Archive for August, 2013
August 30th, 2013 at 6:00 pm
The Hollywood Slander of Ronald Reagan
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Ronald Reagan may have been the only American president to emerge from Tinseltown (excepting the fact that Barack Obama is clearly a character created by Aaron Sorkin), but that hasn’t inspired any loyalty. The new movie, The Butler, is rife with mischaracterizations of racial progress in America (as ably pointed out by Richard Epstein for the Hoover Institution) — and it’s especially unkind to the Gipper. As Steve Hayward, Paul Kengor, Craig Shirley, and Kiron Skinner — Reagan biographers all — note in today’s Washington Post, Reagan demonstrated a lifetime’s worth of tolerance and enlightenment on racial issues.

One of the film’s larger errors is an implicit assertion that Reagan opposed economic sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa out of simple indifference to black suffering. But as his chroniclers note, the reality is much more complicated:

The unfairness of this scene can be demonstrated by any number of historical facts. In June 1981, still recovering from an assassination attempt, Reagan sent his closest foreign policy aide, William Clark, on his first official trip; it was to South Africa to express America’s disapproval. An unsmiling Clark told Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha to his face that the new president and administration “abhorred apartheid.” Clark walked out on Botha.

While accurate in depicting Reagan’s opposition to sanctions against South Africa, “The Butler” does not explain why he opposed them. Reagan saw sanctions as harmful to the poorest South Africans: millions of blacks living in dire poverty. He also feared that the apartheid regime could be replaced by a Marxist/totalitarian one allied with the Soviet Union and Cuba and that communism would spread throughout the continent. South Africa’s blacks were denied rights under apartheid, but communism would mean no freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, conscience, emigration, travel or even property for anyone. Moreover, in communist nations such as Cambodia and Ethi­o­pia, people had been slaughtered and starved on mass scales. Nearly a dozen nations had become part of the Soviet orbit in the immediate years before Reagan became president. He didn’t want South Africa to undergo the same catastrophe.

Reagan adopted a policy of “constructive engagement,” seeking to keep South Africa in the anti-Soviet faction while encouraging the country toward black-majority rule — no easy feat. In one of his finest speeches, he told the United Nations on Sept. 24, 1984, that it was “a moral imperative that South Africa’s racial policies evolve peacefully but decisively toward . . . justice, liberty and human dignity.” Among his administration’s successes was the Angola-Namibia agreement, which led to the withdrawal of the white South African regime from Namibia and paved the way for that nation’s independence.

Moral preening is always easiest when one bears no responsibility for the consequences. Statesmen weigh trade-offs. Ronald Reagan knew that. Thanks to the current situation in Syria, Barack Obama is about to get a master’s class on the topic.

August 29th, 2013 at 9:02 pm
Most Americans Will See Insurance Costs Rise on Obamacare Exchanges
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We’ve seen similarly dismal numbers before, but this new analysis from National Journal is especially grim:

For the vast majority of Americans, premium prices will be higher in the individual exchange than what they’re currently paying for employer-sponsored benefits, according to a National Journal analysis of new coverage and cost data. Adding even more out-of-pocket expenses to consumers’ monthly insurance bills is a swell in deductibles under the Affordable Care Act.

… Whether the quality of care in the new market is comparable to private offerings remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: The cost of care in the new market doesn’t stack up. A single wage earner must make less than $20,000 to see his or her current premiums drop or stay the same under Obamacare, an independent review by National Journal found. That’s equivalent to approximately 34 percent of all single workers in the U.S. seeing any benefit in the new system. For those seeking family-of-four coverage under the ACA, about 43 percent will see cost savings. Families must earn less than or equal to $62,300, or they, too, will be looking at a bigger bill.

… On average, a worker paid between $862 and $1,065 per year for single coverage in 2013, according to Kaiser’s numbers. For the average family plan, defined as a family of four, insurance cost between $4,226 and $5,284. Fewer than half of all families and only a third of single workers would qualify for enough Obamacare tax subsidies to pay within or below those averages next year.

Some of us intuitively grasped a long time ago what the evidence is now making explicit: government intervention never reduces costs, it just redistributes them. A lot of Americans are about to learn that the hard way.

August 28th, 2013 at 5:07 pm
The Obama Bad Dream: More and More Adult Americans Living with Parents
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Courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, we have yet another statistic to negatively distinguish Barack Obama and give form to his emerging legacy.  Yesterday, it reported that the percentage of adults aged 25 to 34 living with their parents rose again despite the economic “recovery” now into its fifth year.  In 2012, 13.6% of Americans in that age range lived with their parents, which was up from 13.4% in 2011.  That compares with approximately 10% throughout most of the previous decade.  So just as 2 million fewer Americans are working today than when the recession ended five months into Obama’s tenure in June 2009, more and more young adults consider it necessary to move in with Mom and Dad.  Not exactly the change for which young voters hoped in 2008.

