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Craig D. Idso

In a recent study to come out of China, Liu et al. (2014) write “food security under the changing climate is a great challenge for the world,” noting it has been stated by Porter et al. (2014) in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report that “the negative impact of global climate warming on crop yield is more common than the positive impact according to the data from the past fifty years.”

That’s not true. Crop yields continue to rise, to the consternation of many, at the exact same rate that they have been rising at since the end of World War II. Even more telling, Liu et al. report studies based on historical data for the past several centuries suggest just the opposite, i.e. that “climate warming is good for crop harvests while climate cooling is bad for crop harvests in the world’s main crop production areas such as Europe (Braudel, 1992; Parker and Smith, 1997; Holopainen and Helama, 2009; Zhang et al., 2011) and China (Zhang, 1996; Ge, 2010; Su et al., 2014) in the temperate region.” They conclude “the current lengths of studies used to evaluate climate impacts on agriculture are too short to detect long-term trends.”

In making their case, the five Chinese scientists employed proxy data-based climate reconstructions that indicate that the Sui dynasty (581-618 AD) and Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) had warm climates comparable with the present, citing in this regard the study of Ge et al. (2003) that shows a strong periodicity in China temperatures. They additionally note that within this primarily warm climate regime, there were imbedded temperature variations—with cooling segments of inter-annual, multiple-decade and century-scale magnitude—which enabled them to assess crop yield responses to both heating and cooling from information provided about food availability in numerous historical documents that have been brought together in several historical compilations that deal with various aspects of China’s past, including Wang (1955), Wei et al. (1973), Li (1974), Liu (1975), Ouyang et al. (1975), Sima (1975), Dong (1985), Wang et al. (1985) and Song (2008). What did they thereby discover?

As indicated in the figure below, “on the one hand,” as Liu et al. describe it, “a declining trend of crop yield co-occurred with the climate cooling trend from 601 to 900 AD” (Figure 1a), while on the other hand, they indicate that crop yields were positively correlated with 30-year periods of warming (Figure 1b).

Figure 1. (a) Reconstructed Central East China temperatures (relative to the mean of 1951-1980) and 30-year regional mean crop yields over the period 601-900 AD, (b) the correlation between crop yield and temperature. Adapted from Liu et al. (2014).

Based on these real-world observations recorded in the historical documents they scrutinized, Liu et al. were able to more specifically state “from 601 to 900 AD the regional mean crop yield had a significant (P < 0.01) negative trend with the rate of -0.24% per decade,” as the overall climate cooled. But superimposed upon this long-term linear decreasing crop yield trend, they found there were several periods of warming, which ultimately enabled them to confirm “high crop yield occurred generally under the warming climate background.”  In fact, they were able to quantitatively conclude that “crop yield increased by 6.9% per 1°C warming,” which they say “was slightly less than the estimation of 7.5% grades per 1°C warming from Su et al. (2014).”

It would appear, therefore, that global warming—if it is ever to begin again following its current 18-year hiatus—may very well prove providential in terms of boosting crop yields and enhancing food security, which is a much more optimistic assessment than that presented by the IPCC.

References

Braudel, F. 1992. Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century. Vol 2. University of California Press, Berkeley California, USA.

Dong, G. 1985. Full Tang Texts. Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, China.

Ge, Q.S. 2010. Historical Climate Change During the Past Chinese Dynasties. Science Press, Beijing, China.

Ge, Q., Fang, X. and Zheng, J. 2003. Quasi-periodicity of temperature change on the millennial scale. Progress in Natural Science 13: 601-606.

Holopainen, J. and Helama, S. 2009. Little ice age farming in Finland: Preindustrial agriculture on the edge of the Grim reaper’s scythe. Human Ecology 37: 213-225.

Li, Y.S. 1974. History of the Northern Dynasties. Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, China.

Liu, H., Ge, Q., Zheng, J., Hao, Z. and Zhang, X. 2014. Crop yield and temperature changes in North China during 601-900 AD. Advances in Meteorology 2014: 10.1155/2014/137803.

Liu, X. 1975. Old Book of Tang. Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, China.

Ouyang, X., Song, Q., Fan, Z. et al. 1975. Zi Zhi Tong Jian. Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, China.

Parker, G. and Smith, M. 1997. The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, United Kingdom.

Porter, J.R., Xie, L.Y., Challinor et al. 2014. Food Security and Food Production Systems. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Working Group II. Contribution to the IPCC 5th Assessment Report – Changes to the Underlying Scientific/Technical Assessment.

Sima, G. 1975. Zi Zhi Tong Jian. Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, China.

Song, M.Q. 2008. Commands Collection of Tang. Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, China.

Su, Y., Fang, X.Q. and Yin, J. 2014. Impact of climate change on fluctuations of grain harvests in China from the Western Han Dynasty to the Five Dynasties (206 BC-960 /AD). Science China: Earth Sciences 44: 146-155.

Wang, P. 1955. Institutional History of Tang. Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, China.

Wang, Q.R. 1985. Prime Tortoise of the Record Bureau. Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, China.

Wei, Z., Yan, S., Kong, Y. and Xu, J. 1973. Book of Sui. Zhonghua Book Company, Beijing, China.

Zhang, D.D., Lee, H.F., Wang, C., Li, B., Pei, Q., Zhang, J. and An, Y.2011. The causality analysis of climate change and large-scale human crisis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108: 17,296-17,301.

Zhang, P. (Ed.). 1996. Historical Climate Change in China. Shandong Science and Technology Press, Jinan, China.

Ilya Shapiro and Gabriel Latner

The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and of the press because the Framers wanted to prevent the creation in America of a license-based censorship. They were deeply opposed to Britain’s systematic restriction of speech, which treated the right to speak publicly as a privilege conditioned on an express grant of the sovereign’s permission. In order to publish books, newspapers, and pamphlets, or even to perform plays, a speaker had to obtain a permit.

American law has firmly rejected this sort of “prior restraint” on speech. While licenses to engage in potentially dangerous activities like the practice of medicine — or even driving — are often necessary to prevent great harm, the value judgment represented by the First Amendment is that the harm a “license to speak” would do to individual liberty is far greater than any potential harm that could be caused by “unqualified” speakers. It is for this reason that authors, publishers, filmmakers, journalists, and talk-show hosts don’t need to pass a test or ask the government for permission before engaging in their vocation.

Unfortunately, several municipalities seem to think that tour guides should be treated differently. Fearing the calamitous consequences of allowing “ignorant” guides to “mislead” tourists, these cities have instituted licensing regimes that make it a crime for tour guides to operate without a license — a license which can only be obtained by passing a test of history and culture. 

Last year, Cato, joined by First Amendment expert Prof. Eugene Volokh, filed briefs supporting lawsuits challenging the licensing schemes in Washington and New Orleans. While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with us that the law was unconstitutional, the Fifth Circuit upheld the New Orleans ordinance, claiming that it was a “content neutral” restriction on speech necessary to protect tourists and the city’s reputation. Joined again by Prof. Volokh, Cato has filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take this case and reverse the Fifth Circuit’s decision to allow the very kind of licensing scheme that the First Amendment was intended to preempt.

Our brief makes three important points. First, the very idea of licensing speakers is incompatible with the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has said time and time again that governments can’t restrict who may speak in order to improve the quality of what they say. Second, because the licensing requirement only applies to speech on a particular subject and is explicitly justified by that content, it can only be considered constitutional if it satisfies the requirements of “strict scrutiny.” That means it must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest — a test this law would surely fail (unlike, say, a requirement that bicycle-tour operators maintain safe bikes and observe the rules of the road).

Finally, the other arguments for applying a more lenient test than strict scrutiny are unpersuasive: tour guides, unlike doctors and lawyers, aren’t “professionals” whose speech to clients is so important (and potentially dangerous) that it can be regulated without offending the First Amendment. Nor does the fact that tour guides are paid for their speech alter the constitutional calculus: writers, pundits, and actors — and even think tank scholars or law professors — don’t gain some special First Amendment rights when they’re volunteering their talents. Tour guides are no different.

The Court will decide whether to take the case, Kagan v. City of New Orleans, early in the new year.

K. William Watson

We were once told that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be completed by the end of 2013.  Then it was early 2014, then late 2014, or probably sometime before 2015, or in early 2015 for sure.  At this point, only two things are certain: you shouldn’t believe any predictions about the TPP, and the TPP is taking a really, really long time.

To get an idea for how long the TPP is taking, consider this graph put out by the Peterson Institute earlier this month showing the negotiation and ratification times for previous free trade agreements:

 

The argument they’re trying to make with this graph is that the United States needs to pass trade promotion authority to make sure the TPP doesn’t get bogged down in Congress (the red line) after negotiations finally conclude.  They may be right, but I think it also tells us quite plainly that quick ratification of the TPP, with or without trade promotion authority, is an unrealistic expectation.

Here’s the same data presented with the negotiation and ratification times stacked on top of each other and with the current progress of the TPP (and TTIP) included:

 

As you can see, the TPP negotiations are taking an unprecedentedly long time to complete. 

Undaunted by the failure of previous predictions, the U.S. Trade Representative is now claiming that the negotiations will conclude and the whole deal can be passed by Congress before the end of 2015.  That would be an impressively abrupt end to a long project, with a blue and red line total of just under 70 months. 

It’s possible that passing trade promotion authority will bring much needed energy to the TPP process.  Hopefully, USTR is right, and Congress will pass trade promotion authority, the TPP negotiations will conclude, and the ratification will be swift. 

It seems more likely, however, that the TPP is a trade policy quagmire the United States entered into with overly ambitious goals and inadequate resolve to see them met.  There’s a lot more than just the lack of trade promotion authority keeping the TPP negotiations from concluding.  And you might notice from the graph above that, even with trade promotion authority in place, the most recent trade agreements lingered in Congress for a very long time after the negotiations were completed.

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe the stars are about to align for the TPP.  But if I’m right, how long do we have to wait before we rethink our strategy?

Walter Olson

From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal [$], word that the New York Department of Financial Services has strong-armed Ocwen Financial Corp., a leading mortgage servicer, into a legal settlement that not only extracts $150 million from the company and puts it under the thumb of a state-appointed monitor but even requires its executive chairman to resign

The range of penalties assessed in the case is unusual and may set a new precedent of state regulatory involvement in financial companies’ affairs. Federal and state regulators have slapped banks with tens of billions of dollars in fines before, but Ocwen stands as a rare case of a firm having a top executive forced out to settle charges of mismanagement and misconduct and being obliged to consult with authorities when it appoints board members….

