EPA Still Wants to Garnish Your Wages Without a Court Order

A few weeks ago, EPA quietly tried to reinterpret its authority and wanted to garnish wages from those who owe it a debt. After a storm of criticism from Members of Congress and the public, EPA pulled back.

However, the agency is still trying to grant itself this power, only this time it’s going through the standard notice-and-comment process that most federal regulations go through.

What’s is the problem EPA wants to solve by having the ability to dig to go after your wallet? Will this stop polluters? Is EPA inundated with deadbeats?

Apparently not, according to Catrina Rorke and Sam Batkins at the American Action Forum who looked at EPA’s data.

They point out that, over the past six years, EPA has imposed more than $2.3 billion in “non-major” fines against companies and individuals that committed “infractions that do not involve large facilities emitting tons of toxic pollutants annually.”

However, Rorke and Batkins found, “the majority of fines for individuals involve paperwork infractions – not environmental contamination.” Individuals or businesses were fined for failing to file notification or reports with EPA.

And as for a delinquency problem, here’s their key finding:

[T]he average length of time that individuals were delinquent paying EPA was zero quarters. In other words, people generally pay their fines on time.

So why does EPA want to be able to garnish an individual’s wages? Based on its data, it’s not to ensure a cleaner environment nor solve delinquency problems. Roark and Batkins conclude (correctly in my view):

EPA’s proposal to grant itself wage garnishment authority more closely resembles a power grab than an appropriate administrative step to rectify an observed issue in their fine repayment process.

Stay tuned.

Keep Them Down, Keep Them Dependent: How to prevent the young and poor from succeeding by Issac M. Morehouse

Let’s face it. I’m not that young anymore. I’m also not poor anymore, and I live a comfortable middle-class American life. Most older, better off middle-classers like me got where we are through the dynamic market process. The trouble is, now that we’re doing pretty well, that same dynamic process is a threat. I don’t want some young whippersnapper or poor immigrant to outwork me. What if they succeed faster than I do? What if they create more value than I can, and so outcompete me for a job?

Take heart, well-heeled middle-agers. I have a plan. My scheme for keeping younger and poorer people from succeeding—and possibly making us have to work harder to stay on top—is two pronged: We’ve got to affect both supply and demand.

We need to restrict the supply of economic opportunities. We need to make those opportunities more costly and thus out of the reach of many young and poor. We also need to suppress the demand for jobs and entrepreneurial ventures. We need to make it more beneficial to stay out of the market than to participate in it.

Let’s get to some specifics.

Restricting the supply of opportunities

The biggest advantages young and poor people have over us are very low opportunity costs and a low-cost lifestyle. This means they don’t have to give up much to work a job, and they don’t need to earn much to cover their expenses. Because of these major advantages, they can work for very low wages, and thus become attractive for employers to hire and train. At low wages, they’ll always find work, and worse yet, they’ll be constantly learning and improving—adding to their stock of human capital.

The obvious solution is to make it illegal to work for low wages. Working for free is absolutely out of the question. If young and poor people could simply offer to work for little or no pay, they’d soon be gaining valuable skills and competing with us for jobs! Let’s cut that first rung off the ladder, lest they climb over us some day.

Young and inexperienced workers don’t have a lot of expertise. They make mistakes. Of course, if they’re allowed to participate in the trial-and-error process of the market, the incentives will soon drive them to develop expertise and be reliable suppliers of goods and services. That would be a travesty for us. We need to keep them unskilled and unreliable. The solution is to create a labyrinthine web of licenses and regulations that make it illegal for anyone but experts to sell goods or offer services. Since we’ve already banned working for low wages or apprenticing for free, it will be almost impossible for these novices to learn from a seasoned expert until they gain the necessary skill. We can make it even harder by adding lots of fees and costly training sessions to obtain licenses.

There needn’t be just one law making low wages illegal or just one licensing and regulatory regime. We need a wide variety of complex and ever-changing barriers. High taxes on productivity and profit, union dues and demands, work restrictions, rigid job categories, seniority bias, massive credential requirements, health and safety rules to cripple upstarts, consumer protection laws to hamper smaller producers, no access to capital or ability to stay in line with the law without costly lawyers and accountants, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

My recommendations are myriad, but they all boil down to a simple principle: Do anything we can to make economic opportunities more costly and rare. This reserves most of said opportunities for us.

Now for the second prong.

Reward non-participation

We don’t want to seem callous and cold toward those less comfortably situated. Indeed, we harbor no ill will toward the young and poor. We just don’t want them to compete with or catch us.

Since we care—and especially because want people to believe that we care—we can’t be all “stick.” We need some “carrot,” too. It’s not enough to restrict the supply of opportunities, because some people will break the rules or work around them. We also need to suppress demand by offering some sweet incentives for young workers to stay unproductive and uncompetitive. We need to make non-participation in the market more attractive than participation.

First, I recommend a strict policy of forced education for the first few decades of life. We’ve already discussed making it illegal for the young to work or the poor to work for low wages. But we also need to make it mandatory that they do something else, and something that won’t make them more likely to compete with us now or later. We should create giant institutions where we send them all day to follow rules and do what they’re told without question. We don’t want them becoming innovative, or pursuing passions and interests that they might become experts in and thus supplant us in the market. They must only learn what the bureaucrats who run the system tell them to. (Oh, and the people who run the system should only be those who don’t really know much about competing in the market, because we wouldn’t want them passing on such knowledge.)

We can’t just make school mandatory. Many would still play hooky if it cost too much. We also need to hide the cost by paying for the whole thing through taxes and borrowing. We need to subsidize it so much that alternatives can’t compete. We need to weave a narrative about its glory so that no one wants to opt out.

But 18 years isn’t enough. We need to keep these young, hungry individuals out of our way as long as possible. I say we artificially lower the cost of otherwise very expensive degree programs and advanced studies. We can guarantee low-interest loans, throw a lot of grants and subsidies around, and always, always parrot powerful propaganda about the inestimable value of classroom learning. Let’s make the most attractive option—socially and economically—the one that keeps them from the commercial world as long as possible.

The longer we can make the education process, the better for us. Defer, defer, defer the time at which young people start entering the productive sector. The more loans they take on in the process, the better. Maybe they’ll even get married, get a nice house (we can incentivize the buying of expensive consumer goods via debt as well!), and have kids. All of these things are good because they take away one of the major advantages the young have in the workforce—their low cost of living and hence ability to bid for lower starting wages. We want them saddled with so much debt that they have to earn high wages to get by, and thus have to compete with workers that are a lot more experienced for those higher wage jobs. We need them coming out of college looking for salaries that don’t comport with their skill levels. This increases the odds that older workers like us will win.

We’ll need to address those too old or too poor for school as well. We need basic income guarantees, food stamps, and all manner of welfare to cover the costs of low-income life such that no part-time entry-level job could pay quite as much. Again, we need to make not working worth more than working.

The best part

Here’s the best part: By the time these young and poor find themselves unable to compete, with costly lifestyles and loans to maintain and little skill or experience, they’ll be older. They’ll join our ranks. They’ll lobby for even harsher restrictions on those even less experienced and less well-off than they are. They’ll demand to get the low-skill jobs they’re qualified for, but demand the pay be raised to high-skill wages. They’ll make the list of degrees and credentials they’ve accumulated the new barrier to entry to artificially raise their market value. They’ll help us perpetuate the very policies that caused their plight!

