Monthly Archives: April 2016

Freedom Under Attack

America was founded on the concept of individual freedom. The 13 colonies went to war, and proclaimed their independence, to provide a level of personal rights never before experienced by any people in the history of the world. A unique guarantee—the Bill of Rights—was embedded in the foundational laws of the country to insure and enshrine that concept.

The terrible imperfection in the early history of the United States—the existence of slavery—was resolved in the nation’s bloodiest conflict, a Civil War fought to make all men free. Voting rights for women followed. The practice of segregation was eventually legislated out of existence.

But has America’s inherent and underlying purpose for existence—individual rights—being driven to extinction?

There is a disturbing and rapidly growing trend in federal and state governments, in academia, and in the private sector as well, towards restricting personal freedom to a degree never before experienced by U.S. citizens.

Over the past seven years, we have seen Washington virtually hijacked by those who place the power of the federal government over the rights of individuals.

The Internal Revenue Service has been used to suppress those that disagree with President Obama.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been employed to attack private property rights in a manner that has nothing to do with preserving the health of the planet and everything to do with imposing federal control over privately held land.

The Federal Communications Commission has made several attempts to impose controls over the media. One example: an aborted move to place FCC “monitors” in news rooms. Another worrisome move: By this November, the White House’s weird action of replacing America’s internet control from U.S. oversight to an international body influenced by nations that favor censorship will be complete.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) runs roughshod, despite the First Amendment, over religious organizations that object to being forced to fund procedures they find objectionable.

An explosion of regulations affecting virtually every aspect of the way Americans work and use their property forces citizens to constantly look over their shoulder when going about their daily lives.

Washington is not alone in the disturbing trend to restrict personal freedom.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “All 50 states regulate the way money is spent in politics and elections…”

In the abstract, regulating the influence of money in politics may seem like a good idea.  The problems, however, are numerous. The regulations work to enhance the chances of incumbents, no matter how bad their records are, to win re-election against challengers.  New York State provides a prime example.  Elected officials in the notoriously corrupt Empire State government are more likely to leave office due to death or criminal conviction than through elections in which challengers have a fair chance. Restricting campaign spending inevitably leads to restrictions on free speech, and restrictions on free speech inevitably allows crooked, lazy, or inept legislators to remain in office.

Some local governments simply ignore portions of the Bill of Rights.  In many large cities, the Second Amendment is regulated into nonexistence by a host of restrictions that make it exceptionally difficult and expensive for private citizens to exercise this freedom.

The attack on freedom doesn’t just come from government. Throughout academia, the imposition of left wing views on students takes place on a regular basis. Students with more traditional American views are threatened with bad grades or worse.  Some campuses restrict contrary views to so-called” free speech zones” that limit the chances of reaching a broad audience.  There have been numerous calls to criminally prosecute individual scientists who disagree with the prevailing belief in the man-made global warming theory.

A number of major corporations have also abandoned traditional support for individual rights. Some social media companies actively restrict views which they disagree with from their sites. A number of major companies penalize employees for taking positions, even on private time and away from their worksites, that corporate leaders disagree with.

Taken as a whole, all of these factors combine to change the very essence of what America is.  The United States was born out of a desire to have a nation where the citizens, not the government or any other powerful group, ruled. Piece by piece, right by right, that dream is being dissolved within our lifetime. It’s time for the “Spirit of ’76,” –the rights of the individual over that of the government or any other institution—to be restored.

U.S. Economy Spirals Downward

A significant trinity of bad economic news  has come to light as April winds to a close. GDP growth is grinding to a halt, gross job gains have decreased, and the rate of homeownership has fallen again, hitting a 48 year low. Add to those numbers the news from early April that the American balance of trade worsened by $47.1 billion, and there can be little doubt that the U.S. economy is in a serious downward spiral.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis  announced that growth in the already depressed real gross domestic product — the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production, adjusted for price changes, came to a near halt at a 0.5% annual rate of increase in the first quarter of 2016.This follows the dismal rate of 1.4% in the final quarter of 2015.

The employment picture presented its own bad news. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics  latest release, “From June 2015 to September 2015, gross job gains from opening and expanding private sector establishments were 7.3 million, a decrease of 262,000 jobs from the previous quarter…Over this period, gross job losses from closing and contracting private sector establishments were 6.9 million, an increase of 149,000 jobs from the previous quarter.”

Although the White House readily discusses the unemployment statistic known as the U-3, which has been reduced, the more accurate indicator, known as the U-6, is far higher at 9.8%. Even this number doesn’t present a thorough picture, since there are factors it excludes, as well.

The labor force participation rate has fallen from 65.7% in January, 2009 when President Obama took office, to the latest figure of 63%.  Of the comparatively few jobs created, far too many are in low-paying occupations.  Many White House policies will make that problem even worse. President Obama’s scientifically unsound environmental policies to sharply reduce the use of some forms of energy directly impact a source of well-paying jobs.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics  notes that “Manufacturing industries with the highest wages for production occupations included petroleum and coal products manufacturing ($62,140) and basic chemical manufacturing ($55,230).”

