Archives: January, 2013

New Government Climate Change Report Yet More “Show Science”

Global Science Report is a weekly 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.”

You can get anything you want

At Alice’s Restaurant

-Arlo Guthrie, 1967

Late last week, the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program (USGCRP) released a draft version of its latest assessment report on the impacts of climate change in the United States. Updated reports are required by Congressional decree every 4 years or so.  The 2013 report, as it now stands, tips the scales at over 1,000 pages, consequently, we haven’t made our way through it yet, but if the Executive Summary is any indication, this report seems even worse than the one the USGCRP released in 2009.

This is yet another example of our imperial government’s predilection towards “show science” in order to justify taking people’s stuff.  By analogy, think of the “show trials” in some of history’s more freedom-loving regimes. 

As of this writing, it’s not clear if they intend to produce another “summary” document, such as the 200-pager they put out in 2009. That one was so bad as to require us to produce an Addendum that represents what the USGCRP report coudda, shoudda, woudda looked like had the author team made a more complete and fair assessment of the scientific literature.

Admittedly, our Addendum report, which was finalized and released last fall, did include citations from the scientific literature that were published subsequent to the publication of the 2009 USGCRP report, which obviously the USGCRP report authors couldn’t have known about.  But, as our Addendum demonstrates, when these new research results are included, the potential impacts of climate change in the U.S. are substantially tempered.  This leads us to think that the 2013 version from the USGCRP—which seems to hype the impacts of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions even more so than the 2009 report did—didn’t do a grand job  in synthesizing the literature.

Nor does it appear they did a good job with the statistics of climate and climate change in the U.S.

Taxpayers, Parents, and Compelling Belief

Zack Kopplin has spent the past five years trying to prevent taxpayers from being compelled to support the teaching of creationism as science. His initial focus was the public school system itself, but he has now added government-funded private “voucher” schools to his campaign.

Reading about Zack’s efforts, I was reminded of another campaigner for freedom of conscience in education, the now-retired law professor Stephen Arons. Thirty years ago, Arons wrote a remarkable book called Compelling Belief, in which he chronicled education-related conflicts that trampled parents’ freedom of conscience. 

Like Arons, Kopplin seems to come from the political and philosophical left. And, also like Arons, Kopplin is fighting against compulsion that violates people’s most deeply held convictions. But there is one area in which the two men differ: whom they wish to protect from unjust compulsion. For Kopplin the answer is, exclusively, taxpayers. For Arons the answer was, exclusively, parents. As a result of this difference, their proposed solutions are precisely opposite to one another. Kopplin wants to abolish voucher programs. Arons proposed a nationwide voucher program.

Which proposal is correct? Whose freedom should prevail? The answers, respectively, are neither, and both.

Neither proposal is correct because neither safeguards the freedom of conscience of both parents and taxpayers. For anyone truly committed to freedom of conscience, it is unacceptable to throw one group under the bus in order to protect the other.

Fortunately, there is a policy solution that guarantees freedom of conscience for both parents and taxpayers—under which no one is forced to support beliefs that violate their convictions. That policy solution, as the U.S. Supreme Court has understood, is K-12 education tax credits.

Based on a Review of Studies Looking at the Impact of Taxes on Growth, Academic Research Gives Obama a Record of 0-23-3

How do you define a terrible team? No, this isn’t going to be a joke about Notre Dame foolishly thinking it could match up against a team from the Southeastern Conference in college football’s national title game (though the Irish win the contest for prettiest make-believe girlfriends). I’m asking the question because a winless record is usually a good indication of a team that doesn’t know what it’s doing and is in over its head. With that in mind, and given the White House’s position that class warfare taxation is good fiscal policy, how should we interpret a recent publication from the Tax Foundation, which reviews the academic research on taxes and growth and doesn’t find a single study supporting the notion that higher tax rates are good for prosperity. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Twenty-three studies found a negative relationship between taxes and growth, by contrast, while three studies didn’t find any relationship. For those keeping score at home, that’s a score of 0-23-3 for the view espoused by the Obama Administration. This new Tax Foundation report is also useful if you want more information to debunk the absurd study from the Congressional Research Service that claimed no relationship between tax policy and growth. Indeed, the TF report even explains that serious methodological flaws made “the CRS study unpublishable in any peer-reviewed academic journal.”

