Archive for the ‘Thought’ Category
By Mark Steyn
Had I been asked to deliver the State of the Union address, it would not have delayed your dinner plans:
“The State of our Union is broke, heading for bankrupt, and total collapse shortly thereafter. Thank you and goodnight! You’ve been a terrific crowd!”
I gather that Americans prefer something a little more upbeat, so one would not begrudge a speechwriter fluffing it up by holding out at least the possibility of some change of fortune, however remote. Instead, President Obama assured us at great length that nothing is going to change, not now, not never. Indeed the Union’s state – its unprecedented world-record brokeness – was not even mentioned.
If, as I was, you happened to be stuck at Gate 27 at one of the many U.S. airports laboring under the misapprehension that pumping CNN at you all evening long somehow adds to the gaiety of flight delays, you would have watched an address that gave no indication its speaker was even aware that the parlous state of our finances is an existential threat not only to the nation but to global stability. The message was, oh, sure, unemployment’s still a little higher than it should be, and student loans are kind of expensive, and the housing market’s pretty flat, but it’s nothing that a little government “investment” in green jobs and rural broadband and retraining programs can’t fix. In other words, more of the unaffordable same.
The president certainly had facts and figures at his disposal. He boasted that his regulatory reforms “will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years.” Wow. Ten billion smackeroos! That’s some savings – and in a mere half a decade! Why, it’s equivalent to what the Government of the United States borrows every 53 hours. So by midnight on Thursday, Obama had already re-borrowed all those hard-fought savings from 2017. “In the last 22 months,” said the president, “businesses have created more than 3 million jobs.” Impressive. But 125,000 new foreign workers arrive every month (officially). So we would have to have created 2,750,000 jobs in that period just to stand still.
Fortunately, most of the items in Obama’s interminable speech will never happen, any more than the federally funded bicycling helmets or whatever fancies found their way onto Bill Clinton’s extravagant shopping lists in the Nineties. At the time, the excuse for Clinton’s mountain of legislative molehills was that all the great battles had been won, and, in the absence of a menacing Russian bear, what else did a president have to focus on except criminalizing toilet tanks over 1.6 gallons. President Obama does not enjoy the same dispensation, and any historians stumbling upon a surviving DVD while sifting through the ruins of our civilization will marvel at how his accumulation of delusional trivialities was apparently taken seriously by the assembled political class.
An honest leader would feel he owed it to the citizenry to impress upon them one central truth – that we can’t have any new programs because we’ve spent all the money. It’s gone. The cupboard is bare. What’s Obama’s plan to restock it? “Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary,” the president told us. “Asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”
But why stop there? Americans need affordable health care and affordable Master’s Degrees in Climate Change and Social Justice Studies, so why not take everything that Warren Buffett’s got? After all, if you confiscated the total wealth of the Forbes 400 richest Americans it would come to $1.5 trillion.
Which is just a wee bit less than the federal shortfall in just one year of Obama-size budgets. 2011 deficit: $1.56 trillion. But maybe for 2012 a whole new Forbes 400 of Saudi princes and Russian oligarchs will emigrate to the Hamptons and Malibu and keep the whole class-warfare thing going for a couple more years.
The so-called “Buffett Rule” is indicative not so much of “common sense” as of the ever-widening gap between the Brobdingnagian problem and the Lilliputian solutions proposed by our leaders. Obama can sacrifice the virgin daughters of every American millionaire on the altar of government spending, and the debt gods will barely notice so much as to give a perfunctory belch of acknowledgement. The president’s first term has added $5 trillion to the debt – a degree of catastrophe unique to us. In an Obama budget, the entire cost of the Greek government would barely rate a line-item. Debt-to-GDP and other comparative measures are less relevant than the hard-dollar numbers: It’s not just that American government has outspent America’s ability to fund it, but that it’s outspending the planet’s.
Who gets this? Not enough of us – which is exactly how Obama likes it. His only “big idea” – that it should be illegal (by national fiat) to drop out of school before your 18th birthday – betrays his core belief: that more is better, as long as it’s government-mandated, government-regulated, government-staffed – and funded by you, or Warren Buffett, or the Chinese Politburo, or whoever’s left out there.
What of his likely rivals this November? Those of us who have lived in once-great decaying polities recognize the types. Jim Callaghan, Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street in the Seventies, told a friend of mine that he saw his job as managing Britain’s decline as gracefully as possible. The United Kingdom certainly declined on his watch, though not terribly gracefully. In last Monday’s debate, Newt Gingrich revived the line and accused by implication Mitt Romney of having no higher ambition than to “manage the decline.” Running on platitudinous generalities, Mitt certainly betrays little sense that he grasps the scale of the crisis. After a fiery assault by Rick Santorum on Romney’s support for an individual mandate in health care, Mitt sneered back at Rick that “it wasn’t worth getting angry over.” Which may be a foretaste of the energy he would bring to any attempted course correction in Washington.
Newt, meanwhile, has committed himself to a lunar colony by the end of his second term, and, while pandering to an audience on Florida’s “Space Coast,” he added that, as soon as there were 13,000 American settlers on the moon, they could apply for statehood. Ah, the old frontier spirit: I hear Laura Ingalls Wilder is already working on “Little House In The Crater.”
Maybe Newt’s on to something. Except for the statehood part. One day, when America gets the old foreclosure notice in the mail, wouldn’t it be nice to close up the entire joint, put the keys in an envelope, slide it under the door of the First National Bank of Shanghai, and jet off on Newt’s Starship Government-Sponsored Enterprise?
There are times for dreaming big dreams, and there are times to wake up. This country will not be going to the moon, any more than will be the British or French. Because, in decline, the horizons shrivel. The only thing that’s going to be on the moon is the debt ceiling. Before we can make any more giant leaps for mankind, we have to make one small, dull, prosaic, earthbound step here at home – and stop. Stop the massive expansion of microregulatory government, and then reverse it. Obama has vowed to press on. If Romney and Gingrich can’t get serious about it, he’ll get his way.
