Special Reports

CRC Blog

A Culture of Lies

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

If you’re politically knowledgeable and not crazy, living in Washington, D.C. is tough.

As a D.C. resident, I’m surrounded by people who are ignorant and/or out of their minds, who believe the talking-points version of Progressivism that they are fed by most of the news media.

In just the past few days, at social occasions, I’ve overheard comments along the lines of the following:

  • “The Republicans in the South today are just the old segregationist Democrats. That’s because of the Nixon Southern Strategy.”
  • “After Hobby Lobby, women’s right to birth control is threatened.”
  • “Photo ID laws are an attempt to keep people from voting. Vote fraud isn’t a real problem in this country.”

In reality, Republicans in the South trace their roots to the (relatively) anti-segregationist wing of the Democratic Party of the 1950s/1960s, while the so-called Nixon Southern Strategy was never implemented. Hobby Lobby has nothing to do with anyone’s right to birth control, merely with whether people who don’t believe in abortifacients can be forced to pay for them in violation of a law signed by President Clinton. Voter ID laws, such as the ones in Canada, Mexico, and Nelson Mandela’s South Africa, protect people’s rights by preventing the fraudulent cancellation of their votes; that’s one reason that most people of all ethnicities support them. And voter fraud is so common that, before it became Politically Correct to claim that such fraud isn’t a problem, political reporters like me, covering political conventions and the like, used to sit around until 2 a.m. sharing stories about it. (My first scoop as a young reporter was when I caught a local mayor rigging an election.)

Mythology is the common currency of the Left. Read all »

The Feds Are Not Here to Help You

College costs too much, everyone agrees, and so numerous federal officials (from both parties) keep offering new ways to “help” with this problem. As usual, the government answer is to throw more money at it, even when “it” includes some of the wealthiest nonprofits in the nation.

As a recent discussion at the American Enterprise Institute makes clear, the federal schemes are destined to fail and backfire, wasting taxpayers’ and students’ money—because one of the biggest causes of the problem is the federal government’s expensive entanglement in higher ed.

The history of college costs reveals the federal government’s harm. In the past 35 years college costs have risen 1,120%, Bloomberg news calculates. College costs rose even faster than health care costs (which also received significant government subsidies). Those government dollars—over $80 billion a year—not only encouraged colleges to keep raising prices but also discouraged families from saving for higher education.

Consider these statistics from “Dollars, Cents, and Nonsense: The Harmful Effects of Federal Student Aid,” a new study presented at the AEI panel by lead author Richard Vedder. From 1960 to 1977, 18 years that saw little federal involvement in paying for college, the average percentage of household income put into saving accounts for college tuition was around 8.7%. In the next 18 years, 1978 to 1995, with only moderate federal spending on education, the saving percentage per household was 7.4%, a decline of 17%. Then from 1996 to 2013, the bottom dropped out as the savings percentage plunged an additional 50% to 3.7%—just as federal aid programs quickly grew large.

But, some insist, colleges are just raising prices because they need the money. Not exactly: The colleges who enjoy the richest endowments have the highest sticker prices. And here is a bit of wealth inequality you’re unlikely to hear a college professor denounce: the richest 1% of colleges possess 51% of all the endowments. In addition, while the Ford or Koch foundations are legally required to give away 5% of their endowments every year, colleges have no requirement to share their wealth. (AEI’s Alex Pollock joked that perhaps we need a “wealth tax” on the richest 1% of college endowments.)

Nor have college costs risen because colleges are getting better. Studies suggest that the hours students attend classes and study has dropped by nearly 50% since 1960. Measures of knowledge gained in college aren’t easy to come by, but repeated reports from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute find college students’ ignorance of even simple facts (like the three branches of government) to be poor and declining.

Vedder’s bottom line at the AEI discussion will shock parents and students repaying loans: After taking inflation into account, college prices today would be 59% cheaper if the government had not poured so many billions of tax dollars into “helping” with college.

