a social environment of trust and confidence for future trading opportunities.

As more and more people enter into and successfully participate in these trading opportunities and benefits, the associating individuals begin to specialize in the production and sale of those goods and services in which they discover they have a comparative advantage over the growing number of trading partners.

Specialization Raises The Standards Of Living For All

Soon, these people find themselves linked with each other in an expanding social system of division of labor. One is the butcher, another is a baker, a third is the brewer, and a fourth is the candlestick maker. Historically, this all developed over thousands of years in different parts of the world, in different social circumstances. But the end result in the world in which we all live today is that we are increasingly active and mutually benefitting participants in the global division of labor of market exchange incorporating billions of human beings.

Almost 250 years ago, the famous Scottish moral philosopher and political economist, Adam Smith, already pointed out how a simple workman’s course wool coat was the product of a multitude of human efforts involving production processes in various parts of the world, all of which were integrated and coordinated by the market forces of the 1770s to make the modest outer garment that kept the unskilled laborer warm in the winter months.

Today, the complexity and integrated interdependency of those billions of human beings is light years advanced from what seem to us the primitive production methods of more than two centuries ago, in Adam Smith’s time. Communication and trade has gone from the horse drawn wagon and the sailing ship to near instantaneous written, audio and video interactions between people on opposite ends of the planet.

And the ideas, technologies and innovative capital at our disposal has enabled a growing portion of humanity to attain standards of living unimaginable by even the most wealthy of past ages. All of this has been made possible through that simple but essential system of division of labor through which each of mankind’s members finds his niche to earn a living and then enjoying the cornucopia of improved and new goods and services that the rest of humanity offers to him in trade for what he specializes in and offers to everyone else.

What has sometimes confused a better appreciation of all this is that an understanding of how we all fit into this global network of human association is not always easily grasped by many of our fellow economic citizens of the world. As a result, fallacies and fables are too readily accepted. Let us review some of them.

The Fallacy That “Exports” Are Good And “Imports” Are Bad

For centuries, the fact that what you sell earns you money, while what you buy costs you money, led many to say that exports are the source of riches, but imports drain away part of a person’s or a country’s wealth.

However, the only reason we, ultimately, produce is to consume. The only reason we specialize in some trade, profession or occupation in the division of labor is to earn the financial wherewithal to, then, use our earnings to buy what others can offer to us that we cannot make for ourselves, or not at as low a cost as they can offer it to us, or in types and qualities beyond our own abilities. In other words, we produce and “export” our own good or service as the means to “import” those things that others offer to us.

As a professor of economics, I “export” my teaching services in the classroom to the institution of higher learning that has hired me, and I use the salary that institution pays me to “import” into my own household the goods I desires to use and consume. My teaching services “exports” are the means to acquiring the “imports” of all the goods I want to buy.

Therefore, the gains from trade for any individual are the desired goods they buy from others – the imports – and the goods sold to acquire the money income to buy them – the individual’s exports – are the means to that end.

The money earned from selling a good is merely the necessary and essential intermediary step or stage to attaining the end goal, that being the goods that money can buy. What we ultimately want in trade is not money, but what that money can buy once it has been earned.

This is no less true for a nation, which in a free market economy is merely the cumulative trade of all the individual members of that country among each other and with those individuals who may be a buyer or seller in another country.

The Fallacy That Imported Goods Cost American Jobs

But, the doubter or critic may ask, do not imports cost the jobs of those American workers who are employed in industries that cannot successfully match the foreign competitor’s price or quality advantages? Is this not a case in which the foreign producer’s gain of American consumer business is at the cost of American jobs and industry?

It is true that if a foreign rival can successfully sell a good in the U.S. at, say, a lower price that his domestic American competitor, the American producer can lose business and in the extreme be competed out of business. And employments in that American producer’s enterprise may be lost.

But that does not mean that alternative employments will not emerge to replace those lost. If, in fact, the foreign rival can seller his product for less than his American competitor, this will improve the financial circumstance of the consumers of that product. Suppose that the American producer had been selling his produce for $10 per unit. And now the foreign seller offers it in America for $5 per unit.

The American consumers now can buy a desired product at half the expense as before. This improves their real income, because they now have the wanted product for $5 and have $5 left in their pockets compared to what they used to pay the American suppler for this good. This enables each of them to increase their demands for other goods they previously could not afford to buy by the amount of $5.