As with the first prong, these are but a few examples. Ideally a massive and shifting bundle of incentives to not enter the market as a producer can be put together: education mandates and subsidies, tax incentives to spend rather than save and to purchase education rather than other goods or business tools, housing and healthcare as long as you don’t work, and rewards for any activity that makes one less likely to try to compete with us in the market.

These policies will subtly turn the attention of nearly everyone away from value creation, innovation, and serving customers—all of which might threaten our dormancy. It will turn everyone’s attention and energy to fighting over the details of these policies and programs, to who gets which slice of the artificially limited pie and at whose expense. Some of us can really take advantage by running for political office and dividing up the warring interests we’ve created by promising them more restrictions and subsidies.

Above all, with both prongs of this strategy, we need a narrative that calls these policies noble, compassionate, and wise. We need them to be perceived as humanitarian aid to the young and poor, not as ways to keep them from succeeding. We need to make these programs universal values in themselves—regardless of the outcomes they produce. Who could oppose better wages? Who could oppose more education? Who could oppose more loans for homes or college? Who could oppose work rules and consumer safety regulations? Middle-aged, middle-class people certainly won’t, if we know what’s good for us.

We cannot abide an America in which plucky newcomers outperform us at every turn. Join me in securing our future.

ABOUT ISAAC M. MOREHOUSE

Isaac Morehouse is an entrepreneur, thinker, and communicator dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He is the founder and CEO of Praxis.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

Miami, FL: Court upholds firing of teacher who cheated, while accomplice is returned to the classroom

On Tuesday, July 29, 2014, Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) Judge Cathy Sellers issued a Recommended Order upholding the decision of Miami-Dade County Public Schools to fire Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin for his part in the massive test cheating scandal, Adobegate, at Miami Norland Senior High School during the 2011-2012 school year.

The School Board of Miami-Dade County will either formally accept or reject the Recommended Order at the August 6 or September 3, 2014 School Board meetings.

What is disturbing is that there were two teachers involved doing the exact same thing in the exact same room at the exact same time (for the most part) and one is fired (Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin) while the other (Mrs. Brenda Muchnick) is still on the job at Miami Norland Senior High School while the whistle blower, Trevor Colestock, is still displaced from Norland and is not allowed to return there.

With the assistance of cheating, undertaken by Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin and Mrs. Brenda Muchnick, Miami Norland’s school grade went from a “C” for the 2010-11 school year to an “A” for the 2011-12 school year.

The Miami-Dade OIG Final Report concluded that, “Miami Norland has benefited in the form of attaining a higher school grade and may have received financial compensation or other benefit resulting from its high pass rate on the industry certification exams” (page 13).

As a result, total federal funds (SIG, RTTT) given out due to a grade influenced by cheating was $100,560; the total state funds per FSRP was between $130,000- $140,000; the total overall combined federal and state incentive funds were $230,560- $240,560.

Each teacher at Miami Norland Senior High School received $1730.41 from all three payouts.

On October 16, 2013, the Miami-Dade School Board voted to terminate Mr. Emmanuel Fleurantin for his role in Adobegate, and rightfully so, and his case was forwarded to DOAH court.

On November 19, 2013, the Miami-Dade School Board voted to suspend Mrs. Brenda Muchnick for 30 working days without pay for her role in Adobegate, which boggles the mind.  She accepted this punishment and therefore it was not referred to DOAH.

When Mr. Fleurantin appeared alone on the D55 item of the School Board Agenda on October 16, 2013, something seemed amiss and it was common sense that something was in the works given the disparity in actions taken against them.

Most crimes, such as theft and homicide, have varying degrees; test cheating does not and state law is straightforward and clear.  In any given instance of test cheating, a role is a role; there is no distinguishing a major role from a minor role. Either one was involved or they were not.

Both Mr. Fleurantin and Mrs. Muchnick, according to the Miami-Dade OIG Final Report, allegedly “knowingly and willfully” violated test security rules irrespective of quantity of students in their respective roles.

When one reads that document and the Department of Administrative Hearings brief, issued by the School Board Attorney on January 8, 2014, justifying Mr. Fleurantin’s termination, one can reasonably conclude that Mrs. Muchnick is equally culpable and a reasonable person would think her employment was up for termination as well.

A reasonable person would conclude that the logic and conclusion of Judge Sellers’ Recommended Order pertaining to Mr. Fleurantin would be applicable to Mrs. Muchnick as well.

Enid Weisman, the Chief Capital Human Officer for M-DCPS, is responsible for disciplinary practices in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

She led the effort to remove Mr. Colestock from Norland; fired Mr. Fleurantin while reinstating Mrs. Muchnick at Norland though they both were charged by M-DCPS with the same offenses word for word

A confidential source said Mrs. Weisman told the School Board that the disparities in punishment came about as a “technicality” pertaining to Mrs. Muchnick.

According to another confidential source, the “technicality” was that Mrs. Muchnick told District personnel prior to the October 16, 2013, School Board meeting that she was going to claim that school administrators directed her and Mr. Fleurantin to provide students the answers to the Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver industry certification exams in order to enhance the “back 800 points” of the school grade and improve the school grade overall.

As a result, she was removed from the October 16, 2013, D55 Item of the School Board Agenda (thus leaving only Mr. Fleurantin), deemed to be under further investigation, and was placed on the D55 Item of the School Board Agenda of the November 19, 2013, meeting with a more lenient and favorable punishment- 30 days without pay.

The crime is bad enough; like Watergate and other similar scandals, the cover-up is far more worse.

A reasonable person may well conclude that the disparity in punishment between Mr. Fleurantin and Mrs. Muchnick suggests a cover-up and the illegal and retaliatory actions taken against Mr. Colestock are meant to keep the Norland faculty and staff quiet and to keep the truth from coming out and exposing other improprieties relating to Adobegate.

Furthermore, the inaction of federal and state officials to investigate encourages such misdeeds and criminal behavior and shortchanges teachers, students, and the general public alike.

Fraud in the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

According to Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), “A core principle of the state’s economic development incentive program is that businesses are paid based on verified performance, meaning no tax dollars are paid until job creation or capital investment numbers are audited and confirmed to protect taxpayer investment.”

Since 2011 Department of Economic Opportunity has awarded $269,114,050 in incentives. In 2011 Florida businesses were paid $32,901,728 and created 2,292 confirmed jobs. That is at a cost of $14,355 per job created. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida employs 7,453,230 people, with a mean hourly wage of $19.78 and an annual wage of$41,140. For the cost (taxation) of three incentives one average wage job could have been created by Florida businesses.

But are incentives paid based upon verified performance? Is using Florida’s tax payer dollars to create jobs a role for government?

Director Panuccio is working to stem the bleeding in a lawsuit involving John Textor the former CEO of Digital Domain. Senator Christopher L. (Chris) Smith (D-FL District 31) is asking questions about the role played by the department and the Economic Development Council in funding Textor and Digital Domain. But is Senator Smith asking the right questions?

Senator Smith wrote to Governor Rick Scott about Digital Domain. Director Panuccio, replying to Senator Smith on behalf of the Governor, wrote:

As for the specific concerns in your letter, first, please allow me to address the forthcoming lawsuit against those associated with the Digital Domain Media Group. In 2009, the Office of Tourism, Trade, & Economic Development (“OTTED”) – predecessor agency to the Department of Economic Opportunity (“DEO”) – distributed tens of millions of taxpayer funds to Digital Domain. As noted in the 2013 Inspector General Report (Report Number 2013-11), the usual state regulatory processes governing the award of such funds were circumvented. In 2012, Digital Domain filed bankruptcy and laid off all of its employees – thereby breaching the grant fund agreement. DEO has filed a notice of claim against Digital Domain in the bankruptcy proceeding. DEO has also hired outside counsel to identify any and all legal action available against the principals of Digital Domain and any other individuals or entities involved in wrongdoing related to this deal. DEO is committed to recouping all monies owed to the state, including approximately $20 million in incentive funding.