The conclusion to the study Vedder led says it all:

In a perfect world, all federal programs would be abolished. But democratic political processes are imperfect. A realistic solution would drastically downsize the federal programs, making them more progressive (helping lower-income students more than upper-income students) and smaller. By returning the programs to what they were early in their history—modest but useful financial support to truly needy students—it will moderate tuition price inflation and reverse the decline in academic standards. It will contribute to returning the nation to fiscal responsibility while improving the nation’s higher-education system. In short, it is the right thing to do.

Here’s one more reform idea that came up at AEI: Since colleges benefit the most from student loans, they ought to share in the losses of their students’ defaults. That would be sobering for college administrators, who have helped place $1.2 trillion of current debt on the backs of their students, with almost 15% of borrowers defaulting on their loans within three years of graduation.

William Digges is a 2014 Henry Haller Intern at CRC who attends the Heights School.

Deadly Policies: Activist groups are hindering immigration law enforcement across the nation

Deadly Policies: Activist groups are hindering immigration law enforcement across the nation

By Michael Volpe, Organization Trends, August 2014 (PDF here)

County sheriffs in charge of the nation’s jails are increasingly reluctant to respect the federal government’s requests to detain suspected undocumented immigrants. The official requests, known as “detainers,” are issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In most jails, the processing of new inmates involves running their fi ngerprints through a federal database to ascertain their immigration status. DHS flags detainees suspected of being in the U.S. illegally and sends out detainer documents that local sheriffs have traditionally treated as warrants requiring them to keep the individuals in custody. But many local officials these days won’t keep illegal immigrants under lock and key, waiting until ICE retrieves them for possible removal from the U.S. Jailers used to think of immigration detainers as mandatory, but several key court decisions have made clear to local law enforcement that the detainers are mere requests by ICE.

Although detainers have been around for a long time, their use has proliferated under an ICE program known as Secure Communities. That program consists of a computer software system that connects federal agencies like ICE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service with local police departments. In jurisdictions that participate in the program, it facilitates access to data on individuals booked in local prisons. Left-wing activists complain that Secure Communities has led to the proliferation of arrests for minor offenses like speeding, because when local police book suspects, they share the booking information with ICE.

Detainers are valid for up to two days (excluding weekends and holidays) and exhort jailers to keep in custody illegal immigrants who are otherwise scheduled for release, so ICE can claim them and process them for deportation. If ICE does not take custody after 48 hours, the local law enforcement agency is required to release the individual.

Read all »

1998 wasn’t what you think, and why you shouldn’t take advice from your opponent

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

About 35-40 percent of Americans lean to the Left. Of those, only 18-23 percent are liberals. And, of those, only 5-10 percent are Obama-style leftists (Progressives, i.e., liberals who, unlike traditional, JFK-type liberals, do not believe in limits on the power of politicians and bureaucrats). Despite their status as members of a small ideological minority, activitists on the Left dominate politics at the national level, controlling the executive branch of the federal government as well as the Senate, while the “Republican-controlled” House is dominated by RINOs who are justly ridiculed as hapless.

How can this be? Here’s how:

A key to strategy is tricking your opponent into taking action that is against his or her own interest.

For example, you might trick your opponent as to your capabilities and weaknesses. Sun Tzu, as the presumed author of The Art of War, advised, “Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” If you are successful in this regard, your enemy will attack you where you are strong rather than where you are weak.

The Left may be disasters when it comes to running domestic policy and foreign policy, but they’re great at politics, especially this aspect of political strategy.

From the Demographic Doom that supposedly faces Republicans (so-called “minorities” growing so fast that Republicans may soon become extinct) to Karl Rove’s claim that Tea Party candidates do less well than RINOs in November, the Left and their Republican enablers use bogeymen to scare the GOP away from following strategies that would bring then political success. (In future columns, I’ll analyze those concepts, the Demographic Doom and the supposed relative incompetence of Tea Partiers.)

Currently, Republicans in Washington are panicking over the I-word, impeachment. Now, impeachment-and-removal Read all »

Earnest but Inhumane

Over at PhilanthropyDaily.com, I have a piece on a trendy bit of philanthropic foolishness known as “Effective Altruism.” In part it’s a movement of earnest young people out to prove P.J. O’Rourke’s dictum, “Earnestness is stupidity sent to college.” But the more disturbing part is its intellectual guru, Peter Singer, the Princeton “philosopher” best known for justifying infanticide and bestiality.