What else has caused the poor employment picture? Corporations are leaving the U.S., and taking jobs with them. The reason for the downward spiral is neither the aftermath of the recession nor the results of cyclical economic period.  It is the specific result of both existing policies that literally drive employers offshore, as well as a hostile regulatory environment.

The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. Bloomberg  notes that “The U.S. corporate income tax rate, 35 percent, is the highest in the developed world. The U.S. is also one of the few countries that makes its companies pay that rate on all their worldwide income…More than 50 U.S. companies have reincorporated in low-tax countries since 1982, including more than 20 since 2012.”

Ed Rogers, writing in the Washington Post, notes: “I don’t think there has been a president in my lifetime who has been more hostile to business than Obama. I could be corrected, but I don’t think anyone in the president’s Cabinet has ever started a business, and I would doubt that many of his senior staffers have either. At the end of the day, Obama doesn’t seem to have much respect for what it takes to start a business. And this cratering in the number of start-ups under his administration reminds us of the gratuitous smackdown he gave business owners everywhere during the 2012 campaign when he pointedly said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”

The U.S. has declined in the Index of Economic Freedom  which notes: Americans continue to lose economic freedom. Following declines in seven of the past eight years, the United States this year has equaled its worst score ever in the Index of Economic Freedom. Ratings for labor freedom, business freedom, and fiscal freedom have flagged notably, and the regulatory burden is increasingly costly… America’s historically vibrant entrepreneurial growth is significantly hampered by intrusive, expensive, and often ineffective government policies in areas ranging from health care to energy to education. Government favoritism toward entrenched interests has hurt innovation and contributed to a lackluster recovery and stagnant income growth… The regulatory burden continues to increase. Over 180 new major federal regulations have been imposed on business operations since early 2009 with estimated annual costs of nearly $80 billion.”

Finally, The Census Bureau reports that home ownership rates have dropped to a 48 year low. In 2009, when President Obama took office, home ownership stood at 67.3%.  The latest figure is 63.5%.

Pacific Threats

Once well protected and patrolled by the U.S. Navy, the Pacific rim has become the source of imminent threats to both America and its allies. The sharp reduction of the U.S. Navy (from 600 ships to less than 274) combined with the skyrocketing increase in China’s strategic and conventional forces and the nuclear prowess of North Korea present a vast challenge to all nations throughout the Pacific rim.  

In March, USMC Lt. General Vincent R. Stewart, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, addressed the House Armed Services Committee on key threats facing the United States. Presented in today’s report is the portion of his examination that reviews the growing threats  from China and North Korea.

CHINA AND NORTH KOREA

Chinese Force Modernization

China is pursuing a long-term, comprehensive military modernization program designed to improve its capability to fight short-duration, high-intensity regional conflicts. While preparing for a Taiwan contingency remains the primary driver of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) modernization, the Chinese military has increased its preparations for other contingencies, including conflicts in the East or South China Seas.

In addition to modernizing equipment and operations, the PLA is undergoing massive structural reform. Changes being implemented include increasing the number of Navy, Air Force and Rocket Force personnel at the expense of ground forces, establishing a theater joint command system and reducing their current seven military regions down to five joint theaters of operation. The emphasis on joint commands reflects China’s intention to emulate the style of joint operations pioneered by the U.S.

A key component of PLA strategy in a regional contingency is planning for potential U.S. intervention. China has the world’s largest and most comprehensive missile force, and has prioritized the development and deployment of regional ballistic and cruise missiles to expand its conventional strike capabilities against U.S. forces and bases throughout the region. They continue to field an anti-ship ballistic missile, which provides the capability to attack U.S. aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean. China also displayed a new intermediate-range ballistic missile, capable of striking Guam, during its September 2015 military parade in Beijing.

The PLA is modernizing its nuclear forces by enhancing silo and underground facility-based ICBMs and adding more road-mobile systems. In addition, the PLA Navy deployed the JIN-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine in 2015, which, when armed with the JL-2 SLBM, provides Beijing its first sea-based nuclear deterrent.

South China Sea (SCS)

 China has long identified the protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity as a “core interest” and has embarked on a multi-year, whole of government approach to securing Chinese sovereignty over the area within the “nine-dash line” as Chinese territory. In 2015, China shifted from enlarging and building its outposts in the SCS to developing them for civilian — and eventually military — occupation and use. In 2016, China likely will continue to add dual-use capabilities to these man-made features, including harbors, communications and surveillance systems, logistics support facilities, and airfields. China’s military capabilities in the SCS have been enhanced with the recent deployment of long-range surface-to-air missiles to the Paracel Islands. The PLA’s response to recent U.S. Freedom of Navigation Operations, as well as an Australian ISR flight in December, demonstrate that Beijing recognizes the need to defend these outposts and is prepared to respond to any military operations near them.

