Friday, December 31, 2010

American Thinker: Obama's Inaugural Address: Two Years of Broken Promises

Obama's Inaugural Address: Two Years of Broken Promises
By Lee Cary
Along with the annual turn of the calendar from one year to the next comes the musing over where our lives have been and where we hope they'll go. This year the icy currents of our musings as a people will run deep.

Certainly, they won't be equivalent to a nation fighting a bloody Civil War. Nor do we face the daily trauma of a Great Depression with one of four Americans unemployed. Nor are these days as ominous as when we were reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor and suddenly at war with powerful and evil nations in Asia and Europe.

This time, the threats ride in on a slow tide, now washing around our ankles as we wonder just how deep the water will become. This time, it's different. This time, we lack what we always assumed would emerge when America found herself facing a crisis. We lack presidential leadership and will for at least the next two years.

There's no immediate value in reviewing the litany of presumptions and assumptions that brought us the current regime. But the consequences of the 2008 election are there for all with eyes to see and ears to hear. Besides, it's a long-done deal -- just not the deal that many who voted for the freshman senator from Illinois thought they were getting.

To prove that, all we need do is review the trail of broken promises in President Obama's January 2008 inaugural address. Back then he said, "We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents."

But, during the Obama administration, the Constitution has become a founding document to be subverted rather than served.

Obama said, "Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

But the irresponsibility over several administrations whereby banks were forced to artificially support a sub-prime interest rate that led to the housing bubble and brought down a financial house of cards gets translated into the president's distorted notion of class warfare, where the greedy and irresponsible "some" are at fault.

Obama said, "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

But hope and unity have not been byproducts of the Obama style of boot-on-the-neck governing -- one that most closely resembles the one-party tyranny of his hometown, Chicago.

Obama said, "On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogma that for far too long have strangled our politics."

But petty grievances and false promises have flourished during the last two years as recriminations and worn-out dogma rule. And the promise of a post-partisan era of politics now seems, in retrospect, at best to have been adolescently naïve and at worse duplicitous.

Obama said, "We will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth."

But even Pollyanna must admit that new jobs are not being created, and the only new foundation being laid for growth is a thicker concrete upon which debt grows toward national bankruptcy.

Obama said, "We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together."

But when none of that happened, he announced that there really never were any "shovel ready" projects after all. It's like the punchline from the old skit from "Saturday Night Live..."Never mind."

Obama said, "We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its costs."

But the legacy media never asked, "Just what does 'restoring science' mean?" And anyone today who thinks that Obamacare will lower costs is delusional. It's clear now that government control was always the primary goal -- never lower costs.

Obama said, "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply."

But the translation to that became "I will decide the lay of the land, and I'm not interested in any political debate, since I won the election. And those who oppose me are cynics."

Obama said, "Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day[.]"

But the myth of federal government transparency is as great, if not greater, than during any previous administration. And major legislation drafted during the last two years was done, out of all places, least often "in the light of day."

Obama said, "The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."

But the nation doesn't prosper at all when its leader pits one group of citizens against another and plays the Marxist class warfare card over and over again. It's a big world. And the big money will find somewhere else to go, just as the deep-water drilling rigs that the Obama administration has banned from the Gulf of Mexico are today moving elsewhere.

And, two years ago, Obama also said, "With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet."

But the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea has increased. And the hoax of man-made global warming has been exposed, as has its High Priest, a former U.S. vice president, who's made a mess of his private life and a fool of himself.

Finally, the president closed his inaugural address by quoting George Washington.

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words: with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

These were Obama's truest words -- read by him, but not his own. And ironically, today the icy currents of our common dangers are borne to us largely by the inept leadership of the president who quoted them two years ago.

Eight Botched Environmental Forecasts

Eight Botched Environmental Forecasts

By Maxim Lott

Published December 30, 2010

A new year is around the corner, and some climate scientists and environmental activists say that means we're one step closer to a climate Armageddon. But are we really?

Predicting the weather -- especially a decade or more in advance -- is unbelievably challenging. What's the track record of those most worried about global warming? Decades ago, what did prominent scientists think the environment would be like in 2010? has compiled eight of the most egregiously mistaken predictions, and asked the predictors to reflect on what really happened.

1. Within a few years "children just aren't going to know what snow is." Snowfall will be "a very rare and exciting event." Dr. David Viner, senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, interviewed by the UK Independent, March 20, 2000.

Ten years later, in December 2009, London was hit by the heaviest snowfall seen in 20 years. And just last week, a snowstorm forced Heathrow airport to shut down, stranding thousands of Christmas travelers.

A spokesman for the government-funded British Council, where Viner now works as the lead climate change expert, told that climate science had improved since the prediction was made.

"Over the past decade, climate science has moved on considerably and there is now more understanding about the impact climate change will have on weather patterns in the coming years," British Council spokesman Mark Herbert said. "However, Dr Viner believes that his general predictions are still relevant."

Herbert also pointed to another prediction from Viner in the same article, in which Viner predicted that "heavy snow would return occasionally" and that it would "probably cause chaos in 20 years time." Other scientists said "a few years" was simply too short a time frame for kids to forget what snow was.

"I'd say at some point, say 50 years from now, it might be right. If he said a few years, that was an unwise prediction," said Michael Oppenheimer, director of Princeton University's Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy.

Of course, Oppenheimer himself is known for controversial global warming scenarios.

2. "[By] 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots…[By 1996] The Platte River of Nebraska would be dry, while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down computers." Michael Oppenheimer, published in "Dead Heat," St. Martin's Press, 1990.

Oppenheimer told that he was trying to illustrate one possible outcome of failing to curb emissions, not making a specific prediction. He added that the gist of his story had in fact come true, even if the events had not occurred in the U.S.

"On the whole I would stand by these predictions -- not predictions, sorry, scenarios -- as having at least in a general way actually come true," he said. "There's been extensive drought, devastating drought, in significant parts of the world. The fraction of the world that's in drought has increased over that period."

That may be in doubt, however. Data from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shows that precipitation -- rain and snow -- has increased slightly over the century.

3. "Arctic specialist Bernt Balchen says a general warming trend over the North Pole is melting the polar ice cap and may produce an ice-free Arctic Ocean by the year 2000." Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 1972.

Ice coverage has fallen, though as of last month, the Arctic Ocean had 3.82 million square miles of ice cover -- an area larger than the continental United States -- according to The National Snow and Ice Data Center.

4. "Using computer models, researchers concluded that global warming would raise average annual temperatures nationwide two degrees by 2010." Associated Press, May 15, 1989.

Status of prediction: According to NASA, global temperature has increased by about 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1989. And U.S. temperature has increased even less over the same period.

The group that did the study, Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc., said it could not comment in time for this story due to the holidays.

But Oppenheimer said that the difference between an increase of nearly one degree and an increase of two degrees was "definitely within the margin of error... I would think the scientists themselves would be happy with that prediction."

Many scientists, especially in the 1970s, made an error in the other direction by predicting global freezing:

5. "By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half." Life magazine, January 1970.

Life Magazine also noted that some people disagree, "but scientists have solid experimental and historical evidence to support each of the following predictions."

Air quality has actually improved since 1970. Studies find that sunlight reaching the Earth fell by somewhere between 3 and 5 percent over the period in question.

6. "If present trends continue, the world will be ... eleven degrees colder by the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age." Kenneth E.F. Watt, in "Earth Day," 1970.

According to NASA, global temperature has increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1970.

How could scientists have made such off-base claims? Dr. Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb" and president of Stanford University's Center for Conservation Biology, told that ideas about climate science changed a great deal in the the '70s and '80s.

"Present trends didn't continue," Ehrlich said of Watt's prediction. "There was considerable debate in the climatological community in the '60s about whether there would be cooling or warming … Discoveries in the '70s and '80s showed that the warming was going to be the overwhelming force."

Ehrlich told that the consequences of future warming could be dire.

The proverbial excrement is "a lot closer to the fan than it was in 1968," he said. "And every single colleague I have agrees with that."

He added, "Scientists don't live by the opinion of Rush Limbaugh and Palin and George W. They live by the support of their colleagues, and I've had full support of my colleagues continuously."

But Ehrlich admits that several of his own past environmental predictions have not come true:

7. "By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people ... If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.

Ehrlich's prediction was taken seriously when he made it, and New Scientist magazine underscored his speech in an editorial titled "In Praise of Prophets."

"When you predict the future, you get things wrong," Ehrlich admitted, but "how wrong is another question. I would have lost if I had had taken the bet. However, if you look closely at England, what can I tell you? They're having all kinds of problems, just like everybody else."

8. "In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish." Ehrlich, speech during Earth Day, 1970

"Certainly the first part of that was very largely true -- only off in time," Ehrlich told "The second part is, well -- the fish haven't washed up, but there are very large dead zones around the world, and they frequently produce considerable stench."

"Again, not totally accurate, but I never claimed to predict the future with full accuracy," he said.

Read more:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Health plans for high-risk patients attracting fewer, costing more than expected

Health plans for high-risk patients attracting fewer, costing more than expected

By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 27, 2010; 10:54 PM

An early feature of the new health-care law that allows people who are already sick to get insurance to cover their medical costs isn't attracting as many customers as expected.

