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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Politics, ideology often trump duty and honor among public servants



Here in America, the land of the free, it ought to take actual wrongdoing for government to act against individuals and organizations. And when those in positions of authority in government are properly serving the people they work for, that is the way it is.

Alas, that is not always so. It seems to be getting more frequent to see misfeasance by public servants who, rather than seeking out criminal or civil misbehavior, now use their offices that they are paid to operate honorably for purposes outside their scope of responsibility. Apparently the punishment for abdicating one’s sworn duty to honorably do his/her job are insufficient to discourage bad behavior. Or maybe it is because people rarely are held accountable and punished for their misfeasance.

Perhaps the best-known recent episode of such public dis-service was the targeting for harassment of conservative organizations that had filed for non-profit status with the IRS, a function under the control of one Lois Lerner.

During a Congressional hearing investigating the affair, Lerner refused to answer questions, hiding behind the 5Th Amendment’s protection from self-incrimination, later resigning her federal position and, having avoided criminal charges, lives peacefully on her government pension.

While Lerner used her IRS position against political adversaries, public servant misbehavior also creeps into the area of harassing ideological adversaries. The environmental left’s position that burning fossil fuels significantly harms the environment is based upon evidence so weak and heavily disputed that a substantial number of Americans – perhaps a majority – reject the idea. Unable to convince people through the strength of scientific evidence, the liberals then resort to using the power of government to force people into line.

This time the target is ExxonMobil and a dozen independent groups that are in the crosshairs of a state prosecutor because they do not accept the idea that fossil fuels significantly damage the environment, and have had the unmitigated gall to express their opinion publicly.

Earlier this month ExxonMobil released a copy of an April 19 subpoena filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey demanding forty years of communications regarding climate change from the company and the organizations. Exxon has filed a motion for injunction in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, accusing Healey of waging a politically motivated fishing expedition aimed at silencing oppositional opinion on climate change.

Did Exxon engage in legally actionable fraud as Healy claims? “Fossil fuel companies that deceived investors and consumers about the dangers of climate change should be, must be held accountable,” she said, referring to what she called the “troubling disconnect between what Exxon knew, what industry folks knew and what the company and industry chose to share with investors and with the American public.”

Healy’s statement suggests that someone can be held criminally liable for knowing the left’s argument about climate change, and failing to discard their own opinion in favor of that argument. Merely knowing that the environmental faction thinks fossil fuel use is harming the environment makes you legally obligated to adopt it, even if you do not agree and, more importantly, even if there is no actual proof that assumption is correct.

Healy and the fellow travelers on the left seem to believe that their opinion becomes truth, merely because they believe it, even if it has never been proven true or valid, and if you disagree you can face legal action. Free speech and the First Amendment apparently no longer apply where climate change is concerned.

Of this poorly thought through legal fiasco, Alex Epstein, whose Center for Industrial Progress is one of the dozen organizations targeted by Healy along with Exxon, had this to say: “What ExxonMobil is being prosecuted for is expressing an opinion about the evidence that the government disagrees with … There is a fundamental distinction in civilized society between fraud and opinion.”

In his excellent book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Epstein advances the position that fossil fuel use has provided millions and millions of people wonderful advantages in terms of higher living standards, increased life expectancy, decreased infant and child mortality than they would have had without fossil fuels, and he references the manic climate change narrative that produced repeated predictions of doom that did not materialize.

A fundamental truth in the United States is that one may hold and espouse any opinion he or she chooses, without regard to whether that opinion is true or false; it is not a crime to disagree, even if the subject is climate change.

This effort to force acceptance of the weak theory of fossil fuels damaging the environment is an initiative of “AGs United for Clean Power.” This perhaps signals a coming expanded effort to silence disagreement. But it has aroused the attention of 13 attorneys general, who signed a letter to their counterparts across the country that said: “We think this effort by our colleagues to police the global warming debate through the power of the subpoena is a grave mistake.”

Whether that letter will help redirect AGs tempted to the dark side or not is unknown. But it is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mass shootings: Attention must be focused on reality, not politics



The liberal left’s Pavlovian response to mass shooting incidents is always blaming too many guns, too easy access to guns, and the availability of the wrong kind of guns. More recently the subject has broadened to include keeping certain types of people from buying guns, an aspect that at least contains a degree of rationality.

President Barack Obama went to Orlando, FL last week to offer condolences to the families of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, but could not resist turning the subject from the victims and their suffering in this tragedy into an opportunity talk about guns.

Three Democrats walked out of the House of Representatives chamber when Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., asked for a moment of silence in memory of those killed and injured in the Orlando shooting, and later during regular House business when Ryan tried to call up a measure for a vote, Democrats began shouting over the announcement of the bill being voted on.

Favored targets for blame, rather than the actual perpetrators and their motives, are the National Rifle Association (NRA) and conservatives and/or Republicans, which is a common theme despite the fact that none of the killers have been members of the NRA, conservatives or Republicans. What the NRA, conservatives and Republicans realize that liberals do not is that absent the intent to commit murder, guns – like hammers, butcher knives and motor vehicles – are inanimate objects. Every day tens of millions of guns harm no one, especially those under control of law-abiding citizens. Guns are not the problem; they are but a tool and only harm when used by someone with the intent to harm or occasionally by accident.

There is also a near-universal misidentification of weapons these killers use: “assault weapons.” The fact is that no true assault weapon has been used in any mass shooting.

Assault weapons – which are fully automatic, or have the capability to be used in fully-automatic mode – are illegal in the U.S. Weapons used in mass shootings are semi-automatic pistols, semi-automatic rifles, revolvers, or shotguns. Just because a weapon has characteristics of appearance and similar accessories to assault weapons does not make it an assault weapon. Those using that term are either ignorant about the subject, or are deceptively using it for its emotional value, trying to gin up support for their cause.

The gun control faction’s desires run a broad gamut from banning all guns, to banning some types of guns, to preventing some particular people from getting any sort of gun at all, and using the no-fly list, the terror watch list and mental health issues as disqualifying elements.

Before starting down the road to implementing some restrictions, we must remember that America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” formed to guarantee personal liberty, and America reached heights previously unknown in history due to its singular devotion to freedom. We cannot trample on the freedoms of millions of American citizens in order to discover the relative few who have evil intent.

