By John McClaughry

Damon Root, writing at Reason.com, reports that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has joined Justice Clarence Thomas’s war against civil forfeiture.

Earlier, Justice Thomas had penned a stinging dissent in the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant a hearing in a case where Texas police seized two hundred thousand dollars from Lisa Leonard but never charged her or anyone in her family with a crime.

Last week the D.C. Circuit signaled its agreement with Thomas in a decision in favor of an innocent couple fighting for the return of $17,900 in cash seized by the police, although no underlying criminal charges were ever filed. But when two women whose money it was requested its return, a federal district judge ruled that they lacked standing, thus ending their case and leaving the government in possession of their cash.

The D.C. Circuit reversed. Describing the legal process that led to this result as “onerous, unfair, and unrealistic,” it ruled that “The pair has a right to contest whether the money is subject to forfeiture. Despite the government’s best efforts, this will remain an adversary proceeding.” Now that their standing to bring suit has been recognized, the two robbery victims will continue their legal battle to get their money back.

Civil forfeiture abuse is one of government’s worst practices, and it needs to be decisively stopped. Here’s a gold star for Justice Thomas for his principled stand to stop it.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 0 comments }

by John J. Metzler

NEW YORK—It’s political May Day for Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May after what appeared as a massive miscalculation in calling a general election which she narrowly won.

Though the ruling Conservative party gained the largest share of seats and votes in the 650 seat Parliament, the party fell sadly short of a majority, thus causing the “Hung Parliament” in which a coalition must again be formed.

Theresa May’s roll of the political dice to call for early elections were based on her gamble to win a powerful majority strong unified government which was needed in the wake of last year’s still reverberating BREXIT vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. BREXIT talks on the UK/EU separation begins in mid-June amid an uneasy instability in London.

As May predicted prior to the vote, “Now more than ever, Britain needs a strong and stable government to get the best deal for our country.” Indeed, but now there’s more confusion both in Britain and throughout the European Union concerning the complicated pattern of EU separation.

Tragically Theresa May’s snap election was shadowed by the specter of terrorism, both the appalling attacks in Manchester and London in which Islamist jihadi terrorists hit soft, civilian targets killing 30. Concerning the terrorists she said, “They are bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division and promotes sectarianism…Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time.”

The Conservatives won 318 seats but that’s eight seats short of a majority. The Labour Party, which has lurched dangerously leftwards under current leader Jeremy Corbyn gained seats and now has 262, a gain of 31 seats. Labour has posted the most socialist and left wing manifesto since the early 1980’s prompting even many former luminaries such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair to distance himself from the current party. As interestingly the Scottish Nationalists (SNP) saw serious setbacks, ironically from the Conservatives, thus likely sidetracking a second Scottish independence vote.

Theresa May will forge a “Government of Certainty” with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Yet May’s call for a “government of certainty” somehow lacks the ring and the rhetoric of steely Thatcherite resolve or for that matter anything more than a stopgap solution for a very complicated political problem of her own making.   She is viewed as “a weak and wounded leader” according to a good source in London. Her credibility even among the Tories is weakened and recriminations abound.

So what does the Hung Parliament realistically mean for Britain and her standing abroad? Again the albatross of BREXIT talks begins with a shadow over the outcome of the proposed break. Yet while the UK may be formally renegotiating its trade patterns with the continent, Britain has striven for reinvigorated bi-lateral trade pacts with many key nations European states such as France and Germany as well as with countries such as India.

Yet on the more local level the Party Manifesto still stresses, “The Conservative Party is the party of enterprise and of the entrepreneur. We understand that small businesses are the wellspring of growth. They form a key part of British life.” Indeed the UK has seen strong economic growth with the recent conservative governments.

Yet, May’s conservatives hardly possess the political gravitas of the former Thatcherite party which was far more philosophically wedded to free markets than to wider governmental regulation.

When it comes to NATO and defense the current government will hold to the agreed 2 percent GNP military spending. Interestingly Labour supported this point as well. The government will equally keep its high levels of overseas development aid spending at 0.7 percent making Britain one of the highest foreign aid donors in the world. Britain will remain a strong player in the United Nations.

There’s no question that May will remain close to the USA and shall be a reliable partner in the international arena. That’s the good news.

But will Theresa May’s “Government of Certainty” bring the needed stability and confidence both to markets and to citizens? Sadly, I feel the UK may be facing another election before too long.

- John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.

{ 0 comments }

by Rob Roper

If there was any doubt that political correctness has gone beyond loony, look at our neighbors in Massachusetts where the legislature is contemplating a law that would ban public schools from having Native American mascots.