Panuccio concludes with, “In short, Florida’s economic development system is working better today than at anytime in the past – an opinion shared by economic-development professionals across the state and nation.  We follow the law, we protect taxpayer money, and we get results.  Florida’s economy has turned around thanks to Governor Scott’s leadership.  We appreciate your support of our efforts. ”

What is missing from this entire conversation between Senator Smith and Director Panuccio: Is there a role for government in economic development and if so, what is it?

Many believe government has no role in funding, via incentive programs, business. These “incentive programs” are described as “crony capitalism” and “corporate welfare” by Main street Americans. In April U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) gave a thoughtful speech (watch the below video) warning of “America’s crisis of crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and political privilege.”  The victims are every day folks, “the poor and middle class” excluded by government “from earning their success on a level playing field.” Senator Lee noted, ““Big government isn’t just inefficient, it’s fundamentally unfair.”

Mark Shousen, writes, “In his classic work, The Spirit of the Laws (1748), Montesquieu expressed the novel view that the business of moneymaking serves as a countervailing bridle against the violent passions of war and abusive political power. ‘Commerce cures destructive prejudices,’ he declared. ‘It polishes and softens barbarous mores . . . . The natural effect of commerce is to lead to peace.’ Commerce improves society: ‘The spirit of commerce brings with it the spirit of frugality, of economy, of moderation, of work, of wisdom, of tranquility, of order, and of regularity.’”

Government does just the opposite. Digital Domain is a prime example of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity creating “destructive prejudices.”

Perhaps it is time to rethink the need for this Florida Department? For you see the only thing that creates a job is profit. Government does not create wealth, it takes it and redistributes it. Corporations are at their best when they cater to their customers, and at their worst when they lie in bed with government. Can you say corporate prostituting themselves to government?

Adam Smith wrote, “Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men.”

Common Core is tool to produce a “Commie Corps” by Rabbi Aryeh Spero

Barack Obama declared six years ago that the ultimate goal of his presidency was to fundamentally transform America. This has been not only his agenda, but for decades the goal of America’s political left wing. To transform a country one must first transform its people. Transformation takes place by changing the values by which people live and by changing their self-perception of who they are and what they are supposed to become.

Common Core does exactly that.

Common Core is to education what Obamacare is to healthcare. The purpose of both programs is to take away one’s individual choice, be it regarding healthcare or local influence on education. Both programs are transformative since they assault the most fundamental American liberties, the freedom to choose one’s doctor and medical remedies, and the freedom to educate one’s children by local values. Both programs give federal bureaucrats control over these most important aspects of life. They disenfranchise us as patients and parents. Controlling the lives of “those below” is the animating principle of Leftism and the elitists who wish to do the controlling.

A communist society takes choice away from the people and places it in the hands of a centralized apparatus removed from the people. In other words, it deprives the individual his liberty. Through centralization, the individual loses not only his liberty but is socially engineered to think a certain way and act in conformity and lock-step with how the ruling elite want its new underclass to act. Common Core seeks to create a common-ness among people, what the Communists refer to as “the masses.” America’s students are being groomed today to be future members of the “Commie Corps,” advocates and robots of a trans-individual system.

Americans have succeeded because of our special Judeo-Christian outlook on life, local control, and the confidence in a rugged individualism that inspired us to be the best we can be. Common Core changes all that. Our children will be trained by educators not to be rugged but common; not masters of our own fate but subjects of a ruling bureaucracy; not the possessors of a unique Judeo-Christian outlook but proponents of a transnational, socialist worldview.

One of the hallmarks and goals of socialist Marxism is to strip a country of its unique culture, history, attitudes, and self-perception. The first order of business for the Russian communists was to denude Russia of its Russo-ism as did Mao when stripping his country of its unique Chinese heritage. Thus, throughout the curriculum of Common Core, American heroes are minimized and castigated, our history maligned, our historic values seen as an affront to multiculturalism. Much of Common Core is an indictment of America. It indicts so as to remove.

Too often far more information is supplied about Islam and too little about Christianity and Judaism. For many in the ruling clique, the Biblical religions and Testaments of Christianity and Judaism are passé and the problem while Islam and its Koran are seen as the new universal religion requiring our veneration. President Obama and Hillary Clinton epitomize this attitude of deference, often referring in their remarks to the “Holy Koran” and “the Prophet,” majestic references they rarely extend to Christianity or Judaism.

By transforming the values of our children, as well as their perception of themselves as individuals, the ruling elites will be able to transform America completely and create transnational citizens, pupils educated to conform to the social engineering from above. Common Core is the ultimate vehicle in erasing excellence for mediocrity and individuality for conformity. Common Core reflects the arrogance of the social engineers and their condescension and little regard for their “subjects” below. Common Core is the thief that robs individual students of their potential.

Because of Obamacare, many outstanding doctors are leaving the practice of medicine. Understandably, they wish not to be pre-programmed, mere medical clerks of the government… as if they were postal workers. It is an affront to the creativity, integrity, and the personal spirit they were trained to give to their craft. Similarly, we now hear of outstanding teachers who are leaving our schools and teaching due to the imposition of Common Core.

As with the students, their individuality is being snatched away through mandates of a new centralized education system. They will no longer be able to teach in a manner that reflects their innate talents, their unique intuition and experience, their personal insight. As with anything socialist and Marxist, the personal is crushed. It extinguishes the fire in the provider and levels and deadens the spirit in the receiver.

Common Core will stifle the potential of our youngsters and make them much too common. It will transform America by making our would-be heroes and achievers into but robots of the Commie Corps.

Rabbi Spero is a theologian and social and political commentator. He is author of Push Back: Reclaiming Our American Judeo-Christian Spirit, and was a pulpit rabbi for almost forty years.

EDITORS NOTE: A version of this article was published in The Blaze.

Protect U.S. from identity theft by foreign call centers

I work at a major insurance agency in Indiana. On July 24, 2014, I phoned a major insurance company in Indiana to tell them that one of our clients had died and to request that the automatic bank draft for premium be cancelled.

It was while working on this task that I learned that the insurance company had moved much of its customer service call center to Jamaica. The Philippines and India are used for call centers by many U.S. companies.

This is bad for Americans and especially for senior citizens. Allowing people in other countries to view and use sensitive private information about Americans can easily lead to identity theft crimes in which U. S. law enforcement officials are unable to track and arrest the guilty parties. Foreign governments could even frustrate an investigation to protect their citizens who conspire to perpetrate identity theft against Americans.

This is not a new issue.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) released a report in December 2011 titled “Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home.” The CWA report noted:

Offshored call center jobs pose a serious threat to consumers’ personal data, according to an updated report released by CWA.

Building on the December 2011 report, which examined how offshoring call center jobs hurts the US economy and workers, CWA has established a disturbing pattern of fraudulent and criminal activity targeting U.S. customers being serviced by overseas call centers.

Key findings include a recent investigation by The Sunday Times, which discovered that call centers in India are gathering personal financial data from several UK banks and peddling the information on the black market. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission uncovered a telemarketing scam this year, in which call center employees in India impersonated debt collectors and defrauded Americans out of more than $5 million.

Senior citizens are especially vulnerable to such crimes because their identity information is routinely shared by phone and over the internet in order to process medical claims.