This greater demand for other goods and services that consumers can now buy in the market offers part of the alternative employment opportunities for some of those who may have lost their positions in the business of the American producer who had cut back his enterprise or gone out of business in the face of the more cost-efficient foreign competitor.

Also, those foreign suppliers of goods do not give them away to American consumers. They, too, are interested in selling their products to earn the income that enables them to buy other goods that they want to buy. The dollars they may earn in the U.S. normally cannot be used to buy goods in their home country. They wish to earn those dollars precisely, in most instances, to have the financial means to buy goods they are interested in purchasing in the United States.

Thus, foreign sellers’ demands for American goods open employment opportunities in the U.S. exporting sectors of the economy. Since, as was explained, American exports are the means by which Americans are able, ultimately, to buy the imports they want to acquire. If the foreign earner of those dollars does not, himself, wish to buy American goods or investment in American industry, he will sell his unwanted dollars on the foreign exchange market to those who do wish to have the dollars to make desired purchases in the U.S. or investment directly or indirectly in the American economy.

Thus, the composition and types of jobs in the U.S. economy may change over time due to the changing buying and selling opportunities in the global economy, but the total number of jobs need not be negatively affected in the long run. Plus, all will have gained as consumers by having more, better, and less expensive goods and services available from participation in the global market.

Finally, it may be asked, don’t other countries sometimes play by “unfair” international trading rules? Don’t governments subsidize some products to artificially sell their goods in America below “real” costs of production? And don’t those same governments try to protect their domestic industries and jobs from American competition through import restrictions or regulations that limit the ability of American companies to compete in those foreign lands?

“Punishing” Foreign Countries Harms American Consumers

The answers to all these questions are: Yes, foreign governments sometimes do such things. But if a foreign government is, in fact, subsidizing one of their national industries to sell its goods in America below their actual costs of production, it is the taxpayers in that foreign country who should be complaining, because it is their taxed pockets that are being picked by their own government to transfer the amount of the subsidy from the hardworking income-earners in that nation to the privileged businesses receiving the government handout. Their the ones being plundered to benefit a special interest group.

Who benefits from this subsidy? The American consumers who find it attractive to buy that good at that subsidized price. Again, they are able to purchase a less expensive (foreign) version of the desired good. Again, they save on the cost of buying it, meaning there are dollars left in their pockets that were not there before. And alternative jobs and export opportunities emerge, just as if the foreign import had been selling for less due to market-based cost-efficiencies on the part of the foreign rival rather than a subsidy from its government.

American consumers are given a “gift” of a higher standard of living at the expense of the taxpayers and consumers in that foreign country from which the subsidized import is coming.

It is also the case that foreign governments guided by some of the same economic fallacies that have been heard this year on the American presidential campaign trails have imposed trade barriers or import restrictions on goods coming from the United States. But there is nothing that any administration in Washington, D.C. can do about this that would not entail harming American consumers and producers here at home.

If a retaliatory import barrier is imposed against some goods imported from that foreign country, this makes some goods more expense or less available for members of the American consuming public. They are made the victims by their own government due to some foreign government trying to protect one of their industries from American competition. The sins of a foreign government fall upon innocent American consumers, when the U.S. government follows such retaliatory trade policies.

The benefits from international trade and global competition are too great, even when some governments attempt to intervene and regulate trade within their countries to advantage some domestic special interest group, to fall into the types of economic fallacies discussed.

Regardless of the misguided and wrong-headed policies that other countries may follow in the arena of international trade, commerce and investment, Americans will most gain from whatever trading opportunities that may offer themselves around the globe if the U.S. government follows a strict and principled policy of unrestrained and unrestricted free trade with any and all nations of the world.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

Models Miss Another Factor Impacting Climate

June 19, 2016, 11:14 AM

Hardly a month or even a week goes by without a new study

Colored stalactites and stalagmites in the cave.

coming out examining another natural factor scientists have found that provably affects temperature or climate — a factor neither the climate models, nor the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have or, perhaps even can, account for.

The most recent of these climate drivers brought to my attention was brought to light in a study in Nature Communications.

In it, researchers at the Australian National University Research School of Earth Sciences measured trace elements and stable isotopes in stalagmites from the Indonesian island of Flores, comparing ancient rainfall patterns to records from East Asia and the central-eastern equatorial Pacific. They found alternating multi-century-long El Niño/La Niña-like patterns have affected global climate for at least the past 2,000 years. Climate models do not reproduce those patterns.