According to the Boston Globe, the bill defines a Native American mascot as a ‘‘name, symbol, or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom, or tradition that is used by a public school as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name.’’

This is a flagrantly racist “whites only” mascot law.

Public school teams looking for new names and mascots after the ban would be free to pick, say, “Celtics” (defined as an ethnolinguistic group of tribal societies from Northern Europe), or “Patriots” (symbolized by dead, slave-owning, white guys), “Whalers” (predominantly white Quakers whose greed nearly wiped several species off the planet), or “Pirates”.

So, basically the Massachusetts legislature is saying here is that when it comes to selecting a symbol of pride to rally school spirit and inspire success… mascots that reflect white, European cultural roots in the Bay State are okay, but Native Americans need not apply. And that’s pretty freakin’ racist, is it not?

The final bit of irony here is that the Massachusetts politicians that concocted this moronic policy did so in a capital building flying a state flag featuring, you guessed it, a Native American Indian.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 1 comment }

by John McClaughry

Gov. Scott has just signed a bill to pump new life into the moribund Vermont Milk Commission.

As reported by the Senate agriculture committee, chaired by Sen. Bobby Starr of Essex Orleans, S.34 contained a lot of political findings, and directed the long dormant Milk Commission to recommend Federal Milk Marketing Order changes to assure “equitable” prices for milk.

After a conference with the House, most of that stuff disappeared, and the Commission was left to review and evaluate proposals that “enhance and stabilize the dairy industry in Vermont and New England and that may be appropriate for inclusion in the federal Farm Bill of 2018”, and send those views to the Vermont Congressional delegation.

That doesn’t sound too dangerous, and it’s not. But reviving the Milk Commission invites another Bobby Starr game like that of 2009. In a column then I explained in detail how Senators Shumlin and Starr tried to give the Commission the power to impose milk price controls on retailers.

By the time their bill got onto the Senate floor, the price control provisions were gone. Instead, the bill then mandated the Milk Commission to reconsider Starr’s previously failed milk handler tax and farmer subsidy scheme. That passed, but the Douglas-appointed commission declined to do anything about it.

Now the Milk Commission is alive again, and it probably won’t be long before Starr is pushing it to invent another tax, price control and subsidy scheme.

- John McClaughry is the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 0 comments }

by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

As the Republican Congress struggles to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the political landscape is steadily shifting

Since the Democratic Congress enacted Obamacare in 2010 (without a single Republican vote), Democrats have increasingly been on the defensive about their creation.  The individual mandate that Obamacare relied upon to corral healthy young people into insurance pools has failed to do the job – partly because the tax penalty was not severe enough, and partly because the Obama administration felt compelled to create fourteen different types of “hardship exemptions” that exempted millions of young people from the penalty.

Furthermore, Congress refused to fund the “cost sharing reduction” feature that paid insurance companies to give discounts to lower income purchasers. Obama’s desperate efforts to keep this revenue source flowing to the insurance companies ran afoul of the law, and is currently enjoined by a Federal court (on appeal).

The result has been soaring premiums to cover the expenses of older and sicker pools, and the exit of insurers from Obamacare exchanges where they can’t find a way to recoup their losses.

Until recently, the Left, determined to protect Obama’s handiwork , has urged only expanded appropriations for cost sharing reduction, which the Republicans – who sued Obama for spending unappropriated money for this purpose – are not likely to agree to. So the Left is now proactively moving away from the unlikely prospect of salvaging Obamacare, toward  creating a groundswell for replacing it with their true “solution” – a universal single payer plan.

When Obamacare was debated in 2010, Obama bought the support of the big health insurance companies by ruling out the inclusion of a “public option” – a government insurance company that would compete with (and undercut) the private carriers. The Left regarded this as a sellout, but had little choice but to back Obama’s plan. The 2016 Democratic platform turned down the Left’s urgings for universal single payer, but did include advocacy of the public option as a concession to the Sanders forces.

Meanwhile Sanders has continued his lifelong campaign for “Medicare for All”, without noting that at the present rate of spending, Medicare will be unable to make currently promised benefit payments by 2028. One hundred and twelve of the 193 House Democrats have cosponsored a bill to create a national single payer system.

Last week the Wall Street Journal quoted Senate Leader Mitch McConnell as warning Republican Senators that if they failed to pass legislation unwinding the Affordable Care Act, Democrats could regain power and establish a single-payer healthcare system.

Republican strategist Ed Rogers, writing in the Washington Post, says “it looks as though there will probably be a consensus position among Democrats running [for President] in 2020 in support of a single payer system.”

Apparently those Democrats haven’t taken a close look at Vermont’s pioneering experience with single payer, which ended with Gov. Shumlin’s embarrassing abandonment of the idea in late 2014.

But as Rogers put it, “On the surface, single payer universal health care will be hard to beat in the face of rising premiums and onerous deductibles [produced by Obamacare] that Republicans can’t seem to do anything about. A lot of voters will think that Democrats are trying to give them free health care and the Republicans are against it.”

It’s not that Republicans don’t have some very sound ideas about replacing Obamacare. They include income-tested support for catastrophic insurance that reduces the role of third party payments, tax equity for individual premium payers, expanded Health Savings Accounts to pay for ordinary medical expenses, preventive care and wellness programs, state-level innovation for Medicaid acute-care coverage, high risk pools to cover uninsurables, and improved price and outcome transparency to facilitate increased provider competition.

The Republicans’ problem is three fold. Their majorities in both houses can alter tax and spending laws, but they can’t enact a coherent reform package in the face of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. Most Republicans ran vowing to repeal all of the Obamacare taxes, leaving no revenues to underwrite a reform program. And, distressingly, they have no slogan to compete with “[Free] Medicare for All.”

And there’s yet another wild card. In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, Donald J. Trump, who appears to have few if any identifiable political principles, waxed enthusiastic about the Canadian single-payer system.

It’s easy to imagine that Trump, faced a year from now with a Republican Congress’s failure to pass a genuine reform program,  polls showing growing support for the Sanders single payer solution, and polls showing his fortunes sinking to unelectable levels, will suddenly decide that Canadian single payer will make America great again.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).

{ 0 comments }

by Tom Evslin

We all know the Chinese proverb:

“You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.”

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, thinks that robots will do all the fishing we need so we’ll have to provide free fish daily:

“There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better. I want to be clear. These are not things I wish will happen; these are things I think probably will happen. And if my assessment is correct and they probably will happen, than[sic] we have to think about what are we going to do about it? I think some kind of universal basic income is going to be necessary…”

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich agrees:

“…we will get to a point, all our societies, where technology is displacing so many jobs, not just menial jobs but also professional jobs, that we’re going to have to take seriously the notion of a universal basic income.”

I think this is elitist nonsense. “You are useless,” is what Musk and Reich are saying to many people around the world; “but don’t worry; we’ll feed you like the animals in the zoo (so long as you vote the right people into office).” It’s hard to think of any worse solution to the non-existent problem of not enough jobs than a universal dole.

Bernie Sanders, whom Reich supported in the primaries, does believe in jobs. His plan for free college, at its best, would be a form of teaching people to fish. However a degree in political correctness with minors in sloppy thinking and grievance politics doesn’t teach you how to bait a hook… or how to weld or wire circuits or plumb. Of course there are college whose students are taught to fish. Champlain in Burlington, VT (of which Mary is a Board member) teaches not only accounting but also digital forensics. Not surprisingly, almost all its graduates get jobs.

Donald Trump, whom Reich calls a fascist, also believes in jobs; that belief got him elected. IMHO the reason so many people voted for Sanders and Trump is these voters don’t like being told by elites that they are useless. I think Trump is wrong to blame unemployment principally on foreign competition (including illegal immigrants); I think he is absolutely right to support apprenticeship programs as a way to teach fishing and welding and circuits and plumbing.

Apprenticeship is also the best way to learn computer programming, as I know from experience. Two more advantages of apprenticeship as opposed to classroom learning: your teacher is a useful role model because she is practicing what’s she’s teaching and you learn that you can learn a skill. The specific skill may become obsolete; it will certainly change. But, once you know you learned how to catch trout, you will be confident that you can learn to catch tuna.

We know there is no current shortage of skilled jobs, for many of which a college degree is useless. There is no unemployment among commercial truck drivers, welders, plumbers, electricians, dispatchers, etc. etc. Anyone with these skills can find work (although sometimes relocation is necessary).

But what about unskilled jobs? Well, they certainly haven’t disappeared yet; look at the help-wanted ads. Retailers are finding they need to pay more to get workers; always a good sign. One reason why entry-level wages haven’t gone up faster, unfortunately, is that welfare benefits in many states including Vermont go down more quickly than take home pay goes up at salaries near the minimum wage.

Farmers around the country are complaining that Trump has scared away the undocumented workers who used to work at minimum wage (if that) so there’s no way to harvest the crops or milk the cows. I admire the migrant workers and their work ethic. Farm work is hard; legal residents can earn as much or more at McDonalds, which doesn’t hire undocumented workers. Farmers will need to pay more to get people who do have an alternative to take hard farm jobs. That’s a good thing even though food prices will go up some. People won’t stop eating. But there are jobs!

