Biden’s Radical 30 X 30 Plan Will Ensure That This Land Will No Longer Be Your Land

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Moving rapidly to transition the United States away from fossil fuels in the name of combatting climate change, the Biden administration is employing a mix of executive authority and legislative action to force the transformation.

While much attention is focused on which climate-related provisions ultimately make it into the administration’s massive infrastructure bill, a little-noticed White House initiative launched a few days after the Biden Inauguration seeks to restrict the use of lands and waters—both public and private—to activities that serve the administration’s green objectives.

The “30 x 30 Plan” is contained in Executive Order (EO) 14008, “Tackle the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Create Jobs, and Restore Scientific Integrity Across the Federal Government,” which was issued on Jan. 27. Section 216 of the EO calls on the United States to “achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.”

In a Department of Interior fact sheet, the administration says “only 12 percent of lands are permanently protected,” adding that the same holds true for 23 percent of the nation’s waters. Exactly how these shares are to be expanded to 30 percent remains a mystery, because the White House has provided scant details.

The EO instructed a slew of federal agencies to develop implementation strategies within 90 days, but when their 22-page report, “America the Beautiful,” was released on May 6, it was largely limited to generalities about restoring biodiversity and tackling climate change.

Some of the language in the Biden plan appears to be taken from a 2019 report by the left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP). CAP’s report, “How Much Nature Should America Keep?,” outlines how the United States can “thoughtfully, equitably, and justly protect 30 percent of its land and water.” According to CAP (and now the Biden administration), 12 percent of the land is “currently protected in its natural state,” which includes wilderness areas, National Parks, wildlife refuges, and private land conservation easements.

With the federal government, mostly through the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, owning about 27 percent of the nation’s land, this leaves a lot of federal land “unprotected,” not to mention the remaining over 70 percent of land in private ownership or managed by state, local, and Tribal governments.

A Radical Vision

The origins of the 30 x 30 plan can be traced to the creation of the Wildlands Project in 1991. Dave Foreman, formerly with the Wilderness Society and founder of EarthFirst!, guided the project’s fortunes in its early years, together with conservation biologists Michael Soule and Reed Noss. The Wildlands Project aimed to return 50 percent of the continental United States to a “natural” state.

Rooted in a school of thought known as Deep Ecology, which rejects the idea that some living things have greater value than others, the Wildlands Project called for establishing a system of core wilderness areas where human activity would be prohibited. Biological “corridors” would link the “core areas,” serving as highways allowing nonhumans to pass from one to another. “Our goal is to create new political realities based on the needs of other species,” Foreman told Science News in 1993.

Since renamed the Wildlands Network, the group has remained faithful to its founding agenda. On its website, the Wildlands Network says it seeks to “reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so that life—in all its diversity—can thrive.” As an example of the kind of rewilding it would like to see, the Wildlands Network touts a recent report identifying a large swath of potential habitat for jaguar in the central mountains of Arizona and New Mexico.

What began three decades ago as musings on the outermost fringes of the environmental movement, now serves as a template for federal climate policies contained in a White House executive order. And true to Foreman’s Wildlands vision, Biden’s 30 x 30 would “create new political realities.”

This has not escaped the attention of congressional representatives from districts and governors of states that would bear the brunt of what they fear is a massive federal land grab in the making.

In a March 16 letter to Biden, 64 members of the House Western Caucus expressed their concerns with the initiative. They pointed out that the federal government already manages 640 million acres of land (one million square miles), 90 percent of which is west of the Mississippi River.

“Western states will be disproportionately impacted by policies set in place to achieve the 30 by 30 goal, which we fear will impact revenues-derived and jobs that depend on multiple-use public lands,” they wrote.

“Our lands and our waters must remain open to activities that support our rural economies and help us achieve our agriculture, timber, recreation, energy, and mineral needs,” the lawmakers added.

Lest anyone have any doubts about the land-grabbing character of what the White House is undertaking, on Feb. 11, Scott de la Vega, Biden’s then-acting secretary of the interior, revoked a Trump-era order requiring state and local governments to have a voice in federal land acquisitions within their jurisdictions.

With the consent of state and local officials eliminated, Washington bureaucrats, using money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, can add to the already enormous federal estate.

Constitutional or Statutory Authority

Alarmed by what they fear is Washington’s interference in state land-use decisions, governors from 15 states stretching from Alabama to Alaska have signed a letter of protest to the White House.

“[We] are not aware of any constitutional or statutory authority for the President, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or any other federal agency to set aside and permanently preserve 30 percent of all land and water in the United States,” they wrote. “Nowhere in the laws of our nation is the authority delegated by Congress to the President or executive branch agencies to unilaterally change the policies governing land use in America.”

“Obtaining the 30 percent goal would require your Administration to condemn or otherwise severely limit the current productive uses of such lands, infringing on the private property rights of our citizens and significantly harming our economies,” they added.

Elsewhere in the executive order, the White House makes it clear that oil and gas development on federal land will be severely restricted. But, as the governors’ letter points out, private lands containing farms, ranches, orchards, and out-of-favor natural resources, are also in the crosshairs, albeit in ways Biden officials have yet to lay out.

Of further concern are the words “at least” in the EO’s goal of “conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.” The goalposts can always be moved, and there is nothing to keep the next goal from being 50 by 50.

“As a Wyomingite, I watched with horror the ‘War on the West’ by Carter, Clinton, and Obama, but Biden is outdoing them all with his plans that will destroy the ability of Wyoming, the other 11 western states, and Alaska to survive economically,” says William Perry Pendley, who ran the Bureau of Land Management for President Trump. “But because Biden cannot reach his goal without private property elsewhere, we are all westerners now.”

*****

This article was published on May 8, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from CFACT, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. 

