"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Thomas Jefferson

Our Era of Reputational Beheadings

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 4
Publish Date: 
Thu, 04/23/2015


Fleeing East Africa for Italy in a rickety rescue boat, 15 Christian asylum seekers were thrown to their deaths last week by fellow refugees because they weren’t praying to Allah. 


We’re shocked by reports of innocents murdered for their beliefs, and orange-jump-suited victims marching to their deaths because, as Americans, we’re safe from such persecution.


Our freedoms evolved in part from an infamous, hysteria-induced episode in 17-century Puritan Massachusetts where anyone suspected of witchcraft was persecuted. The Salem witch trials became a cautionary tale about the dangers of false accusations and contempt for due process, and an allegory for the anti-Communist “witch-hunts” led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s.


While heads don’t literally roll in America, the reputations of those refusing to Think Again often do, the result of character assassinations that corrode our civil society.


Witness the defamatory antics of Sen. Harry Reid while Senate majority leader. Like McCarthy, Reid regularly hurled false accusations at adversaries, including his 2012 election-year claim that Mitt Romney “hasn’t paid taxes for ten years.”  Asked recently if he regretted his charge, the man entrusted with leading the world’s greatest deliberative body crowed, “Romney didn’t win, did he?”


Accused of having “no sense of decency,” McCarthy’s recklessness was eventually halted and the Senate later censured him. However, Reid was not censured. Neither was Sen. Edward Kennedy, who notoriously smothered in its crib the 1987 Supreme Court nomination of eminent jurist Robert Bork – called highly qualified by Sen. Joe Biden before he joined Kennedy in reputationally beheading the judge.  


Explaining later why Bork needed to be cast as the devil, anti-Bork activist Ann Lewis acknowledged that an open debate “would have deep and thoughtful discussions about the Constitution, and then we would lose.” Hence, Kennedy’s outrageous claim that in Bork’s America, “women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters.”


New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote, “the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.”  Toxic political discourse is now standard, as dissenters are isolated, scorned and even silenced. To paraphrase George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” these days it’s hard to tell man from pig.


For example, those who believed Police Officer Darren Wilson didn’t kill Ferguson teenager Michael Brown while Brown had his hands up -- a myth discredited by the Justice Department – were labeled racists.  


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears less esteemed by the Obama administration than Iran’s “Death to America”-spewing Ayatollah -- and is persona non grata at the White House for doubting the emerging Iranian nuclear deal.


To oppose the coerced participation of service providers in same-sex weddings is deemed anti-gay, the label attached to former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who lost his job last year for believing that marriage is between a man and a woman.


Righteously indignant at the purging of dissidents, gay-marriage advocate Andrew Sullivan said, "If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us."


With dissident scientists in their crosshairs, environmental bullies Rep. Raul Grijalva and Sen. Edward Markey are also threating free speech -- and academic freedom and scientific inquiry. Their witch-hunt has already bagged Professor Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado.


Despite supporting policies to combat climate change, Pielke’s offense was finding no increase in extreme weather due to global warming, a conclusion endorsed by the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change. “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt,” he said after deciding to abandon climate research.


As a columnist, I’m a target for vilification that attempts to escort contrarians from polite society. I’ve been branded a bigot for applying Abraham Lincoln’s “absence of malice” vision to our culture’s civil wars; an extremist and warmonger for asking, “Why coexist with a mortal Iranian threat?” and an elitist leech for decrying our economy’s uneven playing field, warped by cronyism. For breaking with “settled science” orthodoxy, pitchforked prosecutors urged my editors to censor me.


Though I crave more reasoned debate that illuminates, even unifies, I recognize that my detractors’ right to unconstructive criticism is the flip side of my right to free expression. Individual liberty is the reason my persecuted grandparents came to America in a wave of huddled masses, not unlike those crossing dangerous seas today.


Though jeopardized, the open, diverse and vibrant society we’ve become is the source of America’s creativity, prosperity, generosity… and decency. We’re still the greatest continuing experiment in human history, founded on the unique idea that people from different places with differing backgrounds and values could forge a civilized and free nation. It’s an idea that all Americans have a responsibility to sustain.

Think Again - to preserve our decency and vitality, people don’t need to change their minds, just open them.

The Archie Bunkers of Settled Science

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 18
Publish Date: 
Thu, 10/09/2014


As if on cue, settled-science believer Auden Schendler delivered a punishing retort in the Aspen Times to my recent column, “Inconvenient Truths Denied By Climate Faithful.”


Archie Bunker-like in frustration, Schendler wants me to stifle myself. If I don’t “dummy up” like Archie’s wife Edith, he suggests Aspen Times editors Think Again before publishing my commentary without peer-reviews -- or risk “being complicit in promoting falsehoods.”


Schendler calls this “ground-truthing of scientific claims,” noting the Los Angeles Times doesn’t publish pieces that “deny established climate science.” Like Robert Kennedy Jr. who recently called for jailing treasonous nonconformists who break with “settled-science” orthodoxy, Schendler insists it’s not censorship when there’s no argument.


My crime – tantamount to “yelling ‘fire’ in a movie theater” – is considering climate change “a naturally reoccurring phenomenon to which mankind has always adapted, and still can.” Apparently, I can’t acknowledge earth’s warming and ice-age cycles without embracing political agendas that require living standard cuts -- lifestyle sacrifices activists won’t acknowledge and elites like Kennedy, Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio won’t obey.