Laws and regulations to stop the use of foreigners for call centers or other such services in foreign countries in which sensitive personal information is shared should be enacted at the federal and state levels immediately. Such protective laws and regulations would have the additional benefit of forcing major banking and insurance companies to hire Americans in America for these services.

Planned Parenthood’s War on Women: Counselor Tells Teen to Let Her Boyfriend Beat Her

LifeNews.com reports:

Abortion activists claim pro-lifers are engaging in a “war on women:” by passing legislation to protect women and unborn children from abortion. But a new expose’ video catches a Planned Parenthood staffer engaging in her own war on women.

The pro-life group Live Action released the third installment today in its “SexEd” investigative series, showing a Planned Parenthood staffer in Portland, Oregon offering disturbing sex counseling to someone she thinks is a fifteen-year-old girl. The video clearly shows the counselor encouraging the young girl to allow herself to be victimized in violent sexual encounters with her partner.

The staffer tells the investigator that “it’s very common to experiment with different things,” including “being tied up” and “whipped” and “the baby thing, where they will put on diapers[.]”

Some girls like being “spanked,” “hit,” or “whipped,” said the counselor.

Watch the video interview with a Planned Parenthood counselor (WARING: This material is not suitable for children. Viewer discretion is advised):

Read more.

The Portland video is the third in a series. Previous SexEd installments showed Planned Parenthood locations in Indianapolis and Denver offering similarly disturbing advice to investigators posing as minor girls. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, under whose jurisdiction the Denver facilities lie, is now being sued for sending a 13-year-old abuse victim back to her abuser after aborting her baby.

The Common Core Fight: What Went Wrong, What Went Right, What To Do Next

The Washington Post reported that within two years of an organizational meeting at Bill Gates’ Seattle headquarters, 45 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the Common Core State Standards. President Obama, whose administration was “populated by former Gates Foundation staffers and associates,” was “a major booster.” 

After legislative battles this year, 42 states and the District of Columbia remain in the vise of Common Core, the federal education dictates.

One of these states, Georgia, illustrates the incredible hurdles citizen-activists face in their fight against the united forces of big government and big business.  Senator William Ligon (R-Brunswick) was blocked in his efforts to pass a Common Core withdrawal bill by the Republican governor and Republican-dominated House.

Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles in Action, which supported Ligon’s bill, comments, “During the last hearing on the bill, we saw dozens of corporate and other well-funded lobbyists parade up to the podium to explain why their interests should trump those of Georgia families.”

I observed this parade, and the smear-campaign against citizen-activists concerned about educational quality and government overreach.  While teachers and parents spoke about developmentally inappropriate assignments, mind-boggling busy-work math, and ideological curricula, the pro-Common Core lobbyists, legislators, superintendents, principals, and teachers seemed to follow a script.  I heard the same phrases repeated – “state-led,” “critical thinking skills,” “locally controlled,” “standards, not curriculum,” and on.

And then I learned that they were following a script.

Dts_news_bill_gates_wikipedia

Bill Gates. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The script was linked in the June 7 Washington Post front-page article, “How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution” – published after legislatures had recessed.  These were “Talking Points” developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers, the supposedly independent organization behind Common Core.  CCSSO received over $11 million from the Gates Foundation in 2013.

That Bill Gates was “de facto organizer,” influencing states through donations to teachers unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was hardly a revelation.  In August 2013, blogger Mercedes Schneider reported, “the four organizations primarily responsible for CCSS–[National Governors Association], CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners – have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates.”  Jane Robbins and others also made the charge long before the Washington Post’s exposé.

The Post reported that within two years of an organizational meeting at Gates’ Seattle headquarters, 45 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the standards. President Obama, whose administration was “populated by former Gates Foundation staffers and associates,” was “a major booster.”

In the Post interview, Gates denied that he had any self-interest, but the article noted, “In February, [Gates’ company] Microsoft announced that it was joining Pearson, the world’s largest educational publisher, to load Pearson’s Common Core classroom materials on Microsoft’s tablet, the Surface.”  This allowed Microsoft to compete for school district spending with rival company Apple, whose iPad dominates in classrooms.

According to a tape released by Glenn Beck last September, in 2009 Gates told the National Conference of State Legislators that he anticipated a “large uniform base of [Common Core] customers.”

More recently, Microsoft’s website warned schools to migrate to the new Microsoft Windows operating system.  Opponents had predicted that computer-administered Common Core tests would require expensive upgrades.

Still, Common Core promotional sites, such as the Georgia pro-Chamber of Commerce Republican blog, Peach Pundit, mocked the notion of “Obamacore” and called Gates’ profit-motive a “conspiracy theory.”

Editor-in-Chief Charlie Harper testified against the Common Core withdrawal bill, while directing the smear campaign through posts and comments. He also is executive director of the non-profit PolicyBEST.

In February, PolicyBEST Policy & Research Director – and Peach Pundit blogger – “Eric the Younger” called a rally in support of Ligon’s bill a “train wreck,” filled with “crazy talk”: “It’s [sic] attendees included Jane Robins [sic], Sen. Judson Hill, Sen. William Ligon, Ralph Hudgens’ wife, “and a few of the other usual suspects.”

He promoted a new coalition that included PolicyBEST, “Better Standards For A Better Georgia.”  The “diverse group . . . brought together through the Georgia Chamber” includes 100 Black Men, Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, Georgia Association of Educators, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, Georgia school board and school superintendents associations, Technical College System of Georgia, and the University System of Georgia.  In 2013, 100 Black Men received $583,531 from the Gates Foundation; Georgia Association of Educational Leaders received $179,015 in 2012.

Eric the Younger’s creativity only extends to name-calling, however.

Consider the CCSS “talking point”: “This has always been, and continues to be, a state-led and driven initiative. States voluntarily adopted and are currently implementing the standards. . .  .  These standards are in no way federally-mandated. . . .”

Eric the Younger dutifully wrote, “The Origins of the Common Core State Standards are here in Georgia with our former governor Sonny Perdue and State School Superintendent. . . .”

Elders, like “youngers,” also recited CCSSO’s script.  The U.S. Chamber’s President and CEO Thomas Donahue wrote in the Washington Post, “Common Core is a not curriculum, a federal program or a federal mandate.”

Peach Pundit continued its campaign of smearing and repeating with a February 10 Courier-Herald column.  After charging Common Core opponents with “a campaign of misinformation that at times borders on hysteria,” the writer essentially repeated a talking point: “Common Core is not a curriculum,” but “a set of benchmarks. . . .  The curriculum – what is taught and how – remains up to states and local school systems…”

Cited also was a June 2, 2010, press release announcing then-Governor Sonny Perdue’s release of Common Core state standards that featured a panel discussion with the CEO of the PTA and Leah Luke, 2010 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year.

Where did this idea come from?

The CCSSO toolkit recommends as key spokespeople “State Teachers of the Year,” “Award-winning school leaders and principals,” and “Heads of local PTAs.”

Nothing was left to chance in CCSSO’s well-orchestrated campaign that included strategies for “engaging” teachers, “stakeholders,” elected officials, etc. Provided were fill-in-the-blank “Scene-setting Op-ed,” “Letters to the Editor,” “Local Op-ed and Blog,” and “Teacher Communication Preferences Survey.” There were tips for pitching stories and providing background information to reporters.

Most reporters, indeed, repeated CCSSO’s “talking points.” Now an NBC reporter is on Gates’ payroll.