I admit that

Anyone who observes the parallels between Singer and the Nazis isn’t necessarily calling Singer – himself a descendant of Jewish victims of the Holocaust – and his followers Nazis. But the similarities in the two ideologies surely require Singer’s allies to address the questions raised. Yet as far as I can tell after searches of major Effective Altruism sites, no one even mentions Singer’s notorious views on, say, infanticide and bestiality, either to justify those views or to distance their own views from Singer’s. As usual in the philanthropy world, silence camouflages ideology and prevents honest debate.

Read the whole article here.

Steyer and Koch: The Big-Oil Goliath[s]  

In an interview with Politico April 22, hedge fund tycoon Tom Steyer argued that “I think there are real distinctions between the Koch brothers and us.” Perhaps this is true, but there is at least one thing Tom Steyer and the supposedly infamous Koch brothers have in common: they are all big oil billionaires.

Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House opposition researcher who is now senior advisor to Steyer’s super PAC, NextGen Climate, says this about the Koch brothers: “We are never going to have as much money, but all we need is enough for David’s slingshot to fire through, and to fire fast and to fire quick to be able to reach the big oil Goliath.” (It must not have occurred to Lehane that he mucked up the analogy — one of the Koch brothers is named David. -ed.)

How ironic. Steyer’s own $1.6 billion fortune happened to come from a 26-year stretch at his hedge fund, Farallon, where he speculated in fossil fuels.

He was Farallon’s senior partner until December 31, 2012 when he resigned to take up environmental activism full-time.

A report from the Daily Caller on June 20 reveals that:

According to SEC filings for the first quarter of 2013, Farallon has invested more than $300 million in companies that develop onshore and offshore U.S. assets and pipelines … Farallon also holds about $33.8 million in Dryships, Inc. which owns and operates 10 offshore deepwater drilling units.”

The Koch brothers have an approximate combined net worth of $68 billion. They presently run Koch Industries, which was started by their father, and it is the second largest private company in the United States. Petroleum refining is one of their major industries.

All things considered, therefore, the Koch brothers and Steyer ought to be equally culpable –in the eyes of environmentalists– regarding involvement in fossil fuels.

According to March 2014 SEC filings, Farallon is a new investor in EP Energy which produces oil and natural gas. Outside of the United States, Farallon is the primary stock holder of Whitehaven Coal in Australia. The new Whitehaven mine at Maules Creek is expected to run for 30 years and is to begin production in 2015.

Farallon’s present investment in fossil fuels is not in question. Yet, the fact that environmentalist Steyer could criticize others invested in fossil fuels when he himself has only just completely divested from oil and natural gas is absurd.

It was only in July 2013 that Steyer began to dump energy holdings from his Farallon portfolio. As Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal wrote in April 2014:

“Mr. Steyer had spent months fighting Keystone, attending anti-coal rallies and urging colleges to divest from ‘fossil fuels,’ before the press noted that his money was still parked at Farallon, still profiting from Kinder Morgan pipelines and coal projects. It was only then, last July, that Mr. Steyer issued a press release saying he’d directed his money be moved to a fund that didn’t invest in ‘tar sands’ or ‘coal’ and pledged this process would be complete by the end of 2013.”

This July 2013 pledge did not apply to Steyer’s investments in oil or natural gas. There was no more information provided by Steyer or Farallon regarding the rest of Steyer’s divestment process until this summer. Heather Wong, a spokeswoman of Steyer’s super PAC NextGen Climate, promised in early June that “as of this month [Steyer] will be divested out of fossil fuels altogether.”

Throughout the past year, Steyer has taken it upon himself to attack those who profit from fossil fuels. In particular, Steyer has criticized the actions of the “big oil Goliath” Koch brothers. As Steyer explained in a March interview with Men’s Journal “[Koch is] taking the most incredible risk that I’ve ever seen someone take, of going down in history as just an evil – just a famously evil – person!”

At the time of this interview, Steyer was still profiting from oil and natural gas investments at Farallon.