Twelve Great Reasons to Love a Great Country
An excerpt from the new revised edition of The American Patriot’s Almanac.
Why should Americans love their country? Here are a dozen good reasons to be grateful and proud to live here. William Bennett
1. The United States was the first nation in history created out of the belief that people should govern themselves. As James Madison said, this country’s birth was “a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society.” The U.S. constitution is the oldest written national constitution in operation. It has been a model for country after country as democracy has spread across the continents.
2. America really is the land of the free. There are large parts of the world where people can’t say what they think, learn what they’d like, or even dress the way they want. There are places where people spend years in jail or disappear if they question their rulers. Less than half of the world’s population lives in countries where people are truly free. In this nation, as George Washington put it, the love of liberty is interwoven with every ligament of American hearts.
3. No other country has done a better job of establishing equal rights for all citizens. Certainly there have been times when the United States has fallen tragically short of its founding principles. But especially in recent decades, no country has worked harder to eliminate discrimination and protect the rights of minorities. There are plenty of nations where people’s ethnicity, religion, or gender defines them as second-class citizens. In contrast, America has been a pioneer in striving toward the ideal that all are created equal.
4. This is the place where dreams can come true. U.S. newspapers are full of stories that read almost like fairy tales: the son of a laborer who grows up to be a doctor, the stay-at-home mom who turns a hobby into a flourishing business, the immigrant who becomes a movie star and governor. The United States has long been the country people flock to for the chance to make better lives. No other country has built a sturdier ladder for people to climb to success.
5. We enjoy one of the world’s highest standards of living. Americans live longer, have better health, and enjoy safer and more comfortable lives than the vast majority of the world’s people. Ours is one of the most prosperous nations in history. U.S. companies provide some of the best jobs in the world. They have also built countless hospitals, libraries, and parks; created great universities; filled museums with works of art; found cures for diseases; and improved human life in countless ways.
6. No other country has welcomed and united so many people from so many different shores. From its beginnings, the U.S. has been the world’s great melting pot. Never before have so many people from different backgrounds, races, nationalities, and religions lived and worked together so peacefully. In no other nation has the spirit of cooperation and brotherhood accomplished more than it has in the United States.
7. The U.S. military is the greatest defender of freedom in the world. Twice in the 20th century, the United States led the way in saving the world from tyranny — first from the Axis powers, then from Soviet totalitarianism. Throughout history, other superpowers have used armies to conquer territory and build empires by force. America, with its unrivaled military, has chosen a different course. The United States has liberated more people from tyranny than any other nation in history.
8. America is a world leader in scholarship and invention. The United States is home to the world’s finest collection of universities and research institutions. Name just about any subject — from ancient philosophy to quantum physics — and chances are good that leading authorities work here. The record of American inventions and discoveries goes on and on, from the mechanical reaper to the microchip. American medical research facilities are among the best in the world. The United States leads the world in space exploration. The computer revolution started here.
9. Americans are among the most generous people on earth. The United States has built the most extraordinary collection of charitable, philanthropic, and civic organizations in the world, and this country is the planet’s largest source of humanitarian aid. American government programs and private giving constitute one of the greatest efforts to help people in history. In 2009, Americans donated more than $300 billion to charities. When disasters strike overseas, Americans are among the first to offer help and support.
10. The United States is the world’s greatest marketplace for the free exchange of ideas and information. In some countries, governments shut down newspapers and broadcast stations they don’t like, and limit access to the Internet. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are bedrock principles of American democracy. The staggering volume of information traded here every day — via books, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, TV, and radio — makes this country the liveliest center of thought and debate in history.
11. This nation possesses an amazing capacity for self-renewal. Time and again, Americans have been able to address the country’s problems and flaws. Think of those Americans at Philadelphia in 1787 who devised the most miraculous political document in history just as the young nation seemed to be falling apart. Or think of those Americans in the civil-rights movement prodding the country to right the wrongs of segregation. The American people have a genius for self-correction. Sometimes it takes a while, but in the end we find our way.
12. America is a nation that looks to God for guidance. It was founded to be a place where all are free to worship, or not to worship, as they please. Amid a diverse array of beliefs, the vast majority of Americans draw strength from faith in God’s goodness and wisdom. “In God We Trust” is our national motto, and we have never had a president who has been reluctant to say, “Let us pray.”
We Won’, Part One
By Arnold Ahlert
63 House and 6 Senate seats later, “compromise” and “working together” have become the new memes for Democrat progressives and their media apparatchiks. That’s quite an amazing turnaround for those who, only a year ago, rammed a health care bill through Congress without the slightest concern for working together or compromise. It’s the very same bunch whose leader expressed his idea of compromise in two words: “I won.” Still, compromise sounds reasonable — until we get to the actual issues where progressives wish to “split the difference.” To wit:
• How do we split the difference between bankruptcy and solvency? Without the slightest interest in compromise, progressive Democrats rammed Keynesian economics down America’s throat with one stimulus package after another. They treated us to “3 million jobs created or saved,” “Recovery Summer” and “Quantitative Easing, Part 2.” The only thing “stimulated” was the unionized public sector workforce and a bunch of state governments with a pathological refusal to confront their own fiscal profligacy.
Millions of ordinary Americans didn’t get off their Barcaloungers and show up at rallies, town hall meetings, and the mall in Washington, D.C. because they wanted to slow down America’s headlong rush towards bankruptcy. They want it stopped — dead in its tracks. And the overwhelming majority of them know the bottom line: it’s the spending, stupid. Or, more importantly, it’s the spending, period. Spare us all the nonsense that raising taxes is an indispensible part of the equation. It’s only part of the equation for those members of the ruling class who wish to be relieved of making tough, responsible decisions, explaining them to a skeptical public, and standing by them when the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth begins.