Note these are not the familiar El Niño/La Niña patterns that occur off the coasts of North and South America in the Eastern Pacific (which are also not reproduced in climate models) but rather periodic, repeated ocean oscillations in the tropical, South Central and Western portion of the Pacific

Alena Kimbrough, a member of the research team, said, “We’ve shown [Pacific El Niño/La Niña oscillations are] an important part of the climate system that has influenced global temperatures and rainfall over the past millennium.”

The paper states:

Our results highlight significant discrepancies between the proxy records and model simulations for the past millennium. … We cannot rule out the possibility that some of the low-frequency Pacific variability was a forced response to variable solar intensity and changing teleconnections to higher latitudes that are not simulated by the models, … or that unforced, low-frequency internal climate variability (that is difficult for models to simulate) was responsible for at least some of the global temperature change of the past millennium.

According to the researchers the tropical Pacific La Niña -like pattern is thought to be a contributing factor to the recent hiatus in warming temperatures and also affected temperature shifts earlier in the twentieth century. Their analysis suggests projections of tropical rainfall patterns, global temperature extremes, and other climate phenomena will remain uncertain until paleoclimate records and models consistently capture the climate impact of natural El Nino/La Niña-type patterns in the tropical Pacific.

To quote the lead author of the study, Michael Griffiths, Ph.D. from William Paterson University in the United States, “Until we can model this lower-frequency behavior in the tropical Pacific, one can only speculate on how the warming will play out over the next few decades.”

With the addition each new factor discovered to impact climate change, or a better understanding of natural factors already understood, though not well, to affect the climate, the role human greenhouse gas can have played in the recent modest warming of the latter 20th century diminishes. There is only so much warming to account for and if natural factors have played a larger role than climate models project, then the impact of human greenhouse gas emissions must necessarily play a smaller role.

Categories: On the Blog

Article V Constitutional Amendments, Part 1

June 17, 2016, 4:39 PM

Like a lot of Americans, I have been thinking for a long time that our nation is on the wrong track. Not only do things seem to be getting worse rather than better, but it seems the system itself is broken so it is no longer possible to get it back on track.  People are disgusted but don’t know what to do.  The two presumptive presidential nominees of the major political parties show that both parties are out of touch with the American people.  I don’t think we have ever seen the two leading candidates have such high disapproval ratings from the public as those of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  And the public has an even worse opinion of Congress.  The latest poll shows only 11 percent of the public approves of Congress. That’s only two points above the lowest number every recorded, in 2013 also under the Obama administration.

The economy is sputtering.  Growth averaged 3 percent between 1980 and 2007.  Since then it has averaged 1.2 percent.  In the first quarter 2016, the economy grew only 0.8 percent, even less than the disappointing 4th quarter of 2015 at 1.4 percent.  In April 2016, employment grew a paltry 160,000 jobs while the adult population grew by 200,000 people.  In May only 38,000 new jobs were created, far below the 162,000 expected.  That was the worst monthly jobs report in five years. At the same time, downward revisions to the previous numbers for April and March subtracted 59,000 jobs.

David Stockman, former head of the Office of Management and Budget, calculates 2.3 million jobs paying an average of $58,000 per year have been lost in manufacturing, mining/energy and construction since 2008 and have been replaced by 1.9 million jobs is leisure and hospitality paying less than $20,000 per year.  In May 2016, manufacturing lost 18,000 jobs; mining lost 10,000; construction lost 5,000; and even temporary workers backtracked, losing 21,000 jobs.   Meanwhile a half million more people quit looking for work that month, bringing the number of Americans of working age who aren’t working to 94.7 million.  There are now fewer full-time, full-pay jobs than in December 2007.

According to the Conference Board, productivity in the U.S. is now MINUS 0.2 percent.

For the first time in more than three decades, we produced less GDP per hour worked.  We got poorer.

Figure 1

Wages are flat. The stock market looks vulnerable.  It, along with the rest of the economy, looks more like it is rolling over, ready to topple, rather than perking up.  Business sales have been declining for two years and are now 5 percent below their peak in 2014; meanwhile inventories have been building up—not a good sign for the economy.  Corporate debt is now $6.7 trillion, more than double what is was prior to the last crisis. Most of that increase has gone into stock buybacks, mergers and acquisitions, and various leveraged-buyout recapitalizations rather than productive investments. Last year buybacks and mergers and acquisitions were $2 trillion while    all R&D and office equipment spending was $1.8 trillion.

