The National Center for Public Policy Research is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan communications and research foundation established in 1982 and based in Washington, D.C. We believe the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility, combined with a commitment to a strong national defense, provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.
Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research
All links are provided exclusively for educational purposes. No endorsement of the content of external links is implied; nor should any document on this website be construed as endorsing or opposing any political party or candidate for public office.
Letters to this site or to The National Center may be published, including the name of the author.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The More People Know About Sea Treaty, The Less They Support It
Husband David's statement today about the vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier today on the Law of the Sea Treaty:
The more people learn about the Law of the Sea Treaty, the less they like it.
That's the message from this morning's vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Although the Committee voted to send the treaty to the full Senate for consideration, there was a marked increase in opposition to it from just three years ago. In 2004, it was approved 19-0. This morning there were four nay votes.
The tide is turning against the Law of the Sea Treaty. The full Republican Senate leadership opposes it as well as presidential candidates Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Senator Fred Thompson, Governor Mike Huckabee, Rep. Tom Tancredo, Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Duncan Hunter.
This explains why its supporters - including Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) - are in a rush to push it through before their colleagues can be alerted to the treaty's fatal flaws. They rejected a very reasonable request this morning by Senator David Vitter to delay the Committee vote for one week to allow additional expert testimony from those with concerns about the treaty. Senator Vitter wished to correct the nearly 6 to one imbalance in favor of treaty proponents during the Committee's hearings.
So desperate was Chairman Joe Biden for an affirmative vote for the treaty that he misrepresented both the treaty and President Ronald Reagan's position on it during the Committee's meeting today. Biden asserted that President Reagan's only objection to the treaty was the deep seabed mining provisions and that these provisions have been corrected.
Not a single word of the Law of the Sea Treaty has been amended since Ronald Reagan was president nor were these provisions his only objections. As President Reagan noted in his diary on June 29, 1982, "Decided in NSC meeting - will not sign 'Law of the Sea Treaty' even without deep seabed mining provisions."
It seems the only person Mr. Biden can quote correctly is Neil Kinnock, from whom he lifted a speech during a previous presidential run in 1987.
The treaty is a bad deal for the U.S. because it would...
* Complicate our efforts to apprehend terrorists or weapons of mass destruction by subjecting our actions to review by an International Tribunal that is unlikely to render decisions favorable to the U.S.
* Make our ships more vulnerable to terrorists or rough states by extending surfacing requirements for unmanned underwater vehicles used to detect mines when our ships exercise their rights of innocent passage through the territorial sea of another nation.
* Threaten the U.S.'s ability to set its own environmental standards. The treaty requires us to "adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources" and shall endeavor to "harmonize" it regulations. As Greenpeace notes, ""The benefits of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea are substantial, including its basic duties for states to protect and preserve the marine environment and to conserve marine living species."
* Give control of a substantial portion of the ocean to a U.N.-style body, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), that will likely be less accountable than the U.N. The ISA was established to be self-financing, deriving revenue not only royalties. The U.S. will have even less leverage in pushing for transparency and accountability than it does with the U.N. as threats to withhold contributions will be less meaningful.
* The treaty permits amendments without requiring nations to re-ratify it - even if the changes are substantial. This not only is a blank check, but a stunning abdication of the Senate's advice and consent responsibilities.
This goes against Ronald Reagan's advice, "trust, but verify."
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has a new book out, "A Contract with the Earth," which, Publishers Weekly says, calls for "businessmen and conservationists to form 'compatible partnerships'" on the environment.
"Compatible partnerships" between business and "conservationists" usually run along the lines of businesses forking over loads of cash to big-government environmental organizations in exchange for the perception that their company will be put slightly lower on Big Green's hit list.
I concede that once in a while the motive is different -- sometimes businesses see a way to profit from new regulations, so they sincerely support Big Green's efforts to get us to pay for them. That sort of sincerity we can do without.
...Among the policy disagreements conservatives have with the Speaker:
Gingrich supported and fought to protect Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt's National Biological Service, a new expansion of the federal government's ability to target private property for government acquisition;
Gingrich has given the handful of environmental establishment Republicans veto power over all environmental legislation by establishing a House Task Force on the Environment to decide what environmental legislation will and will not be voted on in the House and then stacking the task force with members who disagree with conservatives on environmental issues;
Gingrich supports creation of federal Heritage Areas, a proposal that would, if approved, use federal tax dollars to empower local governments to control local property at the expense of local property owners;
In published interviews Gingrich has implied that conservatives and rural Westerners need to "grow" [read: become more liberal] on environmental issues;
Gingrich urged Bob Dole to drop his efforts to pass a property rights bill to compensate Americans if regulations reduce the value of their property by one-third or more, despite public opinion polls showing that some 70% of the American people (66% according to a Times-Mirror poll and 72% according to a Polling Company survey) support such legislation. Property rights advocates believe such legislation will eventually pass the Congress if Members of Congress are forced to go on the record as for or against it;
Gingrich frequently confers with left-wing environmentalists but declines to extend the same courtesy to conservatives on the same issues;
Gingrich co-sponsored a bill to create a National Institute on the Environment, which inevitably would devolve into yet another government-funded body requiring the discovery of new environmental risks to justify its existence;
Gingrich opposes opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, even though this exploration is environmentally-safe and is vital to the economy of Native residents such as Inupiat Eskimos;
Gingrich supports regulation even when scientific evidence of a need for the regulation is weak. For instance, Gingrich has distanced himself publicly from conservative Congressmen, such as House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, who advocate lifting environmental regulations in cases where the evidence that the regulations help the environment is weak.