Resisting cataclysmic theorizers and their “starve the peasants to save the pheasants” thinking, I criticized alarmists who “invoke the moral equivalent of Holocaust denial to reject those deeming climate change less dangerous than other threats.” I did so believing an economically robust and energy-secure America is the ultimate threat-deterrent.


Today I’d add to my threat list the failure of public institutions to protect and serve Americans, considering recent incompetence, corruption and unaccountability in government agencies – those Schendler wants to grant unprecedented powers to centrally plan and control economic life.


Though denounced by climate “groupthinkers,” dissidents like me are troubled by “the stunning failure of…doomsday-predicting models to forecast warming’s nearly 18-year pause (confirmed by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) or Al Gore’s 2007 prediction that polar bears’ Arctic habitat would be ice-free by 2013.”


These irrefutable observations riled Schendler. Accusing me of “cherry-picking data,” he contends I’m “willfully blind or statistically illiterate to claim warming has stopped.” Citing a Politifact article to support his contention, he apparently overlooked the fact-checker’s concession that “over roughly the past 15 years, global surface temperatures have plateaued.” 


So who’s the “meathead,” considering widespread acceptance of unexpected global temperature stability, and the existence of more Arctic ice than in 2007 – never mind record Antarctic ice levels?


As if answering this question, President Obama’s former Undersecretary of Energy Steve Koonin wrote a consensus-disrupting op-ed -- “Climate science is not settled.”  Lamenting how the settled-science claim “demeans and chills the scientific enterprise” and distorts “policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment,” Koonin argues “we are very far from the knowledge needed to make good climate policy.”


Noting warming’s pause amid rising CO2 emissions, Koonin posits, “natural influences and variability are powerful enough to counteract the present warming influence exerted by human activity.” Despite “different explanations for this [prediction] failure … the whole episode,” he concludes, “continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.”


IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth admitted this in one of the embarrassing emails leaked in the “Climategate” scandal of 2009. “The fact is,” he wrote, “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty.” 


Probing the disconnect between observed temperatures and predictions, the Economist asked, “Who pressed the pause button?” in a March 2014 global warming article. Because “the models embody the state of climate knowledge,” they concluded, “if they are wrong, the knowledge is probably faulty, too.”


Even the LA Times broke with the climate consensus, reporting last month “naturally occurring changes in winds, not human-caused climate change, are responsible for most of the warming on land and in the sea along the West Coast of North America over the last century.”


Meanwhile, amid calls to stifle climate debates, technological breakthroughs have made America the world’s most energy-endowed nation, possessing more oil than Saudi Arabia and more natural gas than Russia. 


In substituting lower-carbon resources for coal, we’ve hit the energy jackpot: cheaper energy (a rebate for the poor and an offset of foreign manufacturers’ cheap labor advantages); cleaner air; new jobs; increased governmental revenues; greater energy independence; and CO2 emissions at a 20-year low, outpacing Europe whose expensive renewable-energy strategies have failed.


Despite these advantages, activists refusing to moderate their climate conclusions – no matter the evidence -- rally to curb the development of our cheapest energy resources, denying citizens who can’t afford Whole Foods environmentalism the benefits of our energy bounty.


Unfortunately, except for the rich, Americans are suffering crisis levels of income stagnation, underemployment, economic immobility and poverty. These truths -- not doomsday predictions -- preoccupy Americans.


Think Again – Climate-mongers intent on squashing free inquiry and expression insist dissenters are “dead from the neck up,” Archie Bunker-style.  But being “meatheads” is not our destiny, if we refuse to stifle ourselves.


Inconvenient Truths Denied By Climate Faithful

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 18
Publish Date: 
Thu, 09/11/2014


At the tumultuous summer’s close, when throat-slashing, genocidal jihadists and economic malaise dominated headlines and our psyches, Hillary Clinton announced her preoccupation.


"Climate change is the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face," she proclaimed, adding, “no matter what the deniers try to assert” -- thus dismissing from polite society those inclined to Think Again about America’s greatest concerns.


Like Clinton, members of the “Church of Settled Science” invoke the moral equivalent of Holocaust denial to reject those deeming climate change less dangerous than other threats, like the Islamic State, a nuclear Iran, a debt-laden stagnant economy, or record levels of poverty.


Their Church gospel considers it “anti-science” to believe climate change is a naturally reoccurring phenomenon to which mankind has always adapted, and still can. After all, as Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore said before congress, because “frost and ice are the enemies of life…. a warmer temperature than today’s would be far better than a cooler one.”


Nevertheless, it’s an excommunicable sin to oppose tax and regulatory policies that would barely limit global emissions but would increase economy-wide prices, retard economies, and reduce standards of living -- disproportionately among the poor.


According to their dogma, it’s blasphemous to oppose giving unaccountable bureaucrats (in the EPA or internationally) unprecedented power to centrally plan and control economic life, without even a vote of Congress.


That’s because the faithful overlook the stunning failure of their doomsday-predicting models to forecast warming’s nearly 18-year pause (confirmed by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), or Al Gore’s 2007 prediction that polar bears’ Arctic habitat would be ice-free by 2013.


Thankfully for children fearing polar bear extinction, current satellite readings by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center reveal Arctic ice larger than when Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his global warming activism -- an Alaska-sized expansion since 2012.


Clearly scientists don’t yet understand the relationship between rising CO2 levels and global warming -- now conveniently called climate change, rendering all planetary events explainable by a theory whose falsification is impossible.


Unfortunately, the skepticism required for scientific discovery is now punished, as MIT professor of atmospheric physics Richard Lindzen described. “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse,” he wrote. “Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.”