-Maria Girard (Henry Haller Intern)

Tom Steyer, the New Paladin of the Left

Tom Steyer, the New Paladin of the Left
A hedge fund billionaire bets heavily on politics

By Neil Maghami, Foundation Watch, August 2014 (PDF here)

Summary:  Thomas Steyer’s avowed desire to devote his wealth to philanthropic ends appears, at first blush, commendable. Unfortunately, he has so far dedicated his $1.6 billion fortune to advancing far-left causes through donations to nonprofit groups and politicians, and by coordinating with like-minded donors like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This year Steyer plans to pour $100 million or more into political races to push America to the left.

He’s telegenic, he’s outspoken, he founded a successful hedge fund, and he dines on organic beef raised on his own ranch, whose amenities include solar-powered electric fences. His name is Thomas Steyer, and if the Left had an award for “Most Promising Billionaire,” Steyer would be a shoo-in. The love is mutual: Steyer is putting up millions of dollars in order to throw his weight around in elections across the country this November, with a number of Republicans in his crosshairs.

Steyer is deadly serious about using his vast wealth to smite his political foes and aid his allies. In February, the New York Times reported that Steyer plans to spend up to $100 million during the 2014 election cycle, which will be funneled through his NextGen PAC to “pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers.” (He will put up $50 million in the hopes of finding $50 million in matching funds from like-minded donors).

In April, Steyer upped the ante when he mused publicly that $100 million “would be very low, honestly,” compared to what he would “be willing to spend, to make this [climate change] what I believe it is, the most important issue in the minds of Americans.” Steyer’s net worth is estimated at $1.6 billion. In May, he shared his target list with the Times: races in Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Maine. As we go to press, Politico reports that so far Steyer “appears to be struggling” in his efforts to raise money from other donors, but the $11-plus million of his own money that he’s spent in this year’s electoral cycle “puts him atop the Center for Responsive Politics list of individual contributors to federal candidates, parties, political action committees and other groups that are required to disclose their donors.”

In anticipation of Steyer’s all-out political war against his perceived enemies, this issue of Foundation Watch will survey his activities to date as a donor, both in terms of his personal foundation and his giving to political causes.

Read all »

Help make The Enemies Within into a movie!

The great Trevor Loudon is trying to make his opus, The Enemies Within: Communists, Socialists and Progressives in the U.S. Congress, into a motion picture.

He needs your help.

You can make a donation to this important effort at Indiegogo.

Philanthropy Notes: August 2014

The unaccomplished Chelsea Clinton earns an amazing $75,000 per speaking engagement, according to the Huffington Post. The former First Daughter’s spokesman says she donates all her speaking fees to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. So far so good, right? Not exactly. Critics object that Chelsea’s mother is now using the foundation as a de facto campaign organization in advance of her likely 2016 presidential run, so Chelsea’s donations are akin to campaign contributions. Critics also say Hillary, who likewise claims she donates her huge speaking fees—averaging $200,000 per speech—to the foundation, is using the philanthropy as a holding ground for her potential presidential campaign staff, according to the Daily Mail (UK). So far Mrs. Clinton has refused to back up her claim she donates the fees with actual documentation, as requested by ABC News.

The Alliance for Charitable Reform, a group of nonprofits that defends philanthropic freedom, applauded the House of Representatives’s passage of two provisions in July that the group has long championed. The first measure streamlines the private foundation excise tax into a flat 1 percent rate; the second gives donors until April 15 to make charitable donations that can be deducted in the previous year. The measures will now move to the Senate.

Read all »

Carbon Dioxide Scare

On June 4, the American Lung Association (ALA) began running an ad against carbon pollution on major television channels. This ad, called a “Mother’s Instinct,” is in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Air Act regulations, proposed just two days prior on June 2. The ALA’s ad provides misinformation that confuses listeners regarding current air pollution regulations and about the prevailing left-wing myth that carbon dioxide emissions somehow pose a danger to human health.

The ALA ad features a child who is breathing heavily as he sleeps in his crib. Halfway, the ad switches to a scene of huge smokestacks emitting gray clouds of “carbon pollution” which are said to poison the air the child breathes.

Mike Kolleng, manager of ALA’s Healthy Air Campaign in Chicago, told me in a phone interview that the “carbon pollution” referenced in the ad refers to carbon dioxide, specifically.

