Civil Disobedience – Defying The Powers-That-Be For Your Christian Beliefs

KIM DAVIS

Terresa Monroe-Hamilton | NOISYROOM

There comes a time in every person’s life where they have to decide what they stand for and what they believe in. What is the line that you just won’t cross, no matter the consequence? Many people never consider that question until they are forced to. For Christians, it is an easy choice. They answer to a higher power than the government or the courts. For Kim Davis, that day came a while back when she was asked to issue marriage licenses for gay couples. The Supreme Court just recently trashed the Constitution and in a move that violated First Amendment freedom of religion, they gave gay couples the right to marry and mandated that all observe that as the law of the land. Kim Davis said firmly, “I will not comply.” Then she stood her ground amid death threats through email, phone calls and social media. She also faces the very real possibility of financial penalties and imprisonment. People are also threatening to burn down her home and rape her on her front lawn. All because she won’t violate her Christian beliefs.

As a County Clerk, Kim Davis has now stated she will continue to deny marriage licenses to gay couples. She says she’s doing so “under God’s authority.” She came out of her office this morning after several gay couples were denied marriage licenses. She asked David Moore and David Ermold, who’ve been rejected four times, to leave. They refused, surrounded by reporters and cameras. There was a tense confrontation while the media gobbled it up.

Ermold said: “We’re not leaving until we have a license.” Davis responded: “Then you’re going to have a long day.”

There was a group in the back of the room cheering Davis on shouting, “Praise the Lord!” and “Stand your ground!” Others screeched that Davis is a bigot and told her: “Do your job!” “The Supreme Court denied your stay,” one of the men told Davis. “I pay your salary! I pay you to discriminate against me right now.” Then they dared her to call the police on them.

I understand the police eventually removed everyone and Kim retired to her office and closed the blinds. This must break her heart. The media made a big deal of the gay couples being teary and red-eyed. They also claimed to be shaking. What manipulative wusses. “It’s just too hard right now,” one gay man said, choking back tears and holding hands with his fiance as they rushed to their car. I don’t believe them at all, they were reveling in the spotlight. I also don’t feel sorry for these people. They could have gone elsewhere for a marriage license – this was to make a point. It’s the gay militaristic persecution of Christians and it is being condoned by the federal government.

Davis’ attorney is standing by her, defending her continued refusal to grant same-sex marriage licenses. A judge today ordered that Davis comply and issue those licenses or appear in her court and tell her why she should not be held in contempt. Her attorney has a couple of solutions he is suggesting to the state of Kentucky. One option would be to allow the Chief Executive of Rowan County to grant licenses. He is willing to do so. Or Davis’ name could simply be removed from the licenses, as it now appears on each one. “She is licensing something with her name on it that licenses something that is a sin and not an appropriate relationship in her Judeo-Christian beliefs,” the attorney said. To implement either of these options, the governor of Kentucky would need to step in.

Davis has issued a statement that she was elected to her office and she is honored to serve as clerk. She has no plans to step down. “In addition to my desire to serve the people of Rowan County, I owe my life to Jesus Christ who loves me and gave His life for me,” she said. “Following the death of my godly mother-in-law over four years ago, I went to church to fulfill her dying wish. There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.” Davis continued, “I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God.”

Never in her wildest dreams did she think she would become the center of such national controversy. You see, I don’t think the state of Kentucky will accommodate her or stand by her. And nothing short of her being impeached and removed or signing those licenses will appease those standing against her. They want their pound of flesh and to make an example of Kim Davis. They want to send a resounding message to America that you have no choice as a person of faith… you must comply and kneel before the State or else.

“It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will,” Davis said. “To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. It is a matter of religious liberty, which is protected under the First Amendment, the Kentucky Constitution, and in the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Kim then refused once again to violate her conscience and her beliefs.

A contempt hearing has now been scheduled for this Thursday at 11 am. The plaintiffs don’t want her thrown in jail. I guess they fear her becoming a martyr. They want heavy financial penalties imposed instead. She can’t be fired… she would have to be impeached. There is an option for recall, but what do you want to bet if the election were held again today, she would be reelected? There are more steadfast Christians than they think out there. Davis’ latest refusalcomes just one day after the Supreme Court declined to intervene in her case.

Davis was elected last November as a Democrat, succeeding her mother in the office she had held for 37 years, according to the Morehead News. Her staff includes her son.

As this played out today, two opposing groups faced off outside the entrance to the courthouse and exchanged barbs. “At the end of the day, we have to stand before God, which has higher authority than the Supreme Court,” said Randy Smith, leading the group supporting Davis. Ermold and Moore, together for 17 years, cried and swayed as they walked out to chants from the clerk’s supporters. “I feel sad, I feel devastated,” Ermold said. “I feel like I’ve been humiliated on such a national level, I can’t even comprehend it.” Oh, boo hoo.

Davis’ husband came to the office to check on his wife and stand by her side. He defended their faith and said she is “standing for God.” As for himself, he said he believes in the Second Amendment: “I’m an old redneck hillbilly, that’s all I’ve got to say. Don’t come knocking on my door.” Good for him – I like this guy. He pointed to the gay rights protesters gathered on the courthouse lawn and said: “They want us to accept their beliefs and their ways. But they won’t accept our beliefs and our ways.” And that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Religious beliefs are protected by the Constitution… gay rights aren’t, no matter what the Supreme Court says.

Kim Davis will likely go down over all this, but that is a price she is willing to pay for her faith. She won’t be the first American Christian martyr to fall before the federal government and their despotic overreach. She certainly won’t be the last. There is a time and a place for civil disobedience. My fellow Christians, that time is now.

 

SOURCE: NOISYROOM

The Economics of Bernie Sanders

William L. Anderson | MISES

As the political campaign of Hillary Clinton continues to run aground, Democrats are flocking to the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the self-described “socialist” US senator from Vermont, who has been a fixture in that state for more than three decades. Not unlike the presidential campaign of Ron Paul, Sanders is drawing large, enthusiastic crowds who are very receptive to his message of increased state control of the US economy.

Obviously, when a person running a campaign based upon socialist principles is drawing attention and big crowds, we might ask just what does Sanders mean by “socialist,” and what would he do if he were elected president of the United States? To better answer that question, I am taking a closer look at what we would call the “economics” of Bernie Sanders.

What Do We Mean by “Socialism”?

Before looking at Sanders’s platform, however, I believe it is important to note that when socialists speak of “victories” in the economy, they are not talking about actual results, but rather political achievements in the forms of laws being passed that mandate certain policies. Whether or not these policies actually achieve what socialists claim will be accomplished is another story altogether, but results are irrelevant to socialists.

This should surprise no one because, after all, socialism is based upon political control of the economy. True (or at least original) socialists believe that state agents via the “magic” of their authority should allocate all resources to where there is the greatest need for them. Political representatives, not surprisingly, determine what constitutes the greatest need. The state would take ownership of all factors of production and then wisely determine the needs and how production of goods would fulfill them.

Ludwig von Mises in 1920 in his short work, Socialism (three years later expanded into a book), exploded the socialist myth by pointing out that in a world of scarce resources, economies needed private ownership, prices, profits and losses to determine where resources should be directed. The early years of the “experiment” of the Soviet Union proved Mises correct, and socialists then sought to redefine what socialism actually meant.

In the USSR, and later in China and North Korea, the state took ownership of factors of production, but tried to create a parallel economy by using shadow prices and production functions via the mechanisms championed by Polish communist Oskar Lange, who admitted that Mises had pointed out serious flaws in the original plans of socialists. We also know how that “experiment” turned out, which is why there no longer is a USSR, China has abandoned much of the economics of Mao, and North Korea is a failed state where most people live in grinding poverty.

But people like Bernie Sanders, while maybe not rejecting the old socialism spiritually, nonetheless have embraced a “socialism” in which government takes ownership of large portions of what has been produced by private enterprise and transfers wealth from one group of people to another. A look at the Sanders website spells out his brand of “socialism” that he says is based upon what Nordic countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have done, levying high taxes with governments using that funding for social programs like medical care and other public welfare initiatives.

Secondary Socialism

A number of people have pointed out that the Sanders “program” is not socialism per se, but rather is something based upon socializing the results of private enterprise, or what one might call secondary socialism. The Bernie Sanders regime would take control of some of the produce of private enterprise, as opposed to taking outright control of factors of production, which would remain in private hands. If this reminds one of the fascism of the 1930s, that is because Sanders is promoting a version of the governing models of Germany under Adolph Hitler and Italy under Benito Mussolini.

Of the two, Sanders certainly is closer to Mussolini. Like Sanders, Mussolini called himself a socialist and was a leader in the Italian Socialist Party. Like Sanders, Mussolini decried “profiteers” and the wealthy, and spoke out against political corruption. Like Sanders, Mussolini spoke of a larger “national purpose” and sought to harness nationalism as a political force. Like Sanders, Mussolini sought to impose more and more controls on Italian businesses in order to direct production in a way to satisfy political purposes. Like Sanders, Mussolini built political power by appealing to Italian voters by saying that other Italians were well-off because they had gained their wealth on the backs of the poor.

Having similar economic proposals to Hitler and Mussolini does not make Sanders either of those two men and it is important to emphasize that while Sanders regularly employs the powerful political tool of appealing to voter resentment of others, he is not advocating the kind of genocide that ultimately helped to characterize the fascism of Central Europe in the 1930s and 40s. Bernie Sanders is an economic nationalist, and economic nationalism was at the heart of European fascism, but we do not want to make unwarranted accusations against Sanders, either.

At the same time, I do not want to let Sanders off the hook. He promotes economic nationalism and has built his campaign upon resentment, the kind of which Henry Hazlitt wrote in 1966 in his famous, “Marxism in One Minute.” Hazlitt wrote:

The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others. (Emphasis mine)

As one moves through the website for the Sanders campaign, there is plenty of resentment for others. First, there is the ubiquitous “One-Percent” that is the main focus of the typical Sanders stump speech:

This campaign is sending a message to the billionaire class: “you can’t have it all.” You can’t get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry. You can’t continue sending our jobs to China while millions are looking for work. You can’t hide your profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, while there are massive unmet needs on every corner of this nation. Your greed has got to end. You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America, if you refuse to accept your responsibilities as Americans.

While I would agree wholeheartedly that the US economy is in serious trouble, it is not because of the “greed” of billionaires. It is because the US government, through the Federal Reserve System, has created what David Stockman has called the “casino economy” that has substituted trading of sovereign debt and monetary manipulation for a real economy with interest rates that reflect actual economic fundamentals. Like the Bush and Clinton administrations before it, the Obama administration has promoted political entrepreneurship and demonized market entrepreneurship.

Sanders’s List of Recycled Twentieth-Century “Solutions”

Americans are not jobless because some people are not paying “their fair share” of taxes; they are jobless because the US government insists on directing resources from higher-valued uses to lower-valued uses, as determined by consumer choice. They are jobless because Washington insists on remaking the economy in its own image, and there is nothing in the entire Sanders campaign that would change any of the things that vex the US economy the most.

So, what does Sanders propose to “revitalize” the US economy? Here are some things listed on his website:

  • Raise taxes on US corporations (ironically, corporate tax rates in the Nordic countries are substantially lower than current corporate taxes in the USA, something that has escaped Sanders’s notice);
  • Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour;
  • Expand the reach of labor unions and vastly expand their membership;
  • Make it illegal for US corporations to manufacture goods abroad, and then sell those goods in the USA;
  • Impose new taxes on financial transactions;
  • Spend at least a trillion dollars on building and repairing roads, bridges, and utilities;
  • Create a “youth jobs program” in which unemployed young people are given government-sponsored jobs (Sanders sees no connection between high minimum wages and youth unemployment);
  • Enact “equity pay” that will “guarantee” that women are paid the same as men for comparable work;
  • Break up banks and financial institutions;
  • Enact a Canada-style single-payer healthcare system;
  • Provide free tuition for all public colleges and universities;
  • Expand Social Security benefits;
  • Require businesses to provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, at least 10 days of paid vacation a year, and seven days per year of paid guaranteed sick leave.

Notice that there is nothing in the Sanders platform that calls for “nationalization” of the means of production, nor does he propose to do away with the price system. In other words, Sanders’s vision of socialism is not what Mao or Trotsky or Lenin proposed, yet there is not one thing in the entire platform that would reverse the dangerous economic trends of the past decade.

Instead, Sanders proposes to direct huge amounts of resources in the direction of constructing something akin to a European welfare state. To put it another way, Sanders wishes to “turn back the clock” to create or promote social and economic structures that already have been undermined by the modern “sharing” economy.

If one reads Sanders’s platform from another perspective, it would be the New Deal. Indeed, there is nothing Sanders has written or said from the stump that would not be reminiscent of a New Deal rally (with the possible exception in appealing to black Americans, which was not part of the Democratic Party agenda in the 1930s, as well as Sanders’s appeal to furthering the Sexual Revolution). Bernie Sanders pushes an economic agenda that is frozen in time.

The problem, economically speaking, is that Bernie Sanders proposes nothing that actually would enable entrepreneurs to help bring about a true economic recovery. In Sanders’s world, entrepreneurs are parasites and employers are oppressors who seek to harm their employees, and wealth is defined by how much governments have in their treasuries.

If I could put the economics of Bernie Sanders into a nutshell, it would be this: Burden private enterprise with one directive after another, and then demonize it when it ultimately falls down under the awful weight of taxes, higher costs, and mandates. While many people believe that instituting the Sanders economic agenda would help turn the USA into another Sweden or Denmark, the more likely outcome would be turning this country into another Venezuela.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

Amendments to CISA Cybersecurity Bill Fail in All Regards

MARK JAYCOX | EFF

Although grassroots activism has dealt it a blow, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) keeps shambling along like the zombie it is. In July, Senator McConnell vowed to hold a final vote on the bill before Congress left for its six-week long summer vacation. In response, EFF and over 20 other privacy groups ran a successful Week of Action, including over 6 million faxes opposing CISA, causing the Senate to postpone the vote until late September.

Senators submitted many amendments to the bill before going on vacation. The amendments, like the original language of the bill, fail to address key issues like the deep link between these government “cybersecurity” authorities and surveillance, as well as the new spying powers the bill would grant to companies.

But “cybersecurity” is already intimately tied to surveillance—a problem CISA would only worsen. Documents released by the New York Times reveal the government used the Comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative (CNCI) to pay telecommunications companies to spy on consumers using their networks. The CNCI includes initiatives for information gathering, but it’s always been presented to the public as fostering research and encouraging public awareness of cybersecurity problems—not spying on Americans’ Internet traffic.

The revelations are stunning. The NSA paid telecommunications companies nearly $300 million dollars in the 2010 fiscal year to invest in surveillance equipment as part of the CNCI. In fact, STORMBREW’s Breckenridge site was “100% subsidized with CNCI funding.”

In contrast, the DHS only requested $37.2 million during the same time period to support research and development in cybersecurity science and technology. Even if DHS received what it requested, does the American public really want surveillance to outweigh research and education 10 to 1?

The news is compounded by other recently-released Snowden documents that show how the NSA uses foreign intelligence laws to run an intrusion defense system (IDS) on US soil. The documents show that a Justice Department memo gave the agency permission to monitor Internet cables, “without a warrant and on American soil, for data linked to computer intrusions originating abroad — including traffic that flows to suspicious Internet addresses or contains malware.”

CISA—and its amendments—do not even begin to address these serious problems. Instead, they mandate information sharing with the intelligence community, creating even more cyberspying.

EFF will continue to oppose CISA—even if some of these amendments pass—because CISA’s vague definitions, broad legal immunity, and new spying powers allow for a tremendous amount of unnecessary damage to users’ privacy, and it’s highly unlikely that the public will learn about it. Even an amendment (#2612) offered by by Senator Al Franken, which narrows some of the definitions in CISA, does little to clarify its most troubling provisions.

What’s worse is that information-sharing bills like CISA are being painted as silver bullets to data breaches. They aren’t. The bills don’t address problems like unencrypted filespoor computer architecture, un-updated servers, and employees (or contractors) clicking malware links.

Awful Amendments

Plenty of the amendments would make the bill even worse. We’ve already discussed the horrible CFAA amendment, #2626, proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. The amendment not only increases the scope of the already expansive Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) but also authorizes injunctions against botnets (amending 18 U.S.C. § 1345) in a way that creates serious constitutional issues.  After all, much of what DOJ and FBI want to do in shutting down botnets is, arguably, a search or a seizure under the Fourth Amendment; moreover, such injunctions may prevent users from communicating, thus raising First Amendment issues.  The amendment is a great example of how not to amend the draconian CFAA. If the Senate wants to improve the CFAA, it should take a page out of our book.

Senator Carper has proposed another dubious change to CISA, amendment #2627. The bill attempts to codify the Department of Homeland Security’s EINSTEIN program without any public debate. EINSTEIN is an intrusion detection system—the parent of which was created by the NSA—to scan incoming Internet traffic to the federal government like emails and other connections. DHS has not told the public what agencies are using EINSTEIN. It’s possible that when you email your representative, DHS may also receive a copy. Before codifying EINSTEIN, DHS must be more transparent about the program. The most recent update from DHS about the program is from 2013, and many concerns have been raised about EINSTEIN’s legality and privacy implications. Unlike CISA, Senator Carper’s amendment mandates federal agencies create a plan to identify sensitive information and encrypt it; however, the clause exempts the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.  Nor does the amendment authorize additional funding for federal agencies to improve security.

Senator Carper’s attempt to make a horrible bill marginally better is admirable, but he—along with other Senators—should oppose the bill. Even the best amendments fail to fix CISA’s serious flaws.

Not Awful Amendments

Some of the amendments try to narrow the scope of the bill. Senator Chris Coons’ amendment #2552 would limit information sharing to that necessary to describe or identify a cybersecurity threat, while Senator Wyden’s amendment (#2621) would require companies and the government to remove personal information unrelated to the threat.

But these well-meaning changes don’t address the root problems in the bill: the outrageously broad and vague definition of “cybersecurity threat” and the granting of new authorities to spy on users. Senator Franken’s amendment #2612 attempts to address that definition, but even his amendment isn’t enough. Again, no amendment scales back the two new authorities to spy on users and launch countermeasures in the bill.

Other amendments are better, including Senator Patrick Leahy’s #2587, which would remove the current CISA provision exempting all “cyber threat indicators and defensive measures” received by the government from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act and may help ensure the public can obtain information about how, if CISA is enacted into law, the information “sharing” system actually operates; Senator Jeff Flake’s 6-year sunset (#2582); and, Senator Mike Lee’s email privacy amendment (#2556), which would codify US v. Warshak by amending the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to require warrants for email and other stored content.

While some advocates will paint these amendments as “steps forward,” the amendments merely shuffle deck chairs on the Titanic—even with the better amendments, the bill is still a bad idea. The Senators are going about the wrong strategy. Democrats and libertarian Republicans should be opposing CISA outright. That’s why we’re asking users to continue emailing their Senators to stop this bill. While CISA is the very definition of a zombie bill, the public outcry against it has made a difference. But we can’t stop now. Join us by tweeting, faxing, or emailing your Senator.

Source: EFF

Obama Climate Agenda Banks on Wishful Wind Growth

Alex Fitzsimmons | IER

President Obama recently announced the final version of his so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which requires states to slash carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. This regulation is the centerpiece of the president’s “climate action plan,” which is designed to eliminate the use of coal—and eventually, natural gas.

To work toward the president’s climate agenda, the administration projects the U.S. will add massive amounts of wind and solar energy over the coming decades.

In fact, the EPA mandates subsidized wind developers to add more electrical capacity to the grid in eight years than the industry did in the previous 118 years.

The wind industry will reach this goal, according to EPA, by adding as much new capacity each year for six years as was added in 2012. That was the year the wind industry rushed to bring more projects on-line to qualify for an expiring federal subsidy, the wind Production Tax Credit. The following year, after the PTC lapsed, new wind additions collapsed more than 90 percent.

Historic Impact of PTC

Source: American Wind Energy Association

This shows how subsidies such as the wind PTC (which if extended, would cost taxpayers $10 billion over the next decade) are crucial to Obama’s climate agenda. In fact, his agenda depends not just on an extension of the PTC, but also on the boom-and-bust cycle created by uncertainty over whether Congress would extend the PTC. As history shows, only the threat of losing subsidies could convince wind developers to install as many turbines in one year as the president expects to be built every year for six years to meet the goals of his carbon rule. Therefore, Obama’s climate agenda depends on the wind PTC to hide the true cost of the overall program from ratepayers.

Congress will debate the wind PTC this fall in a tax extenders package. Once again, lawmakers will have the opportunity to finally put an end to a special-interest handout that increases electricity prices, harms taxpayers, and is central to President Obama’s energy legacy. By rejecting the wind PTC, Congress can protect American families from wasteful subsidies and from the harmful effects of the president’s anti-energy agenda.

How Obama’s Climate Agenda Depends on Wind Subsidies

On August 3, President Obama unveiled the finalized “Clean Power Plan,” or carbon dioxide regulation. The president hailed the rule as a “historic step” and central to his climate agenda. The rule requires states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The final rule is even stricter than the proposal, which contemplated a 30 percent cut by 2030. NERA Economic Consulting put the price tag of the proposed rule at $366 billion, with residents in 43 states seeing double-digit percentage increases in their electric bills. The final rule, which mandates more severe cuts, will inflict even more harm, especially on low-income households.

To justify the stricter emission cut in the final rule, EPA expects the U.S. to add massive amounts of renewable energy, especially wind power. The problem with relying on wind energy is that it depends on government mandates and subsidies, one of which is the wind PTC. Enacted in 1992, the PTC pays wind developers for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated for 10 years. The Senate estimates a two-year extension of the PTC would cost taxpayers about $10 billion over the next decade.

Though the PTC’s future is always in limbo—it has expired nine times in the last two decades—the PTC is an important element of the president’s climate agenda because it makes the agenda seem less expensive than it really is.

Consider the following chart taken directly from EPA showing renewable energy (RE) capacity additions by source. To predict future wind growth, EPA looked at how much capacity wind added between 2010 and 2014. The high point was 2012, the year before the wind PTC temporarily expired. As uncertainty over the PTC loomed, wind developers rushed to bring new projects on-line to qualify for the subsidy. This is why wind added more than twice as much capacity in 2012 (13 GW) than in any of the other years. The following year, after the PTC expired, wind additions dropped by more than 90 percent, from 13.1 GW to just 1 GW.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 1.05.01 PM

Source: EPA Technical Support Document: GHG Mitigation Measures

EPA’s final rule expects wind will add as much new capacity each year from 2024-2030 as the industry did in 2012.[1] The agency also expects wind will add 6.2 GW each year for 2022 and 2023, bringing total capacity additions to over 91 GW in 2030. This prediction is unrealistic without a federal mandate to construct renewable technologies. As explained above, the reason wind added 13 GW in 2012 was because developers were scrambling to qualify for the expiring PTC and weren’t sure whether Congress would extend it. The next year the market for wind energy collapsed because the PTC wasn’t available. Therefore, 2012 was an aberration created by government uncertainty. The so-called “Clean Power Plan,” however, is mandating the construction of wind and solar technologies to replace retiring fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) generators. The cost of this mandate can either be passed entirely to consumers, or it can be hidden by subsidies such as the PTC.

To estimate the feasibility of constructing the amount of wind turbines needed to replace retiring fossil-fuel generators, EPA used 2012 numbers to predict future wind additions. To understand why this is a huge amount, consider the following chart. It shows approximately how much wind capacity has ever existed in the U.S. compared to how much wind capacity Obama expects to add in just eight years to justify his carbon regulation. (Industrial wind development can be traced as far back to a 1897 advertisement in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.) As you can see, EPA projects wind will add more capacity in eight years than the industry did in the previous 118 years:

Obama Wind Energy predictions

Source: EPA, EIA, and AWEA

EPA expects wind capacity additions will total more than 91 GW between 2022 and 2030. For context, total installed U.S. wind capacity was just under 66 GW at the end of 2014, according to the American Wind Energy Association. This growth is not driven by market demand, but by state mandates and government subsidies, of which the PTC is an important one of many. Others include the 2009 federal stimulus, which gave wind developers the choice of taking a Section 1603 cash grant in lieu of the PTC. The Treasury Department estimates this program awarded almost $13 billion in subsidies to wind developers between 2009 and 2014.

To recap:

  • EPA’s carbon regulation depends on the wind industry adding more wind capacity in eight years than in the previous 118 years.
  • The final rule expects wind capacity will grow by 91 GW between 2022 and 2030, compared to total installed U.S. wind capacity of 66 GW.
  • To add 91 GW in 2030, EPA expects wind capacity additions to total 6.2 GW per year from 2022 to 2023 and 13.1 GW per year from 2024 to 2030.
  • 13 GW is the same amount wind added in 2012, the year before the PTC expired and developers rushed to complete projects before the subsidies stopped flowing.
  • In 2013, the year after the PTC lapsed, wind additions dropped by more than 90 percent, to 1.1 GW—showing how dependent wind is on government subsidies and mandates.

Conclusion

The wind Production Tax Credit is a key piece of President Obama’s climate legacy. It helps make the “Clean Power Plan” appear less costly and more achievable than it actually is. To work toward the president’s climate agenda, his carbon dioxide regulation requires the wind industry to add more electrical capacity in eight years than the industry added in the previous 118 years. The only time wind added anywhere near as much as Obama predicts was in 2012, when rent-seekers rushed to build turbines ahead of state mandates due to uncertainty over whether Congress would extend the wind PTC. The following year, without the PTC, new wind additions collapsed.

Therefore, the president’s climate agenda doesn’t just live-or-die on subsidies like the wind PTC, but also depends on the boom-and-bust cycle created by government dysfunction around whether to keep the subsidies flowing. Congress should end this madness once and for all by refusing to revive the wind PTC in any tax extenders deal. That would eliminate welfare for wind lobbyists and help protect the American people from part of President Obama’s costly climate agenda.


[1] See EPA, Technical Support Document: GHG Mitigation Measures, at page 4-5, http://epa.gov/airquality/cpp/tsd-cpp-ghg-mitigation-measures.pdf.
Source: INSTITUTE FOR ENERGY RESEARCH

The Big Box Retailer in Health Care

Hospital

Devon Herrick | NCPA

Back in the 1950s, department stores were the big box retailers of their day. Rather than go to different specialty stores for shoes, hats, coats and bed linen, one only had to stop by Macy’s. About that same time, discount stores like Walmart began to crop up around the country. As time went on, the size of discount stores increased to the point that super centers are now common. Other companies began to copy this retail model. Home Depot and Lowes reinvented the lumber yard and combined it into a big hardware store/home center. Sam’s Club and Costco began to sell food, electronics, clothing and merchandize in bulk — all under one big roof. Big Box retailers provide the convenience of one-stop-shopping, at prices that are lower than specialty stores. By contrast, consider the Big Box retailer in health care: hospitals.

The economics of medical care is indeed strange. At first glance, hospitals should have economics of scale, sort of like the Big Box retailer of the health care world. So why does Costco, Sam’s Club, Home Depot and Lowes have the best mix of both great selection and low prices on their respective goods, conveniently located under one roof; but the Big Box hospital has the highest prices on every service it provides? (more on that thought later)

Increasingly, hospitals are buying physician practices. Nothing may appear to change about your doctor’s practice, but the services performed in your doctor’s new hospital-owned practice come with a higher price in the form of a “facilities fee”. Once you’re in the hospital, there are a variety of care settings, each with a different cost. Intensive care costs more than acute care. Acute care costs more than skilled nursing. Because all these different levels of care come with different prices, it seems smart to make sure patients spend only as much time as needed in each care setting so their costs are not higher than necessary. For example, when patients get well enough to leave the hospital but are too sick to care for themselves they may move to a nursing home for a few days. As they recover they may go home with a visiting nurse providing home care. The system of multiple care settings, each with a different degree of care intensity, is referred to as the continuum of care.

Applying a concept known as medical homes, health plans are beginning to use care coordination to steer patients to the appropriate setting within the continuum of care. For example, physician visits are far cheaper than a hospital stay. One of the things a medical home does is try to keep plan members out of the hospital by providing physician care to keep members healthy. A medical home coordinates care after a hospital stay to prevent a readmission.  A care coordinator also tries to keep their enrollees out of the hospital Emergency Room (ER) because ERs are more expensive than a physician visit. In addition, an ER visit boosts the chances an enrollees will get admitted to a hospital when they could have been cared for outside the hospital.

It is a common belief among health policy wonks that there are too many ER visits for conditions that are not true emergencies. It is often said the ER is the most expensive place to provide routine care — so care in the ER should be used for truly emergent conditions.  If an enrollee needs urgent care and is unable to get in quickly to see his or her doctor, the care coordinator accesses the need and advises whether the enrollee should wait for their doctor, whether they can go to a retail clinic, or if an urgent care center may work. If the patient’s condition is questionable, they may advise them to go to a freestanding ER, since the admission rate at freestanding ERs is 5% compared to 16% to 20% at a hospital ER.

Writers may say a picture is worth a thousand words, but insurers and Medicare are discouraging medical imaging they consider unnecessary to reduce the cost of care. The prevailing wisdom asserts that there are too many unnecessary, costly diagnostic images being performed. A care coordinator may advise enrollees on whether they need a diagnostic image. Care coordinators also advise where to get diagnostic images or lab work done cheaply. Nowadays, many medical images — such as CT scans and MRIs — are performed at freestanding radiology centers. Prices vary widely based on who’s paying the bill. Indeed, the cash price varies depending on whether you ask ahead of time and offer to pay “up front” opposed to paying after the fact. Freestanding imaging centers provide stiff competition to hospital imaging centers. A hospital CT scan or MRI can cost upwards of $3,000, although Medicare would not reimburse that much. The comparable price at a freestanding imaging center is often as low as $300 and $400. The same is generally true of laboratory medicine. Lab work performed at an independent lab usually costs far less than blood chemistry performed in a hospital lab.

I was the accountant for an ambulatory surgery center (ASC) the late 1980s. At the time, ASCs were a relatively new phenomenon. They were often looked down on by doctors and hospital executives. The medical director explained to me that many doctors would not set foot in an ASC. After all, what’s the point of walking a few blocks away from the hospital campus to perform surgery outside the hospital? The attraction of ASCs (then and now) is to perform day surgeries at prices much lower than in a hospital operating room or in a hospital outpatient surgery center. Ambulatory surgery and “day surgery” is used to describe procedures performed on patients who can walk in and later leave that same day.

I am struck by an odd thought: why is the hospital the place to stay away from if you’re a health plan looking to hold costs down? Why is a hospital-owned physician practice more costly? Why is a hospital-owned MRI more costly than at a free standing radiology clinic? Why is it cheaper to have orthoscopic knee surgery at an ambulatory surgery center than in a hospital?

So why does everything in the hospital cost more than similar services performed outside the hospital? Hospitals executives will tell you they have to charge more for lucrative services so to subsidize money-losing services. The hospital trade associations will tell you that it’s because hospitals have high overhead; they have to buy and maintain all their medical equipment regardless of whether it’s likely to be used. For example, hospitals have to maintain costly MRI machines. Hospitals have to have laboratories, they have to build and maintain operating rooms. Hospitals have to charge more because they have to keep the ER open 24/7 and care for patients who cannot pay.

Yet, there are investors that build freestanding imaging centers and offer lower prices. There are independent labs that perform blood testing services at low prices. Investors build ambulatory surgery centers and even specialty hospitals that often charge less than general hospitals. There are even freestanding ERs that also have to remain open 24/7 and care for patients who cannot pay.

It may be a smart move on the part of health plans to shift patients to lower cost service outside the hospital. But that’s not the way it works in other areas of our economy. Consumers may go to Elliott’s Hardware because they appreciate the larger selection of hardware than Home Depot offers. They may even go because it’s more convenient to swing by to grab a few screws — even at slightly higher prices. But nobody ever goes to their local hardware store because Home Depot charges too much.

I’m back to my original question: why does everything cost more in a big box hospital? It’s not because of hospitals have high overhead (Home Depot has high overhead). It’s due to the lack of competition. Ninety-seven percent of hospital bills are paid for by third-parties, so hospitals don’t have to compete on price. Another reason everything costs more in a hospital is because Congress tolerates it.
Source: Health Policy Blog

Devon HerrickDevon Herrick, Ph.D., is a preeminent expert on 21st century medicine, including the evolution of Internet-based medicine, consumer driven health care and key changes in the global health market. He was among the first health policy analysts to identify and publish in-depth policy reports on consumerism in health care, including: medical tourism, telemedicine, retail clinics, concierge medical practices, cosmetic medicine, “shopping for drugs” strategies and value-based health plan design. He has researched personal technology and medical aps that empowers patients to better manage their medical needs.

President to Decide on Refugee Quota for FY2016

President to decide on refugee quota for FY2016 NOW!  Will Congress lift a finger to protect America?-media-1
Shhh….don’t tell Congress and let’s slip this by them again—maybe this time with 65,000 Syrians

Will Congress lift a finger to protect America?

It is September and as we speak, the Obama Administration (US State Department) is putting its final touches on their annual Determination Letter and accompanying report to Congress.

The new fiscal year begins on October 1 and by the 30th of this month Obama will send to Congress for “consultation” a document which states how many refugees and from what regions of the world we will be “welcoming” refugees to America.

This so-called “consultation” with Congress is a legal requirement. However, it is common knowledge that the House and Senate Committees responsible for analyzing this information have in the past been silent.

In fact, Ken Tota (who recently served as the interim director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement) was overheard saying that “in his entire almost 30-year career, Congress has never questioned the numbers.”

State Department scoping meetings

For our many new readers, this year there was no US State Department hearing on the “size and scope” of the refugee program (or, LOL! they kept it very secret!).  We can only assume that was because in the three previous years they heard testimony that they didn’t like from citizens that were concerned about the program.  Here is one post of dozens on the topic.  Readers of RRW had flooded the State Department with negative testimony about the program.  In fact, we testified that there should be a moratorium on the program.  See my 2014 testimony here.

I mention this because the Presidential Determination being prepared now is the culmination of the annual process that began with those late spring ‘hearings’ (and again there was no public opportunity to comment this year that we were aware of).

Also, regular readers know that we have been discussing, and attempting to obtain, R & P abstracts the subcontractors located around the country prepare for Washington—those are part of the process as well. Just as taxpaying citizens had no opportunity to testify to the State Department this year, taxpaying citizens have no input in the abstract preparation process either.

Presumably one final check in the system to protect America is the “consultation” with Congress in September of each year.

However, if this year is like all others, our elected representatives in Washington will not lift a finger to question the size and scope of this year’s proposed refugee quota!

And, this could be the year that plans to resettle tens of thousands of Syrians will be announced!

Click here for last year’s Presidential Determination, and here for the lengthy report which was sent to Congress on September 18th last year.  The report begins:

This Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2015: Report to the Congress is submitted in compliance with Sections 207(d)(1) and (e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The Act requires that before the start of the fiscal year and, to the extent possible, at least two weeks prior to consultations on refugee admissions, members of the Committees on the Judiciary of the Senate and the House of Representatives be provided with the following information….

Note that the report goes to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.  Chairmen of the full committees are Bob Goodlatte and Chuck Grassley respectively.  Subcommittee Chairmen responsible for Refugee Resettlement are Trey Gowdy and Jeff Sessions.

Will those chairmen help protect America this year by holding hearings when the Presidential Determination for FY2016 arrives on the Hill which by law should be in about two weeks!  Or, will they (yet again!) simply rubber stamp what Obama wants?
Source: REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT WATCH