In the meantime, in at least a few states, claims for medical care covered by the "high-risk pools" are proving very costly, and it is an open question whether the $5 billion allotted by Congress to start up the plans will be sufficient.

Federal health officials contend the new insurance plans, designed solely for people who already are sick, are merely experiencing growing pains. It will take time to spread the word that they exist and to adjust prices and benefits so that the plans are as attractive as possible, the officials say.

State-level directors of the plans agree, in part. But in interviews, they also said that the insurance premiums are unaffordable for some who need the coverage - and that some would-be customers are skittish about the plans because federal lawsuits and congressional Republicans are trying to overturn the entire law.

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, the program's official name, is an early test of President Obama's argument that people will embrace the politically divisive health-care overhaul once they see its advantages firsthand. According to some health-policy researchers, the success or failure of the pools also could foreshadow the complexities of making broader changes in health insurance by 2014, when states are to open new marketplaces - or exchanges - for Americans to buy coverage individually or in small groups.

Under the sprawling health-care legislation that Democrats pushed through Congress in March, the special health plans were designed as a temporary coping mechanism for a small but important niche among the nation's 50 million uninsured: people who have been rejected by insurance companies because they already are sick.

Twenty-seven states have created their own high-risk pools. The rest used an option in the law to let their residents buy coverage through a new federal health plan.

In the spring, the Medicare program's chief actuary predicted that 375,000 people would sign up for the pool plans by the end of the year. Early last month, the Health and Human Services Department reported that just 8,000 people had enrolled. HHS officials declined to provide an update, although they collect such figures monthly, because they have decided to report them on a quarterly basis.

"Like the rest of the country, we thought we'd have pretty much a stampede. That obviously hasn't materialized," said Michael Keough, executive director of North Carolina's plan. With nearly 700 participants, it is among the nation's largest so far, but it has one-third of the people expected by now.

According to interviews with administrators of nine of the state-run plans, only one - Colorado's - is close to its forecast enrollment. Maryland, the only jurisdiction in the Washington area that has created a plan, has 97 participants, compared with 19,000 in an older state high-risk pool, according to Kent McKinney, who directs both. HHS's November report said that Virginia had 75 participants in the federal plan. The District had none.
Potential lifesaver

The plans have been a boon and a heartbreak.

"I don't mean to be gushy about it, but they potentially saved my life," said Maureen Murray, 50, of Arlington County, who had dropped her individual insurance policy in July 2009, after her work as a freelance video producer dried up. Murray was getting ready for a gym class in October when she "felt something go down my left side." It was a stroke. She was still at Alexandria's Mount Vernon Hospital when a CAT-scan detected an aneurysm on the left side of her brain.

She was discharged two days before Halloween with a $25,000 hospital bill.

A friend recommended the new high-risk pool. Four days after Thanksgiving, she was approved. It will cover her surgery in January to repair the aneurysm. The plan's premiums, Murray said, are steep - $358 a month even after a rate reduction in January. "I'm in rough financial position, but . . . I can get another job," she said. Without the insurance, "I might not have that opportunity."
Expensive coverage

On the other hand, Will Wilson, 57, of Chicago said he is "really, really, really, really discouraged." After he received an AIDS diagnosis in 2002, he discovered that his insurance at the time paid only $1,500 for medicine each year. His AIDS drugs cost $3,000 a month. He ended up in bankruptcy.

Wilson, a tourist trolley guide, now gets help from the federal AIDS Drug Assistance Program, but he has no coverage for other kinds of care.

Wilson remembers tears streaming down his face in February 2009, the night that he watched Obama vow to Congress, "Health-care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year!"

Wilson became an activist for health reform, circulating petitions, going to demonstrations. And the day after the president signed the bill into law, a Chicago Sun-Times column quoted him as saying, "I've had a grin on my face all day" at the prospect of the high-risk pool he could join. That was before the rates were announced in July and Wilson discovered that the premium - nearly $600 a month - "was almost as much as my rent. It was like, no way! I was floored."

The law contains rules to make the high-risk pools more affordable than older ones that many states have run; the new ones cannot charge more in premiums than the average premium for other individual insurance in a given state. But "the individual market is expensive," said Jean P. Hall, a University of Kansas researcher studying the new plans. "From my perspective, it is not a good match for people who have expensive conditions."

HHS has made some changes for 2011 in the federal plan on which 23 states and the District are relying. It will have somewhat lower premiums and two new options with varying deductibles, according to Richard Popper, HHS's deputy director for insurance programs.

The agency also is launching a more aggressive marketing campaign, Popper said, focused on states, including Virginia, whose residents have not had any kind of high-risk pool in the past. And the Social Security Administration has agreed to tell everyone it approves for disability benefits about the new health plans.

Among the 27 states with their own plans, 17 have submitted changes for HHS to approve so they can lower premiums, adjust other costs or alter who is allowed to join.

And they are doing more marketing. Michigan is running Internet ads through Google. North Carolina is advertising on billboards across the state and on cable television.
Fretting about challenges

Whether the marketing and plan adjustments will translate into more customers remains unclear. Cecil Bykerk, the executive director for the new plans in Montana, Iowa and Alaska, said some people are wary over whether the health-care law - and the high-risk pools it has created - will last. "I think there is a lot of concern in the public with all the [federal court] challenges and all the political rhetoric about appeal," he said.

Montana is one of a few states in which the medical bills from those who have joined are huge. New Hampshire's plan has only about 80 members, but they already have spent nearly double the $650,000 the state was allotted in federal money to help run the program, said J. Michael Degnan, its director.

The spending, Degnan speculated, might slow down if it turns out that the early bills reflected a burst of pent-up need for care. HHS agreed to give New Hampshire more money, he added.

When the law was passed, proponents of the special health plans feared the $5 billion would run out before 2014. Today, HHS's Popper says of that financial help: "We want to use it - make it last but also use it to effectively to get people covered."

Health plans for high-risk patients attracting fewer, costing more than expected

Health plans for high-risk patients attracting fewer, costing more than expected

The Washington Post Indicts Obamacare …

The Washington Post Indicts Obamacare …
But it’s difficult to find online.
William Kristol
December 28, 2010 9:35 AM

Amy Goldstein's lead front-page piece in today's print edition of the Washington Post isn't featured on the Post's website. This is unusual—featured pieces in the print edition are most often featured online as well. It’s unfortunate that Goldstein's fine reporting has almost disappeared from the home page of the website, since it constitutes a devastating indictment of Obamacare.

The headline summarizes the piece well: "Health plans for high-risk patients attracting fewer, costing more than expected." These health plans are a major feature of Obamacare, as they are intended to make it easier for people with preexisting health conditions to purchase insurance. Instead, they seem to have managed to achieve the liberal big-government public policy trifecta: the plans aren't helping nearly as many people as they were supposed to; they're costing more than they were supposed to; and the big government solution to this will be ... to seek more clients through advertising, so as to expand the size of an inefficient program and break the bank even more quickly.

Is this program just one minor feature of Obamacare? No, it's central to its claims to expand health insurance while controlling costs. And as Goldstein writes, "According to some health-policy researchers, the success or failure of the pools also could foreshadow the complexities of making broader changes in health insurance by 2014, when states are to open new marketplaces—or exchanges—for Americans to buy coverage individually or in small groups."

The data so far? "In the spring, the Medicare program's chief actuary predicted that 375,000 people would sign up for the pool plans by the end of the year. Early last month, the Health and Human Services Department reported that just 8,000 people had enrolled." Nonetheless, the plans will cost more than the $5 billion budgeted for them. But fear not: government bureaucrats "are doing more marketing. Michigan is running Internet ads through Google. North Carolina is advertising on billboards across the state and on cable television."

Your Obamacare tax dollars at work.

Memo to the 112th Congress: Repeal, defund, and replace!

Alan Simpson calls seniors the Greediest Generation…

Alan Simpson calls seniors the Greediest Generation…

Here’s a response in a letter from a fellow in Montana…

“Hey Alan, let’s get a few things straight…

1. As a career politician, you have been on the public dole for FIFTY YEARS.

2. I have been paying Social Security taxes for 48 YEARS (since I was 15 years old. I am now 63).

3. My Social Security payments, and those of millions of other Americans, were safely tucked away in an interest bearing account for decades until you political pukes decided to raid the account and give OUR money to a bunch of zero ambition losers in return for votes, thus bankrupting the system and turning Social Security into a Ponzi scheme that would have made Bernie Madoff proud

4. Recently, just like Lucy & Charlie Brown, you and your ilk pulled the proverbial football away from millions of American seniors nearing retirement and moved the goalposts for full retirement from age 65 to age 67. NOW, you and your shill commission is proposing to move the goalposts YET AGAIN.

5. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the bills

6. I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money. Now, you come to the American taxpayers and say you need more to pay off YOUR debt.


To add insult to injury, you label us “greedy” for calling “bullshit” on your incompetence. Well, Captain Bullshit, I have a few questions for YOU.

1. How much money have you earned from the American taxpayers during your pathetic 50-year political career?

2. At what age did you retire from your pathetic political career, and how much are you receiving in annual retirement benefits from the American taxpayers?

3. How much do you pay for YOUR government provided health insurance?

4. What cuts in YOUR retirement and healthcare benefits are you proposing in your disgusting deficit reduction proposal, or, as usual, have you exempted yourself and your political cronies?