Thus:
* Suggesting a total gun ban is dead on arrival.
* Trying to limit the kinds of guns people may purchase begs the question of who decides, and how; and opens the door for dictatorial abuse by the politically motivated.
* Denying gun purchases to people on the no-fly list, terror watch list or who have been flagged for a mental health issue is fraught with potential for errors and abuse. Journalist Stephen Hayes found himself on a terrorist watch list, as did South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and at least two children 6 and 8 years of age. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy was denied boarding a plane back to Washington while in the Senate. What could possibly go wrong?

Americans are protected from arbitrary denial of Constitutional rights through a legal due process proceeding, where evidence must be offered and a specific ruling made to approve taking one’s rights. West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin seems ready to ditch due process. The Weekly Standard quoted Manchin as saying, "The problem we have — and really, the firewall we have right now, is due process. It's all due process … due process is what's killing us right now."

Two other factors scream out for attention, things that mass shootings have in common. First, all of them have occurred in places that were declared “gun-free zones,” where guns were forbidden. This is an open invitation to someone bent on committing an atrocity.

Second, many/most of them were committed by Muslims inspired by al Qaeda, ISIS or some other source of Islamist anti-American fervor. That factor existed in the Pulse nightclub, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Fort Hood, and the San Bernardino shootings, for example.

President Obama turns back-flips to avoid using the term “radical Islam” to describe these murders, saying that Islam is a religion of peace. Okay, fine. But not all Muslims adhere to that creed, and the killers among them pledged allegiance to Allah during these far too-frequent events.

We cannot eliminate or reduce these atrocities by continuing to ignore these two factors. Political correctness be damned; our lives are too important for PC.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Obama’s failed record and legacy is Hillary’s campaign platform



Yes, it was a significant recession, deep enough to earn the title the “Great Recession.” But since the Great Depression there have been several recessions that, at the time they occurred, were called the “Great Recession.”

Since the Great Depression and including the latest incarnation of the Great Recession, none of them have come anywhere close to the horrible conditions during the 1930s. Thus, Barack Obama’s citing of the Great Recession falls short in excusing the dismal economy and the failed Obama recovery. The lousy economy is due to faulty policies since the end of the recession in June 2009.
 
As the end of Obama’s presidency nears the U.S. is more than $19 trillion in debt, and the debt nearly doubled during Obama’s presidency. At a seriously high $10.6 trillion when he began, Obama’s policies have added about a trillion dollars for each of his eight years in office.

During the Obama recovery, Gross Domestic Product has not once reached 3.0 percent. “Adding insult to injury,” The Daily Signal reports, “Obama coupled an incredibly weak economic recovery with a more than trillion-dollar tax hike.  By allegedly making the rich ‘pay their fair share’ through the $620 billion (2013-2022) fiscal cliff tax increase, the administration really pushed for everyday Americans to sacrifice lower take-home pay for more government spending and intervention in their lives.”

Obama has claimed the creation of millions of jobs. "We're in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history,” he said. “More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the 1990s; an unemployment rate cut in half."

Well, sort of. When a recession produces job losses, the recovery – even a poor recovery like this one – produces some “new jobs.” And according to CNN Money, Obama created 9.3 million, not 14 million, new jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that the U-6 unemployment rate reflects “total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.” At the end of the first quarter of 2016, the U-6 rate was 10.1 percent. 

These unemployed, discouraged workers who have stopped looking for a job, and underemployed workers are not counted in the unemployment figure the administration brags about, but are nonetheless part of the American workforce, which totals 243 million people, and currently more than 90 million of them are unemployed or underemployed, putting the workforce participation rate at a decades-low 62.6 percent.

In a May open-ended Gallop survey, participants noted general economic issues as the most important thing on their minds, but not far behind were issues with their government, such as immigration and race relations, two things Obama has made worse.

Potentially more serious, however, is the disintegrating U.S. influence across the globe and our severely weakened military, issues considered so serious that Congressional Republicans have developed a 23-page policy document to address them, under the leadership of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis).

“In the past seven years, our friendships have frayed, our rivalries have intensified. It’s not too much to say that our enemies no longer fear us and too many of our allies no long trust us. And I think this is the direct result of the president’s foreign policy,” Ryan said. “All he did was create … many voids around the world and now our enemies are stepping in to fill those voids. This is what happens when America does not lead.”

With Obama’s tenure ending we are faced with the prospect of Hillary Clinton being elected to what will essentially be Obama’s third term, continuing his disastrous policies, and adding her own signature disasters to the mix.

Among Clinton’s favorite issues are: gun control, climate change, and income inequality.

She says that 33,000 gun deaths every year is unacceptable. But considered in context, 33,000 deaths among our 320 million population is roughly one death for every 10,000 people. And not all gun deaths are murders. Some are killed by police; others by people defending themselves; some are suicides; some are accidents. To Obama and Clinton, the Orlando terrorist attack is a gun control issue.

Obama’s manic compulsion for climate change has produced policies that have destroyed the lives of thousands of energy industry workers, and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars propping up failing green energy companies like Solyndra, based on a theory that is faulty and heavily disputed. Likewise, Clinton wants to install a half-billion solar panels by 2020, seven times what we have today. More bad policies on the horizon.

She favors making incomes more equal, not understanding that wages are based on economic principles, not fairy tale desires. She wants a $12 an hour minimum wage for everyone, trained or not, good at their job or not.

And we cannot ignore her failure to provide adequate security at the Benghazi consulate when evaluating her foreign policy credentials.

Clinton, like Obama, seeks to control and ignores logic and reasoning when seeking solutions. She shares his “big government as the solution to all problems” philosophy, and that is a recipe for continued trouble.


Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Constitution provides states with a high degree of sovereignty



When the founders of our young nation realized that the original governing document, the Articles of Confederation, was insufficient, the task of creating a better one began. Ultimately, during the process of creating and ratifying the United States Constitution to replace the Articles strong sentiment existed for specific rights to be guaranteed to Americans, and the Bill of Rights was created, consisting of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

As time passed the strength of some of those first 10 amendments has been weakened, and some are under constant attack. As our once-limited national government has grown, the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have diminished.

The Bill of Rights guarantees such things as freedom of speech and religion, the keeping and bearing of arms, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and other protections from a government set on tyranny.

The several states, which represented the interests and will of their citizens, created the national government, and the Tenth Amendment emphasized that the states had protection from the acquisition of powers by the national government outside the limits set forth in the Constitution.