Here is a transcript from the ad:

The Clean Air Act stops polluters from poisoning his air with arsenic, lead and mercury. Now the loophole that lets them pump unlimited carbon pollution into his air is closing, too, if polluters and their friends in Washington don’t interfere. Don’t let polluters weaken our clean air protections.

According to the ad, there is a “loophole that lets [polluters] pump unlimited carbon pollution” into the air (emphasis added). This is misinformation about current air pollution regulations. Since carbon pollution refers specifically to carbon dioxide, the ad suggests that someone has evaded previous carbon dioxide regulations.

And yet, there has been no previous regulation on carbon dioxide emissions. The first case of carbon dioxide regulation, if it is enacted, will take place as a result of a new Clean Air Act proposal the EPA unveiled June 2.

But this is fundamentally dishonest. Everyone knows that to create a loophole, there must first be a law to evade. Therefore, there is no way that “polluters and their friends in Washington” could have created a carbon dioxide loophole.

The American Lung Association’s ad also misinforms the viewer by propagating the myth that carbon dioxide emissions endanger air quality. Shelly Kiser, Directory of Advocacy at ALA in Ohio, explains that “the ad is referring to carbon, a potent greenhouse gas.”

The term “greenhouse gas” is used often enough, but is misunderstood. “Greenhouse gas” refers to five different gases: water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. The most abundant greenhouse gas is water vapor (H2O) and the function of all greenhouse gases is to mitigate the effect of the sun’s radiation so that life can continue on earth. Greenhouse gases, they never seem to point out, are good things.

The only two greenhouse gases which are carbon-based are carbon dioxide and methane. Methane (natural gas) is a non-toxic hydrocarbon and is unregulated by the EPA at this time. Carbon dioxide, therefore, has to be the “potent greenhouse gas” referred to by Kiser.

Regardless of whether carbon dioxide contributes to man-made global warming, calling carbon dioxide a danger to human health is absurd. Every human being produces carbon dioxide each time he exhales. The “Mother’s Instinct” ad asserts that the Clean Air Act prevents polluters from poisoning the baby’s air with arsenic, lead and mercury. Since 1967, the Clean Air Act has been regulating those real-life air pollutants. Adding carbon dioxide to that list of dangerous toxins, however, is ridiculous.

The ad claims that carbon dioxide will “weaken our clean air protections.” One reason this claim is foolish is because at any given time there is a greater concentration of carbon dioxide in someone’s lungs (12,500 per parts million) than is found in the air surrounding him (400 ppm). Clearly, carbon dioxide is not poisonous if it naturally exists in humans in such high concentrations.

The EPA’s goal with the new proposed regulation is that “Nationwide, by 2030, this rule would achieve CO 2 emission reductions from the power sector of approximately 30 percent from CO 2 emission levels in 2005.”

Even if the EPA succeeds in reaching this goal by 2030 (which itself is doubtful), carbon dioxide emissions will still have no effect on air quality. If these regulations were to be extended throughout the next century (far beyond the proposed sunset year of 2030), the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would be reduced by only a few parts per million.

Such a decline in CO2 emissions would have absolutely no effect on air quality. An atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 397 ppm would differ little from today’s concentration of 400 ppm. Furthermore, such a reduction would have no health benefits because carbon dioxide is not poisonous to humans at such levels.

If carbon dioxide emissions do not cause health problems, why has the American Lung Association released this ad?

Because this non-profit charity is working in tandem with EPA to further the reach of government.

According to EPA’s records, the American Lung Association has received over $20 million from the EPA in taxpayer dollars over the past 10 years. James Bennet of George Mason University writes in Pandering for Profit: The Transformation of Health Charities to Lobbyists that “the ALA has responded by using every possible means to advance the agency’s regulatory authority by advocating tougher air quality standards.”

Further evidence of this close relationship is that on June 2 (the day of the Clean Air Act proposal) the American Lung Association held a joint press conference (conducted as a conference call) with President Barack Obama and the EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy.

So, one can see that through a “Mother’s Instinct” the American Lung Association promotes irrational fears regarding air quality to further its benefactor’s political agenda.

-Maria Girard (Henry Haller Intern)