Thursday, January 16, 2014

America’s freedom continues to slip

Our nation continues to lose its economic freedom.  That is the result of the just-released Heritage Foundation 2014 Index of Economic Freedom.   Since President Obama took office, the United States of America has slipped six spots in the Index with this year’s drop out of the world’s top ten freest economies serving as a cold slap in the face to those who equate Uncle Sam with freedom.

The Heritage report attributes the drop, “primarily due to deteriorations in property rights, fiscal freedom, and business freedom.”

The report continues to describe the decline of economic freedom in the United States since 2006 saying there have been “particularly large losses in property rights, freedom from corruption, and control of government spending.”

The United States has earned the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world, “to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years.”

It should be no surprise to those who have followed the politics and government over the past seven years that the United States has experienced a dramatic expansion in the size and scope of government, even with recent attempts to rein in spending.

In 2006, the total outlays of the federal government were $2.65 trillion compared with outlays in the past fiscal year of $3.45 trillion.  The good news is that over the past three years, spending has dropped by approximately $200 billion, the bad news is that the cost of government has still increased by more than 30 percent in just seven years.

However, even more chilling is that the scope of government has expanded much more rapidly than even the dramatic increase in the budget shows.

The Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental regulators have been the primary culprits in this attack on economic freedom.  These agencies under Obama have engaged in a regulatory war against domestically produced energy with a primary focus on destroying markets for coal, both at home and abroad.

However, the Obama Administration’s efforts have not just been limited to attacks on coal.  The Department of the Interior has made domestic energy development on public lands extremely difficult through impossible to meet licensing requirements, and taking large swaths of natural resources rich land out of development.

Interior has also continued its attack on timber and other renewable resource industries under the false guise of species protection.  This is exemplified by the federal government’s attempts to dramatically increase the habitats of the northern spotted owl, in spite of the fact that the species thrives on timbered land, and its main biological problem is the Horned Owl, not any activity by man.  This effort to expand habitats across the nation is a primary example of the overall loss of private property rights that has contributed to the precipitous decline in America’s standing as one of the freest nation’s in the world.

The report also measures whether a government is free from corruption, and has an honest electoral system.  In this area, it notes that in the U.S., “The growth of government has been accompanied by increasing cronyism that has undermined the rule of law and perceptions of fairness.”

While the 2014 Economic Freedom Index is a stark warning about the erosion of freedom in our nation, it is not all bad news as America ranks top in the world in labor freedom and the progress made in lowering the deficit from more than $1.4 trillion to just under $700 billion in a few short years.

America is still the greatest country in the world.  It is the responsibility of its citizens to keep it that way, and reports like the Heritage 2014 Economic Freedom Index are a useful warning light to areas where the freedoms that make our nation great are most in jeopardy.

As Benjamin Franklin famously is quoted as saying, ““Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

The only question is what the people are going to do to stop this erosion of freedom?



Australia's economic freedom outranks US

One of America’s best known conservative think tanks has named Australia as the world’s third most free economy, outranking the US after the debut of Obamacare.

The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom  praised Australia’s low debt and “flexible” labour force. It found Australia’s freedom from corruption had slipped marginally, citing the Independent Commission of Corruption investigations in New South Wales Australia, but said that the rule of law remained strong.

“Australia’s judicial system operates independently and impartially. Property rights are secure, and enforcement of contracts is reliable. Expropriation is highly unusual,” said the report.

The report placed Australia after Singapore and Hong Kong. Australia was ranked third with a score of 82, just ahead New Zealand with a score of 81.2. The index, also published by the Wall Street Journal, found that America had slid from 10th place to 12th.

“Can you imagine if our Secretary of Defence announced that we were mostly strong, or kind of strong as a nation?” Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, a former Republican senator, said at the launch. “I don’t think we would sit still for that as a nation.”

In his keynote address in launching the index in Washington, DC, the Republican libertarian senator Rand Paul lamented the Affordable Healthcare Act in America as a “significant loss to freedom.”

The report evaluates countries on four broad areas of economic freedom: rule of law; regulatory efficiency; limited government; and open markets, and grants an aggregate score.

“Over the 20-year history of the Index, Australia has advanced its economic freedom score by 7.9 points, one of the 10 biggest improvements among developed economies,” says the report.

“Substantial score increases in six of the 10 economic freedoms, including business freedom, investment freedom, and freedom from corruption, have enabled Australia to achieve and sustain its economically 'free' status in the Index.”

.A Heritage Foundation analyst, Brian Riley, told Fairfax that while in the organisation’s view Labor’s stimulus package had been a negative, Australia’s bipartisan commitment to free trade and support for foreign investment as well as its relatively low tax rates, was enough to keep the nation’s score so high.

He said America had slipped in part because of increased regulation associated with the Affordable Healthcare Act.

The Foundation noted that the Asia Pacific region was home to the world’s four freest economies, as well as three of its most repressed, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan and North Korea



Take Heart, Conservatives, Take Heart!

Conservatism is a very young movement. It did not even exist as a so-named political project in the United States until 1948 and did not achieve anything like movement status until the late 1950's.   It reached a moment of youthful certitude during the Reagan years but it is still casting about for self-definition.  The debate goes on to the present day.  Conservatism does not yet speak with a unified voice because there is still no consensus on what immutable principles unite them.

But think of what conservatives have accomplished.

