November 30, 2010

The Failure of the Environmentalist Lobby

Margaret Wende has an excellent article in The Globe and Mail that describes the failure of the environmentalist lobby. She first lambasts environmentalists, politicians and journalists who had such high hopes for the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen earlier this year.

The only surprise was that this outcome should have come as a surprise to so many intelligent people. These people actually seemed to believe that experts and politicians have supernatural powers to predict the future and control the climate. They believed that experts know how fast temperatures will rise by when, and what the consequences will be, and that we know what to do about it. They believed that despite the recent abject failure of Kyoto (to say nothing of other well-intentioned international treaties), the nations of the world would willingly join hands and sacrifice their sovereignty in order to sign on to a vast scheme of unimaginable scope, untold cost and certain damage to their own interests.

"Copenhagen was not a political breakdown," according to Wende. "It was an intellectual breakdown so astonishing that future generations will marvel at our blind credulity." Fortunately, she adds, nobody will pay much attention to the climate conference in Cancun next week.

The delusional dream of global action to combat climate change is dead. Barack Obama’s cap-and-trade scheme is dead. Chicago’s carbon-trading market is dead. The European Union’s supposed reduction in carbon emissions has been exposed as a giant fraud.

The environmentalist lobby -- "No interest group in modern times has been so free from skepticism, scrutiny or simple accountability as the environmental establishment," according to Wende -- hasn't given up entirely. It shouldn't, she believes. Rather people who care about the planet should turn to more pressing, real problems, as the fate of many animals, including lions and tigers, who see humans encroaching upon their habitats. "Their problem isn’t climate change," she writes. "It’s us."

Before they were sucked into the giant vortex of global warming, environmentalists did useful things. They protested against massive Third World dams that would ruin both natural and human habitats. They warned about invasive species and diseases that could tear through our forests and wreck our water systems. They fought for national parks and greenbelts and protected areas. They talked about the big things too – such as how the world could feed another three billion people without destroying all the rain forests and running out of water. They believed in conservation – conserving this beautiful planet of ours from the worst of human despoliation – rather than false claims to scientific certainty about the future, unenforceable treaties and radical utopian social reform.

November 24, 2010

Cato's Plan to Cut Spending

Is it really that hard to balance to the US budget? Not according to Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies with the libertarian Cato Institute. He prepared A Plan to Cut Spending and Balance the Federal Budget by 2020.

The plan would cut spending to 18.5% of GDP by 2020, which would balance the budget with current tax relief in place. Have a look!

November 21, 2010

Weak Leadership Hampers America's Comeback

Writing for Fox Business, David Asman describes what's hampering the recovery of the United States today: the perception of American weakness.

European and Asian countries dismiss us as weak and humiliate the president when he goes overseas looking for trade deals and backup for his own failed economic policies. Our dollar looks weak, even though it could be strong if the Fed would stop weakening it by printing more dollars to buy up our debt.

Even the president keeps the myth of our weakness alive by lamenting the weakness of our economy, rather than taking the blame because of his big government economic policies that haven't worked.

If the president just listened more to businesses, he'd hear what Scoreboard hears from every small business we talk to: that they'd be fine if government just got out of their way.

America is still a strong country, according to Asman. "But the perception of weakness leads to uncertainty about where we stand."

November 15, 2010

Unions Extracting Waivers For ObamaCare

The conservative blog RedState reports today on the many American trade unions that are seeking waivers to the health care reform plans enacted by Congress this summer.

Union bosses fought tooth and nail to nationalize America's health care---even, in many cases, to the detriment of their own members. Now, instead of chewing on and swallowing what they bit off, unions are getting waivers to the very plan that they shoved down everyone else's throat.

November 11, 2010

Debt Commission Proposes Deep Budget Cuts

Members of the president's debt commission have proposed deep budget cuts in order to rein in government spending in the United States. Entitlement programs as Medicare and Social Security, which are responsible for the brunt of federal spending, would be hit especially hard.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created by President Barack Obama in January of this year, was not supposed to release its recommendations for several weeks yet. Its two chairmen however, former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, who was President Bill Clinton's White House chief of staff in the 1990s, came out with proposals this week already. They have stressed that theirs are personal recommendations, not the findings of the commission as such which includes eighteen members in total, among them Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin who has previously proposed entitlement reform in order to balance the federal budget. Partisan deadlock may have compelled the chairmen to publish their own ideas after almost ten months of discussion.

Although the president has promised to preserve Social Security "forever", describing privatization as "an ill conceived idea that would add trillions of dollars to our budget deficit while tying your benefits to the whims of Wall Street traders and the ups and downs of the stock market," America's pension system is in dire need of reform. Medicare as well as Social Security will bankrupt without intervention.

In order to save the programs and achieve "nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020" while reducing the deficit to just over 2 percent of GDP by 2015, the chairmen of the debt commission, in a draft put out by them Wednesday, suggest to raise the retirement age by one month every two years after it reaches 67 under current law. The retirement age would then reach 68 around 2050 and 69 by 2075. There would be a "hardship exemption" however for those unable to work beyond the age of 62. Other proposals include:

  • Granting retirees the choice of collecting half of their benefits early and the other half at a later age to support phased retirement options;
  • Asking doctors and other health care providers to slow the increase in health care costs;
  • Reducing farm subsidies by $3 billion a year;
  • Freezing federal salaries and government employee bonuses;
  • Eliminating congressional earmarks

Several of the Democrats who sit on the commission have already voiced their opposition to these supposedly radical proposals. They warn that there will be no fourteen vote majority for many of these notions.

Several dozen of Democratic legislators immediately released a joint statement after the commission chairmen released their findings, urging the president to protect Social Security. "If any of the commission's recommendations cut or diminish Social Security in any way, we will stand firmly against them," they have pledged.

Democrat Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who is considered one of the most liberal of congressman, complained that "we have waited through nine months of backroom negotiations only to be told that the American people will have to tighten their belts another notch while defense spending continues to grow and corporate bonuses continue to expand." Congress should have a "realistic, productive conversation" about deficit reduction, he believes. "Instead, we're debating a proposal from a commission dedicated to cutting crucial social programs and reducing corporate and upper income taxes at the same time."

The commission chairmen have proposed to reduce income tax rates but attest that the losses in revenue can be offset by closing tax loopholes and eliminating scores of tax deductions which currently make the US tax code incredibly complicated.

According to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who will lose her job next year since Republicans regained control of the lower chamber of Congress in this November's midterm elections, pension reform as considered by the commission is utterly unacceptable. "Any final proposal from the commission," she has declared, "must do what is right for our seniors, who are counting on the bedrock promises of Social Security and Medicare."

Conservatives on the commission, including Paul Ryan, have cautiously praised the chairmen for their suggestions. Although Republicans are divided on entitlement and earmark reform, fiscal hawks as Ryan would rather reform be more comprehensive. His "Roadmap for America's Future," which is a detailed plan to restore balance to the federal budget, represents, as then Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag put it in February of this year, a "dramatically different approach in which much more risk is loaded onto individuals." Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are also renowned for their opposition to deficit spending but the other five Republican members of the commission may be more inclined to compromise. They have all spoken out against raising taxes however.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon the two commission chairmen acknowledged the difficulty of reforming entitlement programs, something that has long been anathema to lawmakers from both sides. "We'll both be in a witness protection program when this is all over," joked Simpson. Bowles added that they weren't asking anyone to vote for their plan. "This is a starting point," he explained.

Originally published at the Atlantic Sentinel, November 10, 2010.