Defense Spending

China has the fiscal strength and political will to support robust defense spending growth for the foreseeable future. In 2015, China announced a 9.2 percent inflation-adjusted increase in its annual military budget, to $144 billion, continuing more than two decades of annual defense spending increases. Data analysis since 2006 indicates China’s officially-disclosed military budget grew at an inflation-adjusted average of 9.8 percent per year.

Space and Counterspace: China possesses the world’s most rapidly-maturing space program, using on-orbit and ground-based assets to support civil, economic, political, and military objectives. In parallel, China continues to develop counterspace capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by adversaries in a crisis or conflict.

North Korea

 North Korea remains a critical security challenge for the U.S. Despite significant resource shortfalls and aging hardware, the DPRK maintains a large, conventional, forward-deployed military and continues to improve its ability to launch rapid, small-scale attacks against South Korea. North Korea’s continuing efforts to construct and use underground facilities to protect and strengthen the defense of key elements of its leadership and military. DPRK leadership’s willingness to ignore the plight of their people yet undertake provocative actions against Seoul — demonstrated during its August 2015 ambush of South Korean soldiers — poses a serious threat to the U.S. and its regional allies. We also remain concerned about North Korea’s proliferation activities in contravention of the United Nations (UN) Security Council.

Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and evolving ballistic missile programs underscore the growing threat. The DPRK’s display of a new or modified road mobile ICBM during a recent parade and its 2015 test of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile capability highlight its commitment to diversifying its missile forces and nuclear delivery options, while strengthening missile force survivability. North Korea also continues efforts to expand its stockpile of weapons grade fissile material. In early January, North Korea issued a statement claiming it had successfully carried out a nuclear test, and on 7 February, Pyongyang launched a SLV from a west coast testing facility. The technology involved in a satellite launch would be applicable to North Korea’s other long-range missile programs.

Government vs. Small Business

Small businesses play a vital role in the U.S. economy.  Why, then, are they treated so poorly by government? The Small Business Administration enumerates the top ten vital roles these enterprises play:

  1. Small businesses make up more than 99.7% of all employers.
  2. Small businesses create more than 50 percent of the non-farm private gross domestic product(GDP).
  3. Small patenting firms produce 13 to 14 times more patentsper employee than large patenting firms.
  4. The 22.9 million small businesses in the United States are located in virtually every neighborhood.
  5. Small businesses employ about 50 percent of all private sector workers.
  6. Home-based businessesaccount for 53 percent of all small businesses.
  7. Small businesses make up 97 percent of exportersand produce 29 percent of all export value.
  8. Small businesses with employees start-up at a rate of over 500,000 per year.
  9. Four years after start-up, half of all small businesses with employees remain open.
  10. The latest figures show that small businesses create 75 percent of the net new jobs in our economy.

The Wall Street Journal notes that while elected officials issue a great deal of affectionate about these endeavors,

“The legislative track record tells another story. It is one in which the interests of big corporations are dominant, and many laws and regulations seem designed to bend the marketplace in their favor and put small, independent businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Since the late 1990s, the overall market share of firms with fewer than 100 employees has fallen from 33% to 28%, according to U.S. Census data. There are nearly 80,000 fewer small retailers today than in 1999. Starting a new business also appears to have become harder. Despite their prominence in our tech-fueled imagination, the number of startups created annually fell by about 20% between the 1970s and the 2000s, Census data shows…A report …by the research organization Good Jobs First… found that two-thirds of the $68 billion in business grants and special tax credits awarded by the federal government over the past 15 years went to big corporations. State and local economic development incentives are similarly skewed.”

David Burton, testifying for the Heritage Foundation before the Congressional Committee on Small Business outlines another burden facing small business:

“After complying with the multitude of state and federal legal requirements, business owners should still have time left over to actually run their businesses. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to be lawyers to run businesses in the United States. Unfortunately, that is just about where we find ourselves today. It is not where we want to be if we desire a return to sustained prosperity…job creation, productivity improvements and welfare-enhancing innovation have slowed…the problem is caused by the combined weight of hundreds of regulatory or statutory burdens imposed on small and start-up enterprises. The problems fall into eight basic categories.