Arizona’s Economic Relationship With China: Short-Term Benefits, Long-Term Risks

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

State governors usually seek to grow their states’ economies. One of Governor Ducey’s priorities has been to create a “21st Century Economy” in Arizona, which includes supporting “21st century companies that employ Arizonans.”[1]  As part of his efforts to attract “21st Century companies” to the state, the Governor has actively sought to foster greater Chinese business and investment interest in Arizona.

 In an interview with China Daily during the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in July 2017, Governor Ducey stressed that trade opportunities between China and Arizona included “public and private partnerships in our semiconductor, electronics, aerospace, defense industry, mining and ores.[2] Four months later, ahead of President Trump’s visit to China, the Governor told China Daily, “We would love opportunities to sell more to China and other opportunities for investment. I think from the franchise business to the aerospace and defense business, we would like to do more business with China.”[3]

And there does appear to be some good news in the Arizona – China trade relationship. According to figures provided by the U.S. – China Business Council, the annual value of manufactured goods exports from Arizona to China has averaged about $1 billion per year since 2010. China is now Arizona’s third largest export customer (after Mexico and Canada). In 2019, Arizona exported $1.1 billion worth of manufactured goods to China (to include $385 million worth of semiconductors and components, $138 million in aerospace products and parts, and $71 million worth of navigational and measurement instruments). According to the Council’s 2020 report, “Arizona exports to China supported 14,700 American jobs in 2018,” although it did not specify how many of these jobs are in Arizona.[4]

But the news isn’t all good. A 2020 report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found Arizona had experienced 65,800 net jobs displaced because of the U.S. – China goods trade deficit (2.28% of the state’s total estimated workforce) between 2013 and 2017. These job losses were spread across each of Arizona’s Congressional districts: [5]

 

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

 

 

NUMBER OF JOBS DISPLACED

1 3,900
2 3,800
3 5,400
4 4,500
5 14,200
6 7,900
7 7,200
8 7,300
9 11,600
TOTAL 65,800

Assuming Arizona – China trade does in fact support 14,700 jobs in Arizona, the EPI study suggests Arizona has actually lost an aggregate of 51,100 jobs due to the U.S.- China trade deficit – largely driven by Chinese predatory trade practices and unwillingness to abide by World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations.[6]

Chinese leaders probably do not share Governor Ducey’s vision of a “21st Century Economy” beneficial to the people of Arizona. China “does not seek to participate as an equal in the existing [international] order. Instead, it seeks to lead a China-centric order where China’s interests come first, and other countries are left to fight for what little is left.[7] According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “China will remain the top threat to United States technological competitiveness.[8]

Much of this threat takes the form of economic espionage. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 80 percent of all economic espionage prosecutions allege conduct that would benefit the Chinese state, and there is at least some nexus to China in around 60 percent.

*****

[1] Office of the Governor, “21st Century Economy,” 21st Century Economy | Office of the Arizona Governor (azgovernor.gov), accessed May 10, 2021.
[2] Hong Xiao and Zhang Yu’an, “Arizona Looks to Sweeten China Ties,” China Daily, July 19, 2017, Arizona looks to sweeten China ties – USA – Chinadaily.com.cn, accessed May 10, 2021. The China Daily video of Governor Ducey’s interview is posted at ducey china daily global – Yahoo Video Search Results, accessed May 11, 2021.
[3] China Daily USA, “Governors Hail Strong Ties with China,” November 8, 2017, Governors hail strong ties with China – USA – Chinadaily.com.cn, accessed May 10, 2021.
[4] U.S. – China Business Council, 2020 State Export Report: Goods and Services Exports to China by US States to China Over the Past Decade, April 2020, 25, 2020 State Export Report (uschina.org), accessed May 10, 2021.
[5] Robert E. Scott and Zane Mokhiber, Growing Chinese Trade Deficit Cost 3.7 Million American Jobs Between 2001 and 2008 (Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2020), 58,  Growing China trade deficit cost 3.7 million American jobs between 2001 and 2018: Jobs lost in every U.S. state and congressional district | Economic Policy Institute (epi.org), accessed May 10, 2021.
[6]  Ibid., 1.
[7] Lieutenant Colonel John Schaus, Brian Evans, and Colonel Elizabeth Martin, A Changing Indo-Pacific Region: Growing Complexity for the Six Anchor Nations, Indo-Pacific Theater Design Working Paper 2 (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, September 2020), 3-4;  A Changing Indo-Pacific Region: The Anchor Partners (armywarcollege.edu), accessed December 30, 2020.
[8] Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community (Washington, DC: April 9, 2021), 7, ATA-2021-Unclassified-Report.pdf (dni.gov), accessed May 10,2021.

Additional References:
[1] Robert E. Scott and Zane Mokhiber, Growing Chinese Trade Deficit Cost 3.7 Million American Jobs Between 2001 and 2008 (Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2020), 58,  Growing China trade deficit cost 3.7 million American jobs between 2001 and 2018: Jobs lost in every U.S. state and congressional district | Economic Policy Institute (epi.org), accessed May 10, 2021.
[1]  Ibid., 1.
[1] Lieutenant Colonel John Schaus, Brian Evans, and Colonel Elizabeth Martin, A Changing Indo-Pacific Region: Growing Complexity for the Six Anchor Nations, Indo-Pacific Theater Design Working Paper 2 (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, September 2020), 3-4;  A Changing Indo-Pacific Region: The Anchor Partners (armywarcollege.edu), accessed December 30, 2020.
[1] Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community (Washington, DC: April 9, 2021), 7, ATA-2021-Unclassified-Report.pdf (dni.gov), accessed May 10,2021.

Consumers Expect Surging Inflation to Crush the Purchasing Power of their Labor: Fed’s Survey

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

Consumers are picking up on the rise of inflation, and the Fed, which has been trying to heat up inflation, is pleased. The Fed watches “inflation expectations” carefully. The minutes from the March FOMC meeting mention “inflation expectations” 12 times.