During the process of replacing the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution, a series of essays known as The Federalist Papers stressed that under the Constitution’s governmental structure, the principle of popular sovereignty would continue, with Constitutional protections against the national government trampling on the rights reserved for the states. This was known as “federalism.” The national government has those powers assigned to it; the states or the people have those powers not assigned to the national government, nor prohibited by the Constitution.

The Ninth Amendment strengthens the Tenth, but more than 230 years later, who can argue that the Tenth Amendment's proscription against a power grab by the federal government has actually been respected?

Arguably, the Environmental Protection Agency is the greatest offender of 10th Amendment protections, as it writes regulations and rules with the force of law that have not been made into law by the Congress.

Or maybe it is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – that is a law made by Congress, but shoves Uncle Sam over the edge of the big government cliff. Imagine Washington, Jefferson, Madison and the rest of the Founders agreeing that the national government was allowed someday to impose a healthcare system on the people of the several states, even if it worked as advertised.

The idea that the federal government has the authority to change the operations of hundreds or thousands of individual insurers and healthcare providers in 50 different states, each serving its own separate customer base, into a single system controlled by Washington is as anti-Constitution as it gets.

Other areas of Tenth Amendment abuse are same-sex marriage and abortion, both of which originally were state issues, until the federal government found some way to finagle a national interest in these issues.

Until the Roe v Wade case of 1973, abortion had been a state issue, but the Supreme Court ruled that bans on abortion were unconstitutional on a “right to privacy” basis discovered in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. And the federal government was never involved in marriage issues until 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed.

The Constitution also protected state sovereignty by the way Congress was organized. The House of Representatives, frequently referred to as “the people’s house,” consisted of Representatives directly elected by the citizens of the Congressional Districts. Members of the Senate, on the other hand, were to be elected by the state legislatures, and therefore senators’ loyalty was to the government of the state more than to its citizens.

This protection vanished, however, when the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, and now the citizens of the states also elect Senators, in addition to the Representatives. Members of the Senate no longer have any special reason to protect the interests of the government of the state they represent, and that shifts the governing balance between the states and the federal government toward the federal government.

The result often is that federal mandates, about which the states themselves have nothing to say, not only can and do intrude on state sovereignty, but force states to pay for their implementation, as well.

Some people think these changes are just fine, such as those who have bought into the scare tactics of the climate change catastrophe gang, those who support abortion and same-sex marriage, and those who generally like big government and have never stopped to think how miserable they may be in the future if this big-government mania isn’t stopped.

There is some good news on this issue: States are fighting back against federal over-reach. Twenty-four states filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to strike down the Environmental Protection Agency’s new source performance standards that effectively prohibit the construction of new, coal-fired power plants. And 12 states are fighting the Obama administration’s LGBT rights mandates.

If the courts do not support restoration of state sovereignty in these and other issues, the states will have no other choice but to refuse to follow intrusive federal measures.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Transportation Security Administration is failing the public


The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been in the news a lot lately, and not because of the number of terrorists that it has caught trying to board domestic and international flights originating in the U.S.

The most flagrant set of problems occurred primarily at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where waits of up to three hours to get through the security check occurred, and the more serious situation where travelers had to spend the night in the O’Hare terminal on cots furnished by the airport because the long wait caused them to miss their flights. It is estimated that as many as 4,000 travelers have missed flights at O’Hare since February due to slow security checks. These are a painful testimony to just how badly the security check problems have become.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) predicts a long, hot summer, blaming the TSA’s inept bureaucracy for being unable to provide an efficient security check process at American airports. CAGW blames the TSA directly, rather than other things, like budget cuts or a smaller workforce, which are offered up as excuses.

“This blame shifting simply does not stand up to scrutiny for TSA, whose fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget of $7.3 billion is one billion dollars and 16 percent higher than in FY 2007,” CAGW notes.  “TSA’s full-time workforce rose by 4.3 percent over the last decade, even as air travel at major airports decreased. To date, 22 airports have dropped TSA and switched to more cost-effective, flexible, and efficient private alternatives.  The massive lines of outraged passengers have caused airports in Atlanta, New York, and Seattle to announce they would like to privatize security as well.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has said that passengers must accept the new reality of “increased wait times as you travel,” but assured air travelers that TSA would be asking airports for help with “nonsecurity” activities, speeding the process. And he said that the number of carry-ons "has a lot to do with the wait time." Airlines have begun charging for extra bags being checked through, which encourages passengers to carry more bags with them into the passenger cabin, slowing the security check process.

These problems will likely increase as air travel picks up in the summer tourist season.

Underscoring CAGW’s accusation of incompetence is this from the New York Daily News: “The Transportation Security Administration assistant administrator who received $90,000 bonuses despite failed security tests at U.S. airports has been replaced, a government agency said Monday.” Kelly Hoggan, who testified before Congress about multiple TSA problems earlier this month, has been reassigned within the TSA.

Last week The Daily Signal proposed three steps to improve the TSA’s performance:

1. Expand the Screening Partnership Program - The Screening Partnership Program’s ability to take advantage of private security companies is one way the TSA can meet high passenger demand without sacrificing security.

2. Enlarge and Strengthen TSA PreCheck - TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program that allows members to expedite the security process after going through a background check and vetting process. The program allows TSA to move its resources towards a more risk-based approach by focusing less time on low-risk travelers.

3. Ensure Airport Screening is Subject to Risk Assessments and Red Team Tests - Waiting in TSA lines is partially alleviated because the TSA is supposedly providing extra security. That’s why it’s important to continue assessing the effectiveness of the TSA’s security measures. Red Teams, or undercover agents are one way to test that TSA security measures are working. In the meantime, it’s up to passengers to also take personal responsibility in preparing themselves for security checkpoints.

But perhaps the answer lies not in how to repair a broken and dysfunctional federal bureaucracy, but in replacing it with a private sector solution.

Like Postal Service workers who are frequently friendly, courteous and competent, TSA workers also display these qualities. But like the Postal Service, the TSA is a broken and largely failing agency.

Government agencies operate in a system that provides guaranteed clients, guaranteed revenue, and no competition, hence there is little incentive to be effective. This is why few of the multitudinous activities of the federal government are successful.

Our government keeps growing, finding ever more things that it believes need federal attention, all the while adding bodies to the federal payroll, increasing costs and delivering less than we deserve.

Airport/airline security really is mostly the concern of the individual airlines and airports – after all, they have the most to lose from a security failure and more to gain from being recognized for security successes. Why, then, should the federal government attempt this important mission with its history of ineffective bureaucratic methods?