  1. Poor Tax Policy.Poor tax policies raise the cost of capital, impose high taxes on risk taking and impede economic growth. Moreover, the tax system is monstrously complex, imposing inordinately high compliance costs on small and start-up firms.
  2. Inadequate Access to Capital. Securities laws and, to a lesser extent, banking laws and practices, restrict entrepreneurs’ access to the capital needed to launch or grow their businesses. After all, without capital to launch a business, other impediments to entrepreneurial success are moot.
  3. Expensive Health Care.The U.S. health care system is the most costly in the world and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) imposes high costs on firms with 50 or more employees.
  4. Burdensome Energy and Environment Laws.Environmental and energy regulations raise the cost of energy and limit development of energy resources.
  5. High and Growing Regulatory Costs.The cost of complying with increasingly burdensome and complex regulations continues to grow rapidly. These rules have a disproportionate adverse impact on small and start-up companies that can ill afford to use scarce resources on regulatory compliance rather than growing their business.
  6. Onerous Labor and Employment Laws.Increasingly complex and opaque labor and employment laws raise the cost and risk of employing people. They reduce wages and cost jobs.
  7. Bad Immigration Rules. The U.S. immigration system makes it difficult for firms to gain access to talented foreign workers and for immigrant-entrepreneurs to enter the United States to start a business.
  8. Costly Legal System.The U.S. legal system is the most costly in the world, imposing high and potentially ruinous costs on small firms.

The Goldwater Institute  has proposed an approach to address the obstacles facing small business:

“States can take a major step toward restoring the freedom of enterprise that is every American’s birthright by enacting model legislation called the Right to Earn a Living Act. The proposed law recognizes that the right of individuals to pursue a chosen business or profession, free from arbitrary or excessive government interference, is a fundamental civil right. The act provides substantive protection for those rights while at the same time preserving the ability of state regulatory agencies and local governments to protect the public through legitimate and proportionate health and safety regulations. The act would require that any ordinance or rule that limits entry or competition in a business or profession ‘shall be limited to those demonstrably necessary and carefully tailored to fulfill legitimate public health, safety, or welfare objectives.’ That language contains three essential components: legitimate, necessary, and tailored. ‘Legitimate’ refers to traditional police powers such as the protection of health and safety. By contrast, economic protectionism— favoring some businesses over others — is not a legitimate object of government. ‘Necessary’ and ‘tailored’ refer to proportionality. Is a ban or monopoly necessary, or would free or regulated competition suffice? Is a particular rule properly applied to a specific profession, or is it largely unrelated to the products or services that are provided?”

Congress Investigates Illegal Sale of Baby Parts

On April 20, a Congressional Select Investigative Panel chaired by Rep, Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) conducted a hearing on the sale of fetal tissue. The hearing was not about the practice of abortion. It was about the sale of human body parts for profit.  

 The evidence reveals that abortion clinics and middleman procurement businesses may have violated federal law by the payments they collected from the sale of baby body parts. Title 42 USC § 289g-2 prohibits the transfer of any human fetal tissue for profit. However, it is estimated that baby parts sales businesses had a net gain of 300 to 400 percent.

Documents presented at the hearing noted that videos released in 2015 raised the question of whether abortion clinics and the middleman tissue procurement business were profiting from the sale of baby body parts, organs and tissues. The orders are very specific, (eyes, liver, tongue, scalp, etc.) Procurers  worked with abortion clinics to procure fetal tissue, which are shipped to customers. A fee per tissue is paid, which is in excess of the expenses of the process.

Evidence produced demonstrated that, in blatant violated of federal law, brochures headlined their offer to clinics as an “Easy to implement” way to obtain “financial profits.”

100 clinics cut deals with procurers, and plans had been made to expand that number to 250.

According to documents presented at the hearing, the process works in this manner:

 1)First thing in the morning the tissue tech, who works for the procurer, not the clinc, gets orders for certain baby body parts and the gestation period. Now she knows what she needs to harvest that day.

2) Then she checks in with the Abortion Clinic Assistant Manager and informs the staff what she will be procuring that day.

3) Then the procurement tech reviews the private medical files of the patients for that day to learn their names and the gestation time of their baby. She records the gestations on the gestation tracking log.

4) Next the procurement tech approaches the patients waiting to be prepped for their abortion. She doesn’t have much time so she must match her orders for the day with patients who are at the right gestation time. She asks for the patients by name. Then she convinces them to consent to donate saying that her donation is all about cures of Diabetes and Parkinson’s and Heart Disease.

5) After the abortion the procurement tech collects the baby’s remains and procures the body parts she needs. She carries all of her supplies with her.

6) The tissue tech then arranges for delivery.

7) She gets an hourly wage and a bonus for each tissue.

According to research reported by Mollie Hemingway in the Federalist “Democratic members of the panel, such as Rep. Diana DeGette, (D-Planned Parenthood) attempted to keep the evidence of fetal organ markets from being discussed. Evidence revealed that they are working with procurement businesses attorneys to fight the investigation.

“The strenuous Democratic efforts to fight the evidence, to help those in the industry thwart investigation, and to question the very investigation into fetal organ markets were difficult to ignore.Democratic members’ strategy appeared to be 1) fight discussion of evidence; 2) say the investigation is too expensive; 3) issue Planned Parenthood talking points against The Center for Medical Progress videos (which were not a topic of discussion at this hearing); and 4) claim that the evidence of fetal organ markets didn’t show fetal organ markets. When shown the drop-down order menu for fetal scalps, for instance, DeGette said it wasn’t evidence of fetal organ markets.”