“You’re basically taking away from shareholders the ability to run their company,” said Ira Lee Sorkin, a former senior official at the Securities and Exchange Commission and now a lawyer who defends people and companies in regulatory actions. He isn’t involved in the Ocwen case. “You’re telling the company in effect that the regulator is now running the company.”

It might be one thing if the departing chairman, William Erbey, who built up the company over decades and owns part of it, had himself been convicted of some disqualifying offense, but the article makes no mention of his facing personal charges at all, let alone being found guilty. 

The modern pioneer in seeking the personal ouster of executives as part of regulatory enforcement actions was then-New York attorney general, and later disgraced governor, Eliot Spitzer. Six years ago I wrote about two of the most celebrated of Spitzer’s wins: 

As prosecutor, part of Spitzer’s distinctively relentless style was to demand the decapitation of large organizations by the firing of their CEOs, even in the face of arguments that such steps presumptively punished the execs without a trial and might badly disrupt the enterprises they led. The arch example is Spitzer’s vendetta against Hank Greenberg of American International Group (AIG), without peer the most highly regarded executive in the insurance sector over the past half century. AIG, long known as three steps ahead of its industry and a huge asset to American business presence and prestige abroad, has now entered a tailspin without Greenberg, destroying billions and billions in value for shareholders and others, even as the charges against its former chieftain have mostly wilted on the vine. On a smaller but still significant scale, Spitzer forced Marsh, the biggest insurance broker, to oust its CEO, which it replaced with an old crony of Spitzer’s; that didn’t work out either, and further fortunes were lost.

Unlike AIG and Marsh, Ocwen Financial isn’t even a New York company, being headquartered in Atlanta. Its stock has lost many billions in value since last October, and fell yesterday by another 17%. The settlement requires Mr. Erbey to depart by the middle of next month.

Had the dispute proceeded to trial, it’s unlikely a judge would have ordered Mr. Erbey’s ouster. But large businesses today facing charges from financial regulators seldom dare insist on their right to a day in court – the risks of going to trial are just too high, as law professor Brandon Garrett and commenter James Copland explained at a recent Cato panel discussion on Garrett’s book Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations. Until that calculus changes, they will be at the mercy of whatever arbitrary if not vengeful terms regulators may insist on.

 

 

Daniel J. Mitchell

I wrote earlier this year about the “perplexing durability” of Keynesian economics. And I didn’t mince words.

Keynesian economics is a failure. It didn’t work for Hoover and Roosevelt in the 1930s. It didn’t work for Japan in the 1990s. And it didn’t work for Bush or Obama in recent years. No matter where’s it’s been tried, it’s been a flop. So why, whenever there’s a downturn, do politicians resuscitate the idea that bigger government will “stimulate” the economy?

And I specifically challenged Keynesians in 2013 to explain why automatic budget cuts were supposedly a bad idea given that the American economy expanded when the burden of government spending shrank during the Reagan and Clinton years.

I also issued that same challenge one day earlier, asking Keynesians to justify their opposition to sequestration given that Canada’s economy prospered in the 1990s when government spending was curtailed.

It seems that the evidence against Keynesianism is so strong that only a fool, a politician, or a college professor could still cling to the notion that bigger government lead to more growth.

Fortunately, it does appear that there’s a growing consensus against this free-lunch theory.

Professor John Cochrane of the University of Chicago (and also an Adjunct Scholar at Cato) has a superb column about the retreat of Keynesianism in today’s Wall Street Journal.

The tide also changed in economic ideas. The brief resurgence of traditional Keynesian ideas is washing away from the world of economic policy. …Why? In part, because even in economics, you can’t be wrong too many times in a row. …Our first big stimulus fell flat, leaving Keynesians to argue that the recession would have been worse otherwise. George Washington’s doctors probably argued that if they hadn’t bled him, he would have died faster. With the 2013 sequester, Keynesians warned that reduced spending and the end of 99-week unemployment benefits would drive the economy back to recession. Instead, unemployment came down faster than expected, and growth returned, albeit modestly. The story is similar in the U.K.

All of this is spot on. Once the stimulus was replaced by spending restraint, the economy did better. And job creation picked up when subsidies for unemployment were limited, just as more sensible economists predicted.

Cochrane is also correct about the spending restraint in the United Kingdom. I didn’t expect Cameron and Osbourne to deliver some good fiscal policy, but it’s happening and the British economy is the envy of most other European nations.

The column also looks at past Keynesian failures.

These are only the latest failures. Keynesians forecast depression with the end of World War II spending. The U.S. got a boom. The Phillips curve failed to understand inflation in the 1970s and its quick end in the 1980s, and disappeared in our recession as unemployment soared with steady inflation.

But this isn’t just about empirical evidence.

I’ve used humor to debunk Keynesianism. Professor Cochrane takes a more high-brow approach to show why the theory doesn’t make sense.

Hurricanes are good, rising oil prices are good, and ATMs are bad, we were advised: Destroying capital, lower productivity and costly oil will raise inflation and occasion government spending, which will stimulate output. Though Japan’s tsunami and oil shock gave it neither inflation nor stimulus, worriers are warning that the current oil price decline, a boon in the past, will kick off the dreaded deflationary spiral this time. I suspect policy makers heard this, and said to themselves “That’s how you think the world works? Really?” And stopped listening to such policy advice. …in Keynesian models, government spending stimulates even if totally wasted. Pay people to dig ditches and fill them up again. By Keynesian logic, fraud is good; thieves have notoriously high marginal propensities to consume.

By the way, just in case you think he’s exaggerating, keep in mind that Paul Krugman actually argued that a fake invasion from outer space would “stimulate” growth because the world would waste money building defenses against E.T.

And Krugman also argued that the 9-11 terrorist attacks were pro-growth!

Cochrane closes with some optimistic thoughts.

…no government in the foreseeable future is going to enact punitive wealth taxes. Europe’s first stab at “austerity” tried big taxes on the wealthy, meaning on those likely to invest, start businesses or hire people. Burned once, Europe is moving in the opposite direction. Magical thinking—that, contrary to centuries of experience, massive taxation and government control of incomes will lead to growth, prosperity and social peace—is moving back to the salons. …the policy world has abandoned the notion that we can solve our problems with blowout borrowing, wasted spending, inflation, default and high taxes. The policy world is facing the tough tradeoffs that centuries of experience have taught us, not wishing them away.

I wish I was equally optimistic about the death of Keynesianism. As I glumly stated a few years ago, Keynesian economics is like a Freddy Krueger move, inevitably rising from the dead when politicians want to rationalize wasting money on favored interest groups.

But I hope Cochrane is right and I’m wrong.

For further information, here’s my video on Keynesian economics.

Keynesian Economics Is Wrong: Bigger Gov’t Is Not Stimulus

P.S. Since it’s the holiday season and I’m sharing videos, here’s a very clever and funny video about Keynesian Christmas carols.

Deck the Halls with Macro Follies

The songs in the second half of the video are the ones that make sense, of course, and I particularly like the point that consumer spending is a reflection of growth, not a driver of growth.

P.P.S. If you want even more visual content, here’s the famous video showing the Keynes v. Hayek rap contest, followed by the equally entertaining sequel, which features a boxing match between Keynes and Hayek.

P.P.P.S. But if you want more humor about Keynesian economics, click here, here, here, and here.

P.P.P.P.S. Let’s end on a serious note. It’s encouraging that leaders from nations at opposite ends of Europe are acknowledging the shortcomings of Keynesianism.

Doug Bandow

North Koreans have formally ended their three-year mourning period for Kim Jong-il. By custom his son, Kim Jong-un, and the country now are free to move forward without hindrance from the past.

A small, poor nation, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should be an international nullity, irrelevant to global affairs. Yet it again dominated headlines in the U.S. with the hacking of Sony.

Although the FBI is pointing its finger at Pyongyang, a number of online experts strongly doubt the charge. Whatever the case, this otherwise two-bit international player is at the top of the news.

For the last seven decades Washington has made North Korea America’s problem. The U.S. initially had little choice since its joint division of the Korean peninsula with the Soviet Union led to creation of two antagonistic states.

But eventually the Republic of Korea took off economically and adopted democratic rule.  Today the ROK surpasses the North on every measure of national power save military, and the latter is a matter of choice.

As I point out on Forbes online: “By taking on responsibility for South Korea’s defense, Washington has thrust itself into the middle of the Korean conflict. The risk and cost made sense during the Cold War when the ROK was vulnerable and the region a hegemonic battleground. But no longer.”

Washington should extricate itself from the Korean imbroglio while giving the North something to lose should it consider cyber attacks or other threatening behavior in the future.

The first step is to turn South Korea’s defense over to South Korea. American taxpayers no longer need pay to defend the ROK, which has more than enough resources to defend itself.

U.S. forces should come home and the misnamed “mutual” defense treaty should be turned into a cooperative pact involving base access and intelligence sharing. Washington should sell the ROK any weapons it desires.

American officials also should raise the prospect of a nuclear South Korea. Ever fewer analysts believe that Pyongyang will give up its nuclear weapons voluntarily. The regime still might be persuaded to freeze its capabilities, but that objective is most likely to be achieved with China using its economic clout against the North and Seoul threatening to develop a countervailing arsenal—which would have the salutary effect of encouraging Beijing to act.

Paradoxically, at the very time North Korea looks more intransigent than ever, the Obama administration should indicate its willingness to initiate low-key diplomatic relations. Switching course toward the North would open a small window into North Korea. Doing so also would test the regime’s willingness to develop a more normal relationship. 

Perhaps most important would be to create a benefit and the potential for additional gains which Pyongyang could lose. With neither diplomatic nor commercial ties to the U.S., the DPRK has little to deter it from staging a cyber attack (whether or not it is responsible for Sony’s travails) and behaving badly in other ways.

Kim Jong-un has a reason to respond favorably. North Koreans are doing better economically, which will raise expectations that might be hard to satisfy.

Another important factor is geopolitical. Beijing only grudgingly supports its long-time ally. North Korea always has balanced its closest patrons, both the PRC and Soviet Union.

Improving relations with America would be another way to increase Pyongyang’s leverage. Burma has taken a similar approach. Washington should offer the same possibility to the North.

Of course, no one should expect the speedy development of a democratic, capitalist, pro-American government in the DPRK even in the best of circumstances. But present policy isn’t working.

North Korea is an international problem with no good solution. Washington should cheerfully, even eagerly, pass off responsibility for dealing with the North to the latter’s neighbors, including the PRC.