Will these jobs exist tomorrow or will they all be automated away as Musk and Reich seem to think? My friend Andy Kessler writes:

“This is a false premise. All through history, automation has created more jobs than it destroyed. Washboards and wringers were replaced by increasingly inexpensive washing machines, while more women entered the workforce. Automated manufacturing and one-click buying has upended retail, yet throughout the U.S. millions of jobs go unfilled…

“The economics, which they apparently stopped teaching at Harvard, are straightforward: Lowering the cost of goods and services through automation allows capital—financial and human—to attack even harder problems. Wake me up when we run out of problems.”

Milking a cow is done with a machine. Clerks at McDonalds enter orders on computers. Automation makes each human’s contribution worth more, not less. All the jobs will change; some will disappear. New unimagined and better jobs will materialize. I’ve made a living for most of my life from computer programming. The job didn’t exist when I was born.

No one is “useless”. Our affluence lets us help those who need help; we should do that generously. The best help will often be teaching a person to fish.

Tom Evslin is a retired CEO, novelist, and consultant. He served as Vermont Transportation Secretary and as Chief Recovery Officer (aka Stimulus Czar) following the 2007 recession. This piece is re-printed with permission from his blog, Fractals of Change (http://blog.tomevslin.com/).

{ 3 comments }

by Jack McMullen

There is a serious and ongoing threat to the rule of law in our country: lawless federal judges appointed for life who have taken to substituting their policy preferences for that of the president of the United States when reviewing his executive orders.

 Below are four egregious examples:

1) U. S. District Judge James Robart whose district encompasses only a portion of the state of Washington (Seattle) on February 4, 2017, blocked Trump’s executive order nationwide for a temporary travel ban on citizens from seven countries of concern with respect to terrorism — as identified by the Obama administration.

2) The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The panel reviewing Judge Robart’s ruling had the audacity to cite the settled Supreme Court law (3 cases directly on point) on the power of the president to expel or exclude aliens and then ignore it by deliberately slow-walking the appeal.  It finally upheld a separate ruling staying the executive order by the Hawaii judge noted below on June 12, 2017.

The  law: From the Supreme Court; The power to expel or exclude aliens [is] a fundamental sovereign attribute exercised by the Government’s political departments largely immune from judicial control” (see detailed footnote*). 

The footnote: Courts owe substantial deference to the immigration and national security policy determinations of the political branches —an uncontroversial principle that is well-grounded in our jurisprudence. See, e.g.,Cardenas v. United States, 826 F.3d 1164, 1169 (9th Cir. 2016) (recognizing that “the power to expel or exclude aliens [is] a fundamental sovereign attribute exercised by the Government’s political departments largely immune from judicial control”(quoting Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787, 792 (1977))); see also Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 33-34 (2010) (explaining that courts should defer to the political branches with respect to national   security and foreign relations 

3) U. S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson (Hawaii) blocked Trump’s travel ban on the grounds the executive order discriminates on the basis of religion. (an irrelevant factor when considering the president’s prerogatives in the area of immigration of aliens under clear Supreme Court law).

4) Judge William H. Orrick (U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California) who blocked an executive order taking federal funds away from so-called sanctuary cities.  Constitutional experts, David Rivkin, a former Justice Department official who also served in the White House Counsel’s office, and Elizabeth Price Foley, a professor of Constitutional law, have expressed the view that President Trump’s executive order withholding federal funds from ssanctuary cites would almost certainly pass muster at the Supreme Court.  In Arizona v. United States (2012), the Supreme Court ruled that the removal process for those in the country illegally is entrusted to the discretion of the Federal Government because it touches on foreign relations and must be made with one voice.  Sanctuary policies Balkanize the removal issue with the corresponding potential for diplomatic embarrassment.

What is to be done about these lawless, freelancing federal judges elected by no one who have curbed long-standing clear presidential powers apparently because they disagree personally with policies expressed by the executive orders they reviewed?

Here is my suggestion for the best way to restore respect for the rule of law within the federal judiciary.  These judges have clearly violated their oath of office “to perform all  of the duties incumbent upon me under the Constitution and laws of the United States”

Begin by impeaching one of these District Court judges for his egregious ruling — even if conviction would be elusive in a partisan Senate.  Bringing one before Congress to explain how to square his ruling with his oath of office would send a clear message to other judges, including those cited above, who choose to ignore Supreme Court rulings and impose their personal values in place of the policies being put forth by executive order by the president.  The threat of an embarrassing impeachment proceeding would hang over them all.