In 1950 no prominent elected official identified himself as "conservative".  The Eisenhower Administration's aggressive centrism never challenged the fundamental assumptions of New Deal liberalism.  Except for Senator Robert Taft, the most powerful congressional Republicans were from the Northeast and in the tradition of liberal, privileged Brahmin aristocracy.

While Barry Goldwater was starting a small conservative insurgency, he received the votes of only ten delegates at the Republican convention of 1960.  Richard Nixon, a California Republican in the tradition of its progressive Republican governors Hiram Johnson and Earl Warren, was the overwhelming choice of the party as its candidate for president.

Throughout the 1960's and well into the 1970's Democrats had 2/3 majorities in both houses of Congress.  They held the presidency until 1968 when Nixon finally won the White House.  But Nixon's victory was hardly one for conservatism as Nixon's domestic agenda involved geometrically higher spending, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Quiet Title Act, affirmative action, the Endangered Species Act, OSHA, the Clean Air Act of 1970 and many others.  And while their numbers were growing, conservatives still did not constitute a majority of Republican federal elected officials.

In the states, Democrats generally held the majority of governorships from 1950 to the 1990's, often at a ratio of 60% to 40%.  They held one or both houses of most state legislatures.

Even Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 hardly changed the national dynamic.   He changed the course of world history with his foreign policy and the trajectory of the nation with his optimism and tax and regulatory reform.  But while Reagan gave conservatism electoral respectability and was marginally successful in stopping the advance of liberalism, he was not so successful in rolling back 60 years of liberal domestic policy initiatives.  His success gave the movement form, substance and political, intellectual and historical credibility and he energized conservatives and inspirited conservatism so it became the muscular movement it is today.

Now, for the first time in well over 70 years, Republicans hold the governorships in 29 states and in 23 of those states, both houses of the legislature.  That has not been true in nearly a century and that situation adheres for Democrats in only 13 states.  The Republican Party holds a strong majority in the House of Representatives and has largely held that majority for nearly 20 years; something that has not occurred since the early 20th Century. And well over half of its House members are committed conservatives. Republicans are a hair's breadth from retaking the United States Senate and 2/3 of sitting Republican senators are conservatives.

Outside the Northeast and the West Coast, conservatism is triumphant and it is the predominant political impulse in the states that are growing the fastest, thus providing a glimpse of the electoral future as those states slowly but surely supplant those losing population in electoral importance.

It is easy for conservatives to get frustrated observing, as they do, that even at times of conservative predominance little effort is made to roll back liberal initiatives. That is part of conservatism's structural weakness for its Burkean sentimentalism.  But that is changing as conservatives explore the roots of their ideology. It is already manifesting itself in the states among such as Governors Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley.

As conservatives begin to put Burkean conservatism in its proper perspective as a social impulse rather than as a dominating philosophy and start to accept a set of defined principles, they will develop a unified and principled platform of public policy initiatives based on individual liberty that they will take to the people and achieve the electoral success that appeals to freedom always will among Americans.

It will be then that conservative elected representatives will have the courage to roll back a century of liberal depredation and its attending diminution of individual freedom.  And it will be then that the beating heart of liberty will throb ever more greatly as America enters its greatest age.




Administration lags on attracting young people to ObamaCare, stats show:  "The administration is lagging behind its goals for attracting young people to the ObamaCare exchanges, according to newly released statistics. Of those who signed up for health insurance through the ObamaCare insurance exchanges, less than 25 percent are between 18 and 34 years old. Experts predicted that the program will need roughly 40 percent of enrollees to be in that prime demographic in order to be fiscally solvent."

SCOTUS to hear case on Obama recess appointments:  "The US Supreme Court on Monday takes up a potential landmark case examining whether President Obama overstepped his authority when he unilaterally declared that the Senate was in recess and appointed three new members to the National Labor Relations Board. The Constitution assigns to the president the power to appoint judges and officers of the United States, but it requires him to act with the 'advice and consent' of the Senate. There is an exception. ... It is this recess appointment power that lies at the center of the historic showdown on Monday at the high court."

Disaster relief without the state:  "Someone asserted to me that the state was necessary for disaster relief. At the time I didn’t give much of an answer because I was dumbfounded at the assertion, and it would have taken a while to explain. I am going to use Florida hurricanes as an example. Feel free to replace it with your preferred danger: earthquakes, tornadoes, sharks, tsunamis, whatever. Here is my response."

Verizon wins Net Neutrality court ruling against FCC:  "Verizon Communications Inc. won its challenge to U.S. open-Internet rules as an appeals court said the Federal Communications Commission overreached in barring broadband providers from slowing or blocking selected Web traffic. ... The rules required companies that provide high-speed Internet service over wires to treat all traffic equally. With the regulation voided, companies such as Netflix Inc. and Inc. could face new charges for the fastest connections"

Deductibles are important: "There’s an unstated assumption in the continuing health care debate that health insurance should cover most, if not all, of health spending. To many, even a modest co-pay of $20 or $30, or an annual deductible of $2,000, are considered hardships. Overlooked in this conversation is the fact that every dollar paid by an insurer has to come from premium-payers; that is, employers, individuals or government (meaning, taxpayers). In fact, owing to administrative and other costs, a dollar paid to a hospital or doctor costs the premium-payer more than a dollar. I submit that we have too much health insurance."


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