The progressives’ “your killing granny and small children” strategy is hackneyed and tired. Bottom line: out-of-control spending is killing the whole country, grandma and small children included. And for those Americans who will inevitably say “cut every program but the one I like,” I have four words:
Snap out of it!
• Regarding war, what’s the middle ground between victory and defeat? Exactly what we’ve been witnessing the last eight years. Maybe the only thing dumber than fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda with one hand tied behind our back is telling them when we’re going to stop. Even the dimmest Afghani hillbilly can draw sustenance from that nonsense. And what does al Qaeda think when we allow them to remain open for business in North Waziristan, while were feeling up grandma and the kids at O’Hare Airport?
Memo to our clueless Commander-in-Chief: the last time we were faced with an enemy that used suicide to advances its political agenda, we nuked them. Twice. You want to “win hearts and minds?” Me too — right after we completely demoralize and destroy anyone unwilling to get with the program. In 1651, English philosopher Thomas Hobbs remarked that life was “nasty, brutal and short.” War should be an exponential expansion of that philosophy. If you can’t stomach it, bring our men and women in harm’s way home — or resign.
• What’s the middle ground between national sovereignty and a defenseless border? Again, exactly what we have now. Millions of law-breakers who not only don’t fear being here illegally, but who are now demanding the right to stay. This is perhaps the biggest black eye in history for a country which has long prided itself as being a “nation of laws, not a nation of men.” Even as Mexican drug cartels run wild — on both sides of the border — Eric Holder’s Justice Department is determined to sue Arizona into surrendering its own sovereignty for nothing more than political correctness and the progressive hope they can Dream Act their way to a 2012 Hispanic voting bloc keeping them power.
Last week a report, “Broken Neighbor, Broken Border,” complied for the House Immigration Reform Caucus was made public. It was a sobering and scary look at what may be the hottest war in the world going on right now, right on our southern border — and beyond. Two of its principal recommendations? First, “Let the states secure their own borders.” Second, engage in a “long-term deployment of a minimum 25,000 armed troops with enforcement power… on our southern border to preserve U.S. sovereignty and the lives of American citizens from organized armed forces hostile to the United States.” (italics mine)
Question: when does the deliberate failure to enforce the Constitutional mandate to “provide for the common defense” rise to an impeachable offense? As for compromise, where in the Constitution does it say that national security is a part-time job, or a pick-and-choose affair?
• What’s the compromise between free-market capitalism and all-out socialism? Thirteen trillion dollars of debt and an unemployment rate of almost ten percent. Millions of jobs outsourced to “business friendlier” locales. Out-of-control public sector unions pushing virtually every state and local government in the country to the brink of insolvency. Banks, car and insurance companies and a host of other crony capitalists who despise genuine competition, bailed out by taxpayers because they’re “too big to fail.” An ideologically-inspired and idiotic refusal to allow the housing market to find a true bottom, even as the concept of moral hazard receives a steroid shot, and responsible Americans are made to feel like fools for being responsible.
Once again for the terminally clueless: progressivism, and its redistributionist mantra, is the super-highway to sloth, serfdom and subjugation. Anyone who thinks “more government” is the answer is either a moron — or a public school and university graduate. And anyone who thinks someone will bust his butt strictly out of the goodness of his heart — as opposed to having an incentive to do so — is even dumber than that.
There are reasons the United States has long out-performed all of South America economically, despite being settled by the exact same groups of people. There are reasons one of the youngest nations in the world leapt to the head of the pack in less than two hundred years. All one has to do is cast one’s eyes towards the individual states where progressives have been firmly in charge, or to Eastern Europe, where they broke the Berlin Wall down from the inside, to understand what happens to people when the “beneficence of the state” replaces personal ambition, individual achievement — and human dignity.
For those of you who are still unconvinced, two simple questions will suffice: could socialism survive without capitalism? Not a chance. Could capitalism survive without socialism? Absolutely, positively. The former eventually “runs out of other people’s money,” exactly as it’s doing now. The latter made us the most prosperous nation on earth.
Americans have to be realistic. The rejection of progressivism is, at the very least, a two-election process. Getting a majority of Republicans in the House can only stop the progressive agenda. Rolling it back will require an equally determined electorate in 2012. Not just to put Republicans in the control of the Senate and the White House, but to put conservatives in control of the Republican party. Heaven help us all if 2012 turns into another choice between an aging squish with liberal tendencies, and a dedicated Marxist looking for four more years to undo everything this nation has stood for, for two-plus centuries. As for his partner in crime, our current as Secretary of State, anyone who thinks Mrs. Clinton is any better than Mr. Obama is kidding themselves. That’s nothing more than a choice between two deck chairs on the Titanic.
Between now and 2012, Americans need to pay attention. The Democrats are a known socialist/marxist commodity which was made crystal clear by their re-election of one of the least popular women in American politics, Nancy Pelosi, to speaker. What that means is simple: the most left-leaning conglomeration of Democrats in the nation’s history have decided to lean further left, despite a complete repudiation in the 2010 election. Does that sound like “compromise” to you?
Republicans? Perhaps all they can do for the next two years is stand on conservative principle — but they sure as hell better do that. Memo to the RNC: Americans didn’t elect Republicans, they tossed Democrats under the bus. And while some common ground with Democrats may be found, Republicans had better understand that people who put them back in power have little patience for those willing to “go along to get along” when it comes to the critical issues mentioned above. These are Americans who saw the true face of Democrat progressivism, and weren’t merely upset, but thoroughly appalled.
They don’t want compromise. They want a line drawn in the sand.
As Senate Republicans prepare to vote on an earmark moratorium, I would encourage my colleagues to consider four myths and four realities of the debate.