The New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations for April, released today, showed that median inflation expectations for one year from now rose to 3.4%, matching the prior highs in 2013 (the surveys began in June 2013).

But wait… the median earnings growth expectations 12 months from now was only 2.1%, and remains near the low end of the spectrum, a sign that consumers are grappling with consumer price inflation outrunning earnings growth. The whoppers were in the major specific categories.

So even as consumers expect their earnings to grow by only 2.1% over the next 12 months, and their total household income by only 2.4%, according to the survey, they expect to face these whoppers of price increases:

  • Home prices: +5.5%, a new high in the data series
  • Rent: +9.5%, fifth month in a row of increases and new high in the data series
  • Food prices: +5.8%
  • Gasoline prices: +9.2%
  • Healthcare costs: +9.1%
  • College education: +5.9%.

Sadly, the Fed doesn’t ask consumers about their expectations for new and used vehicle prices, which are now in the process of spiraling into the stratosphere. It would have been amusing to see what consumers expect those prices to do over the next 12 months.

*****

Continue reading this article at Wolf Street.

Climate Science Is ‘Unsettled’, Says Obama Science Director

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

As I write, in just over 12 hours since its official launch on May 4, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What it Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, by physicist Steven E. Koonin, Ph.D., is number 15 on Amazon’s list of top-selling nonfiction books, the top-selling book on Amazon Kindle in Weather and Climatology, and the second-bestselling book in 21st Century World History. By the time this review reaches readers, Unsettled might well be the bestselling book in all three subcategories, crack the top 10 in the nonfiction category, and be among the top 100 in sales across all categories.

Of the multiple books and documentaries poking holes in the apocalyptic climate alarm narrative released in the past year, Unsettled may be the most critical of all, because of who its author is.

Koonin was involved in the development of the early computer models used in science and wrote one of the first books describing how computer models were developed, how they function, and their strengths and limits when used in science. The book is still widely used in college classrooms today. Koonin has written more than 200 academic papers and articles, which have been cited more than 14,000 times, according to Google Scholar.

Koonin’s research and writings on climate science and energy led former President Barack Obama to appoint him Undersecretary for Science in the U.S. Department of Energy. Koonin’s portfolio included the government’s climate research program, and Koonin was the lead author of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Strategic Plan (2011).

Koonin is the ultimate climate insider. Climate hypers cannot plausibly portray him as fringe scientist working outside the mainstream or legitimately label him a “climate denier.”

Koonin’s research indicates the climate is changing and humans have influenced some of that change. Almost everything else people have been led to believe about climate change is unsettled, reports Koonin.

The author begins by describing what he refers to as “The Science”—you know, the thing everyone is supposed to be following:

‘The Science,’ we’re told, is settled. How many times have you heard it?

Humans have already broken the earth’s climate. Temperatures are rising, sea level is surging, ice is disappearing, and heat waves, storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires are an ever-worsening scourge on the world. Greenhouse gas emissions are causing all of this. And unless they’re eliminated promptly by radical changes to society and its energy systems, “The Science” says Earth is doomed. [Emphasis in original.]

Well . . . not quite. Yes, it’s true that the globe is warming, and that humans are exerting a warming influence upon it. But beyond that—to paraphrase the classic movie The Princess Bride: “I do not think ‘The Science’ says what you think it says.”

Unsettled is presented in two parts: “The Science” and “The Response.”

“The Science” comprises eleven chapters. The first two discuss what we know about how the climate works (hint: its less than you’ve been led to believe), and the extent to which humans are contributing to climate change (also less than you might think). The third chapter discusses how climate models have been developed and the ways in which their results are “muddled,” in Koonin’s words, instead of being definitive and trustworthy. Koonin shows models often contradict one another and fail to match observed changes in temperature and climate. This chapter also begins the book’s examination of how various interested parties suppress and misrepresent good climate research in order to persuade the public we face a climate crisis. This latter point is a running theme Koonin highlights by citing specific examples throughout the book.

Chapters Five through Nine examine various negative effects purportedly being caused or exacerbated by human-caused climate change. This set of chapters is fairly summed up by the title of Chapter Nine: “Apocalypses That Ain’t.” Among the findings Koonin discloses are:

  • The late[st] generation of models is actually more uncertain than the earlier one[s].
  • Heat waves in the US are now no more common than they were in 1900 and the warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past fifty years.
  • Humans have had no detectable impact on hurricanes over the past century.
  • Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking any more rapidly today than it was eighty years ago.
  • The net economic impact of human-induced climate change will be minimal through at least the end of this century.

Regular readers of Climate Change Weekly are likely aware of these facts already, but they will be real eye-openers for most readers of Koonin’s book.

The last two chapters of section one examine who “broke” climate science, and how and why, and then discuss how the science, along with how it is represented and reported, can be improved.

For me personally, these chapters are in many ways the most disturbing and interesting of the book, because they detail the ways by which the scientific enterprise itself is being perverted, to the detriment of both science and political decision making.

Science is a process, a method of discovering new truths and explaining currently unexplained or poorly understood phenomena. As Koonin’s book shows in detail, many of those involved in climate research and reporting have abandoned science—the process of discovering data and evidence and assembling facts—for “The Science,” a massive effort to persuade people to believe something that is not true, for normative or political reasons.

Koonin’s suggestion that the federal government institute a “Red Team/Blue Team” exercise to examine and discuss the weak spots in various government climate reports before they are published has been met with hostility by many politically connected scientists and powerful government leaders.

Prominent Democrat senators such as Edward Markey (MA), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Cory Booker (NJ), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), and Diane Feinstein (CA) have supported legislation to outlaw scientific debate about what is known and unknown about climate change by “prohibit[ing] the use of funds to Federal agencies to establish a panel, task force, advisory committee, or other effort to challenge the scientific consensus on climate change, and for other purposes.”