- Jack McMullen is chairman of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 1 comment }

This piece was originally published in the Sunday Rutland Herald – Times Argus,   June 17, 2017)

by John McClaughry

Last Sunday readers of this paper were greeted with a hundred column inches of opinion from Bill McKibben, Deborah Markowitz and Alan Betts, bemoaning President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, thus “undercut(ting) our civilization’s chances of surviving global warming.” (McKibben).

This sermon from the climate pulpit requires a bit of balance.

1. “Twenty years of patient diplomacy produced the Paris accord … a high achievement of the diplomatic art” (McKibben). A more realistic assessment would be that, after the Copenhagen Conference of 2009 failed to get an agreement on binding carbon dioxide reduction quotas, the Obama administration pulled out all the stops to get an agreement — no matter how ineffectual — that could crown Obama’s eight years in office. The ultimate result of this “patient diplomacy” was an agreement whereby the developed nations agreed to squeeze $100 billion a year out of their taxpayers to pay off the Third World countries to make it look like they are joining in carbon dioxide reduction.

2. “We’ve watched the early disintegration of Antarctica’s great ice sheets.” (McKibben). But consider this, from NASA-GISS (Oct. 30, 2015): “A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increase losses from its thinning glaciers.” The NASA lead scientist was quoted as saying that the long crack in the Larsen C ice sheet was “probably just simply a natural event that’s just waiting around to happen” (The New York Times, Jan. 16, 2017).

3. “George W. Bush abandoned the 1997 Kyoto accord that was negotiated by the Clinton administration.” (Markowitz). Actually, it was William J. Clinton who abandoned the Kyoto protocol when the U.S. Senate, including Sens. Leahy and Jeffords, voted 95-0 for the Byrd-Hagel resolution (July, 25, 1997) telling Clinton not to even think about submitting that to the Senate.

4. “Drought, floods and wildfires are directly linked to the greenhouse gases we’ve poured into the atmosphere” (McKibben). Testifying before a House committee (March 29, 2017) Dr. Roger Pielke Jr., an internationally known IPCC scientist from the University of Colorado, told the committee: “There is little scientific basis in support of claims that extreme weather events — specifically, hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes and their economic damage — have increased in recent decades due to the emission of greenhouse gases. In fact, since 2013 the world and the United States have had a remarkable stretch of good fortune with respect to extreme weather, as compared to the past. The lack of evidence to support claims of increasing frequency or intensity of hurricanes, floods, drought or tornadoes on climate time scales is also supported by the most recent assessments of the IPCC and the broader peer-reviewed literature on which the IPCC is based.” (For such evidence-backed assessments, Dr. Pielke, who agrees that greenhouse gas emissions have an effect on climate, has been the target of frantic efforts of suppression and harassment by the climate change lobby.)

5. “China is shutting coal mines as fast is it can build wind turbines” (McKibben). It’s true that China is shutting down 103 outdated, inefficient and smog-producing coal plants, and reducing mining accordingly — not because of China’s concern about carbon dioxide emissions, but because its local governments, lacking any property tax base, raced to build coal plants to bring in revenues. The result is an oversupply of electricity and vast clouds of life-threatening smog. The idea that China is pushing wind turbines to replace the shuttered coal plants and mines is not supportable. China is racing ahead with 6.4 gigawatts of advanced nuclear plants to produce the baseload power inefficiently generated by the old coal plants.

6. All of the authors hail the Paris agreement as essential to staving off the expected (by them) global climate catastrophe. What effect would it actually have if every nation conscientiously agreed to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions as promised (fat chance)? Energy economist Bjorn Lomborg (a Dane not in the pay of the fossil fuel industry) estimated the reduction of global temperature that would be produced after 70 years of faithful compliance by all 195 countries, using all the Paris assumptions and promises. The result: one-sixth of one degree C. That is, instead of rising by 1 degree C by 2100, global temperatures would rise by 0.83 degree C. The Wall Street Journal reported (June 1, 2017) that even the Paris accord’s supporters concede that meagre prediction, which was also confirmed by a similar study by an MIT group. Lomborg also points out that “this invisible achievement would come at a staggering cost, somewhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion a year.” Lomborg favors “aggressive research into low-emitting, cost-effective energy technologies, which is the only realistic way to reduce fossil fuel consumption.”

7. What does retired NASA-GISS climate scientist James Hansen, perhaps the most extreme doomsayer in the climatology community, the man whose testimony in 1988 sent Al Gore into global warming orbit, say of the Paris accord? “It’s a fraud really, a fake. … There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned” (Guardian, Dec. 20, 2015).