Household debt has now climbed to $13 trillion, comparable to its peak before the recession.  Our national debt has now ballooned to $19 trillion.  It just keeps on growing, and government is doing nothing about it even though everyone recognizes it is a time bomb that could blow up the whole economy, impoverish us and destroy our future.

The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve have been attempting to stimulate the economy with “quantitative easing” (a scholarly-sounding term for printing money) to increase spending in accordance with Keynesian theory. This is the same idea that was employed early in the Obama administration with its $770 billion (later adjusted to $831 billion) stimulus program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  That program failed:

Adminstration’s Projected Unemployment Rate With/without Obama’s Stimulus Program Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics: “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” [Stimulus Act] Figure 2

The red line in the above graph is the Obama administration’s projection that the stimulus program would hold unemployment under 8 percent, compared to the administration’s projection without the stimulus program (middle line on the chart).  Instead, unemployment actually rose higher than it would have been without the stimulus, and it remained above 8 percent for four years.  The stimulus program was far worse than doing nothing!

Influential economist John Maynard Keynes claimed spending—for anything—was the driver of the economy and that government spending produced a multiplier effect as the dollars were, in turn, spent again and again throughout the economy.  He had no evidence to support this.  Keynes’ biographer Hunter Lewis says, “There is no evidence” that spending ever cured a recession, and Keynes “wasn’t particularly interested in evidence.”

Keynes theory provided the rationale for Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program of massive spending to try to pull the country out of the Great Depression. It failed.  On May 9, 1939, FDR’s treasury secretary and good friend Henry Morgenthau testified before the House Ways and Means Committee: “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work….After eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started….And an enormous debt to boot.”

The Keynesian rationale, which failed with Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill just as it had with FDR’s program in the 1930s, was based on a multiplier of 1.5.  That meant the GDP would increase by $1.50 for every additional dollar spent by government.  If the multiplier were really larger than 1.0, the GDP would rise even more than the rise in government spending.  The U.S., Greece, and other spendthrift nations wouldn’t be going broke—they’d be getting richer the more they spent! The reality is that the multiplier is always less than 1.0. In my book The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold, Second Edition, I cite several research studies which document this.

“Quantitative easing” is now the favored term for making more money available, supposedly leading to more spending, which would create economic growth. If more money was available for, say, housing or construction or alternative energy development etc., it was thought this would stimulate growth in other sectors of the economy and lo and behold we would have vibrant economic growth.  But it didn’t work out that way.

Creating more money has simply created more debt. The world is being swamped by a flood of money and credit.  Since 2007, global debt has increased by $57 trillion—three times faster than global GDP. This includes all categories of debt: household, corporate, government, and financial. All the major central banks are now engaging in quantitative easing.  The Fed has been spending trillions of dollars buying government bonds to increase the money supply to stimulate the economy, but the U.S. statistics I’ve cited above show it hasn’t worked.

Japan, which has tried stimulus programs for more than two decades, has gone even further. Its central bank now buys not only government bonds but corporate bonds, common stocks, real estate, and ETFs to increase the money supply. In fact, the central bank owns 52% of the entire Japanese market in exchange traded funds. None of this has worked.  In spite of all this spending, Japan has had two “lost decades” of virtually no economic growth and is now more concerned about deflation than inflation.

Japan is the last of the major central banks to reach its “Havenstein moment.”  Rudolph Havenstein was the head of the German Central Bank during the great hyperinflation in Germany.  A “Havenstein moment” is when the person in charge of the money supply decides that massive printing of money is better than the alternative, that it is preferable to deflation.  In November 2015 Japan entered its fifth recession since 2008, and the recoveries have been so weak it’s hard to distinguish them from the recessions.  The nation is mired in a third “lost decade.”

Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister of Japan largely on a campaign of monetary easing. The Abe government said in May 2013 it aimed to improve the economy with two percent inflation by doubling the money supply.  It said it would engage in “unlimited” or “open ended” printing of money to achieve that goal.  Almost three years later, in April 2016, the inflation rate was 0.10 percent.  And the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio ballooned to 250 percent—the highest in the world—compared to 65 percent in 1990, when the stimulus programs began.

Why can’t governments create wealth?  Laws and regulations are all enforced by the police power of government to inflict losses on people by fines or jail sentences if they don’t comply.  But people make economic transactions because of the prospect of gain, not because of the threat of loss.  There is no way the government’s power to inflict losses can bring the same results as a free market that allows people to choose gains.