Today, skepticism is synonymous with greed and immorality to Church adherents who bask in the influence and profits they derive from sermonizing and policy advocacy. Yet, they ignore the “inconvenient truth” that their policies adversely impact the lifestyles of the budget conscience.


So, who are the heretics?


Are they alarmists intent on circumventing scientific inquiry and the free and open debate on which national consensus in a pluralistic democracy depends, or skeptics “not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead,” as Thomas Jefferson encouraged?


“It is error alone which needs the support of government,” Jefferson believed, because “truth can stand by itself.”


In his Farewell Address noteworthy for military-industrial-complex warnings, President Eisenhower articulated the modern version of Jefferson’s concern. “A government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity,” he said, and “the prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”


The modern era is awash in government–abetted tragedies precipitated by theories claiming to advance the human condition but which, in fact, involved anti-poor and anti-progress policies. Thomas Malthus’ theory that population would always outstrip resources justified 19th-century British tax and regulatory policies to constrain human aspirations. The result was poverty-induced famine in Ireland and India, and 20 million victims.


Ensuing in the 20th-century were even more deadly policies – derived from Malthusian-based eugenics and resource depletion theories -- proving Jefferson’s observation that “even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”


Malthus’ theories are as wrong as they are immoral. Since his time, world population grew seven-fold as well-being (world GDP per capita) grew 50-fold, thanks to human ingenuity and economic freedom.


Today, life-enhancing devices unimaginable to Malthus – refrigerators, phones, air-conditioning, cars, and televisions -- are commonplace, except among the poorest.  Why decrease their affordability by increasing the cost of the energy required to make, distribute and run them?


The truth is, affordable energy and the economic growth and well-being it enables are the keys to addressing our greatest concerns, including the environment, joblessness, poverty, and indebtedness – even terrorism. 


Think Again – To pass a secure, prosperous and clean world to future generations, shouldn’t we encourage – not constrain -- the scientific inquiry that informs and unleashes boundless human creativity?


Opposing Lawlessness, At Home and Abroad

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 9
Publish Date: 
Sun, 03/23/2014


Since Teddy Roosevelt counseled, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” U.S. presidents have mostly followed his advice, cautioning adversaries to resolve conflicts peacefully or suffer consequences. 


Even President Carter brandished America’s big stick upon learning that bad things happen when you’re not respected, prompting him to Think Again about deterrence given “the Soviets’ ultimate goals.” 


But today, after unilaterally “resetting” relations with repressive regimes including Iran and Russia -- whose Ukraine incursion is “the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War',” proclaimed NATO’s chief – America’s posture is more akin to “speak imprudently and carry a toothpick.”  


By not anticipating and mitigating gathering threats or adhering to our peace-through-strength tradition, America now “leads from behind.” We neither back good actors nor punish bad, nor are we perceived as tough and reliable enough to deter menacing behavior, rendering us “harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend,” as Princeton scholar Bernard Lewis feared.


Conversely, on the domestic front, President Obama speaks powerfully and wields a bludgeon – a pen, a phone and a pledge to circumvent Congress by unilaterally re-writing, ignoring or negating laws he is constitutionally bound to “faithfully execute.”


Testifying before Congress on accumulating separation of powers violations, constitutional law professor and Obama voter Jonathan Turley warned that Obama is “not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system, he’s becoming the very danger the Constitution was designed to avoid -- the concentration of power in any single branch.”


To assert its branch’s authority, the House passed legislation providing legal recourse when the Executive Branch disregards the law, provoking a veto threat despite remedying the power abuses for which then-Senator Obama lambasted President Bush.


Meanwhile, though Obama declared Washington a negotiation-free zone on spending and debt issues, ruthless dictators like Syria’s Bashar Assad and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani are acceptable negotiating partners whose interests we’ve accommodated, distressing our allies.


Consider Ukraine, which exchanged its nuclear weapons in 1994 for assurances its sovereignty and borders would be respected. Post-Russian invasion, what prevents militarily insecure countries like Ukraine from pursuing nuclear weapons, never mind aggressive ones like Iran?


American “redlines” to limit bad behavior now signal the point at which we give up, devaluing our credibility, while bolstering adversaries. Though a valuable escape-hatch for ill-conceived redlines, accepting Vladimir Putin’s offer to oversee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stabilized mass-murderer Assad and elevated Putin’s stature -- and boldness.


In this power vacuum, Putin commands influence disproportionate to Russia’s economic strength, as did pre-WWII Japan and Germany whose playbook he follows. He claims the right to use “any means” necessary to protect Russian minorities from “extremists,” even insinuating “do as I say, or Iran gets a nuke.”


Seeking to unite Slavic peoples by repackaging the Soviet Union -- whose collapse he called the 20th Century’s “greatest calamity” -- Putin laments that millions no longer live miserably behind the Iron Curtain.  His greatest threat is the allure of freedom in stable and prosperous countries that respect the rule-of-law and human rights.


As if foretelling this crisis in a 2009 Moscow speech, Obama declared “state sovereignty must be a cornerstone of international order,” arguing “a great power doesn’t show strength by dominating or demonizing other countries.”


But given Russian aggression and America’s widely ridiculed response – called a “slap on the wrist” by the Washington Post editorial board – whose authority is more respected, America’s or Russia’s?


Calling Obama’s foreign policy “based on fantasy,” the Post argued it centers more "on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality.”  In fact, the tide of war isn’t receding because 21st century behavior -- invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances – mirrors prior-century behavior.


Deterring tyrants like Putin, the Post contended, requires getting “ahead of him in adopting measures that inflict real pain, rather than waiting to react to his next act of aggression.” 


Such measures include: providing defensive weapons to Ukraine; reinstating European-based missile-defense, canceled to appease Putin; renouncing the 2010 arms-reduction treaty favoring Russia; and hurting Russia’s wallet and energy sector by restricting credit and approving measures to develop and export North America’s natural gas bounty.


The best retaliation is a strong, free and prosperous America, one that protects liberty by preserving our framers’ system of separated powers and dispersed authority – history’s most successful political experiment.


To imagine the world without America -- and appreciate our founders’ fear of concentrated and unchecked power -- examine Putin’s Russia whose nascent democracy was destroyed by constitutional changes granting him more authority.


Voters opposed to authoritarian governments with rubber-stamp legislatures – and their lawlessness – must stop the assault on America’s uniquely calibrated political system by speaking loudly, and badgering politicians with big electoral sticks.  


Think Again -- Isn’t it our obligation to remain a “government of laws, not of men” so future generations can inherit a secure and strong America?

In Discerning Frack From Fiction, What's Relevant?

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 11
Publish Date: 
Thu, 03/14/2013


Last week political, media and celebrity worlds converged to produce headlines worthy of “News of the Weird.” Sean Penn eulogized anti-American strongman Hugo Chavez as “a friend [America] never knew it had,” while Dennis Rodman declared North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “an awesome guy.” Upon returning from the starving gulag-state, Rodman scored a coveted Sunday interview with George Stephanopoulos and CNN declared him a “diplomatic triumph.”


But perhaps the most captivating cause célèbre -- likely to transform advocates into media and campus darlings -- is the crusade to halt the drilling innovation called hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). However, if you expect those aspiring to star in the next “China Syndrome” to possess more scruples than Rodman or Penn, Think Again. Though fracking has opened up vast reserves of clean, cheap, and reliable natural gas in shale-rock deep underground, making America the world’s largest natural gas producer, it’s a bête noire to enviro-stars like Matt Damon.


In his new movie “Promised Land,” Damon doubled down on alarming claims made in Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland,” even copying the signature scene of a man lighting tap water on fire. Wanting another environmental blockbuster like “The China Syndrome” -- whose release days before Three Mile Island’s near meltdown devastated the nuclear power industry -- Damon aimed to stoke natural gas fears. However, not only has mass hysteria not materialized, his film is a box-office and financial bust for investors, including oil-rich United Arab Emirates.


Damon’s conceit derives from the frenzy generated by “Gasland’s” Fox, who claims fracking causes “toxic streams, ruined aquifers, dying livestock, shocking illnesses and tap water that bursts into flames.” Media jumped on the anti-natural gas bandwagon, including the New York Times, prompting its ombudsman to twice rebuke Times’ editors and staff for biased reporting and questionable ethics.


Meanwhile, aware that “natural” gas occurs naturally in water where there’s methane-rich soil (like Burning Springs, New York) and of stories about George Washington lighting water on fire, former Financial Times reporter Phelim McAleer started an 18-month investigation to uncover the truth about fracking and “Gasland’s” startling allegations.


His just released documentary ”Fracknation” was financed on-line with donations averaging $64 and has won plaudits for exposing enviro-hucksters while championing their victims: Variety called it “a well-reasoned film…. [that] makes a good case against Fox’s movie,” and the New York Times said it’s “no tossed-off, pro-business pamphlet” but “methodically researched and assembled.” 


Its pivotal scene is of McAleer questioning Fox at a 2011 screening of “Gasland”  about his famous flaming faucets. “Isn’t it true,” McAleer asks, “there’s reports, decades before fracking started, that there was methane in the water there?” Aware of these scientific studies, and galled by the question’s ethical implications, Fox declares contradictory evidence “not relevant,” as if documentarians enjoy the same dramatic license as fictional filmmakers.


But if facts and scientific proof aren’t relevant, what is?  Are Fox and Damon intent on reverse-engineering arguments from pre-ordained conclusions, or informing the public? As with all types of energy production, fracking involves legitimate risks; why not focus on assuring regulatory best practices?


The truth is technological innovations like fracking have spawned an energy boom, enabling both economic and environmental improvements including: the substitution of low-carbon gas for coal; cheaper energy (a rebate for the poor); cleaner air; new energy jobs; increased governmental revenues; greater energy independence; a drop in U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions to a 20-year low, outpacing Europe whose expensive renewable-energy strategies have underperformed; and improved energy efficiency -- it takes 50 percent less energy to produce one dollar of economic output than it did in 1980.


Anti-frackers should learn John Meynard Keynes' lesson: “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions.” What’s irrefutably relevant is that fracking has succeeded where renewable-energy subsidies, government stimulus, and climate treaties have failed, potentially enabling cheap American energy to eventually offset China’s cheap labor advantage.


These upside surprises come when entrepreneurial thinkers “dream things that never were and say ‘why not’,” as Robert Kennedy famously said.  One dreamer, biologist Allan Savory, spoke at TED2013 of his odyssey to reverse global desertification, which degrades the land’s ability to absorb water and carbon causing famine, war and climate change. Savory described how he challenged his assumptions – ones that led him to mistakenly recommend killing 40,000 African elephants -- and centuries of conventional wisdom, deriving a counter-intuitive low-tech strategy to use grazing livestock to reclaim the land. At first he met bruising academic scorn, then astonishing and indisputable success.