It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators who are “greedy”. It is you and they who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream from millions of loyal, patriotic taxpayers. And for what? Votes. That’s right, sir. You and yours have bankrupted America for the sole purpose of advancing your pathetic political careers. You know it, we know it, and you know that we know it.

And you can take that to the bank, you miserable son of a bitch.”

Top Ten Charts of 2010 | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

Top Ten Charts of 2010 | The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

American Thinker: The Winner of This Year's 'Best Climate Predictor' Award (Clue: It Wasn't Al Gore!)

December 27, 2010
The Winner of This Year's 'Best Climate Predictor' Award (Clue: It Wasn't Al Gore!)
By Howard Richman & Raymond Richman
Given the terrible beginning of winter in the U.S. and Europe this year, we ought to reward those who accurately predicted it and condemn those who got it wrong. It's time to choose the winner of this year's "Best Climate Predictor" award. There are five nominees:

1. former Vice President Al Gore,
2. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger,
3. the IPCC of the United Nations, and
4. British astrophysicist Piers Corbyn. (You say you've never heard of him? You won't be surprised, once you've read his predictions, that the media have ignored him.)

Gore, Schwarzenegger, and the IPCC made their mark through their dramatic predictions of catastrophic sea level rise due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causing global warming. Gore once predicted that sea levels would rise by twenty feet over the century. Last year, Schwarzenegger unveiled a map showing world sea levels rising by 1.5 meters over the next century. In 2001, the IPCC predicted that sea level would rise by three feet over the next century. Their past predictions and the accurate satellite measurements are shown in the chart below:

The actual sea level rise over the last eighteen years is 1.85 inches, which works out to 10.4 inches per century. This is similar to the 20th century's rise of 8 inches, but much less than the average rise of 4 feet per century for the last 10,000 years as glaciers left by the last ice age continue to melt.

Gore's prediction is clearly the worst of these three, yet he was awarded a million-dollar Nobel Peace Prize for bringing this issue to the attention of the world. Schwarzenegger's prediction comes in second-worst, yet he is angling for a global warming spokesman job in the Obama administration. The IPCC's prediction is third-worst, yet it just won a huge expansion of the U.N. bureaucracy at the Cancun Climate Conference.

Piers Corbyn is the clear winner, yet he still works out of a drab office that the U.K. Daily Telegraph calls "undistinguished":

[T]his is the third tough winter in a row. Is it really true that no one saw this coming?

Actually, they did. Allow me to introduce readers to Piers Corbyn, meteorologist and brother of my old chum, bearded leftie MP Jeremy. Piers Corbyn works in an undistinguished office in Borough High Street. He has no telescope or supercomputer. Armed only with a laptop, huge quantities of publicly available data and a first-class degree in astrophysics, he gets it right again and again.

Back in November, when the Met Office was still doing its "mild winter" schtick, Corbyn said it would be the coldest for 100 years. Indeed, it was back in May that he first predicted a snowy December, and he put his own money on a white Christmas about a month before the Met Office made any such forecast. He said that the Met Office would be wrong about last year's mythical "barbecue summer", and he was vindicated. He was closer to the truth about last winter, too. [...]

He seems to get it right about 85 per cent of the time and serious business people - notably in farming - are starting to invest in his forecasts. In the eyes of many punters, he puts the taxpayer-funded Met Office to shame. How on earth does he do it? He studies the Sun.

Corbyn, like many other astrophysicists, has figured out that climate change is mainly due to extraterrestrial forces, including solar activity and cosmic rays, not carbon dioxide. If you still believe in the theory that carbon dioxide causes climate change, click here to watch an excellent lecture by Jasper Kirkby at the Cern, one of Europe's most highly respected centers for scientific research. Astrophysicists have discovered that changes in the rate of cosmic ray inflow cause climate change and that solar activity shields the earth from cosmic rays. They haven't completely worked out the mechanism yet, but they think it has to do with cosmic rays causing cloud formation and clouds reflecting sunlight back into space.

Who says that climate change will not be catastrophic? Starting January 2, President Obama's EPA will start enforcing its new regulation that American industries use the "best available control technologies" to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This could increase American energy costs sufficiently to choke off our economic recovery.

And don't forget that at the conclusion of last year's climate conference in Copenhagen, President Obama negotiated the Copenhagen Accord with China, Brazil, South Africa, and India as a framework for future negotiations. That accord lets China opt out from any verifiable requirements but commits the developed nations to paying out $100 billion per year to the U.N. and to the participating developing countries. It states:

In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. New multilateral funding for adaptation will be delivered through effective and efficient fund arrangements, with a governance structure providing for equal representation of developed and developing countries. A significant portion of such funding should flow through the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.

So who is the best climate predictor of the year? Obviously, that honor goes to Piers Corbyn and his fellow astrophysicists. Who is the worst? Al Gore, followed closely by Gov. Schwarzenegger and the U.N.'s IPCC. The last entrant's mischief-making has already cost the U.S. billion of dollars and brought Spain to the edge of bankruptcy, and it promises to make China the principal beneficiary of any further action. President Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency appear determined to bankrupt the U.S. and send what remains of U.S. manufacturing to China.

The authors maintain a blog at, and co-authored the 2008 book Trading Away Our Future: How to Fix Our Government-Driven Trade Deficits and Faulty Tax System Before it's Too Late, published by Ideal Taxes Association.

American Thinker: CARB's Carbon Capers

CARB's Carbon Capers
By S. Fred Singer
In a nearly unanimous vote, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) just approved a statewide cap-and-trade scheme to limit emissions of CO2 from six hundred major industrial plants, starting in 2012. Proposition 23 on the California ballot, defeated in November, was an attempt to at least delay the state's Cap-and-Trade law, AB-32, until California's record unemployment eased. However, the slanted description appearing on both the official Voter Guide and the ballot, written by then-State Attorney General Jerry Brown and his office, the well-funded "No-on-23" campaign, and some very heavy media bias, had Californians believing that Prop. 23 would thwart efforts to curb air pollution -- i.e., smog. So Prop 23 went down in flames, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs, and perhaps a million.

The "Cooler Heads" blog relates that the adopted regulation is more than three thousand pages long, but most of the details have yet to be worked out. CARB rushed to meet a December 31 deadline set by the 2006 legislation that authorizes CARB to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. In order to protect California businesses from out-of-state competition, CARB will (initially) allocate emissions credits (aka energy-rationing coupons) for free. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is the only precedent for free allocation of carbon credits; it resulted in windfall profits for politically connected industries and higher electricity prices for consumers.

Not surprisingly, the New York Times approves of the scheme: "[AB32] will put the state far ahead of the rest of the country in energy reform."

The regulations, if they go into effect, will create the largest market for carbon trading in the country. (Ten states including New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the New England states are participating in a less extensive system known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which covers only electric utilities.)

By the time the CARB program takes effect in 2012, California regulators plan to have created a framework for carbon trading with New Mexico, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec -- some of its partners in the Western Climate Initiative. But as long as Congress and the Obama administration shun cap and trade, California, instead of being the forerunner of a national movement, will remain part of a far-flung archipelago of states and provinces participating in a small carbon market.

Mary D. Nichols, CARB's chairwoman, said, "We are well aware that we in California are on a different path from many other states in our willingness to be at the front" of the cap-and-trade movement. An idea of her mindset comes from a speech at the University of Rhode Island in November 2008, where she mentioned California's efforts on climate change:

We know that the economic crisis we will face from unmitigated climate change could dwarf [sic] anything we have ever seen. That alone is a compelling enough reason to take swift action. But there's another reason also, which is that developing a new clean energy economy that drives and rewards investment and innovation, creates jobs and serves as the engine for sustainable economic growth is exactly what we need at a time like this.

Transportation and utility industry representatives see Nichols' push on climate-change regulation in California as evidence of an ingrained pro-regulatory bias.

I recollect Nichols as a former assistant EPA administrator in the Clinton years, under Carol Browner. In testimony to Congress in 2000, on phasing out the chemical fumigant methyl bromide (of great economic importance to agriculture but suspected of causing damage to the ozone layer), she claimed benefits of 32 trillion dollars! And no one questioned how she arrived at this wild number. A more reasonable value, I argued in my opposing testimony, would be zero benefits: There was no evidence of MeBr, with an atmospheric lifetime of only a few months, reaching the stratosphere; no evidence of a bromine-caused ozone depletion; and no evidence from ground-level monitoring stations of any increase in cancer-causing solar UV.

Among the industries immediately affected by the CARB rules will be producers of cement, which requires an industrial process in which the release of carbon dioxide is an integral part. Steve Regis, vice president of CalPortland, said in an interview, "We feel like we're really exposed because 60 percent of our direct emissions are from the process -- nothing we can do about them." The re-engineering of that process, Regis said, would entail major costs, if it is even possible. He added that some California plants had recently shut down and moved their production out of state.

The midterm elections turned into a sweeping repudiation of the Democrats' failed status quo -- except, that is, in California, says Investor's Business Daily. With the exception of the governor's office, California has been a virtual one-party state since the 1960s. Now, thanks to decades of anti-business policies promulgated by a series of left-leaning legislatures, its economy and finances are a mess, and it is hemorrhaging jobs, businesses, and productive entrepreneurs to other states.