You read that right. Politicians who regularly demand people “follow the science” on climate change have tried to ban the use of the scientific method to discover what climate science tells us.

Of this, Koonin writes,

I confess to being shocked. … [E]nshrining a certain scientific viewpoint as an inviolable consensus is hardly the role of government (at least in a democracy). And as a student of history, I found the bill uncomfortably reminiscent of a 1546 decree by the Council of Trent that attempted to suppress challenges to Church doctrine.

In section two of Unsettled, “The Response,” Koonin explores why political diktats to curtail fossil fuel use sharply are likely to fail and produce outcomes as bad as or worse than the harms they are meant to prevent. Koonin suggests the wisest response to climate change, the response most likely to mitigate any harms while generating beneficial outcomes, is something societies have historically embraced in response to changing climate and sociopolitical conditions: flexible adaptation.

Koonin definitively shows that much more is unsettled than is settled in climate science, economics, and policy. Koonin’s book deserves the praise it is receiving, and it merits a wide readership. If it gets the audience it deserves, there will be one more thing unsettled: the narrative that we face a climate crisis so certain and so dire that only a radical government-controlled reshaping of the economy, people’s personal lives, and consumption patterns can solve it.

*****

This article was published on May 4, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from the Heartland Institute.

Let’s Make A Deal: The Bourgeois Deal Among Many Others

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Editors Note:  Deidre McCloskey has written a brilliant trilogy attempting to explain why, from almost the dawn of recorded history, mankind made little progress and lived on roughly a few dollars a day in today’s money.  But around 1750, something happened in society, and material progress began to change and has continued to advance to this day.  Today, socialists and progressives threaten the very foundation which made this advance possible.  If you don’t understand the foundation of our progress, then you can’t appreciate its destruction and what it will mean to you and to mankind. Please view this video along with this article.

 

In her trilogy of books on what she calls “the Bourgeois Era,” Deirdre McCloskey argues that we owe our prosperity to the Bourgeois Deal, a broad social consensus that embraces market-tested innovation. In our book Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World, Professor McCloskey and I condense, elaborate, and illustrate. The Bourgeois Deal—in brief, “Leave me alone to buy, sell, innovate, and test my ideas in markets, and I’ll make you rich”—has, in fact, led to a Great Enrichment of the world that started in northwestern Europe and that now threatens to actually make poverty history. In contrast, the non-Bourgeois Deals—the Blue Blood Deal, the Bismarckian Deal, the Bolshevik Deal, and finally the Bureaucratic Deal—have bound us, limited us, and made us, ultimately, poorer than we would otherwise be.

Hierarchy and inequality unite the non-Bourgeois Deals, which are only “deals” insofar as the term can be applied to an understanding among non-equals, one of whom has a gun under the table. Lest you think this gun is a metaphor, I assure you, the gun is very, very real. Try breaking the Blue Blood Deal in the calamitous fourteenth century (OK, fine–it might not have been a gun in the fourteenth century) or the Bolshevik Deal in Russia after the Revolution or the Bureaucratic Deal of a highly-credentialed American License Raj and see where it gets you. Here are the Deals and what they mean, in brief.

The Blue Blood Deal: In her Bourgeois Era trilogy, McCloskey calls this the Aristocratic Deal. We call it the Blue Blood Deal for alliterative purposes. It extols rank and distinction, blood and birth. It is the Deal of Arthur’s Round Table, where the good and gentle do feats of piety and condescending service because they are great. In its harsher version, it is the presumption of Queen Jadis in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew entering 20th century England and commanding Uncle Andrew.

“Procure for me at once a chariot or a flying carpet or a well-trained dragon, or whatever is usual for royal and noble persons in your land. Then bring me to places where I get clothes and jewels and slaves fit for my rank. Tomorrow I will begin the conquest of the world.”

The knights and Queen Jadis are not made great by their actions: rather, their greatness creates for them a handful of noble obligations and prerogatives. The Blue Blood Deal rallies British soldiers at Agincourt to the side of Henry V not because winning the battle will better the lives of the average British man or woman but because it will bring glory to Henry and gentle the condition of the soldier who in years to come can show the scars from the wounds he took on St. Crispin’s Day. The Blue Blood Deal embraces and praises feats of arms on the battlefield but laughs in amusement or contempt at the idea of dignity for the executive exhausted from a day of making very big decisions for the sake of nameless, faceless shareholders.

The Bolshevik Deal: Honor The Party and those who wish to plan every aspect of your life. They might be bloodthirsty tyrants, but their bloodthirst and their tyranny serves the very noble vision expressed in John Lennon’s “Imagine” and in progressive Twitter feeds. It is a Deal beset by obligation: we have done for you (even though you didn’t ask, or agree to the social contract). In its milder forms it points to the infrastructure that supports small businesses and says with Barack Obama or Elizabeth Warren “You didn’t build that,” ignoring all the while that the super-rich pay taxes out of proportion to their income. It says “You have, and by assumption, your having causes others to have not. Therefore, you owe us. Shut up, obey, don’t ask the wrong questions, and maybe we won’t put a bullet in your head or send you to starve or freeze to death in a gulag.”

The Bismarckian Deal: The deal, obviously, gets its name from Germany’s Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, and the social insurance schemes he implemented in order to fend off the socialists. It tells us, in short, to forsake the imperfectly-operating institutions of civil society. Ignore what the historian David Beito and the economic historian John E. Murray have found, and embrace the state as your caretaker from cradle to grave. The state is a substitute god or parent that will feed you and educate you. The state will care for you in old age and in the event of an accident that leaves you unable to work. Never mind that the money they put in your right pocket comes out of your left pocket, or someone else’s pocket. See The State as your noble, wise, and sufficient caretaker, and all will go well with you—in particular, the Bismarckian state will defend you from the bolsheviks and the bourgeoisie.