Savory predicts his soil restoration strategy, if employed on half the available land, will enable enough carbon absorption to return to pre-industrial carbon-dioxide levels. Drawing a standing ovation he said, “I can think of almost nothing that offers more hope for our planet, for our children, for their children, and for all of humanity.”


Think Again – Aren’t the real celebrities innovators who solve seemingly intractable problems, not eco-stars who peddle fiction?

Restoring the Last Best Hope of Earth

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 8
Publish Date: 
Thu, 10/25/2012


During the Civil War when the union’s preservation and slavery’s abolition were in doubt, President Lincoln roused the nation with his dream “of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” In rekindling our Founders’ vision, Lincoln helped assure that America would become the freest and most prosperous nation on earth, a status successive US presidents have dutifully maintained, or they were cast aside by voters.


As Americans Think Again about President Obama, consider that no president has won re-election amid such economic stagnation, declining incomes, high gas prices and business pessimism.  Living astonishingly beyond our means and more indebted than any other nation in world history, Americans face a reduced standard of living, diminished opportunities for our children, and a weakened capacity to secure our national interests in a menacing world.


After trillions in fiscal and monetary stimulus, the 39-month old economic recovery has one-seventh the GDP growth rate of the Reagan recovery in which double-digit inflation and interest rates were also slain. With 261,000 fewer jobs today than January 2009 (despite population growth of 9 million), exploding poverty, government dependency, and income inequality imperil Lincoln’s dream.


During the economic turmoil of 2008, Obama sounded Lincoln-esque, promising to “provide good jobs to the jobless…secure our nation and restore our image as the last best hope on Earth.”  But unlike Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton who understood the benefits of economic growth policies – more and better jobs, larger paychecks, growing tax revenues without tax rate increases, and deficit and debt mitigation -- Obama doubled down on government-centric and budget-busting policies. 


Having inherited a government moving in the wrong direction on bailouts, spending, deficits and debt accumulation, Obama floored the gas. Though critical of Bush’s $4 trillion in accumulated debt and vowing to halve the annual deficit by now, Obama has run four successive trillion-dollar deficits – each nearly triple Bush’s average -- while increasing debt nearly $6 trillion to a sum ($16.1 trillion) that exceeds the US economy.  Historically, America’s economy has grown faster than its debt -- until Obama, under whom debt is growing $2.50 for every dollar of GDP growth.


With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, manditory expenditures for Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid are exploding, consuming more annually than the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and TARP bailouts.  Rather than address the looming entitlement crisis, Obama’s budget projects massive deficits and $20 trillion in debt by the end of his second term. So fiscally irresponsible, not one member of Congress -- not even a single Democrat -- has voted to approve either of Obama’s last two annual budgets.


Meanwhile, with Democrats in complete control of Congress through January 2011, Obama’s signature legislative “reforms” – Obamacare and Dodd-Frank – ignored Republican solutions, and imposed thousands of complex regulations and new taxes on the private economy, nearly paralyzing job creation and economic growth.


Though sold as “Wall Street reform”, Dodd-Frank makes bailouts more likely by designating selected banks “too-big-to-fail” and failing to reform the financial crisis’ real culprits -- housing-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With smaller banks competitively disadvantaged, lending is down, consumer prices are up, and expensive consultants, like the former chiefs-of-staff to both Dodd and Frank, are in demand.


Neither is Obamacare meeting its promises. Insurance premiums are up $2,500 and according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Obamacare will cost nearly twice its original estimate, leave 30 million Americans uninsured, and cause 20 million people to lose their employer-provided health insurance. Additionally, it imposes 20 new taxes on families and small businesses and incentivizes employers to hire part-time instead of full-time workers.


Thanks to recent technological breakthroughs, America is now the most energy-endowed nation in the world.  Allowing the responsible development of our resources would generate millions of jobs while turbo-charging the economy and revitalizing distressed communities. Yet despite promising an “all-of-the-above” energy policy while investing $90 billion in uncompetitive green energy companies, Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline and reduced drilling permits on public lands by 36 percent, compared to increases of 116 and 58 percent under Bush and Clinton, respectively.


Meanwhile, GDP growth slumped to 1.3 percent in the second quarter, but Obama proposes to increase tax rates on “millionaires and billionaires” (individuals and small businesses making over $250,000) to promote fairness, after opposing them in 2010 when the economy was growing at twice its current rate. But how can it be fair to implement a policy that the CBO considers economically injurious and would yield only enough revenue to fund 8.5 days of government spending? Given Obama’s track record, how could another four years of the same policies result in enough economic growth to overcome our economic challenges?


Mindful of these challenges and eager to diffuse the debt bomb while preserving entitlement programs for future generations, Governor Romney proposes to expand the private economy with spending, regulatory, tax and entitlement reforms reminiscent of those enacted by Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton – modern America’s most successful economic stewards.  Romney proposes to cut tax rates by 20 percent for all Americans while maintaining the same share of taxes paid by the wealthy. But unlike Bush, he’ll pay for them by eliminating expensive loopholes only accessible to wealthy individuals and companies like GE.


Divided as we were during the Civil War, Americans long to be unified by a leader, like Lincoln, committed to expanding liberty and increasing individual opportunity -- the source of human flourishing and America’s promise.


Think Again – only by restoring these cultural bulwarks can we pass our children a strong America, and remain the last best hope of earth.



The Green Wizard: Natural Gas Not Renewables

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 5
Publish Date: 
Thu, 05/10/2012


As if accompanying Dorothy en route to the Emerald City of Oz, Americans seek a green wizard to fulfill our hearts’ desires -- a world powered by renewable energies like solar, wind and bio-fuels.  Bedazzled by Glenda the Good Witch’s solar-powered ruby slippers, we want the green-brick-road to lead us to a cleaner energy future. 