David Boaz

William Kristol tells the Washington Post that Sen. Rand Paul is a “lonely gadfly” on foreign policy:

“Rand Paul speaks for a genuine sentiment that’s always been in the Republican Party, but maybe it’s 10 percent? 15 percent? 20 percent? I don’t think he’s going to be a serious competitor for guiding Republican foreign policy.”

At the Huffington Post I suggest that Kristol read the polls. They show rising non-interventionist sentiment among Republicans and especially among independents. I argue:

Americans, including Republicans, are getting tired of policing the world with endless wars. Support for the Iraq war is almost as low as approval of Congress.

Charles Hughes

Last week, Republican Governor Bill Haslam announced a plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee. Republican governors in Wyoming and Utah have also put forward expansion plans in the past month. A recent Washington Post editorial argued that there is “no rational justification” for refusing to expand Medicaid.

Despite this claim there are many reasons to be wary of Medicaid expansion even as some Republican governors signal some measure of support. A recent government report found that many Medicaid patients have access to care problems, including difficulty getting an appointment to see a doctor and lengthy wait times. Due to a looming reduction in the rates Medicaid pays some doctors, access to medical care for Medicaid enrollees is likely to get worse next year.

In the report from the HHS Office of Inspector General, researchers posed as Medicaid patients and called managed care providers. They found that 51 percent of listed providers could not schedule an appointment. Some providers could not be found at the location listed, some were found but were not participating in the plan, while others were no longer taking new Medicaid patients.

Even those few who were able to get appointments faced lengthy average wait times. At 28 percent of providers offering appointments, enrollees had to wait longer than a month. At 10 percent, the wait exceeded two months. Many states have requirements that wait times must be shorter than a month, so the fact that so many would have to wait longer than that “raises further questions about enrollees’ ability to obtain timely access to care.”

‘Secret shopper’ surveys like this one are not a complete picture. Other research has found that Medicaid patients’ access to care is not significantly worse than comparable private coverage, but these studies have their own limitations. For example, a 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found lower levels of access to care problems among Medicaid enrollees. That report is based on data from 2008-2009, when Medicaid enrollment was only around 50 million; next year enrollment will be 15-20 million higher than that, so the GAO’s findings regarding access to care problems are not as applicable today. Medicaid expansion will further increase demand for health care services when enrollees already have problems getting access to care.

In an attempt to address this access to care problem, the Affordable Care Act included a temporary two-year bump to Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care doctors. The Urban Institute estimates that this bump increased fees by roughly 73 percent on average and cost the federal government $5.6 billion through June 2014. This temporary pay increase is now set to expire at the end of the month.

To avoid this payment cut, some states are extending the Medicaid fee increase with their own funds, but others cannot come up with the money to pay for the extension. States that would see the biggest reductions are more likely to forego the extension. According to the study, the 23 states that so far do not plan to extend the increase will see a 47 percent reduction in Medicaid primary care fees. These non-extension states cover 71 percent of Medicaid enrollees.  Three out of the four states identified by the researchers as having below average acceptance of Medicaid patients among primary care physicians do not plan to extend the fee increase. The majority of Medicaid enrollees could see lower payment rates for doctors next year, and in some of these states the patients are particularly vulnerable to access to care problems.

The relationship between reimbursement rates and the percent of doctors seeing new Medicaid patients is not yet entirely understood, but a 2012 Health Affairs study found a positive correlation between the two. In states with higher Medicaid fees, more doctors accepted new patients, while fewer doctors accepted new patients in states with lower payment rates. The approaching payment cut could mean fewer doctors in many states will see new Medicaid patients at the same time demand for their services increases.

Medicaid enrollees already have problems getting access to care. Next year, higher enrollment and lower payments to primary care doctors will exacerbate these problems and should give states another reason to reconsider moving forward with Medicaid expansion.

Simon Lester

Last week, I had a piece in Townhall in which I criticized those who call libertarians “isolationists.”  I explained the various ways libertarians are just as internationalist, if not more so, than those of other political persuasions.  The recent Rand Paul-Marco Rubio back and forth on President Obama’s new Cuba policy helps illustrate the point.  Here is the Washington Post summarizing the exchange:

Hawkish Republicans have long called Paul’s foreign policy “isolationist,” a label he rejects. In this week’s Cuba debate, Paul applied the label to Rubio.

Paul’s comments were unusually personal, beginning with a series of tweets aimed at Rubio followed by a two-paragraph message on his Facebook page. “Senator Rubio is acting like an isolationist” and “does not speak for the majority of Cuban-Americans,” he wrote.

Paul followed up with an op-ed on Time’s Web site Friday afternoon in which he wrote that he grew up learning to despise communism but over time concluded that “a policy of isolationism against Cuba is misplaced and hasn’t worked.” He noted that public opinion has shifted in favor of rapprochement — especially among young people, including young Cuban Americans — and that U.S. businesses would benefit by being able to sell their goods in Cuba.

Rubio responded to Paul’s comments Friday evening, telling conservative radio host Mark Levin, “I think it’s unfortunate that Rand has decided to adopt Barack Obama’s foreign policy on this matter.”

I don’t think there can be much doubt that Paul’s approach of engagement with Cuba is internationalist, not isolationist.  The Rubio approach is harder to define.  It can be seen as isolationist, in a sense; alternatively, it could be some sort of aggressive, interventionist – and ineffective – internationalism.  Either way, the Cuba issue is a good illustration of how libertarians are not isolationists, and hopefully this will put an end to that mistaken characterization.

David Boaz

The Establishment media really love laws and government. NPR, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Pew Research, NBC, Politico – they’re all lamenting the “least productive Congress” ever. Or more precisely noting that the just-concluded 113th Congress was the second least productive Congress ever, second only to the 2011-12 112th Congress. But what’s the definition of a “productive Congress”? One that passes laws, of course, lots of laws. Congress passed only 286 laws in the past two years, exceeded in slackerdom only by the 283 passed in the previous two years of divided government.

Now journalists may well believe that passing laws is a good thing, and passing more laws is a better thing. But they would do well to mark that as an opinion. Many of us think that passing more laws – that is more mandates, bans, regulations, taxes, subsidies, boondoggles, transfer programs, and proclamations – is a bad thing. In fact, given that the American people pondered the “least productive Congress ever” twice, and twice kept the government divided between the two parties, it just might be that most Americans are fine with a Congress that passes fewer laws. 

Is a judge “less productive” if he imprisons fewer people? Is a policeman less productive if he arrests fewer people? Government involves force, and I would argue that less force in human relationships is a good thing. Indeed I would argue that a society that uses less force is a more civilized society. So maybe we should call the 112th and 113th Congresses the most civilized Congresses since World War II (the period of time actually covered by the claim “least productive ever”).

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post ups the ante from “least productive” to “by just about every measure, the worst Congress ever.” Seriously? Since I am confident that Mr. Milbank is not historically ignorant, I assume he’s just being rhetorically provocative. But just in case any of his readers might actually believe that claim, let me suggest a few other nominees for “worst Congress ever”:

The 31st Congress, which passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850

The 5th Congress, which passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798

The 21st Congress, which passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830

The 77th Congress, which passed Public Law 503, codifying President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 authorizing the internment of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans, in 1942

The 65th Congress, which passed the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition), the Espionage Act, and the Selective Service Act, and entered World War I, all in 1917

Worst Congress ever? The 113th isn’t even in the running. 

Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger

You Ought to Have a Look is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science posted by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger. While this section will feature all of the areas of interest that we are emphasizing, the prominence of the climate issue is driving a tremendous amount of web traffic. Here we post a few of the best in recent days, along with our color commentary.

Here are a couple of items from around the web that caught our eye this week:

The first is an analysis of recent climate model performance undertaken by Steve McIntyre over at his now-famous “Climate Audit” blog. (Recall that McIntyre began his blog as a place to carefully examine—”audit”—the now infamous “hockeystick” representation of the earth’s surface temperature history of the past millennium or so.) In his latest post, McIntyre compares climate model predictions against real-world observations of the earth’s temperature over the past several decades—a task that is near and dear to our own hearts. (We have been in San Francisco this week at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union presenting a poster on a similar topic.)

McIntyre finds the discrepancy between models and reality to be “unprecedented” and described the results of his examination:

Equally noteworthy however—and of greater interest to [Climate Audit] readers where there has been more focus on model-observation discrepancy—is that the overheating discrepancy between models and surface temperatures in 2014 was the fourth highest in “recorded” history and that the 5 largest warm discrepancies have occurred in the past 6 years.  The cumulative discrepancy between models and observations is far beyond any previous precedent. This is true for both surface and satellite comparisons.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because we reached a similar conclusion ourselves in our recent post, “Record Global Temperature—Conflicting Reports, Contrasting Implications,” where we noted:

For the past 16 straight years, climate models have collectively projected more warming than has been observed.

Our results (and Steve’s) follow from plots like the one below, showing the average expectations from climate models verses what really happened since 1980.

 

Global annual surface temperature anomalies from 1980 to 2014. The average of 108 climate models (red) and observations from NOAA (blue) are anomalies from the 20th century average. In the case of the NOAA observations, the 2014 value is the average of January-October.

There are a lot more details in the full McIntyre post, including an analysis of the satellite-derived temperatures of the lower atmosphere (which shows pretty much the same discrepancy with climate models as do surface observations). Also, there are interesting discussions in the comments section of the post regarding further details of assessments of climate model performance and their appropriateness. You ought to have a look, and while you are there, be sure to add “Climate Audit” to your “favorites” list—you won’t be disappointed.

Another post that caught our attention this week was this piece by Judith Curry over at “Climate Etc.” examining the issue of ethics and climate change policy. Curry focuses on a recent report from the Global Warming Policy Foundation authored by Peter Lee, a lecturer in ethics and political theory at the University of Portsmouth, adding her own comments along the way.

Curry highlights this extract from Lee’s paper:

Put more crudely, setting mitigation policy goals that cannot and will not be met, either because they are aiming beyond the scope of the knowable and do-able or because national political interests make them unrealistic and unattainable, is itself in practice less ethical than setting goals that are lower, but more readily achievable. I assume here that the greater the speculation and uncertainties involved, the weaker the ethical claim. Conversely, as the certainty increases, the stronger the ethical claim. If it is not apparent already, I am suggesting that a commitment to mitigation policies has a reduced ethical claim because of the unknowns and unknowables involved, whether those unknowns concern the future of the environment or the future of the poorest citizens on Earth. An ethical commitment to adaptation is at least rooted in actual events as they occur.