In spite of overwhelming odds, a couple states rejected Common Core this year, following changing public sentiment.  Pitfalls lie ahead, though.  What these are and tips for fighting them will be discussed next time in Part II.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

North Carolina Governor Signs Bill to Revise Common Core
Common Core in Louisiana: Two Days, Two Lawsuits
A July 21, 2014, Update on Common Core, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced
American Federation of Teachers: “Remediating” Duncan and Retaining the “Corrupted” Common Core

Why Are a Few Florida Supervisors of Elections Breaking the Law?

It’s now been 7 months since 29 of Florida’s 67 Supervisors of Elections were notified of their portion of 3,000+ voter registrations potentially illegally listing a UPS store as a legal residence. To their credit 13 of those Supervisors have cleared 100% of their registrations. But, there are 9 other Supervisors who have provided insufficient excuse for failing to do what the law clearly requires.

The counties with well below 50% success in 7 months are: Broward, Duval, Leon, Orange, Palm Beach, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, and Walton.

The problem here is not one of county size. Two of the largest counties, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, had some of the fewest ineligible addresses, and are two of the thirteen counties that have cleared 100% of their UPS store registrations.

But because some of the biggest procrastinators are also Florida’s worse offenders, state-wide closure on the issue has embarrassingly stalled at only 26%. And it may get worse before it gets better. Because now, instead of shrinking their existing mess, these rogue counties have allowed 137 additional registrations listing a UPS store as a residence to be added to their voter roll. These 137 new registrations indicate that these Supervisors are also still not obeying the law that requires them to maintain and use a list of valid residential street addresses for their county (F.S. 98.015(12)). Makes you sort of curious what else they’re up to.

In addition at least three Supervisors have identified more than 5,000 additional registrations they consider as having listed an ineligible residence address. But instead of following the law to get these cleaned up, they’re allowing them to stay on the voter roll essentially indefinitely. They do assuringly indicate they’re hoping to not let these registrations vote until they provide a valid residential address, even though that approach failed in 2012.

Glaringly, none of the Supervisors have been able to point out an applicable statute or rule to support ignoring their legally required duty under F.S. 98.075(6) & (7). One Supervisor’s office even claimed that since their staff found the ineligible residence addresses without outside help, that they weren’t required to follow that statute! What’s your definition of the word “is”?

And what’s your Supervisor’s approach to these type registrations?

Florida’s Division of Elections has been aware of these issues, but as yet does not seem to have had a positive impact. Does any of this make anybody else curious enough to help determine state wide how many other registrations list a non-residential address as a residence? Or to in general more closely monitor the performance of our Supervisors of Elections?

To a few Supervisors’ credit (but also another item in the things that make you go “hmmm?” category): Because the voters never responded to their Supervisor’s requests for a current residence address, the 13 counties with 100% success ended up removing 93% of their UPS store registrations.

Further, of the 800+ registrations that were cleared state wide, slightly more were removed from the voter roll than had their addresses corrected.

As reported earlier in an April 2014 article, “Florida: 3,000 Voter Registrations List a UPS Store as a Residence”, definitionally ineligible registration residence addresses should not exist. Accordingly, Florida law provides a prompt and clear process to correct a voter’s residence address. And the law says if a voter does not respond to the Supervisor’s contacts, “the supervisor shall make a final determination of the voter’s eligibility” (F.S. 98.075(7)(a)3).

That’s noteworthy, for at least three reasons.

First, the law says “shall”. It’s not optional. Yet somehow too many of our Supervisors have too many excuses for making the wrong “final determination”.

Second, if the Supervisors were truly doing their jobs, they would have identified and cleared these registrations on their own during their 2013 non-Federal election “list maintenance” cycle. The 38 counties who didn’t have any UPS store registrations this past December did just that. Why didn’t the other 29?

Third, the F.S. 98.075(6) & (7) mandated process triggered by at least December 2013 requires far less than 4 months for an honorable Supervisor to accomplish. Accordingly, at least 13 (and arguably 51) Supervisors have. Yet here we are at 7 months post notice, with an election season looming, and we have 9 Supervisors behaving like we should just sit back and enjoy the ride.

And speaking of folks not doing their job, perhaps it’s time to ask your local media how a Supervisor of Elections intentionally disobeying the law isn’t a newsworthy story?

GOVERNMENT WASTE: Sarasota County, Florida’s $7.7 Million White Elephant

Sarasota County, FL is replacing its 30-year old Gulf Gate library with a new 27,000 square foot facility. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “One of the challenges, the architects and builders learned, was coming up with a design that kept the much-appreciated ‘coziness’ of the old library while greatly expanding its size and offerings. The designers said they are confident they have been able to achieve that, at least in part by how bookstores like Barnes & Noble and coffee shops like Starbucks are able to bring cozy to large spaces.” [Emphasis added]

But wait, there is a Barnes & Nobel complete with coffee shop and NOOK store less than a half of a mile from this new facility. But it gets worse.

Within a one mile radius of this new $7.7 million dollar county library are two other brand new libraries. The Sarasota County School Board has within the past year opened newly built libraries at Riverview High School and the Sarasota County Technical Institute, which has its own cafe. Sarasota County has a total on nine libraries, each of which is within a short distance of a Sarasota school district library and multiple privately owned book stores.

sarasota county commissioners

Sarasota County Commissioners Robinson, Mason and Hines (L to R). Commissioners Barbetta and Patterson are not in the photo.

Question: Why can’t the Sarasota County library system and Sarasota County School Board get together and provide library services without such costly duplication?

Both government entities will find reasons why not. However, for taxpayers it makes no sense to have brand new public libraries in such close proximity to one another, all paid for by Sarasota County taxpayers.

According to Jeremy Greenfield from Forbes in 2013, “Hardcover book sales in the U.S. are up over 10% through the first eight months of 2013, according to the latest numbers from the Association of American Publishers. At the same time, adult ebook sales are only up 4.8%; all U.S. ebook sales, including children’s and religious ebooks, are down about 5%.” So people are buying more books, many online. So why spend this kind of money expanding a library with the intent of competing with public sector entities like Book-A-Million and Barnes & Noble.

Former Florida State Senator Mike Bennett notes, “I fought for years in the legislature that we should have every new library request to be incorporated into the public school system.  Students are comfortable going to the school campus.  I believe that if they are comfortable going there perhaps they would also go there to study, check out books, do research, have access to computers after school hours.  They have lots of parking for others to use the facilities.  I agree, this is a waste of money.”

Why waste money by building the Gulf Gate library in such close proximity to other adult libraries? Answer: Because the Sarasota County Commission can, it is government and always knows what is best for us, no matter what the price.

An•es•the•tize: Deprive Of Feeling Or Awareness

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

Have you ever thought about winning a Powerball lottery? You know one of those multi-state ticket frenzies where the winning payout is so big your head explodes with visions of Tuscan villas, private jets and caviar-topped crostini’s. These mega lottery games get even the most cynical of individuals whipped into a frenzy thinking they might beat the staggering odds to win the pot of gold.

During House Oversight hearings, it was revealed that during the past five years, the federal government paid out “$100 billion in improper payments every year thanks to a combination of fraud, clerical errors and insufficient IRS enforcement.”

$500 billion over five years!

You would think this news would have also generated a frenzy in the minds of the American people. After all, it was their hard earned tax dollars that were wasted! Sadly, most people didn’t know the hearing existed. If they were aware, they may have heard through a major news outlet that it was simply a partisan witch-hunt.

And what was the response of IRS Commission Koskinen? “This is an important issue to the IRS”. Wow, thanks Commissioner.