In a free market every transaction benefits both sides, according to their judgment, or they would not participate.  It is a win-win situation.  A government transaction is always win-lose, because government benefits one side by imposing a loss on the other (or the taxpayers) that would not be accepted but for the prospect of even greater loss through fines or jail sentences. Instead of the win-win transactions of free markets, we have the win-lose transactions of a government “managed” economy.  The more these win-lose transactions proliferate, the more the economy falls behind what would have been achieved by the win-win transactions of free markets.  Government’s only power in managing the economy is to make things worse; whatever it does will be worse than if it did nothing.  Some individuals or sectors of the economy may benefit from government policies, but those gains are always more than offset by losses elsewhere. The advance of society is achieved by the economic gains of people acting for their own self-interest in the context of their natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  In short, by the actions in a free market.

The Obama administration has added 80,000 pages of regulations annually and is preparing to issue another 3,000 regulations before the end of the year. This is not a way to grow the economy. Regulations force uneconomic actions dictated by government’s power to inflict losses.  Businesses face the time-consuming, costly and often futile task of keeping up with regulations to avoid penalties for requirements they didn’t know existed. James Madison wrote in Federalist 62:

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what is will be tomorrow.”

The number of federal crimes has grown to 4,889, mostly from regulations, even though the Constitution lists only three: treason, piracy and counterfeiting.  Government grows and freedom shrinks. And what can people do about it? Decades of effort to elect new people to office in Washington have failed to reverse the expansion of the federal government.

For more than 40 years I have been intrigued with amending our Constitution by a method that has never been used.  It is the provision in Article V of the Constitution whereby the states themselves can amend the Constitution rather than going through Congress, as was done with previous amendments in our history.  I have discussed this unused method—and made recommendations for new amendments—in three books I have written over the years, the most recent one being The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold, Second EditionI have come to the conclusion that constitutional amendments are the only way to right the wrongs that have developed in our political system.  For decades we’ve been deviating from the Constitution and principles of economic freedom and individual rights that made this country, but Obama’s “transformational change” has made things so much worse as to culminate in a monetary revolution now before us.

Since our economy has been performing poorly for years and government has been unable to stimulate it, we face an insurmountable obstacle in the form of entitlements growing at 9 percent annually—far beyond our economic growth rate.  We are not going to be able to fund what we are already legally obligated to spend.  Since 2000, entitlements have been growing almost twice as fast as wages and salaries (6.3 percent compared to 3.3 percent).  That alone should tell you this cannot continue much longer.  There must be an end to it—not years from now but very soon.

Capital investment is critical to productivity growth, and productivity growth in turn is the crucial issue in economic growth in a wider sense. As productivity and economic activity slow down, entitlements will loom as an even larger problem.  Meanwhile, near-zero interest rates—even negative rates in major foreign countries—punish savers and leave less capital for investment. The economic slowdown is not limited to the United States.

U.S. monetary problems are world problems.  Our problems from abandonment of the gold standard, excessive federal spending and debasement of the dollar become problems for other nations’ economies because of the dollar’s reserve currency status.  The dollar is the basis of the  international monetary system—meaning that system is based on the debt of the U.S. government.  Well, not quite, or at least not entirely, because the international monetary system contains another asset, gold.

Under the monetary system established at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, only the U.S. agreed to link its currency to gold at a fixed rate ($35 per ounce), and other nations agreed to maintain fixed exchange rates of their currencies to the dollar.  The International Monetary Fund was established to operate this gold-exchange standard with the dollar as a reserve currency along with gold.  Although U.S. citizens in the 1930s  lost the right to redeem their dollars in gold, foreign central banks could still do so until 1971 when the U.S. defrauded those banks just as it had its own citizens in 1933.  On August 15, 1971, President Nixon ended redemption by foreign central banks of dollars for gold.  He did so because U.S. inflation had made the $35 gold price unrealistic.  Too many dollars were being accumulated by foreign central banks, and too  many were being converted into gold at the bargain price.  Gold was being drained from the U.S. Treasury at a rate that could not be sustained.

When the dollar’s last link to gold was severed in 1971, there was nothing to limit the increasing number of depreciating dollars the U.S. sent abroad to pay for the increasing importation of goods.  The U.S. consumed more than it has produced (measured by international trade balance) every year since 1976.   In 1982 the U.S. was still the world’s largest creditor.  In 1985 it became a net debtor for the first time in 71 years, with an investment deficit of $110.7 billion.  It became the worlds’ largest debtor only three years later, and ever since, it has continued to pile more debt upon debt just like Greece.