However, without Auntie Em to awaken us to reality, Americans must Think Again. Though cast as the Wicked Witch of the West, over the last decade the conventional energy industry has revolutionized America’s energy outlook.  Today we’re the most energy-endowed nation in the world, with enough clean, reliable, abundant, and cheap natural gas to last for generations. 

It’s “like adding another Venezuela or Kuwait by 2020”, according to Pulitzer-prize winning energy expert Daniel Yergin who believes the world energy map now centers on North America, not the Middle East. Energy consultant Wood Mackenzie estimates that tapping new reserves would generate one million jobs by 2018 and generate $803 billion in governmental revenue through 2030. Additionally, these new extraction technologies require far fewer wells, though they present fresh environmental challenges that several states (including Colorado) have addressed with new regulations to protect the environment and secure water supplies. 

Thus, rather than crucify the conventional energy industry, we should celebrate the entrepreneurialism and technological ingenuity that’s enabled the US to become a net energy exporter for the first time since 1949. The government need only permit development of new reserves -- not subsidize -- to further American energy independence, fuel our vehicles, lower energy costs and reap economic gains.

Meanwhile, promoters of green energy policies continue to argue that “investments” in renewable energies are environmental and job-creation boons for America, though our journey along the green-brick-road proves otherwise. Whether evaluating wind power in tornado-swept Kansas or solar energy in sunny California, renewable technologies are woefully uneconomical, wickedly unreliable and surprisingly unsound environmentally.

It’s understandable Americans dream green, considering we were told in 2008 that by investing $150 billion over the next decade in renewable energies, we’d reap five million new jobs.  But as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers noted, “The government is a crappy venture capitalist”.  That’s because lobbying prowess and political viability outweigh economic viability when government picks winners and losers. 

After “investing” $110 billion since 2009, the sector is littered with taxpayer backed, bankrupt companies like Solyndra, Beacon Power, and Ener1, all of which paid bonuses before going under. Reuters reported last month “the wind industry… has shed 10,000 jobs since 2009 even as the energy capacity of wind farms has nearly doubled”… while the demonized “oil and gas industry added 75,000 jobs.”

The truth is, industries that aren’t economically viable don’t create real jobs, and those that are viable, don’t need subsidies. Plagued by competitive disadvantages like sun and wind intermittency, and expensive land, capital, transmission and backup capacity, these technologies are uncompetitive, small market players and remain subsidy-dependent.

Despite receiving 53.5 percent of federal financial support for the electric power sector, wind and solar supply only four percent of US power at a cost 100-300 percent more than conventional sources, according to the Energy Information Administration. A University of Wyoming study notes that because green policies increase prices, the “economic benefits derived from building renewable energy facilities in the short-run are more than offset by losses in economic output and employment”, thus hurting the poorest and most vulnerable.

Additionally, given renewables’ green patina, many don’t appreciate their adverse environmental impacts beyond the eyesore, noise, water usage, and wildlife destruction. Called “energy sprawl” by the Nature Conservancy, renewable energies require vastly more land while producing significantly less energy than conventional energy.  Most disconcerting, their incurable intermittency requires utilities to rely on conventional power to cycle up when there’s no wind or sun, and power down when there is, thus diminishing carbon reduction advantages.

If policymakers weren’t brainless scarecrows, cowardly lions and heartless tin men, they’d adopt Bill Gates’ proposition that cheap energy is “a fantastic vaccine” for the economy.  That’s what Americans deserve – a booster shot to deliver authentic solutions, real jobs and genuine economic growth. Moving beyond fossil fuels will happen eventually when superior and affordable energies are scaled for mass use.

Energy development isn’t a zero sum game, as the Wyoming study concludes: “Environmentally responsible development of fossil fuel resources could be complementary with renewable energy development, creating jobs and generating tax revenues to ensure a robust economy capable of creating and funding innovative renewable energy technologies of the future.”

Given our economic straits and the remoteness of the green dream, the underlying question is how much more are Americans willing to pay to harness wind and sun. Isn’t it time to demand that our leaders propose energy solutions based not on ideology but on how to best guarantee prosperity for generations of Americans?   

Think Again – a secure, affordable and environmentally sound energy future is not over the rainbow.


The problem isn't GE, it's you and me

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 0
Publish Date: 
Thu, 04/28/2011

Even with Tax Day in the rear-view mirror, many are still agog that General Electric is paying hardly any corporate income taxes, despite reporting a profit of $14.2 billion. As though GE hit the jackpot, many politicians claim to be shocked, shocked that gambling is going on here!

Lest you think Corporate America is at it again, sticking it to the little guy, please Think Again. While it's cathartic to rail against multi-nationals that legally finagle lower tax burdens, doing so misses the real culprits. If you want to censure someone for shipping jobs and capital overseas, blame our elected leaders who made the rules.

The problem isn't that companies exercise their fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder profits through creative tax avoidance. That's the symptom. The cause is the political system that incentivizes GE to conduct its business in a way that is detrimental. One should read the story of GE as a cautionary tale of perverse incentives and adverse consequences caused by intrusive government.

Whenever government intervenes in the economy, it rarely considers the law of unintended consequences, which warns that many of our problems derive from solutions to other problems we face. Well-intended policies can hurt those they were designed to help. Trade protectionism increases prices and weakens economic growth; welfare provokes dependency; and policies that deem banks “too big to fail” lead to moral hazards, and more bail-outs.

