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

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?


Women: Looking For Love In All the Wrong Places?

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 17
Publish Date: 
Thu, 02/13/2014

“Life’s greatest happiness,” Victor Hugo wrote, “is to be convinced we are loved.”  As most experienced couples know, love-induced happiness is a year-round triumph, not the outcome of a singular, mass-marketed Valentine’s celebration – the one Jay Leno calls “Extortion Day.”


But men ignore this expectation-filled Hallmark holiday at their peril, which is why it’s become a $16 billion industry. More than heart-shaped bling, women savor attention -- a lesson noted by politicians.


Just as women beware of transient Romeos, they must Think Again about politicians who whisper sweet nothings into their ears, over-promising before an election and under-delivering after winning their commitment.


A frequent refrain of President Obama’s -- asserted as earnestly as “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” -- is the claim repeated in his State of the Union address that women “make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.” Promising to close the “embarrassing” gap he declared, “Women deserve equal pay for equal work.”


While discrimination can’t be ruled out, should it be the default explanation? Are whites the victims of discrimination because they earn less than Asians? If women do the same work for less, why would anyone hire a man?


Playing honest broker and mindful of research studies, feminist Hanna Rosin wrote in Slate, “I’ve heard the line enough times that I feel the need to set the record straight: It’s not true.”


Though the rhetoric is as empty as the calories in a box of Valentine’s chocolates, it sells, 51 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act to prohibit gender-based wage discrimination.


Equally delicious are Orwellian-named laws like the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would increase the risk of costly litigation for employers, discouraging the hiring of women whom the law purports to protect.  That’s because “employers could not use fewer hours, less education, and lower performance to evaluate salary differences,” explained Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the Labor Department.


Nevertheless, opposing labor market-imperiling legislation – sops to the trial-lawyer lobby that kept tort reform out of Obamacare – is worse than overlooking Valentine's Day. It's a “War on Women.”


Yet asserting that women make less than men for the same labor without considering hours worked, education, industry, job tenure, and marital and parental status, is like saying women are cheated out of food because men consume more.  


That men and women possess different minds and bodies, have distinct interests and life goals and make unique choices largely explains gender-gaps, though many feminists resist these truths.  Incredibly, sex differences are also overlooked in medical research and treatment, a dangerous oversight attributed to feminism in a recent 60 Minutes report. 


Women make less than men, Rosin posits, because they “don’t want to work the same way men do” – a theory confirmed by a 2007 Pew survey in which 79 percent of working mothers preferred part-time or no work, compared to only 12 percent of fathers. They’re also happier working part-time, according to an American Psychological Association study.  


Additionally, women consciously choose the least lucrative college majors and enter less demanding and lower-paying occupations, even in medicine where men predominate in higher-paid specialties requiring more training and hours.


Economic studies that consider these differences report a full-time wage gap as small as 5 percent. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported, women earn 10 percent more than men for part-time employment involving 5 to 39 hours.


"The point here,” Rosin argues, “is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges."


Those challenges include the feminization of poverty triggered by an explosion of single-motherhood (42 percent overall and 73 percent among blacks), and a declining standard of living caused by falling wages, less work and skyrocketing healthcare, food, and utility costs.


Nearly five years into an economic recovery the AP labeled the feeblest since the Great Depression, we have 4 million fewer jobs than in 2008 (despite working-age population growth of 14 million), crisis levels of government dependency, and severe underemployment. Though women have regained more jobs than men, Census data shows a record 17 million live in poverty compared to 12.6 million men.


There are programs that could help women rise out of the safety net onto the ladder of opportunity -- if targeted with cupid-like precision -- though intact families are the best remedy. Ultimately, the ideal bed of roses is a robust economy, higher-paying jobs and the disposable income boost that comes from lower prices – all of which are undermined by current policies.


Most importantly, women mustn’t allow suitors to romance them with bouquets of sweeping government programs that wilt at the challenge, but never die. 


Think Again – Aren’t pandering politicians who mislead in pursuit of one-night stands on Election Day the ones waging the War on Women?


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.



