Month: March 2011

FEDERAL LANDS: Should we sell federal lands to pay off the national debt?

By Glen Stonebrink, Guest Writer

History: A historical understanding of so-called federal lands is necessary in order to grasp the true “intent” of their existence and usage. From the Pilgrims of 1620 and the creation of the original colonies, there was no such thing as federal lands because there was no “federalism.” As the people of the colonies became equally and increasingly abused by the King of England, they found it necessary to join their efforts to address their concerns to the King – thus the birth of the Continental Congress, which later was used for their common defense and war against England. It was this newly created Continental Congress that started the road to federalism among the separate and sovereign states. Even though each state gave very little in rights or property, they did give away some degree of their power to federalism.

As the Revolutionary War was nearing its end and prior to the formation of “the United States” as we know it, two basic events were taking place: (1) the western colonies/states were looking to extend their western boundaries into the Ohio Territory in order to accommodate more settlers, which thus would create additional wealth for their individual sovereign states; (2) soldiers from the Revolutionary War soon would be returning to civilian life and were desperately seeking new soils to cultivate, but more importantly their promised wages for their service in the war.

Both of these events were giving rise to a problem. States with no western boundaries were not happy about the expansion of those that did, and the Continental Congress was not able to pay the back wages of the armies. To satisfy both issues the Northwest Ordinances (1784 & 1787) were adopted. The 1787 Ordinance codified how new states were to be formed: on equal footing with the original states in every respect whatsoever, and by selling the western lands the “federal government” could pay its debts. Obviously, there were many land grants and homestead previsions, but clearly these lands were to be “disposed of” – not retained!

It is critical to understand that in the beginning the original states agreed through the Northwest Ordinances that newly formed states were to enter the Union “on equal footing” with the original states in every respect whatsoever, including debts and obligations, and these lands were to be disposed to bonafide purchasers. This is where the debate about federal lands begins.

Intent: Who would have envisioned among the pilgrims, settlers, pioneers or especially the framers of the founding documents that someday there would be an overpowering federal government which would claim ownership over huge amounts (nearly 30%) of this newly formed country? NONE! The thirteen original and sovereign states never would have agreed to a central federal government owning large amounts of the soils within “their boundaries” as a price for statehood within the Union. In fact, before there were nine states (2/3 of 13) in agreement to forming the United States with a binding Constitution, there was an insistence that a Bill of Rights be produced that would limit the power of the federal government to only those things specifically listed within the Constitution, and everything else was to be retained by the individual states or the people.

The intent of ownership of the soils within each state’s boundaries was made extremely clear with the Northwest Ordinances’ Equal Footing Doctrine. The Continental Congress through the Northwest Ordinance, on July 13, 1787, provided that when each of the designated states in the territorial area achieved a population of 60,000 free inhabitants it was to be admitted “on an equal footing with the original States, in all respects whatever.”

To further emphasize the strength of this law that was to determine new statehood, Georgia and Virginia ceded their claim to large areas of western lands, but only on the condition that new states should be formed therefrom and admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the original States. Texas, on December 29, 1845, then an independent nation, “was admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever.” In fact, since the admission of Tennessee in 1796, Congress has included in each State’s act of admission a clause providing that the State enters the Union on equal footing. The Act of Congress that admitted Oregon states ACT OF CONGRESS ADMITTING OREGON INTO UNION [Approved February 14, 1859] Whereas the people of Oregon have framed, ratified, and adopted a constitution of State government which is republican in form, and in conformity with the Constitution of the United States, and have applied for admission into the Union on an equal footing with the other States….

So if the founders of the Constitution did not indicate any intent on retaining large amounts of federal lands, what exactly were their intentions for the uses of federal ownership? The answer lies within the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8; Article IV, 5th Amendment and 9th/10th Amendments) and is supported by The Federalist Papers.

Article 1, Section 8 – Powers of Congress:

  • To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
  • To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings….

Their intent is quite clear as to the reasons for federal ownership: roads, post offices, needful federal buildings, military facilities and dockyards. Nothing else is listed. There is not a clause that says “…and anything else Congress chooses any time they wish.” There is not a clause that says “…and Congress may choose to be prejudiced against certain states by retaining ownership of large quantities of land.” Or a clause that says “…and Congress does not have to treat new states on equal footing in every respect whatsoever with the original states.”

The key words in the above Constitutional language need close scrutiny in order to understand the full intent. “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever…” simply means the federal government would have full legal power to own and control their property within any particular state without any interference or taxation from that state. Does this mean then that since the Constitution grants power to the federal government to levy taxes, the government simply may buy all the land within a state and have full and unchecked power over the entire state? No! The state first must give away its control and power by Cession of particular States, and then the Congress (not just a federal agency) must agree. This means the two United States Senators from the state in question would have a strong voice, as well as the state’s members to the House of Representatives. How would a state agree to grant the federal government exclusive legislation? This is addressed with these words “…by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be….” Again, the people who are elected to serve in the legislature of the state in question have the final say as to whether or not to grant the federal government these powers over lands within their state. James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper number 43: And as it is to be appropriated to this use with the consent of the State ceding it; as the State will no doubt provide in the compact for the rights and the consent of the citizens inhabiting it; as the inhabitants will find sufficient inducements of interest to become willing parties to the cession; as they will have had their voice in the election of the government which is to exercise authority over them; as a municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them; and as the authority of the legislature of the State, and of the inhabitants of the ceded part of it, to concur in the cession, will be derived from the whole people of the State in their adoption of the Constitution, every imaginable objection seems to be obviated.” Madison makes it clear that the people’s voice through their representation in their legislature and Congress must be heard before powers are to be given away.

Was it the intent for the federal government to purchase lands and obtain exclusive powers on any land for any reason? Of course not, thus the reason for the final wording in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17: “…for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings.” This limited ownership and specific activities were mentioned by Madison in Federalist Paper 43. If the founders had any thoughts of large holdings of lands within the states, they would have made it clear at this point. They knew full well that the people of the various states would not have agreed to the formation of a new nation had this been the case.

Article IV: This article of the Constitution has two important sections.

  • Section 2, which states, “The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several states.” Obviously, if more than half of Oregon’s land mass is owned and controlled by the federal government, the citizens of Oregon are not being “…entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several states,” when other states east of the Rocky Mountains contain a very small percentage of federal ownership.
  • Section 3, paragraph 2, which states: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.” This section is vital because it only addresses “disposal,” not retention, of federally owned properties, which meant the intent was to do just that very thing (dispose of these lands), and this section addresses “no prejudice against any state.” Obviously, there is a huge prejudice against western states concerning federal ownership within their boundaries.

5th Amendment: The 5th Amendment to the Constitution and an important part of the Bill of Rights addresses the importance of private property. In fact, the wording “…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property…” is similar and connected to the Declaration of Independence’s wording “…with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration uses the terminology “unalienable rights” and the Constitution uses “…nor be deprived…” within the Bill of Rights. Both documents address “rights of the people.” Furthermore, historical letters point out that Jefferson and others considered using the word “property” in the place of “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration. They concluded that property and pursuit of happiness were synonymous. However, the creators of the Bill of Rights, including George Mason, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, did not overlook the opportunity to codify in the Constitution that private property was a right of the people, and knowing that private ownership of the land was indeed the avenue to pursuit of happiness. With huge federal ownership of lands, there is a direct conflict with the intent of both the Declaration of Independence and the 5th Amendment because it denies private ownership.