Abolishing the last link of the dollar to gold led to the collapse in 1973 of the system of fixed exchange rates, but the dollar was still considered the reserve currency although it had lost the basis for its becoming so in the first place.  This meant not only that this restraint on inflating the U.S. money supply was eliminated but that the U.S. could export inflation to other countries, which would convert increasing dollar reserves into their own currencies.  The entire world’s monetary system no longer had any anchor.  The world’s currencies all became fiat paper.

From 1976 to 1980 the International Monetary fund eliminated the use of gold as a common denominator, abolished the official price of gold, and ended the obligatory use of gold between the IMF and its member countries.  Also, it sold approximately one-third (50 million ounces) of its gold holdings “following an agreement by its member countries to reduce the role of gold in the international monetary system,” says an IMF fact sheet.

For years then the IMF and others tried to phase out gold in the monetary system. The IMF even carried out several auctions of its gold to further this effort and demonstrate that gold wasn’t really important and a paper reserve currency could take its place.  That was to be the trend of the future. But the U.S. policies of excessive spending and running large deficits worked against that trend, because foreign countries resented those policies having adverse effects on their own economic interests.  Indeed, the founding of the European Union—with its own currency—was partly the result of trying to escape the domination of the dollar in European commerce because of U.S. abuse of its privileged role of the dollar in the monetary system.

Finally, in 2009 the French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined Russia, China and other emerging countries in calling for an end to the dollar’s reign as the primary international currency.  And the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development endorsed moving away from the central role of the dollar in the world monetary system.  The IMF held its last auction of gold (403 metric tons) in September 2009, and China began removing its restrictions on gold ownership by its citizens. The metal that was supposed to be phased out by fiat paper currency was now phasing out that fiat paper. This was to be the trend for the future, regardless of the Keynesian theories held by monetary policy makers in or out of government.

Deng Xiaoping was a reformer who abandoned many communist doctrines and introduced elements of the free-enterprise system into the Chinese economy.  He reformed many aspects of China’s political, social and economic life, but insisted it remain a socialist nation. He quickly opened China to trade and investment, and by the mid 1980s he had instituted reforms in agriculture and industry that made China an economic powerhouse.

China’s efficiency in manufacturing led to huge trade surpluses—and the accumulation of trillions of dollars.  Those dollars were recycled back to the U.S. by buying U.S. Treasury securities: that is, the U.S. was borrowing back the dollars, which were then used for more spending and increasing the federal debt.  The U.S. acted like this cycle could go on forever, but two factors indicate that “forever” is coming sooner than expected.  Both are related to the dollar’s preeminent status as the world’s reserve currency.

First, it was often stated that both the U.S. and foreign nations—particularly China, the largest buyer of U.S. treasuries—were “trapped” by the trading pattern: both sides were benefiting and would be hurt by changing the relationship.  Importing cheap manufactured goods was advantageous to the U.S., while China obtained export markets and an influx of dollars for jobs and economic growth.  It seemed like China could do nothing with its dollars except buy more U.S. treasury debt.  But China, increasingly worried about the long-term value of U.S. fiat money, began using its dollars to buy gold and other hard assets.

Other countries, particularly in Asia, began buying increasing quantities of gold, too.  Every year India buys four times as much gold as all of North America. China has been encouraging its people to buy gold under its policy of “storing wealth with the people.” It even runs television ads urging them to buy.  The Shanghai Gold Exchange leads the world in delivery of physical gold.

Figure 3

When there have been occasional large price declines that scared American and European investors into selling gold, much of that gold, particularly from ETFs, went to Switzerland—which has four of the largest gold refineries in the world—where bars and coins were recast into smaller sizes for export to Hong Kong, which services demand from China, Thailand, Taiwan and other Asian countries. There has been a massive transfer of gold from the West to the Far East.  Central banks, which not many years ago were selling their gold, have been buying it in increasing quantities.  In 2010 they bought 77 metric tons; in 2015 they bought 477.2 metric tons.  Overall, global demand in the first quarter 2016 reached 1,290 metric tons, a 21 percent increase year-on-year, making it the second largest quarter on record.