Planned Parenthood has come under attack for its role. Cecile Richards, CEO/President of the organization, claiming that anti-abortion activists are exposing the sale of  baby tissue to “shame” her organization.

The primary argument of those endorsing the use of abortion-related tissue is that the gleaned parts can be used for valid medical purposes. However, the presence of a profit motive—and substantial profits, at that—raises a ghoulish element.  In China, profiting from human organs has led to massive scandals in which unnecessary surgeries from helpless victims have been conducted to reap financial rewards.

NATO-Russian Meeting Highlights Differences

Little noticed or reported by the media, the NATO-Russia Council met on April 20 to discuss the deteriorating relations and rising tensions between the western alliance and Moscow. The meeting lasted longer than anticipated and ended without agreement on the key issues.

Russia’s threatening activities continue to increase, reported U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti during his April 21 testimony  before the House Armed Services Committee. General Scaparrotti is scheduled to become commander of the U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He noted that a resurgent Russia is contesting for power with increasingly aggressive behavior that challenges international norms, often in violation of international law.

In addition to aggressive actions against NATO ships and planes, the Kremlin’s submarines and aircraft have frequently acted in a hostile manner in or near the alliance’s air and sea borders.

General Scaparrotti’s comments have been backed up by independent analyses. A Heritage Foundation report on military matters notes: “Russia is both able and willing to use military force against neighboring nations… President Vladimir Putin has challenged the post–Cold War world order. NATO members that share borders with Russia and have large ethnic Russian populations are under severe political, military, and economic pressure from Moscow. Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO or the European Union (EU), has Russian forces on its soil and has struggled to maintain its sovereignty, having lost Crimea…Russia has repeatedly surprised European nations by launching unannounced “snap exercises.” The term “snap exercises” (sometimes called “snap inspections”) refers to major military exercises ordered with little or no notice. The Russian military has claimed that the purpose of such exercises is to test the readiness of its forces, but observers have argued that they are meant to impress the West with Russia’s military strength. In 2014 and 2015, Russia raised concerns among its neighbors by conducting a series of “snap exercises” of a magnitude not previously seen.”

A World Affairs Journal noted President Putin’s 2014 comment that “he could, at will, occupy any Eastern European capital in two days.” Their study states:

“This apparently spontaneous utterance reveals… Moscow’s true assessment of NATO’s capabilities, cohesion, and will to resist. In an echo of Soviet tactics, it also reflects Putin’s reflexive recourse to intimidation—e.g., unwarranted boasting about Russian military capabilities and intentions—as a negotiating strategy. In 2014 alone, Moscow repeatedly threatened the Baltic and Nordic states and civilian airliners, heightened intelligence penetration, deployed unprecedented military forces against those states, intensified overflights and submarine reconnaissance, mobilized nuclear forces and threats, deployed nuclear-capable forces in Kaliningrad, menaced Moldova, and openly violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987. Russian officials openly declared that the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty of 1989 was dead, and continued a large-scale comprehensive defense buildup in areas ranging from space and counter-space to submarine and ground forces as well as nuclear forces. Seeing as Norway and Estonia’s defense ministers, in separate 2014 speeches in Washington, both indicated that Russia already enjoyed superiority in the Baltic region, these gestures looked like overkill on Putin’s part, to put it mildly. “

At the April 20 meeting, according to NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg,  the two sides held “very different views.” He primarily blamed Russia’s actions against Ukraine for the increased tension, and made it clear that the west stands firm in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The alliance, he stressed, does not recognize the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea, and is ‘disturbed’ at the increase in ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine and the targeting of OSCE  (Organization for Security and Cooperation) monitors in the region. Stoltenberg pointed out that the Allies have seen a decrease in transparency in Russia’s military activities, combined with an increase in military activity and forces, and strong rhetoric. He called this “a dangerous combination.”

However, all 29 members of the NATO-Russia Council agreed on the need for a full and rapid implementation of the Minsk agreements, which call for an agreement to halt the war in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Although vowing to keep lines of communication with Moscow open, Stoltenberg promised to “remain firm that there can be no return to practical cooperation until Russia returns to the respect of international law.” He maintained that the alliance will engage in defensive actions that merely respond to Russia’s military buildup.

Obama Uses Environmental Concerns to Wrest Control of U.S. Economy

One of the most sweeping changes to the American economy is occurring without any input by Congress, the states, or the voters. President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan,” which seeks to slash the use of coal by 32% under 2005 levels (without providing a proven, viable means to replace the loss power) was emplaced by executive action. Even when Congress was ruled by a Democrat majority, the legislative branch did not vote on the radical measure.