August 28th, 2013 at 4:54 pm
The ObamaCare Delay that Could be Fatal

No, I don’t mean news of yet another delay in the controversial health law’s implementation – this time a Reuters report that the Health and Human Services department is pushing back by two weeks its timetable for finalizing deals with health insurance companies.

I mean today’s announcement that former President Bill Clinton is being tasked with explaining what’s so great about ObamaCare to the country. Clinton’s speech next week is being billed as the first of several high-profile speeches designed to sell the law to the 54 percent of Americans who don’t like it.

To be sure, if anybody in politics can make this train wreck look good, it’s Bill Clinton. But why would President Obama wait till now, after three-and-a-half years of public relations futility, to bring in his party’s best spokesman?

Simple: With just over a month to go before ObamaCare’s enrollment begins the president and his administration are in full-blown panic mode. Nothing is on schedule. Their multi-million dollar ad campaign may not attract enough people to enroll. And, oh yeah, we’re about to intervene in Syria’s civil war.

If Clinton gets any traction with his speeches it will be of limited value because so much of the public’s mind has been made up in the years since the law was passed. Prior to that, who knows? As a matter of Politics 101, failing to use such a successful political spokesman strikes me as a huge wasted opportunity. Of all the delays with ObamaCare, putting off Clinton’s rhetorical talents may be the most fatal to the law because – perhaps – they could have done so much to keep it alive.

August 28th, 2013 at 9:06 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Price of Freedom
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 27th, 2013 at 11:53 am
More Bad Economic News for Obama
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Earlier this month, I noted that our economy continues to sputter at stalling speed, some four long years after the last recession officially ended:

The U.S. Commerce Department announced second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth of just 1.7%.  That follows first-quarter 2013 growth of just 1.1%, and fourth-quarter 2012 growth of just 0.1%.  Together, that means our economy has grown less than 1% over the past nine months. That obviously provides additional confirmation that Obama’s economic agenda has failed, even as he barnstorms the country demanding more of the same.”  

Yesterday, Macroeconomic Advisers lowered its third-quarter GDP projection to just 1.8%, which would make four consecutive quarters below 2%.  The fourth quarter of 2012 came in at 0.1%, the first quarter of 2013 was 1.1% and growth for the recently-completed second quarter of 2013 was 1.7%.  That’s significant, because growth below 2% on a year-over-year basis has been followed by a recession some 70% of the time according to a Federal Reserve study.  Keep in mind that the average quarterly GDP growth since 1929 has been 3.3%.

Meanwhile, American workers’ wages continue to stagnate, according to the Labor Department.  Since the recession ended all the way back in June 2009, average hourly pay for non-supervisory employees outside of the government sector has declined 0.9%.  It’s one thing for wages to decline during a recession, but another thing entirely for them to fall during a supposed “recovery.”  Obviously, record trillion-dollar deficits aren’t the only unfortunate novelties of the Obama presidency.

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August 26th, 2013 at 5:06 pm
HHS Hires 86 Cops, 2 Consumer Safety Officers under ObamaCare

How’s this for a snapshot of ObamaCare’s priorities?

Since the controversial health law passed in March 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has hired 1,684 new employees.

Of those, 86 are criminal investigators while only two are consumer safety officers.

The numbers come from HHS data extracted by a Freedom of Information Request by The Daily Mail, a British newspaper.

Bear in mind, HHS’s health cops are in addition to the estimated 16,500 new agents the Internal Revenue Service is seeking to fulfill its ObamaCare policing mandate.

There are, of course, better, much less intrusive ways to do health reform.

“People would voluntarily purchase the health insurance of their choice with basic subsidies. Additional special assistance could be targeted to help those with low incomes and/or high risk-based premium costs in purchasing health insurance,” according to Thomas Miller of the American Enterprise Institute.

Instead of the demanding detailed financial and health information from millions of Americans, Miller proposes treating ObamaCare health insurance subsidies like other income tax issues, so that only “a tiny fraction of taxpayers would be subject to mostly random audits to ensure that their tax subsidies for insurance are being spent appropriately.”

Miller’s solution would nix the need for all the new ObamaCare investigators. Eliminating the 86 new HHS hires would save taxpayers approximately $138.8 million annually.

But that would mean less oversight and control for the federal government, which, as we are seeing with the rise in police-related hiring at HHS and IRS, is not a priority under ObamaCare.