She conclude her remarks with:

I spent a lot of time reading and thinking about this essay. I haven’t previously encountered Peter Lee’s writings; I’ve googled him and it seems that climate change is a new topic for his writings. Lee is a very welcome voice to the complex debate on climate change ethics. I don’t agree with everything in his essay, but I found his overall perspective to be very fresh and I found some of his statements to be remarkably insightful.

The whole piece at “Climate Etc.” is well worth checking out.

Last, but certainly not least, President Obama and his pen remain tireless in throwing up roadblocks to all manner of development in the name of mitigating climate change. The latest congressional end-around comes in the form of proposed new guidelines issued by the White House Council on Environmental Policy for all federal projects (or projects requiring federal approval) to include the project’s effect on climate change. The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Harder describes the implications this way:

The White House is calling on federal agencies to consider the climate-change impact of a wide range of energy projects that require government approval.

The draft guidelines, released Thursday by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, are likely to affect fossil-fuel projects the most, such as pipelines, terminals that export coal and liquefied natural gas, and production of oil, natural gas and coal on public lands.

The ironic (if that is the right word) thing here is that while the new guidelines are aimed at climate change, they strongly dissuade the reporting agencies from actually reporting on the climate change effects of the projects under consideration. The White House prefers, instead, to limit the discussion to the greenhouse gas emissions (both direct and indirect) from the project, and how those emissions affect the larger goal of greenhouse gas emissions targets at the state or national level.

Apparently, it is preferable to say things like [emphasis in EPA original]:

 ● All told—the Plan puts our nation on track to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent by 2030—that’s about 730 million metric tonnes of carbon pollution.

● That’s equal to the annual emissions from more than 150 million cars, or almost 2/3s of the nation’s passenger vehicles—or the annual emissions from powering 65 million homes, over half the homes in America.

But it’s not OK to say things like:

This Plan will mitigate global warming by less than two one-hundredths of a degree Celsius by the year 2100.

We note that the new White House guidelines are only in their draft form and are open for public comment. We won’t miss the opportunity to insert our two-cents’ worth (and probably a lot more).

Tim Lynch

Yesterday, the attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma filed a complaint in United States Supreme Court. Nebraska and Oklahoma want the U.S. Supreme Court to declare Colorado’s Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for adults, unconstitutional.

The gist of the complaint is that federal law prohibits possession of marijuana and that Colorado law “conflicts with and stands as an obstacle to the full purposes and objectives of” the federal government. Thus, the argument runs, Colorado’s Amendment 64 violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution and should be declared invalid. Unlike, say, Maine or Hawaii, Nebraska and Oklahoma border Colorado and claim that they suffer substantial and irreparable harm from Colorado’s new policy on marijuana. (Some residents of Nebraska and Oklahoma would rather drive across the border and buy weed legally in a store rather than engage in a criminal black market transaction closer to home. This cross-border activity upsets the authorities in both states, prompting the lawsuit).

Will the Supreme Court accept this case for review? That’s impossible to predict. However, the constitutional argument being advanced by Nebraska and Oklahoma is weak and so would likely fail. Just because the federal government enacts a law against marijuana, it does not follow that all the states have to enact laws against marijuana. And just because the federal police (FBI and DEA) have grown accustomed to having state and local police conduct marijuana raids and arrests, it does not follow that the local authorities can stop doing that. So long as the local police are not arresting or threatening to arrests federal agents for trying to enforce the federal law, there is no “conflict.” Thus, the Supremacy Clause does not come into play.

Here is an excerpt from a Cato paper by Robert Mikos on this subject:

The American Constitution divides governmental power between the federal government and several state governments. In the event of a conflict between federal law and state law, the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) makes it clear that state policies are subordinate to federal policies. There are, however, important limitations to the doctrine of federal supremacy.

First, there must be a valid constitutional basis for the federal policy in question. The powers of the federal government are limited and enumerated, and the president and Congress must always respect the boundary lines that the Constitution created.

Second, even in the areas where federal authorities may enact law, they may not use the states as instruments of federal governance. This anticommandeering limitation upon federal power is often overlooked, but the Supreme Court will enforce that principle in appropriate cases.

Using medical marijuana as a case study, I examine how the anticommandeering principle protects the states’ prerogative to legalize activity that Congress bans. The federal government has banned marijuana outright, and for years federal officials have lobbied against local efforts to legalize medical use of the drug. However, an ever-growing number of states have adopted legalization measures. I explain why these state laws, and most related regulations, have not been—and cannot be—preempted by Congress.

Jim Harper

George Clooney has now joined North Korea’s UN ambassador Ja Song Nam in bandying charges of “terrorism” against a foe. North Korea’s emissary in New York complained in July that the production of Sony’s film, The Interview, was “the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war.”

So, too, according to Clooney, was the threat leveled by unknown persons against theaters that might show the film: “Then, to turn around and threaten to blow people up and kill people, and just by that threat alone we change what we do for a living, that’s the actual definition of terrorism,” he said.

We don’t know more about the definition, but the ambassador and Mr. Clooney do teach us about usage. “Terrorism” is a debased, all-puropose charge anyone can use against anyone. There is a special variant of the word in which the results of an action provide conclusive evidence of the motive behind it. Because U.S. theaters yanked The Interview from their Christmas day schedules, Clooney can plausibly call the threat “terrorism.” Had most people, like me, assumed the threat to be an idle prank, it would not have been terrorism.

I remain unpersuaded of a North Korean connection or anyone’s meaningful capacity or willingness to attack theaters. The most proximate cause of The Interview’s cancelation, it seems to me, is risk aversion on the part of theater owners’ lawyers. They apparently concluded that an attack could be a forseeable cause of death and injury, for which owners could be liable. (Go ahead, reformers. Call trial lawyers “terrorists.”)

Subject matter expert Paddy Hillyard, a Professor of Sociology at Queen’s University, Belfast, eschews the term “terrorism,” for reasons he articulated in a 2010 Cato Unbound. He particpated in Cato’s study of terrorism and counterterrorism (conference, forum, book). I’m one of many who don’t believe that “cyberterrorism” even exists.

The greatest risk in all this is that loose talk of terrorism and “cyberwar” lead nations closer to actual war. Having failed to secure its systems, Sony has certainly lost a lot of money and reputation, but for actual damage to life and limb, you ain’t seen nothing like real war. It is not within well-drawn boundaries of U.S. national security interests to avenge wrongs to U.S. subsidiaries of Japanese corporations. Governments in the U.S. should respond to the Sony hack with nothing more than ordinary policing and diplomacy.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Like a lot of libertarians and small-government conservatives, I’m prone to pessimism. How can you be cheerful, after all, when you look at what’s been happening in our lifetimes.

New entitlement programs, adopted by politicians from all parties, are further adding to the long-run spending crisis.

The federal budget has become much bigger, luring millions of additional people into government dependency.

The tax code has become even more corrupt and complex, with more than 4,600 changes just between 2001 and 2012 according to a withering report from outgoing Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

And let’s not forget the essential insight of “public choice” economics, which tells us that politicians care first and foremost about their own interests rather than the national interest. So what’s their incentive to address these problems, particularly if there’s some way to sweep them under the rug and let future generations bear the burden?

And if you think I’m being unduly negative about political incentives and fiscal responsibility, consider the new report from the European Commission, which found that politicians from EU member nations routinely enact budgets based on “rosy scenarios.” As the EU Observer reported:

EU governments are too optimistic about their economic prospects and their ability to control public spending, leading to them continually missing their budget targets, a European Commission paper has argued. …their growth projections are 0.6 percent higher than the final figure, while governments who promise to cut their deficit by 0.2 percent of GDP, typically tend to increase their gap between revenue and spending by the same amount.

Needless to say, American politicians do the same thing with their forecasts. If you don’t believe me, just look at the way the books were cooked to help impose Obamacare.

But set aside everything I just wrote because now I’m going to tell you that we’re making progress and that it’s actually not that difficult to constructively address America’s fiscal problems.

First, let’s look at how we’ve made progress. I just wrote a piece for The Hill. It’s entitled “Republicans are Winning the Fiscal Fight” and it includes lots of data on what’s been happening over the past five years, including the fact that there’s been no growth in the federal budget.

You should read the entire thing for full context, but here are a few brief excerpts on why the left can’t be feeling very happy right now.

…Democrats presumably can’t be happy that the lion’s share of the Bush tax cuts were made permanent. …revenues are now projected to average only 18 percent of GDP over the next 10 years…a smaller tax burden than we had throughout the Clinton years. And you can’t finance big government in the long run without a lot more revenue. And they definitely can’t be happy that domestic discretionary spending is now below where it was during the Bush years, when measured as a share of GDP. And with sequester-enforced budget caps, it’s quite likely that number will drop even further. …Perhaps even more important, looking forward, is that House Republicans for four consecutive years have approved budget resolutions that assume genuine reform of Medicare and Medicaid. And they’ve won their biggest majority since before World War II, so GOPers can feel reasonably confident that voters (perhaps sobered up by the fiscal disarray in Europe) understand the need to modernize these programs.

By the way, the point about keeping taxes under control is critical. Simply stated, it’s virtually impossible for government to get much bigger without a stream of new revenue (or, in the case of a value-added tax, a river of new revenue).

Let’s now focus on the second issue, which is how we can maintain this progress.

Here’s a chart I put together back in September that showed projected revenue over the next 10 years (blue line). I then showed what happens if spending is left on autopilot and also what happens if policymakers simply restrain spending so that it grows 2 percent annually (gold line), which is actually a bit higher than inflation.

As you can see, it’s very simple to achieve a budget surplus. And we don’t even need the same amount of spending restraint that we enjoyed over the past five years!

The challenge, of course, is that Obama and many other politicians (including quite a few Republicans) don’t want government on a diet. After all, why let government “only” grow 2 percent each year when you can please the lobbyists, bureaucrats, cronyists, contractors, and other insiders by letting spending increase two or three times faster than inflation?

Fiscal probity isn’t easy. Genuine spending restraint not only means saying no to special interests and campaign contributors, it also means picking smart fights. In some cases, Obama and the left may dig in their heels and threaten a partial government shutdown in hopes of getting bigger budgets.

Sometimes such fights are unwise, but there’s a very strong case to be made that the GOP ultimately prevailed in the 1995 and 2013 shutdown battles.

The bottom line, as illustrated by this amusing A.F. Branco cartoon, is that Republicans shouldn’t automatically wilt if there’s a fight over something that really matters - such as a growing burden of government spending.