Myths of the earmark debate:
1. Eliminating earmarks does not actually save any money
This argument has serious logical inconsistencies. The fact is earmarks do spend real money. If they didn’t spend money, why defend them? Stopping an activity that spends money does result in less spending. It’s that simple. For instance, Congress spent $16.1 billion on pork in Fiscal Year 2010. If Congress does not do earmarks in 2011, we could save $16.1 billion. In no way is Congress locked into to shifting that $16.1 billion to other programs unless it wants to.
2. Earmarks represent a very tiny portion of the federal budget and eliminating them would do little to reduce the deficit
It’s true that earmarks themselves represent a tiny portion of the budget, but a small rudder can help steer a big ship, which is why I’ve long described earmarks as the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington. No one can deny that earmarks like the Cornhusker Kickback have been used to push through extremely costly and onerous bills. Plus, senators know that as the number of earmarks has exploded so has overall spending. In the past decade, the size of government has doubled while Congress approved more than 90,000 earmarks.
Earmarks were rare until recently. In 1987, President Reagan vetoed a spending bill because it contained 121 earmarks. Eliminating earmarks will not balance the budget overnight, but it is an important step toward getting spending under control.
3. Earmarking is about whose discretion it is to make spending decisions. Do elected members of Congress decide how taxes are spent, or do unelected bureaucrats and Obama administration officials?
It’s true that this is a debate about discretion, but some in Congress are confused about discretion among whom. This is not a struggle between the executive branch and Congress but between the American people and Washington. Do the American people have the right to spend their own money and keep local decisions at the local level or does the federal government know best? Earmarks are a Washington-knows-best solution. An earmark ban would tell the American people that Congress gets it. After all, it’s their money, not ours.
An earmark moratorium would not result in Congress giving up one iota of its spending power. In any event, Republicans should be fighting over how to cut government spending, not how to divide it up.
4. The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility and authority to earmark
Nowhere does the Constitution give Congress the authority to do earmarks. The concept of earmarking appears nowhere in the enumerated powers or anywhere else in the Constitution. The so-called “constitutional” argument earmarks is from the same school of constitutional interpretation that led Elena Kagan to admit that Congress had the authority to tell the American people to eat their fruits and vegetables every day. That school, which says Congress can do whatever it wants, gave us an expansive Commerce Clause, Obamacare, and a widespread belief among members of Congress that the “power of the purse” is the power to pork.
Earmark defenders are fond of quoting Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution which says, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.” They also refer to James Madison’s power of the purse commentary in Federalist 58. Madison said the “power of the purse may, in fact, be the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people.”
Yet, earmark proponents ignore the rest of the Constitution and our founders’ clear intent to limit the power of Congress. If the founders wanted Congress to earmark funds to specific recipients, micromanage American society, and ride roughshod over state and local government they would have given Congress that authority in the enumerated powers. They clearly did not.
Our founders anticipated earmark-style power grabs from Congress and spoke against such excess for the ages. James Madison, the father of the Constitution said, “With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”
Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to James Madison, spoke directly against federally-funded local projects. “[I]t will be the source of eternal scramble among the members, who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get the most who are the meanest.” Jefferson understood that earmarks and coercion would go hand in hand.
Also, if earmarks were a noble constitutional tradition, how did we thrive for 200 years without an earmark favor factory in Congress?
Finally, for those worried about ceding constitutional authority to the executive branch, I would respectfully remind them that the president has zero authority to spend money outside of the authority Congress gives him. The way to hold the executive branch accountable is to spend less and conduct more aggressive oversight. Earmarks are a convoluted way for Congress to try to regain authority they have already ceded to the executive branch through bad legislation. The fact is there is nothing an earmark can do that can’t be done more equitably and openly through a competitive grant process.
Beyond these myths, I would encourage members to consider the following realities.
1. Earmarks are a major distraction
Again, earmarks not only do nothing to hold the executive branch accountable — by out-porking the president — but take Congress’ focus away from the massive amount of waste and inefficiency within federal agencies. In typical years, the number of earmark requests outnumbers oversight hearings held by the Appropriations Committee by a factor of 1,000 to 1. Instead of processing tens of thousands of earmark requests the Senate should increase the number of oversight hearings from a few dozen to hundreds. The amount of time and attention that is devoted to the earmark chase is a scandal waiting to be exposed.
2. This debate is over among the American people and the House GOP
If any policy mandate can be derived from the election it is to spend less money. Eliminating earmarks is the first step on that path. The House GOP has accepted that mandate. The Senate GOP now has to decide whether to ignore not only the American people but their colleagues in the House. The last thing Senate Republicans should be doing is legislative gymnastics to get around the House GOP earmark ban.
3. Earmarking is bad policy
In recent years the conventional wisdom that earmarks create jobs has been turned on its head. The Obama administration’s stimulus bill itself, which is arguably a collection of earmarks approved by Congress, proves this point. Neither Obama’s stimulus nor Republican stimulus — GOP earmarks — is very effective at creating jobs.
Harvard University conducted an extensive study this year of how earmarks impact states. The researchers expected to find that earmarks drive economic growth but found the opposite.
“It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman’s state did not benefit at all from the unanticipated increase in spending,” said Joshua Coval, one of the study’s authors. The study found that as earmarks increase capital investment and expenditures by private businesses decrease, by 15 percent specifically. In other words, federal pork crowds out private investment and slows job growth. Earmarks are an odd GOP infatuation with failed Keynesian economics that hurts local economies.
Earmarks also crowd out funding for higher-priority items. Transportation earmarks are a good example. Pork projects like the Bridge to Nowhere and bike paths divert funds from higher priority projects according to a 2007 Department of Transportation inspector general report. Thousands of bridges continue to be in disrepair across America in part because Congress has taken its eye off the ball and indulged in parochial spending.