(As a side note, in light of the California fires, it is interesting to read the first article in that same newsletter, which describes the environmental movement's ardent opposition to a bill by Senator Larry Craig to address "high risk" forests, and decribes conservatives discussing "with some frustration the environmentalist movement's ability to, as one participant put it, 'Lie at will and never get caught at it.'")
One of the things we tried very hard to do back then was to get a meeting with then-Speaker Gingrich to discuss these concerns. He not only wouldn't grant one, but his staff was arrogant and rude in turning down the requests. No polite "he's love to but he's so very busy" brush-offs for them, no sir. They wanted the contempt to show.
Go here for even more reasons to doubt Newt Gingrich is an honest broker between big-government environmental organizations and mainstream conservatives.
I'll buy the book and read it, thereby giving Newt Gingrich a bigger benefit of the doubt on environmental issues than he ever gave us. You'll hear from me again about this, later. _____
House Passes Massive Heritage Area Bill, But Not Without Controversy
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1483, the "Celebrating America's Heritage Act." The bill would create six new national heritage areas, including the controversial Journey Through Hallowed Ground heritage area, and increase federal funding for nine existing heritage areas by 50 percent.
That's the bad news.
But the National Center for Public Policy Research's Peyton Knight sees some good news:
The somewhat good news is that the bill was hotly debated on the floor of the House, and when it was finally put to a vote, 122 congressmen (all Republicans) voted against it. This represents the most opposition to a heritage area boondoggle since 1994, when the House passed the "American Heritage Areas Partnership Program," which received 137 "no" votes and later died in the Senate.
H.R. 1483 passed despite the objections of congressmen Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Virgil Goode (R-VA), who recognize the threat the Journey Through Hallowed Ground heritage area poses to local governance and the rights of property owners in their districts. In a rather unprecedented move, promoters of the heritage area in Congress opted to force the heritage designation on congressmen Bartlett and Goode, rejecting the Congressmen's request to have their districts removed from the heritage area's boundaries.
During debate on the floor of the House, Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) made strong arguments against H.R. 1483 and stressed the need to return to fiscal sanity and better protect property rights. He pointed out that if two congressmen can be run roughshod with a heritage area designation they do not want, so too can property owners within the boundaries of a heritage area. Congressman Bishop also entered into the Congressional Record a coalition letter (pdf) spearheaded by The National Center and signed by 114 groups and local leaders calling for an end to National Heritage Areas.
Congressman Bartlett made an impassioned argument for strong property rights protections and a fiscal restraint, neither of which is represented in H.R. 1483. Congressman Bartlett also pointed out the irony that H.R. 1483 doesn't so much hallow America's heritage as it tramples upon it.
"All of our nation's founders knew of the intimate connection between personal liberty, taxpayers' interests and property rights," said Bartlett. "H.R. 1483 tramples over rather than honors these hallowed principles."
One month ago, when the Celebrating America's Heritage Act passed the House Natural Resources Committee along mostly party lines, 15 Republicans on the committee signed a letter in opposition to the measure, calling it "a thumb in the eye to private property rights advocates and fiscal responsibility."
"Those who will not celebrate are private property owners who may have an empowered, enriched, and Congressionally-blessed heritage area management entity to spar with," reads the letter.
Earlier this week, The Heritage Foundation published an excellent report on national heritage areas, and suggests that if H.R. 1483 makes it to the president's desk, he should veto it. The Heritage report concludes:
"H.R. 1483 would deepen the federal government's involvement in select local economic development initiatives at considerable cost to taxpayers and at the expense of the core mission of the NPS [National Park Service], whose faltering stewardship over the nation's most precious natural and historical places leaves much to be desired. Of potentially greater concern is the growing role for NHAs [national heritage areas] in interfering with the property rights of private citizens. This Congress should reject approaches that designate new NHAs or expand existing ones. If H.R. 1483 is passed, the President should veto it."
For more on National Heritage Areas, a few of our more recent publications are here, here (pdf), here, and here, among others; some oldies-but-goodies on the subject are here, here, here, here and here. Or just plug "national heritage area" into the National Center's search engine; goodness knows you'll find plenty to read. _____
So you are a group who believes that we must disregard our proud American heritage.You are a sorry bunch.You probably also believe in legalizing drugs because there is money to made.Or why not sell the Washington Monument to the Communist Chinese.
It is amazing how many people believe that if you don't shower something -- in this case, six regions of the United States -- with earmarks and then take steps to federalize them, you don't value them at all.
Michelle Malkin has a good post up today on wildfires and environmental obstructionism. I recommend the whole thing.
Michelle recommends our 2005 e-mail alert "Forest Reforms in the Crossfire" by Dana Joel Gattuso. Dana notes that certain high-litigious environmental organizations have made dangerous mega-wildfires more likely:
On July 1, the Forest Service will celebrate its 100-year anniversary and will, no doubt, commemorate the past century's vast forest growth and reforestation throughout many parts of the nation. But before we uncork too many bottles of bubbly, we should be cognizant of the enormous challenges facing the Forest Service in controlling worsening catastrophic summer wildfires that destroy homes, wildlife, and human life.
President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative, a blueprint for protecting national forests from catastrophic fire, and the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act were supposed to close a chapter on a decade of raging, devastating fires. The new reforms promised to change the old, outdated laws that have restricted logging, building up dense fuel loads over the years and creating lethal fire conditions. They were to limit activist groups' endless appeals and frivolous lawsuits that have halted critical, time-sensitive thinning projects. They also were to fast-track treatment of forests by eliminating the time-consuming environmental review process for those thinning projects that do not threaten the environment.
But by all accounts, we're not out of the woods yet. Attempts at reform to shift priority to fire prevention are being challenged by a small yet fanatical group of eco-activist groups who argue thinning projects kill habitat and species.