August 23rd, 2013 at 5:39 pm
Why College Prices Keep Going Up
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A few weeks ago, I wrote here about the fact that Congress’ ‘fix’ to interest rates on college loans was small potatoes compared to the rapid inflation in the underlying principal. Moreover, I noted, most of President Obama’s proposals for making higher education more affordable have the economics precisely backwards. Today, AEI’s Richard Vedder sounds a similar note over at Bloomberg:

The president’s proposal has one very bad idea: a forgiveness boon for those paying off loans right now. The proposal, limiting loan payments to 10 percent of income, potentially relieves millions of students from repaying part of their obligation. So why not major in fields the economy values least — anthropology or drama instead of engineering or math — if you don’t have to worry about earning enough to pay off your student loans over a certain period?

The idea simply raises incentives for future students to borrow more money, if they know their obligation to pay it back is capped. That, in turn, allows colleges to keep raising costs.

Obama proposes to ignore or worsen the root cause of much of the explosion in student costs: the federal financial assistance programs that encourage schools to raise costs and that haven’t achieved their goals of providing college access to low-income Americans.

As Vedder notes, virtually all of our federal policy on higher education (and most of the policy proposals that have any traction at the moment) generate precisely these kind of perverse incentives. Recommended reading.

August 23rd, 2013 at 9:56 am
Education: A Nation at Continuing Risk
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Lance Izumi, Koret Senior Fellow and Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, discusses why 30 years after President Reagan’s groundbreaking report, “A Nation at Risk,” America’s education system continues to fail and the role unions have played in the demise of public education.

Listen to the interview here.

August 23rd, 2013 at 8:47 am
Video: ObamaCare Must Go
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In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the importance of the fight to defund ObamaCare.

August 22nd, 2013 at 5:14 pm
Rubio to House GOP: ‘Obama Will Legalize Immigrants If Senate Bill Not Passed’

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is using an interesting tactic to get House Republicans to pass his immigration reform bill – Scare them with threats of a lawless presidency.

“I believe this president will be tempted, if nothing happens in Congress, he will be tempted to issue an executive order as he did for the DREAM Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen,” the presumptive 2016 presidential candidate told a Florida radio station last week.

In effect, Rubio is telling House Republicans – opponents of his pathway to citizenship plan for illegal immigrants – that unless they pass the Senate Gang of Eight’s bad bill President Barack Obama will enlarge his controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Brought to life last year via executive order, Obama directed immigration agents to put illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children at the bottom of the deportation list. The policy also makes available temporary work visas to those covered.

But Rubio, a University of Miami law school graduate and former Speaker of the Florida House, has his eyes on the wrong target.

For one thing, not even the liberal academics that provided cover for the president’s unilateral and unprecedented action think Obama has the power to defer action on every illegal immigrant.

“The justifications for DACA made clear that this is not a situation where the president can reduce overall enforcement of immigration laws. He can just redirect it in certain ways,” former principal deputy attorney general and current University of Virginia law professor David A. Martin told the Washington Post.

And even if President Obama did decide not to enforce any immigration laws, why is his lawlessness an argument against Republicans? Wouldn’t the proper response to an expanded abuse of presidential power be to oppose the president?

Yet it seems like Rubio is giving Obama a pass while preemptively blaming House Republicans for future bad acts the president may commit.

Only in a place like Washington does that kind of logic make sense. If Rubio really believes that the President of the United States won’t be constrained by the separation of powers and the rule of law, then the object of his anger should be directed at the White House, not Republicans in the House of Representatives.

August 21st, 2013 at 5:18 pm
Spouses Losing Doctors & Insurance under ObamaCare

News broke today that the United Parcel Service (UPS) is dropping an estimated 15,000 spouses of its non-union employees from the company’s health insurance plan – largely because of ObamaCare.

Doing so will save UPS around $60 million a year.

Under the health law, working spouses who have access to medical insurance from another employer don’t have to be covered.

The UPS memo explaining the decision cites ObamaCare’s stepped-up coverage requirements as playing a big role, reports Kaiser Health News.

Costly benefits such as the law’s “ban on annual and lifetime coverage limits and its requirement to cover dependent children up to age 26” will raise the cost of premiums for employers.

Eliminating coverage for working spouses is one of the few ways companies can rein in costs while still complying with the law.

But along with losing access to their current doctor networks and benefits, UPS’s soon-to-be-severed working spouses will also likely pay more for health insurance.

“The $500 in-network family deductible for UPS’s basic plan, for example, is less than the nationwide average of $733,” says Kaiser.

Remember that oft-repeated line from President Barack Obama in 2009 that if you like your current doctor and insurance plan you will be able to keep them after ObamaCare goes into effect in 2014?

Fast forward to today, and reality is singing a very different tune.