The Bureaucratic Deal: This is the Deal of the administrative state. It says “Honor me and defer to me by virtue of my expertise (as indicated by my master’s degree or my Ed.D or my other credentials). Follow The Science (which I produce and interpret), and seek permission at every turn for the times when you want to open a new store or introduce a new product or come up with a new way to produce an old product. It is the Deal of the nudgers, the deal of permission for everything. It is the Deal of applied behavioral economics that says, to paraphrase the philosopher David Schmidtz, “We run our own lives poorly, but we will run others’ lives well.”

The Bourgeois Deal: Meanwhile, the Bourgeois Deal says “Physician, heal thyself.” The Bourgeois Deal, we argue, is the appropriate Deal for a society of masterless men and women: it says leave me, a fully-grown adult, alone to blaze my own trails and try new things. Especially don’t expect me to ask you or the American Consolidated Mousetrap Company for permission to produce, sell, and market what I think will be a much better mousetrap than anything they offer. I grudgingly admit that people will imitate my innovations or at least come up with innovations of their own that lead to better mouse-catching, and hence, I don’t expect my unusual profits to last very long before I’m grudgingly forced to accept a normal rate of return—though I’ll admit when looking at a lot of those other deals that they look pretty good once I’ve got mine. By the time I’m finished, I will have made you—my customers, my shareholders, my bondholders, and my business associates—rich.

The Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan and his acolytes in the Virginia School of political economy sought to develop a political-economic analysis for a society of natural equals. Only radical egalitarianism of the Bourgeois Deal really fits the bill. The non-bourgeois deals seem to mask thinly-veiled contempt for other human beings who, if not controlled, will make the wrong choices. As H.L. Mencken famously said, the urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the desire to rule it. We’ve paid the butcher’s bill for generations of guillotine-operating humanitarians and kindly inquisitors. Perhaps we should grow up a little and take a different path.

*****

This article was published on May 8, 2021 and is reprinted with permission from AIER, American Institute for Economic Research.

New Report: AZ School Districts Reroute Millions that Lawmakers Intended for Teachers

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

In 2018, Arizona state lawmakers approved the “20×2020” plan to send hundreds of millions of new dollars to public school districts so they could raise average teacher salaries by 20%. But data revealed in a new Goldwater Institute report suggests that most of that money never made it—at least, not to teachers.

As shown in this new Goldwater report, The Truth about Teacher Pay in Arizona: How Arizona School Districts Have Held Back Teacher Salaries, Blamed Lawmakers, and Continually Captured Public Sympathy, school districts used the majority of the new 20×2020 funds simply to replace, rather than add to, existing buckets of state money for teachers (and vice versa). The result: During the 2019-2020 school year alone, teachers received at least $170 million less from their school districts in salary increases than Arizona taxpayers provided for.

How could this be? After all, school districts reported average salary increases of 13.3% through the 2019-2020 school year, just shy of their 15% interim target. Goldwater’s new report shows, however, that most of this increase was already paid for by other automatic state funding increases intended to support teacher pay, which 20×2020 was designed to complement, not replace.

As shown in the report:

  • After accounting for the dollars teachers would have received anyway (from state inflation adjustments and from higher state tax sales tax revenues under Proposition 301), districts used their 20×2020 dollars to provide just a 6% ($3,000) raise in average teacher salaries through 2019-2020, far short of the funded target of more than $7,000 for that year.
  • School districts have established a decades-long pattern of this behavior: After voters approved the Proposition 301 sales tax increase for K-12 funding in 2000, for example, the state Auditor General found that over the following decade, districts had disregarded the expectations of voters, likely violated state statute by shifting funds away from the classroom, and paid their teachers “about $7,500” less on average than they could have with the new funds.
  • Districts have consistently deprioritized teacher pay, even during years of economic growthand record K-12 spending:From the implementation of Proposition 301 in fiscal year 2002 through the pre-Great Recession economic boom for instance, district revenues per pupil increased 11.8% adjusted for inflation, while districts sustained teacher salary increases of just 0.5% over the same period once similarly adjusted for inflation.
  • Districts have increased operational spending (adjusted for inflation) in all major expenditure categories between fiscal years 2001 and 2020, yet teacher salaries have failed to rise. District spending on administration, for instance, has risen by nearly $2,000 in inflation-adjusted terms per class of 20 students, even as teacher salaries were no higher through fiscal year 2020.
  • Contributing to the downward pressure on teacher salaries, Arizona school districts have added almost 2,000 managers, supervisors, and directors since the 1983-1984 school year. The growth rate of these administrative positions is over 30% higher than that of students and teachers during the same period.
  • More recently, despite an unprecedented $4 billion in federal COVID-19 stimulus revenues given to Arizona’s K-12 system and surging district fund balances, Arizona school districts have elected to respond by terminating educators, while the Arizona Department of Education has declined to release up to $85 million dollars as requested by members of the state legislature.
  • Taken together, these episodes each fit into a decades-long trend in which district spending on teacher salaries has fallen from 37% to 28% of district budgets since 1980, meaning schools now spend roughly a quarter less on teacher salaries compared to other expenditures than they did just a handful of decades ago.

As previously reported by the Arizona Tax Research Association, state lawmakers’ 20×2020 plan contained enough new funding for Arizona public schools to increase average teacher salaries to the 26th highest in the nation (16th highest when adjusted for the cost of living). Since that time, however, education activists have insisted that Arizona teacher pay remains at the bottom of the barrel, dismissing the hundreds of millions of dollars of additional taxpayer investments as “nothing.”