And it also means not falling back into bad habits. Republicans were profligate big spenders during the Bush years and it’s not easy to stay on the wagon of spending restraint.

This Lisa Benson cartoon is a good illustration of what will happen if GOPers cater too much to special interests.

For more information showing how it is simple to make progress, here’s my video explaining how simple it is to balance the budget with modest spending restraint. It’s several years old, so just keep in mind the chart above as you watch.

Though I hasten to add that the real goal isn’t balancing the budget. I’m far more interested in restoring a limited, constitutionally restrained federal government.

If we do that, fiscal balance is an easy and obvious consequence. In other words, if you deal with the underlying disease of too much government, you automatically eliminate the symptom of red ink.

P.S. Since I mentioned government shutdowns, I should point out some very good cartoons and jokes on that topic. They can be viewed here, here, here, here, and here.

K. William Watson

President Obama made a number of spot-on arguments yesterday for why the United States should end the ineffective trade embargo that has helped impoverish the people of Cuba for over fifty years.  However, the core components of the embargo are statutory law that will require an act of Congress to overturn.  While it’s very encouraging to see the president take a leadership role in pursuit of a good policy, getting Republicans on board is going to be difficult to say the least.

Over the last 20 years, there have been 11 votes in the two houses of Congress seeking to eliminate or amend the Cuba embargo.  In all of those votes, loosening the embargo got majority opposition from Republicans.  According to Cato’s trade votes database, it wasn’t even close.  Republican support for the embargo has ranged from 61% (in support of travel ban) to 91% (in support of import ban) with the average level of support at 77.5%.  Indeed, in 2005 more Republicans voted to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization than voted to end the Cuba embargo.

That’s not to say that positive movement on the embargo in a Republican congress is impossible.  There are encouraging signs as well: shifting opinion among Cuban Americans alters the electoral politics of the embargo in favor of opposition; resurgent emphasis on free markets may temper the Republican party’s reflexive love for belligerent foreign policy; and long-time Republican opponents of the embargo will now have renewed energy. 

In practical terms, embargo opponents will need to persuade House leadership to schedule a vote and find enough support in the Senate to overcome an inevitable filibuster from Marco Rubio and others.  It may not be impossible, but there’s a lot of heavy lifting left to do.  Hopefully, the President’s actions will be enough to get the ball rolling toward more reform of this antiquated and harmful policy.

Alex Nowrasteh

Introduction

Last week I was on an immigration panel discussing my new booklet Open Immigration: Yea & Nay, coauthored with Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies.  The other panelists were Michael Barone, George Will, Andrew McCarthy, and John Fonte.  They all had interesting comments about the booklet and the issue of immigration broadly.  However, I do want to take issue with some comments by John Fonte about the assimilation of immigrants and his view that the United States needs a modern version of the Americanization movement – an early 20th century initiative that sought to assimilate newcomers rapidly into American civic life.  Fonte claims that modern immigrants just aren’t assimilating as well as previous waves of immigrants, especially in their patriotism, because there is no modern equivalent of the Americanization movement to help them. 

During the event, I challenged Fonte’s claims about both the assimilation rates of today’s immigrants as well as the effectiveness of the Americanization Movement.  On the former point, research by Jacob Vigdor and others shows solid and sustained assimilation of immigrants over the generations that is comparable to the assimilation rates of previous immigrant groups.  On the latter point about the effectiveness of the Americanization movement, I mentioned that there were no data available from the early 20th century to confirm or disconfirm that it was responsible for the assimilation of immigrants in those groups.  Fonte countered by saying [2:44:15]: “It’s true we don’t have data on how well assimilation worked, but I think we have plenty of anecdotal evidence that Americanization did help.”  Elsewhere Fonte writes “assimilation of the Ellis Island generation succeeded only because American elites (progressive at the time) insisted upon ‘Americanization.’”  The success of the Americanization movement is an empirical question but there is precious little data from that time period.  There may be some anecdotes available that support his position so I will list some others below that question the effectiveness of the Americanization movement.    

Fonte and I clearly disagree over how successful current immigrant assimilation is in the United States, but this blog will focus on the little-researched and less understood Americanization movement of last century.  Contrary to Fonte’s claims, the Americanization movement had no discernible impacts on immigrant assimilation at best and, at worst, it may have slowed down assimilation.  The Americanization movement was not a benevolent government program that sought to assimilate immigrants into American society so much as it was an avenue for American opponents of immigration to vent their frustrations about immigrants.  Such an atmosphere of hostility could not produce greater assimilation.  The Americanization movement, however, did create an air of government-forced homogeneity similar to the government policies of Russia, Hungary, and Germany that tried to forcibly assimilate ethnic and linguistic minorities with tragic consequences – an experience many immigrants came to America to avoid.  The Americanization movement replaced the tolerant cosmopolitanism (for the most part) that defined America’s experience with immigration up to that point, and represented a low-water mark of American confidence in the assimilationist power of her institutions.  Below I will lay out the history of the Americanization movement, how it worked, and why it was likely ineffective.

History of the Americanization Movement  

The Americanization Movement was a concerted effort during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to help new immigrants settle and assimilate into America’s civic culture with the intent of promoting patriotism and productivity. These efforts primarily took the form of English language classes and courses in American civics but suffered from vague definitions of what “Americanization” meant besides learning the language, being loyal to the United States, and accepting our republican form of government.[i]  The Americanization movement was originally started by non-profit organizations with business support but it eventually grew to include government subsidies, public educational policy changes, and the creation of national holidays.

The arrival of the so-called “new immigrants” in the late nineteenth century prompted the Americanization movement.  As Chart 1 shows, “old immigrants” to the republic had come from the British Isles and northern Europe.  As Chart 2 show, immigrants arriving after 1890 came from Southern and Eastern Europe and were more likely to be Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Jewish – religions that were not as common in late nineteenth-century America.

Chart 1

Immigrants by Region of Origin (1820-1889)

Source: Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2011.

 

Chart 2

Immigrants by Region of Origin (1890-1920)

 

Source: Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2011.

 

The perception among many Americans at this time was that these old immigrants were quick to assimilate and adopt the values of longer-settled Americans because of their religious, cultural, and racial similarities with native-born Americans.  Catholic Irish and German immigrants prompted the first Nativist movement in the mid-19th century but for the most part the slow but steady assimilation of these old immigrants was still accepted by Americans prior to 1890.  Perceptions of new immigrants started to change as they began to come from more southern, eastern, Catholic, and Jewish parts of Europe.  The rural-settling protestant Swedes and Germans who were out of sight were not a major cause for concern but the urban-settling Catholic Italians, Orthodox Russians, and Jewish Poles were. 

The First-Phase

The early Americanization movement was born out of the movement to restrict lawful immigration.  The first such group was the American Protective Association (APA), started in 1887.  It was quickly followed by the more successful Immigration Restriction League (IRL), which was founded in 1894 by New England nativists.  Its goal was to restrict future immigration and aid new immigrants in assimilating.[ii]  For decades IRL lobbied for restrictions, and the IRL’s Prescott Hall blamed the lobby of “Jews, Jesuits, and Steamships” for delaying the IRL’s legislative agenda.[iii]   The IRL did not teach many immigrants English or civics because lobbying to restrict immigration was a fulltime job.  In this first-phase, calls for assimilation or Americanization were just smokescreens to soften the anti-immigration message of these groups.

The Second-Phase

The second-phase of the Americanization movement was led by civil society, non-profits, and American firms.  After proponents of immigration restrictions started the Americanization movement, better-intentioned non-profits entered the fray and began to focus on actual immigrant assimilation. The Educational Alliance of New York City (EANYC) was founded in 1890 by American Jews to provide night classes and day-time programs in American history, English, biology, preparation for public schools, and practical economic skills like dress-making to newly-arrived Jewish immigrants who settled in New York’s lower East Side.[iv]  In 1906, the Society for Italian Immigrants copied the EANYC’s idea but expanded it to far-flung worksites populated by Italian immigrants.[v]

The North American Civic League for Immigrants (NACLI), created in Boston in 1907, provided rudimentary English courses for immigrants.  Boston had the added benefit of being smaller and logistically cheaper than New York City, and therefore a space for easier experimentation with Americanization programs for immigrants.  NACLI’s founders were conservatives who wanted to protect the status quo by aiding assimilation without resorting to immigration restrictions.[vi]  Unlike other organizations, the NACLI franchised its methods and expanded into New York City and elsewhere along the eastern seaboard.  NACLI’s methods were copied and applied by local groups across the nation. The most notable of these ersatz organizations was the Chicago-based Immigrants Protective League (IPL) formed in 1908.

In 1907 the New York chapter of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) began offering evening classes for immigrants in English, naturalization, and civics.[vii] By 1912, 300 branches of the YMCA had taught over 55,000 immigrants in topics as varied as English, personal hygiene, sanitation, geography, industrial safety, and American government.[viii]  55,000 students was less than 1 percent of the total number of new immigrants who came during those years and an even smaller percent of the total stock of the foreign born living in the United States at the time so it is hard to see how the YMCA’s efforts had much impact on wider assimilation trends.    

After working more closely with the YMCA, the NACLI changed names to the Committee for Immigrants in America (CIA) and began to fund local Americanization programs across the country and develop a curriculum for smaller groups.[ix]  The CIA’s funding was so important for the movement that without it, the Federal Bureau of Education and other government agencies would have been unable to aid immigrants at all – and indeed once they ceased their funding of other groups, the movement died. 

Industrialists like Henry Ford and the numerous Chambers of Commerce also participated in the Americanization movement under the belief that it would increase worker productivity and halt the growing influence of socialism.  Many employers were concerned that significant portions of their workforce were unable to understand basic workplace instructions in English, and to this extent industry’s support of Americanization was purely pragmatic and almost entirely devoted to English language instruction.  Civics education was an afterthought to worker training and would remain so until the wave of socialist and anarchist activity in Europe culminated with the February and October Revolutions in Russia.

