Monday, December 29, 2008

Statement to the 13th Conference of the States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

Statement to the 13th Conference of the States Parties of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
Ambassador Eric M. Javits, United States Delegation
The Hague, Netherlands
December 2, 2008

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director-General, Distinguished Delegates,

I am deeply honored to be here, once again, among so many friends and colleagues at the 13th Conference of the States Parties. I warmly welcome our new Chairman, Ambassador Minoru Shibuya of Japan. We are confident that he will guide us skillfully through our agenda this week and bring us to a successful conclusion. I also extend my heartfelt appreciation to our past chairman, Ambassador Abuelgasim Idris, and thank him for his wisdom and exemplary service to this Organization. As always, I pledge my own support and that of my delegation to making this a productive and successful session.

The Conference of the States Parties provides an important opportunity every year to review from where we have come and to make decisions for the year ahead. This year has been an especially meaningful one. The Second Review Conference in April marked a critical milestone in the work of the OPCW. I feel privileged to have been able to participate in both the First and the Second Review Conferences during my nearly six years with this Organization. We all have much to be proud of in the achievements of the OPCW, but much work remains to be done. I have great hopes for the continuing success of this Organization due to the earnest commitment of the member states, the deft guidance by the Chairpersons of the political bodies, the selfless work of our many facilitators, and the devoted and superior service rendered by our delegations and the Technical Secretariat. Nor could our success have been achieved without the supremely capable leadership of the Director-General, who has served so brilliantly at the helm of this enterprise.

As many of you will recall, the Second Review Conference was quite an ordeal for those of us who participated, with multiple papers and positions over many months, widely divergent views, and then a marathon of long days and a couple of all-night sessions. What we produced in that two-week ordeal last April is a reaffirmation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, a strong renewal of the commitment by all States Parties to the goals and objectives of the Convention and to the implementation of all of its provisions. We set out some guidelines for the future of this Organization, demonstrating that it is a living entity, continuing to work, adjusting to changing circumstances, and thriving. Our agenda here this week in the annual Conference of the States Parties is a critical continuation of that process to make the vision of the Second Review Conference a reality.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will not reach its conclusion when all the declared chemical weapons are finally destroyed, although that will be a remarkably historic event to celebrate. Any who hold the view that final destruction of declared stockpiles will signal the end of the Chemical Weapons Convention are sorely mistaken. The OPCW will continue to have a critical role long after disarmament, in assuring that chemical weapons will never again be developed, produced, or used. This is a covenant of the Convention that the States Parties unanimously affirmed in the Report of the Second Review Conference as this Organization’s ongoing, ultimate, and permanent non-proliferation role.

The Second Review Conference expressed concern over the increased danger of the use of chemical weapons by terrorists, and invited States Parties to consult and cooperate both bilaterally and regionally on ways to prevent terrorist use of such weapons. It also recalled the important work of the OPCW Open-ended Working Group on Terrorism and affirmed its continuing relevance. My government strongly supports and encourages that Working Group and the OPCW to be used as a forum for discussion of issues by States Parties and others to share their experiences related to chemical safety and security and the potential threat of toxic chemicals being exploited by terrorists.

The Second Review Conference reiterated that the universality of the Convention is essential to achieve its object and purpose. We have made enormous strides toward universal membership in the Chemical Weapons Convention since its Entry-Into-Force. In just the six years since I have been here, we have added 32 States Parties, with only ten states now remaining to ratify or accede, an accomplishment in no small part due to the tireless efforts of our Director-General. We warmly welcome the ratification of the Convention by The Republic of the Congo, Guinea Bissau, and most recently Lebanon, since our last Conference. We are very pleased that Iraq and the Bahamas are completing their internal procedures for accession and we look forward to both becoming States Parties to the Convention very soon. This is a particularly significant turning point for Iraq and we are proud of the Iraqi government’s decision to join the Convention, and the international community, in our mutual efforts to destroy and prevent the use of all chemical weapons everywhere.

It remains vitally important that the states remaining outside the Convention also accede so that the entire world can reap its benefits – a total ban on an entire class of weapons, the destruction of all existing chemical weapons, and the promotion of trade in chemicals and international cooperation in chemical activities not prohibited by the Convention. The essential goal of universality is within our grasp, but we must all continue to pursue the few states that have not yet joined the international community in ratifying this Convention. The United States, for its part, is doing what it can to work to with non-States Parties who are interested in joining the Convention.

The Second Review Conference also reaffirmed that the full and effective national implementation of the obligations under the Convention is essential for its realization. These obligations belong to each and every State Party in the Organization. It is encouraging to note that nearly all States Parties have designated a National Authority. We also note with appreciation that many countries are working on their implementing legislation, and we encourage their efforts in completing this obligation. Despite this progress, many States Parties still have not implemented domestic legislation covering all key areas of the Convention. This is an area that will require more attention and cooperation among States Parties in order to address legal shortcomings. As always, the Technical Secretariat and other States Parties, including the United States, stand ready to assist when needed.

During the Second Review Conference, and in all of the meetings of the Executive Council and the Conference of the States Parties, the complete destruction of chemical weapons and the conversion or destruction of Chemical Weapons Production Facilities have been stressed. Indeed, these are the central goals of the Convention. Whether in declared storage stockpiles and destruction facilities, or in old and abandoned munitions, wherever they are found, chemical weapons are a bane that we are working collectively to eliminate.We are heartened that Albania and A State Party have completed destruction of their chemical weapons stockpiles. This is a significant accomplishment and we gratefully offer our congratulations. It is also noteworthy that India is very near completing the destruction of its stockpile. Those of us who possess chemical weapons have special responsibilities to secure these weapons, to declare them, and to destroy them under international monitoring. Destruction by some possessor states, including the United States, has not been as rapid as any of us would wish, but it is relentlessly, relentlessly moving forward and gaining momentum. The inevitability of the scourge of chemical warfare being purged forever from our planet becomes more apparent with each and every weapon destroyed.

For our part, the United States, with the second-largest stockpile in the world, has destroyed over 56 percent of its chemical weapons and all of its binary chemical weapons – that is to say, all of the munitions, parts, components and chemicals associated with the most modern chemical weapons system ever developed by the United States. We have destroyed all of our former production facilities, completed operations at our Newport destruction facility, and have destroyed over 96 percent of our total stockpile of nerve agent. The United States understands our obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and we are fully committed to the complete destruction of our stockpiles as rapidly as possible. We have worked hard to eliminate the weapons of greatest risk first, and now continue with all deliberate speed to destroy the remainder as quickly and safely as possible.

The Executive Council’s visit to Russia’s Shchuchye facility in September provided an opportunity for representatives of the Council to observe the enormity and complexity of Russia’s ongoing destruction efforts. This visit, like the earlier one to the Anniston facility in the United States, is an important part of the series of exchanges which contribute to confidence building, and which demonstrate the commitment of the United States and the Russian Federation to the complete destruction of their stockpiles. We have invited the Executive Council to send a delegation to Pueblo, Colorado, and Umatilla, Oregon, during the first week of June 2009 for the next in this series of visits.

Mr. Chairman,

We face a number of important issues this week, the most critical being adoption of the Program of Work and Budget for 2009. Intensive consultations have been continuing on the budget, and we urge our colleagues on the Executive Council to come to agreement as quickly as possible in recommending the budget to this Conference. Due in part to the tough negotiations on this and other budget issues, I would like to offer my profound thanks to Martin Strub of Switzerland, who has patiently conducted consultations on the budget over the past several months.

Our other dedicated and tireless facilitators have also been engaged in ongoing consultations on Article VII implementation, Article X assistance and protection, improving Article XI programs, and Universality. We hope that as that work continues this week, we can achieve consensus on the decisions or report language relating to these important subjects during this Conference. Discussion of some of the issues under the industry cluster recently took on new life with new facilitators beginning consultations on the enhancement of declarations for Other Chemical Production Facilities and low concentration limits for Schedule 2A/2A* chemicals. I wish each and all of our facilitators success in their efforts to achieve consensus on these important issues.

Mr. Chairman,

As I plan my retirement and departure from The Hague, I beg your indulgence for a few final reflections on this remarkable institution of which we are all a part, the OPCW. The First and Second Review Conferences were last minute high wire acts from which we were fortunate both times not to trip and fall to failure. The next Review Conference and the final extended deadlines for destruction of chemical weapons will present exceedingly difficult issues for the future of this Organization. We need to move toward – and past -- 2012 and that next Review Conference with determination and the realization that there is much that all of us still have to do to ensure the continued success of the OPCW well into the future. We have faced difficult challenges many times in the past. Yet we have successfully resolved so many contentious issues that I remain confident that this Organization can continue to do so in the future.