9th/10th Amendments: There would not have been enough states to agree to the Constitution and the formation of a central government had there not been a Bill of Rights forthcoming, especially including these two amendments to limit the powers of the federal government:

• 9th: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

• 10th: 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.

Had the founders ever had any intentions to have the federal government retain or obtain large areas of land within the individual states beyond that explicitly specified in Article 1, Section 8, here was there opportunity to do so, but they did not. They did just the opposite: The wording is self-explanatory.

To conclude this understanding of the Constitution’s intent, here are the words of James Madison, also known as the Father of the Constitution, in his Federalist Paper number 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

 

The debate: The question is whether to sell the lands held by the federal government to private ownership or to grant the title to the individual states? There is little doubt that federally held lands have a great amount of value. Whether their value would equal the debt owed is not for this debate, but only if these lands could or should be disposed of by the federal government. To this, the answer is “absolutely.”

A prudent-minded person would have to conclude that the founders never envisioned the federal government owning large amounts of lands within the states, or they simply would have mentioned it in the Constitution. Since they did not, then they did not. There is no mention of designating wilderness areas, national forests,[1] or grasslands, or any so-called “beautiful places” to be locked away forever. All the resources of the states were to be for the benefit of the inhabitants of the states or of the state itself.[2]

Every founding document clearly specifies the intent of land holding of the federal government was to be small, limited and for specific purposes only. All other lands were to be in the ownership of the states or of the individual. Moreover, the intent was for the soils to be for productive uses to create wealth for the states and the nation. That, once again, is where we are today.

Sell these lands to bonafide purchaser,[3] pay off our national debt, allow private ownership to makes these lands productive; and this nation will prosper and have a wonderful future.

[1] Federal laws that created national forestlands, monuments, grasslands, etc. have no standing within the intent of the Constitution or any other founding documents.

[2] In the book entitled History of the Oregon Constitution, the lands within Oregon’s boundaries were not intended for federal ownership, but rather for private ownership and productivity.

[3] Bonafide purchasers of grazing lands would be those producers currently with leases and/or qualified for leases under the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. Purchase price would be based in connection with current leasing rates and on a 30-year amortization.


Glen Stonebrink was Executive Director of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (1998-2005) and previously served as Oregon’s State Executive Director of USDA federal farm programs under the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. He held staff and administrative positions in the U.S. Congress and the Oregon Legislature and has been a rancher, a teacher, and a member of the Oregon National Guard. He lives in Rickreall, Oregon.

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Atlas Shrugged Movie Coming to Portland: Who is John Galt?

[Update 4-29-11: Atlas Shrugged Part 1 continues to play in Portland (Fox Tower and Eastport) and Tigard (Bridgeport) theaters through at least May 5th and is now playing in these additional cities:
Vancouver, Salem, Eugene, Klamath Falls, North Bend, McMinnville and Roseburg. It will open in Bend on May 6th.]

Ayn Rand’s epic novel, Atlas Shrugged, is finally coming to the silver screen.

Whether you’ve read the 1,000-plus page book or not, you won’t want to miss Part 1 of the film, which debuts the weekend of April 15, 16 and 17. Parts II and III will follow. If you read the book, you’ll understand why it opens on Tax Day.

Because the film is an independent production, it won’t open everywhere, but thanks to the persistence of Cascade Policy Institute and Portland fans it has been booked into the Regal Fox Tower theater downtown. It’s a relatively small theater, so if you want tickets I strongly suggest that you pre-order them at Fandango.com now. Or, you can purchase them at the theater box office.

The book was published in 1957, but the film’s producers have wisely set the story in 2016. This way, Americans can see what’s coming if we don’t turn around the collectivist government in Washington, D.C. The plot involves “men of the mind” who are asked by the mysterious John Galt to go on strike and “stop the motor of the world” rather than let the “parasites,” “looters” and “moochers” benefit from the fruits of their labor. In fact, the book opens with the question, “Who is John Galt?”

It’s a great story, and a powerful warning. Don’t miss it.

If you’re on Facebook, please click “Attending” at the Oregon Atlas Shrugged event page so we can build support for the film and help ensure a longer run.

Many Cascade staff and supporters will be attending the film during the three-day opening weekend. We hope you can join us.


Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Testimony of HJM 22: Regarding Columbia River Bridge Project

Testimony before the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee on March 30, 2011

I have followed the CRC process quite closely for the past decade. Based on this experience, I offer the following comments about HJM 22:

This is a random request for a random project. There is no evidence that the CRC is part of a strategic transportation vision for the Portland region. Unless and until ODOT comes up with a plan to address related congestion problems and the need for new capacity at the I-84/I-5 interchange, I-405, the Marquam Bridge, and the West Hills Tunnels, the CRC will just absorb vast resources while offering few public benefits.

There is no price tag listed and no specific amount requested. It’s difficult to see how anyone in Congress would take this seriously when the only message seems to be, “more, now.”

 

There needs to be a coherent rationale for the use of tolls and the setting of toll rates. I am not opposed to highway tolls per se; it’s a time-honored method of financing new infrastructure. In fact, I have no doubt that within the next 20 years much of Oregon’s highway system will be converted to an electronic tollway (with variable rates in dense urban centers), and I look forward to those changes.

But unfortunately the most obvious interest in tolling on the CRC has been to use toll revenue as a local match for federal funding, especially for the uneconomic light rail[1] portion. That is the wrong use of toll revenue and will generate a much-deserved rebellion among highway motorists. If the project is really cost-effective, it should be 100% financed by local user fees, and the toll rates should be set to generate adequate cash flow for debt service as well as to vary by time-of-day/direction-of-travel to ensure free-flow driving conditions at all times. I testified before the CRC tolling subcommittee on three different occasions last year making these points, but to this day the proponents of tolling cannot explicitly state a principled rationale for the use of tolls.

The light rail element is a total waste of money. Vancouver transit riders are express bus commuters and will have no interest in a slow train. At a capital cost of $321.27 million mile, this will be the most expensive transit project in the history of Oregon. By comparison, the earlier portion of the MAX Yellow Line (Interstate Avenue) was constructed for about $60 million per/mile. That project was also a mistake; there is no policy reason to magnify the error at 5 times the cost.

Moreover, neither C-TRAN nor TriMet is planning on putting any of their own money into construction of light rail; both agencies expect everyone else to pick up the tab[2]. One can reasonably conclude that if the two transit districts don’t think light rail is worth one dime of their own funds, it is worth even less to the rest of us.