Union violence was another major reason why businesses supported immigrant assimilation.  A violent strike broke out in 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, a major manufacturing city with immigrants from 51 countries.  The strike occurred because worker income decreased in the city after the state of Massachusetts limited working hours, but many Americans and Progressives decided to blame supposedly dysfunctional immigrant assimilation instead of the misguided economic regulations.[x]  Indications that some of the workers had socialist and extreme left-wing political ties further spooked many Americans, prompting support for assimilation programs[xi] despite indications that most were not politically radical.[xii]

The Third-Phase

The Third-Phase of the Americanization movement was dominated by the local, state, and federal governments.  New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island set up state organizations to study immigration and aid in assimilation.  The first goal of the bureaus was to subsidize immigrant assimilation through language and civics classes.  The second goal was to educate immigrants on how to use American institutions like the courts and police. These state bureaus encouraged immigrants to trust American legal institutions – a goal eagerly sought by local and state governments.[xiii]

Public schools at the state and local level also joined the Americanization effort by mandating civics classes for all students and English classes for immigrants.  In the first decade of the twentieth century, the cities of New York, Chicago, Detroit, Rochester, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Boston began offering special night classes for immigrants.[xiv]  In 1907, New Jersey was the first state government to support night classes in English and civics for immigrants, a program followed by other states.[xv]  Around this time, compulsory civics classes, display of the American flag, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance became mandatory in virtually all schools in the United States with the exceptions of the states of Vermont, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Wyoming.  Naturalization celebrations accompanied with public ceremonies began to be held in Philadelphia in 1915, and July 4th of that year was known as Americanization Day in many communities across the country.[xvi] 

The United States military also got involved in the Americanization movement as it mobilized for World War I.  When the United States entered World War I in 1917 and enacted the draft, it became clear that the immigrant service members needed instruction in the English language to ensure that they could follow basic military commands.  The military was also worried that German and Austrian immigrants might have sympathy for their home countries in any military conflict, presumably presenting a national defense issue.  The military created groups like the National Security League and the Council on National Defense to provide immigrants with English instruction – primarily in the form of military commands – during the First World War. 

The military’s efforts were paralleled by civilian government agencies like the Foreign Language Information Bureau, the National Committee of Patriotic Literature, the National Security League, the American Defense Society, and others that stuffed the mailboxes of immigrant households and filled the airwaves with patriotic pro-assimilation programs.[xvii]  Women’s clubs associated with those groups took it upon themselves to travel to immigrant homes and, in a friendly tone, try to educate the inhabitants about the benefits of Americanizing.  One popular and possibly apocryphal story illustrated how these societies were mostly pushing against an open door.  On one such trip, the women’s club knocked on the door of a tenement occupied by a Bohemian immigrant who asked that the women come back next week. They protested by saying, “What!  You mean that you … want to put off your entrance into American life?”  “No, no!,” the Bohemian replied.”  We’re perfectly willing to be Americanized.  Why, we never turn any of them away.  But there’s nobody home but me.  The boys volunteered, my man’s working on munitions, and all the rest are out selling Liberty bonds.  I don’t want you to get mad, but can’t you come back next week?”[xviii]  

The National Americanization Committee (NAC) looked toward German-Americans as the face of its Americanization efforts, promoting the son of U.S. Civil War Union general Franz Sigel to the president of the Friends of German Democracy – a group devoted to spreading patriotic ideals amongst German-Americans.[xix]   The military scaled back its Americanization program after World War I ended, but the non-military government agencies were not dissolved.

The Federal Bureau of Education (FBE) was the chief civil government agency involved with the Americanization movement during the 1910s.  FBE developed civics and English curriculum from those provided by the NAC, the CIA, and other key groups in civil society.  The Bureau of Naturalization (BN) provided similar services by coordinating with the public school system.  Despite lobbying by the BN, no additional agencies were created to oversee immigrant assimilation.  Although the BN was a government agency, almost all of its material was borrowed from private groups and much of its funding came from donations.  The failure to create an additional agency doomed the BN to failure when the non-profits removed their funding.

The Effects of the Americanization Movement and Its End

Shortly after the end of World War I, BN’s position in the Americanization movement faded along with the rest of the movement.  The public had become apathetic toward Americanization of immigrants while the immigrants themselves, the supposed beneficiaries of these efforts, had begun to more openly express resentment over mistreatment and insults by Americanizers – even to the point that some Americanizers were worried that their efforts were backfiring and delaying assimilation.[xx]  The patronizing attitudes of many Americanizers, who were often overtly nationalistic and hostile to immigration, turned many immigrants off to Americanization – often stunting what would have been a natural assimilation process.  Instead of Americanization relying on the “attractive power and the sweet reasonableness of the thing itself,” as commissioner of education P.P. Claxton said, it took a tone of forcefulness.[xxi]  That tone commanded and cajoled immigrants to abandon entirely their Old World loyalties, customs, and memories by using high-pressure steamroller tactics.[xxii]     

Many Americanization programs existed to serve American immigration restrictionists and were backfiring in their efforts to assimilate immigrants.  As historian John Higham explained, the Americanization movement had two aspects to it.  The first drew its support from folks who genuinely wanted to aid in the assimilation of immigrants by catering to their needs.  The second was often an imperious demand for total national conformity that appealed greatly to one segment of the American public but produced small results when it came to assimilation.[xxiii]

Immigrant writers from many different ethnic groups claimed that Americanization programs disrupted the natural assimilation process and bred resentment against patriotism in immigrant communities.[xxiv]  In the years 1919-1920, the height of the Americanization movement, editorials in many foreign-language presses in the United States expressed their disapproval.  These editorials almost always acknowledged the importance of assimilation, of learning English, and of learning about American civics, but they objected to the harsh tone of national superiority that was prevalent among the most extreme Americanizers.[xxv] 

As one Polish-language newspaper expressed in 1919, “Under the present conditions foreigners are likely to take out naturalization papers simply in order to be left unmolested [by Americanizers].  This is a foolish movement which creates hypocrisy.”[xxvi]  A publication in the same paper wrote that Americanization “smacks decidedly of Prussianism, and it is not at all in accordance with American ideals of freedom.”[xxvii]  A Russian newspaper in Pennsylvania in 1919 wrote:

Many Americanization Committees only exist on paper.  They make much noise, get themselves in newspapers, but do not do much good.  They mostly laugh at the poor foreigners.  If Americans want to help the immigrants, they must meet them with love.  The immigrant is by no means stupid.  He feels the patronizing attitude the American [Americanizers] adopts towards him, and therefore never opens his soul.[xxviii]

Another Russian newspaper in New York in the same year complained that “Americanization expects no contribution from those who are to be assimilated.  It is based on the certitude that America is rich in everything and is in need of nothing new.”[xxix] An Italian newspaper in Pennsylvania in 1920 wrote, “Americanization is an ugly word.  Today it means to proselytize by making the foreign-born forget his mother country and mother tongue.”[xxx]  In the same year, a Slovak periodical in Pittsburgh complained that “[t]here is a mistaken notion among some well-meaning people that the foreign-born would be better Americans if they understood the Constitution of the United States … the average American native does not know it either, and yet he has some very clear conceptions of right and wrong.” 

Americanizers also became worried that their efforts were backfiring.  Carol Aronovici of the California State Commission of Immigration and Housing wrote that “the spectacle of the rabid and ignorant Americanization efforts was disheartening” to immigrants and reminded many of them of the negative experiences they had with homogenizing and discriminatory policies in their home countries. [xxxi]   Magyarization in Hungary and the persecution of Poles and Jews in the Russian Empire were particularly vivid examples.[xxxii]  Americanizer Frances Kellor, whom Higham described as “half reformer, half nationalist”[xxxiii] wrote that “alien baiting” and “repressive measures” by many in the Americanization movement blunted its effectiveness.  In 1920, she summarized the situation thusly:

Now that the war is over we are discovering that while it has cemented new friendships among races, and has promoted cooperation between some natives and foreign-born Americans, it has just as definitely created new racial antagonisms and brought about new misunderstandings between individuals.  The American, influenced as he is by the spread of Bolshevism and by the prevalence of unrest, as well as by some spectacular evidences of disloyalty among some aliens during the war, leans more and more toward repression and intolerance of differences.  The immigrant is sensitive to this change and, as he is constantly receiving messages from abroad urging him to return home, he is becoming less friendly toward America.  For this reason, assimilation measures, which might have been undertaken with ease and success before the war, now yield but little result, even with greater effort.[xxxiv] 

By the early 1920s, a revived Ku Klux Klan became popular and began to clamor for immigration restrictions.  They began to use “Americanization” as an argument to keep out Eastern and Southern European immigrants – claiming that Americanization meant turning over power to the “not de-Americanized average citizens of the old stock,” according to Imperial Wizard Hiram Wesley Evans.[xxxv]  Reducing the new stock of immigrants was essential to the KKK’s Americanization platform.  The word “Americanization” had become tainted. 

In the midst of this change and worries over the failings of Americanization, the NAC and other organizations disbanded, depriving the BN and other government agencies of funds that Congress did not replace.  Compared to the joyful fanfare that came with the birth of the Americanization movement, its death was silent and not mourned.    

Some Americanization successor groups continued after the larger movement subsided. The Immigrants Protective League (IPL), still based in Chicago, reorganized itself several times over the following century and is currently known as the Heartland Alliance.  Some smaller groups like the International Institute of Los Angeles, founded by the Young Christian Women’s Association (YCWA) in 1914, have managed to weather the years, but their goals have changed.  These new groups are general immigrant aid groups and concern themselves more with providing charity to low-income immigrant households and offering pro bono or cheap legal services.

The more lasting effects of the Americanization movement were reforms in educational curricula on the state and local levels, the creation of new American holidays, and the adoption of citizenship ceremonies meant to inspire patriotism.  Part of the push to celebrate Columbus Day during the 1890s, around the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the New World, was to provide a nationalistic holiday that would appeal to new immigrant groups from Southern Europe, particularly Italy, while providing an opportunity to teach civics to immigrants.  Colorado was the first state to make Columbus Day a holiday in 1905, followed by the federal government in 1934.  Interestingly, Columbus Day was in direct competition with another proto-holiday in the 1890s that was intended to celebrate Leif Erikson as the first European discoverer of the New World.  Columbus Day won out in part because “Leif Erikson Day” was intended to exclude Catholics and other groups that the holiday’s proponents thought were un-American.

Conclusion

The Americanization movement was brief, its efforts unevenly applied, and there is no actual evidence that it sped up civic and political assimilation.  As John J. Miller wrote: “[t]here is no way to judge with any precision the effect that the Americanization movement has on immigrant assimilation, or what would have happened in its absence.”  In the absence of empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of the Americanization movement, its supporters should be agnostic instead of calling for its revival.  There are plenty of anecdotes that the Americanization Movement slowed assimilation by creating resentment among the immigrants who were the intended beneficiaries.  Given the brief history of the Americanization movement and its small long-term reforms like mandatory recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms, it is unlikely that it was responsible for the civic and political assimilation of immigrants 100 years ago. 