4. Earmarking is bad politics
If the Senate GOP wants to send a signal that they don’t get it and are not listening they can reject an earmark moratorium. For Republicans, earmarks are the ultimate mixed message. We’ll never be trusted to be the party of less spending while we’re rationalizing more spending through earmarks. The long process of restoring fiscal sanity in Washington begins with saying no to pork.
Unsustainable Cow Manure
Seek a sustainable future! Wind, solar and biofuels will ensure an eco-friendly, climate-protecting, planet-saving, sustainable inheritance for our children. Or so we are told by activists and politicians intent on enacting new renewable energy standards, mandates and subsidies during a lame duck session.
It may be useful to address some basic issues, before going further down the road to Renewable Utopia.
First, when exactly is something not sustainable? When known deposits (proven reserves) may be depleted in ten years? 50? 100? What if looming depletion results from government policies that forbid access to lands that might contain new deposits – as with US onshore and offshore prospects for oil, gas, coal, uranium, rare earth minerals and other vital resources?
Rising prices and improved discovery and extraction technologies and techniques typically expand energy and mineral reserves – postponing depletion by years or decades, as in the case of oil and natural gas. But legislation, regulation, taxation and litigation prevent these processes from working properly, hasten depletion, and make “sustainability” an even more politicized, manipulated and meaningless concept.
Second, should the quest for mandated “sustainable” technologies be based on real, immediate threats – or will imaginary or exaggerated crises suffice? Dangerous manmade global cooling morphed into dangerous manmade global warming, then into “global climate disruption” – driven by computer models and disaster scenarios, doctored temperature data, manipulated peer reviews, and bogus claims about melting glaciers and rising sea levels. Shouldn’t policies that replace reliable, affordable energy with expensive, intermittent, land-intensive, subsidized sources be based on real science?
Third, shouldn’t inconvenient sustainability issues be resolved before we proceed any further, by applying the same guidelines to renewable energy as courts, regulators and eco-activists apply to fossil fuels?
Most oil, gas, coal and uranium operations impact limited acreage for limited times – and affected areas must be restored to natural conditions when production ends. Effects on air and water quality, habitats and protected species are addressed through regulations, lease restrictions and fines. The operations generate vast amounts of affordable, reliable energy from relatively small tracts of land, and substantial revenues.
Wind turbines generate small amounts of expensive, unreliable electricity from gargantuan installations on thousands of acres. Turbines and their associated transmission lines dominate scenic vistas, disrupt habitats and migratory routes, affect water drainage patterns, impede crop dusting and other activities, and kill bats, raptors and other birds, including endangered species that would bring major fines if the corporate killers were oil or mining companies. And yet, wind operators receive exemptions from environmental review, biodiversity and endangered species laws that traditional energy companies must follow – on the ground that such rules would raise costs and delay construction of “eco-friendly” projects.
Kentucky’s Cardinal coal mine alone produces 75% of the Btu energy generated by all the wind turbines and solar panels in the USA, Power Hungry author Robert Bryce calculates. Unspoiled vistas, rural and maritime tranquility, and bald eagles will all be endangered if 20% wind power mandates are enacted.
The Palo Verde Nuclear Power Station near Phoenix generates nearly 900 times more electricity than Nevada’s Nellis Air Force Base photovoltaic panels, on less land, for 1/15 the cost per kWh – and does it 90% of the time, versus 30% of the time for the Nellis array. Generating Palo Verde’s electrical output via Nellis technology would require solar arrays across an area ten times larger than Washington, DC.
Building enough photovoltaic arrays to power Los Angeles would mean blanketing thousands of square miles of desert habitat. Once built, solar and wind systems will be there just this side of forever, since there will be no energy production if we let them decay, after shutting down whatever fossil fuel operations aren’t needed to fuel backup generators that keep wind and solar facilities operational.
Wind and solar power also mean there is a sudden demand for tons of rare earth elements that weren’t terribly important a decade ago. They exist in very low concentrations, require mining and milling massive amounts of rock and ore to get the needed minerals, and thus impose huge ecological impacts.
If mountaintop removal to extract high quality coal at reduced risk to miners is unacceptable and unsustainable – how is it eco-friendly and sustainable to clear-cut mountain vistas for wind turbines? Blanket thousands of square miles with habitat-suffocating solar panels? Or remove mountains of rock to mine low-grade rare earth mineral deposits for solar panel films, hybrid batteries and turbine magnets?
Since any undiscovered US rare earth deposits are likely locked up in wilderness and other restricted land use areas, virtually no exploration or development will take place here. We will thus be dependent on foreign suppliers, like China, which are using them in their own manufacturing operations – and selling us finished wind turbines, solar panels and hybrid car batteries. The United States will thus be dependent on foreign suppliers for renewable energy, just as we rely on foreign countries for oil and uranium.
To claim any of this is ecologically or economically sustainable strains credulity.
Green jobs will mostly be overseas, subsidized by US tax and energy dollars – other people’s money (OPM). Indeed, Americans have already spent over $20 billion in stimulus money on “green” energy projects. However, 80% of the funding for some of them went to China, India, South Korea and Spain, and three-fourth of the turbines for eleven US wind projects were made overseas. This is intolerable, indefensible and unsustainable. But it gets worse.
Denver’s Nature and Science Museum used $720,000 in stimulus money to install photovoltaic panels and reduce its electricity bills by 20 percent. The panels may last 25 years, whereas it will take 110 years to save enough on those bills to pay for the panels – and by then four more sets of panels will be needed.
As to biofuels, the US Navy recently waxed ecstatic over its success with camellia-based eco-fuel in fighter jets. But the PC biofuel costs $67.50 per gallon, versus $5.00 per gallon for commercial jet fuel.