How bad has it gotten in the erstwhile Golden State? Consider:

* Some 2.3 million Californians are without jobs, making for a 12.4-percent unemployment rate -- one of the highest in the country.
* From 2001 to 2010, factory jobs plummeted from 1.87 million to 1.23 million -- a loss of 34 percent of the state's industrial base.
* With just 12 percent of the U.S. population, California has almost a third of the nation's welfare recipients; meanwhile, 15.3 percent of all Californians live in poverty.
* The state budget gap for 2009-2010 was $45.5 billion, or 53 percent of total state spending -- the largest in any state's history.
* Unfunded pension liabilities for California's state and public employees may be as much as $500 billion -- roughly 17 percent of the nation's total $3 trillion at the state and local level.

This disaster has been building for decades. In the end, only the voters of California could have changed things. But on Tuesday, November 2, they opted for more of the same governance. Empowering CARB regulation will only make conditions worse.

garphic by Richard Terrell
S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service. A fellow of the Independent Institute and the Heartland Institute, he has authored books and monographs on energy policy and climate change -- most recently, Unstoppable Global Warming-Every 1500 Years (with Dennis T. Avery).

American Thinker Blog: New year, new debt

New year, new debt
Ethel C. Fenig
The departing 111th Congress left you and your descendants a Christmas gift unlike any other--a gift that will keep on taking from you long after the donors are gone. Debt. Massive debt reports Terence P. Jeffrey of CNS.

The federal government has accumulated more new debt--$3.22 trillion ($3,220,103,625,307.29)-during the tenure of the 111th Congress than it did during the first 100 Congresses combined, according to official debt figures published by the U.S. Treasury.

That equals $10,429.64 in new debt for each and every one of the 308,745,538 people counted in the United States by the 2010 Census.

Adding the above new debt to the old debt

The total national debt of $13,858,529,371,601.09 (or $13.859 trillion), as recorded by the U.S. Treasury at the close of business on Dec. 22, now equals $44,886.57 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

And not so incidentally this last Congress, like the formerly highest debt ridden 110th, was controlled by Democrats in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

[T]he $3.22 trillion in new debt accumulated during the record-setting 111th Congress is more than three times the $1.054 trillion in new debt accumulated by the last Republican-majority Congress (the 109th) which adjourned on Dec. 8, 2006.

And a very happy, healthy (Obamacare begins to kicks in) and uhm debt free new year 2011 to you.

111th Congress Added More Debt Than First 100 Congresses Combined: $10,429 Per Person in U.S. |

111th Congress Added More Debt Than First 100 Congresses Combined: $10,429 Per Person in U.S.
Monday, December 27, 2010
By Terence P. Jeffrey

( - The federal government has accumulated more new debt--$3.22 trillion ($3,220,103,625,307.29)—during the tenure of the 111th Congress than it did during the first 100 Congresses combined, according to official debt figures published by the U.S. Treasury.

That equals $10,429.64 in new debt for each and every one of the 308,745,538 people counted in the United States by the 2010 Census.

The total national debt of $13,858,529,371,601.09 (or $13.859 trillion), as recorded by the U.S. Treasury at the close of business on Dec. 22, now equals $44,886.57 for every man, woman and child in the United States.

In fact, the 111th Congress not only has set the record as the most debt-accumulating Congress in U.S. history, but also has out-stripped its nearest competitor, the 110th, by an astounding $1.262 trillion in new debt.

During the 110th Congress—which, according to the Clerk of the House, officially convened on Jan. 4, 2007 and adjourned on Jan. 4, 2009--the national debt increased $1.957 trillion. When that Congress adjourned less than two years ago, it claimed the record as the most debt-accumulating Congress in U.S. history. As it turned out, however, its record did not last long.

The $3.22 trillion in new federal debt run up during the 111th Congress exceeds by 64 percent the $1.957 trillion in new debt run up during the 110th.

Although the 111th Congress cast its last vote on Dec. 22, it will not officially adjourn until next week.

Democrats controlled both the House and Senate in the 110th and 111th Congresses.

The 108th Congress ($1.159 trillion in new debt) and 109th ($1.054 trillion in new debt) take third and fourth place among all U.S. Congresses for accumulating debt. In both these Congresses, Republicans controlled both the House and Senate.

Still, the $3.22 trillion in new debt accumulated during the record-setting 111th Congress is more than three times the $1.054 trillion in new debt accumulated by the last Republican-majority Congress (the 109th) which adjourned on Dec. 8, 2006.

Historically, according to the U.S. Treasury, the federal debt did not reach $3.22 trillion until September 1990, during the 101st Congress. Between the first Congress, which adjourned in 1791 leaving behind approximately $75 million in debt, and the convening of the 101st Congress, which occurred on Jan. 3, 1989, the national debt grew to $2.684 trillion.

During the Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) tenure as speaker, which commenced on Jan. 4, 2007, the federal government has run up $5.177 trillion in new debt. That is about equal to the total debt the federal government accumulated in the first 220 years of the nation's existence, with the federal debt rising from $5.173 trillion on July 24, 1996 to $5.181 trillion on July 24, 1996.

In her inaugural address as speaker, Pelosi vowed that Congress would engage in no new deficit spending.

"After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: Pay as you go, no new deficit spending,” she said in an address from the speaker’s podium. “Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt."

Here is an accounting of the new debt accumulated during the tenure of each Congress since the 101st. The convening and adjourning dates are reported by the Clerk of the House and the debt levels are recorded by the U.S. Treasury:

Congress Convening/Adjourning Debt Levels

111th Congress

Jan. 6, 2009 $10,638,425,746,293.80

Dec. 22, 2010 $13,858,529,371,601.09

New Debt: $3,220,103,625,307.29

110th Congress

Jan. 4, 2007 8,670,596,242,973.04

Jan. 3, 2009 10,627,961,295,930.67

New Debt: 1,957,365,052,957.63

109th Congress

Jan. 4, 2005 7,601,016,892,663.19

Dec. 8, 2006 8,655,403,967,590.98

New Debt: 1,054,387,074,927.79

108th Congress

Jan. 7, 2003 6,387,381,983,103.35

Dec. 9, 2004 7,546,778,677,941.37

New Debt: 1,159,396,694,838.02

107th Congress

Jan. 3, 2001 5,723,237,439,563.59

Nov. 22, 2002 6,332,715,758,032.33

New Debt: 609,478,318,468.74

106th Congress

Jan. 6, 1999 5,615,428,551,461.33

Dec. 15, 2000 5,706,990,981,165.37

New Debt: 91,562,429,704.04

105th Congress

Jan. 7, 1997 5,312,781,237,956.91

Dec. 19, 1998 5,583,950,306,972.53

New Debt: 271,169,069,015.62

104th Congress

Jan. 4, 1995 4,801,793,426,032.89

Oct. 4, 1996 5,222,049,625,819.53

New Debt: 420,256,199,786.64

103rd Congress

Jan.5, 1993 4,169,232,407,244.75

Dec. 1, 1994 4,774,851,353,596.54

New Debt: 605,618,946,351.79

102nd Congress

Jan. 3, 1991 (Dec. 31, 1990) 3,364,820,000,000.00

Oct. 9, 1992 (Sept. 30, 1992) 4,064,621,000,000.00

New Debt: 699,801,000,000.00

101st Congress

Jan. 3, 1989 (Dec. 31, 1988) 2,684,392,000,000.00

Oct. 28, 1990 (Oct. 31, 1990) 3,274,950,000.000.00

New Debt: 590,558,000,000.00

Sunday, December 26, 2010

More Homeowners Underwater as Depression-Era Depreciation Nears

More Homeowners Underwater as Depression-Era Depreciation Nears
11/10/2010 By: Carrie Bay Printer Friendly View

Nearly one-quarter, or 23.2 percent of U.S. homeowners with a mortgage, were underwater on the loan in the third quarter, meaning they owe more on the home than it is worth, according to figures released Wednesday by the real estate data provider Zillow.

The third-quarter underwater number rose from 22.5 percent in the second quarter and is the highest it’s been since Zillow began tracking negative equity in 2009.

The subtle hints of stabilization in home values that started emerging earlier in the year began to wane last quarter.

Zillow’s home value index recorded a 4.3 percent year-over-year decline in Q3 and was down 1.2 percent from the second quarter. The Seattle-based company says its index reading has fallen for 17 consecutive quarters now. The company’s market data shows the median home value nationwide has dropped to $179,900.

With home values nationally 25 percent below their June 2006 peak, the current housing downturn is approaching Great Depression-era declines, when home values fell 25.9 percent in five years (between 1929 and 1933), Zillow pointed out in its report.

Home values fell from the second to the third quarter in 77 percent of markets covered in Zillow’s study. In five of those markets – the California metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Ventura – home values began to drop again after five consecutive quarters of increases.

Other markets that showed signs of stabilization in previous quarters also faltered, with home values flattening or becoming negative in large metros like Boston and Denver.

“While not unexpected, the unceasing declines in home values signal that we’re in for a long, bleak winter of continued troubles for the housing market,” said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist. “The length and depth of the current housing recession is rivaling the Great Depression’s real estate downturn, and, with encouraging signs fading, will easily eclipse it in the coming months.”