The Americanization movement served the interests of those who used it as a platform to complain about immigrants.  If such an Americanization program were recreated today, it would be captured by either similar opponents of immigration or by left-wing groups who support a leftist multicultural vison of America – certainly an outcome that would horrify John Fonte and other modern proponents of Americanization.  There is little basis to assume that a revived program similar to it would speed up the civic and political assimilation of immigrants today and, rather, would likely slow it down. 

The Americanization and assimilation of immigrants and their descendants is very important.  So important, in fact, that we should not trust this vital task to incompetent government agencies but rather to the assimilationist culture and institutions of civil society that have successfully assimilated every previous group of immigrants and continue to do so today.  The Americanization and assimilation machine is not broken so let’s not break it with an ill-considered “fix” by reviving an ineffective 100-year old model.  

[i] John J. Miller, The Unmaking of Americans: How Multiculturalism Has Undermined America’s Assimilation Ethic,” The Free Press, New York, NY 1998, p. 52.  

[ii] Edward George Hartmann, The Movement to Americanize the Immigrant, Columbia University Press, New York, NY 1948, p. 23.

[iii] Aristide R. Zolberg, A Nation By Design, Russell Sage Foundation, New York, NY 2006, p. 216.

[iv] Edward George Hartmann, The Movement to Americanize the Immigrant, Columbia University Press, New York, NY 1948, pp. 25-26.

[v] Ibid., p. 27.

[vi] John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860-1925, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey 1955, p. 240.

[vii] Miller, pp. 54-55.  

[viii] Hartmann, p. 29 and Miller, p. 55.  

[ix] Hartmann, p. 97.

[x] Miller, p. 43.  

[xi] Ibid., p. 44.  

[xii] Miller, pp. 49-50.  

[xiii] Hartmann, p. 70.

[xiv] Ibid., p. 24. 

[xv] Ibid., p. 36.

[xvi] Ibid., p. 111.

[xvii] Higham, p. 245.

[xviii] Ibid., p. 246.

[xix] Hartmann, pp. 205-206.

[xx] Ibid., pp. 252-253.

[xxi] Miller, p. 86. 

[xxii] Higham, p. 247.

[xxiii] Ibid., pp. 237-238.

[xxiv] Hartmann, pp. 255-256.

[xxv] Ibid., p. 258.

[xxvi] Ibid., p. 256.

[xxvii] Ibid.

[xxviii] Ibid., p. 258.

[xxix] Ibid., p. 257.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] Ibid., pp. 254-255.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Higham, p. 239.

[xxxiv] Hartmann, pp. 259-260.

[xxxv] Miller, pp. 78-79.  

 

 

Doug Bandow

President Barack Obama used negotiations over a couple of imprisoned Americans to refashion the entire U.S.-Cuba relationship. He aims to reopen the embassy, relax trade and travel restrictions, and improve communication systems.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida charged the administration with appeasement because the president proposed to treat Cuba like the U.S. treats other repressive states. But President Obama only suggested that government officials talk to one another. And that peoples visit and trade with one another.

More than a half century ago Fidel Castro took power in Havana. In the midst of the Cold War the Kennedy administration feared that Cuba would serve as an advanced base for the Soviet Union. Having tried and failed to overthrow the regime militarily, Washington saw an economic embargo as the next best option.

But that didn’t work either. Even after the Soviet Union collapsed and Moscow ended subsidies for Cuba, sanctions achieved nothing.

Today Cuba’s Communist system continues to stagger along. The only certainty is that economic sanctions have failed.

Failed to bring down the regime. Failed to liberalize the system. Failed to free political prisoners. Failed to achieve much of anything useful.

After more than 50 years.

But that should surprise no one. Sanctions are most likely to work if they are universal and narrowly focused. For instance, the Institute for International Economics found that economic sanctions did best with limited objectives, such as “modest” policy change.

Similarly, a Government Accountability Office review noted that “sanctions are more effective in achieving such modest goals as upholding international norms and deterring future objectionable actions” than in forcing major changes, such as committing political suicide. As long as Washington demands that Cuba release political prisoners, return property, and hold free elections sanctions will be the lesser evil.

Yet for a half century Washington has insisted that the Castros dismantle their Communist dictatorship. A great goal. But until Havana’s Gorbachev appears, it ain’t going to happen, whatever sanctions the U.S. imposes.

The embargo also is advanced as moral recompense, punishing the Communist revolutionaries who oppressed the Cuban people and stole their property. Of course, the same could be said of most every other government, including democratic ones and America’s own.

Moreover, those in charge don’t seem to notice the alleged punishment. General embargoes hurt average folks far more than elites, who are most able to manipulate the system.

In fact, the embargo has provided the regime with a wonderful excuse for its failings. The Castros always could point to Yanqui Imperialism as the cause of the Cuban people’s travails. Many regime opponents, such as Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, who I met on my (legal) trip a decade ago, criticized U.S. policy.

As I point out in Forbes online, “perhaps the worst consequence of the embargo, however, was helping to turn a murderous windbag into a towering international figure. Fidel Castro never much mattered, but he became a symbol of resistance to America because Washington focused attention on him. Ignoring him and flooding his island with tourists and businessmen would have denied him his global podium and claim of victimhood.”

Encouraging travel and trade would promote regime change better than all the money spent on Radio Marti. One shouldn’t oversell the political impact of commerce. But it’s hard to name a dictatorship anywhere ended by isolation. And if the latter policy hasn’t worked for 50 years in Cuba, it’s time to try something else.

There are plenty of good reasons to criticize President Obama on foreign policy. However, he’s got Cuba policy right.

Long ago it was evident that the embargo had failed and deserved to be repealed. (And that America’s embassy should be reopened, as the president also proposed.) If conservative Republicans believe in recognizing reality and getting results, as they claim, they should back trade and engagement with Cuba.

Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger and Patrick J. Michaels

Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”

Pat Michaels is in San Francisco this week attending the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and presenting a poster detailing the widening mismatch between observations of the earth’s temperature and climate model projections of its behavior. Since most global warming concern (including that behind regulatory action) stems from the projections of climate models as to how the earth’s temperature will evolve as we emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (as a result of burning fossil fuels to produce energy), it is important to keep a tab on how the model projections are faring when compared with reality. That they are faring not very well should be more widely known—Pat will spread the word while there.

We don’t want those of you who are unable to attend the conference to think you are missing out on anything, so we have reformatted our poster presentation to fit this blog format (it is available in its original format here).

———–

Quantifying the Lack of Consistency between Climate Model Projections and Observations of the Evolution of the Earth’s Average Surface Temperature since the Mid-20th Century

Patrick J. Michaels, Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, Washington DC

Paul C. Knappenberger, Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute, Washington DC

INTRODUCTION

Recent climate change literature has been dominated by studies which show that the equilibrium climate sensitivity is better constrained than the latest estimates from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) and that the best estimate of the climate sensitivity is considerably lower than the climate model ensemble average. From the recent literature, the central estimate of the equilibrium climate sensitivity is ~2°C, while the climate model average is ~3.2°C, or an equilibrium climate sensitivity that is some 40% lower than the model average.

To the extent that the recent literature produces a more accurate estimate of the equilibrium climate sensitivity than does the climate model average, it means that the projections of future climate change given by both the IPCC and NCA are, by default, some 40% too large (too rapid) and the associated (and described) impacts are gross overestimates.

CAPTION: Climate sensitivity estimates from new research beginning in 2011 (colored), compared with the assessed range given in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and the collection of climate models used in the IPCC AR5. The “likely” (greater than a 66% likelihood of occurrence) range in the IPCC Assessment is indicated by the gray bar. The arrows indicate the 5 to 95 percent confidence bounds for each estimate along with the best estimate (median of each probability density function; or the mean of multiple estimates; colored vertical line). Ring et al. (2012) present four estimates of the climate sensitivity and the red box encompasses those estimates. The right-hand side of the IPCC AR5 range is actually the 90% upper bound (the IPCC does not actually state the value for the upper 95 percent confidence bound of their estimate). Spencer and Braswell (2013) produce a single ECS value best-matched to ocean heat content observations and internal radiative forcing. The mean climate sensitivity (3.2°C) of the climate models used in the IPCC AR5 60% greater than the mean of recent estimates (2.0°C).

 

A quantitative test of climate model performance can be made by comparing the range of model projections against observations of the evolution of the global average surface temperature since the mid-20th century. Here, we perform such a comparison on a collection of 108 model runs comprising the ensemble used in the IPCC’s 5th Scientific Assessment and find that the observed global average temperature evolution for trend lengths (with a few exceptions) since 1980 is less than 97.5% of the model distribution, meaning that the observed trends are significantly different from the average trend simulated by climate models. For periods approaching 40 years in length, the observed trend lies outside of (below) the range that includes 95% of all climate model simulations.

CAPTION: The annual average global surface temperatures from 108 individual CMIP5 climate model runs forced with historical (+ RCP45 since 2006) forcings were obtained from the KNMI Climate Explorer website. Linear trends were computed through the global temperatures from each run, ending in 2014 and beginning each year from 1951 through 2005. The trends for each period (ranging in length from 10 to 64 years) were averaged across all model runs (black dots).  The range containing 90 percent (thin black lines), and 95 percent (dotted black lines) of trends from the 108 model runs is indicated. The observed linear trends for the same periods were calculated from the annual average global surface temperature record compiled by the U.K. Hadley Center (HadCRUT4) (colored dots) (the value for 2014 was the 10-mon, January through October, average). Observed trend values which were less than or equal to the 2.5th percentile of the model trend distribution were colored red; observed trend values which were between the 2.5th and the 5th percentile of the model trend distribution were colored yellow; and observed trend values greater than the 5th percentile of the model trend distribution were colored green.

 

CAPTION: Distribution of 20-yr temperature trends (top) and 30-yr temperature trends (right) from 108 climate model runs during the period ending in 2014 (blue bars). The observed 20-yr temperature trend (bottom) and 30-yr temperature trend (right) over the same intervals are indicated by the arrows colored to match the designations described in the previous figure.

 

CONCLUSIONS

We conclude that at the global scale, this suite of climate models has failed.  Treating them as mathematical hypotheses, which they are, means that it is the duty of scientists to reject their predictions in lieu of those with a lower climate sensitivity.