All of us in the OPCW are multilateralists. Achieving excellence in the multilateral field is a shared enterprise in which each participant is indispensable. The underlying factor for our success is the ethos of consensus – that mutual devotion and commitment to come to agreements that everyone can accept and support. Consensus empowers all of us. Here everyone’s voice counts, and everyone is part of the group’s achievements. If our political bodies, the Executive Council and the Conference of the States Parties, turn to voting to resolve issues – and that is always possible -- I fear that this Organization will devolve into the factionalism, acrimony, and bitterness that we have seen so often in other international bodies.I am grateful to all my past and present colleagues for consistently choosing the consensus path through all of the years that I have been here, although it has not always been easy. It has required long hours and myriad discussions to hear all parties with interests in the issue, and it has required the commitment and creativity of leaders, facilitators, and delegates alike to find the solutions. The OPCW can reinforce that tradition and its strong record of achievement through the difficult challenges that lie ahead. My fervent hope is that all of you, and those that succeed you, will keep the flame alive and never waver in carrying on the exemplary tradition of hard work, consensus building, and success that has marked the OPCW as a unique and vital multilateral institution.

I will repeat what I have stated many times in different forums – the OPCW is truly a model of effective multilateral diplomacy.

I bid each of you a very, very fond farewell, with my thanks for the unflagging cooperation so generously extended to our delegation. I will always treasure the professional and personal friendships made here at the OPCW that so have enriched my life.

I would like to request that this statement be circulated as an official document of the 13th Session of the Conference of States Parties.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Released on December 29, 2008

US State Dept Statement on Somalia: President Yusuf's Resignation

Press Statement
Gordon K. Duguid, Acting Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 29, 2008

Somalia: President Yusuf's Resignation

We support and respect President Yusuf’s decision to resign as President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and welcome his commitment to continue supporting the Djibouti peace process. We acknowledge President Yusuf’s contributions to long-term peace and stability in Somalia. In accordance with Article 45 of the Transitional Federal Charter, Parliament should act expeditiously to select a new President within 30 days.

We urge Parliamentary Speaker Madoobe, Prime Minister Nur Adde, and the leaders of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) to intensify efforts to achieve a government of national unity and to enhance security through formation of a joint security force. The United States will provide $5 million to support the formation of such a joint security force.

We also take this opportunity to emphasize our support for the strengthening of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and for the rapid authorization and deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force.


Released on December 29, 2008

From Hawaii regarding President-elect Obama's visit with the Marines

From Here... By Scott Johnson
Powerline Blog, December 29, 2008 at 8:16 AM

A reader writes from Hawaii regarding President-elect Obama's visit with the Marines:

I'm an active duty naval officer stationed in Pearl Harbor. I was there for the president-elect's appearance. The crowd was respectful, as you might expect from today's professional Marines.

The reception was a short photo-op kind of thing. Couple of quick turns around the tables and he was gone.

What was of more interest, at least to me, were the conversations after he left. Many Marines expressed concern that they will be out of Iraq before it's prudent. These are 3rd Regiment Marines, who have been in heavy rotation in Iraq for the past 3-4 years; many are returning from their 3rd tour and will be heading out on their 4th presently.

Being Marines, they want the Army to hold Iraq so they can go to Afghanistan and work on solving that problem. What they don't want is a retreat or a hollow residual force that masks a retreat. They know Iraq is on weak legs now and it will need a strong US presence for at least a decade.

Hope the P-E knows that too.

Huffington Post: No Time to Back Away from Access to Higher Ed

No Time to Back Away from Access to Higher Ed. By Michael Roth
Huffington Post, December 29, 2008 03:49 PM (EST)

Charles Murray's op-ed piece in Saturday's New York TImes has a core idea that is unobjectionable: job credentials should be based on what you can do and not where you went to school. This appeals to a core democratic value: success should be based on merit rather than identity or family background. We want to promote excellence, and we want to do so on the basis of equality not pedigree. But the Harvard and MIT educated Murray goes beyond this in arguing that most people just could never do "genuine" college level work.
"For most of the nation's youths, making the bachelor's degree a job qualification means demanding a credential that is beyond their reach. It is a truth that politicians and educators cannot bring themselves to say out loud: A large majority of young people do not have the intellectual ability to do genuine college-level work.

If you doubt it, go back and look through your old college textbooks, and then do a little homework on the reading ability of high school seniors. About 10 percent to 20 percent of all 18-year-olds can absorb the material in your old liberal arts textbooks. For engineering and the hard sciences, the percentage is probably not as high as 10.

No improvements in primary and secondary education will do more than tweak those percentages. The core disciplines taught at a true college level are tough, requiring high levels of linguistic and logical-mathematical ability. Those abilities are no more malleable than athletic or musical talent."

While Barack Obama is calling for more investment in higher education, including support for community colleges that provide wide access to post-secondary learning, Dr. Murray would have us return to the days when colleges and universities were either finishing schools for the rich or hot houses for the cultivation of only the 'real geniuses.'

Dr. Murray's analogy to athletic or musical talent is telling, but not in the way that he intends. Sure, most of our nation's youth will never be able to shoot a basketball like Ray Allen or throw a football like the Manning brothers. But does this mean we should make sports participation available only to those who have the potential to play at the professional level? Would Dr. Murray say, since musical talent isn't evenly distributed across the population and most will never play and instrument like Winton Marsalis, that we should give up on getting people to participate in choirs, bands and orchestras?

One of the great virtues of America's universities and colleges is that they provide educational opportunities to those who want to appreciate and understand works of art, technology and science, as well as to people who will go on to advance these fields with their own original work. Universities and colleges offer students an opportunity to acquire literacy concerning the sciences and economics, to develop a framework for understanding literature and politics. The multiple modes of access to higher education must be preserved and enhanced. I work at one of the highly selective universities that is expensive but that also has enough financial aid to make it possible for talented students to attend - regardless of their ability to pay. I've also taught at a large public university with huge lecture halls, and a small private art college where one learns by making. Giving Americans a multiplicity of higher education opportunities helps to create a more informed citizenry and a culture and economy more capable of thoughtful innovation. From the community colleges across the country to the large land grant universities, from the state universities to the residential liberal art schools, American institutions of higher education provide access to learning and promote achievement at the highest levels.

This is exactly the wrong time to give up on the goal of access to a college education that combines breadth with focused competence. But in order to make this goal a reality we will have to do a much better job of making secondary education meaningful for more of our young people. We will have to ensure that they acquire basic math, science, and reading skills, as well as inspiring in them a taste for cultural participation. That is a tall order, but it is a challenge worthy of our ambitions for equality as well as for excellence.

“Forecasting the Future of Hurricanes” by Anna Barratt In Nature

“Forecasting the Future of Hurricanes” by Anna Barratt In Nature. By Roger Pielke Sr.
Climate Science, December 29, 2008 7:00 am

There was a recent Nature news article
Barratt, A., 2008: Forecasting the future of hurricanes. Nature News. Published online December 11, 2008. doi:10.1038/news.2008.1298.
The article is titled

A meteorologist’s new model zooms in on how climate change affects Atlantic
storms. by Anna Barnett

“The world’s most advanced simulation of extreme weather on a warming Earth completed its first run on 5 December. Greg Holland at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, is leading the project, which nests detailed regional forecasts into a model of global climate change up to the mid-21st century. Under the model’s microscope are future hurricane seasons in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, along with rainfall over the Rocky Mountains and wind patterns in the Great Plains.”

This type of article perpetuates the myth that the climate science community currently has the capability to make skilled regional multi-decadal predictions [in this case of hurricane activity]. Such claims to not conform even to the statements by IPCC authors.

For example, see An Essay “The IPCC Report: What The Lead Authors Really Think” By Ann Henderson-Sellers where she reports that

“The rush to emphasize regional climate does not have a scientifically sound

Even Kevin Trenberth, one of the Lead IPCC authors, has written (see)

“the science is not done because we do not have reliable or regional predictions
of climate.” [see the Climate Science posting on the Trenberth essay - Comment on the Nature Weblog By Kevin Trenberth Entitled “Predictions of climate”.]
The Nature article Forecasting the future of hurricanes is yet another example of not critically and objectively assessing claims made by climate scientists. What ever happened to objective journalism in Nature?

Cato's Cannon On Health Coverage Costs

Avoiding health-care chaos, by Michael Cannon
The Washington Times, Sunday, December 28, 2008

To hear the media tell it, comprehensive health care reform is a done deal. Democrats control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Business, labor and the insurance industry are on board. The lion has lain down with the lamb.

In reality, reform could crater for the same reasons it did in 1994: The leading Democratic plans include radical changes that would tax and disrupt the health care of millions. With a minimum price tag of $120 billion, universal health insurance coverage will require taxing the middle class during a recession, further expanding a $1 trillion deficit, or having the government deny medical care to patients. An estimated 30 million Americans would lose their current coverage under Barack Obama's plan. Millions could lose established relationships with their doctors.

Today's love-fest will quickly descend into a bloodbath once the lions make their intentions clear.
The carnage would mount over time. The leading plans would cost lives by effectively nationalizing health insurance and impeding innovations that make medicine better, cheaper and safer.

Republicans, centrist Democrats, and independents must protect Americans from the worst elements of those proposals. That means drawing three lines in the sand. Any proposal that crosses one of the following lines should be stopped. Not watered down. Not enacted and fixed later. Killed.

(1) No government-run health care for the middle class.

Echoing the Left's rallying cry of "Medicare for all," Mr. Obama proposes a Medicare-like option for everyone under age 65. Others endorse variants on that theme.

Medicare is an unwise model for reform. When private health plans and providers try to meet the glaring need for electronic medical records, coordinated care, and medical-error reduction, Medicare's change-resistant payment system punishes them for doing so. That discourages innovation and costs lives.

The average family of four pays $5,200 in taxes to fund Medicare, only to have Medicare waste one third of it (about $1,700) on services that do nothing to make seniors healthier or happier. That's a pure income transfer to providers of $150 billion - roughly the entire economic output of South Carolina. Diverting those resources from more productive uses, such as covering the uninsured, costs lives.

The Left's plans could cost additional lives by letting government bureaucrats decide who gets medical care. Merely providing current-law benefits under Medicare and other programs will require Congress to double income taxes by midcentury. Since Americans are not likely to tolerate rates that high, at some point Congress will be forced to limit Medicare spending.

The Left's idea of limiting Medicare spending is to have bureaucrats tell Mom she cannot have the cancer treatment she wants. Obama & Co. propose taxpayer-funded research that will help Medicare do just that. Expanding government health programs will hasten the day that government rations medical care to seniors.

Finally, a public plan would pay providers less than private insurance. Patients switching to public coverage may therefore find that their doctor can no longer see them, just as Medicare enrollees are having an increasingly difficult time finding primary care physicians.

(2) No mandates.

You cannot improve a bad product by forcing people to buy it. But you can make it worse. Mandating that people purchase health insurance - on their own or through an employer - will increase its cost and oust millions from their current source of coverage.

Mr. Obama's employer mandate could force 80 million Americans to switch from their current health plan to a more expensive one, threatening their current source of care. Premiums would climb further as providers and other special interests demand that Congress mandate coverage of their services. As premiums rise, more people will require government subsidies to comply with the mandate.

(3) No price controls.

Price controls have failed in every application throughout history, including health insurance.
Economists find that free markets provide secure health insurance to lots of sick people, and that forcing insurers to charge the same premiums to healthy and sick people offers no improvement. Instead, such premium controls encourage insurers to avoid the sick, and encourage healthy people to avoid insurance altogether.

Premium controls may even cost you your health plan. In the health insurance "exchanges" of the federal government, Harvard University and the University of California, premium controls forced carriers to eliminate comprehensive insurance options.

Taken together, mandates and premium controls would effectively socialize private health insurance. They would eliminate both low-cost and comprehensive insurance options, and slowly march everyone into a narrow range of health plans. If government controls the decision to purchase, what you purchase, and the price, that is government-run health care.

Holding the line against socialized medicine won't be easy, but it can be done. Blocking new public programs will be easiest thanks to industry opposition. According to one report, "Hospitals and doctors fear another public program would reduce what they are paid, as Medicare and Medicaid have done. Insurers worry they could lose customers to the government."

Mandates and price controls will be harder to stop, since the industry and certain struggling employers would love to use those measures to hurt their competitors or otherwise pad their bottom lines. The health insurance lobby, for example, is all too happy to force you to buy health insurance.

Fortunately, opponents have many arrows in their quiver. Mandates are anathema to most employers. Working families will resist being ousted from their current health plan and forced into one that's more expensive or that won't let them see their family doctor. Mandates would give Congress the power to force Americans to fund contraception and abortion, which will mobilize social conservatives.

The Left has been adding arrows to the quiver, too. Mr. Obama himself attacked Hillary Clinton for wanting to "force uninsured people to buy insurance." His prospective National Economic Council chairman, Larry Summers, describes employer mandates as "disguised tax and expenditure measures" that increase unemployment, work against the very people they purport to help, and expand the size of government. Obama campaign adviser David Cutler documented the effect of premium controls on coverage choices at Harvard.

The most important arrow in the quiver may be the self-interest of the Republican Party. Bill Clinton demonstrated that the most effective way to block tax cuts is to paint them as an assault on your health care. Twenty-eight percent of Americans already depend on government for health insurance. If that share grows, whether through government programs or subsidies for "private" coverage, we can start writing obituaries for the party of tax cuts.

An intolerable status quo is no excuse for making things worse. The center-right needs to mobilize now to stop left-wing Democrats from taking another large leap toward socialized medicine.

Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute and coauthor of "Healthy Competition: What's Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It."

Higher-ed Spending Is Not the Answer

Higher-ed Spending Not the Answer, by Neal McCluskey
This article appeared in the Baltimore Sun on December 17, 2008

Despite conventional wisdom - and the huge higher education spending increase just proposed for Maryland - giving academia more public bucks is not the path to economic success.

The cries for more money have certainly been abundant. In October, the New America Foundation's Michael Dannenberg declared that states should deficit spend on higher ed to keep tuitions low and economies running. In November, the Center for Studies in Higher Education implored Washington to fight recession by spending big on scholars. This month, the College Board, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education all decried states' tight outlays.

Finally, on Wednesday, a commission chaired by Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., a St. Mary's County Democrat, proposed that Maryland expend an additional $760 million on its ivory towers to keep the state competitive.

But colleges, despite their claims, are not great growth-makers. Yes, individuals with college degrees tend to do better than those without, but that doesn't mean forced higher ed spending is an economic good.

For one thing, we put more people into universities than can benefit from them. Nationally, about one-third of college students need remedial work (Maryland's rate is roughly the same) and many never graduate. In fact, the six-year graduation rate for all bachelor's students is just 56 percent.

But isn't the problem that college prices keep rising, forcing students to work when they should be learning? And isn't that rooted in ever-skimpier state support?

It's true that prices have ballooned. According to the College Board, nationally the inflation-adjusted costs of tuition, fees, room, and board have risen about 52 percent at public four-year schools over the last 15 years, going from $9,460 to $14,340. Four-year private schools have seen a 42 percent price leap, from $24,060 to $34,130.

But shrinking public funds aren't to blame. For one thing, state appropriations have little impact on private institutions. For another, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers, nationwide the nearly three-decade trend is essentially flat. And, between 1992 and 2007, real (inflation-adjusted) state and local government expenditures per student in Maryland increased roughly 23 percent.

So, what accounts for rampant tuition inflation? Many things, but one of the biggest is student aid. Nationally, real sticker prices rose 52 percent at public four-year institutions between 1993 and 2008, but the increase was a more modest 35 percent after accounting for grants and tax benefits such as credits and deductions - essentially free money. At private institutions, the after-free-cash increase was 34 percent. And those numbers ignore cheap federal loans, which after adjusting for inflation grew from $2,830 per pupil in 1993 to $4,841 in 2007.

Of course, all this forced largesse might be worth something if it actually strengthened the economy. But there is evidence it doesn't. Economist Richard Vedder has isolated the effects of higher ed spending and found that the more states spend, the lower their rates of economic growth.

Why is this? In part, it's a function of the bureaucratic inefficiencies - and special-interest payoffs - that accompany almost anything government does. More fundamentally, taxpayers know their needs better than anyone else, and when they can keep their money attend to them more effectively than does the ivory tower.

Scholars and politicians might not like to hear these things. But before the state drops three-quarters of a billion dollars on its universities, they're worth considering.

Neal McCluskey is associate director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom and author of Feds in the Classroom: How Big Government Corrupts, Cripples, and Compromises American Education.

Changing the tone in Washington is easier said than done

Rich's Derangement Syndrome, by Peter Wehner
The Corner/NRO, Monday, December 29, 2008

Frank Rich is perhaps the most reliably splenetic op-ed writer in America. He is chronically disenchanted, seemingly happiest when seething, and always in search of people to demonize. To put it another way: He is the print version of Keith Olbermann. Rich’s latest column criticizing Rick Warren, then, is par for the course. But it also illustrates something else, and something important, Barack Obama will find out soon enough. Changing the tone in Washington is easier said than done.

George W. Bush came to Washington hoping to do the same thing, and he had reason to be hopeful. As governor of Texas he worked well with Democrats and had no real stake in the bitter partisan battles of the 1990s. As president, Bush himself, if not perfect, was consistently civil and did not engage in personal attacks against his critics. That is in part because Bush is himself a man of admirable grace. Yet the president became a polarizing figure, hated by the Left, and gave rise to a politico-psychological phenomenon: Bush Derangement Syndrome. It turned out President Bush could control what he said, but he couldn’t control what others said about him.

My sense is that like Bush, Obama is a man of core decency. But sometimes even a president, driven by the best of intentions, cannot alter certain habits of mind and heart, or other people’s rage.

It turns out that some people in politics are perpetually angry. Their opposition to certain policies quickly and easily transmutes into the politics of personal destruction. And the dust-up over Rick Warren is evidence that contrary to the conventional wisdom, more than a few liberals have an investment in fueling the “culture wars.” They are even intent on ensuring that Obama’s inauguration becomes the latest battlefield in that clash. Obama, in trying to build a symbolic early bridge to conservative evangelicals, has been unable to keep his supporters from adding to the divisions in our nation.

It should be added that political divisions and acrimony are part of American history and typical of politics in almost every other nation. Political debates often ignite passionate feelings. And comity in politics, while certainly something worth striving for, is not the highest good in politics. Pursuing justice and advancing human dignity are more important — and sometimes championing justice and human dignity can create deep divisions within a society. Think of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ronald Reagan, to name just three of the more polarizing figures in American history.

In any event, Barack Obama remains a wildly popular figure among liberals. Yet one can sense how the unease they have about his Cabinet picks increased with Obama’s choice to have the Reverend Warren participate in his inauguration. Even before Obama has taken the oath of office, unalloyed joy has given way to a very slight but detectable fear: Obama isn’t going to be the embodiment of all of their hopes (and fury). As those concerns harden, they will begin to lay out their demands, which they will insist be met.

In addition, important Democratic figures like Barney Frank are making it clear that he will pursue politics his way, regardless of what Obama might like. Based on his comments, Representative Frank seems to view Obama as naive and far too confident of his capacity to change how politics in practiced in Washington. I suspect there are many other veteran Democrats on Capitol Hill who are not going to march in lock-step with Obama, even assuming he wants to change the nature of political discourse in America.

If Obama can succeed in his effort, more power to him. But I suspect the road ahead is fraught with far more obstacles than he imagined. And if the tone of politics does markedly improve in the next four years, it will be in large measure because Republicans decided to treat America’s 44th president with more civility and class than Democrats treated America’s 43rd president. I hope Republicans do, for the sake of our politics and our country.

Is There a Relationship between Guns and Freedom? Comparative Results from 59 Nations

Kopel, David B., Moody, Carlisle E. and Nemerov, Howard: Is There a Relationship between Guns and Freedom? Comparative Results from 59 Nations (December 23, 2008).
Texas Review of Law and Politics, Vol. 13.
Available at SSRN: http://

There are 59 nations for which data about per capita gun ownership are available. This Article examines the relationship between gun density and several measures of freedom and prosperity: the Freedom House ratings of political rights and civil liberty, the Transparency International Perceived Corruption Index, the World Bank Purchasing Power Parity ratings, and the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom. The data suggest that the relationships between gun ownership rates and these other measures are complex. The data show that (although exceptions can be found) the nations with the highest rates of gun ownership tend to have greater political and civil freedom, greater economic freedom and prosperity, and much less corruption than other nations. The relationship only exists for high-ownership countries. Countries with medium rates of gun density generally scored no better or worse than countries with the lowest levels of per capita gun ownership.

Article can be requested from Bipartisan Alliance.

CBO's Orszag, now Obama's budget chief, and health coverage costs

Orszag's Health Warning
Obama's budget chief delivers a reality check on costs
WSJ, Dec 28, 2008, 10:11 P.M. ET

Democrats are gearing up for a new run at health care next year, which is another way of saying that it's an arms race to promise the most while disguising the costs. So when the expensive realities of "universal" coverage somehow intrude, taxpayers can't afford to let those moments disappear down the Beltway memory hole.

The most recent such moment comes courtesy of Peter Orszag, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office. CBO is the shop responsible for estimating how much legislation will cost the government, and recently it released two important reports on health-care financing that should hit Democrats like a cinderblock, assuming they read them. The executive summary for busy politicians is that liberal health reforms will be extremely costly, while measures intended to "save" money won't even come close to the promises. None of this will come as a revelation anywhere besides Capitol Hill.

Even so, this skepticism is notable because Mr. Orszag has since left CBO to become Barack Obama's budget director. Mr. Orszag's useful work on the unchecked growth of U.S. health spending, especially entitlements, ought to put the cost issue at the center of the 2009 debate. CBO expects government outlays on Medicare and Medicaid to rise as a share of the economy to 6% from 4.2% in a decade -- to $1.4 trillion, or nearly 30% of the entire federal budget -- and eventually ruin federal solvency. If costs grow on pace, U.S. medical spending will rise to 25% of GDP in 2025 from 17% today.

The liberal solution to this looming catastrophe is to add even more obligations. The insurance program for children that Democrats plan to expand in January will cost an extra $80 billion over the next 10 years. Preventing automatic cuts in the reimbursement fees that doctors receive for treating Medicare patients -- as Congress does every few years -- runs to $556 billion.

Those are nothing compared to the centerpiece of the universal health-care agenda -- a "public option" to provide government insurance for Americans of all ages and incomes. In one scenario, CBO finds that allowing the nonpoor to buy into Medicaid would have net costs of $7.8 billion over the next decade. If that sounds like pocket change, keep in mind that Democrats want to make both the public option and private insurance less expensive for beneficiaries by transferring the extra costs onto the government. Just one subsidy plan CBO examined would run to $65.5 billion by 2019. Having the government assume responsibility for high-cost claims would hit $752 billion.

CBO rolls through 115 of these reform options -- and it quickly becomes evident why even Democrats concede that their new health programs will cost $150 billion or even $200 billion per year. The real numbers will be higher. Keep in mind, too, that these are new recurring obligations, not one-time spending like (presumably) the financial bailout. They're politically unrepealable programs that will remain for decades.

Democrats, including Mr. Obama, suggest that covering everyone under a government plan will reduce costs through efficiency. Not according to CBO. It notes that there are "difficult trade-offs between the objectives of expanding insurance coverage and controlling both federal and total costs for health care." CBO also finds that programs designed to trim costs, such as health information technology or comparative effectiveness research, will produce only modest savings.

Mr. Orszag is a centrist liberal, and he supports reforms intended to squeeze waste out of the health markets. But to his credit at CBO he didn't ignore the data. Many Democrats (and a few Republicans) are glad that he's departing and are searching for a CBO replacement who will "score" their bills more favorably. The best outcome would be if Mr. Orszag manages to introduce some health-care sobriety to the Obama White House.

TNYT Editorial On Mr Obama's Labor Agenda

The Labor Agenda
TNYT Editorial, December 29, 2008

There is no doubt that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen a labor secretary who could be a transformative force in a long-neglected arena. The question is whether he will let her.

Hilda Solis, a United States representative from Southern California, is the daughter of immigrant parents with union jobs. She has been an unfailing advocate of workers’ rights during eight years in Congress and before that, in California politics.

Ms. Solis has been a leader on traditional workplace issues, like a higher minimum wage and an enhanced right to form unions. She also has helped to expand the labor agenda by sponsoring legislation to create jobs in green technology, and in her support for community health workers and immigration reform.

Her record in Congress dovetails with the mission of the Labor Department, to protect and further the rights and opportunities of working people. It also dovetails with many of the promises Mr. Obama made during the campaign, both in its specifics and in its focus on the needs of America’s working families.

The main issue is whether the Obama administration will assert a forceful labor agenda in the face of certain protests from business that now — during a recession — is not the time to move forward.

The first and biggest test of Mr. Obama’s commitment to labor, and to Ms. Solis, will be his decision on whether or not to push the Employee Free Choice Act in 2009. Corporate America is determined to derail the bill, which would make it easier than it has been for workers to form unions by requiring that employers recognize a union if a majority of employees at a workplace sign cards indicating they wish to organize.

Ms. Solis voted for the bill when it passed the House in 2007. Senate Republicans prevented the bill from coming to a vote that same year. Mr. Obama voted in favor of bringing the bill to the Senate floor and supported it during the campaign.

The measure is vital legislation and should not be postponed. Even modest increases in the share of the unionized labor force push wages upward, because nonunion workplaces must keep up with unionized ones that collectively bargain for increases. By giving employees a bigger say in compensation issues, unions also help to establish corporate norms, the absence of which has contributed to unjustifiable disparities between executive pay and rank-and-file pay.

The argument against unions — that they unduly burden employers with unreasonable demands — is one that corporate America makes in good times and bad, so the recession by itself is not an excuse to avoid pushing the bill next year. The real issue is whether enhanced unionizing would worsen the recession, and there is no evidence that it would.

There is a strong argument that the slack labor market of a recession actually makes unions all the more important. Without a united front, workers will have even less bargaining power in the recession than they had during the growth years of this decade, when they largely failed to get raises even as productivity and profits soared. If pay continues to lag, it will only prolong the downturn by inhibiting spending.

Another question clouding the labor agenda is whether Mr. Obama will give equal weight to worker concerns — from reforming health care to raising the minimum wage — while the financial crisis is still playing out. Most members of his economic team are veterans of the Clinton administration who tilt toward Wall Street. In the Clinton era, financial issues routinely trumped labor concerns. If Mr. Obama’s campaign promises are to be kept, that mindset cannot prevail again. Mr. Obama’s creation of a task force on middle-class issues, to be led by Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and including Ms. Solis and other high-ranking officials, is an encouraging sign that labor issues will not be given short shrift.

There are many nonlegislative issues on the agenda for Ms. Solis. Safety standards must be updated: in the last eight years, the Labor Department has issued only one new safety rule of its own accord; it issued a few others only after being compelled by Congress or the courts. Overtime rules that were weakened in 2004 need to be restored. To enforce labor standards, the Labor Department will need more staff and more money, both of which have been cut deeply by President Bush.

Only the president can give the new labor secretary the clout she will need to do well at a job that has been done so badly for so long, at such great cost to the quality of Americans’ lives.