In the Twilight Zone, It's Not the Economy, Stupid

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 6
Publish Date: 
Thu, 10/11/2012


Beyond the realm of inconvenient truths, there’s a dimension to which Bill Clinton occasionally retreats.  It’s a dimension of fertile imaginations, sound bites and mind games whose boundaries the gullible determine. In this wondrous land, tokes aren’t inhaled, sex with interns isn’t sex, and the meaning of “is” isn’t always is. When Clinton wags his finger to punctuate a claim, like “no president – not me or any of my predecessors -- could have repaired all the damage in just four years,” it’s his poker “tell.” Next stop: the Twilight Zone.


Ironically, the president who rode to victory in 1992 on the theme “it’s the economy, stupid,” now suggests it’s stupid to examine the 39-month old economic recovery which, we were promised, would yield 4 percent gross-domestic-product growth and 5.6 percent unemployment -- not the current 1.6 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively. Before crossing over to the land of suspended disbelief, Think Again.

In fact, until now, all presidents over the last 75 years have performed better. As Milton Friedman observed, and a November 2011 Federal Reserve study verified, the worse the recession – even when caused by a financial crisis -- the stronger the recovery, absent bad government policies like those that prolonged and deepened the Great Depression.


Despite record levels of stimulation that exploded government spending to 25 percent of GDP (up from a 60-year 18 percent average) and four consecutive years of trillion-dollar deficits, an Associated Press study concluded “that by just about any measure”…this is “the feeblest economic recovery since the Great Depression. More than any other …people who have jobs are hurting: Their paychecks have fallen behind inflation.”  Consequently, income inequality has materially worsened and, as Vice President Biden noted last week, “the middle class has been buried the last four years.”


The annals of post World War II economic recoveries show Biden is right. Never before have Americans suffered such poor prospects nor sought such refuge in safety net programs.  When counting the millions of discouraged Americans no longer in the labor force, true unemployment is 14.7 percent. Meanwhile median household income has dropped nearly 5 percent, amidst exploding gas and food prices.  Not surprisingly, a record number of Americans now claim federal disability checks and food stamps, up nearly 20 and 44 percent, respectively.


President Reagan inherited the other “worst” post WW II recession and, unlike the most recent, had to contend with double-digit inflation and interest rates, in addition to double-digit unemployment. By this point in his presidency, Reagan’s pro-growth policies had unleashed the economy, resulting in 7.1 percent unemployment, rising median incomes and 11 percent GDP growth. 


Most importantly, Reagan’s work with Democratic house leader Tip O’Neill to implement historic tax, social security and immigration reforms -- and Clinton’s collaboration with Republican house leader Newt Gingrich to reduce government spending, lower taxes on investment, implement “consensus deregulation,” and reform welfare -- fueled the greatest economic boom in world history from 1982 to 2007. As business investment grew, so did the job market and the number of Americans paying taxes, confirming what President Kennedy said “is a paradoxical truth that…the soundest way to raise [tax] revenues in the long run is to cut [tax] rates now.”


If the current “recovery” had merely performed as well as the average of all post-World War II recoveries, current US GDP would be $1.2 trillion larger and 7.9 million more Americans would have jobs. Americans have been denied this prosperity because of unprecedented levels of government spending, job-killing regulation, and crony capitalism – partisan policies which large majorities of business leaders in two recent surveys (Business Roundtable and National Federation of Independent Business) say hurt them.


That 55 percent of small business owners surveyed wouldn’t start their business today reflects a lack of confidence in the economy’s future, imperiled as it is by $16 trillion in debt (up 50 percent since January 2009), a sum larger than the US economy. When interest rates increase from historic lows, larger interest payments will necessitate draconian budget cuts and increased taxes. Absent rapid GDP growth to bring debt-to-GDP levels down to manageable norms, Americans can’t be confident in a future that holds only two unacceptable alternatives – substantial tax increases or sustained inflation.


As the president who declared the era of big government over, Clinton understands our perilous fiscal state. Were he to emerge from the Twilight Zone, he’d agree that government spending should be capped at 20 percent of GDP -- the average during his presidency and a Romney campaign promise. He’d be opposed to increasing taxes in a fragile economy, as President Obama proposes. Most importantly, he’d be appalled at the lack of leadership evident in Obama’s budget – no plan to address the looming fiscal crisis and trillion-dollar deficits into oblivion.


Think Again – outside the Twilight Zone, it’s the pro-growth policies, stupid!

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.