With home values declining again, more and more homeowners find themselves sinking in mortgage debt. Zillow says in some hard-hit markets, as many as four out of five single-family homeowners with mortgages were underwater in the third quarter.

Las Vegas had the highest percentage of underwater borrowers in Q3, with 80.2 percent in negative equity, followed by Phoenix with 68.4 percent. In total, 11 markets tracked by Zillow had negative equity above 50 percent.

“The high percentage of homeowners in negative equity continues to be troubling, in that it represents a huge number of people who are not only more vulnerable to foreclosure, but who are essentially trapped in their current homes and are prevented from selling and buying a new home,” according to Dr. Humphries. “This has profound implications for future demand and will be a millstone around the neck of the housing market.”

As home values continue to fall and negative equity’s grip gets tighter, additional signs of trouble have emerged.

Zillow says foreclosures have reached a new all-time peak, with 1.2 out of every 1,000 homeowners in the country losing their homes in September.

Sales of homes previously foreclosed in the past 12 months reached a near-peak level during that same month, with foreclosure re-sales making up more than one-fifth (20.1 percent) of all sales, according to Zillow. The company says the last time foreclosure re-sales reached similar levels was in March 2009, when they made up 20.5 percent of all sales.

Additionally, more than one-quarter (27.3 percent) of homes sold in September were sold for a loss, marking a near-peak level, Zillow reports. The peak was hit in February 2010, when 27.7 percent of homes sold went for a loss.

Deep in the heart of taxes -

Deep in the heart of taxes
Why I won't move to New York


Last Updated: 3:38 AM, December 26, 2010

Posted: 11:21 PM, December 25, 2010

New York, I love you — but I can’t make the math work.

Like lots of media professionals (and fashion mavens, artists, musicians, et al.), I’ve penciled out the numbers for what it would mean to take a job in New York City. There’s barely enough room on the back of the envelope for subtracting the double-dose income tax hit from the city and state, and that’s before even adjusting for cost of living.

That’s one of the reasons I’m in Dallas. You know, Texas, the state that parlayed this year’s census data into four new House seats — pinching the two lost by the Empire State — because people actually want to live here.

Lots of Texas professionals love New York this way: fly in for $200 round trip, suck down the city’s beefy marrow of culture for a weekend and jet back to live cheap and pay no income tax. It’s all the pleasure and we keep our treasure.

Folks are voting with their pocketbooks; between 2000 and 2008, $846 million of New York’s personal income saddled up and jingle-jangled down to the Lone Star State.

Nobody’s saying New York’s lost appeal from a career standpoint — it’s still the epicenter of finance, media, law and all that. It’s the paycheck crunch that can turn an offer of a lifetime into No Sale.

The figures work this way on a pitch to come live in the Big Apple: You can get a 17% raise, but you’ll still take home less pay compared to that Texas job. But I hear the rent is cheap, right?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid it out after the census beat-down. “Unless we make this an attractive state to do business in and to live in, people are going to continue to move out,” he said. “We have to reverse that trend.”

It’s no sweat for 10-figure-net-worth Bloomberg to say his city and state overtax. It’s worth perspiring when professionals who earn into six figures give New York City the finger to live large in Dallas, Atlanta or Phoenix.

And forget the idea that a place like Dallas is all belt buckles, mechanical bulls and failed savings and loans. My house — 2,200 square feet for under $280,000 with schools that are among the state’s highest-rated — is 3.6 miles from a Barneys New York, Versace and plenty of other luxury shops. We’ve got our share of restaurants sporting $50 veal entrees. We’ve got $354 million worth of brand-spanking-new arts venues, a killer sculpture center and a football stadium big enough to create its own weather. Plus we’ve got the world’s third-busiest airport with nonstops to 140 cities.

When the Internet economy allows an increasing number of people to live anywhere, low costs win. Texans spend 8.4% of income on state and local taxes compared with 11.7% for New Yorkers. Dollars that would rent a fifth-floor walk-up in New York City instead can buy a small ranch and maybe even acreage in Texas’ suburbs, where prairie begs to be paved for another Applebee’s.

Texas creates jobs like a fiend, in part because businesses large and small have no worry of obstacles such as plaintiff-friendly courts, consumer-friendly regulators or oversight-friendly lawmakers. Pro-business isn’t just a mantra; they put it in the water.

Oil and gas still play a huge role here, but are increasingly overshadowed by technology, medical and defense jobs. Texas has more Fortune 500 company headquarters than New York.

Not that it’s all barbecue brisket and bodacious blondes in Dallas. The state still has its issues. When you have no income tax, property and sales taxes have to make up the revenue gap, and they’re pretty steep. And try not to be poor down here because the Texas approach to a social safety net can be summed up as “Meh.” Texas spends less per capita on social services than virtually any state.

The income gap here makes Texas look more like Mexico in some ways than the rest of the country, though New York is no stranger to wealth excess contrasted with subsistence living. Texas has led the country in the percentage of people lacking health care, teenage pregnancy rates and drags the bottom on educational attainment. Political discourse here remains whether Democrats are socialists or simply traitors.

But the interesting bit about the census power grab by Texas is that the newcomers are more diverse in every way than the natives. The state’s getting younger, more secular and less white. Dallas is shedding its urban cowboy patina for a modern aesthetic. Tax flight isn’t only changing New York; it’s changing Texas.

Look, the dream of a New York life is very much alive and romanticized. My household kicks around the idea of working and living up there all the time, but the discussion stops after the calculator comes out.

The idea of taking home less pay but living in an area with outrageous costs trumps the chance to be near Broadway or eat a real bagel or stroll Central Park. We still love to do that, but we’ll do it as tourists and not taxpayers.

As New York mulls its budget gap — hey, Texas is short $20 billion for its next budget, too — the idea of higher income taxes just makes the math problem worse for potential citizens. That’d be less of a concern if all the trinkets of New York living weren’t becoming easily exportable.

Eric Torbenson is a writer in Dallas.

Read more:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Associated Press: EPA moving unilaterally to limit greenhouse gases

EPA moving unilaterally to limit greenhouse gases

(AP) – 1 day ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Stymied in Congress, the Obama administration is moving unilaterally to clamp down on greenhouse emissions, announcing plans for new power plants and oil refinery emission standards over the next year.

In an announcement posted on the agency's website late Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson said the aim was to better cope with pollution contributing to climate change.

"We are following through on our commitment to proceed in a measured and careful way to reduce GHG pollution that threatens the health and welfare of Americans," Jackson said in a statement. She said emissions from power plants and oil refineries constitute about 40 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution in this country.

President Barack Obama had said two days after the midterm elections that he was disappointed Congress hadn't acted on legislation achieving the same end, signaling that other options were under consideration.

Jackson's announcement came on the same day that the administration showed a go-it-alone approach on federal wilderness protection — another major environmental issue. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his agency was repealing the Bush era's policy limiting wilderness protection, which was adopted under former Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

On climate change, legislation in Congress putting a limit on heat-trapping greenhouse gases and allowing companies to buy and sell pollution permits under that ceiling — a system known as "cap and trade" — stalled in the Senate earlier this year after narrowly clearing the House. Republicans assailed it as "cap and tax," arguing that it would raise energy prices.

But the Senate in late June rejected by a 53-47 vote a challenge brought by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski that would have denied the EPA the authority to move ahead with the rules.

Jackson noted in Thursday's statement that her agency that several state and local governments and environmental groups had sued EPA over the agency's failure to update or publish new standards for fossil fuel plants and petroleum refineries.

Two days after the midterm elections, Obama served notice that he would look for ways to control global warming pollution other than Congress placing a ceiling on it.

"Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way," he said. "I'm going to be looking for other means to address this problem."

The EPA was at the center of the battle in Congress over climate change policy, especially in the wake of a 2007 Supreme Court ruling giving the agency the authority to regulate heat-trapping gases.

"While there will be attacks on (EPA's) authority, it is important that there not be any surrender on EPA's ability to do the job," Trip Van Noppen, president of the environmental group Earthjustice, said earlier this year.

The EPA moved against climate change on another front earlier this year, issuing the first-ever federal guidelines for reducing greenhouse emissions from industrial sources. On Nov. 10, the agency sent new guidelines to states. It suggested that dirty fuel used to power oil refineries be replaced with cleaner sources and it called for more efficient electricity and energy use with existing nuclear power plants.

In Thursday's announcement, Jackson said that under an agreement associated with the court suit, EPA will propose standards for power plants in July 2011 and refineries in December 2011 and will issue final standards in May and November 2012, respectively.

In this time, the agency will schedule "listening sessions" with representatives of business and local governments, ahead of the formal rule-making process.


December 22, 2010

It's the Christmas season, so godless liberals are citing the Bible to demand the redistribution of income by government force. Didn't Jesus say, "Blessed are the Health and Human Services bureaucrats, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"?

Liberals are always indignantly accusing conservatives of claiming God is on our side. What we actually say is: We're on God's side, particularly when liberals are demanding God's banishment from the public schools, abortion on demand, and taxpayer money being spent on Jesus submerged in a jar of urine and pictures of the Virgin Mary covered with pornographic photos.