Private businesses have not only the pride factor in their operation, but also the profit motive. If they fail to do the job satisfactorily, they will be replaced, and that adds an incentive to preform well that government agencies simply do not have. Competition drives success.

The big government mentality sees all problems as federal problems and big government solutions as the only means of salvation. Bureaucracies are self-sustaining parasites living off citizens, and mostly failing them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The U.S. armed forces have been weakened by budget cuts and ideology


In recent years America’s military has experienced operational readiness issues. A good bit of this is due to budget cuts resulting from the 2013 sequestration, but some sources also blame philosophical ideas about the military within the Obama administration.

Sequestration, as explained by CNN at the time, is “a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government agencies, totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The cuts would be split 50-50 between defense and domestic discretionary spending. More than $500 billion will be cut from the Defense Department and other national security agencies, with the rest cut on the domestic side…”

The Pentagon, under then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, planned to reach its mandated cuts through furloughs of hundreds of thousands of civilian workers in combat readiness training and weapons maintenance. He said at the time that the $46 billion in cuts the first year would significantly affect military readiness, and the longer the sequestration lasts, the deeper cuts that will be required to achieve the mandated savings.

Just how badly this has affected military readiness is demonstrated in a Fox News story earlier this month. The U.S. Air Force, the smallest of the four major armed services, has cut staff to the degree that many military personnel now work extra shifts performing administrative jobs previously performed by civilians.

These cuts have put the Air Force in the position of being short 4,000 service personnel to maintain its aircraft and 700 pilots to fly them. Personnel are now cannibalizing parts from planes no longer in service and stored at a desert site called "The Boneyard" and from planes on display in museums to repair active aircraft.

Master Sgt. Bruce Pfrommer, who has worked on B-1 bombers for more than 20 years, told Fox that at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, where the 28th Bomber Wing is located, only nine of the 20 bombers there can fly. Those aircraft are closing in on 10,000 flight hours each, compared to about 1,000 when Pfrommer started working on them 20 years ago.

"Our retention rates are pretty low. Airmen are tired and burnt out,” Staff Sgt. Tyler Miller, of the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth, told Fox. "When I first came in seven years ago, we had six people per aircraft — and the lowest man had six or seven years of experience," Miller said. "Today, you have three-man teams and each averages only three years of experience."

The Navy also has operational issues. A Government Accountability Office report issued earlier this month, titled “Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan” (OFRP) discusses problems facing our sea-going service. While the report does not specifically mention sequestration budget cuts, the symptoms support this as a least part of the problem.

An excerpt from the OFRP tells us that:
• Over the past decade, high operational tempo has reduced the predictability of ship deployments for sailors and for the industrial base that supports ship repair and maintenance. For example, carrier strike group deployment lengths have increased from an average of 6.4 months between 2008 – 2011 and 8.2 months between 2012 – 2014, to 9 months for three carrier strike groups in 2015.
• Increased deployment lengths have resulted in declining ship conditions and materiel readiness, and in a maintenance backlog that has not been fully identified or resourced, according to Navy officials.
• The declining condition of ships has increased the duration of time that ships spend undergoing maintenance in the shipyards, which in turn compresses the time available in the schedule for training and operations.

In its 2016 assessment of the four major military branches, the Heritage Foundation shows how true Panetta’s prediction was. The assessment rated the Army as “weak,” and the Navy, Marines and Air Force as “marginal,” rating the U.S. military overall as “marginal.”

In addition to budget cuts, reports of military brass being displeased with President Obama’s policies also pose questions.

Writing in Politico in 2013 Rosa Brooks noted, “In my interviews, however, many senior military leaders complained of feeling baffled and shut out by a White House National Security Staff.”

“The NSS wants to run the show, day to day and minute to minute,” laments a former military official, “so they have no time—they’re almost incapable of strategic thinking.” Another recently retired senior general said, “I don’t understand the process by which the White House is making strategic or foreign-policy decisions. … There’s an appearance of consultation, but you know you won’t be listened to.”

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution provides that the federal government “provide for the common defense.” But in Article Four, Section Four, it states specifically that the “United States shall guarantee to every State a republican form of government and shall protect each of them against invasion.” No other power of the federal government shares that strong a requirement for performance.

No reasonable observer would contend that the federal government is obeying its Constitutional mandate to “provide for the common defense.”

How does the Commander in Chief plan to fix this?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Democrat policies have a troubling past and promise a bad future



When Barack Obama took office in January of 2009 the U.S. was emerging from the recession that began in December of 2007. Running 18 months, this was a significant recession, with GDP reaching -8 percent in 2008 and unemployment peaking at 10.0 percent in October 2009, four months after the technical end of the recession.

In February 2009 President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an $830 billion spending plan that was supposed to keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent. It didn’t.

Truthfully, seven full years later the United States has not fully recovered from the recession, and Obama blamed the recession throughout most of his presidency to cover his tracks on the poor economic recovery. But the severity of the recession wasn’t to blame.

Gross Domestic Product growth has been inconsistent during Obama’s presidency, and averaged slightly above the 2.0 percent range. And while unemployment finally dropped to respectable territory at 4.9 percent in January, that must be considered in light of the fact that it’s only that low because more than 90 million Americans couldn’t find a job to replace the one they once had and left the workforce. When those people are included in the calculation, the unemployment rate at the end of April was 9.3 percent (U-6).

The labor force participation rate is the percentage of working-age persons in an economy who are employed, or are unemployed but looking for a job. Today, according to the Bureau of Labor Standards, the participation rate is 62.8 percent, the lowest since the 1970s.

Contrast Obama’s dreary results with the last recession that lasted at least 16 months. During Ronald Reagan’s first term, the recession began in July 1981 and ended in November 1982. Under Reagan’s policies the unemployment rate fell from a high of 10.8 percent in December 1982 to 7.2 percent in November of 1984 – that’s a 3.6 point improvement in 23 months, a striking difference from the 2007 recession, where unemployment peaked at 10.0 percent and never fell below 8.0 percent in the first 43 months afterward.

During the Reagan recovery the economy posted a robust 4.8 percent annualized growth over 23 quarters, according to economist Stephen Moore in The Daily Signal, and that was more than double the rate during Obama’s tenure.

Where Obama responded to an economic recession with $2 trillion worth of government expansion (more than $1 trillion on health care and $830 million in economic stimulus), Reagan cut marginal income tax rates across the board permanently through the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981: Different approach; different results. Reagan’s results were far better.