Today, more acres of forests blanket this nation than past decades (we grow more than we cut), supporting vast amounts of wildlife habitat and species once threatened by extinction. But the steady rise in forestland over the years also places them at enormous risk for fire. Over the past five years, wildfires have become more severe and widespread, harming human life, homes, air and water quality, and of course, wildlife.
The population of the northern spotted owl in the Northwest, for example, has declined despite a rise in the number of old growth forests and habitat. A new study by scientists at the Forest Service finds that wildfires are among the possible reasons for the endangered owl's waning numbers. Fires, the report concludes, have been a greater threat than logging projects.
Granted, it will take time to see the effects of the Act's and Initiative's new reforms. But in the meantime, activists' challenges to these measures have brought crucial thinning in high-risk forests to a standstill, threatening to ignite another season of unmanageable fires.
In one case still pending, anti-logging organizations are suing the Administration for reforms that would expedite thinning projects by simplifying forest management plans. Plans are lengthy documents that outline how a national forest is to be cared for including procedures for harvesting, habitat, and recreational use. Current requirements are unwieldy, taking seven to ten years to complete and deterring local forest managers from the job of managing the forests.
The new regulations, which are widely supported by community groups who feel the reforms would provide better protection from fire, make it easier for forest managers to revise plans as they receive new information on the forests. It cuts the plans' preparation time to two to three years, reduces costs, better utilizes new scientific findings on critical habitat, and enables officials to better focus on fire prevention.
But a coalition of enviro groups, extreme in their objective to ban thinning projects, claim the new rules cut corners on protecting forests' wildlife and discourage public input. The case was filed with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco and means months, perhaps years, of delay in treating high-risk forests.
Washington's recent reforms are not the silver lining to ending dangerous wildfires. But they do provide some valuable tools to safely manage America's national forests at greatest risk. The small number of powerful environmental groups, through desperate abuse of the litigation system, are doing a grave disservice to the health of our forests. Their rabid opposition to almost any treatment of any kind threatens human life and wildlife.
SCHIP's Next Controversy: New "Ad" Tells Kids to Smoke
This mock ad appearing on You Tube will no doubt be controversial, but it makes an accurate point. The SCHIP expansion the Democratic leadership is fighting for is to be funded by smokers. There aren't enough smokers now to fund the program.
The way in which the legislation reauthorizing SCHIP is written will undoubtedly makethe program into one that is regressive. But the fact is that SCHIP is already unfair; thus, the legislation currently before Congress would only worsen it.
SCHIP is unfair in the sense that, through SCHIP, the federal government gives proportionally more money to children who are not as poor as the children on Medicaid. As noted above, SCHIP is supposed to insure children for families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Presumably, then, children on Medicaid are in families that are poorer than are children on SCHIP. Yet the federal government matches the dollars states spend on SCHIP at a proportionally higher rate than it does Medicaid. In 2006, states spent a total of about $132 billion on Medicaid, while the federal government matched that with $165 billion. That means, on average, the federal government spends 1.2 dollars on Medicaid for every one dollar the states spend. For that same year, states spent almost $2.4 billion on SCHIP and the federal government sent the states $4.8 billion in matching funds. Thus, the federal government spends two dollars on SCHIP for every one dollar the states spend. In short, the federal government spends proportionally more on the children in SCHIP than it does on the poorer children in Medicaid.
The legislation passed by Congress takes this unfair system and makes it regressive. First, much of the new funding for SCHIP comes from a large increase in the cigarette tax. As Table 1 shows, people with incomes under 200 percent of the poverty level smoke at rates higher than those with incomes above 200 percent of the poverty level.
Thus, the taxes to fund the expansion of SCHIP will fall disproportionately on those making under 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
It could be argued that this is a fair system if all children in families under 200 percent of the poverty level were eligible for SCHIP and if only those under 200 percent of poverty were eligible for SCHIP. But none of this new revenue goes to those under 200 percent of the poverty level; benefits for those children are already funded via other taxes. The added revenues from the cigarette tax are for the purpose of funding the expansion. Indeed, both SCHIP bills passed by Congress take the tax revenues from those under 200 percent of the poverty level and gives it to those children who live in families above 200 percent of poverty, likely all the way up to 400 percent of the poverty level. Table 2 shows the income amount by family size for each poverty level.
It is not inconceivable that a parent with one child with an income of $13,690 will be funding benefits for two children in a family of four with an income of $82,600. In short, SCHIP expansion would result in families whose income puts them in the bottom 15 percent of households funding benefits for children who are in families close to the top 25 percent of households.
It is quite common for the political left to attack a flat tax as regressive. SCHIP expansion is expected to impose not only a flat tax on cigarettes, but it then to take the revenue from that tax and distribute it up the income ladder. It seems clear the political left has an agenda other than basic fairness when it supports SCHIP expansion.
In many ways, the Congressional leadership is being dishonest about SCHIP. If this "ad" helps get people to think about how SCHIP is underfunded, then good job to whomever made it.
Addendum, 10/23/07: I received the following noteworthy letter in response to this post. I recommend clicking the link Dr. Belzer provides:
Nice video. :-)
For the record, CBO does not reveal what it assumes about price elasticity in its estimate of the additional tax revenue from the increased tobacco tax. If CBO's elasticity assumption is That means the forecast revenues may not be realized. Of course, paygo does not require that actual revenue increases offset actual spending increases.
International comparisons based on PPP suggest that the price elasticity of tobacco rises with wealth. If that propensity also applies to tobacco consumers within the U.S., then the increased tobacco tax would be more regressive than Hogberg suggests because higher income consumers will be more inclined to reduce consumption.