But for liberals like Al Franken, it's beyond dispute that Jesus would support extending federal unemployment insurance.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible, but it does nicely illustrate Shakespeare's point that the "devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."

What the Bible says about giving to the poor is: "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians (9:7)

Being forced to pay taxes under penalty of prison is not voluntary and rarely done cheerfully. Nor do our taxes go to "the poor." They mostly go to government employees who make more money than you do.

The reason liberals love the government redistributing money is that it allows them to skip the part of charity that involves peeling the starfish off their wallets and forking over their own money. This, as we know from study after study, they cannot bear to do. (Unless they are guaranteed press conferences where they can brag about their generosity.)

Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks' study of charitable giving in America found that conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than liberals do, despite the fact that liberals have higher incomes than conservatives.

In his book "Who Really Cares?" Brooks compared the charitable donations of religious conservatives, secular liberals, secular conservatives and "religious" liberals.

His surprising conclusion was ... Al Franken gave the most of all!

Ha ha! Just kidding. Religious conservatives, the largest group at about 20 percent of the population, gave the most to charity -- $2,367 per year, compared with $1,347 for the country at large.

Even when it comes to purely secular charities, religious conservatives give more than other Americans, which is surprising because liberals specialize in "charities" that give them a direct benefit, such as the ballet or their children's elite private schools.

Indeed, religious people, Brooks says, "are more charitable in every measurable nonreligious way."

Brooks found that conservatives donate more in time, services and even blood than other Americans, noting that if liberals and moderates gave as much blood as conservatives do, the blood supply would increase by about 45 percent.

They ought to set up blood banks at tea parties.

On average, a person who attends religious services and does not believe in the redistribution of income will give away 100 times more -- and 50 times more to secular charities -- than a person who does not attend religious services and strongly believes in the redistribution of income.

Secular liberals, the second largest group coming in at 10 percent of the population, were the whitest and richest of the four groups. (Some of you may also know them as "insufferable blowhards.") These "bleeding-heart tightwads," as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof calls them, were the second stingiest, just behind secular conservatives, who are mostly young, poor, cranky white guys.

Despite their wealth and advantages, secular liberals give to charity at a rate of 9 percent less than all Americans and 19 percent less than religious conservatives. They were also "significantly less likely than the population average to return excess change mistakenly given to them by a cashier." (Count Nancy Pelosi's change carefully!)

Secular liberals are, however, 90 percent more likely to give sanctimonious Senate speeches demanding the forced redistribution of income. (That's up 7 percent from last year!)

We'll review specific liberals next week.

Needless to say, "religious liberals" made up the smallest group at just 6.4 percent of the population (for more on this, see my book, "Godless").

Interestingly, religious liberals were also "most confused" of all the groups. Composed mostly of blacks and Unitarians, religious liberals made nearly as many charitable donations as religious conservatives, but presumably, the Unitarians brought down their numbers, making them second in charitable giving.

Brooks wrote that he was shocked by his conclusions because he believed liberals "genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did" -- probably because liberals are always telling us that.

So he re-ran the numbers and gathered more data, but it kept coming out the same. "In the end," he says, "I had no option but to change my views."

Every other study on the subject has produced similar results. Indeed, a Google study of philanthropy found an even greater disparity, with conservatives giving 50 percent more than liberals. The Google study showed that liberals gave more to secular causes overall, but conservatives still gave more as a percentage of their incomes.

The Catalogue for Philanthropy analyzed a decade of state and federal tax returns and found that the red states were far more generous than the blue states, with the highest percentage of tightwads living in the liberal Northeast.

In his book "Intellectuals," Paul Johnson quotes Pablo Picasso scoffing at the idea that he would give to the needy. "I'm afraid you've got it wrong," Picasso explains, "we are socialists. We don't pretend to be Christians."

Merry Christmas to all, skinflint liberals and generous Christians alike!


Friday, December 24, 2010

How our vast reserves of shale gas can feed millions

December 24, 2010
How our vast reserves of shale gas can feed millions
Ed Lasky
One of the most ignored benefits flowing from the tapping of our nation's vast shale gas reserves has been its key role in helping to grow the bountiful American crops that feed the world.

Fortune Magazine reports that producing fertilizer depends on cheap and plentiful natural gas - an "ingredient" that has become far cheaper than other forms of energy as judged by its costs per BTU because American companies, such as Range Resources, have liberated the gas from the rocks beneath our feet.

The report focuses on one company, Agrium, but the facts are applicable to all fertilizer companies to varying degrees.

Natural gas represents 80% of the cost of manufacturing Agrium's primary product, nitrogen fertilizer -- and the price of natural gas has fallen 50% since 2008. With U.S. gas production rising because of massive, recently exploited "shale gas" fields in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas, the International Energy Agency expects a gas "glut" to further depress prices in 2011.

Agrium's costs are dropping -- but that isn't the case for many of its competitors. Natural gas is difficult to transport, so new supplies in North America don't have much impact on prices elsewhere. "That gives Agrium a real competitive advantage," says mutual fund manager David Jordan, whose Agrium shares are among the largest positions in his Tributary Growth Opportunities Fund. Agrium's competitors in Eastern Europe are paying prices twice as high. Indeed, according to a Citigroup report on shale gas and its impact on the chemical industry, Agrium is the best positioned of all major fertilizer companies to benefit from the falling price of natural gas.

Much of the world faces tightened supplies of food. Drought in Russia and Argentina, for example, are impacting crops grown in those two exporting nations. Booming Chinese and emerging markets demand is exacerbating the problem. As nations rise, their consumption of protein rises - that means meat that comes from animals that eat large amounts of grain. Ironically, the ethanol lobby has made things worse since so much corn flows to ethanol "factories" instead of down the throats of chickens, pigs, and cattle. Corn is a crop that is voracious in its consumption of fertilizer (and water). The ethanol lobby consumes food that was meant to, ultimately, feed humanity. Even Al Gore gets it.

But, I digress.

The point to keep in mind when environmental zealots rap the shale gas industry over spurious claims regarding fracking (a process used to tap the vast amount of gas) and the environment is not just that they are trying to prevent us from reducing our trade imbalance, starve terror producing nations of funds, and warm our homes and power our factories and utilities.

They are also placing at serious risk the food that supplies millions, if not billions of men, women, and children around the world.

A bonus benefit comes from how shale gas can be used to transport these crops: diesel fuel that powers trucks can be produced using shale gas-a fuel that the New York Times has rightly called "extraordinarily cheap" due to the "vast supplies of natural gas from shale formations in North America."

The alchemy again comes from the ingenuity that drives American free-enterprise. Fracking was developed by American business not by government programs, and the technology behind turning gas into diesel fuel also comes from the fertile minds of businessmen.

Meanwhile, endless billions of taxpayer dollars have funded floundering pie-in-the sky, uneconomical and wasteful "green energy" projects that could not survive without the life-support (subsidies, mandates, carbon-killing rules and regulations that boost the prices of energy for Americans) provided by some of our politicians.

Why? I provided some possible answers here - and they involve not just dreamers but also schemers.

Cheap Natural Gas and Its Democrat Enemies

February 04, 2010
Cheap Natural Gas and Its Democrat Enemies
By Ed Lasky
We have the power to tap vast shale gas reserves that lie under our feet through large swaths of America, but special interest groups aligned with the Democratic Party are trying to frustrate plans to bring this cheap, plentiful, and clean energy to the surface. Who are the irresponsible parties?

A primer on shale gas

Shale gas is natural gas trapped in rock formations far below the earth's surface. These gas-bearing rock formations run in layers. American energy companies have developed the technology to drill horizontally through the layers. Then "fracking" happens. This is a process whereby a pressurized fluid (composed almost completely of water and sand, with a miniscule potion of commonplace chemicals that speeds the flow of the gas) is used to crack the rock and release the gas.

We are the Saudi Arabia of shale gas. The potential is enormous. Already, landowners and states have benefited from royalty payments. Hard-hit communities are experiencing an economic revival. Small business, people looking for jobs, community centers, fire departments, and schools have all been beneficiaries.

More importantly, Americans have all benefited from low natural gas prices because of the bonanza of shale gas that has just begun to come our way. The talk of the need to build giant, expensive liquefied natural gas ports has ended. Threats of a natural gas cartel formed by our adversaries are just so much gaseous talk. Our national security has been bolstered (if Europe taps their own substantial shale gas reserves, the threats from Iran, Russia, and Algeria will be empty). Even the Russians are fretting about our fracking, expressing concern that this revolutionary development will weaken their own power. There is so much shale gas waiting to be tapped that the dream of natural gas-powered vehicles can very well reach fruition.

Who could possibly want to throw a wrench into these bright prospects?

Low shale gas prices create a problem for the renewable energy industry and for the promoters of solar, bio-fuels, and wind power.

These alternative energy sources all have problems associated with them. They are vastly more expensive than gas. For example, generating a megawatt-hour of electricity using natural gas costs $80; with wind it would cost $142, and solar would cost $396. Wind power is intermittent, interferes with birds, and is terribly inefficient; ironically, wind farms often must be backed up with natural gas-powered plants. Solar farms have a huge footprint and must be located in sunny areas; huge transmission lines trigger the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) reflex. Ethanol, created by refining corn, has caused a spike in food prices, may require more energy to produce than it creates, and depletes aquifers (corn is a thirsty crop).