To meet the 36-billion-gallons-a-year-by-2022 federal ethanol diktat, we would have to grow corn on cropland and wildlife habitat the size of Georgia, to get 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol – plus switchgrass on farmlands and habitats the size of South Carolina, to produce 21 billion gallons of “advanced biofuel.” By contrast, we could produce 670 billion gallons of oil from frozen tundra equal to 1/20 of Washington, DC, if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge weren’t off limits.
OPM-subsidized ethanol also means a few corn growers and ethanol refiners make hefty profits. But chicken and beef producers, manufacturers that need corn syrup, and families of all stripes get pounded by soaring costs, to generate a fuel that gets one-third less mileage per tank than gasoline.
Hydrocarbons fueled the most amazing and sustained progress in human history. Rejecting further progress – in the name of sustainability or climate protection – requires solid evidence that we face catastrophes if we don’t switch to “sustainable” alternatives. Computer-generated disaster scenarios and bald assertions by Al Gore, Harry Reid, John Holdren and President Obama just don’t make the grade.
We need to improve energy efficiency and conserve resources. Science and technology will continue the great strides we have made in that regard. Politically motivated mandates will impose huge costs for few benefits. Sustainability claims will simply redistribute smaller shares of a shrinking economic pie.
“Renewable” energy subsidies may sustain the jobs of lobbyists, activists, politicians, bureaucrats and politically connected companies. But they will kill millions of other people’s jobs.
Let’s be sure to remind our elected officials of this along their campaign trails – and on November 2.
Can you say “October Surprise”?
A mushrooming political battle over ObamaCare involving the White House, two incumbent Pennsylvania congressmen, three Catholic hospitals and a nun has just exploded in, of all places, Scranton, Pennsylvania. Charges from the Scranton medical community of intimidation by the Obama White House and its allies are filling the air.
All of this just as Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Scranton today to raise money for one of the participants.
There are two issues at the core of the controversy.
1. ObamaCare and the sale of three Scranton-area Catholic hospitals.
2. The re-election prospects of the two House members, Democrats Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney, both of whom cast key votes to pass ObamaCare.
Here’s the list of players — major and minor — so far.
• The President of the United States.
• The Vice President of the United States.
• Three Scranton-area Catholic hospitals suddenly for sale.
• The CEO of the three Scranton-area Catholic hospitals for sale.
• ObamaCare, otherwise known as “health care reform” or the “Affordable Care Act.”
• A Catholic nun.
• Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak.
• A pen.
• Victoria Reggie Kennedy, widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
• Time magazine.
• The Scranton Times
• The two Scranton-area House members Kanjorski and Carney, both losing in the polls.
• U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr., a native and resident of Scranton.
• Congressman Joe Sestak, the Democrats’ nominee for the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat.
March 22, 2010: President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”) into law in front of live television cameras and a packed East Room of the White House. According to news accounts, the President uses 21 different pens to sign his name, the highly prized souvenirs of the historic moment given to Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the wife of the late Senator Ted Kennedy along with a very select handful of others.
The President, after being introduced by an exuberant Vice President Biden (who whispers “this is a big f…g deal” into the President’s ear and is picked up by a live microphone) says:
“I heard one of the Republican leaders say this was going to be Armageddon. Well, two months from now, six months from now, you can check it out. We’ll look around and we’ll see.”
Almost immediately — it didn’t take two months much less six — the White House is confronted with a rapidly accelerating set of unintended consequences spreading across the country. As listed by the Wall Street Journal, those unintended consequences included 2011 premium increases shooting up as high as 9%; “multibillion-dollar corporate writedowns by Verizon, AT&T, Caterpillar and others”; the disruption of insurance markets, a show-down with McDonald’s, the imposition of price controls on premiums, insurers withdrawing from Medicare Advantage.
In what appears to have become a pattern, the response from the Obama Administration has been repeatedly swift and harsh — compared by one critic as an episode straight out of the Sopranos, the famous HBO mobster series.
The corporate writedowns — done in compliance with federal law — resulted in angry phone calls from then-Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and colleague Valerie Jarrett to corporate CEO’s and the heads of the Washington corporate offices of those involved. Congressman Henry Waxman threatened a congressional investigation into those companies whose obedience to the law put them at odds with the actual results of ObamaCare. Notification by insurers that rates were being forced up by ObamaCare resulted in a threatening letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to insurers warning that such candor would not be tolerated — at risk of not being allowed to participate in a future government-run health care exchange for insurers.
Then, suddenly, on October 6 — five days ago — the fuse to what is becoming a huge political explosion was lit.
In the unlikely location of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
IN THE MIDDLE OF THESE two hotly contested re-election races for a pair of Pennsylvania Democratic congressmen, the controversy first erupted over the suddenly announced sale of three Catholic Hospitals spread out between Paul Kanjorski’s and Chris Carney’s two adjoining congressional districts.
The initial announcement was made by Mercy Health Partners CEO Kevin Cook.
Cook is based in Scranton, while Mercy Partners and the three hospitals up for sale are in fact a subsidiary of the larger Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP) based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The three Catholic hospitals involved are: Mercy Hospital in Scranton; Mercy Special Care Hospital in Nanticoke, both in Kanjorski’s 11th District. And the Mercy Tyler Hospital in Tunkhannock, located in Carney’s adjacent 10th District.
The Cook announcement was big news in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The Sisters of Mercy had opened Mercy Hospital in Scranton, a major facility for the city, in 1917 — 93 years earlier. Inevitably it drew media attention. Which is where the plot thickens.
WNEP TV (Channel 16) reporter Jon Meyer filed a story about the sale at 4:40 pm. that afternoon. WNEP TV anchor Paula Giangiacomo led the story on the air by saying that “one big” reason for the sale “is the health care reform bill signed into law this year.” Mercy Health Partners CEO Cook was interviewed on camera along with Sister Marie Parker. When Meyer asked Cook if ObamaCare had anything at all to do with the sale, the CEO replied:
“Health care reform is absolutely playing a role. Was it the precipitating factor in this decision? No, but was it a factor in our planning over the next five years? Absolutely.”