So, considering that U.S. corporate tax rates are among the highest in the world, it shouldn't surprise when U.S. corporations move operations, jobs and profits to countries with lower tax rates. Since 2002, GE eliminated 20 percent of its U.S. workforce while increasing accumulated off-shore profits from $15 billion to $92 billion.

California, previously a bastion of entrepreneurialism, opportunity and prosperity, is suffering because of high state tax rates, onerous regulations and adverse labor arrangements. According to Chief Executive Magazine, California is the worst state in America for job and business growth, which is why its unemployment rate is one-third higher than the national average as companies abandon California at a rate of 4.7 per week.

But the biggest reason for GE's negligible income tax bill is its “striking ability to lobby for, win and take advantage of tax breaks,” as noted by The New York Times. Last year alone, GE spent $39 million (that's $73,000 for each U.S. representative and senator) lobbying Congress for billions in tax breaks.

It's “crony capitalism,” not a free market, when government favors the politically connected — whether big business or big labor. This isn't the limited government our Founders crafted to secure our inalienable rights. They purposefully circumscribed (and enumerated) the powers and authority of the federal government in order to reflect the will of the people, not powerful elites. We severed ties with that other type of government on July 4, 1776.

Our Founders would be distressed today, for when our government tinkers, or worse, commands the free market, it creates dangerous conflicts of interest and moral hazards — Petri dishes for adverse consequences. Why did Wall Street banks make and sell synthetic sub-prime loans that ultimately helped precipitate the financial crisis? Because federal housing policies and government-sponsored entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac spawned a seemingly profitable market in loans to people with bad credit.

Though increasing home ownership was a worthy goal, our elected leaders ignored the risks (and their duties) in order to cater to the housing and finance lobbies. Crony capitalism jeopardizes our economic futures because elected officials are motivated to govern in a way that is best for those who got them elected. This unholy alliance between politicians and their patrons undermines everyone's economic security because today's winners can be tomorrow's losers, depending on the political favors due.

Al Gore admirably conceded conflicts of interest when he announced he no longer supported corn-ethanol saying, “I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.” If only elected leaders would abandon crony capitalism, it would bolster the free-enterprise system and the common good.

But first we need to abandon our unrealistic expectations of government. Next time you hear a politician exclaim, “Vote for us for free ice cream,” I hope you'll Think Again. Assume the ice cream has never been free, has actually cost us a fortune, and eating it in excess has caused our dangerously unhealthy state.

If we stop expecting government to solve all problems and meet our every need, political incentives will change. Then, not only will government serve us better, our democracy and economy will be better served.


As economy tanks, leadership runs on empty

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 1
Publish Date: 
Thu, 06/09/2011

Vice President Hubert Humphrey said, “To err is human, to blame it on someone else is politics.” As predictable as the sunrise, when gasoline prices increase, politicians wax indignant, cast blame and threaten U.S. oil companies with increased taxes and investigations into market manipulation.

Gasoline prices have accelerated past $4 per gallon, so denouncing and punishing oil companies for the 35 percent annual increase may feel cathartic. It's instantly gratifying to blame high prices on those who charge them, rather than on those who cause them, especially since higher gas prices disproportionately hurt the poor, dampen consumer spending and weaken the U.S. economy.

However, I urge you to Think Again. The truth is that U.S. oil companies are no more to blame for high gas prices than Zale's is to blame for high gold prices. Americans have the right to know the truth, and our elected leaders must speak the truth — that a weak dollar and supply-and-demand disequilibrium in the global oil markets are principally responsible for increasing gasoline prices.

Instead, lawmakers explain economic misfortune as the consequence not of bad policies, but of evildoers gaming the system, while they identify a group rich and unpopular enough to look the part. Politicians are like magician David Copperfield. They expertly distract with one hand so we don't notice what the other is doing. They've scored political points by accusing “Big Oil” of “price gouging,” reaping “windfall profits,” and not paying their “fair share” of taxes.

However popular, this narrative has no basis in fact or economic logic. With an effective income-tax rate of 43 percent (from 2006-2010), U.S. oil companies were actually the most heavily taxed of all Fortune 500 companies (whose effective tax rates averaged 27 percent). Compare that to the rates paid by GE (9 percent), Pfizer (15 percent), and both Verizon and Coca Cola (21 percent), and the argument that major oil companies are under-taxed evaporates.

If Big Oil's profits were exorbitant, they'd earn more than other U.S. companies, right? In fact, 2010 U.S. oil industry profits per dollar of sales were six cents compared to nine cents for manufacturing companies, 17 cents for computers and 22 cents for beverage and tobacco. Furthermore, U.S. oil majors can't set prices because they only hold a combined 3 percent of the world's reserves. Not surprisingly, the oil industry's return on investment has often lagged the average return for the S&P since 1982.

If policy-makers were responsible, they would stop hunting for villains and focus instead on securing America's fiscal and debt situation to strengthen the dollar. When each dollar buys more oil, gas prices will decline. They would also acknowledge that even as our energy sector necessarily diversifies, oil will continue to be a key element of our national energy portfolio for many decades.

Why spend billions on foreign oil when we could invest those dollars domestically? With the oil-rich Mideast in turmoil and the U.S. importing 63 percent of our oil, lawmakers must re-examine policies that severely restrict access to American oil bounties along the Atlantic coastline, the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan tundra.