PepsiCo's political activism is helping to cause elected officials and government bodies (such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors) to call on people not to buy PepsiCo's Aquafina -- America's bestselling brand of bottled water.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his gang were so, so upset that Rush Limbaugh used the term "phony soldiers."
Will they object to what Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) said on the floor of the House?
"You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement."
- Rep. Pete Stark (R-CA)
Addendum, 10/23/07: Congressman Stark has apologized. Good for him. _____
In Which We Are Condemned As Big-Spending Quasi-Liberals (on SCHIP, No Less)
Dale Franks at QandO is bitterly complaining about my complaint that the Democrat Congressional leadership and its handful of Republican allies have a provision in their SCHIP expansion bill forbidding SCHIP families from making use of FSAs and MSAs offered by employers, even if such employer-based plans meet the families' needs in the most economical manner.
I think Franks is a bit overheated, and consider his allegation that the view I summarize above means my colleagues and I advocate more government spending to be ludicrious, but judge what he wrote for yourself:
So, that's the ground they've chosen to die on. SCHIP must be allowed to subsidize MSAs and the like.
No complaints about a massive expansion of the program. In effect, it's a complaint that the program doesn't go far enough, so that it covers their preferred health care reform, too.
First, this is just silly. You will never, ever win against the Democrats by claiming that they're too stingy with the people's money, or that their benefit programs aren't far-reaching enough. Quite apart from the fact that no one will really believe you, the simple response is that the Democrats actually want to dole out "free" government health care to everybody, and it's the Republicans that are opposed to it. So, this email embodies a stupid tactic.
Second, I look at this stuff, and I think, "The battle's over. We will never stop the expansion of government." Even "conservatives" can no longer find it in themselves to offer up a principled stand against an expansion of SCHIP.
It'd be easier on everyone if we just bypassed the next fifteen years, and proceeded directly to mailing in 90% of our paychecks to the government, and simply be done with it.
The remaining 10%, of course, we can keep, and use to blow on hats, or whatever other little trinkets we've decided to trade in our liberty for.
I posted a response in Q and O's comments:
"No complaints about a massive expansion of the program"? "Even 'conservatives' can no longer find it in themselves to offer up a principled stand against an expansion of SCHIP"?
I take it you did not familarize yourself with our body of work on SCHIP, and simply assumed we hadn't said the things you are condemning us for not saying.
And there's our SCHIP website, which contains nothing except principled stands against an expansion of SCHIP (except the poll, which had a 'no expansion' result until DailyKos and Democratic Underground told their followers to go vote in it).
The argument in our press release is that despite the Democratic leadership's claim that its members respect families like the Frosts, they really don't trust them at all. That's a far cry from "claiming that they're too stingy with the people's money, or that their benefit programs aren't far-reaching enough."
By the way, taking FSA and MSA options out of SCHIP wouldn't save taxpayers' money. Recipients who want these options wouldn't be thrown off the dole. They's just get a more government-laden, and quite likely more expensive to the taxpayers, form of welfare.
Democrat Leadership Limits Options for Frost Family and Other SCHIP Recipients
Nancy Pelosi has been critical of people who questioned whether the Frost family of Baltimore really needs other people to pay their health insurance premiums. Yet it turns out she's not so pro-Frost herself:
SCHIP-Expansion Backers Oppose Choice; Democratic Leadership SCHIP Bill Blocks Insurance Options for the Frost Family
As the U.S. House of Representatives votes today in what the Democratic leadership hopes will be a successful override of President Bush's veto of its SCHIP expansion bill, The National Center for Public Policy Research wants to know: What does the Democratic leadership have against choice?
"Buried in the leadership's SCHIP expansion bill is a provision restricting the choices of SCHIP recipients," said Amy Ridenour, president of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "Through a part of SCHIP called 'premium assistance,' SCHIP helps recipients pay for health insurance coverage offered by their employers -- but under the Democrat bill, it won't do so if the employer's plan includes either flexible spending accounts or medical savings accounts. If it does, if the Democrats get their way, SCHIP won't subsidize the insurance."
A flexible spending account allows employees to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for routine medical or other qualified expenses while a low cost catastrophic health insurance policy is purchased to cover large medical bills. A medical savings account allows employers and/or employees to make contributions into a tax-free fund (much like an IRA), which the employee uses to pay for routine medical expenses, while a low-cost catastrophic health insurance policy protects the employee from large medical bills.
"Section 301(a)(1)(ii) of the Democratic leadership's bill specifically forbids SCHIP recipients from participating in employer-sponsored plans that include FSAs and MSAs," said Ridenour, "even when such plans, often the lowest-cost way for families to obtain catastrophic health insurance, are in the best interests of the family."
"If the Democratic version of SCHIP were to pass, Graeme Frost's family would be ineligible to purchase an employer's insurance through SCHIP, should it be available and contain either FSAs or HSAs," said Ridenour. "Nancy Pelosi claims conservatives who wonder about the Frost family's eligibility for SCHIP are conducting a 'vicious attack' on the family. Yet she's pushing policies that would limit the family's health insurance choices. Which is worse?"
The Frosts are an SCHIP recipient family in Baltimore whose 12-year-old son, Graeme, delivered the Democratic Party's response to President Bush's September 29 radio address. The legislation is H.R. 976, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007.
Deeds are more important than words, I say. Why do the Democrats want to limit the Frost family's health insurance choices? Do they believe Halsey and Bonnie Frost and other parents whose children are on SCHIP aren't competent to decide which health care plan is best for them?
The press release I reprinted above is posted here.
