Where is the further conversation?

“Check your privilege” has become a mainstay of social justice rhetoric. Assumed privilege is also a presumption behind microaggression accusations now seeming to sprout by the second. Those employing the terms frequently describe them as reminders to be empathetic and sensitive, elevating social relations. But they are often little more than assertions that others are members of an oppressor class, fundamentally mistaken in their views and responsible for a cornucopia of complaints.

The “kinder, gentler” version offers a sometimes-useful reminder that you might be including some inappropriate assumptions in your understanding, because something that may be sensible for you, given your characteristics and circumstances — i.e., your privilege — may not be sensible for others, leading to insufficient consideration of others and therefore erroneous evaluations.

Max Borders has described the latter meaning (or demeaning) as:

Your rights and opinions are invalid and you have no real complaints or suffering because you belong to X group. Or … you are obligated to pay because people who look like you in some ways did bad things at some point.

In other words, others need not listen to, much less respect, your arguments. Further, your inherent “wrongness” sacrifices your rights and property to satisfy those claiming to be oppressed, an aggression justified as undoing your alleged privilege or responding to your microaggression.

How are we to judge between such dramatically opposed interpretations?

The key is that, where confusion reigns, better evaluation requires clearer, more accurate understanding. That demands a real, ongoing conversation. So ask what would be entailed if “check your privilege” or its microaggression progeny was intended to advance such a conversation.

When such terms are used to preemptively cut off communication by stopping those who disagree from being heard or taken seriously, neither clarity nor empathy will be improved. So they must not end discussions; they must facilitate more complete conversations.

By themselves, the terms say you are wrong in your understanding and views, and too self-absorbed to notice. However, they leave how and why unspecified, beyond somehow relating to membership in an allegedly privileged group defined by accusers. Progress toward better understanding requires several additional steps.

Such progress would require specifying precisely what faulty premises, assumptions or arguments a person holds to, as well as why they are inappropriate for the issues considered. The appropriate premises to replace them would then need articulation.
How the “new and improved” premises would alter one’s conclusions would need to be demonstrated, followed by considering the appropriate remedies based on the alternative analysis. It would have to explain how proposed remedies were not merely “more for me” gambits, connected to the rationales offered only by self-interest. It would have to justify any special privileges to be created now for those claiming victimhood status, including any coercive impositions on members of supposedly dominant or victimizer classes who had nothing to do with the “sins of their fathers.”

When “check your privilege” and microaggression claims communicate that we should think carefully about others’ circumstances, which may be far different than ours, and be empathetic, it can be a useful reminder in advancing mutual understanding. But it can bear good fruit only as the beginning of a far deeper discussion.

In contrast, when they are used to peremptorily declare victory in social justice disputes, they assert special privileges for speakers to define themselves as morally superior and disqualify those who disagree from any consideration, without any coherent argument. And when that social demonization is leveraged into coercive imposition of “solutions” at the expense of those they decide must make it up to them, it undermines social cooperation, by undermining the rights upon which it is built, without advancing understanding or empathy.

Gary Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University and a research fellow at the Independent Institute. His books include Lines of Liberty (2015), Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014), and Apostle of Peace (2013).

A bitter pill from sweeteners 


Sugar“Corn syrup, sugar battle in L.A.” read the headline. The story focused on legal wrangling between competing enablers of America’s sweet tooth. The sugar industry accused high fructose corn syrup makers of misleading the public with an ad campaign that it is “nutritionally the same as sugar,” asking for $1.5 billion in damages in a Los Angeles federal courtroom. Corn syrup producers had already filed suit for $530 million in damages, alleging that big sugar falsely depicted corn syrup as less healthy than sugar. And both claimed to be on consumers’ side.

It is instructive, however, that while the story treats sugar and corn syrup as intensely competing “Rock ‘em Sock ‘em” robots, the producers involved back each other’s pet government special interest supports. Corn and corn syrup producers back import quotas on sugar that restrict sugar supplies and increases its price; sugar producers are on board with U.S. methanol mandates that absorb much of the corn crop, increasing the price of corn products. And consumers lose from both.

How can we understand these seemingly inconsistent actions? One fact explains both the false advertising rumble and the political alliances. Sugar and corn syrup are substitutes for one another. That is why advertising tarnishing just one harms one set of producers and benefits the other. But because they are substitutes, anything that artificially boosts the price of one benefits the other by increasing its demand, regardless of adverse effects on other groups.

Consider an analogy to ice cream and frozen yogurt. Assume the products are made by different firms. If some protectionist policy raised the price of ice cream, producers of frozen yogurt, a substitute for ice cream, will benefit, because a higher price of ice cream will increase demand for frozen yogurt. And if some government mandate forced up the price of frozen yogurt, producers of ice cream will benefit, because a higher price of frozen yogurt will increase the demand for ice cream. At the same time, ice cream makers would like to tarnish frozen yogurt’s health effects and frozen yogurt makers would like to tarnish ice cream’s health effects, as long as the stain didn’t extend to their competing products.

Replace ice cream protectionism with import quotas that drive up U.S. sugar prices and frozen yogurt mandates with ethanol mandates, and you have the sweetener marketplace.