While these claims have continued to recycle badly outdated figures from the pre-20×2020 period, they may indeed reveal a deeper, more problematic pattern—a seemingly endless cycle in which a) district and union leaders warn of low teacher salaries, b) state lawmakers and/or voters agree to provide massive funding to boost those salaries, and c) the money is ultimately used to instead increase spending in virtually every category except teacher salaries.

State lawmakers—and their constituents—may wish to rethink their participation in this cycle, and they can start by reading more in Goldwater’s new report here.

*****

This article was published on May 12, 2021, and reproduced with permission from the Goldwater Institute.

 

The New York Times Argues With Itself About Biden and Taxes

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Last Thursday the New York Times reported what should be obvious, but that eludes most in our midst: the rich pay the vast majority of taxes collected. By far.

This is a statement of the obvious simply because the “vital few” drive all progress in all walks of life. Think the NBA before Bird, Magic and Jordan, think the PGA before Tiger Woods, think how the rare blockbuster film pays for all manner of small movies without guns, car crashes, and explosions.

Stated simply, what’s great is a consequence of the giants on whose shoulders we stand. The very talented few pull us forward. Politicians ignore this truth at their peril, and to our detriment.

The Times reported that “almost half of the personal income tax that California collects comes from the top 1 percent of the state’s earners.” Yes. What’s true there is also true nationally. See above.

So while it’s true that the rich foot the majority of government bills, this isn’t a happy reality. And it’s logically least happy for those with the least. California shows why. Please read on.

As the Times went on to report, thanks to a surge in tax revenues for the Golden State related to IPOs and a rising stock market more broadly, California has a major budget “surplus.” Translated for those who need it, Gavin Newsom and others in the state will have more dollars with which to plan California’s economy; the latter the world’s fifth largest if it were a country. It’s a reminder that while economic progress and wealth creation are good things, the subsequent increase in tax revenues is not. That which empowers politicians, and that which enables more borrowing by those same politicians, generally isn’t. But that’s not the main point of this piece.

The main point is what’s happening such that California’s richest are largely shouldering the state’s tax burden. They are because they’re either founding tomorrow’s innovative companies; that or their savings are making tomorrow’s companies possible. These are the very companies that continue to push down the cost of communication (who anymore worries about the cost of long-distance calls?), the cost of accessing information (everywhere you look someone is tapping on a supercomputer that fits in their pocket), the cost of market goods (cheap global communications mean we can access the world’s plenty with a click of a mouse or a tap of a phone), not to mention the feverish push by left coast technologists to erase all manner of life-ending disease.

In short, California’s 1 percenters are relentlessly rushing the future into the present, all the while pushing down the cost of everything. They do this all the while elongating our lives. They have enormous amounts of “money” precisely because they’re so skilled at expanding what the dollars (along with euros, yen, yuan, pounds, etc.) in our pockets can be exchanged for.

This rates mention in consideration of Times reporter Jim Tankersley’s rather reverential review of President Biden’s televised speech on the same day. To say that Tankersley was taken by Biden’s promises made with the money of others brings new meaning to understatement.

Tankerley wrote with great enthusiasm about the “centerpiece” of Biden’s first address, which was, is, and always will be handouts for everyone care of government. That government has nothing to give out absent the rich producing enormous wealth (see California, see where the U.S. Treasury gets its funding) doesn’t seem to trouble Tankersley. Maybe he doesn’t read his employer’s business section. Since he perhaps doesn’t, sections A and B were arguing with each other.

In Tankersley’s case, he writes without any irony or skepticism that Biden’s myriad promises “would be paid for by raising $4 trillion in tax revenue from high earners and corporations.” Where does one begin?

Oh well, for the purposes of this piece it’s worth reminding readers why America’s “high earners and corporations” have so much taxable wealth in the first place. They do so because they’re routinely producing goods and services for individuals of all income categories that were previously out of reach. Wealth creation is most often a consequence of mass production, as is corporate prosperity.

Which raises an obvious question:  including minorities? Think about it.

As the California revenue surge yet again attests, the state’s top 1 percent got that way by making life better, healthier, longer, and much cheaper for beyond the immorality of politicians using the tax code to penalize a tiny minority in the U.S. (all this time politicians and their media enablers claimed to loathe discrimination…), don’t they understand the sheer impracticality of it? Better yet, don’t they see how cruel their ill treatment of a tiny U.S. economic minority is to Americans more broadly, i.e 99 percent. How awful then, for California to so heavily tax it’s most prosperous citizens. How awful for the rest of us for Biden to try and rally Congress to back more confiscatory tax rates on “high earners and corporations.” The 1 percent will lose for sure, but the 99% reliant on the fruits of their intrepid investment and creativity will really lose.

Really, how backwards and confused it is to take from the productive in order to hand it to politicians constrained by the known; people who, by virtue of their desire to desperately prop up the economic present, do so by restraining a much better future. Politicians protect the now, investors and entrepreneurs bring us later. Biden wants to suffocate the arrival of what’s presently unimaginable. Not so, accordingly to Tankersley. As he naively puts it, “What the president is promising from the government in the years to come is a long list of tangible improvements in Americans’ daily lives.” No, that’s just not true.

Money’s worth is what it can be exchanged for. Government spending by its very name is the politicized allocation of precious wealth first created in the private sector. In other words, government spending delays the mass production of yesterday’s luxuries and tomorrow’s must-haves by limiting investment. Page B1 in the April 29th New York Times shows us why this is true.

*****

This article was published on May 6, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from AIER,  American Institute for Economic Research.

F.A. Hayek on ‘the Supreme Rule’ That Separates Collectivism From Individualism

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The principle that ends justify means is one where the ethics of individualists and collectivists collide, F.A. Hayek saw.

Born in Vienna on this date (May 8) in 1899, Austrian economist and political philosopher Friedrich August von Hayek lived to see almost the entirety of the 20th Century. He won a Nobel Prize for Economics in 1974 and died in 1992 at the age of 92.