Yes, there are real though localized risks inherent in drilling. However, just as the tragic loss of Apollo 1 served as a valuable lesson to NASA for subsequent space missions, so too must last-year's Gulf oil spill aid us in the safe and productive development of our energy resources. Tapping reserves kept off-limits by Congress would mean significant economic growth, potentially trillions in tax revenue, a million new energy-related jobs, increased energy security and lower U.S. energy prices.

These benefits are magnified with new discoveries of shale gas, and breakthroughs in extraction technology, which have massively increased natural gas reserves while lowering the cost of production. Pulitzer-prize winning energy expert Daniel Yergin believes these cheap and vast natural gas reserves have the potential to make the U.S. a net exporter of natural gas while fueling our vehicles and powering our utilities.

Michael Lind (no global-warming denier) wrote a surprising essay in the liberal journal Salon titled, “Everything You've Heard About Fossil Fuels May Be Wrong.” He credits the natural gas boom in saying, “It appears that there may be enough accessible hydrocarbons to power industrial civilization for centuries, if not millennia.” Lind argues that “without massive, permanent government subsidies ... wind and solar power may never be able to compete. For that reason, some Greens hope to shut down shale gas.”

Clearly the demonizing of Big Oil (and probably gas) will linger. With the economic and security stakes so high, next time a politician claims we'd feel less pain at the pump if Big Oil felt more pain on April 15, advise him to Think Again. Otherwise, he'll feel pain on another important date — in November 2012!

That's how to end the political blame-game.


Green Dream: Red Nightmare for Taxpayers

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 0
Publish Date: 
Thu, 09/15/2011


Winston Churchill famously quipped, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” What could be more beautiful, never mind seductive, than the strategy to promote renewable energies and a “green economy,” heralded as cure-alls for America's greatest challenges, most particularly economic stagnation?

But a funny thing happened on the way to green utopia. High-paying, clean-tech jobs were a cornerstone of the 2009 stimulus bill, which appropriated $80 billion to promote the “green economy.” Yet, instead of putting us on the green-brick road to recovery, we've learned that subsidizing industry merely results in red — lost jobs, squandered taxpayer resources, scandalous bankruptcies and diminished prosperity. “Green” proponents whose policies produced these shameful outcomes should be red-faced and prepared to Think Again.

With nearly one in six Americans living in poverty — the largest total since tracking began in 1959 (according to newly released Census data), and persistently high unemployment, Americans desperately want to believe the green-jobs predictions of advocates like Van Jones, who wrote “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.”

Yet the reality is that these lofty job creation projections are wrong, as detailed in last month's New York Times story “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.” The Times concluded, ”such numbers are a pipe dream” because, as they've previously reported, wind power costs 50 percent more than conventional power, and solar-generated electricity costs up to three times more than wind power. Shifting resources toward less-efficient purposes inevitably results in less prosperity — fewer jobs at lower pay.

Furthermore, in order to compete, renewable energy sources require costly government subsidies, price floors or purchase mandates. Consequently, green policies actually increase energy prices, undermine the economy, destroy jobs and hurt consumers, especially the poorest whose family budgets are consumed by escalating costs for everything. Exacerbating things further, energy prices increase when potential suppliers and energy entrepreneurs redirect scarce capital away from government-manipulated markets.

For these reasons, renewable energies produce only 3 percent of U.S. electricity and remain a fledgling global industry, despite having enjoyed enormous government support in the U.S., Europe and China. Given the industry's small size and inherent unviability, allowing China to subsidize production to remain the lower-cost manufacturer is logical and prudent.

The question remains: Why didn't we examine the troubling European experience with the green-economy strategy before launching our own? After a decade of experimentation and faced with job losses, higher energy prices, economic stagnation and corruption, European governments have cut their green funding. Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute summarizes the findings of research studies conducted across Europe: For every green job created, green programs destroyed 2.2 jobs in Spain and 3.7 jobs in the U.K., while the capital needed for one green job in Italy could create almost five jobs in the general economy. Wind and solar power have raised energy prices by 7.5 percent in Germany, and caused Denmark to have the highest electricity prices in Europe.

Perhaps U.S. policymakers ignored the European experience because they wanted the power and resources to pick winners and losers in the energy sector and to dispense favors to political patrons. But when government presses its massive thumb on the market scale, businesses have huge incentives to win favors through lobbying and campaign contributions. This is not only economically damaging, it's the definition of crony capitalism, the destructive consequences of which were exposed last month by the bankruptcies of three politically connected U.S. solar companies — Solyndra of California, Evergreen Solar of Massachusetts and SpectraWatt of New York. All were showcases for the green-jobs strategy, so their demise has eliminated thousands of these jobs.

Solyndra, whose major shareholder is a significant political donor, was the first clean-tech company to receive a loan-guarantee following passage of the stimulus bill, even though the Energy Department credit committee had already unanimously rejected the loan in early January 2009. ABC News reported Tuesday that Solyndra is under criminal investigation because newly uncovered emails show that they might have bypassed normal vetting procedures in obtaining their loan approval, despite being deemed a high risk.

Even if corruption wasn't a factor, the Solyndra debacle demonstrates the ineptitude of government officials when speculating with other people's money — they pale in comparison to more experienced investors who risk their own money.

So after examining the results, it's that clear green policies haven't made us happier, healthier and richer. Instead, they've lowered living standards globally and weakened the technological progress that market forces usually deliver, distracting us from finding optimal solutions to the economic and environmental challenges we face.

Like the proverbial vampire who fears daylight, optimal solutions are the last thing “green energy” proponents want to see. Given the economic bloodletting, American policymakers must Think Again and drive a stake through the vampire's green heart.

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