It is impossible to present reliable future projections from a collection of climate models which generally cannot simulate observed change. As a consequence, we recommend that unless/until the collection of climate models can be demonstrated to accurately capture observed characteristics of known climate changes, policymakers should avoid basing any decisions upon projections made from them. Further, those policies which have already be established using projections from these climate models should be revisited. Assessments which suffer from the inclusion of unreliable climate model projections include those produced by the IPCC and the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program (including their most recent National Climate Assessment). Policies which are based upon such assessments include those established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pertaining to the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

 

REFERENCES

Aldrin, M., et al., 2012. Bayesian estimation of climate sensitivity based on a simple climate model fitted to observations of hemispheric temperature and global ocean heat content. Environmetrics, doi: 10.1002/env.2140.

Annan, J.D., and J.C Hargreaves, 2011. On the genera­tion and interpretation of probabilistic estimates of climate sensitivity. Climatic Change, 104, 324-436.

Hargreaves, J.C., et al., 2012. Can the Last Glacial Maximum constrain climate sensitivity? Geophysical Research Letters, 39, L24702, doi: 10.1029/2012GL053872

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013. Climate Change 20013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Final Draft Accepted in the 12th Session of Working Group I and the 36th Session of the IPCC on 26 September 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Lewis, N. 2013. An objective Bayesian, improved approach for applying optimal fingerprint techniques to estimate climate sensitivity. Journal of Climate, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00473.1.

Lewis, N. and J.A. Curry, C., 2014. The implications for climate sensitivity of AR5 focring and heat uptake estimates. Climate Dynamics, 10.1007/s00382-014-2342-y.

Lindzen, R.S., and Y-S. Choi, 2011. On the observational determination of climate sensitivity and its implica­tions. Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Science, 47, 377-390.

Loehle, C., 2014. A minimal model for estimating climate sensitivity. Ecological Modelling, 276, 80-84.

Masters, T., 2013. Observational estimates of climate sensitivity from changes in the rate of ocean heat uptake and comparison to CMIP5  models. Climate Dynamics, doi:101007/s00382-013-1770-4

Michaels, P.J., et al., 2002. Revised 21st century temperature projections. Climate Research, 23, 1-9.

Morice, C.P. et al. 2012. Quantifying uncertainties in global and regional temperature change using an ensemble of observational estimates: The HadCRUT4 dataset. Journal of Geophysical Research, 117, D08101, doi:10.1029/2011JD017187 (and updates, current version 4.3.0.0).

Otto, A., et al., 2013. Energy budget constraints on climate response. Nature Geoscience, 6, 415-416.

Ring, M.J., et al., 2012. Causes of the global warming observed since the 19th century. Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, 2, 401-415, doi: 10.4236/acs.2012.24035.

Schmittner,  A., et al. 2011. Climate sensitivity estimat­ed from temperature reconstructions of the Last Glacial Maximum. Science, 334, 1385-1388, doi: 10.1126/science.1203513.

Skeie,  R. B., et al., 2014. A lower and more constrained estimate of climate sensitivity using updated observations and detailed radiative forcing time series. Earth System Dynamics, 5, 139–175.

Spencer, R. W., and W. D. Braswell, 2013. The role of ENSO in global ocean temperature changes during 1955-2011 simulated with a 1D climate model. Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Science, doi:10.1007/s13143-014-0011-z.

van Hateren, J.H., 2012. A fractal climate response function can simulate global average temperature trends of the modern era and the past millennium. Climate Dynamics,  doi: 10.1007/s00382-012-1375-3.

Michael F. Cannon

The Obama administration is boasting that 2.5 million Americans have selected health insurance plans for 2015 through the Exchanges it operates in 36 states under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and that they are well on their way to enrolling 9.1 million Americans in Exchange coverage next year. But there’s a problem. The administration is not warning ObamaCare enrollees about significant risks associated with their coverage. By mid-2015, 5 million HealthCare.gov enrollees could see their tax liabilities increase by thousands of dollars. Their premiums could increase by 300 percent or more. Their health plans could be cancelled without any replacement plans available. Today, the U.S. Senate leadership – incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), Conference Chairman John Thune (R-SD), Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), and Conference Vice Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) – wrote Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell to demand the administration inform consumers about those risks.

First, some background.

  • The PPACA directs states to establish health-insurance Exchanges and requires the federal government to establish Exchanges in states that fail to do so.
  • The statute authorizes subsidies (nominally, “tax credits”) to certain taxpayers who purchase Exchange coverage. Those subsidies transfer much of the cost of ObamaCare’s many regulations and  mandates from the premium payer to the taxpayer. For the average recipient, Exchange subsidies cover 76 percent of their premium.
  • But there’s a catch. The law only authorizes those subsidies “through an Exchange established by the State.” The PPACA nowhere authorizes subsidies through federally established Exchanges. This makes the law’s Exchanges operate like its Medicaid expansion: if states cooperate with implementation, their residents get subsidies; if not, their residents get no subsidies.
  • Confounding expectations, 36 states refused or otherwise failed to establish Exchanges. This should have meant that Exchange subsidies would not be available in two-thirds of the country, and that many more Americans would face the full cost of the PPACA’s very expensive coverage.
  • Yet the Obama administration unilaterally decided to offer Exchange subsidies through federal Exchanges despite the lack of any statutory authorization. Because those (illegal) subsidies trigger (illegal) penalties against both individuals and employers under the PPACA’s mandates, the administration soon found itself in court.
  • Two federal courts have found the subsidies the administration is issuing to 5 million enrollees through HealthCare.gov are illegal. The Supreme Court has agreed to resolve the issue. It has granted certiorari in King v. Burwell. Oral arguments will likely occur in February or March, with a ruling due by June.
  • If the Supreme Court agrees with those lower courts that the subsidies the administration is issuing through HealthCare.gov are illegal, the repercussions for enrollees could be significant. Their subsidies would disappear. The PPACA would require them to repay the IRS whatever subsidies they already received in 2015 and 2014, which could top $10,000 for many enrollees near the poverty level. Their insurance payments would quadruple, on average. Households near the poverty level would see even larger increases. Their plans could be cancelled, and they may not be able to find replacement coverage.
  • The Obama administration knows it is exposing HealthCare.gov enrollees to these risks. But it is not telling them.

Cue the senators:

It is imperative that people understand this risk as they contemplate signing up for coverage.

On December 9, 2014, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified that the administration does not plan to inform federal exchange enrollees that they could face much higher tax bills and higher premiums next year should the Court find that the IRS was improperly providing the tax credits. Without this information, many families could turn down more-secure coverage options (e.g., through a different employer) in favor of less-secure Obamacare coverage. We urge you to reconsider this position and to ensure that these Americans have all available information as they make decisions about health insurance coverage next year.

At the same time, the Obama administration is taking care of insurance companies:

Furthermore, while the Administration has decided not to inform people about the potential ramifications of King, the administration has protected insurers, at their request, from a ruling that strikes down the IRS rule. According to an October report, at the request of insurers, the contracts between CMS and insurers “include a new clause assuring issuers that they may pull out of the contracts, subject to state laws, should federal subsidies cease to flow. … The language in the clause says that CMS acknowledges that the issuer has developed its products for the FFM ‘based on the assumption that (advanced payment tax credits) and (cost-sharing reduction payments) will be available to qualifying (e)nrollees.’” In the House hearing, Administrator Tavenner testified that CMS negotiated these contracts with insurers over the summer and that every contract has the same clause. It is troubling that the administration decided to protect insurers from a King ruling that restricts the law’s tax credits to state exchanges while at the same time failed to inform people enrolled or considering enrolling in federal exchanges of the potential consequences of such a decision.

The senators end by demanding the administration be honest and transparent with the public and particularly HealthCare.gov enrollees:

Given the enormity of the financial stakes involved, we request that you use your department’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget submission to inform Congress of how the Administration plans to respond to a possible ruling in King that recognizes that the IRS’s rule is at odds with the law. We also urge you to inform all current federal exchange enrollees and all visitors to HealthCare.gov about the King suit and how a ruling against the administration could affect them. Finally, please provide information on any actions that the Administration is preparing to ensure that people inappropriately subjected to Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and associated tax penalties are not punished further.

Recall that President Obama promised his health care law would rein in the worst insurance-industry abuses. Like when insurance companies sell you a plan without clearly disclosing all relevant risks. Or when they enroll you at one rate and then later jack up your premiums. Or when they out of nowhere cancel your coverage.

(Cross-posted at Darwin’s Fool.)

Chris Edwards

One the best U.S. senators of recent decades is leaving. No one has spotlighted the ongoing waste in federal spending more than Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. In his farewell address, he advised his colleagues: “Your whole goal is to protect the United States of America, its Constitution and its liberties … it’s not to provide benefits for your state.” As if to underline Coburn’s point, the Washington Post yesterday described how Senator Roger Wicker helped pour $349 million down the drain on an unused NASA facility in his home state of Mississippi.

One of Coburn’s strategies has been to use his expert staff to write investigative reports on federal activities. The huge collection of reports his staff has produced is remarkable. Each one is a big fat indictment of malfunctioning government.

Seeing this stream of high-quality and fun-to-read reports over the years has made wonder what the staffs of the other 99 senators do with their time. Every senator ought to be using his taxpayer-funded staff to try to save taxpayer money. Every senator ought to be digging into the giant $3.6 trillion spending empire that they have collectively created and trying to cut out some of the fat.

Coburn’s final report released last week is another impressive document. Coming in at 320 pages, Tax Decoder digs through the massive federal tax code and highlights hundreds of special deals, carve-outs, and illogical breaks. Tax Decoder’s findings are too voluminous to summarize here, and even seasoned tax wonks will find interesting stuff that they did not know.

Consider the chapter on nonprofit organizations, which spans 42 pages and is buttressed by 462 endnotes. This part of the tax code is a complex mess rife with abuse. Coburn’s staff found that Lady Gaga’s charity raised $2.6 million and handed out just $5,000 one year in benefits, while spending the rest on salaries, promotions, and parties. The Kanye West Foundation spent $572,383 one year, but not a dime on charity.The Cancer Fund for America raised $80 million, but handed out just $890,000 to cancer patients.

While the GAO—an arm of Congress—investigates federal activities, its reports are usually dry and timid. The agency’s role is not to upset its political masters. Similarly, most members of Congress don’t want to upset their colleagues, and so they shy away from criticizing wasteful spending directed to any state, not just their own. It’s easier for them to follow the herd, play the game, grab benefits, and hopefully cruise to safe reelection. Many outside groups and reporters do a great job investigating the government, but senators are in a uniquely powerful and privileged position to lead the charge. 

That’s why Senator Coburn and his staff filled a void with their reports. They uncovered idiocy in the budget, and they informed the public with the juicy details. Many members of Congress say that the government spends too much, but they shy away from specifics. But now that Tom Coburn is going, which members are willing to step up to the plate?   

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