In response, many states have filed a lawsuit, and constitutional scholars are watching carefully to see whether the United States abandons its Constitutionally-mandated “separation of powers” in favor of a system in which the President has virtually unchecked power through the use of executive orders. On February 9, those opposing this White House’s extraordinary overreach won a stay on the move. The case will be argued on June 2 before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

The Capital Research Center (CRC)  reports that “It is no surprise that 27 states and over  120 other business organizations, electric utilities and coops, and even labor unions sued EPA to stop the rule…”

The stakes are remarkable high, not just in terms of the balance of power in the U.S. government, but in the budget of every American household. The President’s plan would cause the price of energy to skyrocket, a fact that he himself admitted  in 2008 when he stated that “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad…Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to, uh, retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.”

If coal is taken out of the equation, it could not be replaced—if, indeed, it could be replaced– by anything other than options which environmental extremists also find unpalatable, such as nuclear energy, more use of oil, and greatly expanded hydrofracking

The one “green” option most frequently cited, solar energy, is a non-starter. Writing in Forbes, Christopher Helman explains: “…solar energy still barely moves the needle in the U.S. energy mix. … solar power amounts to well less than 1 quadrillion Btu out of an annual total of 96.5 quadrillion…coal is 19 quads. That’s nearly 8 times all the nation’s wind and solar generation combined.”  Greatly expanded use of solar, which is not feasible, would require vast portions of terrain to be covered by solar panels, causing its own brand of environmental damage, and would not be viable in vast portions of the nation not endowed with the right weather conditions.

How would the President’s plan, which would dramatically escalate costs, impact American family budgets? CRC notes that “A 2011 survey of low-income households for the National Energy Assistance Di­rectors Association reveals some of the adverse health and welfare impacts of high energy costs. Low-income households re­ported these responses to high energy bills: 24 percent went without food for at least one day; 37 percent went without medical or dental care; 34 percent did not fill a prescription or took less than the full dose; 19 percent had someone become sick because their home was too cold…Nothing worsens poverty more than the destruction of jobs. For the electric power production, coal mining, and natural gas production sectors, the EPA itself acknowledges an average loss of 47,000-49,000 jobs nationally per year from 2017 to 2030.”

Despite the enormous cost, very little would be accomplished. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) found that even if the President’s plan were fully implemented, and if all the White House’s scientific theories were correct, the impact on global temperatures would be, at most, 0.03 degrees.  Thus, the plan is more of a political statement than a practical one.

Why would an astute politician like the President commence a program that would have a severe detrimental impact on his constituents? Is there an environmental crisis that warrants the move?

The reality is, many scientists question the existence of manmade global warming (over 31,000 have written the White House to disagree with his statement that the “the question of climate change is settled.”) The environmental movement has been essentially hijacked by those who seek to use exaggerated claims as excuse to impose long-standing goals of centralizing the U.S. economy and reducing the role of the free market.

As an example, points out the Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins,  advocates closely tie partisan support for left-wing politics with environmental extremism. He notes that Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times, has essentially stated that a failure to vote Democrat will doom the planet.

Of course, for something allegedly so important, the Obama Administration, despite its extremist prose, has dragged its feet.  The President failed to push his radical climate agenda during his first administration, particularly when he had a solid majority in both houses of Congress. Indeed, he could have imposed his plan legally at that time through legislation, without violating Constitutional mandates regarding the separation of powers.

But an attempt then would have opened up the topic for debate in his re-election bid, where it would not have withstood public scrutiny.

The President and his supporters are vigorously pursuing their plan not because it is practical, because clearly it is not, and not because it can have a substantial positive impact on the environment, which it cannot. Rather, they are using unproven climate theories and ignoring the potential hardships as an excuse to impose a goal which has been pursued by hard-left politicians for close to a century: forcing centralized control over the American economy.  Allowing Washington to establish the rules for energy production, the very life-blood of the economy, means the federal government controls just about the entire economy itself.

Older Voters to Play Pivotal Role

A GUEST EDITORIAL BY ELLEN BRANDT, Ph.D, 

“Grays” – American voters age 50 and older – are the invisible disrupters within both major Parties right here, right now. But both major Parties refuse to acknowledge how extraordinarily significant we are.

For the Democrats, this complete lack of acknowledgement is mostly intentional, as their Party seeks to appeal to those voting blocs it still – rightly or wrongly – considers “belong to the Left” – the very young, black Americans, and union members, for example. This strategy, however wrongheaded, at least has some basis in voting precedent and preferences.

But for the GOP, blindly following the lead of the Dems and the “Mainstream Media” is the most egregious mistake they can possibly make.

That’s because “Grays” 50 and over will make up about 50 percent of the actual electorate in the 2016 – and 2020 and 2024 and 2028 – presidential cycles.

