The Locker Room

February 16, 2009

Alarmist: "If we're wrong, hallelujah!"

Posted by Paul Chesser at 4:40 PM

As unusual as it has been for global warming alarmists to debate skeptics, I have found it even more rare to find a mainstream news outlet -- anywhere -- to cover the issue surrounding states' global warming commissions (especially North Carolina's) and the Center for Climate Strategies. Well, after traveling all the way to Anchorage a few weeks ago, I finally found a local TV station who was interested in hearing about it: ABC's affiliate, which broadcasts throughout Alaska.

It turned out that I was there (when the station did a report about my concerns) on the day before the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, as it's called up there, was to meet. So after hearing what I had to say, reporter Bob Mallory checked out the meeting to see what CCS and panel members had to say. From his report, where he said a carbon tax was under consideration:

Mallory: As far as scientific debate as to whether global warming is occurring, that's something that won't be happening in these meetings.

CCS facilitator Gloria Flora: I think when you look at Gov. Palin's executive order, and (Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation) Commissioner (Larry) Hartig has made it very clear, that we're not here to debate who did what when, where are these emissions coming from...we know that there is far more carbon and CO2 in the atmosphere.

In a further on-air discussion with anchor Ty Hardt, Mallory explains how the state's contract with CCS (as is the case in every state) forbids any discussion or debate about the science of global warming. And in the written version of the report for the station's Web site, Flora makes this amazing statement:

ABC Alaska News asked Flora, what if the science behind climate change is wrong? Her response: "So what? We've saved money. We've saved resources. We've improved our health. We've improved the environment. So, if we're wrong, hallelujah! You know, we just did a lot of really good things."

To give you a flavor of the Grape Nuts that CCS is hiring to run their state climate commission meetings, YouTube has a short clip of Flora in full-alarmism:


Cross-posted at Cooler Heads.

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Not Just One Czar

Posted by Paul Chesser at 3:51 PM

On Sunday night, it was reported that President Obama is planning to appoint an entire task force to tackle the failing American auto industry, instead of appointing a single “car czar.”  According to certain commentators, the problem is “too big for a single man to handle.”

I don’t really see how anybody finds consolation in the fact that they will have a gang of multiple people overseeing the downfall of the auto industry, rather than just one.  After all, such “czars” (such an autocratic title ascribed to an American official should make anyone shudder) will invariably oversee tightening emissions standards and increased unionization of the Detroit companies.  Such policies will make any recovery of these manufacturers a fantasy.

Instead of having one Robespierre running the show, we’ll have the entire Reign of Terror beheading what’s left of the emaciated American auto industry.  At least with one “car czar,” there would have been only one more bureaucrat on the Federal payroll. 

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Samuelson on Japan and the US

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 3:40 PM

Robert Samuelson looks to Japan, too. He does not comment on the similarity between the current stimulus bill, which President Obama will sign tomorrow, and the stimulus Japan tried. He does, however, comment on Japan's inability to get its inefficient domestic economy on the right path, and so achieve a sustainable recovery.

Since the early 1980s, American economic growth has depended on a steady rise in consumer spending supported by more debt and increasing asset prices (stocks, homes). Just as the mid-1980s signaled the end of Japan's export-led growth, the present U.S. slump signals the end of upbeat, consumption-led growth. But its legacy is an overbuilt and overemployed consumption sector, from car dealers to malls. The question is whether our system is adaptive enough to create new sources of growth to fill the void left by retreating shoppers.

So why does the stimulus bill try to prop up the "overbuilt and overemployed consumption sector" instead of easing the structural transition necessary for future growth? Fiscal policy should be the anesthetic to make reform less painful, not morphine to put off reform.

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When economists agree

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 1:59 PM

Greg Mankiw sent a Valentine to his profession with this list of ideas on which there is broad agreement(75% or higher).

  1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%) [same might apply to bank CEOs]
  2. Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
  3. Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%) [Roy?]
  4. Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%) [big debate on tax cut vs spending increase and how the cuts/increases are implemented]
  5. The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
  6. The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85%)
  7. Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85%)
  8. If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%) [maybe NC could set aside surpluses in the expansion to make up for low tax revenues in the contraction]
  9. The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85%) [Medicare and Medicaid are in even worse shape]
  10. Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84%)
  11. A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy. (83%)
  12. A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers. (79%)
  13. The government should restructure the welfare system along the lines of a “negative income tax.” (79%)
  14. Effluent taxes and marketable pollution permits represent a better approach to pollution control than imposition of pollution ceilings. (78%) [Cap-and-trade is bad]

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Loss in stimulus fight could point toward future success

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:53 PM

You might expect the national president of Americans for Prosperity to be glum after losing a fight over the pork-laden federal stimulus bill.

But Tim Phillips has a positive response to the stimulus fight, one he and his group plan to use as they move on this week to a battle over the Employee Free Choice Act, the infamous card-check or union bullying bill.

Phillips discussed the stimulus bill and the card-check fight during a presentation today to the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Society. Click play below to learn why Phillips is optimistic.

6:30 p.m. update: Watch the entire 46:12 recording by clicking the play button below.

You'll find other John Locke Foundation video presentations here.

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The mistakes in demand-side economics

Posted by George Leef at 1:47 PM

In this enlightening article Robert Murphy explains what's wrong with the demand-side economic theory that Obama has so completely embraced.

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Schlesinger Acknowledges that 80% of IPCC members have no "dealing with climate"

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 1:42 PM

During the question and answer session of last week's William Schlesinger/John Christy global warming debate, Schlesinger was asked how many members of United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were actual climate scientists. It is well known that many if not most of its members are not scientists at all. Its president for example is an economist. This question came after Schlesinger had cited the IPCC as an authority for his position. His answer was quite telling. First he broadened it to include not just climate scientists but also those who have had "some dealing with the climate." His complete answer was that he thought, "something on the order of 20 percent have had some dealing with climate." In other words, even IPCC worshiper William Schlesinger is now acknowledging that 80 percent of the IPCC membership have had absolutely no dealing with the climate as part of their academic studies.

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Re: card check

Posted by George Leef at 1:15 PM

Good work, Daren.

Big Labor is lying about this bill, just as union organizers have been known to lie to workers about the significance of the cards they're asked (or pressured) to sign. Where the card check tactics have been used (that is, in organizing campaigns where the company has been intimidated into signing a "neutrality agreement" which means that it gives up the right to call for an election), there is abundant evidence of harassment and deception being used to get people to sign.

I'm no fan of the National Labor Relations Act (in my view an unconstitutional law that infringes upon the rights of workers and companies both), but at least with an election supervised by the NLRB, the workers get time to hear what the union claims it can do for them, but also counter-arguments by the company and perhaps even by workers who have had bad experiences with unions in the past. Apropos of that point, we have to keep in mind that every year there are numerous union decertification elections in which many workers express their dissatisfaction with "their" union. There are plenty of American workers who regard unions as corrupt, too costly, too political, etc. Under the "card check" procedure, there is no assurance that dissenting voices will have any opportunity to be heard.

That's hardly consistent with the First Amendment values of open debate on matters of legal and political importance, which is one reason why constitutional scholar Richard Epstein has argued that EFCA is unconstitutional.

It speaks very poorly of the moral character of Obama and all the other politicians eager to pass this hideous piece of special interest legislation that they'd sanction a unionizing tactic that tramples on speech and elevates harassment and deception.

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A good historical parallel -- Argentina

Posted by George Leef at 1:04 PM

Here is a good Washington Times piece that draws a very useful parallel between what's been going on in the US and Argentina under the Peron regime.

Under the fascist (or you could say socialist; they're twins) Peron, Argentina was turned from one of the strongest economies in the world to an economic basket case. It was the triumph of the takers over the makers. The Argentine economy has been progressive more feeble ever since.

FDR was our original Peron, but the greater strength of capitalism here allowed for economic revival and considerable growth, although our economic performance would have been much better over the decades if it weren't for the drag of socialistic policies. Obama and his gang are bidding to push us to the point of no return.

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News to annoy Eric Root

Posted by Jon Sanders at 12:59 AM

Headline: "Lincoln ranked best president by historians"

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Tim Phillips LIVE from Shaftesbury

Posted by Jon Ham at 12:09 AM

Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, is speaking at the Monday Shaftesbury Society Luncheon at the John Locke Foundation. You can go here to watch.