The 20th was perhaps the most collectivist century since the Incan Empire of the 16th—a tragic irony since Hayek offered the world some of the most trenchant criticisms of the collectivist poison.

Hayek’s insights on collectivism are sprinkled throughout his many works and are expressed particularly well in his classic 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom. Excerpts are offered here as a tribute to him on this 122nd anniversary of his birth. (Additionally, I urge readers who have a special interest in this existential matter to consult the selection of readings I provide at the bottom of this essay.)

Collectivism is a perspective on human life and action. It views people as a blob requiring unified (if not unanimous) direction. Individualism is its opposite because it sees “humanity” as an abstract, composed of unique individuals, each one with a mind and rights of his own. While a collectivist would readily subsume the individual to such notions as majority vote or “the general will,” an individualist is wary of any person or group claiming to speak for others without their consent.

Hayek pointed out what ought to be obvious but is often glossed over, namely, that the “plans” of collectivist authority are bullied into place at the expense of the plans of individuals. That means that all forms of socialism are, essentially, collectivist and that all criticisms of collectivism apply to socialism in one form or another. Socialism invariably utilizes collectivist rhetoric and, most importantly, it attempts to achieve its ends by collectivist methods. Taken together, the contributions of Hayek and his mentor Ludwig von Mises constitute such a complete and powerful dismantling of the socialist vision that socialists’ only effective response has been to ignore them.

“Nearly all the points which are disputed between socialists and [classical, free market] liberals,” Hayek writes, “concern the methods common to all forms of collectivism and not the particular ends for which socialists want to use them…”

For example, almost everyone favors education in the abstract. An individualist would encourage a multiplicity of methods and institutions to acquire it through personal choice and private entrepreneurship. A socialist supports a collective approach—state schools, state curriculum, mandates from authority, one-size-fits-all. An individualist would never homogenize education by command. He might even quote Mao and really mean it: “Let a hundred flowers bloom!” A collectivist like the socialist Mao would see no purpose in a hundred flowers blooming except to cut them down to common, obedient stumps.

To a collectivist, leaving the flowers alone or permitting endless varieties of them is tantamount, Hayek notes, to no plan at all. The plans of individuals are chaos by definition, whereas the plans of centralized authority are somehow inherently rational. “What our planners demand,” says Hayek, “is a central direction of all economic activity according to a single plan, laying down how the resources of society should be ‘consciously directed’ to serve particular ends in a definite way.”

This distinction reduces to this: Shall there be competition or not? The individualist would answer that question with an enthusiastic “YES!” because competition implies individual choice, accountability, and a tendency toward efficiency. It implies experimentation, with consumers by their free selections ultimately deciding whose plans produce the best results. The collectivist is instinctively anti-competition because the plan he wants might not be the one that other people choose in a competitive arena. A free and individualist society, explains Hayek,

…regards competition as superior not only because it is in most circumstances the most efficient method known but even more because it is the only method by which our activities can be adjusted to each other without coercive or arbitrary intervention of authority. Indeed, one of the main arguments in favor of competition is that it dispenses with the need for ‘conscious social control’ and that it gives the individuals a chance to decide whether the prospects of a particular occupation are sufficient to compensate for the disadvantages and risks connected to it.

Collectivist policymaking is inescapably the summit of arrogance. It is not the wise undertaking of an omniscient, benevolent Wizard of Oz. As in the movie, the “wizard” turns out to be just another mortal (or his lackeys) behind the collectivist curtain, pretending to be smarter and bigger than the rest of us. Why should his plans take precedence over those of other humans? You can claim, as collectivists do, that he represents the majority plus one, or that he possesses superior intentions, or whatever, but you cannot explain away the fact that such claims are nothing more than arrogant presumptions. “Might makes right” is what collectivist planning is all about.

Students today are often taught that on the imaginary “political spectrum,” socialism and communism are “left of center” and capitalism and fascism are “right of center.” As I wrote in a recent essay, The Only Spectrum That Makes Sense,” this is frightfully misleading. Socialism, communism and fascism are all peas in the same collectivist pod. Hayek held that they all despised both competition and the individual, and he was precisely right.

“The idea of complete centralization of the direction of economic activity still appalls most people,” wrote Hayek, “not only because of the stupendous difficulty of the task, but even more because of the horror inspired by the idea of everything being directed from a single center.”

In Chapter Ten of The Road to Serfdom (“Why the Worst Get to the Top”), Hayek lands a blow from which collectivists will never recover. Why? Because it is rooted fundamentally in a moral argument:

The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule; there is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves ‘the good of the whole,’ because ‘the good of the whole’ is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done. The raison d’etat, in which collectivist ethics has found its most explicit formulation, knows no other limit than that set by expediency—the suitability of the particular act for the end in view…There can be no limit to what [the collectivist state’s] citizen must be prepared to do, no act which his conscience must prevent him from committing, if it is necessary for an end which the community has set itself or which his superiors order him to achieve.

Friedrich August von Hayek was a giant of an intellectual. One need not be himself an intellectual to appreciate him. You simply must be an individual who appreciates the fact that we are all individuals, and that only God himself is fit to plan the lives or economies of others.

Happy Birthday, F. A. Hayek!

*****

This article was published on May 8, 2021 and is reprinted with permission from FEE, Foundation for Economic Education

 

 

Thanks To Covid Stimulus, Employers Can’t Find Workers. Montana’s Governor Is Having None Of It

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Montana governor Greg Gianforte has had enough of President Joe Biden’s covid relief bills. Instead of paying people to stay unemployed, he’s giving them a bonus for finding work.

After scrapping what he called the “impractical government mandates” imposed by former governor Steve Bullock in 2020, businesses in his state were still struggling.