Notice the use — twice — of the word “absolutely” by Cook, leaving no doubt with viewers that while ObamaCare wasn’t the “precipitating factor” it was “absolutely playing a role…Absolutely” in the decision by Mercy Health Care Partners to put the three hospitals up for sale.
Then, on Friday October 8, only 48 hours after the story hit the local news on WNEP, the executive changed his story. Sort of. A second statement came out over Mr. Cook’s name as CEO. Headlined on the PR Newswire-US Newswire services, the statement was headed: “Mercy Reiterates Rationale for Sale Exploration.”
Gone was any reference to the subject discussed in the WNEP-TV story. ObamaCare playing a role in the sale of the three hospitals? Where would an idea like that ever come from? Not from this second statement. There is not a word of Cook’s videotaped certainty that ObamaCare is responsible in some measure for this proposed sale. Yet curiously, there is no out-and-out retraction of Cook’s comments to WNEP either. The subject of ObamaCare bearing responsibility for this sale in any fashion is disappeared. Completely missing. The second statement just has Mr. Cook saying that sale discussions were being conducted “long before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The decision was due to many factors.”
But there appears to have been something else at work here behind the scenes that necessitated this second statement from Cook.
Mysteriously, the very same day, came this statement, also released on the PR Newswire services. Out of the blue, suddenly released by Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association (CHA), the headline was sharp and pointed. The headline?
Alarmist News Reports About Catholic Hospitals Are False; CHA Supports Difficult Decision by Mercy Health Partners.
In a fury that fairly leaps from the page, Sister Carol says immediately that “false motives” have been assigned to the proposed sale of the three Mercy hospitals. Says the good Sister: “Reports that health reform is the primary motive behind the sale are completely false, misleading and politically motivated. Deliberations to sell the facilities began well before the Affordable Care Act became law and did not hinge on enactment of the legislation.”
In other words, Mr. Cook — he the CEO of the hospitals who said flatly that ObamaCare was in fact “absolutely” and yet again “absolutely” playing a role in the sale of the three hospitals — was, in the polite language of a Catholic nun, in essence being called a liar.
By Sunday, there was a third Cook statement, this one posted on the website of Mercy Health Partners. Cook statement # 3 was no longer as benign as statement # 2. The third Cook statement used some of the original language from statement #2, but its lead paragraph was now saying something else entirely. I have marked the change in bold print:
Mercy Health Partners recently announced our intention to explore the sale of our facilities in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The rationale for our initiative has been mischaracterized by certain politicized media outlets and severely distorted by some special interest groups.
In other words, Cook statement #3 has picked up a flavor of the statement from Sister Carol. Now saying without saying it that Cook’s original WNEP answer about the role ObamaCare “absolutely…absolutely” played in the decision to sell the hospitals has been “severely distorted.”
Curious, no? Very.
WHY IN THE WORLD would a Catholic nun be so revved up as to denounce in such strong language what Mr. Cook insisted was a fact — that ObamaCare was “absolutely” and yet again “absolutely” playing a role in the hospital sale? Why the hair-trigger fire-breathing response. From a simple Catholic nun named Sister Carol?
And why in the world would Mr. Cook feel compelled to issue not one but two re-statements of the rationale behind the sale of the three Mercy hospitals?
One doctor in Scranton — who was deeply disturbed by the announcement — is certain he knows the answer. That answer? Mr. Cook was absolutely right the very first time he spoke to WNEP on camera. Hospitals, said this doctor — frequently run a debt. “What’s different? Why now?” he said in terms of the rationale for selling the Mercy hospitals. The reason is exactly as CEO Cook originally said it was. ObamaCare cuts in Medicare reimbursement have changed the rules so drastically for hospitals “you [Mercy Health Partners] are in an untenable situation,” said this physician. Most hospitals have accumulating debt because of capital investments, says the doctor. But they can’t deal with that debt if in fact their ability to earn money is cut off or drastically reduced over time.
Alarmingly, the doctor, with a lifetime of practice in hand, says that “hospitals close in clusters where there is decreased income in terms of relatively low Medicare reimbursement…because they are the most vulnerable.” He adds that what is happening in Scranton, Nanticoke, and Tunkhannock with the Mercy hospitals “is just the beginning. It will happen everywhere because reimbursements will be reduced” under ObamaCare. Particularly, he adds, in areas where you have a high elderly population.
If the doctor is right, and he is not alone in saying this, the proposed sale of the three Mercy hospitals becomes a harbinger of what will happen nationally as a result of ObamaCare slowly tightening its government tentacles over the private health care system. Which means the sale of the three Mercy hospitals has added Scranton to what the Wall Street Journal has already called ObamaCare’s “trail of destruction.”
Ahhhh. But who is Sister Carol Keehan? What’s the big deal here with her? Why would a statement from simple Catholic nun appear to cause so much consternation with Mercy Health Partner CEO Kevin Cook in Scranton, Pennsylvania?
LET’S GO BACK to that presidential signing of the health care reform law. There were 21 very powerful people in that little group who received signing pens from the President. As mentioned that included the Vice President, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy’s widow Victoria Reggie Kennedy. And someone else.
That would be Sister Carol Keehan.
Impressive, no? The Catholic News Agency thought so, and prominently noted the story here. It also noted that Sister Carol was receiving her presidential pen from the President himself because she had been “supporting health care despite bishops’ objections.” The story even pictured the pen itself alongside the presidential seal on the box in which it came, with “Barack Obama” clearly visible scrawled along the side. Meaning, Sister Carol had enough clout to take on the Catholic Bishops on the President’s behalf — and win.