When your country is in trouble the president is supposed to put political and ideological goals aside and take actions that help the country recover. Instead Obama, not one to let a crisis go to waste, pursued his manic pledge to “fundamentally transform” the country, doubling down on reckless environmental policies that since September of 2014 have cost 191,000 people in mining industries their jobs, about 30 percent of them in the coal industry, according to CNS News, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That trend will continue if, through some great misfortune, Hillary Clinton gets elected. Recently, Clinton said, “I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

She then visited West Virginia coal country on the campaign trail and faced an out-of-work coal miner who is having trouble taking care of his family because of the Obama administration’s punishing policies on mining and burning coal. She answered his complaint about killing the coal industry by saying that her comment was out of context and that she had a plan to help families and individuals who have been put out of work.

The Huffington Post described that plan: “Hillary Clinton has a $30 billion, 4,300-word plan to retrain coal workers ...”

But there are two problems. First, in her initial statement she clearly promised to kill coal jobs. For a candidate for president to advocate a policy of deliberately targeting a group of jobs that are legal ought to be disqualifying. Furthermore, Clinton said the focus would be retraining those out of work for new jobs. And just what sort of new jobs would there be in this situation and in a state so terribly wracked by Obama-caused economic woes?

Of Clinton’s plan, West Virginia Coal Association Senior Vice President Chris Hamilton told The Huffington Post, “Hillary’s plan is akin to somebody running you over, then offering to pick you up,” he said. “It’s not a plan. It’s a care package.”

Obama’s policies have inflicted great pain on the nation, and Hillary Clinton gives every indication of continuing along a similar line. So much of what liberal Democrats have done and will do is to shove their ideas down our throats, instead of allowing change to evolve naturally. People who live in coal producing states understand quite well the damage such policies cause.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Strong resistance to federal overreach is overdue, but growing




For four years, an organic farmer in Indiana was harassed when he supplied raw milk to the local organic co-ops. What prompted this action was what the Goshen News reported in 2010 as an outbreak of campylobacter bacterial infections “that might be traceable to the Forest Grove Dairy.”

Obviously, if bad milk makes people sick, health departments need to be involved, however, farm owner David Hochstetler told the paper at the time that health departments had not visited the farm to investigate, and he was never found to have sold bad milk.

Despite never having his product tied to the outbreak, Hochstetler’s farm was subjected to frequent inspections and harassment by two federal agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice, actions believed to be aimed at closing down the dairy farm. And then Elkhart County Sheriff David Rogers responded to Hochstetler’s complaint, realized there was no justification for such harassment, and stepped in and blocked this over-reach from the federal government.

Rogers wrote to the DOJ telling them he would take action, including “removal or arrest” of federal agents, if the inspectors came without a signed warrant specifying probable cause and giving a clear reason justifying their invasive searches.

Rogers explained in the local newspaper, “My research concluded that no one was getting sick from this distribution of this raw milk. It appeared to be harassment by the FDA and the DOJ, and making unconstitutional searches, in my opinion. The farmer told me that he no longer wished to cooperate with the inspections of his property.”

You may be wondering why federal agencies were involved in what clearly was a local/state issue. This is not unusual.

The Daily Caller reported a year ago on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Waters of the United States rule that critics say “would allow the agency to regulate waterways previously not under federal jurisdiction, including puddles, ditches and isolated wetlands.”

The EPA may be the agency that has done the most damage to the U.S. economy and business operations with its over-zealous and intrusive mandates, concerning such things as incandescent light bulbs, toilets that use “too much” water, limiting wood burning and charcoal use, and now extending its tentacles to regulating temporary water collections on private property.

Many states are growing tired of these overreaches. A bill introduced in the Indiana State Legislature reflects that state’s frustration. The bill nullifies all of the EPA’s regulations and places all environmental protection authority with the state’s Department of Environmental Management. And 24 states, including Indiana, have filed a lawsuit in federal court to strike down the new source performance standards affecting new coal burning power plants.

The EPA’s costly excesses and other excessive behaviors by administrative agencies trample all over the plain language the Founders deliberately wrote into the U.S. Constitution through the Tenth Amendment, which states: “The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

However, it is the wont of federal bureaucracies to grow like weeds, often with the tacit approval of our elected representatives in Congress, and not infrequently at their behest. Bureaucrats isolate themselves into protected enclaves extending their reach beyond that which is appropriate. They often do serious harm to their bosses, the American people, usually without accountability for their misdeeds.

Having escaped the heavy hand of King George only a few years before, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution sought to create a document establishing a new government for the United States that could not evolve to be as oppressive as Mother England had been; a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” It was no accident that the phrase “the people” is mentioned five times in the Bill of Rights.

The Legal Information Institute of the Cornell University Law School explains: “The U.S. Constitution grants the federal government with power over issues of national concern, while the state governments, generally, have jurisdiction over issues of domestic concern. While the federal government can enact laws governing the entire country, its powers are enumerated, or limited; it only has the specific powers allotted to it in the Constitution.”

Some constitutional scholars and experts have described the Tenth Amendment as the Bill of Rights’ “catch-all” amendment, a strong reminder to federal lawmakers and officials that the federal government has strict limits, and everything outside those limits is under the control of the states.

The checks and balances of our governmental system give Congress the duty and the authority to oppose excessive behavior by the executive branch. The federal budget is an excellent tool for this purpose. It is shameful that these elected representatives have so often and for so long failed to protect their own Constitutional authority and, more importantly, the best interests of the people they were elected and sworn to represent.

The failure of Congress to oppose over-zealous federal agencies means the states have no other choice but to strongly oppose the unconstitutional federal intrusions, either through legal action, or by actions like that of Sheriff Rogers.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Looking at the U.S. performance in the 2016 Index of Economic Freedom


The 2016 Index of Economic Freedom shows that the United States has climbed one notch from 12th place to 11th among the 186 nations of the world that were surveyed and rated.

The Index is an annual guide published by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, and rates nations for labor freedom, business freedom, and fiscal freedom. There are 10 different measures inside those three major groupings. Data used is from 2014, and was compiled and analyzed last September.

The nations with more economic freedom than the U.S. are, starting with first place: Hong Kong; Singapore; New Zealand; Switzerland; Australia; Canada; Chile; Ireland; Estonia; and the United Kingdom.