Guns in the Capital City

During his news conference yesterday, President Obama said he was interested in more firearms research and warned that those who opposed his legislative agenda might try to “gin up fear.”  Those are interesting claims.  Let’s take a brief look at some recent history here in the District of Columbia.

In 2007, when a federal appellate court ruled that DC’s strict gun control laws were unconstitutional, then-Mayor Adrian Fenty told reporters he was “outraged.”  The idea that DC residents could keep a gun in their home for self-defense, he feared, would bring more crime and violence.  Mayor Fenty and the city’s lawyers appealed the Heller case to the Supreme Court, but lost.

It’s been several years since that landmark legal battle – so what happened?  

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, a former DC prosecutor wrote:

Since the gun ban was struck down, murders in the District have steadily gone down, from 186 in 2008 to 88 in 2012, the lowest number since the law was enacted in 1976. The decline resulted from a variety of factors, but losing the gun ban certainly did not produce the rise in murders that many might have expected. The urge to drastically restrict firearms after mass murders like those at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month and in Aurora, Colo., in July, is understandable. In effect, many people would like to apply the District’s legal philosophy on firearms to the entire nation. Based on what happened in Washington, I think that would be a mistake. Any sense of safety and security would be a false one.

How NPR Lets You Know Which Political Philosophies Are Acceptable

NPR asked libertarian, vegan, author, and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey whether ObamaCare is a form of socialism. Mackey responded, thoughtfully:

Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.

Mackey then discussed how Whole Foods is working with Michelle Obama to improve Americans’ diets. The story on NPR’s web site closes with this paragraph:

So our question to you, dear readers, is this: How big a role does a business leader’s personal philosophy play in your decision to buy products from his or her company? Tell us in the comments section below.

That’s funny. NPR didn’t ask its dear readers to comment on the politics of health insurance giant CIGNA’s CEO after he praised the Supreme Court’s decision not to strike down the law, or said, “I don’t believe focusing on repeal right now is in anybody’s best interest.” Or on Aetna’s CEO after he advocated tax increases and gobbling up as many ObamaCare subsidies as his company could. Hmm.

Dollars Per Vote in the Presidential Election

There’s been a lot of talk about the high cost of the 2012 election, with both major candidates spending more than a billion of dollars once affiliated groups are included. Some people find that too much. Others point out that Americans spend that much every year on potato chips, and surely deciding who will lead the United States government is at least that important.

And of course the bigger amounts are government spending. When politicians vote to give money to students, the elderly, farmers, automobile companies, defense contractors, and other voting blocs, political considerations are certainly part of the decision-making process. When Republicans vote for $60 billion in “Hurricane Sandy recovery aid,” including money for Alaskan fisheries and activist groups, aren’t they buying votes? 

But for the moment, let’s take a look at how much the candidates did spend, and how much they got for it. I’ve added Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson to the usual Obama-Romney comparison to get some perspective.

 

The vote totals are from Wikipedia. Spending figures for the Democratic and Republican candidates and for Johnson are from OpenSecrets.org. 

So the first thing we notice is that Obama and Romney spent respectively $10 and $7 per vote, while Johnson spent less than $2. But party and outside groups roughly doubled spending for the major candidates. More money was spent on behalf of Romney, but presumably money spent by groups other than the official campaign is less efficient, so that their total expenditures were effectively similar. And we can only wonder how much of “the libertarian vote” a Libertarian Party candidate might pick up if he had enough money to be heard.

 

 

A Constrained Gun Control Agenda

We didn’t get the “Andrew Shepherd moment,” a neat parallel between Obama’s gun-control newser and Michael Douglas in The American President confidently declaring that he’s going to “get the guns.” That the faux President made that pledge just moments after confidently affirming his membership in the ACLU (!) shows just how much the Second Amendment debate has changed since the Heller decision in 2010.

The President’s proposed gun restrictions show some recongition that his agenda is constrained by the Constitution. Tim Lynch and I discuss President Obama’s gun control agenda in this short video:

More analysis from Ilya Shapiro here. Audio-only version of the above video available here.