What if Iran Means It?

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 3
Publish Date: 
Thu, 03/15/2012


One needn’t be a Holocaust survivor to know that when threatened with annihilation, believe it.
Yet as the world confronts the violent and stunningly ruthless Iranian theocracy in its quest to entrench itself and secure control over its oil-rich region, there are still leaders who appear willing to allow the world’s most dangerous regime to possess the world’s most devastating weapons capability.  Preoccupied with the costs of stopping Iran, leaders who haven’t learned the historical consequences of inaction must Think Again, for the only thing worse than military action is a nuclear-capable Iran.
Unfortunately, as writer Aldous Huxley concluded, "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history."  When the world last faced a villainous regime intent on genocide and global hegemony, it too was war weary. Hopeful that Germany would abide by international law and treaties, Western powers didn’t assert their overwhelming military advantage to prevent a rearmed Germany from igniting World War II, causing Winston Churchill to lament,  "There never was in all history a war easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe."
Today, Iran poses even graver challenges.  Since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian theocracy has been an implacable foe of freedom, peace, human rights, and international law.  Its stated enemies are America (“Great Satan”), Israel (“Little Satan”) and domestic opponents, and its operating methods include brutal domestic suppression, terrorist proxies (Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon), global terrorist networks and dictatorial allies like Syria and Venezuela.
Iran is responsible for hundreds of suicide bombers, thousands of roadside bombings, and tens of thousands of missiles fired at civilians. To support Assad’s violent suppression of Syria’s protest movement, Iran is exporting the barbarous tactics used to quash its own 2009 Green Movement -- sexual abuse, torture and public executions.
The question before us is, would this Iranian regime be weaker or stronger, containable or more aggressive if it possessed nuclear capability?  Furthermore, how much more emboldened would Iran’s allies and terrorist proxies be under Iran’s nuclear umbrella?  Given their barbarity, political theology and hegemonic goals, isn’t it rational to assume Iran would deploy a nuclear-equipped suicide bomb to devastate Miami, Mumbai or Malmo, never mind Tel Aviv?
Consider what successive Iranian leaders say.  They deny the last Holocaust while boasting of plans to cause the next one by “wiping Israel off the map” -- accomplishable, they assert, with only one nuclear bomb.  Upon facing more severe sanctions in January, the self-described revolutionary state threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most strategic oil transit thoroughfare, knowing oil prices would spike.
After the Holocaust, and after 9/11, are these genocidal and belligerent threats just impassioned speachmaking, or genuine intentions?
Despite a decade of diplomacy, binding UN Security Council resolutions, nuclear non-proliferation treaty obligations and crippling international sanctions, the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that the logical application of Iran’s ongoing nuclear program is a weapon, and that production of enriched uranium is accelerating at its underground and fortified nuclear plant in Qom.
The concern is that despite growing international pressure on Iran to peacefully abandon its nuclear program, the regime may have concluded from the overthrow of Gaddafi, Hussein and the attempted overthrow of Assad – all denied nuclear programs – that nuclear capability is essential to its survival.  If Iran succeeds, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt have threatened to go nuclear, making the volatile region a nuclear cauldron.
With options dwindling to curtail Iran and time running out, there are no good remedies.  Nevertheless, we have overwhelming bipartisan agreement in both the House and the Senate that it is a vital US interest to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear-capable -- a threshold far closer than possession of such weapon and one Iran has nearly crossed.
Unfortunately, differing timetables are a source of tension between America and Israel.  Because the US Air Force is comparatively better equipped -- with an advanced fleet of aircraft and bunker busting bombs – its capability and moment of decision are beyond Israel’s.  However, given election year politics and the likelihood a military strike would cause further escalation in oil prices, it’s hard for Israel to trust that America will act in time.
While the prospect of $10-per-gallon gasoline may be a price too high for American politicians to stomach, it’s a tradeoff Israel will accept to prevent a second Holocaust. “As Prime Minister of Israel”, Benjamin Netanyahu said last week, “I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”
So when Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear facilities, as it struck Iraq’s in 1981 and Syria’s in 2007, Think Again before complaining about temporarily higher gas prices.  Not only will Israel have saved America and the world from the specter of a nuclear-capable Iran, it will give the Iranian people their best chance since 2009 of overthrowing their tyrannical oppressors.