The mega-bridge concept is doomed to fail under any scenario. The CRC project epitomizes the old-guard, “build up, not out” approach beloved by land-use planners. They oppose new bridges because they imagine that more bridges would encourage more driving. But reality is passing the Oregon system by. Between 1998 and 2006, even with no new highways, the percentage of jobs located within 3 miles of downtown decreased from 27% to 23%. The percentage of jobs located more than 10 miles from downtown increased from 24% to 29%. The future of employment and housing is on the periphery of Portland; thus a massive highway structure on Hayden Island will be irrelevant to many motorists and force them to drive out of their way to cross the river.

The more appropriate response would be to build multiple bridges, much smaller in scale, to accommodate the increasingly scattered travel patterns of the next three decades. It’s interesting that Portland has 10 bridge crossings over the Willamette River and only two are highways; the rest are arterials. Yet no one would seriously suggest that Portland rip out the eight smaller bridges in order contain “bridge sprawl”; everyone recognizes that with more bridges, people drive less because they have more direct avenues to travel on.

The City of Pittsburgh, comparable in size to Portland and located along three major rivers, has 29 bridge crossings, and only 5 are connected to Interstate Highways. The rest are small-scale, two- and four-lane bridges handling local traffic.  Since the I-5 Interstate Bridge is not structurally flawed, it seems evident that Oregon should leave the I-5 Bridge in place and look at adding 2-3 smaller bridges upriver and downriver on the Columbia. In particular, there needs to be a way to get Washington-bound traffic originating on the west side of Portland off of HW 26 by creating an alternative route north to HW 30 from Beaverton/Hillsboro, and then over the Columbia. That would reduce congestion problems on HW 26, I-405, the Fremont Bridge, and I-5 north – which the currently proposed CRC will never do.


[1] Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, Section 173 (H.R. 3288, December 9, 2009). “Hereafter, for interstate multi-modal projects which are in Interstate highway corridors, the Secretary shall base the rating under section 5309(d) of title 49, United States Code, of the non-New Starts share of the public transportation element of the project on the percentage of non-New Starts funds in the unified finance plan for the multi-modal project: Provided, that the Secretary shall base the accounting of local matching funds on the total amount of all local funds incorporated in the unified finance plan for the multi-modal project for the purposes of funding under chapter 53 of title 49, USC and title 23, USC.”

[2] CRC Finance Plan, September 2010: “The forecast assumes no TriMet funding of CRC capital costs”, p. 3-27.  “No linkage is required between the CRC LRT capital plan and the capital expenses included in the agency-wide systems plan because the capital finance plan for CRC LRT does not include any C-TRAN revenues”, p. 4-22.

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Testimony on House Bill 3538: Regarding Climate Trust’s Offset Programs

Testimony before the House Committee on Energy, Environment and Water on March 29, 2011:

Co-Chair Cannon, Co-Chair Gilliam and members of the Committee, my name is Todd Wynn. I am Vice President and energy policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Portland. Our mission is to promote policies that enhance individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

I am here to testify today against House Bill 3538.

Background

The original purpose of House Bill 3283 is to regulate and reduce CO2 emissions from regulated facilities by implementing carbon offset projects. The Climate Trust, the only “qualified” organization that receives funds according to the bill, has proven ineffective and wasteful.

House Bill 3538 would change the original purpose of the carbon dioxide standard set forth in HB 3283 and set up the possibility for more fraud and abuse with regard to delivering real, verifiable, and additional carbon offsets.

1. The Climate Trust is not transparent

Because The Climate Trust’s existence is a function of state law regulating facilities, it should be subject to the same standards as public agencies for release of public records.

The Climate Trust has refused to answer questions that could be considered “critical” of carbon offsets[1] and has refused to provide access to the recent five-year report.[2]

The Climate Trust’s annual reports have not been accurate updates. They have been overly positive reports addressing self-proclaimed success and not mentioning failure or specifics of projects.

Many documents such as funding and dollar amounts spent on certain projects are unable to be retrieved or accessed.

2. The Climate Trust has failed to reduce carbon dioxide and to adhere to the monetary offset rate according to House Bill 3283

The Climate Trust has never adhered to the monetary offset rate established by the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC), and this has led to a major shortfall in offsets that were paid for by regulated facilities.

The Climate Trust has admitted to paying more than the established monetary offset rate in the last five-year report to the EFSC. Out of thirteen projects, the Climate Trust estimates they spend an average of $3.45 per metric ton, which is well above the current 2007 rate of $1.40 per metric ton. Since The Climate Trust pays an amount higher than the established rate, carbon dioxide is not being offset as according to HB 3283.

The table above shows five of The Climate Trust’s projects that have data on offsets delivered and funds spent. This table describes the shortfall of offsets that should have occurred and the value of these offsets to regulated facilities.

The Climate Trust on these five projects alone has an offset shortfall of 649,923 metric tons which, at the offset rate of $1.40 per metric ton, amounts to $909,893 of regulated facility money.

3. The Climate Trust has continuously failed to produce verifiable and additional carbon offsets

Cascade Policy Institute audited 58% of the offset projects in The Climate Trust portfolio. Cascade Policy Institute audited projects that were completed or near completion in order make use of monitoring and verification reports and other data.[3]

A closer look into the portfolio showed there are numerous problems that undermine the quality and effectiveness of The Climate Trust’s projects. Lack of additionality and accountability of funds, inaccurate assumptions, difficulty in verifying and monitoring results, lack of permanence and leakage issues are most of the problems that plague the analyzed offset projects.

Brief overview on failure of projects:

 

Deschutes Riparian Reforestation– In addition to only completing approximately 18% of its 2008 goal, The Climate Trust needlessly paid a lumber company to plant more trees on an already stocked land thus negating additionality.

Preservation of a Native Northwest Forest– Climate Trust funds that were supposed to be allocated to the Lummi Indian tribe to purchase 1,654 acres of forest were used to fund the tribe’s annual canoe journey and a college scholarship program.

Blue Heron Paper Manufacturer Efficiency Upgrade– Climate Trust funds that were supposed to be the deciding factor in whether Blue Heron could finance an energy efficiency upgrade were not allocated to the company. Blue Heron’s energy and environment department head stated that they would have completed the upgrades at some point in the future in order to stay competitive thus negating additionality.

Portland Building Efficiency Program– Monitoring and verification reports used two different estimates to calculate the offsets that were not additional. These figures were highly significant in determining the actual amount of offsets paid for and claimed by The Climate Trust. This leads to serious questions on the additionality of these offsets.

Traffic Signal Optimization– The City of Portland already committed to optimizing traffic signals over two years before The Climate Trust’s involvement which negates additionality. In addition, the third party that performed the calculations on fuel savings admitted the estimates were inaccurately calculated.

Internet Based Carpool Matching– The Climate Trust only achieved 1.4% of the ten-year goal and allowed the City of Portland to “make up” the offsets through two projects that were neither monitored nor verified.

Innovative Wind Financing– The Climate Trust paid for renewable energy certificates (RECs) which do not represent actual reductions in carbon dioxide. Subsequently, The Climate Trust has written a policy paper proving why RECs are not offsets.

4. Allowing the Climate Trust to offset more than carbon dioxide goes against the original purpose of House Bill 3283 and opens up the opportunity for more waste and abuse.