America sleeps better at night knowing this is an important issue to the IRS. We are truly comforted knowing that the IRS will give the loss of $500 billion in taxpayer funds the same serious attention that has been given the IRS political targeting of non-profits and individuals, the destruction of Lois Lerner (and other IRS employee’s) emails and instant messaging, and their disciplinary action of an IRS employee who grotesquely violated the federal Hatch Act to campaign on IRS call center phones for a partisan political candidate.

What we have here is a lot of kabuki dancing, a heaping pile of photo ops and a generous portion of canned ham talking points by members of Congress seeking 10 minutes of air-time for their next newsletter or social media post.

What we don’t have is real, substantive action except by two federal judges who have just ordered the IRS to fess up, under oath, about what happened to Lerner’s emails and hard drive.

If you want real substantive change then please look closely at the 2014 candidates who want to represent you. If they say the support the FairTax, do they stand proud and can they defend it?

If not, ask them why. If they have not made their position on tax reform known press the issue. This candidate may well determine the future of HR 25, the FairTax Act, which is before Congress right now.

HR 25 is the only tax replacement plan before Congress that defunds, disbands and eliminates the IRS. 

It is also the only tax reform plan that transfers power from Congress to the people.

The American people are beat down, seemingly anesthetized. When they are told that our government wasted $500 billion of their hard earned money, they don’t even blink. Something is terribly wrong when this becomes the people’s reaction.

If you elect representatives who perpetuate the continued use of the income tax code as a political and financial weapon, then you have just become part of the problem.

Vow today that you will stand strong for the FairTax. Run, don’t walk to candidate meetings. Make your voice heard. Make time for Congressional town halls. Ask critical questions and listen to Candidate answers. Canned ham responses are a sign of disrespect to you as a constituent.

Don’t allow yourself to become any further sedated, any further complacent. America needs you. The FairTax needs you.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”

Iraq War Revisionism

In his June 26, 2014 column for Investors Business Daily, titled “Revisionists Have A Field Day On Why We Invaded Iraq,” writer Victor Davis Hanson exposed much of the revisionism that is now occurring as Democrats lay the groundwork for a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016.

Liberals and Democrats continue to lay the blame for the Iraq War at the feet of George Bush and Dick Cheney.  So, instead of buying into leftist election season propaganda, it’s time we set the record straight.  Let’s look at the facts.  A 2002 Bush White House document, titled “Saddam Hussein’s Defiance of United Nations Resolutions,” reviewed the outcome of U.N. Security Council resolutions, stating that, “Saddam Hussein has repeatedly violated sixteen United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) designed to ensure that Iraq does not pose a threat to international peace and security.” 

The document went on to detail each of those sixteen Security Council resolutions.  However, when it became clear that Saddam Hussein had not fully complied with the substance of these resolutions by November 8, 2002, the Security Council adopted, unanimously, Resolution 1441, a “final opportunity” for Saddam to comply with his disarmament obligations.

Hanson points out that, “Prior to our invasion, the Kurds (in northern Iraq) were a persecuted people who had been gassed (with WMD), slaughtered, and robbed of all rights by Saddam.  He reminds us that, in 2003, the New York Times estimated that Saddam Hussein had killed as many as 1 million of his own people… translating to about 40,000 deaths for each year he led Iraq…”

Hanson tells us that George Bush’s 2007-08 “surge” ended much of the violence.  By Obama’s second year in office, American fatalities were reduced to far less than the monthly accident rate in the U.S. military… a record which Obama referred to as “an extraordinary achievement,” leading to a “stable” and “self-reliant” Iraq… which he inherited and later abandoned.

Resolution 1441 stated that Iraq was in “material breach” of the ceasefire terms presented under the terms of Resolution 687.  U.N. inspectors were allowed to reenter Iraq and on December 19, 2002, the U.N. chief inspector, Hans Blix, reported that the Iraqis had made “false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to (Resolution 1441) and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq’s obligations.”

In anticipation of the report by U.N. inspectors, coalition forces of more than 30 countries, led by the United States and Great Britain, continued to deploy in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Middle East.  It was during this period of time that the Bush administration requested the necessary war powers from the U.S. Congress.

The Iraq war powers act, P.L. 107-243, passed the Republican-controlled House on October 10, 2002, by a vote of 296-133, and the Democrat-controlled Senate on October 11 by a vote of 77-23.  Twenty-eight Democrats, including Senators Clinton, Kerry, and Biden, voted in favor of the proposal.  Finally, on March 20, 2003, with all coalition forces in position, the invasion of Iraq commenced.  That represents the conventional wisdom, the “cover story,” which liberals and Democrats continue to use to try to convince the American people that George Bush and Dick Cheney lied to launch the Iraq War.  But there is much more to the story.

In early March 1990, I received a telephone call from my friend Chuck de Caro.  He was calling from Tucson to say that he needed my help.  Chuck was a former special assignments reporter for CNN.  In that capacity he received many of the most dangerous foreign assignments.  During the Nicaraguan civil war, he parachuted into the Nicaraguan jungles to live with Contra guerilla forces for weeks at a time… eating snakes, rodents, and other jungle varmints and bringing out dramatic news film of guerilla engagements.

Then, during the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, when Ronald Reagan sent American troops to rescue American medical students trapped when communist forces took control of the island, Chuck was the first American newsman to break the news embargo on the battle zone.  At one point, as he “ate dirt,” lying flat on his face in the no-man’s-land between U.S. and Cuban ground forces, he concluded that there had to be a better way of covering such conflicts.

I first met Chuck in 1987 when I worked as a consultant to the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington.  During the months that I shared a beautiful estate in Great Falls, Virginia, Chuck occupied an RV parked in the woods behind our garage, developing a concept of Information Warfare called SOFTWAR, the centerpiece of which was a Lockheed L-188C Electra aircraft with “long legs” fuel capacity, and with a network-quality newsroom built inside the fuselage.  He spent the next three years promoting his SOFTWAR concept to the major networks and finding the necessary funding for the project.  His telephone call in March 1990 was to tell me that he had his flying newsroom nearly completed and that he needed my help to complete it.

JPGS-Lockheed C-130-Ec130 Commando Solo

C-130 COMMANDO SOLO-II aircraft.

When fully equipped, the aircraft featured side-looking, forward-looking, and rear-looking gyro-stabilized, FLIR zoom-lens color TV cameras; side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) with a range of 100 miles on either side of the aircraft; a gyro-stabilized KU-band satellite up-link and C-band down-link; five redundant radio-telephone transmission systems; two complete edit stations, and two remotely piloted drones… small  unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with gyro-stabilized color TV cameras that could be flown over distant venues, any place where it was too dangerous for humans to go.  Aerobureau-One was the most sophisticated communications aircraft in the world.  No one had anything like it, not even the U.S. Air Force with their C-130 COMMANDO SOLO-II aircraft.

Unfortunately, the major networks were in the process of shrinking their international footprint, so Aerobureau-One went into mothball status in Canada.  It was not until the summer of 2002, twelve years later, when the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) decided that de Caro’s SOFTWAR concept was the perfect solution for deposing Saddam Hussein without the necessity of putting “boots on the ground” in Iraq.

Under the theory that no dictator can remain a dictator unless his people believe him to be both omnipotent and omniscient, HPSCI authorized the necessary funding for an intense Information Warfare campaign designed to remove one or both of those advantages from Saddam Hussein… thereby hastening the day when he would be overthrown by his own people.  Saddam’s ability to communicate with the Iraqi people via radio and television would be fully degraded by U.S. air power and replaced with radio and TV transmissions from a coalition broadcast platform, our Aerobureau-One aircraft, stationed in either Kuwait or Turkey.