Ranking 11th over all and 2nd among the three North American nations, the U.S. “remains mired in the ranks of the ‘mostly free,’ the second-tier economic freedom status into which it dropped in 2010,” the introduction to the report states. In seven of the past eight years Americans have seen their economic freedoms decline, and this year’s score equals their country’s worst score ever in the Index. At 75.4 out of 100 points, the U.S. has seen its score drop 0.9 since 2012, and from 80.7 since 2009.

“America’s historically vibrant entrepreneurial growth is significantly hampered by intrusive, expensive, and often ineffective government policies in areas ranging from health care to energy to education,” the report states. “Government favoritism toward entrenched interests has hurt innovation and contributed to a lackluster recovery and stagnant income growth,” even though a private sector energy boom has put the U.S. at the top of the world’s producers of oil and gas.

While America’s 6.2 percent unemployment rate in 2014 has improved, GDP growth was an unimpressive 2.2 percent over five years from 2009 to 2014. Our public debt then was nearly 105 percent of national GDP, which means that if every dollar of production – the value of all final goods and services produced in a year – went to pay down the debt, we still would have debt.

One small piece of good news is that in the Rule of Law category the “Freedom From Corruption” rating rose from 72 to 74 from the prior year, but the “Property Rights” rating dropped 10 points from 90 to 80, and this year produced the lowest ranking of the American people’s trust in government in the last 10 years, based on polls taken in 2015, where 75 percent of respondents said they believe corruption is widespread in the government and in government regulation of business.

Taxation continues to bedevil America’s freedom standing, with more than one of every four dollars of domestic income being taken by taxes, the U.S. having one of the highest corporate tax rates on the planet at a punishing 35 percent, and the top individual income tax rate of 39.6 percent. Government spending runs just short of 40 percent of GDP, and the size and scope of the government remains too big and too intrusive. The “Government Spending” and “Fiscal Freedom” ratings each fell, 59.6 to 54.7 and 67.5 to 65.6 respectively.

The nation saw substantial declines in the Regulatory Efficiency category, where each sub-category saw declines: Business Freedom - 91.9 to 84.7; Labor Freedom – 95.1 to 91.4; Monetary Freedom – 84 to 77. The report notes that “180 new major federal regulations have been imposed on business operations since early 2009 with estimated costs of nearly $80 billion,” explaining that the regulations themselves are not rigid, but that policies, such as excessive occupational licensing, restrict employment opportunities, and “damaging monetary policies, tangled webs of corporate welfare, and various subsidies” have affected the economy negatively.

The U.S. was heavily affected in two of the three sub-categories of Open Markets, where “Trade Freedom” remained essentially flat at 87 points, but “Investment Freedom” and “Financial Freedom” each took a 10-point hit, falling from 80 points to 70. The report notes that while “domestic regulations have been emerging only gradually, the financial reforms adopted in 2010 have increased both costs and uncertainty.”

Even though the U.S. moved up one position among the 186 nations, being 11th instead of 12th does not provide enough for even Donald Trump to brag about, especially in view of the fact that the overall score fell nearly one point and that the U.S. lost ground in 8 of the 10 sub-categories contained in the Index. And its position in the second tier may prompt a drive to change our “land of the free” motto to “land of the mostly free.”

The importance of this report is not so much the U.S. ranking, but the continued commitment of its government to policies contrary to the values that made America exceptional and free. This perspective is not merely the view of conservatives and libertarians, but also of someone who has seen this same scenario up close and personal.

Filmmaker and American citizen Agustin Blazquez saw this same theme play out in his native Cuba, and warns, “Wake up, America!” Blazquez sees the same radical shift happening in America that turned Cuba into a communist country.

This ought to be a call to action, but thus far all of those have failed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Clearing the air on fossil fuels: Here is the rest of the story



A few years ago Hal Willis, a scientist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, resigned from the American Physical Society after 67 years as a member, citing the global warming/climate change issue and the blind allegiance to global warming theory by so many of the Society’s members, as well as the organization’s failure to challenge these members in the name of true scientific investigation, and citing trillions of dollars of research funding as a major reason the practice of true science on climate change has been replaced by ideological advocacy.

Of the climate change issue Willis said, “It is the greatest pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a scientist.” His position has support from other scientists, among them Dr. Ivar Giaever, a 1973 Nobel Prize-Winner for physics.

Giaever joined more than 70 Nobel Science Laureates in signing an open letter in October of 2008 expressing strong support for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, who had said “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” Seven years later he believes Obama’s warning was a “ridiculous statement.” He told a Nobel forum last July, “I would say that basically global warming is a non-problem.”

Dr. Richard Lindzen is emeritus professor of Atmospheric Sciences at MIT. Citing the growing shrillness of the cries about “global warming” during his 30 years there, during which time he says “the climate has changed remarkably little,” he notes that the less the climate changes, the louder the warnings of climate catastrophe become.

In a recent video presentation by Prager University, he said that participants in the climate change debate fall into one of three groups.

Group One, he says, is associated with the scientific part of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Working Group 1), and are scientists that generally believe recent climate change is due to burning fossil fuels, which releases CO2 (carbon dioxide) and might eventually dangerously harm the planet.

Group Two is made up of scientists who, like Lindzen, don’t see the problem identified by Group One as an especially serious one. They say there are many reasons why the climate changes – the sun, clouds, oceans, the orbital variations of the Earth, as well as a myriad of other inputs, none of which are fully understood.

Group Three is made up of politicians, environmentalists and the media. Climate alarmism provides politicians money and power and environmentalists also get money as well as confirmation of their religious zealotry for the environment, while the issue satisfies the media’s need for a cause to support, money and headlines. Said Lindzen, “Doomsday scenarios sell.”

From the climate alarmists’ point of view, virtually every problem on Earth stems from climate change, as Lindzen said, “everything from acne to the Syrian civil war.”

The Director of the Center for Industrial Progress, and author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein, shows us in a Prager University video presentation that contains thorough sourcing for his assertions that burning fossil fuels has improved the lives of millions in the developed world by helping solve their biggest environmental challenges, purified their water and air, made their cities and homes more sanitary and kept them safe from potential catastrophic climate change.

Could we have built reservoirs, purification plants, and laid networks of pipes to bring clean water to homes without fossil fuels, he asks? Fossil fuels can do the same for those in the developing world, if the powers that be will allow it. More fossil fuel use equals more clean water, he said.

He further shows that despite an increase in fossil fuel use from 1.5 billion tons in 1970 to around 2.0 billion tons in 2010, emissions dropped from about 300 million tons to about 150 million tons during the same period. This resulted from using anti-pollution technology powered by … fossil fuels.