8. “The Obama Justice Department should launch an investigation of climate skeptics under the Racketeer Influenced Criminal Organization (RICO) Act” (Betts). Actually Betts, who identifies himself as “a leading climate scientist” much in demand by his neighbors for his help and guidance, didn’t say this in this paper, but he was one of 20 scientists to issue this public demand in September 2015. I confess it galls me to watch this self-important climate activist declaiming about “the integrity of science,” and in the same breath demanding that those who disagree with his version of climate science be put in jail.

As annoying, as narcissistic and as poorly informed as Trump often is, I concur with the Wall Street Journal editorial (June 1, 2017) that he did the right thing to withdraw us from this charade. It promised to cost Americans trillions of dollars, cripple our economy relative to our competitors, and if observed — which it would almost certainly not be — would at most produce a sixth of a degree less warming by 2100.

Now let’s move forward as James Hansen advises, by phasing out coal (for purely health and environmental reasons), in favor of next generation nuclear energy.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He has degrees in physics, nuclear engineering and political science.

{ 1 comment }

By Rob Roper

Since President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, a number of local politicians and activists in Vermont have registered their displeasure by pledging fealty to the objectives of the new U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of states “committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Governor Scott officially joined Vermont to this coalition stating, “I am proud to join this bipartisan group of governors and reaffirm Vermont’s commitment to fighting climate change through the U.S. Climate Alliance.”

Now several legislators are proposing a formal House Resolution in support of this commitment (See full text below), which will presumably be offered for a vote during the special veto session on June 21-22, 2017.

The Ethan Allen Institute challenges the Governor and the sponsors of this resolution to answer the following questions: Exactly what measures are you proposing to enact that will ensure Vermonters do, in fact, shoulder our share this commitment, and why is it in our interest to do so?

The Paris Agreement committed the United States to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025 (less than a decade away). Similarly, Vermont’s Act 168 of 2006 pledged us somehow to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (principally carbon dioxide) to 25% below 1990 levels by January 1, 2012, 50% below 1990 levels by 2028, and to 75% below by 2050 “if practicable”.

Consider that Vermont — for all our weatherization projects, efficiency mandates, renewable energy subsidies, taxes, and developing our ridgelines with industrial windmills, etc. — failed spectacularly to meet this self-imposed 2012 milestone. According to the state’s report, Vermont’s 1990 GHG emissions amounted to 8.11 million metric tons, 9.03 in 2006, and 8.27 in 2012, nowhere close to the 6.1 million metric ton target. We can conclude, therefore, that meeting our obligations under the Paris Agreement will require significant measures and sacrifices far beyond what we are doing as a state today. What are they?

Additionally, the Paris Agreement created a “Green Climate Fund” that would help poor, developing countries switch from fossil fuels to greener sources of energy and adapt to the effects of climate change. The U.S. pledged $3 billion to that fund (an obligation recognized in the fifth “whereas” of the resolution). Vermont’s share of this would be about $20 million, based on a per capita amount divided amongst Climate Alliance members. Where will the revenue come from to meet this obligation?

If this commitment to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement is serious, our elected officials who support it should explain exactly what they intend to do to meet those obligations. How will work, how we will measure success, and what it will cost? Vermonters have a right to know. If this is not a serious proposal – if it’s just an empty exercise in “virtue signaling” with no plan or intent to follow through – well, Vermonters have a right to know that too.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

 


 

 

References:

 

 

Bipartisan Group of Governors Leading on Climate Change

02 June 2017

 

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today announced that Vermont will join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a new bipartisan coalition of states committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

“Vermont is a leader in environmental policy and natural resource management. That’s one reason Governor Charlie Baker and I encouraged the Trump Administration to remain committed to the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Gov. Scott. “The President’s decision to withdraw the nation from the agreement only strengthens our commitment and makes the work of states more important. I am proud to join this bipartisan group of governors and reaffirm Vermont’s commitment to fighting climate change through the U.S. Climate Alliance.”

 

Governors Scott and Baker issued a letter to the Trump Administration on May 17 encouraging the President to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement. Since then, Massachusetts and Vermont have been in ongoing communications regarding regional greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

 

Immediately after the President’s announcement on Thursday, Massachusetts and Vermont discussed next steps – including the potential for a multi-state coalition. Conversations with New York, Washington, and Massachusetts specific to the goals of the U.S. Climate Alliance occurred throughout the day on Friday.

 

“Growing our economy and protecting our environment by supporting cleaner and more affordable energy and transportation choices can go together,” Gov. Scott said. “If our national government isn’t willing to lead in this area, the states are prepared to step up. I look forward to supporting continued bipartisan cooperation on these matters and thank Governor Baker, Governor Inslee, Governor Cuomo and Governor Brown for working collaboratively on this important issue.”