“Grays” – not Youth, not Black Americans, not Latinos, not Women, nor any other broad constituency – are the real and true and often most passionate “swing” voters this cycle.

And because Gray voters are skewing dramatically towards Republicans, we  they will almost certainly guarantee a GOP victory this cycle – no matter what the MSM says – so long as our Party doesn’t “seize defeat from the jaws of victory” by continuing to ignore Grays abandon the GOP – or try to turn Grays towardsDemocrats out of sheer misunderstanding and prejudice.

First, some basic Demographic facts which everybody is studiously shying away from:

*People age 50 and over now make up about 43 percent of the U.S. population. In other words, more than 2 in 5 Americans are “Gray” citizens 50 and older.

* Barring massive new immigration or unexpected decreases – rather than expected further increases – in American longevity, the percentage of American citizens age 50 and older will escalate further over the next two decades. Some demographers believe it could approach 50 percent – at which point, 1 in 2 Americans will be “Gray.”

*Since American women still – alas – significantly outlive American men, women in the U.S. are fast approaching that 50 percent mark already. Close to 1 in 2 American women are “Gray” or soon will be.

* But in politicial terms, the key 50 percent mark is here right now. Since Americans age 0-17 still cannot vote, about 1 in 2 U.S. voters in presidential election cycle 2016 – and likely, in cycles 2020, 2024, and 2028 – will be “Gray” voters 50 and over.

*This astonishing statistic becomes even more dramatic, when we take into account that mature voters consistently vote at much higher rates than young voters – a situation which we do not see changing anytime soon.

* Moreover, it is not only possible, but entirely probable, that “Gray” voters over 50 have been responsible for most of the extraordinary Populism exhibited within both major Parties this primary and caucus cycle – Populism which we fully expect to continue into the nomination and election processes this year.

What Gray Voters Want

So what, exactly, do “Gray” Americans over 50 want from our parties, candidates, and government, and how can our renewed activism be harnessed productively and lead to positive political change?

(We’ve written about this broad topic extensively over the past few years, and at the end of this piece, we offer links to some recent stories.)

Here, a brief summary to whet readers’ intellectual appetites:

Gray Americans want to be financially secure. Despite near-constant propaganda to the contrary, it is older Americans who have been the primary victims of the financial chaos and catastrophes of the past 30 years: downsizing, outsourcing, the decimation of middle management, housing crises, market crashes, and the hollowing out of both manufacturing and resources industries and Main Street small business.

A large proportion of Americans over 50 have lost much or all of their life’s savings and are hanging on for dear life, a crisis or two away from falling off the proverbial financial cliff. And despite the recent emphasis on “lunchbucket” Americans, particularly within the GOP, white-collar workers, professionals, and small business owners over 50 have been at least as hard hit and are struggling as much or more than blue-collar workers.

Gray Americans want to be secure – period. Older citizens are more likely than other groups to be homeowners, business owners, and have strong ties to their local communities. And they want those homes, businesses, and communities to stay safe.

Mature Americans are concerned about national security and domestic safety. And many Grays are strongly opposed to unbridled new immigration, on economic grounds, as well as security grounds.

Gray Americans want to be recognized. We’re already more than 2 in 5 Americans and close to 1 in 2 voters. But you’d never know it from the scant attention paid to us by the so-called Mainstream Media (MSM) – or by many politicians who follow the MSM’s faulty lead.

There is simply too little coverage of “Gray” attitudes, issues, and needs and too few programs geared to a constituency whose continued well-being and economic security is of make-or-break significance to our economy and our nation.

Gray Americans want to get back on center stage. Recognizing this essential concept is especially important to my Republican Party right now.

The Democrats, many Grays feel, have touted a recovery, especially in terms of jobs, based on pure hocus pocus, a Ponzi scheme in which good jobs have been taken away from people over 50; financially engineered and repackaged; and subsequently gifted to much younger, less educated, and less experienced workers.

People over 50 make up a large proportion of the long-term unemployed and under-employed and are the greatest factor in what is now an historically low labor participation rate. Many – possibly most – older Americans have no desire to be forced into retirement against our wills, nor to become dependent on entitlements or charity. We want to work. We want to earn. We want to be productive. We want to contribute to America’s continued well-being.

Gray Americans want to be cherished. Throughout history, societies which fail to respect and honor and protect their older citizens quickly become failed societies.

The Mature are supposed to be at the top, not the bottom, of the societal pyramid, valued for our experience, our sophisticated thinking, our accomplishments, and our wisdom.

At the moment, we have an inverted pyramid – and the problems that’s causing are fast engulfing our ability to correct them.

We’ve become trapped in a paradox of massive proportions: Through advances in healthcare and education, longevity in America – and the rest of the developed world – is increasing apace.

But what is the value of those extra years of life, if Americans are told they have to spend the last 30 or 40 – or soon 50 or 60? – years of their existence warehoused and isolated and unproductive?