However, the U.S. Senate, comprised of 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, changed from Republican to Democrat control when Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-VT) left the Republican Party to become an Independent, aligning himself with senate Democrats.  As a result, when the HPSCI authorization arrived in the U.S. Senate as a supplement to the 2002-03 Defense Appropriations bill, senate Democrats decided that it was more important for them to have a political issue to use against George W. Bush in his 2004 reelection campaign than to avert a ground war in Iraq.

In early September 2002, de Caro called to say that the HPSCI authorization was stalled in the U.S. Senate and that he needed the assistance of an experienced lobbyist to help convince senate Democrats to stop playing politics with the impending invasion.  I arrived in the Washington, DC area on September 9 and we began immediately to map out our lobbying strategy.

On September 12, we spent our first full day in the U.S. Senate, briefing aides to Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Dick Shelby (R-AL) vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator John Warner (R-VA) the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.  In the days and weeks that followed we received solid support from senior Senate staffers, but their interests and the interests of the Democratic senators they served were clearly not in sync.

While Democrats made impassioned speeches on the floor of the senate, insisting that the Congress could not give George W. Bush the war powers he sought, and that a way had to be found to remove Saddam Hussein through non-violent means, they were busy in the Capitol basement instructing the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee to kill the HPSCI SOFTWAR authorization… our last best hope of averting a ground war in Iraq.

de Caro and I spent most of September and October 2002 attempting to get senate Democrats to authorize and fund the SOFTWAR initiative, but to no avail.  And when we asked that they fund the project for a single dollar, just to get it “in the pipeline,” with supplemental funding to be added during the 108th Congress, they refused even that.  They wanted an issue to use against George Bush, even if it meant ignoring a non-violent means of averting a ground war in Iraq.

In that war, some 4,500 American men and women, and countless Iraqis, paid with their lives.  Clearly, their blood is on Democrat hands, not on Bush and Cheney.  I know; I was there.  As radio icon Paul Harvey was fond of saying, “And now you know… the rest of the story.”

EDITORS NOTE: The following public comments by various political figures are provided with this column about revising what really happened in the lead up to the Iraq War and since. Question: Who are the reals dogs of war?

“One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line.” President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998.

“If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.” President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998.

“Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use
nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.” Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998.

“He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.” Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998.

“[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if
appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of
mass destruction programs.” Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998.

“Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998.

“Hussein has … chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.” Madeline Albright, Clinton
Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999.

“There is no doubt that … Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.” Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, Dec, 5, 2001.

“We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the
mandated of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.” Sen. Carl Levin (d, MI), Sept. 19, 2002.

“We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.” Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.
“Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.” Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002.

“We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.” Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002.

“The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons…” Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002.

“I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force– if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.” Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002.

“There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear
weapons within the next five years … We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.” Sen. Jay Rockerfeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002,

“He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and
destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do.” Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002.

“In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological
weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al
Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and
chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.” Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002,

“We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing
capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction.” Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002.

“[W]ithout question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime … He presents a
particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation … And now he is miscalculating America’s response to his
continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction … So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real …” Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003.

When Zero’s Too High: Time preference versus central bankers by Douglas French

Central banking has taken interest rate reduction to its absurd conclusion. If observers thought the European Central Bank (ECB) had run out of room by holding its deposit rate at zero, Mario Draghi proved he is creative, cutting the ECB’s deposit rate to minus 0.10 percent, making it the first major central bank to institute a negative rate.

Can a central-bank edict force present goods to no longer have a premium over future goods?

Armed with high-powered math and models dancing in their heads, modern central bankers believe they are only limited by their imaginations. In a 2009 article for The New York Times, Harvard economist and former adviser to President George W. Bush N. Gregory Mankiw wrote, “Early mathematicians thought that the idea of negative numbers was absurd. Today, these numbers are commonplace.”

While this sounds clever, Ludwig von Mises undid Mankiw’s analogy long ago. “If he were not to prefer satisfaction in a nearer period of the future to that in a remote period,” Mises wrote of the individual, “he would never consume and enjoy.”

Carl Menger explained that it is “deeply imbedded in human nature” to have present desires satisfied over future desires. And long before Menger, A. R. J. Turgot wrote of the premium of present money over future money, “Is not this difference well known, and is not the commonplace proverb, ‘a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush,’ a simple expression of this notoriety?”

Central bankers can set a certain interest rate, but human nature cannot be eased away, quantitatively or otherwise. But the godfather of all central bankers, John Maynard Keynes, ignored time preference and focused on liquidity preference. He believed it was investments that yielded returns, and wrote, “Why should anyone outside a lunatic asylum wish to use money as a store of wealth?”

If liquidity preference determined the rate of interest, rates would be lowest during a recovery, and at the peak of booms, with confidence high, everyone would be seeking to trade their liquidity for investments in things. “But it is precisely in a recovery and at the peak of a boom that short-term interest rates are highest,” Henry Hazlitt explained.

Keynes believed that those who held cash for the speculative motive were wicked and central bankers must stop this evil. However, as Hazlitt explained in The Failure of the “New Economics,” holding cash balances “is usually most indulged in after a boom has cracked. The best way to prevent it is not to have a Monetary Authority so manipulate things as to force the purchase of investments or of goods, but to prevent an inflationary boom in the first place.”

Keynesian central bankers leave time out of their calculus. While they think they are lending money, they are really lending time. Borrowers purchase the use of time. Hazlitt reminds us that the old word for interest was usury, “etymologically more descriptive than its modern substitute.”

And as Mises explained above, time can’t have a negative value, which is what a negative interest rate implies.

Borrowers pay interest in order to buy present assets. Most importantly, this ratio is outside the reach of the monetary authorities. It is determined subjectively by the actions of millions of market participants.

Deep down, Mankiw must recognize this, writing, “The problem with negative interest rates, however, is quickly apparent: nobody would lend on those terms. Rather than giving your money to a borrower who promises a negative return, it would be better to stick the cash in your mattress. Because holding money promises a return of exactly zero, lenders cannot offer less.”

But still, he approvingly cites German economist Silvio Gesell’s argument for a tax on holding money, an idea Keynes himself approved of.

Keynesian central bankers are now central planners maintaining the unshakable belief that low interest rates put people back to work and solve every economic woe. “But in reality,” writes Robert Murphy, “interest rates coordinate production and consumption decisions over time. They do a lot more than simply regulate how much people spend in the present.”

Murphy points out that low rates stimulate some sectors more than others. Lower rates generally boost housing and car sales, for instance, while not doing much for consumer goods.

More than half a decade of zero interest rates has not lifted anyone from poverty or created any jobs—it has simply caused more malinvestment. It is impossible for the monetary authorities to dictate the proper interest rate, because interest rates determined by command and control bear no relation to the collective time preference of economic actors. The result of central bank intervention can only be distortions and chaos.

Draghi and Mankiw don’t seem to understand what interest is or how the rate of interest is determined. While it’s bad when academics promote their thought experiments, the foolish turns tragic when policymakers use the power of government to act on these experiments.

ABOUT DOUGLAS FRENCH

Douglas E. French is senior editor of the Laissez Faire Club and the author of Early Speculative Bubbles and Increases in the Supply of Money, written under the direction of Murray Rothbard at UNLV, and The Failure of Common Knowledge, which takes on many common economic fallacies.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

How School Board member Shirley Brown sold out Sarasota County public school students for $3.5 million

Shirley Brown WEB

Shirley Brown, Democrat Candidate for Sarasota County School Board, District 4.