Renewable-subsidies have been enormously wasteful, says Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Even nuclear power, recently touted by Barack Obama as a way to bolster his political prospects, has no chance of meeting our energy needs. Even if any plants are able to navigate through all the obstacles that have prevented the building of any new nukes for decades, they will take additional decades to go online -- if ever -- and will merely replace the old nuclear power plants being decommissioned.

The technology to meet our energy demands is just not there; but for shale gas production, the technology is ready to go and being used today.

Unlike shale gas (which fills the coffers of communities and governments), all these renewable ventures consume our tax dollars. They could not survive on their own merits. They get billions in grants, subsidies, and tax breaks. The clean-energy industry is among the biggest winners among stimulus money recipients. The windfall? Over thirty billion dollars (and counting), including millions flowing to a geothermal-drilling technology company that has its address at an empty office. Ethanol and bio-fuels get subsidies that, measured on a per-unit-of-energy basis, are 190 times any subsidies given to oil and gas, and the subsidies given to the former are on the way up, while the latter are on the way down. California force-feeds utilities renewable electricity at a price five times more than the current price of electricity.

Democrats pass mandates requiring that a percentage of power be generated by renewable sources, and they force utility companies to buy power from renewable producers at vastly inflated prices. Green jobs are absurdly expensive to generate; studies have shown that for every "green job" created by artificial subsidies, more than two jobs are lost in the real world. Most such green jobs are temporary. Barack Obama's dream to have them filled with felons reveals an agenda at work that has little to do with energy. Green jobs are just another government boondoggle.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Americans who hold acreage in the vast lands above shale gas fields are enjoying having their retirement needs met and their dreams of affording college for their kids and grandchildren fulfilled. Many of them are elderly farmers and are otherwise hard-hit. Should their dreams be denied so that well-connected venture capitalists and their political pals can become enriched with taxpayer dollars?

Because shale gas is cheap and plentiful, it poses a mortal threat to the avaricious dreams of venture capitalists and other "green" and "clean" energy proponents. Their response: Bring in their political pals. Crony capitalism begets many sins.

Democrats are in hock to what can be called the "clean energy-political-legal-environmental" complex. Companies such as General Electric are huge beneficiaries of governmental largess and have been pushing "clean energy" for the past few years as the Democrats took over Congress. They are big purveyors of wind turbines, among other doodads. Wind power gets vast subsidies from the Feds. Indeed, it is the government that brings good things to GE.

Are we surprised that the networks owned by GE (NBC, MS-NBC) are so often considered biased in favor of Democrats? MS-NBC's Chris Matthews is Barack Obama's biggest fan in the media. My favorite magazine cover in 2008 is National Review's photo of Barack Obama patting his pet peacock...or is he feeding the peacock? You be the judge. He may not have been feeding the peacock back in 2008, but he sure is now, as he showers money onto GE and cavorts with Jeffrey Immelt, its chairman and CEO. Bartering positive coverage for taxpayer bucks? Stranger things have happened.

Then there is Ted Turner, who, when he is not running and slaughtering buffalo, wants to slaughter the taxpayer. He happens to be the largest individual landowner in America, and a chunk of it is in the sunny Southwest. He is now seeking to put this land to (his) good use by entering in a solar venture with a big utility company. But where else has he been investing his money? He has become a spokesman for "clean energy," but he also puts his money where his famous mouth is by being the primary funder of the D.C.-based Environmental Working Group -- a front group that has been spreading specious stories about environmental problems associated with fracking.

These claims have been belied by states where fracking has been employed for years. But the goal of the critics is not education, but propaganda. Man-made climate change is not happening around the world. But it is happening in Washington, helped along by front groups such as the Environmental Working Groups and "investigative groups" such as Pro-Publica that may have their own less-than-clean motives (see "Cheap Natural Gas and Its Enemies" and "The Sandlers, Soros and The Marcellus Shale Reserves.")

Not only do environmental groups get funding from people such as Ted Turner, but they may also benefit if they are successful in getting passed laws that lead to the splitting of shale gas royalties with them. The late Michael Crichton wrote of the ulterior motives of environmentalists in State of Fear, but ulterior motives don't exist just in the fictional world. Do Democrats just want to throw the drilling process into the hands of environmental radicals, as a recent Investors Business Daily editorial speculates?

Politicians themselves are huge beneficiaries of the push for renewable or clean energy. The list of politically-tied beneficiaries of government dollars harnessed to clean energy can be as picayune as a window company that received government funds and is headed by the husband of the White House official in charge of weatherization to a nuclear power player with close ties to David Axelrod.

The money can also be redolent of earmarks.

FutureGen -- a project to create clean coal -- is slated to be built in Illinois, courtesy of a billion or so in tax dollars. Is it a coincidence that Illinois was chosen for this plum, given that it is Barack Obama's home state, as it is Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's, and Senator Richard Durbin's -- the second-most powerful senator in the Democratic Party?

Is it a coincidence that the government plans to spend billions of our dollars to fund high-speed rail projects, touted as energy-savers, in Illinois (also the home of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood)? Not if you read an article in the Chicago Tribune regarding how high-powered Democratic money men reached out to Chicagoans in the White House to pull strings to get the rails placed in Illinois. Is it also a coincidence that California, a fiscally tottering blue state, gets a line from Anaheim to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's district?

Maybe the push for rail just shows the European mindset of our Democratic leaders. Maybe Joe Biden has finally found a job (Lyndon Johnson had NASA; Joe gets something more down to earth that he can appreciate as one of Amtrak's few riders). Maybe there's a pressing need to spend $42 billion more, or maybe we just have old-fashioned patronage and pork-barrel politics going on, courtesy of the boys from Chicago -- as the Washington Post believes.

And, of course, there are always the lawyers. They smell blood in the water, turned up by the chum thrown out by this or that environmental group, or by "investigative outfits" such as Pro-Publica. Class action lawyers are a key source of campaign funds for Democrats; the more laws and rules and regulations that are passed, the more profitable their lawsuits may become.

One could go on. Al Gore becomes a Green Earth billionaire, helped by heaps of government money (scratch that, our money -- amounting to $529 million and change) flowing to his Fisker Automotive -- a hybrid car company that has him as an investor, and, in a rare instance of government efficiency, also benefits Joe Biden's home state of Delaware, where the plant to build the hybrids is located. But that is merely the tip of the non-melting iceberg for Gore: His career as a peddler of climate change hysteria has benefited his myriad investments in "clean" and "renewable" energy.

George Soros, the sugar daddy of the Democratic party, allied with the Sandlers (founders of Pro Publica) in various political ventures (among them and has invested at least a billion dollars in "green projects." His hedge fund's biggest stake is in the Brazilian oil company Petrobas; he also has a big stake in a Canadian energy company, InterOil , that has a huge reservoir of natural gas in Papua New Guinea. All these investments will reap him huge rewards if the development of shale gas is hindered or halted in America -- maybe they'll be as good as his return-on-investment in the Democratic Party and Barack Obama.

While the Democrats engage in an orgy of spending to line the pockets of special-interest groups, the government is preparing to, as Hillary Clinton so eloquently phrased it, "tax everything that moves." A molecule of carbon -- even in the form of a clean fuel like shale gas -- has become the mineral equivalent of an endangered species. The Environmental Protection Agency, headed by regulation-obsessed apparatchiks, is binging on carbon regulations and may well wheel around to regulate the small traces of chemicals found in the fracking fluids. The omnivorous EPA may be angling to take over regulation of fracking from the states -- one more way federal power is being aggrandized at the expense of the people and their state governments. Doesn't the EPA have quite enough on its plate?

Democrats led by Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) are leading the way in trying to tamp down the development of shale gas by playing up the environmental angle and threatening to derail Exxon's purchase of XTO Energy (a major player in shale gas). Markey is also a strong proponent of cap-and-trade. Why would Markey rather accept subsidized heating oil from Venezuela's thuggish Hugo Chávez than tap our own reserves? Doesn't it get rather cold in Massachusetts in winter?

The federal government, under Barack Obama and his Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, is busy clamping down on leasing of lands with shale gas potential, toughening drilling rules, and imposing a bevy of taxes that will be recycled into subsidies and grants to their partners in the "renewable energy" racket. While he is turning off homegrown energy, Obama is helping China develop its own shale gas potential with technology developed by the American energy companies he wants to hinder.

Perhaps Barack Obama really is a true believer in climate change (despite the cascade of news stories showing it to be snake oil). Maybe we can nickname him President Moonbeam. Perhaps he just wants to punish Big Oil and Gas, many of whom are headquartered in that red state of Texas. Or perhaps there is an ulterior motive. When campaign time comes, the tax dollars gifted to the executives and venture capitalists behind these endeavors will be recycled back into the Democrats' campaign coffers -- one recycling program that does work all too well. Barack Obama was the top recipient of campaign funds from both alternative energy and environmentalists, and received two million dollars from the agribusiness sector (that includes ethanol producers) during his presidential run.

Robbing Peter to pay off Paul is not a path to prosperity.

Who pays the price for this obstructionism? America does. We have the ability to remake the energy profile of our nation, keep our homes warm, our factories buzzing, and our cars fueled up -- all with clean energy liberated from the rocks beneath our feet. All with our own technology. But not if the enemies of cheap natural gas have their way.

Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.

American Thinker Blog: Mythbusting the 'rich don't pay enough taxes' lie

Mythbusting the 'rich don't pay enough taxes' lie
Rick Moran
Alan Reynolds of the Wall Street Journal:

A 2008 study of 24 leading economies by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) concludes that, "Taxation is most progressively distributed in the United States, probably reflecting the greater role played there by refundable tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. . . . Taxes tend to be least progressive in the Nordic countries (notably, Sweden), France and Switzerland."

The OECD study-titled "Growing Unequal?"-also found that the ratio of taxes paid to income received by the top 10% was by far the highest in the U.S., at 1.35, compared to 1.1 for France, 1.07 for Germany, 1.01 for Japan and 1.0 for Sweden (i.e., the top decile's share of Swedish taxes is the same as their share of income).

A second fatal flaw is that the large share of income reported by the upper 1% is largely a consequence of lower tax rates. In a 2010 paper on top incomes co-authored with Anthony Atkinson of Nuffield College, Messrs. Piketty and Saez note that "higher top marginal tax rates can reduce top reported earnings." They say "all studies" agree that higher "top marginal tax rates do seem to negatively affect top income shares."

In other words, higher tax rates have the predictable result of causing earners to work and make less, thus actually bringing in less revenue to the government.

But for the left, this is unsatisfactory because it doesn't give them that delicious sense of "sticking it to the rich" that helps assuage their rage against the productive class. So they will take less revenue as long as they can punish people for being successful.
'We the people' to open next Congress
House to read Constitution

By Stephen Dinan

The Washington Times

8:23 p.m., Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Constitution frequently gets lip service in Congress, but House Republicans next year will make sure it gets a lot more than that - the new rules the incoming majority party proposed this week call for a full reading of the country's founding document on the floor of the House on Jan. 6.

The goal, backers said, is to underscore the limited-government rules the Founders imposed on Congress - and to try to bring some of those principles back into everyday legislating.

"It stems from the debate that we've had for the last two years about things like the exercise of authority in a whole host of different areas by the EPA, we've had this debate in relation to the health care bill, the cap-and-trade legislation," said Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, who proposed the reading. "This Congress has been very aggressive in expanding the power of the federal government, and there's been a big backlash to that."

Setting aside time at the beginning of the congressional session for the reading is just one of the changes to House rules that Republicans say are designed to open up the legislative process. They say the new rules also will try to bring some restraints to lawmaking after decades in which both Republican and Democratic leaders whittled away opportunities for real legislative give-and-take.

The biggest changes would make it easier to cut spending and harder to create entitlement programs, while imposing restrictions that could keep leaders from jamming massive bills onto the House floor before lawmakers have had a chance to digest them.

"To begin to restore trust with the American people, Republicans have pledged to operate Congress differently: with real transparency, greater accountability and a renewed focus on the Constitution," said Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, who led the GOP's transition team. "The sweeping reforms offered in this package make clear we intend to keep that promise."

The chief criticism from Democrats has been the GOP's decision to exempt some tax cuts from the pay-as-you-go rule, which requires new spending to be offset by corresponding budget cuts. Republicans want to exempt tax cuts of the George W. Bush era and alterations to the alternative minimum tax.

"Their proposal leads us down the same path of fiscal negligence that the GOP took the nation down when [Republicans] got rid of pay-go in 2002," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat. "We know how that story ends: ballooning deficits and an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression."

In the Senate, where Democrats will retain a majority by a much smaller margin, returning Democrats are pondering how to rein in repeated Republican filibusters. All returning Senate Democrats have signed a letter, first reported by National Journal, asking Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, to consider taking action to change the chamber's operating rules.

The letter sets the stage for another round of discussions on whether to curtail the practice, though it's unclear how much room there is for major changes, since Republicans are likely to be united against anything that would constrain their rights as the minority party.

Liberal legal scholars on Thursday praised the movement to curtail filibusters.

The House rules changes, meanwhile, have won praise from open-government advocates, who say lawmakers and the public now have better access to legislation and committee proceedings and give them a chance to weigh in on the drafting and voting on the bills.

One key change would require bill sponsors to add statements to the congressional record citing the specific constitutional authority for the actions they are proposing.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is on the defensive over the new health care law. A federal district judge in Virginia ruled this month that the general welfare and commerce clauses do not give the federal government the authority to require individuals to purchase health coverage, under pain of a financial penalty.

As least as a discussion point, the Constitution has proved to be the "comeback kid" of the past two years.

For example, the word "unconstitutional" was used 408 times in congressional debates during the 111th Congress, according to a search of the Congressional Record. That was up from 283 in the 110th Congress and is the most since the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress.

Even before that, the presidential campaign of Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, seemed to tap a nerve with voters looking for more discussion about the founding document, the core of the blossoming "tea party" movements.

"If it was up to me, they could spend the whole congressional session reading the Constitution and nothing else, and they wouldn't do as much damage as the last Congress did," said Chip Tarbutton, president of the Roanoke Tea Party in Roanoke, Va., which is in Mr. Goodlatte's district.

He said the key test for lawmakers such as Mr. Goodlatte is whether they treat the constitutional reading as "window dressing" or whether it sparks the kinds of discussions that could lead to a major re-evaluation of the role of the federal government.

"If they follow through on it, it'll create some very difficult conversations, because what they'll end up doing is finding a lot of things already in place are unconstitutional," Mr. Tarbutton said.

Mr. Goodlatte credited Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican, with coming up with the idea of a public reading of the Constitution. Mr. Cuccinelli brought suit against the federal health care law and won the judge's ruling that part of the law is unconstitutional.

Mr. Goodlatte said it's too early to tell exactly how the reading will go, though he expects many members to take part.

© Copyright 2010 The Washington Times, LLC

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Ethanol Idiocy that Will Not Die - Rich Lowry - National Review Online

The Ethanol Idiocy that Will Not Die
Bipartisan common sense is no match for the inertia of a government subsidy.

When Al Gore drops an environmental fad, it has truly reached its expiration date.

In his wisdom, the Goracle recently acknowledged what almost all disinterested observers concluded long ago: Ethanol is a fraud. It has no environmental benefits, and harmful side effects. The subsidies that support its use are an object lesson in the incorrigibility of Washington’s gross special-interest politics. It is the monster that ate America’s corn crop.

“It is not good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol,” the former vice president and Nobel Peace Prize recipient said, referring to corn-based ethanol. He called the fuel “a mistake,” and confessed one reason he fell so hard for it is that he “had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa.” These farmers vote in the First in the Nation caucuses and practically insist that their favored presidential candidates drink ethanol at breakfast and hail it as the nectar of the gods.

Al Gore’s ethanol apostasy is a symptom of a left-right coalition that has arisen to expose the former wonder fuel. (The Gore of old insisted that “the more we can make this home-grown fuel a successful, widely used product, the better off our farmers and our environment will be.”) But common sense, even cross-ideological, bipartisan common sense with all the evidence on its side, is no match for Congress’s boundless appetite for expensive favors for powerful lobbies and constituent groups.

Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley, the Democratic and Republican senators from Iowa respectively, stand at the doors of Congress declaring: Ethanol now, ethanol forever. They have graced the Obama-McConnell tax bargain with an extension of a tax credit for ethanol that costs about $6 billion a year, and with an extension of a tariff on ethanol imports. Ethanol is so uneconomical that Congress supports it three different ways — with a mandate for its use, a tax credit to subsidize it, and a tariff to keep out competitors. Rarely are so many levers of government used to prop up one woeful product.

During the past decade, ethanol enjoyed a good run as a notional part of the solution to global warming. Then, environmentalists began to realize it may actually increase greenhouse emissions. Ethanol releases less carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline. Once the emissions necessary to convert land to corn production and then grow and process it are taken into account, though, ethanol doesn’t look so green anymore.

So much corn — about 40 percent of the U.S. crop — is feeding into the maw of government-created demand for the fuel, that it could be increasing worldwide food prices. In short, in exchange for not reducing greenhouse emissions, ethanol reduces the availability of food to the poor.

The multiple layers of subsidization have their own perversity. Since there’s already a mandate to blend ethanol into gasoline, the tax credit is giving away money for something that would happen anyway. Environmental groups say this pads the bottom line of Big Oil. Harry de Gorter of the free-market Cato Institute has a more complicated take — the subsidy decreases the cost and therefore the price of gasoline, effectively subsidizing its consumption. Your Congress at work.

But who cares about the facts? Once we have fired up a vast machine that from cornfield to distilleries produces 38 million gallons of ethanol a day, it will be nearly impossible to turn it off. Too many people will have a vested interest in continuing the scam, and its supporters — like Harkin and Grassley now — will always argue that any change is too disruptive. We’ll still be mandating ethanol long after the internal-combustion engine is obsolete.

The ethanol experience should counsel against blithely creating new government-supported industries on the basis of dubious promises of cost-free environmental benefits. Judging by the tax bargain, festooned with all manner of other green subsidies and credits, it’s a lesson ignored. In Washington, the boondoggles may lose their luster, but they never die.

— Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail, © 2010 by King Features Syndicate.