Those government intrusions have increased U.S. prices of both sugar and corn syrup, raising profits artificially for both groups at the expense of consumers. But those hikes have also driven many candy makers and the jobs they entail out of the U.S., harming those workers and their communities, with parallel effects for other major sweetener users.

Consequently, if we were interested in consumer well-being, we might pay more attention to policies that benefit both sugar and corn syrup producers, at the expense of consumers who must pay substantially higher prices, rather than their false advertising bickering. After all, whether we are talking about sugar or corn syrup, everyone already knows that too much can harm them.

In this, case, we could benefit from Adam Smith’s insight:

The interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. …But … the interest of the consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer … who [has] generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public … to narrow the competition … can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University and a research fellow at the  Independent Institute. His books include “Lines of Liberty” (2015), “Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies” (2014) and “Apostle of Peace” (2013).

Why conservatives should favor assisted suicide

assisted suicideGov. Jerry Brown recently signed the “assisted suicide” law, which came with significant criticism from those on the right. Many say life is sacred, from conception to natural death. What do these conservatives fail to realize? They should be in favor of this legislation.
As conservatives, we’re always talking about how the government needs to step out of our lives. This a prime example of when government intervention is unacceptable. If an adult wishes to end his or her life, they should have the ability to do so. It’s their life and therefore their decision. Isn’t is better for them to consult their family and physician before making that decision?
Because my mom is a chemotherapy nurse, I’ve seen her patients who are struggling to fight cancer. I’ve heard their stories and watched some of them struggle with such a difficult battle. There are a handful of them who get tired of fighting for their lives. They’re constantly in pain and can’t do what they love because they’re going through chemotherapy and radiation. When they’re not undergoing treatment, they’re feeling sick. It’s a continuous, never ending cycle.
Who are we – the healthy – to tell these people that they should continue being miserable because it’s not the end of their natural life?
If a family member were wanting to end their life, I would rather have them go to the doctor and end their life that way. That would prepare me for the real likelihood of losing them. I would rather know beforehand than to find them dead because they overdosed on pain killers or shot themselves in the head.
“Suicide goes against everything God teaches us.”
While this maybe true, remember, every person’s afterlife is determined by God, not us. What happens between a person and God is between them and no one else.

Property Rights and The American Democrat

James Fenimore Cooper widely influenced American literature. However, one of his books–The American Democrat, a civics primer–gets scant attention. Given that Cooper was born (September 15) so close to Constitution Day, it merits revisiting now.

Cooper defended the limited government the Constitution authorized, because political power not tightly controlled would be abused. In particular, he emphasized private property rights as necessary to liberty, our “right of self-government.

Unfortunately, the erosion of property rights Cooper warned against has only accelerated. Consequently, his understanding, echoing our founders, may be even more important today, because “vigilance in the protection of principles is even more necessary in a democracy.”

Cooper began from an insight few recognize today: “The rights of property [are] an indispensable condition of civilization.” Consequently, “we must take those consequences of the rights of property inseparable from the rights themselves.”

Since “property is the base of all civilization,” it follows that “its existence and security are indispensable to social improvement.” So “the first great principle connected with the rights of property is its inviolability,” leading to “the safe and just governing rule … permitting everyone to be the undisturbed judge of his own habits and associations, so long as they are innocent, and do not impair the rights of others to be equally judges for themselves.”

Given the foundational role of private property rights to effective social cooperation, Cooper concluded that for public policy, that meant property rights. “shall have no factious political aids.” That denial of unequal treatment implies “it is a great mistake … to take sides with the public, in doubtful cases affecting the rights of individuals, as this is the precise form in which oppression is the most likely to exhibit itself in a popular government.”

That led Cooper to dissent from democratic orthodoxy that has only intensified since: “As between the public and individuals, therefore, the true bias of a democrat … is to take sides with the latter. This is opposed to the popular notion, which is to fancy the man who maintains his rights against the popular will an aristocrat.”

Cooper connected this to individuality, which property rights protect. “Individuality … lies at the root of all voluntary human exertion … because we know that the fruits of our labors will belong to ourselves, or to those who are most dear to us.” Consequently, “all which society enjoys beyond the mere supply of its first necessities is dependent on the rights of property.” In other words, “property is an instrument of working most of the good that society enjoys,” because “it encourages and sustains laudable and useful efforts in individuals.” In sum, “Property is desirable as the groundwork of moral independence, as a means of improving the faculties, and of doing good to others, and as the agent in all that distinguishes the civilized man from the savage.”

The upshot of Cooper’s logic of liberty was that “the man of property … is privileged to use his own means … in the pursuit of his own happiness, and they who would interfere with him, so far from appreciating liberty, are ignorant of its vital principles.” Unfortunately, that is radically at odds with “the habit of seeing the public rule,” which “is gradually accustoming the American mind to an interference with private rights that is slowly undermining the individuality of the national character.”

The American Democrat was a civics book. But with the declining respect for property rights since Cooper wrote, it doesn’t read like current civics books.  Americans today would greatly benefit by remembering that “All who love equal justice, and, indeed, the safety of free institutions, should understand that property has its rights, and the necessity of rigidly respecting them.” It would serve us far better than the prevailing view, which applauds using government power to give majority coalitions what they want by blatantly violating others’ property rights.

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

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.