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Japan in trouble again

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 11:05 AM

So much for the long-term success of fiscal stimulus.

“This shows how feeble Japan’s economic fundamentals were in the first place,” said Hideo Kumano, chief economist for the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute.

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Comparing effective treatments

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:55 AM

Somewhere in the stimulus bill is the creation of new federal council of 15 wise men and women who will control a $1.1 billion budget to evaluate research and recommend what treatments are effective for medical conditions.

Up to one-third of medical spending provides no value - that's $700 billion. The goal of the comparative effectiveness research panel is to save money for the system as Medicare will likely stop paying for treatments deemed too costly or ineffective. Once Medicare stops, many private insurers will also follow suit. Too bad if it was the only thing that worked for you.

Funny enough, Zagat has recently entered the game of rating doctors. J.D. Power and Associates also reports on health plans, pharmacies, and hospitals. Both of which point to the power of consumers to determine what is comparatively effective for their conditions.

UPDATE: fixed typo, it's $700 Billion with a "b"

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Chris Wallace, just like his old man?

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 10:06 AM

Fox News Sunday used to be a delight with Tony Snow.  Chris Wallace seems to be following in his dad's footsteps.  Yesterday he had two "leading voices in the world of business" on to discuss the stimulus plan: Eric Schmidt CEO of Google and Mark Zandi of Moody's Economy.  In predictable Keynesian language they both defended and supported the plan.  Zandi even said that nearly one trillion dollars was not nearly enough.  Here is my email to Chris:

Come on Chris, why not some real economists on your show to tell the American people the truth about the stimulus plan? You have more than 200 PhD economists to pick from, including several Nobel Laureates, because they signed full-page ads criticizing Obama’s stimulus plan.  Please, no more ringers for the administration. 

See Cato Institute full page ads with 200 real economists who oppose the stimulus plan here.

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Card Check: Employee Free Choice Act

Posted by Daren Bakst at 08:59 AM

I received an email from some group last night complaining about American for Prosperity's statewide efforts today (in Greensboro) and tomorrow (in Raleigh) against the Employee Free Choice Act.  I don't want to mention the organizations because they don't deserve the attention.  They should be embarrassed by the email.

According to the email:

"The Employee Free Choice Act is a straightforward and simple bill, only 3 pages long. Contrary to AFP’s self-serving rhetoric, it does not remove the secret ballot system at all."

Three pages long--wow, maybe they are right, it can't be that bad!

Now the facts:

Under current law, if a union can obtain authorization cards (card check) from 30 percent of a company's workers, then the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) must direct a secret election allowing employees to determine if they want the union.

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) does away with secret elections: If a union can get a majority of the workers to fill out the authorization cards, then the NLRB may not direct an election--the union is automatically formed.

Actual language from the EFCA:

"If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative...the Board [NLRB] shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative..."

Don't trust the actual language of the bill--think I'm tricking you?  Here's the CRS Summary of the bill:

"Amends the National Labor Relations Act to require the National Labor Relations Board to certify a bargaining representative without directing an election if a majority of the bargaining unit employees have authorized designation of the representative (card-check) and there is no other individual or labor organization currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit."

Seems to me, and I admit that I do get influenced by direct and unambiguous language, that the EFCA does away with secret ballots exactly like what has been been claimed by many organizations and experts, including AFP.

I can hear the argument now: But a majority of the workers wanted the union, so what's the big deal if there's no vote?  I don't know, how about some people don't want to be sleeping with the fishes and will do whatever is asked?

From this very helpful Heritage Foundation study in which they cite the AFL-CIO:

"Unions regularly submit publicly signed authorization cards from a large majority of a company's workers only to see the workers reject the union in the privacy of the voting booth.  In a study of organizing campaigns, the AFL-CIO admitted that 'it is not until the union obtains signatures from 75% or more of the unit that the union has more than a 50% likelihood of winning the election.'"

This whole issue is about secret elections and allowing employees to choose for themselves, without fear, whether they want to become a part of a union.  The EFCA is a hilarious name for a bill that restricts free choice--it should be called the Union Imposed Choice Act.

For more information, Professor Richard Epstein has done a new report on the EFCA that looks at the impact of the bill.

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Be careful what you wish for

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:51 AM

People who clamor for a nationalized, taxpayer-funded health care system might think twice after reading Virginia Postrel’s latest article in The Atlantic. Postrel explains how her high-cost battle with cancer might have had a much different result under such a “universal health care” system. She notes:

Looking at the crazy-quilt American system, you might imagine that someone somewhere has figured out how to deliver the best possible health care to everyone, at no charge to patients and minimal cost to the insurer or the public treasury. But nobody has. In a public system, trade-offs don’t go away; if anything, they get harder.

The good thing about a decentralized, largely private system like ours is that health care constantly gets weighed against everything else in the economy. No single authority has to decide whether 15 percent or 20 percent or 25 percent is the “right” amount of GDP to spend on health care, just as no single authority has to decide how much to spend on food or clothing or entertainment. Different individuals and organizations can make different trade-offs. Centralized systems, by contrast, have one health budget. This treatment gets funded, and that one doesn’t.

Those seeking an alternative that would improve the current system ought to consider consumer-driven health care.

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Planning for future military needs

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:49 AM

While reading TIME’s new article about the defense secretary’s assessment of expensive military weapons systems, I thought about a similar critique from a man who helped design the successful surge strategy in Iraq. It would be nice if Robert Gates has read Frederick Kagan’s book.

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TIME jumps on the Keynesian bandwagon

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:48 AM

This forum has noted the uptick in praise for misguided Keynesian ideas.

TIME proves the point with its latest issue, citing the late economist favorably in two articles. First, “Curious Capitalist” Justin Fox writes “Englishman John Maynard Keynes — seemingly the source of every important economic idea these days” in describing the so-called paradox of thrift.

Later, in an article compiling a top 25 list of “people to blame” for the current economic crisis (which I was shocked — shocked! — to discover includes no current Democratic members of Congress) Nancy Gibbs writes “‘Capitalism,’ John Maynard Keynes once argued, ‘is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.’”

That quote alone ought to be enough to convince people that Keynes knew not of what he spoke.

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Accurate information

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:47 AM

If you found interesting Dan Henninger’s theory of the Gresham’s Law of Information, you might appreciate this passage from the latest First Things, in which George Weigel discusses one of the more disturbing trends he detected while observing the 2008 election season:
If morally serious and intelligent debate is the lifeblood of democracy, then accurate information, widely disseminated, serves the same function in democracy as red blood cells do in the human body. Accurate information is the oxygen supply that allows the organs of democracy to perform well. The Framers knew this; that is why they afforded such robust constitutional protections to the press, protections that have been strengthened over time. The American republic cuts the press far more slack than any other stable democracy, precisely because we place such a high value on the free, fair, and accurate flow of information. Thus, when the national media fails to provide accurate information and transforms itself into an organ of instruction, it misconstrues its role and creates imbalances in the constitutional order. This is a serious problem; given the almost certain demise of the mainstream media in its present forms, the problem will likely present itself in new ways in the future, and perhaps even as soon as 2012.

Weigel also details the disturbing nature of Obama idolatry, a topic this forum has addressed.

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Lincoln’s vision of equality

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:45 AM

The latest National Review offers a corrective to those who ascribe liberal — actually, illiberal — ideas to our 16th president.

Allen Guelzo writes:

Lincoln understood that equality of opportunity was not a guarantee of “fairness” of result. “Some will get wealthy,” he conceded, but that was no excuse for class complaint or class warfare. “I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good.” His theory of the ideal economy was one where “the prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his account another while, and at length hire another new beginner to help him.” He never blamed poverty on an unfeeling capitalist machine, nor, for that matter, did he try to wear the poverty of his youth as a badge of pride.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:41 AM

The week's first Carolina Journal Online exclusive features David Bass' report about nonprofit groups lining up for the federal "neighborhood stabilization" funds tied to Washington's stimulus package.

Speaking of the stimulus bill, John Hood's Daily Journal explains why it's "one of the most expensive, dangerous, and injurious pieces of legislation in the history of the American republic."

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