If CO2 emissions cause harmful changes in the environment, and if emissions have increased, then more people must be suffering “climate-related deaths,” due to things like droughts, floods, storms and extreme temperatures. But no, Epstein said. “In the last eighty years, as CO2 emissions have rapidly escalated, the annual rate of climate-related deaths worldwide has rapidly declined – by 98 percent.”

“In sum,” Epstein said, “fossil fuels don’t take a naturally safe environment and make it dangerous; they empower us to take a naturally dangerous environment and make it cleaner and safer.”

A large segment of the public has bought into the “we are killing our environment” idea put forth by the climate alarmists, and now meekly accept it when the United Nations and their own government advocate harmful solutions to climate change, ignoring the mounting pile of contrary data. Consequently, the economic damage done to regions of the U.S. and the thousands of American workers put on the unemployment line by the foolish policies of the Obama administration basically are accepted as necessary.

A strong case has been made that fossil fuels aren’t significantly harmful, and that they have been and will be extraordinarily helpful to the people of the world, if only we will listen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

It’s critical to correctly assign responsibility and accountability





In a matter of minutes on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed 26 people – 20 of them school children – at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. This horrific act was the work of a crazed 20 year-old. Lanza killed his mother, took her gun and headed off to Sandy Hook school. After killing 26 innocent people, he killed himself.

At the time, and still today, people blame the weapon Lanza’s mother had legally purchased instead of the mentally ill shooter, or his mother who ignored years of warnings about his psychiatric anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The school system also ignored signs of mental problems, according to The New York Times, which reported on findings that resulted from a mandate for the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate to “conduct investigations of child fatalities and issue public reports with the particular focus on preventing future child deaths.”

The Times noted “the report faulted the school system for not doing a better job of monitoring Mr. Lanza’s progress, educationally and emotionally, each time he was allowed to receive his education in a ‘homebound’ environment because of difficulties he had in social settings.”

But those who had the responsibility to act to protect the public from this dangerously mentally ill person – Lanza’s now-dead mother and the school system – are not the targets of a wrongful-death lawsuit. Instead the plaintiffs have targeted the manufacturer, the distributer and the seller of the legal weapon the mentally ill Lanza used to kill and injure.

The plaintiffs whose lawsuit targets these businesses are the families of nine of the victims and one survivor of the Sandy Hook attack, who understandably are still desperately trying to cope with having their world turned upside-down. A lawsuit filed on their behalf asserts that the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle Lanza used, described as “military style” in The Times story, should have never been available for purchase by civilians.

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the companies involved in the manufacturing, distribution and sale of the rifle was denied by Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who rejected the gun companies' position that gun businesses are protected from civil lawsuits by a 2005 federal law that protects against lawsuits for criminal acts committed with their products.

The case against the manufacturer of the rifle, Remington Arms Co., firearms distributor Camfour Inc., and the now-defunct Riverview Gun Sales in East Windsor, Conn., that sold Lanza's mother the rifle two years prior to the Sandy Hook shooting, will go forward with a court session scheduled for this week.

The Wall Street Journal reported that “[a]ttorneys for the family are pursuing a claim under an exception of the federal law known as a negligent-entrustment claim. Under such a claim, a seller can be held liable for supplying a product to a person it reasonably could have known posed a risk to themselves or others.”

This situation raises several questions, among which is how could the manufacturer, the distributer, or the seller know that a mentally ill relative of a potential purchaser would take it from the owner and use it to commit a criminal act?

Another question: If Lanza had used a .38 revolver or 12-guage shotgun, guns that are clearly not designed for military use, would the plaintiffs have brought the case, and if so, would the judge have denied the challenge and allowed the case to go forward?

Like a handgun or a shotgun, the AR-15 is not restricted for sale to the public by law. So it is merely the opinion of the plaintiffs that it should not be available for purchase by the public.

If instead of using a gun Lanza had driven a vehicle into a group of children waiting for a school bus, would the plaintiffs have sued the vehicle manufacturer and the car dealer? What if he had used a knife, or a bomb in a pressure cooker or a soft-drink can? Would there be any legal action?

If this lawsuit ends with one or more of the defendants being found liable, the door will be opened for dozens or hundreds of similar legal actions targeting not the perpetrator of a crime, but manufactures, distributors, or sellers being held responsible for criminal activity they had nothing to do with. If manufacturers can be held liable for deaths or injuries resulting from the criminal misuse of their legal, non-defective products, how many businesses or entrepreneurs will want to take the risk to make and sell something?

It is a nearly automatic response to have great sympathy for the families of those murdered children and the survivors of Sandy Hook. But sympathy, however great, and the circumstances of the event, however horrible, are not compelling reasons to punish legal businesses for making and selling legal products that were deliberately misused by someone with diagnosed mental health issues, and in this case someone other than the owner of the legal product.

Solving these kinds of problems requires focusing on the actual causes, not in shifting the responsibility to uninvolved third parties. Adam Lanza, his mother and the school system bear sole responsibility for this tragedy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

America’s long, difficult trek from tyranny and oppression to …




North America’s colonists were necessarily daring and independent, otherwise they would not have ventured to the New World. Being so far from Mother England, they needed and were able to establish colonial governing bodies, which could levy taxes, muster troops, and enact laws.

As time passed the colonies strengthened, and began seeing themselves as independent states, and their obedience to and dependence on the British Crown was receding into the background.

As the future leaders of the United States grew into those roles in the colonial legislatures, they also studied the ideas of the Enlightenment: the social contract, limited government, the separation of powers and the consent of the governed, ideas at odds with the heavy hand of King George.

The colonies found many things imposed by England objectionable, such as the Sugar Act that increased duties on sugar imported from the West Indies; the Currency Act that devalued Colonial currencies; the Quartering Act that forced colonists to house and feed British soldiers if necessary; the cruelty of the British Army at the Boston Massacre; the Stamp Act taxing many common items; and the Tea Act that spawned the Boston Tea Party.
 
Nearly two and one-half centuries later we are again facing a heavy hand, this time not from a monarch, but from the government created by those colonists after they had had enough heavy handedness, and fought for and won their freedom.

Our government’s objectionable activities from the recent past include an inspector general’s report showing that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for lengthy and onerous review of their applications for non-profit status. And cases such as when an Army veteran heard banging on his door before dawn, then he and his two young boys spent several hours in police cars in their jammies as a Department of Education SWAT team searched his home because his wife, who didn’t live there any more, had defaulted on her education loans.