Does the name Bart Stupak ring a bell? The much ballyhooed pro-life Democrat Congressman from Michigan? The Catholic Congressman Bart Stupak who was said to be such a sturdy obstacle to passage of ObamaCare because it would allow abortions? In the aftermath of the ObamaCare passage, Slate came forward to note that a letter signed by “representatives” of Catholic nuns finally swayed Stupak to break his staunch anti-abortion pledge and sign on for ObamaCare with a simple promise of an executive order on abortion, executive orders being overturned by successor presidents with the rapidity of rabbits doing the breeding thing. Wait! Stupak was persuaded by A nun.
Isn’t Sister Carol a …nun? How about that? What a coincidence? Yes indeed, the letter in question was signed — solo — by Sister Carol.
In other words, Sister Carol is not just some kindly nun who reminds you of the nun whacking your knuckles in grade school for this or that offense. No, in the world of Washington Sister Carol is a powerhouse lobbyist — make that a liberal social justice lobbyist — with a clear set of political skills and a very, very high-powered set of very elite friends. She is quite decidedly not just the neighborhood nun. Sister Carol is the Washington voice of the Catholic Health Association, once called the Catholic Hospital Association, which means her clout with Catholic hospitals around America — like the Mercy Hospital in Scranton and its siblings in Nanticoke and Tunkhannock, all run by CEO Cook — is considerable. Not to mention her clout with the parent company located in Cincinnati — and not to mention with Congressman Bart Stupak.
Selected as one of Time magazine’s “2010 Time 100” most influential people, Sister Carol’s social justice passions were written up glowingly for Time by one of the other Obama 21 pen-receivers at the health care signing: Victoria Reggie Kennedy. AKA, Mrs. Ted Kennedy. Sister Carol, as demonstrated by her status as the receiver of a presidential signing pen, is clearly the President’s favorite nun.
Thus her abilities to whack Mercy CEO Kevin Cook’s knuckles for speaking out of turn on what in fact he “absolutely” and “absolutely” saw a mere two days earlier as the impact of ObamaCare on his hospitals were considerable. And when the Cook statement #2 didn’t pass muster, he apparently was whacked again. After reining in a sitting Congressman Stupak and getting him to, in the yes of many pro-lifers, abandon his anti-abortion stance and pass ObamaCare, what’s a mere hospital executive like Kevin Cook to Sister Carol? It is safe to say that there are doctors in Scranton, furious at what they are seeing as happening to the local health care system, who believe Sister Carol — or someone else connected to the Obama White House if not the someone inside the White House itself — was behind the knuckle rapping of Kevin Cook.
With the White House already on record for having senior staff making angry phone calls to CEO’s over corporate writedowns, having the Secretary of HHS send threatening Soprano-style letters to insurers not to blame ObamaCare for premium increases — the question in Scranton is why wouldn’t the same White House enlist the President’s favorite nun to intimidate Mr. Cook and the company he represents?
Protecting ObamaCare turns out to be but one reason — albeit that alone is a big one with national consequences for this White House.
THE OTHER REVOLVES around the struggling campaigns of Representatives Kanjorski and Carney. And the larger political picture in Pennsylvania. U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. is a Scranton resident. Indeed, one Scranton source pointed out that the Casey home is within walking distance of Mercy Hospital in Scranton. Casey and his father before him have succeeded in part by creating the image of the old-fashioned FDR-JFK working class Democrat whose values are revered in Scranton. This is the city that is the hometown of Vice President Biden. For Scrantonians and their fellow Pennsylvanians in neighboring communities to suddenly see a Catholic hospital that has been a mainstay for 93 years suddenly slip away has caused considerable upset.
And notably, in a town that is heavily Catholic, the realization that three hospitals that did not perform abortions could be sold to owners who would allow the procedure is infuriating.
Both Kanjorski and Carney have been under fire for their ObamaCare votes from GOP opponents Lou Barletta and Tom Marino respectively. The startling news of the Mercy sale was barely 24 hours old when State Republican Chairman Robert P. Gleason picked up on it, issuing statements tying the ObamaCare votes of the pair to the prospective loss of Mercy.
And at that, Sister Carol, presumably not having the comings and goings of Pennsylvania politics on her mind, suddenly launched herself into the Scranton hospital debacle, presumably finally forcing a tougher stance from Mercy’s CEO Cook in statement #3.
The explosion, all recent with its implications of White House pressure and lost Catholic hospitals, is about to bring in media ads from CatholicVote.org. Says Communications Director Joshua Mercer: “Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney are Catholic and they both voted for ObamaCare.” Citing the sale of the three Mercy hospitals, Mercer says that the pro-ObamaCare votes of the two “has had a real impact on the community.” Mercer added a sentiment voiced as well by the Scranton doctor: “There are a lot of Kevin Cooks across the country…the CEO’s of small Catholic hospitals are all facing the same realities of more [ObamaCare] mandates and regulations.”
Interestingly, a Scranton medical source notes the lack of coverage of the growing Mercy hospital sales controversy in the local Scranton Times. “It’s a Democratic paper,” the source said, mentioning that he listens to talk radio to get a better picture of the news. “I listen to Rush, to Sean, Fox News and local talk radio. But with a Democratic paper you have to listen to national talk radio to get another perspective.”
Today, Vice President Biden arrives in Scranton to campaign for Congressman Carney.
A Capitol Hill aide to a Republican U.S. Senator says of the Scranton controversy the Obama White House is terrified the Mercy Hospital sales story will “get legs” as a national story — further intensifying the anti-Obama vote pollsters are recording in potentially record numbers. And leading to the defeat of not only Kanjorski and Carney but another Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman who voted for ObamaCare: U.S. Senate nominee Joe Sestak. Sestak is trailing his own opponent, conservative anti-ObamaCare GOP nominee Pat Toomey.
With less than a month to go until election day, one thing is certain.
The story of the President’s nun and charges of possible intimidation of a hospital executive over ObamaCare will ensure the Scranton hospital sale isn’t going away anytime soon.