Here's the relevant section of the legislation:
(ii) EXCEPTION- Such term does not include coverage consisting of-- `(I) benefits provided under a health flexible spending arrangement (as defined in section 106(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986); or `(II) a high deductible health plan (as defined in section 223(c)(2) of such Code), without regard to whether the plan is purchased in conjunction with a health savings account (as defined under section 223(d) of such Code).
P.S. Does anyone believe this "news" story by Karen Tumulty, entitled "The Swift-Boating of Graeme Frost" is objective journalism? It reads like an opinion piece in Mother Jones. _____
The Debt Tsunami Begins: First Baby Boomer Files for Social Security
Kathleen Casey-Kirschling became the first baby boomer to file for Social Security retirement benefits today, prompting warnings from those in the know that both Social Security and Medicare are both desperately insolvent.
...David Walker, the comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office, Congress' legislative arm, warned the Social Security system will soon have more recipients coming than it can afford to pay out.
"We face a tsunami of spending due primarily to the retirement of the baby boom generation and rising health care costs," Walker said. "So what's happened is we've gone from 16 workers paying into Social Security for every person drawing benefits in 1950 to 3.3 to one today, and we're going down to two to one by the time the boomers retire in big numbers and that's about where it will stay over the long run.'
'We're going to have tens of thousands of baby boomers retiring every week over the next decade or so and that means that by time we get to 2017, just 10 years away, we will no longer be collecting enough payroll taxes to pay Social Security benefits,' said former Minnesota Democratic Rep. Tim Penny.
Under current law, Social Security won't have enough money to pay promised benefits in 2041 but there is another crunch much, much sooner, the result of the the federal government relying on Social Security to pay for its annual spending.
When Social Security gets payroll taxes it pays out most of the money in benefits. The rest is supposed to go into a trust fund. Instead the government has been spending the money on other government programs, and putting IOUs into the trust. When Social Security needs the money it'll turn to the government waiting for the payback. But the government won't likely have any.
'This money has been borrowed, it's been spent, and there's no easy way to put it back,' Penney said.
The loan is expected to be called in 2017, when the largest bloc of the boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — will be retiring. By the mid 2020s, the federal government will have to fork over more than $200 billion a year, and then it climbs to more than $300 billion a year.
At the same time, all that is money that was being used for federal programs will no longer be available, meaning everything — from education to defense to the environment — will face a financial crunch.
Walker said over the next 75 years between Social Security, Medicaid and other entitlements, the federal government will be in a $50 trillion hole.
'Social Security represents about $6.4 trillion of that. Medicare represents $32 trillion of that. The surprising thing is that Social Security is the easy thing to fix,' Walker said. Fifty trillion dollars, to put it in perspective, is 95 percent of the estimated net worth of every American including every billionaire. Fifty trillion dollars is $440,000 per American household.'
For years, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as well as the Bush and Clinton administrations, have been making alternate proposals for saving Social Security. They include raising taxes, reducing spending, limiting benefits or delaying the retirement age.
Walker noted that despite the term 'entitlements,' which comprise about 62 percent of government spending, government payouts are nowhere guaranteed in the Constitution.
'That 38 percent (of discretionary spending) represents all of the main functions outlined by the founding fathers of the United States for the federal government in 1787, and yet that 38 percent is being squeezed every year by mandatory spending programs,' Walker said."
So is Congress putting is the issue of Social Security rescue and reform on the front burner? Heck, no. The key committees with jurisdiction over the insolvent Social Security and Medicare systems, Senate Finance and House Ways and Means, have instead spent their time this year adopting an underfunded SCHIP expansion. And, although President bush put Social Security on the top of his domestic priority list for his second term, matters weren't any better when the GOP ran the House and Senate.
One gets the strong impression that all Congressmen and Senators know how to do is spend, spend, spend.
Call or write their memberships and ask them why they supported expanding SCHIP beyond what's needed to keep current benefits while Social Security and Medicare are insolvent. And ask them when they plan to start earning their paychecks and very generous benefits by tackling the joint Social Security/Medicare funding crisis. Few domestic issues are more critical to the American people. _____
The SCHIP/Frost Affair Continues; Paul Krugman Calls Me a Busybody
I now have the dubious, but hardly unique, distinction of being the subject of an error-filled essay by the New York Times' infamous Paul Krugman.
Subject: The SCHIP/Graeme Frost affair and whether adults on public assistance have a right to withhold financial information about themselves from taxpayers.
Krugman believes a column I had published on TownHall last Thursday is evidence that "conservatives want those in need to be dependent on the charity of people who will seek to dictate their behavior."
He couldn't be more wrong. Conservatives actually want those in need to not be in need. It's a little odd that after decades of liberals accusing conservatives of not being willing to fund welfare because we're cheap skinflints, Krugman is accusing us of wanting to fund it so we can use it to tell people on public assistance what to do.
In addition to being a bit confused, Krugman seemingly doesn't do original research, and apparently has a prediliction for inaccurate secondary sources. He attributed my busybodiness to a report by a left-wing blogger called Digby, who wrote:
Today, Amy Ridenour of Townhall is touting the idea that Michele Malkin[sic] has the right to dig into every private detail of your life if you take any money from the government. Watch out social security recipients. Watch out veterans. She's going to be putting all your personal information on the internet if you open your mouth in a way she doesn't approve. You give up your right to privacy --- even from shrieking harpy bloggers --- if you receive any money from the taxpayers. In fact, Amy Ridenour and Michele Malkin [sic] personally own you.
Do people on the dole have a reasonable expectation of privacy vis-à-vis their financial affairs?
That question, though not always my answer, is coming up frequently as defenders of the Democratic Party's $35 billion SCHIP expansion proposal condemn bloggers and talk show hosts, including Rush Limbaugh, who have examined the statement penned by aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and delivered as the official Democratic Party rebuttal to President Bush's weekly radio address by 12-year-old Graeme Frost, that the State Childrens Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is for "families like mine."
The questioners' question: If Graeme Frost's family isn't all that low-income, then maybe the SCHIP program doesn't need to be expanded by $35 billion to cover millions of extra families with even higher incomes than the Frosts apparently have.
Rather than address the core question, some say it is inappropriate even to consider the Frost family's circumstances, even if the people doing the considering are helping the Frosts raise their kids. This assumption reverses a thousand years of philanthropic practice.
Throughout history, charity has typically been given out voluntarily and to people whose circumstances were directly known to the donor. Donors usually knew, or could learn, if a recipient genuinely couldn't meet his own needs. As population growth and industrialization led to fewer people living in small towns, charity grew more impersonal. Then the growth of the welfare state made “charity” mandatory. And finally, hastened along by certain wrong-headed Supreme Court decisions, helped by activism by welfare advocacy lobbyists, an assumption developed that people who receive handouts are due privacy along with the help.
The obligation to be self-sufficient when possible had been reversed: Now the self-sufficient are obligated to assist those who are not, and it is considered bad form for the donor to question if the charity is misplaced.
There's more involved in the Frost case, of course, namely the fact that the family itself put its financial condition in the public square by agreeing to serve as the public face of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi's $35 billion public health expansion. Once you let your son go on a national broadcast to ask Americans to consider your financial situation, you ought not be surprised if a few of your fellow Americans do just that...
See Michelle Malkin's name in there anywhere? Me, neither.
Paul Krugman, however, calls Digby "one of the best writers you’ll ever encounter, on or off the Internet."
Wrong again, Krugman. She's not even funny or a decent stylist, one of which at least one ought to expect from a "best writer" who can't get facts right.
Krugman then purports to describe me and this organization. The one paragraph he devotes to this contains five errors of fact -- an average of one error every 20.6 words. Pretty high error rate, though probably no record for Krugman.
Krugman claims he took the paragraph from his new book, "Error-Filled Liberal,"* which, if true, means that not only did the New York Times publish a piece with an error every 20.6 words, but a major publisher, W.W. Norton and Company, did, too.
Why don't major newspapers and publishers use fact-checkers?
* Note: I may have misstated the title of Krugman's new book a little. The actual title is "Do Liberals have a Conscience?" No, wait, that's not quite right, either... _____
The folks at Democratic Underground are encouraging each other to visit The National Center for Public Policy Research's new website covering SCHIP. We have a poll there asking the following:
What should Congress do about SCHIP? Expand it Modify it somewhat, but not greatly Eliminate the program Not sure/no opinion
I wrote the poll, and, from a tactical perspective, could have done a better job. The people who support the White House position (expanding SCHIP by $5 billion) and the free-marketeers are presumably dividing their votes, while the socialists (creeping or otherwise) who agree with most of the Congressional Democrats and Republican Senators Charles Grassley and Orrin Hatch in favor of expanding the program by $35 billion for the next five years are voting for option one. (Or so I assume -- some supporters of the Bush position could be voting for #1 as well.)
Nonetheless, the poll isn't good tactically, but I thought it might be interesting to see where people stand when choosing between the three options.
A poster on Democratic Underground says he initially went on the Daily Kos to ask the people there to vote. Right before he did that, he writes, the poll tally was:
Expand it: 20.71% Modify it somewhat, but not greatly: 31.07% Eliminate the program: 39.81% Not sure/no opinion: 8.41%
Now that the "please go vote" posts have been at these two liberal websites for a day or so, the tally is:
Expand it: 61.63% Modify it somewhat, but not greatly: 12.24% Eliminate the program: 23.04% Not sure/no opinion: 3.09%
DeSmogBlog is attempting to undercut a petition drive by Art Robinson's Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine by reporting that Dr. Frederick Seitz, lead signatory on the petition and a man in his 90s, allegedly was "quite elderly and not sufficiently rational" in 1989, so -- Richard implies -- he couldn't possibly be rational enough 18 years later to sign a letter.
As Richard put it:
18 years ago, Seitz was 'not sufficiently rational' to meet the lenient scientific standards of the tobacco industry, but today, Art Robinson still feels it's ethical to send out a petition over Seitz's signature on one of the most pressing current scientific issues of the day.
Clearly, shame is a concept still unexplored by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.
The producers of the PBS documentary series Frontline interviewed Dr. Seitz just last year. They not only failed to notice that Dr. Seitz is -- according to Richard -- too senile to even sign a letter, but they had their hands full interviewing him. When Frontline asked Dr. Seitz leading questions, he turned the interview into a debate, and beat them hands down.
Not bad for a guy who can't sign a letter.
As Dr. Seitz told Frontline:
You know, one-third of the public questioned believes that the lunar landing was faked by Hollywood in the Arizona desert. When you have to deal with a population that is at that level, you can expect almost anything, including confusion.
What is Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize based upon? Peyton Knight takes a look:
Al Gore's receipt of the increasingly politicized Nobel Peace Prize comes at a somewhat inconvenient time for the former vice president.
British High Court Judge Michael Burton just scrutinized Mr. Gore's opus, "An Inconvenient Truth," and ruled that it contains multiple scientific errors - errors that make it unsuitable to be presented to school children in England, unless teachers make certain to put Gore's more alarmist claims in their proper political context for students.
According to Judge Burton, "[S]ome of the errors, or departures from the mainstream, by Mr Gore in AIT [An Inconvenient Truth] in the course of his dynamic exposition, do arise in the context of alarmism and exaggeration in support of his political thesis."
Judge Burton's findings, which he classifies as "The Errors" in the film, are presented below and taken directly from his ruling:
1. 'Error': Sea level rise of up to 20 feet (7 metres) will be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland in the near future.
In scene 21 (the film is carved up for teaching purposes into 32 scenes), in one of the most graphic parts of the film Mr Gore says as follows:
"If Greenland broke up and melted, or if half of Greenland and half of West Antarctica broke up and melted, this is what would happen to the sea level in Florida. This is what would happen in the San Francisco Bay. A lot of people live in these areas. The Netherlands, the Low Countries: absolutely devastation. The area around Beijing is home to tens of millions of people. Even worse, in the area around Shanghai, there are 40 million people. Worse still, Calcutta, and to the east Bangladesh, the area covered includes 50 million people. Think of the impact of a couple of hundred thousand refugees when they are displaced by an environmental event and then imagine the impact of a 100 million or more. Here is Manhattan. This is the World Trade Center memorial site. After the horrible events of 9/11 we said never again. This is what would happen to Manhattan. They can measure this precisely, just as scientists could predict precisely how much water would breach the levee in New Orleans."
This is distinctly alarmist, and part of Mr Gore's 'wake-up call'. It is common ground that if indeed Greenland melted, it would release this amount of water, but only after, and over, millennia, so that the Armageddon scenario he predicts, insofar as it suggests that sea level rises of 7 metres might occur in the immediate future, is not in line with the scientific consensus.
2. 'Error': Low lying inhabited Pacific atolls are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming.
In scene 20, Mr Gore states "that's why the citizens of these Pacific nations have all had to evacuate to New Zealand".
There is no evidence of any such evacuation having yet happened.
3. 'Error': Shutting down of the "Ocean Conveyor".
In scene 17 he says, "One of the ones they are most worried about where they have spent a lot of time studying the problem is the North Atlantic, where the Gulf Stream comes up and meets the cold wind coming off the Arctic over Greenland and evaporates the heat out of the Gulf Stream and the stream is carried over to western Europe by the prevailing winds and the earth's rotation ... they call it the Ocean Conveyor ... At the end of the last ice age ... that pump shut off and the heat transfer stopped and Europe went back into an ice age for another 900 or 1000 years. Of course that's not going to happen again, because glaciers of North America are not there. Is there any big chunk of ice anywhere near there? Oh yeah [pointing at Greenland]".
According to the IPCC, it is very unlikely that the Ocean Conveyor (known technically as the Meridional Overturning Circulation or thermohaline circulation) will shut down in the future, though it is considered likely that thermohaline circulation may slow down.
4. 'Error': Direct coincidence between rise in CO2 in the atmosphere and in temperature, by reference to two graphs.
In scenes 8 and 9, Mr Gore shows two graphs relating to a period of 650,000 years, one showing rise in CO2 and one showing rise in temperature, and asserts (by ridiculing the opposite view) that they show an exact fit. Although there is general scientific agreement that there is a connection, the two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts.
5. 'Error': The snows of Kilimanjaro.
Mr Gore asserts in scene 7 that the disappearance of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro is expressly attributable to global warming. It is noteworthy that this is a point that specifically impressed Mr Milliband (see the press release quoted at paragraph 6 above). However, it is common ground that, the scientific consensus is that it cannot be established that the recession of snows on Mt Kilimanjaro is mainly attributable to human-induced climate change.
6. 'Error': Lake Chad etc
The drying up of Lake Chad is used as a prime example of a catastrophic result of global warming. However, it is generally accepted that the evidence remains insufficient to establish such an attribution. It is apparently considered to be far more likely to result from other factors, such as population increase and over-grazing, and regional climate variability.
7. 'Error': Hurricane Katrina.
In scene 12 Hurricane Katrina and the consequent devastation in New Orleans is ascribed to global warming. It is common ground that there is insufficient evidence to show that.
8. 'Error': Death of polar bears.
In scene 16, by reference to a dramatic graphic of a polar bear desperately swimming through the water looking for ice, Mr Gore says: "A new scientific study shows that for the first time they are finding polar bears that have actually drowned swimming long distances up to 60 miles to find the ice. They did not find that before."
The only scientific study that either side before me can find is one which indicates that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a storm. That is not to say that there may not in the future be drowning-related deaths of polar bears if the trend of regression of pack-ice and/or longer open water continues, but it plainly does not support Mr Gore's description.
9. 'Error': Coral reefs.
In scene 19, Mr Gore says: "Coral reefs all over the world because of global warming and other factors are bleaching and they end up like this. All the fish species that depend on the coral reef are also in jeopardy as a result. Overall specie loss is now occurring at a rate 1000 times greater than the natural background rate." The actual scientific view, as recorded in the IPCC report, is that, if the temperature were to rise by 1-3 degrees Centigrade, there would be increased coral bleaching and widespread coral mortality, unless corals could adopt or acclimatise, but that separating the impacts of climate change-related stresses from other stresses, such as over-fishing and polluting, is difficult.
How about we fix what’s broken in SCHIP and Medicaid before embarking headlong on an ill-advised expansion? President Bush was right to veto SCHIP; the minority in Congress will be right should they sustain it.
"Environmentalism Has Become An Inconvenient Ideology"
Peyton Knight contributes this update:
Tuesday, a congressional staff and media briefing titled "European Progress on Reducing Global Warming Emissions - A View from Italy of the Kyoto Protocol" was held on Capitol Hill.
The guest speaker at the briefing was the Honorable Benedetto Della Vedova, a member of the Italian Parliament, President of the Liberal Reform Party, and former member of the European Parliament.