In an economic sense, we Grays- especially we Republicans – seek less government intervention and an end to ever-escalating entitlements, fast bankrupting the nation itself.

But the best – perhaps the only – way to stop such a nightmare scenario in its tracks is by dramatically increasing the participation of Gray Americans over 50 in our economic life.

We need more growth, not less, and a bigger economic pie in which everyone is allowed to share. People should be encouraged and assisted to work as much as they want to work throughout their lifespans, until they are physically or intellectually unable to do so.

We need to harness Gray productivity, Gray creativity, Gray talent, intelligence, sophistication, and wisdom.

For the good of everyone. And the good of this nation.

Ellen Brandt, Ph.D., has been a high-volume journalist – and now blogger – for over 40 years, as well as a magazine editor, corporate financial communications executive, and college professor. She is the founder of the recently-launched Party of Yes group, which hopes to help to remake the so-called Mainstream Media, persuading it to be kinder, gentler, and more inclusive of Republican ideas, issues, and voices.

For additional reading, here are some links to Dr. Brandt’s recent stories on related topics: Ten Populist Issues in 2016Restoring the American DreamOf Course, We Should All Be FeministsThe GOP and the Restoration of MoralityThe GOP and Mainstream Media.

Brazil’s Lessons for the U.S.

To mask the failure of her left wing policies, Brazil’s President Rousseff allegedly violated federal budget laws by using loans from government banks to hide the size of her administrations’ budget deficit. The charge has led to an impeachment.

Brazil’s poor balance of trade, the unaffordability of its social welfare policies, its rejection of free market solutions, the lack of concern for the middle class and the increasing use of left-wing policies that are bankrupting the nation are the hallmarks of her regime. Brazil has experienced its worst recession in nearly a century.  To U.S. voters, those problems seem familiar, and Brazil’s near collapse is a warning for America’s future.

Brazil and the United States are both giant Western Hemisphere nations. They have, however, taken different paths politically and economically.  Those differences in the past, and potential similarities going forward, are instructive in determining what policies produce desirable social and economic results.

Brazil did not have a constitution until 1891, and during its early history actually had an emperor. Subsequently, military and strong-arm rule inhibited the nation’s development, as did its eventual engagement of leftist policies. Whether monarchial in its early days, strong-arm rule later on and leftist currently, the vast South American nation has fairly consistently been subjected to a top-down brand of economic governance rather than a grass roots capitalist approach.

The end result was a nation with poverty only temporarily mitigated over the past few decades, primarily by commodity prices for its vast mineral and agricultural wealth. The commodities boom funded social welfare programs that lifted, according to Global Advisor, 40 million people out of poverty by the years after 2013.  But the gains were temporary.

An adherence to policies that inhibited the rise of the free market prevented the commodities boom from being used to develop a truly viable national economy. As a result, notes Ruchir Sharma in the Wall Street Journal, Brazil’s GDP growth rate has fallen from 7.5% in 2010 to minus 3.5% in 2015. Government spending accounts for 41% of GDP. Focus Economics   panelists see the economy contracting 3.4% in 2016, which is down 0.5 percentage points from last month’s forecast.

“Today,” Sharma reports, “the average Brazilian income is about 16% of the U.S. average, with basically no gain for 100 years.”  Average income has fallen from $13,000 in 2011 to $8,000.

Brazil endures a sharp divide between a comparatively small group of wealthy families, a beleaguered middle class, and a large number of citizens in poverty. The inequality explains the attraction of leftist policies, which produced very significant, but temporary, gains at the cost of eventual prosperity. In essence, Brazil has never truly changed its strong-arm government. It merely replaced monarchial, military, and strong arm rule with socialism, and all have basically the same inhibiting effect on the free market. Its economy has contracted by 3.8%.

Jacob Maslow, writing in the Streetwise blog, believes that socialist policies briefly appeared attractive when commodity prices were high, but now “expensive government programs are taking their toll. It is going to be a long time for Brazil to get out of the hole that it is in right now. I am not sure if improvements in global commodities prices will do the trick. The problem is more systematic than people care to admit. Not surprisingly, the Brazilian rial has dropped against the US dollar by 18%. Expect it to drop even further.”

Rather than invest in measures that would produce a more varied free market economy that could withstand the boom and bust cycle of commodity prices, President Rousseff and her Workers’ Party adhered to socialist policies that gained support among the poor for the temporary relief it brought, at the expense of long-term gains. Trade union figures play a key role in her regime, and they are not particularly prone to make compromises that replace temporary current benefits for long-term economic growth.

The U.S., thanks to a capitalist philosophy, has developed into the world’s most powerful economy. Brazil languishes in financial doldrums.  It is ironic, then, that the Obama Administration, and the policies of the two Democrat candidates vying to succeed it, have supported policies which are more akin to the failed South American giant then to the traditional path the U.S. has followed.