 


House resolution strongly opposing the announced U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and recognizing Governor Philip Scott’s enrolling Vermont in the U.S. Climate Alliance

 

Offered by: Representatives Sullivan of Burlington, Deen of Westminster, Botzow of Pownal, Burke of Brattleboro, Cina of Burlington, Colburn of Burlington, Haas of Rochester, Hooper of Montpelier, Lanpher of Vergennes, Masland of Thetford, McCormack of Burlington, Mrowicki of Putney, Rachelson of Burlington, Squirrell of Underhill, Stuart of Brattleboro, Townsend of South Burlington, Webb of Shelburne, Weed of Enosburgh, Yacovone of Morristown, and Yantachka of Charlotte

 

Whereas, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and multiple research studies, “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” and that “ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities,” and

 

Whereas, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2016 was the warmest year since modern meteorological record keeping began in 1880, and that 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001, and

 

Whereas, in December 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change established the Paris Climate Agreement (the Agreement) that was entered into force in October 2016 and that as of June 8, 2017 consists of 148 countries, including the United States, and

 

Whereas, the central purpose of the Agreement is to limit the 21st century air temperature increase to less than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels while working to keep the increase to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, and

 

Whereas, as part of its participation in the Agreement, the United States pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26–28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and to contribute $3 billion to climate change assistance to poorer nations by 2020, and

 

Whereas, on June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would invoke the Agreement’s withdrawal process, and

 

Whereas, the withdrawal of the United States from the Agreement will create a serious impediment to the international effort to address the planet’s projected increase in temperature, and

 

Whereas, Governor Philip Scott, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders, and U.S. Representative Peter Welch each strongly criticized the withdrawal decision, and

 

Whereas, Attorney General Thomas J. Donovan is among the state attorneys general who have publicly committed to the implementation of the Agreement, and

 

Whereas, Governors Jay Inslee of Washington State, Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown of California, and Andrew M. Cuomo of New York organized a bipartisan group of governors, known as the U.S. Climate Alliance (the Alliance), committed to the implementation of the Agreement, and other governors, including Governor Philip Scott, have since joined, and

 

Whereas, in 1990, Vermont emitted a total of 8.11 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, and although this amount rose to 9.4 million metric tons in 2004, by 2012 it had dropped to 8.27 metric tons, and

 

Whereas, 10 V.S.A. § 578 establishes a goal for Vermont to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent below the 1990 level no later than January 1, 2028, and the Comprehensive Energy Plan, as required in accordance with 30 V.S.A. § 202b, establishes a further goal of an 80 to 95 percent reduction by 2050, now therefore be it

 

Resolved by the House of Representatives:

That this legislative body strongly opposes the announced withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and be it further

 

Resolved: That this legislative body recognizes Governor Philip Scott’s enrolling Vermont in the Alliance and urges him to support State funding and policies to enable Vermont’s commitment to the greenhouse gas emissions reduction provisions of the Agreement to be realized, and be it further

 

Resolved: That it is imperative that Vermont uphold its commitment to the newly formed Alliance by reducing the State’s reliance on fossil fuels and by meeting the greenhouse gas reduction goals established in statute for 2028 and in the Comprehensive Energy Plan for 2050, and be it further

 

Resolved: That this legislative body is prepared to work with the Governor, diverse stakeholders, and all Vermonters to identify and implement the policies, programs, and approaches annually required to achieve the State’s greenhouse gas reduction commitments, and be it further

 

Resolved: That the Clerk of the House be directed to send a copy of this resolution to President Donald Trump, to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, to Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, to Governor Jerry Brown of California, to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, to Governor Philip Scott, to Attorney General Thomas J. Donovan Jr., and to the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

{ 5 comments }

images         When the legislature returns to Montpelier for a special veto session (June 21-22) regarding the budget,  education “yield” bill, and marijuana legalization, a group of legislators will also propose a Resolution that Vermont comply with the conditions of the Paris Climate Agreement despite the fact that the U.S. has withdrawn. Compliance will come at considerable cost and require severe curbs on the use of gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, etc.  Full language of the proposed resolution appears below.

QUESTION: Should the Legislature pass a resolution “support[ing] State funding and policies” necessary to comply with the costs and emissions goals set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement? 

Note: Under the Agreement, Vermont’s obligation to the “Green Climate Fund” alone comes with an estimated $20 million price tag by 2020, and we would need to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28 percent below 2005 levels (from 9.33 to 6.8 Million Metric Tons) by 2025.