Second, in 1973 the U.S. offered to sell Saudi Arabia, then the world’s leading oil exporter, weapons and provide military protection to the ruling family and the government.  All the U.S. asked in return was that Saudi Arabia’s oil be sold only for dollars and that surplus revenue available for investment by the Saudis from oil sales, after deducting for the needs of government, would be invested in U.S. Treasury securities.  Such a deal!  By 1975 all of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) members agreed to the same deal.

Since every country in the world was either buying or selling oil, they were all dealing in dollars because oil was priced in dollars.  These “petrodollars” gave support to the American currency, but that is all but gone.  As a result of fracking, horizontal drilling, deep-water drilling, and the discovery of new oil fields all over the world, neither Saudi Arabia, nor the United States nor any other nation can set the price of oil irrespective of what is happening in the industry all over the globe. Japan is buying oil from Iran priced in Japanese yen. India buys oil from Iran in rupees.  Russia agreed to the sale of $400 billion of natural gas to China over the next 30 years with the gas priced in Chinese yuan, not dollars.  China also has agreements with at least 22 other countries for bilateral trade agreements in currencies other than the dollar.  The BRICs (the large developing nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China) have agreed to trade in each others currencies rather than using the dollar as an intermediary. Australia, South Korea, Turkey and Kazakhstan have agreed to conduct trade in currency swaps of their own respective currencies. Our longtime ally Germany has agreed to trade with China in yuan and euros.

Meanwhile, what has happened to those oil revenues the oil-producing countries were recycling back to the U.S. by purchasing U.S treasury securities?  Since dollars are no longer needed to buy oil, and since the treasuries pay extremely low interest, central banks have been dumping them at the fastest pace of a U.S. debt sell-off since at least 1978.  Sales hit a record $57 billion in January 2016.  In March all central banks sold net $17 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds with China, Russia and Brazil each selling at least $1 billion.  The following chart shows how central banks have been dumping U.S. treasuries.  Please note that the chart does NOT indicate less severe selling in 2016 than the previous year because the 2016 bar is incomplete; it represents only the first four months of the year. If the trend continues for the rest of 2016, the sell-off will be much larger than in 2015.

Figure 4

If central banks continue dumping U.S. treasuries, the U.S. will need to monetize some of the debt to fill the gap between the treasuries it offers and what other countries are willing to buy.  In this monetizing process, government finances its spending by its central bank buying and holding debt, which increases the money supply.  This essentially “turns the debt into money This does not happen when gold—not debt—is money.

When the Fed buys bonds for its portfolio, it purchases them from a bank with an account at the Fed and pays for them by simply creating a credit on that bank’s Fed account.  Kevin Hassett, a former senior economist at the Fed, notes “with money and gold connected, [this process] was simply not an option.”  The U.S. was on the gold standard when the Fed was created.

“The Constitution never had a balanced-budget amendment,” wrote Lewis Lehrman and John D. Mueller, “because the constitutional metallic standard was a perfectly written balanced budget amendment.”  Now we have an unconstitutional agency, the Fed, creating unconstitutional money, fiat paper dollars.  Our Constitution grants no authority for either a central bank or paper money, and we need not only a balanced budget amendment but amendments that abolish the Fed and restore gold convertibility to our currency.

Those amendments, and others, might be pursued by states that have passed or favor a multiple-amendment proposal for a convention.  For states and organizations pursuing single-subject amendments, I would hope they might see my suggestions worthy of their support and not in conflict with their chosen objective but perhaps helpful to it.  Hopefully, then, they might pass a resolution adding their approval, though perhaps this would not occur before 34 states approve their chosen amendment.  It may be, too, that as an Article V convention gains popularity, the number of participating states will substantially exceed the required 34, meaning additional states might compensate for some states remaining confined to single-subject amendments and thus enable 34 states for new amendments.

The need for various amendments has never been more dire as the course of our government has brought us to the edge of a monetary disaster with worse consequence for Americans than the recent Great Recession.  Some of my proposed amendments are similar to those proposed by others, but in my book I offer some I don’t think anyone else has proposed.  Some may seem unlikely at this point, but as economic conditions in this country unravel, they may be viewed in a more favorable light. In any case, they are steps America should take, whether now or later.

I shall discuss other of my proposed amendments in future postings of this series on this blog.

[First published at American Liberty.]

Categories: On the Blog

Liberals, Your Shibboleth is Showing

June 17, 2016, 4:16 PM

Radical Islamic terrorism raised its ugly head again this weekend when 49 individuals were killed in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman’s rampage that represents the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. According to a Rasmussen Report, most Americans saw the horror in Orlando coming nearly three months ago.