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.


America’s Tebows await their start

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 1
Publish Date: 
Tue, 12/13/2011

Back in September when President Obama was arguing for his third stimulus, he pronounced America soft and said we lacked a competitive edge. At the same time, the NFL cognoscenti were declaring Tim Tebow an NFL bust despite being a first-round draft pick. Remarkably, Tim Tebow and the U.S. economy are showing signs of resurgence.

The news that the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 9.0 to 8.6 percent in November (though due largely to job seekers exiting the market) is as surprising as Tebow’s 7-1 record since becoming the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Tebow’s late-fourth-quarter magic and five come-from-behind victories (three in overtime) have rocketed the Broncos from worst to first in their division, earning Tebow the confidence of coaches and teammates, and the adoration of fans.

If only America’s private-sector “quarterbacks” were liberated to call their own plays and scramble like an unleashed Tebow, America could win the economic equivalent of the Super Bowl — GDP growth of 4.5 percent and unemployment of 6 percent.

If politicians were as wise as Tebow’s coach, they’d formulate strategies to get business owners off the sidelines. They could start by reducing excessive regulations that, according to the Small Business Administration, cost the economy $1.75 trillion in 2008, more than individual and corporate income taxes combined — and that’s more than 11,000 regulations ago. In stronger economies, businesses are better equipped to tackle runaway regulators, who often view them as the opponent. Now, the 22.9 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or too discouraged to look for employment are consigned to the injured reserve list.

As politicians play political football with our fate, they demonstrate greater concern for the next election than for the next generation. If politicians were truly interested in growing the economy, creating jobs and paying off the national debt, they wouldn’t propose micro-measures like the temporary extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut. While hardworking taxpayers welcome savings, this temporary cut is minimally pro-growth and further erodes Social Security’s solvency. Furthermore, offering current benefits financed by faux spending cuts or never-to-materialize revenues is the very accounting gimmickry that has undermined America’s fiscal stability and credit worthiness. How many Americans know that the so-called “Budget Control Act of 2011” that raised the debt ceiling actually increases spending by $830 billion over current expenditures?

We know that to recover fiscal stability we must get taxpaying Americans back in the game. Six percent unemployment by 2014 requires an additional 14 million jobs, or 400,000 each month (compared with the 120,000 added last month). This implies an annual growth rate not seen since 1999 and triple this year’s 1.5 percent.

Meanwhile, like the Broncos’ fans after the team’s dismal 1-5 start, Americans lack confidence. A recent Rasmussen poll shows that only 18 percent of Americans believe today’s children will be better off than their parents, perhaps because 68 percent of Americans believe government and big business work together against their interests.

This is where the tea party meets Occupy Wall Street — at the intersection of their complaint that the economic game’s officiating is unfair, as though a touchdown counts for more points if you’re from the favored team. Both movements want to reform a system that allows special interests to lobby for politicians to have more power to manage the economy, thus enabling politicians to enact favorable laws and regulations or allocate money for these special interests. When special corporate interests keep profits but share losses with hapless taxpayers, those without political connections suffer unfair competition. The result is a crisis of legitimacy that corrodes social trust, undermines effort and hurts our most vulnerable.

The most poorly officiated segment of our economy is the energy sector. It should be national policy to promote affordable energy, which is the lifeblood of any vibrant economy. But after 25 years of backward energy policies, Americans are unaware that we have more recoverable oil than the entire world has used in 150 years and the world’s largest holding of natural gas, oil and coal resources, according to last week’s Institute for Energy Research report. Allowing development of American resources would lower prices throughout the economy and promote energy independence, job creation and American competitiveness. It also would generate billions in tax revenues — considerably more than an anti-growth surtax on “millionaires and billionaires.”

If job creation and deficit reduction were really policymakers’ top priorities, they’d study North Dakota, where in 2011 the energy boom generated 20,000 well-paying jobs, a $1 billion budget surplus and America’s best unemployment (3.5 percent) and growth (7.1 percent) rates.

Throughout America’s history, our private-sector quarterbacks have demonstrated the tenacity, skill, self-discipline, confidence and faith that put Tebow back under center. If allowed on the field, America’s “gamers” will prove that not only aren’t we soft, we’re winners, like Tebow.

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