          Yes.
.         No. 

Click HERE to take the Survey


House resolution strongly opposing the announced U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and recognizing Governor Philip Scott’s enrolling Vermont in the U.S. Climate Alliance

 

Offered by: Representatives Sullivan of Burlington, Deen of Westminster, Botzow of Pownal, Burke of Brattleboro, Cina of Burlington, Colburn of Burlington, Haas of Rochester, Hooper of Montpelier, Lanpher of Vergennes, Masland of Thetford, McCormack of Burlington, Mrowicki of Putney, Rachelson of Burlington, Squirrell of Underhill, Stuart of Brattleboro, Townsend of South Burlington, Webb of Shelburne, Weed of Enosburgh, Yacovone of Morristown, and Yantachka of Charlotte

Whereas, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and multiple research studies, “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” and that “ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities,” and

Whereas, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2016 was the warmest year since modern meteorological record keeping began in 1880, and that 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001, and

Whereas, in December 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change established the Paris Climate Agreement (the Agreement) that was entered into force in October 2016 and that as of June 8, 2017 consists of 148 countries, including the United States, and

Whereas, the central purpose of the Agreement is to limit the 21st century air temperature increase to less than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels while working to keep the increase to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, and

Whereas, as part of its participation in the Agreement, the United States pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26–28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and to contribute $3 billion to climate change assistance to poorer nations by 2020, and

Whereas, on June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would invoke the Agreement’s withdrawal process, and

Whereas, the withdrawal of the United States from the Agreement will create a serious impediment to the international effort to address the planet’s projected increase in temperature, and

Whereas, Governor Philip Scott, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders, and U.S. Representative Peter Welch each strongly criticized the withdrawal decision, and

Whereas, Attorney General Thomas J. Donovan is among the state attorneys general who have publicly committed to the implementation of the Agreement, and

Whereas, Governors Jay Inslee of Washington State, Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown of California, and Andrew M. Cuomo of New York organized a bipartisan group of governors, known as the U.S. Climate Alliance (the Alliance), committed to the implementation of the Agreement, and other governors, including Governor Philip Scott, have since joined, and

Whereas, in 1990, Vermont emitted a total of 8.11 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, and although this amount rose to 9.4 million metric tons in 2004, by 2012 it had dropped to 8.27 metric tons, and

Whereas, 10 V.S.A. § 578 establishes a goal for Vermont to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent below the 1990 level no later than January 1, 2028, and the Comprehensive Energy Plan, as required in accordance with 30 V.S.A. § 202b, establishes a further goal of an 80 to 95 percent reduction by 2050, now therefore be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives:

That this legislative body strongly opposes the announced withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and be it further

Resolved: That this legislative body recognizes Governor Philip Scott’s enrolling Vermont in the Alliance and urges him to support State funding and policies to enable Vermont’s commitment to the greenhouse gas emissions reduction provisions of the Agreement to be realized, and be it further

Resolved: That it is imperative that Vermont uphold its commitment to the newly formed Alliance by reducing the State’s reliance on fossil fuels and by meeting the greenhouse gas reduction goals established in statute for 2028 and in the Comprehensive Energy Plan for 2050, and be it further

Resolved: That this legislative body is prepared to work with the Governor, diverse stakeholders, and all Vermonters to identify and implement the policies, programs, and approaches annually required to achieve the State’s greenhouse gas reduction commitments, and be it further

Resolved: That the Clerk of the House be directed to send a copy of this resolution to President Donald Trump, to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, to Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, to Governor Jerry Brown of California, to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, to Governor Philip Scott, to Attorney General Thomas J. Donovan Jr., and to the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

{ 5 comments }

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
Read more...

Latest News

Don’t Make the Internet Safe for Monopolies

by Tom Evslin Last month I went to Washington to argue against regulating Internet access as if it were phone service. Twenty years ago I was there for the...

NASA asteroid busting

by John McClaughry A month or so ago I discussed four problems that mankind badly needs to solve. One was U.S. insolvency, one was electromagnetic pulse protection, one...

Vermont Ranks “Below Average” for Fiscal Condition

by Rob Roper The Mercatus Center released its annual study, “Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition.” Vermont landed in the “Below Average” category with an overall raking of...

The Ill-Conceived Housing bond

by John McClaughry Reporter Lou Varricchio of True North Reports has just finished a four part series on affordable housing, in particular, the $35 million housing bond included...

Missouri To CUT Minimum Wage

by Rob Roper Looks like the Show Me State was shown! Missouri is, according to news reports, lowering its state minimum wage from $10/hr. to $7.70. This follows...

Video