What if the gunman would have had a pint of gasoline?  Instead of killing 49 people out of 300, he could have killed them all.  There was one exit, which would have been quickly blocked in the resulting stampede. Such a situation is not without precedent. 87 people were killed in a single exit social club by a disgruntled customer at the Bronx Happy Land social club fire in 1990. 

Listening to various talking heads on Fox News (and others) regarding the atrocity committed in Orlando, FL on Sunday morning, June 12, it took a surprisingly short time to discern the political background of the speakers. Democrats invariably returned to the themes of LGBT hatred and “gun control,” disregarding all other aspects of the incident. It would save a lot of time if there were a more concise way to reveal their outlook on events.

A shibboleth is an example of a linguistic password: used to identify another person as a member, or a non-member, of a particular group.

Shibboleth refers to a story in the Old Testament, the Book of Judges. Two Semitic tribes, the Ephraimites and the Gileadites, have a great battle. The Gileadites defeat the Ephraimites, and set up a blockade across the Jordan River to catch the fleeing Ephraimites who were trying to get back to their territory. The sentries asked each person who wanted to cross the river to say the word shibboleth. The Ephraimites, who had no sh sound in their language, pronounced the word with an s and were thereby unmasked as the enemy and slaughtered.

As applied to the talking heads on television concerning Orlando’s shooting, the shibboleth would be “Islamic Terrorism.” That term has yet to cross the lips of President Obama, his heir-apparent, Hillary, nor any of their acolytes. President Obama, in his televised speech to the nation, called the gay jihad mass murder an “act of hate” and an “act of terror”, carefully avoiding the more concise term. This notwithstanding the fact that the shooter, Omar Mateen, screamed “Allahu Akbar!” during the shooting and his 911 call pledging allegiance to ISIS.  This was ignored by Barack Obama as he went after guns.

If the so-called “experts” can’t or won’t pronounce that phrase, they should be instantly dismissed as having nothing to contribute. It would be educational to ask Obama, in public, what the letters in “ISIS” (or “ISIL”, which includes the state of Israel) stand for, and watch him stand tongue-tied or walk off the stage in disgust.

The Pulse Club atrocity was not a tragedy. A puppy falling into a drainpipe is a tragedy. The happening was deliberate and cruel to the extreme, having nothing to do about the availability of guns.  It is about:

  • A target of opportunity with many potential victims
  • A soft target, unlikely to present an armed defense
  • All exits and entrances except one were chained and locked.
  • A target which would get the immediate attention of the Administration, since it involved the LGBT community
  • Easily and widely publicized, to the benefit of Islamic Terrorists everywhere

There were no “red flags” raised when the shooter purchased two guns shortly before the assault. The FBI admits they had questioned Omar Mateen twice in the last three years, but purged their records of those encounters out of political correctness, mandated by Obama and the DOJ. The same policy allowed Ft. Hood, Boston Marathon, the North Charleston church and San Bernardino to develop unnoticed.

The “Terror Watch List” should not be a prohibition against exercising a constitutional right since it derives from a faceless bureaucratic decision, but it could sound a wake-up call to Homeland Security. Not all smoke means a fire, but it’s a pretty good idea when to start looking. If the President were to get his way and establish a new prohibited class, it would not be long before everyone who criticized the administration would find themselves on the list.

Although long guns figured prominently in San Bernardino, CA and Aurora, CO, long guns of any sort account for only 1% of homicides. Most are committed with hand guns of various sorts, and 10 percent using hands, fists and feet. In fact, Obama and Hillary don’t want guns of any sort in the hands of ordinary citizens. They decry so-called “assault rifles” simply for starters as low-hanging fruit, despite their enormous popularity. Real military “assault” rifles are fully automatic, and only a handful are in the possession of civilians. By “automatic”, progressives mean “semi-automatic”, which require a separate trigger pull for each round. Semi-automatic firearms, long or short, constitute over 85% of all civilian firearms. Progressives in New York and California include pump and lever action guns in the “assault” category. Where does it end? 

As in the great Australian confiscation of guns, John Wayne would twirl his ubiquitous Winchester 1902 by the lever and say “Let’s dance!” or something like that. 

Australia’s 1996 gun confiscation didn’t work – and it wouldn’t work in America.

It’s time we started looking for solutions, not just a way to transfer blame to others as a way to promote a failed Liberal ideology.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog