DWP Rate Hike Plan Makes Customers Mad as Hell

Today I’m opening the mailbag to share comments from Valley residents about the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and its proposed five-year rate hike of 25-30 percent:

“The DWP needs to tighten their belts before they ask us for more money.”

“Cutbacks on the least important actions or redundancies should come first before asking for more money. That is how any true business would work.”

“The 8 percent of its gross revenues going to L.A. city treasury boggles the mind.”

“I find this so offensive. … It feels as though DWP is punishing me by increasing the rates because I am using less water. Why can’t the DWP employees take a 5 or 10 percent pay decrease in their salaries or be furloughed for 1 day per 2 week schedule, or maybe lay off a few employees — at least until the drought is over. This is not the time for DWP or the City Council or unions to be greedy at the expense of consumers/constituents.”

“We just celebrated our 50th anniversary and have lived in our Porter Ranch home for over 41 years. Our home is one-story, under 1,500 square feet, no pool and a now-brown lawn because of the drought. We try to avoid using the air conditioning or leave it at no lower than 78 degrees — sometimes 80. However, our DWP bills range from $350 to $400 in the winter to over $850 in the summer. We simply cannot afford those bills now and would be devastated if they were to go even higher. We don’t want to have to choose between turning off the air conditioner to afford our mortgage and medical bills or losing our home where we raised our family.”

“Prior to the installation of the 2nd meter, my domestic water usage was calculated and averaged more than 5 times my true usage. I’m certain that anyone who has not installed a 2nd meter is being inaccurately (almost fraudulently) charged more than 5 times what they are responsible for.”

“It seems like the DWP pays a far greater salary than the private sector and gets better retirement benefits, too. Something is wrong here.”

“The DWP should be run like a corporation, not a cozy club.”

“The DWP should be replaced with a new organization that places great value on keeping spending tight, watching everyone’s overtime, and eliminate waste and fraud. So far, the DWP has proven that it lacks leadership that responds to ratepayers, yet has policies that empower the employees.”

“Roll back all senior level DWP management salaries 10%. Appoint an independent auditing committee to oversee exactly what some of these positions are within the DWP structure and do away with the vast majority of them.”

“For the past four years, I have taken many measures in cutting back on my water usage but I continue to have extremely high bills. I have called DWP 3 times asking for an inspection and have been told that they don’t have time.”

“The DWP replaced our water meter, and the next bill was for $3,277.93!”

“NO matter what the citizens are doing to ‘save the planet,’ the more we do, the more we are punished for our complying with the requests.”

“That there is about $230 million of overcharging being sent to the City is a travesty. Of course, we get to pay a 10% City tax on that overcharging, so it is only compounded. Our DWP should not be a taxing authority!”

“I have been so upset with the excessive spending and loss of funds that have happened with the DWP, and now for them to have the nerve to say they must raise our bills. Why can’t they eliminate some of their unnecessary “management analysts” or reduce some of their outlandish salaries?”

“Giving money to the city of Los Angeles is outrageous … how did this happen??”

“We have lost two pine trees because of not watering in this drought. No rewards for conservation! Higher ‘taxes’ instead. Private business would tighten belt, but our government is increasing salaries!”

“The accumulated effects of continued cost increases and tax hikes are forcing me to leave the state.”

“In my opinion, DWP is nothing but a bloated, redundant, multilayered bureaucracy with little accountability.”

“I am sick & tired of additional fees, taxes, costs, gouging, etc.”

“Could you interview the DWP ‘Ratepayer Advocate,’ Fred Pickel? The public would like to know what he has been doing.”

Email your comments to me at the address below — everyone’s voice should be heard.

Susan Shelley is a San Fernando Valley author, a former television associate producer and twice a Republican candidate for the California Assembly. Reach her at Susan@SusanShelley.com, or follow her on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

Government is hardly the solution to short-term bias

Hillary Clinton’s latest campaign salvo attacked “quarterly capitalism,” the supposedly irresponsible corporate focus on short-term results at the expense of long-term growth. She promised government fixes. But she is short on logic and history.

Is there too much short-termism in business firms? Look at participants’ incentives.

Shareholders own the present value of their pro-rata share of net earnings, not just present earnings. They do not discard good investments which raise that expected present value. Good short-term results raise stock prices not because of short-termism, but because of their implications for the likely future course of net earnings.

Share prices are a primary metric for managerial success and basis for their rewards. That makes their time horizons reflect those of shareholders, far beyond the present. Bondholders, who want to be paid back, incorporate future repayment risks into their choices. Worker and supplier relationships also reflect firms’ future prospects.

Beyond misinterpreting share price responses to short-term results, Clinton’s main evidence was increased stock buybacks, supposedly sacrificing worthwhile investments by returning funds to shareholders. She ignores that those funds will largely be invested elsewhere. But she also ignores that the buyback binge reflects the Fed’s long-term artificial cheapening of borrowed money, leading firms to shift toward debt financing. But a firm substituting debt financing for equity controls no fewer funds for investments.

Confusing business responses to Fed interventions as business short-termism only begins the list of such government-created biases. For example, constant proposals to raise corporate tax rates and worsen capital gains treatment reduce the after-tax profitability of investments. Regulatory mandates and impositions pile up, with more coming, doing the same. Energy policy threatens cost hikes, reducing investment returns. And so on.

That government will put more emphasis on the future than the private sector is also contradicted by political incentives. Owners bear predictable future consequences in current share prices, but politicians’ incentives are far more short-sighted.

An election loser will be out of office, and capture no appreciable benefit from efforts invested. So when an upcoming election is in doubt, everything goes on the auction block to buy short-term political advantage. And politicians’ incentives drive those facing the D.C. patronage machine. That is why so much “reform” meets Ambrose Bierce’s definition of “A thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation.” The mere passage of bills in the political nick of time, even largely unread ones, can be declared victorious legacies, with harmful consequences never effectively brought to bear on decision-makers.
There is also a cornucopia of examples of government short-termism at the expense of the future, whose magnitude dwarfs anything it promises to reform.

Unwinding Social Security and Medicare’s 14-digit unfunded liabilities will punish future generations, caused by massive government overpromising to buy earlier elections. Other underfunded trust and pension funds threaten similar future atonement for earlier short-term “sins.” Expanding government debt similarly represents future punishment for short-term political payoffs. Foreign and military policy have similarly turned away from dealing with long-term issues. But serious long-run issues like immigration escape serious attention because “public servants” are afraid of short-run interest group punishment.

Political attacks on short-termism, and reforms to fix it, are beyond confused. They ignore financial market participants’ clear incentives to take future effects into account. They are clueless about what provides evidence of short-termism. They treat private sector responses to government impositions as private sector failures. They ignore far worse political incentives facing “reformers.” And they act as if the most egregious examples of short-termism in America, all government progeny, didn’t exist.
There is little to Clinton’s criticism and alleged solutions beyond misunderstanding and misrepresentation. We should recognize, with Henry Hazlitt, that “today is already the tomorrow which the bad economist yesterday urged us to ignore,” and that expanding government’s power to do more of the same is not in Americans’ interests.

Gary M. Galles is Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University

Why is California voter participation so demonstrably low?

VotedSure, it’s been more than half a year since California’s last statewide election. But Californians’ remarkable failure to participate still deserves some attention today as we start focusing on the 2016 elections. In last November’s midterm Congressional election, the largest state in the nation had about the lowest voter participation of any state in the country. Hardly more than 42 percent of California’s registered voters bothered to mail-in their ballots in the conveniently provided pre-addressed envelopes, or even show up at the polls. This dismal voter participation was even worse than voter disinterest in one of the state’s other previous bad showings in 2002 when just over 50 percent of participants elected Gray Davis, the Democrat, over the GOP’s Bill Simon. In neighboring Oregon, voter participation in the November 2014 election at 69.5 percent was more than half again by percentage the level of participation of California voters in the same election.

Why is California voter participation so demonstrably low? Some pundits have offered that last year’s election was not a presidential election when voter interest would be higher and that popular Governor Jerry Brown, who was on the ballot, was destined to cruise to a big victory over feeble Republican opponent Neel Kashkari anyway, thus lessening voter interest. Democrats have a big political registration edge in the state, control every statewide elective office, and have near two-thirds control of both Houses of the state Legislature. And even with low voter turnout, the state bucked the national trend in which the GOP picked up seats in Congress, and Californians who did vote actually expanded the number of Democratic Congressional seats in Washington, D.C., from California by two (though improving GOP representation in the state Legislature just above the critical 33 percent needed to thwart tax-increases).

Yet a recent Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll reveals that more Californians, by 46 percent to 45 percent, think their state is headed in the the wrong direction rather than the right direction.

One reason for low voter turnout, and even for failures of the GOP to have made more gains in California in the November 2014 election, could be a failure to give voters a really good reason to turnout and feel their vote will be counted and make a difference. There are after all plenty of GOP and middle-of-the-road, independent voters in the state, as the same PPIC poll says 65 percent of CA voters are center/right, with conservatives, at 35 percent, having the plurality. An earnest young political consultant might conclude these voters just need to be contacted and given a good reason to get fired-up to change the results of many elections in the state.

One election where better voter turnout, perhaps by more focus on core GOP voters who sat on the sidelines and who didn’t get inspired enough to vote might have made a difference was the 52nd Congressional District race in conservative San Diego County. Just four years ago this seat was represented in Congress by Republican Brian Bilbray. But a Democrat won the seat in 2012 and the Republican challenger in 2014 was Carl DeMaio, a former member of the San Diego city council who had lost a close race for Mayor of San Diego. Unfortunately, DeMaio’s campaign became embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, some key aspects of which were found to have been manufactured against him. Scott Peters, the incumbent Democrat who was thought to be vulnerable in the GOP sweep in other states, ended up winning the election with 51.6 percent, to DeMaio’s 48.4 percent.

Yet a key factor in DeMaio’s loss was low voter turnout. At 49 percent, according to the California Target Book, some observers believe that if DeMaio’s campaign could have brought out the same level of base voter participation as even the lopsided victory of fellow Republican, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, (about 56 percent), if the campaign not seen the scandal in the press, and had the campaign perhaps redirected resources to simply inspire baseline Republicans to do their public duty and come out to vote in larger numbers, the result could have been quite different, a GOP victory. According to the Target Book’s analysis, voter turnout in the 49th Congressional District where Darrell Issa cruised to a lop-sided 60 percent victory was 47 percent. One need not have a political science degree to understand that voter turnout in the 52nd race was not remarkably different given all the political spending and emphasis of Republicans to win the race; and that many GOP voters had to just pass on making a vote in the race. This observer believes that the problem was a failure to give more focus on peer-to-peer direct-voter contact with core Republicans, and this issue might have repeated itself in several of the other close Congressional races the GOP lost in California in 2014. Hard-core Republican voters were just not given a compelling or convincing reason to vote in the numbers needed to win the races, and especially in the 52nd, which was a winable seat.

Even with comparatively lower registrations in California for Republicans than Democrats, the GOP has great opportunity to win elections in the state and bring reform in the current generally apathetic low voter turn-out environment. A few victories could help Republicans grow in numbers. Voters are truly unhappy with the direction liberal Democratic leaders are taking the state, and if the GOP can better seize on ideas, candidates, strategies and tactics that really motivate conservative and middle-of-the-road voters to return their millions of empty ballot, they can win. Will they?

This article is cross-posted by the Flash Report

The Country’s Biggest Common Core Test Is Circling The Drain

class teacher education schoolArkansas’ board of education voted Thursday to dump a national standardized test aligned with Common Core math and science standards, while New York decided not to adopt it.

Back in 2011, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) had 24 member states (plus D.C.) containing over half the country’s schoolchildren. The group, a consortium of state school leaders, was crafted to create shared state tests closely aligned to Common Core standards in math and English. Its scope reflected the ambition of Common Core backers to have every state using similar standardized tests for the sake of easier comparison. Now, only seven states plus D.C. are scheduled to take its tests next year, making the idea of truly “national” comparison seem hollow.

In Arkansas, the state board of education voted to drop PARCC and instead adopt the ACT’s Aspire tests for next year. The change was requested by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who like many other Republican leaders has shown skepticism about Common Core recently. Earlier this year he appointed a committee to review Common Core, which recommended switching the state’s test provider (it has yet to make a recommendation on Common Core itself). An attempt in June to make the switch was rejected by the school board, but in the past months three board members have left and been replaced by Huchinson appointees, radically altering the board’s make-up. Hutchinson tried again and this time was successful.

Meanwhile, in New York, the state decided to reject standardized tests produced by the education company and PARCC testmaker Pearson, and instead awarded a testing contract to Questar to make New York-specific tests. The decision was unusual, as New York still remains a member of PARCC, but is deliberately choosing to use non-PARCC tests.

The decisions come just one week after Ohio decided to ditch PARCC, and they may not be the last to leave. Louisiana has temporarily suspended its PARCC participation while it reviews its standards, which may lead to a full departure. Massachusetts is currently a member, but its state board of education is scheduled to vote on whether to permanently adopt the test, and the move is arousing fierce opposition. New Jersey has launched a general Common Core review of its own that could doom PARCC. PARCC is still alive for now, but it seems on the verge of disintegrating. (RELATED: Ohio Dumps Common Core Test, Keeps Common Core)

While most of the states dumping PARCC have kept Common Core, their rejection of shared interstate tests is still a blow to the ideas underlying it. Backers argued that shared standardized tests would make it easier to tell which states were actually succeeding in education, while preventing low performers from using unique tests to conceal low performance.

The reasons for the mass exodus from PARCC are many. The consortium received funding from the Obama administration in its early days, which caused many to fear it amounted to a “federal standardized test.” Others have worried about student data being compiled by an out-of-state entity. In some states, PARCC’s content has been attacked as far too difficult, and its computerized tests have grappled with glitches, server overloads, and teachers who feel unprepared.

Faring slightly better is a rival test consortium, the Smarter Balanced test. That consortium still has about 20 members, thought it’s also been hit with defections and has struggled with severe test glitches. (RELATED: Nevada Common Core Tests Turn Into Costly Fiasco)

PARCC did not immediately return a request for comment.

Follow Blake on Twitter. Originally posted on Daily Caller News Foundation.

Michigan v. EPA leaves plenty of other cheats

EPALogoMichigan v. EPA has been termed a bright spot in recent Supreme Court rulings for those concerned about over-reaching regulatory dictates.

The Court held that the EPA unreasonably promulgated the Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule because it did not take costs into account in deciding whether to impose new mercury standards on power plants. The EPA could not establish that regulation was “appropriate and necessary,” as the Clean Air Act required for Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) such as mercury, without considering costs.

Unfortunately, the ruling does little to limit the EPA’s abusive power. Regulatory deadlines tighter than the Supreme Court’s schedule had already triggered plant shutdowns and investments to comply by most remaining power plants. Administrator Gina McCarthy thought it imposed no significant constraints on the EPA. The Court did not stay the rule, but only remanded the case to the D.C. Circuit, which already accepted the EPA’s interpretation, virtually assuring compliance in their eyes.

Importantly, it ignored another egregious abuse behind the mercury rule–the EPA’s use of highly “political” science to invent bogus benefits from further mercury regulations, which shows how little regard they give to our welfare and how much to their power over us.

The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments required the EPA to “prove” harm to justify added mercury regulation. But it was impossible to do honestly.

Power plants emit only a tiny fraction of the mercury released into America’s air. The EPA reported that in 1995, total U.S. emissions from all human activity (158 tons) was about 3 percent of all mercury released to the air from all sources (5,500 tons). And power plants were only part of that total. So the EPA had to torture minuscule effects on mercury exposure into a justification for added regulation. That is also why they finessed the almost eleven-digit annual cost—it was the only way to meet the “appropriate and necessary” standard.

The difficulty of finding measurable benefits was compounded by CDC surveys showing blood mercury levels for American women and children falling and already below the levels found safe by the EPA, FDA and World Health Organization.

The EPA could have used a University of Rochester study of the Seycheles, whose residents consume types of fish—the primary “carriers” of methylmercury from atmospheric deposition to humans–similar to American diets. But they rejected the high mercury exposure study because it found “no observable health effects.”

Instead, the EPA relied on a study of Faroe Islanders. Not only do they eat more fish, their diets include a great deal of pilot whale meat and blubber, giving them not only far higher doses of mercury, but also of PCBs. Further, they ingest little selenium (which limits conversion to methylmercury), fruits or vegetables. The Center for Science and Public Policy said it “should not be the sentinel study” in assessing methylmercury intake”

Then the EPA constructed a model of hypothetical women that “consume extreme quantities (99th percentile) of the most contaminated fish from the most contaminated bodies of water.” It then added a 50 percent “cooking adjustment factor.” It then estimated “the potential effect of this exposure on their hypothetical children’s neurological development in utero.” In their model, which illegitimately extrapolated the far worse results of increasing already very high mercury doses to very small changes from low levels, this led to an infinitesimal decrease in children’s IQs, which they extrapolated to an economic gain from reducing mercury exposure mercury of $6 million or less annually.

The EPA has sidestepped legislation and tortured science to massively extend its power. Michigan v. EPA touched on one legislative cheat, but leaves plenty of other cheats. Only reining in excessive deference to the EPA’s cost and benefit judgments as supposedly unbiased can make much difference.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.

Taxpayers should not be held liable for national debt

obama debtThe world’s political elites sound a lot like Chicken Little lately as Greece’s regime heads into what looks like full-scale default and Puerto Rico’s governor publicly mulls bankruptcy proceedings.

Lots of other governments continuously teeter on the edge of that same abyss, not least that of the United States. Given current tax and spending trends, by 2020 the U.S. government’s accrued debt will exceed $23 trillion (more than the country’s annual Gross Domestic Product) and half of all tax revenues will go toward interest on that debt.

Apropos of which, let me quote Friedrich Nietzsche: “Everything the state says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen.”

The whole idea of “national debt” is poppycock and propaganda.

Suppose I’m perpetually short on cash, and so every week I break into your house and rob you at gunpoint. But I always need $200 and you usually only have $100 on you. So I go to the local loan shark every week and borrow the other $100 from him, on the supposition that I’ll keep on robbing you weekly forever and that sooner or later either you will cough up more money or I will need less,  so the loan shark will get paid back.

Question: Are you in any way morally responsible for my debt?

Answer: Not even a little.

What I just described is government finance in a nutshell, stripped of the propaganda. You’re no more morally responsible for the real debts the politicians run up in your name than you are for the hypothetical debt I ran up in your name in my little story.

If anyone tries to tell you that “we” owe $18 trillion to the U.S. government’s creditors, ask him who this “we” is. Does he have a mouse in his pocket or something?

If anyone tells you that “your share” of the “national debt” is approaching $60k, demand to see the promissory notes proving that you co-signed the politicians’ loans.

In the real world, nobody actually believes that the U.S. national debt will ever be paid off. Today’s politicians and those who loan them money are just hoping you’ll keep picking up their tab until they can retire and stick some future generation with the check.

The politicians can’t be counted upon to repudiate their debts.  But the rest of us can and should do in their stead.  “We” don’t owe them anything.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida. Originally posted on The Garrison Center.

Avoiding Alphabetical Microaggression

Whenever political correctness fades from the headlines, “new and improved” examples arise. Now the progressive language police want us to avoid microaggressions, to insulate everyone from potential mental distress, as when UC President Janet Napolitano’s website advised professors to avoid referring to America as a “land of opportunity,” opposing affirmative action as “inherently racist,” etc., to prevent aggressing on any hearers’ feelings. But at least teachers haven’t been threatened (yet) with an official “check your privilege” reprimand.

In the supercharged PC world ruled by fears of microaggression, nothing is allowed to be negative or twistable into conveying any negative connotation. Anything that could be construed as evaluative or judgmental must be avoided or expressed as positive. But because reality gets in the way of that requirement, clarity and analytical thinking are thereby often sacrificed to verbal contortions.

Even traditional children’s alphabet books violate microaggression protocol. “A is for Apple” could trigger thoughts of Eve’s role in the Garden of Eden story, which some might find sexist. “B is for Ball” has potential sexual overtones. “C is for Cat” and “D is for Dog” connect to verbal sniping (being catty) or being lazy (dogging it). We would have to abandon such books.

A microaggression-free alphabet book would have to mollify objections of potential psychic dents. Given the vast number of words and phrases people find ways to object to, it would be almost impossible. But perhaps the following almost alliterative approach — 3 As to match the 3 Rs — could work.

A can be for Attitudinal Antiquity, which can replace the potentially insulting “old fashioned.” B can be for Botanical Bankruptcy, a kinder, gentler way of saying that someone lacks a green thumb. Cranially Constrained can be substituted for stupid and Diplomatically Deprived for rude, so that stupid and rude people won’t think you noticed. Euphemistic Enhancements could replace accusations of lying.

We could use Follically Fortunate to avoid upsetting both the hirsutely over- and under-endowed. And being Gravitationally Gifted is certainly better than being fat. In the same vein, since no one likes being called egotistical, we could substitute Honorifically Habituated, and shy people could instead become Interactionally Impaired. Hurt feelings could also be avoided by substituting Judicially Juxtaposed for confused and Karmically Keen for superstitious. Similarly, criminals could be upgraded to Legally Lavish, schizophrenics to Mentally Mobile, and inattentive listeners to Neurologically Noncompliant.

We could turn slobs into people who are Organizationally Overburdened, and replace good-looking (a term which injures the psyches of those who don’t think it extends to them) with being Perceptionally Preferenced. Complainers can rise to being Quintessentially Querulous, bad dancers to being Rhythmically Repressed, and poor dressers to being Sartorially Stressed. Being old can be transformed into Temporally Troubled, a “lazy bum” into Ubiquitously Underutilized and someone who can’t hold a job into Vocationally Variable.

To fully dodge microaggression accusations, W-Z would best be left undecided, to avoid hurting anyone by implying that they couldn’t advance society with their own contributions.

This approach might allow us to pass microaggression muster (though that would end when people recognized the potential connotations of such substitute wording). Of course, few will know what others are saying anymore, hamstringing clarity and our ability to bring logic to bear in understanding or evaluating virtually anything. That would be particularly true of anything relating to social issues, given how many claim to be infringed upon by even the suggestion of disagreement with their understanding or their “solution” to be imposed. And it would not solve the problem, because nanoaggressions could then trigger outcries, and still more convoluted conversations will become necessary.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University.

Taking the Right Fast Track on Trade

One aim of President’s Obama’s trip to Asia is coming to agreement on a proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. To enhance that prospect, the President has asked that Congress resurrect “fast-track” trade negotiation authority, which puts trade agreements to up-or-down votes, with no amendments.

Without fast-track authority, such negotiations make little headway, because, as Peter Hakim has noted, “countries will be more cautious, even fearful, that whatever concessions and agreements they reach could be for naught if the United States Congress disagrees with them.” But many Democrats want just such a result, to maintain their ability to protect “pet” constituencies, and so oppose fast-track authority even for their own President.

Unfortunately, opposing a free trade deal because it might actually allow people to do what would most benefit them in the absence of government-imposed barriers is the opposite of good policy for advancing the general welfare, which cannot come from beggaring some Americans to enrich others. The real danger from a trade deal is that moves toward freer trade will be neutered, and new restrictions created, in the fine print or bureaucratic implementation.

Fortunately, there is a way to give the President the ability to negotiate treaties to do what they promise–reduce trade restrictions–but close the door to deals that would harm Americans, without giving Congress the ability to amend them to death. Instead of unlimited fast-track authority, the President should be delegated one-way fast-track authority. A one-way fast-track to freer trade would guarantee that any trade agreement that only reduces current trade restrictions or makes property rights more secure (paving the way for freer trade) would be considered without amendments. Any agreement or treaty that imposed any new trade restrictions, including side deals made as part of the negotiations, would have to be submitted to Congress, subject to amendments.

Granting one-way fast-track authority on trade would have several advantages. It would remove the President’s ability to continually blame Congress for his lack of progress toward freer trade. It would give him the powers he claims to be seeking, but only toward the goal he professes, forcing him to deliver on his rhetoric.

It also would reduce congressional posturing on free trade. Voting on one-way fast-track authority would be a “clean” vote on free trade alone. It would keep those who claim to favor free trade, but always find some excuse (the environment, labor standards, etc.) to vote against it, from hiding behind such protectionist excuses. Those other issues would still be open to separate negotiations in Congress, subject to traditional legislative rules.

One-way fast-track would also undermine the common treaty trick of imposing new restrictions immediately, but delaying market opening moves into the future, when they may well be rescinded. It would reinforce the spines of American trade negotiators, who would otherwise face strong pressures to pay off domestic special interests in search of support for a deal. It would also undermine attempts by other countries’ negotiators to extract such payoffs, since they couldn’t be offered without risk that they would be amended out of existence in Congress. It would keep future administrations from hijacking negotiations to a dramatically different agenda than advertised, setting a precedent requiring treaties to deliver on the rhetoric used to ask for more power.

Giving the President broad fast-track authority would provide the prospect of both benefits and harms to Americans, now and in the future. One-way fast-track authority, however, would defuse the threat of harm, while advancing America toward the goal of free trade. As the world’s largest exporter of free trade rhetoric, it is time for America to take the one-way fast-track to living up to our words.

(Gary Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)

Mercy and Liberty

March is Women’s History Month. But virtually ignored is one woman who played a central role in American history—Mercy Otis Warren—who died 200 years ago this October.

Termed “The Conscience of the American Revolution” and called a genius by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Mercy Warren was a leading force behind our freedom. Sister of James Otis and wife of James Warren, both revolutionary leaders, Committees of Correspondence were born in her house and she hosted groups including the Sons of Liberty. However, her writing—pro-independence plays, poetry, and correspondence, objections that the U.S. Constitution omitted a bill of rights and a three-volume eyewitness account of the revolution–made her someone we should heed, along with our founding fathers.

[O]nce aroused to a consciousness of the native freedom and equal rights of man, every one revolts at the idea of servitude.

The game of deception is played over and over…that mankind in general are incapable of the enjoyment of that liberty which nature seems to prescribe…

Mankind may amuse themselves with theoretic systems of liberty…but we can only discern its true value by the practical and wretched effects of slavery…

[T]he perfectibility of man…may be left to the dreaming socialist…while that rational liberty, to which all have a right, [must] be exhibited and defended by men of principle and heroism who better understand the laws of social order.

[G]overnment is instituted for the protection, safety and happiness of the people…[who] have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation…to guard the life, liberty and property of the community.

The rights of individuals ought to be the primary object of all government, and cannot be too securely guarded by the most explicit declarations in their favor.

[E]very domestic enjoyment depends on…the right of personal liberty, which everyone justly claims…

[W]hen the first rudiments of society have been established, the right of private property has been held sacred.

[A] sacred regard to personal liberty and the protection of private property were opinions embraced by all who had any just ideas of government, law, equity, or morals. These were the rights of men…

America has fought for the boon of liberty…guard it on every side that it might not be sported away by the folly of the people or the intrigue or deception of their rulers.

It is necessary to guard at every point against the intrigues of artful or ambitious men who may subvert the [constitutional] system…most conducive to the general happiness of society.

Any attempt [to]…subvert the Constitution, or undermine the just principles which wrought out the American Revolution, cannot be too severely censured…The principles of the Revolution ought ever to be the polestar of the statesmen, respected by the rising generation…the advantages bestowed by Providence should never be lost by negligence, indiscretion, or guilt.

It is necessary for every American…to rescue and save their civil and religious rights from the outstretched arm of tyranny, which may appear under any mode of government.

[T]here are still many among us who revere [Liberty’s] name too much to relinquish the rights of man for the dignity of government.

[America’s] principles…may finally…spread universal liberty and peace as far at least as is compatible with the present state of human nature.

Mercy Otis Warren believed that we should “rejoice in the prospect of liberty,” and held high hopes of the continued freedom and prosperity of America. She was highly esteemed by our founding fathers and was an important influence in supporting and spreading American ideals. As John Adams wrote her husband, “God Almighty has entrusted her with the Powers for the good of the World which…he bestows on few of the human race.” Her stirring commitment to liberty as one of our most influential founders still has a great deal to teach us.

(Gary Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)

Some Old Wisdom on Politics

America’s so-called public servants have supported ethically questionable policies, picked our pockets and eroded our rights. Yet they simply pretend that fact away, tar opponents for everything and pitch themselves as America’s unifiers. That is breathtakingly mendacious. In sharp contrast to their rhetoric, the competition to control government to help friends out of others’ pockets is the primary source of American disunity.

This is not new. John C. Calhoun, a central player in an earlier contentious era in Washington, recognized it long ago. Described by John F. Kennedy as “a masterful defender of the rights of a political minority against the dangers of an unchecked majority,” his Disquisition on Government found that the battle for political dominance and its spoils guaranteed not unity, but bitter divisiveness. For his March 18 birthday, it is worth revisiting his insights.

[G]overnment, although intended to protect and preserve society, has itself a strong tendency to disorder and abuse of its powers, as all experience and almost every page of history testify…

[S]uffrage…only changes the seat of authority, without counteracting, in the least, the tendency of the government to oppression and abuse of its powers.

[S]uffrage…[aims] to obtain the majority–and, thereby, the control of the government and the advantages it confers…aggrandizing and building up one portion of the community at the expense of the other…

In such case, it would be indispensable to success to avoid division and keep united…This, in process of time, must lead…to the conversion of the honors and emoluments of the government into means of rewarding partisan services, in order to secure the fidelity and increase the zeal of the members of the party…

[A]s the struggle became more intense…principles and policy would lose all influence in the elections; and cunning, falsehood, deception, slander, fraud, and gross appeals to the appetites of the lowest…would take the place of sound reason and wise debate.

[T]he numerical majority will divide the community…into two great parties, which will be engaged in perpetual struggles to obtain the control of the government…The great importance of the object at stake must necessarily form…attachments on the part of the members of each to their respective parties…and antipathies to the opposite party, as presenting the only obstacle to success.

[M]utual antipathies [are] carried to such an excess as to destroy, almost entirely, all sympathy between them, and to substitute in its place the strongest aversion…devotion to party becomes stronger than devotion to country–the promotion of the interests of party more important than the promotion of the common good of the whole, and its triumph and ascendancy objects of far greater solicitude than the safety and prosperity of the community…

[It will] overpower all regard for truth, justice, sincerity, and moral obligations…falsehood, injustice, fraud, artifice, slander, and breach of faith, are freely resorted to, as legitimate weapons–followed by all their corrupting and debasing influences.

[E]ach faction, in the struggle to obtain the control of the government, elevates to power the designing, the artful, and unscrupulous, who, in their devotion to party–instead of aiming at the good of the whole–aim exclusively at securing the ascendancy of party…to promote the interest of parties at the expense of the good of the whole…

While both sides of the partisan aisle talk of unity, we experience little beyond coercion and wedge issues designed to divide us rather than concern for the principles and unalienable rights that unite us. It is what John C. Calhoun recognized as “a struggle…[to] determine which shall be the governing, and which the subject party,” where political victory dominates everything else. The result is proliferating political power and dictates that expand at the expense of individuals and their own choices.  Unfortunately, that is the only unifying principle in politics today, which makes us all losers from what Frederic Bastiat recognized over a century and a half ago as the “attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.”

(Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University in Malibu.)