A program of the Department of Justice called “Operation Chokepoint” is used to put the financial squeeze on legal industries the administration doesn’t like, such as firearms sellers and payday lenders.

Another program known as civil asset forfeiture allows police to seize, and then keep or sell, any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.

Wonder how the colonists would have reacted to these outrages had they been perpetrated by King George?

Today, the federal government has its fingers in virtually every aspect of our lives, and often it is very involved. Its activities no longer are effectively limited as directed by the U.S. Constitution. The federal government largely controls education at the local level, regulates mud puddles on private property, and now has taken control of the way Americans receive their healthcare.

With the force of law it now espouses positions based not upon Constitutional principles, but based upon ideology and political impulses.

One of the most ominous to date is the effort announced earlier this month to use the full force of the federal government, which has adopted one side of a vigorous debate on the effects of humans on the world’s climate, to criminally charge businesses that argue against the government’s chosen position with racketeering under RICO laws.

“Treating climate change as an absolute, unassailable fact, instead of what it is — an unproven, controversial scientific theory — a group of state attorneys general have announced that they will be targeting any companies that challenge the catastrophic climate change religion,” say Hans von Spakovsky and Cole Wintheiser in The Daily Signal.

Ignoring America’s principle of freedom of thought and speech, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said last month, “The bottom line is simple: Climate change is real,” and he is threatening to pursue companies he claims are committing fraud by “lying” about the dangers of climate change “to the fullest extent of the law.”

The coalition “AGs United For Clean Power” consists of 15 state attorneys general as well as the AGs of the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. In addition to Schneiderman are Kamala Harris, California; William Sorrell, Vermont; Mark Herring, Virginia; Maura Healey, Massachusetts; Brian Frosh, Maryland; George Jepsen, Connecticut; and Claude Walker, the Virgin Islands, and representatives from Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington State and D.C.

Unsurprisingly, sixteen of the seventeen are Democrats, while the Virgin Islands AG is an independent. And no farcical climate inquisition would be complete without the participation of former vice president and climate change beneficiary Al Gore.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch admits that the Justice Department is discussing the possibility of pursing civil actions against climate change doubters, and that the FBI has been asked to consider if it meets the criteria for federal law enforcement to take action. Tyranny rears its ugly head.

When the political left cannot prevail through the strength of its arguments in the arena of free ideas, it resorts to force. That is unconditional surrender, a testament to the failure of liberalism as a practical ideology.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Besides benefiting pandering pols, why have a $15 minimum wage?

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Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders literally screamed through a bullhorn at a campaign event in support of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15. “I’ve been pleased to march and struggle with all workers in this country who are fighting for $15 an hour and a union,” he told the crowd. “We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, people should not have to work for starvation wages.”

The City of Seattle, Washington last year raised its minimum wage to $15 to take effect this month, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California followed suit shortly thereafter, and last week the California State Legislature passed a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage in steps to $15 by 2022, and Governor Jerry Brown pledged to sign it.

Politicians frequently advocate for higher minimum wages, which attracts a lot of positive attention from low wage earners. Campaign speeches focus on how hard it is to live on minimum wage, as if a large proportion of the workforce earns the minimum and that large numbers earning at that level are trying to support a family, and all of these people really are being enslaved by greedy businesses. Facts, predictably, tell a different story.

At the end of 2014 the number of Americans 16 and older earning hourly wages was 77.2 million. Of those, just under 3 million earned the minimum wage, about 4 percent. Among all workers that year, hourly and salaried, those earning at or below the minimum was just 2 percent, and only 1.04 million minimum wage workers held full-time jobs. Of the entire full-time workforce, only 0.7 percent earned at or below the minimum wage.

Who are these 3 million minimum wage hourly workers? Nearly half – 48.2 percent – are between 16 and 24 years of age, and 2.6 percent are 65 or older. More than half work in food preparation and related “hospitality” industries, 31.4 percent are high school graduates, 23.1 percent did not earn the high school diploma, and only 9.1 percent have a college degree.

Most of them are second or third earners in their household; the average family income of a minimum-wage worker exceeds $50,000 a year. Furthermore, most minimum wage workers graduate to higher wages quickly as their skills and experience increase, usually getting a raise in less than a year.

People generally make minimum wage when they get an after-school job, or to help out while they are going to college. They make minimum wage for jobs that require little skill, and are often supplemented by tips. People make higher wages when they gain experience or hold jobs requiring higher levels of skill. Professionals and technically trained workers make more than fast food workers, checkout clerks and grocery baggers, as it should be.

Those who run businesses have to decide how much they can afford to pay for the different types of jobs in their business. Wages are based upon the importance of each job to the business, the experience and skill of individual workers, the number of people available for each job, and the overall cost of labor and other expenses, balanced by business income.

When government edicts artificially increase labor costs, businesses must offset the increase by cutting costs, increasing income, or a combination. Every minimum wage increase of $1 an hour costs a business about $2,500 per employee per year in wages and payroll costs. Other employees making a little more than the minimum will either require a raise, or deserve one, dramatically increasing the labor costs. Something has to change to offset that expense.

Businesses likely will reduce staff, particularly cutting positions where several workers have the same job. Maybe they employ robots or other machines to do certain tasks. Have you been to a restaurant that has a touch-screen device on each table? You can order and reorder some items and pay your bill with a machine.

There now is a robot burger maker that can turn out up to 360 burgers per hour. It can grind, stamp and grill made-to-order patties. It can cut and layer the lettuce, onions, pickles, tomatoes, etc., put them on a bun, and even wrap them up to go. This device would replace three full-time kitchen staff and ultimately cost the business less.

Higher labor costs mean that prices of many items will necessarily go up, some significantly. Even as minimum wage workers get more money, they and everyone else will see their cost of living increase, gobbling up a good bit of the higher wage.

Few Americans earning the minimum wage really “need” a higher wage to survive. Analyzing the coming increase in Alberta, Canada to $15 per hour, Robert P. Murphy and Charles Lammam of the Fraser Institute concluded, “In short, the minimum wage is neither an efficient nor effective strategy for helping the working poor.”

Minimum wage earners need to work their way to higher pay through education, training and gaining experience, like Americans have done for decades. A federally mandated minimum is, and always has been, a colossal mistake. It will reduce jobs among the very people it is supposed to help.