Shirley Brown is the Democrat candidate for the Sarasota County School Board in District 4. A campaign fund raising letter states, “Shirley Brown is Proudly Leading our A-Rated School District into 21st Century Excellence!” The letter tout’s Browns “Sound Fiscal Management”, “Educational Excellence” and “Legislative Leadership.”

But are these statements true?

Under Brown’s “legislative leadership” the Sarasota County School District applied for a U.S. Department of Education Race To The Top grant. The District’s application #0059 for RTTT grant tells an interesting story. The U.S. Department of Education review of the RTTT grant application under “Articulating a comprehensive and coherent [education] reform vision” states:

This application lacks a comprehensive and coherent reform vision.

(a) No clear understanding of what this [RTTT] program entails – there was a lack of details around the four core educational assurances. They were listed and spoken about with definitions of what is benig [sic] talked about but no plan to implement. CCSS were mentioned and implemented per state requirement but no vision of how to proceed forward.

(b) No clear evidence of deepending [sic] student learning and increasing equity

(c) Lack of details concerning specific classroom experiences that students will experience or can be identified.

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) reviewer concludes, “The applicants [Sarasota County School Board] vision does not include a high quality plan and is not likely to result in improved student learning.” Read the full U.S. DOE review here.

After the failed U.S. DOE application, the District submitted an application to the Florida Department of Education to receive funding to implement RTTT. Florida received $700 million in RTTT money in 2009. In this case the District received $3.5 million to be used over a four year period. On January 5, 2010 Brown, and the School Board, accepted the funding and agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the FLDOE. This MOU is a prime example of Brown’s “fiscal, legislative and educational excellence leadership.”

But what strings come attached to the federal RTTT funding according to the MOU?

According to the Memorandum of Understanding between the School Board (Local Education Agency – LEA) and the FLDOE, “In order to participate, the LEA must agree to implement all applicable portions of the State Plan…”

What does the State Plan require?

The MOU states, “[The School Board] Is familiar with the State’s Race to the Top grant application and is supportive of the goals and plans for implementation and is committed to working on all applicable portions of the State Plan… [The Board] Will propose a comprehensive, interconnected plan that will drive continuous improvement of students, teachers, and principals based upon specific goals and benchmarks.” These goals and benchmarks are being developed by the state, outside corporations and non-profit entities.

This addresses Brown’s “educational leadership.” The key element of the State Reform Plan is:

Through Race to the Top, the Department is poised to weave a common core of rigorous standards and assessments into a pioneering data system that will serve as a foundation to attract, retain, and support top notch teachers and school leaders who will, in turn, improve student achievement in our schools.

When Brown signed on to taking this federal RTTT grant, she gave up her ability to “educationally lead students into the 21st century” and impact “educational excellence.” But Brown knows that as she voted for the MOU. Brown committed all the public school students be put into the Federal Common Core State Standards box of one size fits all.

Paul DiPerna from the Friedman Foundation writes, “When it comes to developing and implementing academic standards, Americans believe teachers and school district officials should take the lead.” The Friedman Foundation’s “Schooling in America Survey” found “respondents suggest it may be preferable for parents to play a larger role in development rather than implementation. Government officials at the state and federal levels should take a backseat in both.”

What did Brown get out of this in exchange for the loss of local educational control, corporate data mining of Sarasota County students, more teaching to the Common Core test standards, and an expanded teacher evaluation system tied to standardized tests? Why $3.5 million.

Is Shirley Brown “Leading our A-Rated School District into 21st Century Excellence?” Is this the kind of “leader” Sarasota County wants on the School Board? We shall see on Tuesday, August 26th.

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Breathtaking Lawlessness: The Supreme Court has restrained the Executive Branch — for now by Iain Murray

America’s federal executive branch has met some setbacks as of late. Two recent Supreme Court rulings have constrained the administration’s impulse to act as it wishes. Yet, the mere fact that the administration has overreached as it has—and would have continued to do so had the court not stopped it—should send us a clear warning: The instincts of executive power are always toward accumulating more power. In both cases, the court found, the administration clearly ignored the express instructions of the Constitution in favor of its own convenience.

The first decision concerned an attempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restrict the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. But the Clean Air Act’s emissions strictures posed a problem, because they would require the agency to restrict emissions above a certain threshold from stationary sources. Carbon dioxide is emitted in large amounts from even small sources, so applying the Clean Air Act would mean subjecting schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings to the same standards as industrial power plants.

The EPA, realizing how unpopular this would be, took it upon itself to rewrite the law, issuing what it called a “tailoring rule,” a scheme my colleague Marlo Lewis described as an act of “breathtaking lawlessness.” The attempt to amend, in the absence of congressional intent, clear, numerical, statutory provisions was a stark usurpation by the executive branch. Remember, the Constitution vests all legislative power in Congress.

The court agreed. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said that it was “patently unreasonable—not to say outrageous—for EPA to insist on seizing expansive power that it admits the statute is not designed to grant.” The court said the EPA was “laying claim to extravagant statutory power over the national economy,” and that if the court agreed with it, it “would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers.” Yet this shot of good sense came with a bitter chaser (more on that later).

In the second decision, just last week, the court found unconstitutional President Obama’s recess appointments of some members of the National Labor Relations Board whose nominations had been blocked in the Senate, because the Senate had not declared itself to be in recess. The administration argued that it was entitled to use the power whenever “the Senate is not open for business.”

The court rejected that view unanimously. As Case Western University law professor Jonathan Adler observed, “None of the justices were willing to accept the position of the Obama Administration, which was unnecessarily extreme. In choosing to make the recess appointments in the way it did, such as by not following precedents set by prior administrations (including Teddy Roosevelt) and filling some Board spots that the Senate never had time to fill, the Administration adopted a stance that was very hard to defend, so it could not attract a single vote.” (My organization, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, filed an amicus brief in the case before it reached the Supreme Court.)

The administration’s expansive view of its own enumerated powers is disturbing. But it should not be surprising. It is in the nature of executive power to seek to accrue more power. Throughout history, executives have claimed more power for themselves, whether by imperial decree or the new variant of “pen and phone.” And they’re not just raiding the legislature. Executives have a tendency to usurp judicial power too, whether by Star Chamber or administrative court.

This is why free societies must always be on guard against executive “mission creep.” As James Madison said, “There are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

Now, about that chaser. In its decision on the EPA rule (where the court only slightly limited the agency’s ability to regulate emissions from stationary sources), four of the nine justices agreed that the EPA should have the power to rewrite the law. When the English Parliament gave Henry VIII such a power in 1539, the philosopher David Hume later said that it “made by one act a total subversion of the English constitution.” In other words, basic freedom from executive law-making survived by just one vote last week.

So, while the idea of liberty is extremely resilient, its practical restraint on government by such means as constitutions is always fragile. The question therefore must be whether we can develop “antifragile” institutions of liberty.

Perhaps. The developing “sharing economy” might be seen as a “sharing constitution” in its early stages. Uber’s righteously defiant reaction to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s “cease and desist” orders may be an indicator of a way forward. Yes, the road from Virginia traffic court to constitutional convention is a long one, but could we be seeing an “application revolution” in action that increases citizens’ power over runaway executive magistrates?

ABOUT IAIN MURRAY

Iain Murray is vice president at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

EDITORS NOTE: The features image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.