The original intent of House Bill 3283 was to reduce and offset carbon dioxide emissions from regulated facilities. This did not include all greenhouse gases.

The majority of fraudulent carbon offset projects have stemmed from greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide. Massive fraud on the international scale has been attributed to the destruction of trifluoromethane (HFC-23) a greenhouse gas byproduct of manufacturing refrigerant gases. The carbon offset credits that sold to reduce HFC-23 are twice as valuable as the refrigerant itself.

 

A study found that almost three-quarters of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) registered offset projects were already complete at the time of approval, and thus, didn’t need carbon credits to be built. An estimated 40 percent of CDM projects registered by 2007 represented “unlikely or at least questionable” emission cuts. Between a third and two-thirds of CDM offsets don’t represent actual emission cuts.[4]

Conclusion

HB 3283 was originally passed with the intention of reducing manmade carbon dioxide, not other greenhouse gases.

The Climate Trust has proven itself to be wasteful and non-transparent in its operations.

Allowing The Climate Trust to offset more than carbon dioxide violates the original intent of the law and opens the door for more fraudulent non-additional offsets at the Oregon ratepayer expense.

I urge the members of this committee to vote no on HB 3538.


[1] Email from Mike Burnett, Executive Director of The Climate Trust. November 28, 2008.

[2] Phone call from Amy Phillips, Marketing and Communications Director of The Climate Trust. September 9, 2009.

[3] Money for Nothing: The Illusion of Carbon Offsets. February 2009. Available at https://cascadepolicy.org/pdf/env/Climate_Trust_Audit_021009.pdf

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Selling Public Land Could Help Budget Woes

by Karla Kay Edwards

The federal debt limit of $14.29 trillion dollars is projected to be reached between April 15 and May 16 this year. Many argue that the ceiling must be raised or the U.S. will begin to default on debts owed. Others believe the U.S. must cut costs and begin to live within our means. But the U.S. government is now spending three dollars for every two it brings in, so if Congress succeeds in cutting the proposed $100 billion out of the budget, it might relieve federal borrowing for a single month. (more…)

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Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, and the Unintended Consequences of Ethanol Policy

By Eric Lowe

Successive presidential administrations over the past 50 years have vowed to aggressively pursue energy independence, attempting to decrease the amount of oil imported from the Middle East. The federal government has latched onto corn ethanol as the silver bullet solution to domestic fuel production disparities. Yet again, public policy creates a set of unintended consequences that ought to be fully considered if Oregon and the nation as a whole are going to continue to transfer demand and taxpayer dollars to this fledgling industry.

 

As it currently stands, regulation requires a certain volume of ethanol to be blended into domestic fuel supplies annually, and a percentage ratio of this ethanol-to-petroleum blend is “permitted” in gasoline refining by the EPA. Additionally, the subsidies, grants and tax loopholes for the ethanol industry are numerous. According to Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy,[1] in 2008, roughly $4 billion in taxpayer dollars were spent to subsidize replacement of about 2 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply. Up to 15% of gasoline now can be replaced with ethanol (E15 blends), and taxpayers subsidize half of all related costs for ethanol.[2]

 

Starting with the 2005 Energy Policy Act, 12.95 billion gallons of renewable fuel must be used in 2010, increasing to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022.[3] The EPA recently raised the amount of ethanol permitted in the blending of fuel to 15%, effectively mandating that many refiners produce at this level to meet legislative requirements. U.S. ethanol enjoys a roughly half-dollar per gallon import tax, making domestically produced ethanol artificially competitive over cheaper, more energy-dense Brazilian sugarcane ethanol. In addition, domestic producers receive a whopping 45-cent per gallon tax credit, a handout even certain refiners within the industry have said they don’t need.[4]

 

Many have begun realizing that ethanol policies may be causing more problems than they solve. Studies show that vehicles built in or before 2007 and all non-road engines aren’t designed to operate on the E15 ethanol (15% ethanol) currently being pushed by the EPA. These higher blend fuels increase emissions of particulate air pollution, ground-level ozone (which is harmful to humans) and other toxic air pollutants.[5] These emissions can mitigate or entirely eliminate the public health arguments for ethanol.

 

Ethanol policies on the state and federal levels also don’t account for cost. According to the U.S. Department of Energy research, E10 has a 3.6% fuel economy loss compared to traditional gasoline, E15 has a 5% loss, and E20 has a 7.7% loss.[6] Furthermore, older vehicles and all non-road engines (ATVs, leaf blowers, tractors, generators, etc.) are put at risk by these policies. These generally do not have oxygen sensors, so with more oxygen-rich fuel they burn “lean,” or hotter than normal, contributing to significant wear and tear and early degradation. For the average family, having these expensive machines break down far faster than they otherwise would is an expense they can hardly afford. This means that the roughly 247 million “legacy” vehicles and 400 million non-vehicle gasoline engines are negatively impacted by these policies.

 

The mandates, regulations, grants, tariffs and tax credits surrounding the ethanol industry are, unsurprisingly, of a political origin, and not necessarily pertaining to sound environmental or economic policy. Even Al Gore admits as much in a recent public reversal of his support for what he then referred to as “gasohol.”[7]

 

“One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for President,” he said. This isn’t the first time a presidential candidate has supported something purely to gain favor from a specific constituency.

 

Al Gore also admits a common problem with government programs, particularly the ethanol industry, when he said, “It’s hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

 

Interestingly enough, at a recent Renewable Fuels Association conference (in, of course, Iowa), Newt Gingrich called upon the government to mandate all vehicles sold be flex-fuel models.[8] Mr. Gingrich explained that “the big-city attacks” on ethanol subsidies are really attempts to deny prosperity to rural America. Not only were his remarks politically tinged and partisan, they lacked any sound basis.

 

While it is hard to believe Al Gore is wiser on the topic of government intervention than Newt Gingrich, in the case of corn ethanol, he is. Politicians ought to account for the unintended consequences of public policies that affect every American. It is well overdue to reverse the subsidies, taxes and mandates on the state and national levels that force ethanol upon consumers and artificially prop up the industry for reasons of political favoritism.


[1] http://www.bakerinstitute.org/publications/EF-pub-PolicyReport43-121809.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/ethanol/incentives_laws_federal.html

[4] http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/slyutse/top_us_oil_refiner_says_corn_e.html

[5] http://www.ewg.org/biofuels/report/Ethanol-Health-Risks-and-Engine-Damage

[6] Ibid.

[7] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703572404575634753486416076.html

[8] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704698004576104682930044012.html

 

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Karla on Caepla Connections in Canada

Check out Karla talking about the dangers of land use reforms on the Caepla Connections radio program out of Canada.

You can listen by using the player to the right.

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Cascade 20th Anniversary Dinner Cruise

Listen to an Audio advertisement from KBNP radio for the event

Come celebrate Cascade’s 20th Anniversary in style on the Portland Spirit in downtown Portland.

Speaker: Stephen Moore – Wall St. Journal and Fox News Contributor
Cost: $75

Boarding: 5:30pm
Set Sail: 6:00pm
Disembark: 8:30pm

YOU MUST RSVP AHEAD OF TIME.

There are 3 ways to RSVP:

1. Register online below (there is a small fee for registering online)

2. Email deanne@cascadepolicy.org

3. Call Deanne at 503.242.0900

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Cascade Marks Its 20th Anniversary

In 2011 Cascade celebrates its 20th anniversary. Formed shortly after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, the Institute’s growth since 1991 is a tribute to the principles which form its foundation and to the ideas that arise from them.

 

Much has changed since then and continues to change in Oregon, America and the world. More people are free from arbitrary government constraints than ever before. Open markets and property rights are now recognized as essential elements of a free and prosperous society. Cascade is part of a growing network of think tanks worldwide finding a growing acceptance of these classical liberal ideas.

 

We founded Cascade to promote public policy that advances individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon. We were convinced then, and are still convinced today, that these ideas and principles will produce positive consequences for all Oregonians.

 

The idea for Cascade actually emerged from an initiative campaign that I and a small group organized and placed on Oregon’s 1990 general election ballot. Measure 11 would have provided refundable tax credits to every K-12 student in the state, which they could use to attend any public, private, religious or home school of their choice. No state had ever voted on such a sweeping reform before, and we felt it was time for Oregon to lead the way.

 

As it became clear that we would not win that election campaign, we began thinking about how we could move our school choice agenda forward in the future. We decided that Oregon needed a free-market think tank to advocate for school choice as well as other limited-government ideas. That’s why, barely two months after Measure 11 lost at the polls, we incorporated Cascade Policy Institute in January 1991.

 

Cascade began with a one-person staff (me) and a vision of a freer society in Oregon. We began researching, writing and hosting speakers on a number of important public policy topics. We strategically hired additional staff and built a board of directors capable of carrying our vision forward.

 

Today, Cascade has a team of twelve full-time staff and eight board members. We now concentrate on a number of policy areas including tax and budget, education reform, health care reform, land use, transit, energy and climate change, and rural policy. We also facilitate the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, which has helped hundreds of low-income students attend the tuition-based schools of their choice.

 

Cascade has become the “go to” organization for legislators and news media around the state looking for a limited government, free-market perspective on legislation and the issues of the day. And, we host Oregon Capitol News which provides timely news and investigative stories about Oregon policy and politics.

 

Our budget has grown from $57,000 in the first year to one million dollars today. In our first twenty years, supporters of liberty and markets have voluntarily donated  ten million tax-deductible dollars to support the Institute’s work. That’s a generous sum for an organization in a small state, whose primary “products” are ideas. We believe our donors’ funds have been well spent, and we greatly appreciate the faith they have placed in us to promote our ideals for the betterment of all Oregonians.

 

As we enter our second twenty years working for Oregonians, we will take a few hours in May to stop and celebrate what we’ve accomplished. We hope you can join us for a Willamette River Cruise on the Portland Spirit the evening of May 26, 2011. Details will be available soon. In the meantime, thanks for all your support, financial and otherwise. We couldn’t do it without our supporters and fans.

 

 

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Unemployment Benefits Warrant a Second Look

Oregon’s legislature is currently rushing to approve bills that will extend unemployment insurance yet again. But legislators should pause to consider that while it may feel good, the costs may sabotage the effect they seek.

 

This year, the average payroll tax to support unemployment insurance is $995 for an employee who makes at least $32,300 in Oregon. This is $109 more than it was in 2010. And that doesn’t even include the costs of large federal extensions. Why have these taxes increased so much? Because Oregon’s unemployment is high and our benefits are generous, or at least prolonged. In Oregon, workers can claim benefits for more than two years.

 

Some will say that $1,000 per worker is a fair price to pay for a popular safety net. Yet, such a hefty price demands that we ask hard questions or at least look for ways to improve unemployment insurance. The current program has repeatedly been shown to increase unemployment. It also indirectly taxes many employees who personally can never benefit from the program if they become unemployed because they, for example, cannot accept full-time work.

 

Let’s encourage our federal and state legislators to stop rushing through extensions and pause to ask hard questions about unemployment insurance. The cost is too great to continue ignoring its problems.

 

 

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Testimony on House Bill 2992: House Committee on Energy Environment and Water

March 24, 2011

 

Co-Chair Cannon, Co-Chair Gilliam and members of the Committee, my name is Todd Wynn. I am Vice President and energy policy analyst of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Portland. Our mission is to promote policies that enhance individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

 

I am here to testify today in support of House Bill 2992.

 

Economic Costs of Not Classifying Hydro as Renewable

 

In 2007, legislators passed Senate Bill 838 which established the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This legislation forces the major utilities to procure 25% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2025. The bill established a narrow definition of renewable energy which specifically excludes the vast majority of energy produced from Oregon’s hydroelectric system.

 

Cascade Policy Institute’s recently released economic analysis, The Economic Impact of Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, shows that the RPS with the current strict definition of renewable energy will lead to significant negative economic consequences as only more expensive and intermittent sources of energy qualify[1]:

 

Over the period of 2015 to 2025, the mandate will cost Oregonians an additional $6.811 billion over conventional power within a range of $4.009 billion and $9.310 billion.

 

In 2025, the mandates will cost families an average of $247 per year, commercial businesses an average of $1,394 per year and industrial businesses an average of $11,585 per year.

 

By 2025 the Oregon economy will lose an average of 17,530 jobs, within a range of between 10,025 jobs under the low-cost scenario and 24,630 jobs under the high-cost scenario.

 

Due to higher home energy costs, in 2025, annual real disposable income will fall by $170 million, within a range of $101 million and $230 million.

 

 

 

 

 

Oregon is One of the Nation’s Leaders in Clean Energy Generation

 

Oregon is ranked 48th out of 50 states in the amount of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide produced per unit of electricity generated. The state is also 46th in the amount of sulfur dioxide per unit of electricity generated. This is mainly due to Oregon’s high use of hydroelectricity.[2]

 

 

 

Emissions (thousand metric tons) Rank out of U.S. States
Sulfur Dioxide 11 44
Nitrogen Oxide 12 43
Carbon Dioxide 7,088 42
Sulfur Dioxide (lbs/MWh) 0.5 46
Nitrogen Oxide (lbs/MWh) 0.5 48
Carbon Dioxide (lbs/MWh) 293 48

 

 

The Energy Information Administration currently considers hydroelectricity to be a renewable energy source. When hydroelectricity is defined as renewable energy, Oregon is third out of the entire nation in capacity and generation of renewable energy, generating more than 60% of its energy from renewables.

 

In contrast, for the nation as a whole, renewable sources supply approximately eight percent of total electric power generation.[3]

 

Conclusion

 

Establishing a strict politically motivated definition for renewable energy does not acknowledge the vast amount of clean electricity that the state is producing and using.

 

Excluding hydroelectricity from the RPS will also cause significant negative economic impacts on the state’s economy as utilities are forced to increase their percentage of expensive and unreliable sources of energy.

 

It is best to establish a realistic definition of renewable energy, finally acknowledge our clean energy production and begin reforming a forceful and unrealistic push for expensive renewable energy sources.


[1] The Economic Impact of Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, Cascade Policy Institute. March 10, 2011. Available at https://cascadepolicy.org/news/2011/03/10/new-study-forcing-oregonians-to-purchase-renewable-energy-proves-costly/

[2] Energy Information Administration 2008. Statistics are for 2006.

[3] Energy Information Administration.

 

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Oops! Renewable Energy Costs Oregon Billions

In 2007, Oregon legislators decided they would force Oregonians to purchase renewable energy whether or not they wanted it or could afford it. Legislators proclaimed this would help the Oregon economy and make our energy system more affordable and reliable. They were wrong.

 

Last year, one in 30 Oregonians had their electricity cut off due to inability to pay, and enrollment in the low-income energy assistance program has increased significantly. On January 1, 2011, electricity rates increased significantly for Oregon households: Pacific Power rates increased by 14.5% and PGE rates by 4.2%. PGE also added a “Renewable Resource Adjustment” to ratepayers’ bills in January 2010. Currently, this rate is set at 0.22 cents per kWh, or approximately $2.13 extra per month, for an average household. Rate increases such as these will be the norm over the next fifteen years as utilities work to comply with restrictive energy policies on the state and the federal levels.

 

But legislators proclaimed that the 2007 renewable energy mandate would help “accelerate the transition to a more reliable and more affordable energy system.” What went wrong?

 

Unfortunately, renewable energy costs more than traditional energy sources and is often less reliable. Although generating energy from wind turbines and solar panels is essentially free, the costs of construction, maintenance and integrating inconsistent energy into the grid are prohibitively expensive. Thus, adding more renewable energy will increase costs and cause substantial economic hardships for Oregonians and Oregon businesses.

 

A Cascade Policy Institute report, The Economic Impact of Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, exposes the cost of renewable mandates on the Oregon economy. Over the period of 2015-2025, the average Oregonian household will pay an additional $1,706 in higher electricity costs. The average commercial business will spend an extra $9,641 and the average industrial business an extra $80,115. Over the same period, the mandate will cost Oregonians an additional $6.811 billion over conventional power, within a range of $4.009 billion and $9.310 billion.

 

Higher costs will lead to loss of jobs as well. By 2025 the Oregon economy will lose an average of 17,530 jobs, within a range of 10,025 jobs under the low-cost scenario and 24,630 jobs under the high-cost scenario.

 

Legislators may be able to justify higher electricity costs if environmental benefits, in terms of reduced emissions, outweigh the costs. However, it is unclear that the use of renewable energy resources, especially wind and solar, actually reduces emissions. Due to their intermittency, wind and solar require significant backup power sources that are cycled up and down to accommodate the variability in the production of wind and solar power. As a result, a recent study found that wind power actually increases pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Also, businesses and industries with high electricity usage likely will move their production, and emissions, out of Oregon to locations with lower electricity prices. Therefore, increasing renewable energy in the state will not reduce global emissions, but rather send jobs and capital investment outside the state.

 

In the end, renewable energy can and should expand according to voluntary purchases that reflect true demand. Government should not be mandating that citizens purchase a product they may not value or cannot afford.

 

It is time to face the truth. Legislators thought that by forcing Oregonians to purchase renewable energy they could make electricity more affordable and reliable. They were wrong. As a first step, legislators should repeal the renewable energy mandate and other restrictive energy policies before electricity costs spiral out of control. In addition, future energy policies need to be subject to a rigorous analysis of economic costs and environmental benefits.

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Todd talks Renewable Energy Portfolios on Jason Lewis

Listen to Todd Wynn talk about renewable energy portfolios on the Jason Lewis show (click play to the right).

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John Charles talks light rail on Fox Business’s Tom Sullivan Show

Watch John Charles discuss the cost of light rail and the bankrupting state of Portland public transit.

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Christina Martin talks education reform at LLF

Watch the following video of Christina Martin talking education reform before Oregon legislators and staff in Salem on March 16th, 2011.

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Oregon Catalyst features Cascade’s newest report on the cost of renewable energy

http://oregoncatalyst.com/8204-darker-side-green-tens-thousands-lost-jobs-oregonians-pay-electric-bills.html

Oregon Transformation makes a blog post on Oregon Catalyst describing the impacts of restrictive energy policies on the Oregon economy.

These results came from our recently released economic analysis showing that renewable mandates imposed by the Oregon legislature in 2007 will have a significant and negative impact on our economy and standard of living.

 

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Oregon Catalyst blog features Cascade’s renewable energy economic impact report

http://oregoncatalyst.com/8204-darker-side-green-tens-thousands-lost-jobs-oregonians-pay-electric-bills.html

Oregon Transformation makes a blog post on Oregon Catalyst describing the impacts of restrictive energy policies on the Oregon economy.

These results came from our recently released economic analysis showing that renewable mandates imposed by the Oregon legislature in 2007 will have significant and negative impacts on our economy and standard of living.

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Will Oregon’s Legislature Help K-12 Education Get Online?

Oregon’s legislature is again considering bills that would affect K-12 students’ access to online education. While virtual charter schools (public schools operated by non-profit organizations that provide a full-time online education for K-12 kids) are valuable and worth protecting, it seems that our elected officials are missing the forest for the trees.

The most exciting potential for online education to advance K-12 learning is not in the full-time online education model, although that is an essential option. Rather, part-time and the blended learning approach hold the greatest promise to rapidly improve Oregon’s educational opportunities. Part-time learning allows students enrolled in a regular brick-and-mortar public school to enroll in one or more online courses. Blended learning combines face-to-face teaching with online curriculum.

The House Education Committee has heard three bills this session that would affect online education: One simply would end enrollment caps for virtual charter schools. Another, inspired by an OEA recommendation, essentially would end virtual charter schools and replace them with a public (i.e., unionized) online option. The third, House Bill 3201, which has the most momentum, carries some oppressive rules that would limit competition, but also would open up online options to more families. HB 2301 would:

  • Generally end enrollment caps on statewide virtual charter schools and allow students to transfer to out-of-district statewide virtual charters without getting their local district’s permission. However, once three percent of a district’s students are attending a virtual charter, the district could refuse to allow additional students to transfer, as long as the district offered another full-time online option. Parents could appeal transfer denials to the State Board of Education.
  • Decrease how much the state would compensate a virtual school for providing education to a regular student. The current bill provides for 80% of state ADMw (that is, 80% of the state’s per-student funding), but that is fortunately likely to increase, according to insiders.
  • Limit the number of statewide K-12 virtual charter school providers to three, thereby limiting families’ online educational options and competition among providers. This doesn’t make any sense, unless you simply dislike competition and prefer monopolies or oligopolies.
  • Open up greater opportunities for kids across Oregon to enroll in public part-time online options once programs are approved by the ODE. The programs would be created by districts or ESDs and would be available to students in any school district.

This bill is yet another “mixed bag” that should be improved to maximize options and quality of online programs. Obviously, the number of virtual charter schools should not be limited. Also, the bill should be altered to allow students to attend existing charter schools (virtual or regular) part-time, provided that the virtual schools agree to accommodate part-time students. Nonetheless, the bill would open up more opportunities for students to enroll in full- or part-time online options. This couldn’t come soon enough.

In Oregon, 75% of schools do not offer Advanced Placement or IB classes in all core subjects (reading, math, science and social studies), according to the College Board. Oregon lags well behind the national average in this respect. Even worse, one-fourth of U.S. high schools do not offer advanced classes, according to Michael Horn, a co-author of Disrupting Class. In other words, one in four U.S. high schools do not offer chemistry, physics, algebra II, Calculus or even honors English.

At the same time, many of Oregon’s schools have faced budget cuts during the current economic trouble. Even in the midst of budget cuts, how can schools increase opportunities for students, allowing more kids to reach their academic potential? By giving power back to parents to choose programs beyond their local district school. This should extend beyond the classic “take it or leave it” approach, by allowing kids to choose to remain in their local public school while still having access to classes that aren’t offered locally.

Online education programs are already making a wide array of courses available to kids across the country while keeping costs low. Programs like Florida’s Virtual School have allowed thousands of kids attending regular public schools to enroll in effective advanced courses, as well as in rudimentary courses designed to help students catch up with their peers. The beauty of these online programs is not only accessibility, but also that they can be personalized, allowing students to work at their own pace and to spend more time on lessons that they struggle with or that interest them more.

For these same reasons, full-time online charter schools have excelled in Oregon. In 2005, Oregon’s first virtual charter school opened. By 2009 (when the legislature capped the schools’ enrollment), more than 4,000 students attended online charter schools, with many more asking for the opportunity. Oregon’s kids deserve more options, not fewer. Creating more effective educational opportunities does not require increased spending, but it does require smarter spending and flexibility.

 

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Renewable Energy: Leaving Oregonians out in the Cold

In 2010, approximately one in 30 Oregonians had their electricity cut off due to inability to pay. Enrollment in the low-income assistance program has increased significantly in the past few years. Part of this was undoubtedly due to the recession, but mandating the addition of more renewable energy to the grid has and will continue to increase electricity rates. Ever-increasing rates will leave even more Oregonians unable to pay their bills.

In 2007, Oregon legislators passed Senate Bill 838 which established a state Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), effectively forcing utility customers to purchase renewable energy. A recent economic analysis by Cascade Policy Institute reveals this bill has significant negative consequences which are just beginning to come to light.

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HB 3510: The Affordable Health Care for All Oregon

Testimony on HB 3510
Before the House Committee on Healthcare
March 11, 2011

Co-Chair Greenlick, Co-Chair Thompson and members of the Committee, my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Portland. Our mission is to promote policies that enhance individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

I’m here today along with Dr. Eric Fruits and Arnie Poutala to share with you some of the reasons I believe this bill will not only fail to achieve its goals, but will actually make our health care system worse.
_____

First, let me share with you part of the introduction to the 2007 “Handbook on State Health Care Reform,”* published by the National Center for Policy Analysis. I’ve provided a link to the entire book online at the end of my written testimony.

There are three features of health policy everyone needs to understand:

Number one, health care is far and away the most complex social system there is. In fact, it may be even more complex than all other social systems combined.

Number two, health policy has been the object of more studies than any other market or area of human activity.

Number three, despite the huge volume of research, the large number of active researchers, and the best of all possible motivations, we have managed to produce hardly any truly workable solutions to the problems of cost, quality and access.

All too often, we seek solutions from the outside — usually in the form of government efforts to force the system to change.

To control costs, the conventional solution is to artificially push down provider incomes or restrict access to new technology.

To improve quality, the conventional solution is for government to dictate standards, in effect telling doctors how to practice medicine.

To improve access, the conventional solution is to expand government-funded health care to more and more groups and to make health care free at the point of delivery.

These conventional solutions have been tried in other developed countries and to a large extent they have been tried in the United States as well.

It is probably no exaggeration to say they have not worked very well.

In contrast to the conventional approach, we do not take the most important problems in health care as natural or inevitable. They are instead the artificial byproduct of the systematic suppression of normal market forces — which took place over the course of the 20th century.

Further, the solution to these problems does not lie in top-down, government-imposed remedies. It instead lies in bottom-up liberation. In particular, we need to free people from institutions that prevent them from solving problems on their own.

The most common source of problems in our health care system is the fact that people generally do not bear the full costs of their bad decisions or realize the full benefits of their good ones. On the buyer side, this means that patients who wastefully overuse health care resources usually pay only a small fraction of the cost of that waste. Conversely, patients who economize and avoid waste usually reap only a small fraction of the savings from their economizing.

 

On the provider side of the market, incentives are also distorted. In fact, health care providers rarely reap the benefits of being better at what they do.

 

Yet these problems are not unsolvable. One of the most amazing facts about our health care system is that for virtually every problem there are tangible, visible solutions — not hypotheticals, but real flesh and blood answers operating here and there, in diverse places.

 

For example, there are numerous examples of high-quality, low-cost health care in America — they are just not the norm. If we all got our health care at the Mayo Clinic, the nation’s health care bill could be reduced by one-fourth and the quality of care would be improved. If everyone went to Intermountain Healthcare in Utah, total spending would be reduced by one-third, again with higher quality.

Not only does health care not have to be expensive, there is no reason in principle why we should have to wait for it. In pharmacies, shopping malls and “big box” retailers around the country, people are getting high-quality primary care at walk-in clinics for half the normal cost and with very little waiting.

Nor does price and quality information have to be hidden. In the international marketplace hospitals routinely quote package prices for all manner of standard surgical procedures and publish quality data (including their mortality rates) as well. Furthermore, patients can get top-quality care at a fraction of what it would cost at most U.S. hospitals.

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Get Involved: National School Choice Week January 23-29

On January 23-29, school choice supporters across the U.S. will shine a spotlight on effective educational options for kids. This is an opportunity on a state and national scale to raise awareness of the need to reform public education and to build support for School Choice. There are many ways to get involved and to show your support!

1) On January 25, attend Cascade Policy Institute’s Policy Picnic about school choice. Cascade’s School Choice Project Director will talk about school choice and the research in favor of expanding educational options. Space is limited! Email deanne@cascadepolicy.org for more information and to RSVP.

2)  School boards play a pivotal role in expanding or restricting school choice in Oregon. On Saturday, January 29, attend the “You Can Be Superman” candidate call. Cascade’s Christina Martin will explain why school choice is important. Several speakers will address major school choice issues and talk about how to start and run a campaign for a school board position. Although this event is hosted by the Washington County Republican Party, ALL charter school supporters are welcome to attend this event regardless of party affiliation.

Full details and free registration are available at http://rescueoregon.com.

3) On Wednesday, January 26, join Americans for Prosperity for a viewing of The Cartel in Clackamas, Oregon. The Cartel is an award-winning documentary about corruption in public education and the promise of school choice. View the movie trailer. Find out more and RSVP by visiting http://schoolchoiceweek.com/Event/afp-oregon.

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New Study: Forcing Oregonians to Purchase Renewable Energy Proves Costly

Cascade Policy Institute has released a new study showing that the Oregon legislature’s renewable energy mandates passed in 2007 will be costly to citizens and will threaten standards of living and economic recovery.

The Oregon legislature has officially convened, and legislators are hard at work crafting or reforming energy policy. With an economy in recession, budget shortfalls and a recent and significant increase in electricity rates, legislators have much to address with regard to how we generate electricity in this state.

Renewable energy mandates and other restrictive energy policies are just beginning to cause financial burdens to Oregonians and, according to Cascade’s report, over the next 15 years much more damage will be done.

The report, The Economic Impact of Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, prepared by economists at the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston, found that mandates forcing renewable energy on ratepayers will increase electricity rates significantly. Between 2015 and 2025, the average Oregon household will pay an additional $1,706 in higher electricity costs. The average commercial business will spend an extra $9,641, and the average industrial business an extra $80,115.
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Testimony on HB 2977 – Allowing purchase of health insurance across state lines

UPDATE – Listen to Steve’s testimony by clicking here!

Steve BucksteinCascade Commentary
Testimony before the House Committee on Health Care on HB 2977, allowing purchase of health insurance across state lines

by Steve Buckstein
Co-Chair Greenlick, Co-Chair Thompson and members of the Committee, my name is Steve Buckstein. I’m Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy research organization based in Portland. Our mission is to promote policies that enhance individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon.

I’m here today to support HB 2977. I believe that allowing Oregonians to purchase health insurance across state lines is a good thing. I want to focus my testimony on one concern often raised about this concept.
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Todd Wynn testifies before the Oregon Senate on the proposed plastic bag ban

Todd Wynn presents the Oregon Senate with information from Cascade Policy Institute and the Beacon Hill Institute on the financial and job related impacts of the plastic bag ban.

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Testimony to the House Education Committee

Update: Last month, House Bill 2287 passed out of the House Education Committee. Next week, the House is scheduled to vote on this bill.

Christina MartinCascade Commentary

Testimony to the House Education Committee
Re: H.B. 2287
February 4, 2011
by Christina Martin

Chair Wingard, Chair Gelser, Members of the House Education Committee,

My name is Christina Martin, I am a policy analyst with the Cascade Policy Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan, public policy think tank. Cascade researches policy issues including education reform.

After seeing The Lottery, The Cartel, and anticipating Waiting for Superman, I wanted to know how many of Oregon’s children were on waiting lists to get into a school of choice – a public charter school. So I contacted every charter school in the state. As you can imagine, it is not easy to get a hold of busy school administrators to find out how many kids were waiting. However, out of Oregon’s 108 charter schools, 92 schools responded. I discovered that more than 4,700 kids were on waiting lists for a charter school last summer.  In October, still more than 3,600 kids were waiting to get into charter schools, even though parents do not usually like to disrupt their children’s education with mid-year transfers.
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Take a Gamble on the Train

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

[audio:3-9-11SteveTakeaGamble.mp3]

Click the play button to hear the audio commentary

 
by Steve Buckstein

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The Oregon state legislature has used the state lottery as an almost endless source of funds for various projects over the years. When gambling doesn’t generate enough revenue for current wish-lists, legislators can authorize the sale of bonds repayable from future lottery revenue. According to official state documents, principal and interest remaining to be paid on lottery bonds is $1.6 billion, and the bonding capacity is virtually stretched to its limit. If they borrow much more they may not be able to repay the bonds.
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Kathryn Hickok talks Children’s Scholarship Fund before the House Committee on Education

Watch Kathryn Hickok testify before the House Committee on Education about the benefits of School choice.

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Testimony in Favor of HB 2291 Kathryn Hickok

Kathryn HickokCascade Commentary
Testimony in Favor of HB 2291
Kathryn Hickok
Director, Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland
Portland, Oregon
March 4, 2011

Co-Chairs Gelser and Wingard and members of the committee, my name is Kathryn Hickok, and I am director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland. For twelve years our program has provided privately funded partial-tuition scholarships to children from lower-income Oregon families.

CSF-Portland is a partner program of the national Children’s Scholarship Fund, headquartered in New York. Our mission is to maximize educational opportunity by offering tuition assistance for children from needy families. We provide partial tuition scholarships based solely on income and applicable to any private school chosen by the students’ parents or guardians. To be eligible for a scholarship, families must demonstrate financial need according to standards similar to the federal free and reduced price lunch program.
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No Property Rights, No Economic Freedom

Karla Kay EdwardsQuickPoint!

[audio:3-1-11KarlaNoPropertyRightsAudio.mp3]

Click the play button to hear the audio commentary

 
by Karla Kay Edwards

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After nearly forty years, no other state in the Union has adopted statewide land use laws. Yet, Oregonians continue to falsely believe these laws are necessary as they currently exist. An entire generation has not been exposed to the freedoms of property rights, so many Oregonians have no comprehension of what could be accomplished without these laws. They see only the dangers of the unknown. However, a variety of bills filed this session indicate the legislature may be grasping the absurdities of Oregon’s land use system.
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Michael Horn testimony before Oregon’s House Education Committee

Full text below


 

My name is Michael Horn; and I am the coauthor of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, along with Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen and Curtis Johnson, president of the Citistates Group. I am also the cofounder and executive director of education for Innosight Institute, a nonprofit think tank devoted to applying the theories of disruptive innovation to problems in the social sector.

When we approached writing about education originally, we came at it from a very different viewpoint from what has been discussed here today. Our work has centered around how do we make innovation far more predictable and successful?

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Hearing on Friday for K-12 Tax Credit Scholarship Program

The House Education Committee will hear a bill proposing a K-12 tax credit scholarship program this Friday, March 4, at 1pm in Salem. House Bill 2291 would increase opportunities for K-12 students from low-income and working-class families to attend private schools by granting tax credits to individuals and businesses for donations to qualified scholarship organizations. (Read about how this program could save Oregon millions.)

Two other bills that would create similar scholarship programs for special education students (HB 2290) and students attending failing schools (HB 2289) also will be heard on March 4. EmailChristina@Cascadepolicy.org for more information about how to show your support!

These bills are part of a package of Florida style reforms (House Bills 2288-2295). The other portions of the Florida package include HB 2288 for A-F Grading of Schools; HB 2292 for Teacher Licensure; HB 2293 for Every Third Grader Reads; HB 2294 for Incentive Pay/AP Success Bonuses. Of these bills, we encourage you to specifically support HB 2292, which would allow alternative means of licensure for teachers. This bill would allow teachers with doctoral degrees and equivalent out-of-state teaching licenses to teach in Oregon. It would make it easier for Oregon’s schools to attract and retain talent. Currently, only 24% of Oregon’s high schools offer Advanced Placement or IB courses in the four core subjects. This bill, and HB 2294, would help give students more advanced course options.

Please attend the hearing on March 4th to show your support. If you are interested in testifying, please emailChristina@cascadepolicy.org for more information about how to submit testimony. If you cannot attend, please email legislators on the house education committee to let them know that you support these bills.

House Education Committee Members:
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