Della Vedova's presentation can be summed up by one quote he offered: "Environmentalism has become an inconvenient ideology."
He stressed "global warming is not necessarily an emergency," and noted that global warming is likely to create some benefits for certain parts of the world, yet this goes unreported. He also noted that mitigation strategies for dealing with any harmful effects of global warming would be a much better use of scarce resources than capping emissions, which would have a negligible effect on the climate. He also pointed out that climate change is a natural phenomenon, and alarmism over global warming "can be used as a reason for suspending liberties" and impeding progress.
As for the Kyoto Protocol, he noted that the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has been a failure, and has served as merely "a wealth transfer mechanism" whereby some EU nations profit by selling emissions credits to nations that need to produce more energy. Moreover, he noted, the EU as a whole has seen its global warming emissions increase by 0.8 percent between 2005 and 2006. The problem, Della Vedova said, is that under the ETS, there were more emissions credits issued than emissions that existed, reducing the ETS to little more than a government subsidy for interest groups and industry.
The prognosis for Europe fixing its ETS is not good, according to Della Vedova. He said that the EU response to the shortcomings of the ETS has been along the lines: "It hasn't worked, but we'll do better." All the while, however, the EU fails to take any serious steps toward actually doing better.
Della Vedova also believes that symbolism is the main driver behind the Europeans' support for the Kyoto Protocol. In essence, he explained, it is a way for Europe to distinguish itself from America and appear more environmentally conscious and globally minded. He also said there was a certain anti-American sentiment driving European support for the Kyoto Protocol as well.
An SCHIP Fraud? Boy Who Delivered Democrat SCHIP Rebuttal May Not Be Low-Income
A Freeper who goes by the nickname Icwhatudo has come up with evidence that the 12-year-old Baltimore child, Graeme Frost, who spoke for the nation's Democrats September 29 regarding his family's need for taxpayer-financed health insurance, goes to a private school that costs $20,000 per year. As does his sister. And the family lives in a 3,000 square foot house. Plus more.
In his radio address, young Graeme said (most likely, was told to say) "CHIP is a law the government made to help families like mine afford health care for their kids."
Actually, assuming the Freeper's research holds up, Graeme was misled. SCHIP was not designed for families who can afford expensive private schools and big houses. It was designed for low income families who nonetheless are not eligible for Medicare.
Young Graeme told America he doesn't know why "President Bush wants to stop kids who really need help from getting CHIP." Possibly someone at his expensive school should tell him that if you don't know the other side of an argument, you don't fully understand your own argument, either.
I don't blame young Graeme. He's a kid. But if the facts in this case turn out to be as the Freeper's research implies, I sure do blame the adults, including Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who selected Graeme and his specific message either knowing it was wrong or not caring enough to check.
Oh, and by the way, according to the Baltimore Sun's Matthew Hay Brown, the Frost family can't find private health insurance in Maryland for less than $1,200 a month. I don't believe it. Our family lives in Maryland, a mere 22 miles from the Frost family, yet we have comprehensive health insurance that costs $785.24 per month, covers both parents and does not charge extra for large families. Our insurer sells policies in the Frosts' zip code and has a medical center located just two miles from the Frost home.
Sound writing questions why federal tax dollars should be spent to rebuild New Orleans, given the economics of the matter and the fact that all the spending still won't eliminate the city's unusually high vulnerability to destruction by storm.
In recent years -- perhaps especially since Hurricane Andrew in Florida during Bush 41 -- there seems to have developed a notion that federal taxpayers naturally should, without meaningful debate, be required to neutralize the economic effects of weather, but only in caes in which the weather differential is covered in national newscasts. Thus, we have the rather peculiar situation in which Minnesota taxpayers send money to Florida to help repair hurricane damage, but Floridians do not send money to Minnesotans to help pay for winter heat. Hurricanes and cold winters are predictable for each state, and non non-incarcerated competent adult lives in either state against his will, so why the subsidy?
Besides being unfair on their face, such subsidies also are stupid, as, by lowering the natural cost of living in (for example) the beautiful-but-hurricane-prone state of Florida, they provide a financial incentive for people to live in more dangerous areas than they otherwise might.
Hat tip: Paragraph Farmer, from which I shamelessly stole the headline of this post. _____
Under Law of the Sea Treaty, Burmese Junta Has Purse String Powers
David Ridenour takes another look at the Law of the Sea Treaty, and still doesn’t like what he sees:
Brutal assaults on pro-democracy demonstrators, the arrest of 700 Buddhist monks, the complete obliteration of at least 18 villages, the dragging of pro-democracy demonstrators from their beds at night and the creation of millions of refugees...
...not exactly a resume that suggests "financial competence," but it apparently does at the International Seabed Authority, a creation of the Law of the Sea Treaty.
You see, Myanmar, the name given Burma by its military junta, currently serves on the Finance Committee of the International Seabed Authority. The Finance Committee is responsible not only for recommending membership dues, but on how the proceeds are re-distributed. Until this year, the Burmese junta served on the International Seabed Authority's 36-member Council, the ISA's governing body, until it was replaced by that paragon of human rights and democracy...
More troubling is the fact that the Myanmar representative had to be elected to the five-year term on the Finance Committee. Also on the Committee are China, the Russian Federation, Uganda, and FOH Brazil (that's "friend of Hugo").
This provides a glimpse of how badly the deck is stacked against the U.S. under the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Nevertheless, the Senate appears poised to say "hit me."
No one has the nerve to brand this country’s purest systems of 'socialized medicine' — the military and veterans hospitals — for what they are. In both systems, care is not only paid for by the government but delivered in government facilities by doctors who are government employees.