We got rid of hours of operation, capacity limits. We got rid of our statewide mask mandate. We put lawsuit protection in place for businesses and nonprofits. And now, as we have opened up, employers can’t find workers. It’s across all industries. Restaurants are having to shut down for days because they can’t find cooks or wait staff.

Addressing the media, Gianforte said that because the federal government extended unemployment benefits due to the pandemic, people have incentives to stay home. In order to change that scenario and get Montanans back to work, he drew out a new plan.

We made the decision to opt out of the federal supplemental unemployment benefits, and replace it with a back-to-work bonus.

Now, he is offering anyone who gets off unemployment benefits and finds a job a $1,200 bonus.

This is going to help employers. And, honestly, there’s dignity in the work. And there’s also satisfaction in being self-sufficient. We made that decision yesterday. And we’re just getting a phenomenal response from our business community.

Isn’t that something! Who would have thought that forcefully locking down the country’s economy and then showering the unemployed with taxpayer-backed “free” money would produce anything but chaos?

While Gianforte’s plan isn’t ideal considering that government-backed incentives to get people back to work are unnecessary in a truly free market, his reasoning is correct. When you subsidize something, you always get more of it.

They Never Learn Their Lesson

In 2013, well into President Barack Obama’s second term, Congress extended long-term unemployment benefits. But the extension ended as 2014 rolled in. What we saw happen was a significant drop in the unemployment rate.

As Mises associate scholar Randall G. Holcombe explains in this article, when the government pays people to remain unemployed, what we get in return is more unemployment.

The long-term unemployment rate skyrocketed during the recession because we paid people to be unemployed longer.

Needless to say, this lesson was lost on our overlords. Thankfully for the people of Montana, their governor isn’t waiting for a total economic collapse to revert course.

*****

This article was published on May 7, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Does Tucson Deserve Similar Grades as Baltimore?

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

What comes to mind when you think of Baltimore?

What comes to my mind is high crime, high poverty, widespread blight, a corrupt one-party government, and the TV series “The Wire,” which is set in Baltimore.

What comes to mind when you think of my adopted hometown of Tucson?

What comes to my mind is dismay that the popular website AreaVibes.com rates Tucson about the same as it rates Baltimore, based on published demographics. The scores are important because a lot of people and companies go to the site to compare cities in deciding where to live and do business.

Below are the grades that AreaVibes gives to the two cities.

Tucson Baltimore
Crime F F
Employment F  D-
Schools F F
Housing  C- C
Cost of Living  B-  C-
Amenities  A+  A+

Something is not right with the above.

Sure, Tucson suffers from not being a port city or being on a navigable river. Sure, Tucson was a dusty, remote outpost when Baltimore was a major industrial and cultural center. Sure, Tucson has suffered from decades of shortsighted one-party government. Sure, Tucson has a history of provincialism and hostility to big business.  And sure, because of these factors, Tucson’s poverty rate of 21.9% is twice the national average and slightly above Baltimore’s rate of 21.2%.

But come on! Is it right to given Tucson similar grades as Baltimore?

Well, it doesn’t seem right to give it the same grade as Baltimore in crime.

Take the worst crime:  homicides. Tucson has 7.3 homicides per 100,000 residents, which, granted, is above the national average of 5.0. But Baltimore has 56 homicides per 100,000 residents or more than seven times as many as Tucson.

Baltimore’s homicide rate is more than twice as high as the 24.8 in Mexico and almost as high as the 61.8 in El Salvador, which is the top-ranking country in homicides.

Since 2011, nearly 3,000 Baltimoreans have been murdered. That comes to one of every 200 city residents over that period.

At the link, you can find details of the corruption and botched policing efforts in Baltimore, including its misapplication of the policing concept known as Broken Windows policing, which resulted in over 110,000 people being arrested in Baltimore in 2005. Now, the city is cutting funding for its police department.

Compared to Tucson’s police department, Baltimore’s police department appears to have some fat.

The City of Tucson and the City of Baltimore have about the same populations (520,116 versus 593,490). But Tucson has only 1,466 police employees (including 853 officers) while Baltimore has 3,900 police employees (including an unknown number of officers).

It is felt in some local quarters that the Tucson Police Department is underfunded and understaffed, but it would appear that it is much more effective in controlling crime than the Baltimore Police Department, at least relative to homicides.

Other crimes are another matter. For example, Tucson’s burglary rate is the same as Baltimore’s, which probably explains why so many Tucson residences and businesses have security bars on their doors and windows.

The touchy subject of race comes into play when comparing crime rates, as does the percent of young men without a dad in the household.

It’s a sad fact that, on average, blacks have the highest crime rates, which means that a city with more blacks will tend to have higher crime rates. That seems to be the case for Baltimore.

Baltimore is 62.4% black, 27.5% non-Hispanic white, and 18.5% Hispanic.  Tucson is 5.2% black, 43.9% non-Hispanic white, and 43.6% Hispanic. Tragically, approximately 95% of homicide victims and murderers in Baltimore are black.

The illicit drug trade and the dubious War on Drugs also come into play. Clearly, being close to the Mexico/U.S. border, Tucson has a drug trafficking problem; but comparisons to Baltimore are hard to come by.

Both Tucson and Baltimore would look better on such websites as AreaVibes if they were to annex the surrounding wealthier and safer suburbs, as many cities have. Statistically speaking, their crime and poverty rates would drop, and their school test scores would rise.

This is especially true for Baltimore because its suburbs are wealthier than Tucson’s. For example, the median household income in Baltimore County is $76,866, versus $53,379 for Pima County, which is the county where the City of Tucson is located. Income reaches the stratosphere for the entire metro area of Baltimore, a metro area encompassing 2.3 million people and several counties, versus one county and 1.08 million people for metro Tucson.

In any event, do you think that Tucson deserves the grades given to it by AreaVibes?