August 20th, 2013 at 5:54 pm
The Coming ObamaCare Navigator Fraud

In the run-up to ObamaCare’s launch on October 1st we’ve seen plenty of waste and abuse.

Now comes the fraud.

“In Massachusetts, scammers have deceptively marketed fake health insurance policies and created fake web sites that claimed to sell ObamaCare, targeting seniors to gain their personal information,” reports Fox News.

There’s more.

“In Kansas and Alabama, con artists posing as government employees talked people into giving up their account numbers in order to sign up for fake health care plans.” (Emphasis added)

At first blush, it may seem crazy that people would hand over such sensitive information as their Social Security number, medical records, pay stubs and the like to complete strangers.

Yet that’s exactly how ObamaCare envisions millions of Americans getting health insurance on an ObamaCare exchange – by sharing some of their most sensitive financial and health information with an online-certified ‘navigator.’

Yes, we should believe the best about people and hope they don’t succumb to the temptation to sell private information.

But it’s first-order foolishness to expect millions of sensitive transactions involving most of a person’s critical data to be fraud-free.

Fraud, like most crimes, is a crime of opportunity. Shame on the Obama administration for creating so many.

August 20th, 2013 at 10:40 am
Fact of the Day: Unemployment Rose in Most States Last Month
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In this fifth year of the worst economic recovery in our recorded history under Obama, the situation just isn’t improving like it should, or like it has in every previous recovery.  The latest manifestation of that fact came yesterday, when the Department of Labor announced that the unemployment rate rose in 28 states plus the District of Columbia last month, and only fell in 8 states.

As we noted earlier this month, 240,000 people dropped out of the labor force last month while only 160,000 jobs were created.  Moreover, today there are 2 million fewer Americans working than in 2008, even though our overall population has increased by 13 million during that period.  The last recession ended over four years ago in June 2009, which is more than enough time to conclusively demonstrate the failure of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi economic agenda of higher taxes, more regulation, wasteful spending and record deficits.

August 19th, 2013 at 4:16 pm
The Sprawling Administrative State
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The bad news: government is growing. The worse news: the source of this growth is unelected bureaucrats and tinkerers not directly responsible to American citizens. From Ben Goad and Julian Hattem at The Hill:

… [N]ew federal rules are accumulating faster than outdated ones are removed, resulting in a steady increase in the number of federal mandates.

Data collected by researchers at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center shows that the Code of Federal Regulations, where all rules and regulations are detailed, has ballooned from 71,224 pages in 1975 to 174,545 pages last year.

As that timeline suggests, this is a bipartisan phenomenon. We cannot lay the blame purely at Barack Obama’s feet, though the data seems to indicate he’s first among equals:

To be sure, the explosive growth in federal rule-making did not begin with the Obama White House. The 13,000 rules finalized during the president’s first term, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), were slightly fewer than those published during former President George W. Bush’s first term.

Yet the quantity of federal regulations is increasing by some measures at a quickening pace.

More “major rules,” those with an annual economic impact exceeding $100 million, were enacted in 2010 than in any year dating back to at least 1997, according to the CRS.

And over Obama’s first three years in office, the Code of Federal Regulations increased by 7.4 percent, according to data compiled by the Chamber of Commerce. In comparison, the regulatory code grew by 4.4 percent during Bush’s first term.

As the piece goes on to note, the two oversized blank checks to the administrative state from the Obama years have been Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, two cases in which the law really is, in large measure, whatever the regulators say it is. The actual legislation is little more than scaffolding.

In a just world, this would be a bipartisan concern. Even if one agrees with the policies coming out of the bureaucracy, after all, the price is losing any meaningful leash on government. Liberals, however, long ago made the decision that limiting government would only be important to them on a handful of boutique social issues and any instance involving law enforcement or national security. When it comes to the administrative state — well, they’re getting everything they want without having to dirty their hands with the democratic process. Why alter such a sweet deal?

August 19th, 2013 at 10:07 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Obama Branches of Gov’t
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

August 16th, 2013 at 6:05 pm
That Pesky Denominator
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Here’s the thing about all that money we spend on immigration enforcement: we don’t know if any of it actually works. From Fox News:

Despite Washington spending billions of taxpayer dollars on efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, two internal government reports reveal there is no clear way of gauging whether any of it is actually working.

Backing up reporting from Fox News earlier this year, the reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service show the Department of Homeland Security lacks an accurate barometer to measure the success of ramped-up efforts to curtail illegal crossings.

Wasteful, inefficient government at work again? Well, not really.

“Apprehensions data are imperfect indicators of illegal flows because they exclude two important groups when it comes to unauthorized migration: aliens who successfully enter and remain in the United States … and aliens who are deterred from entering the United States,” Marc Rosenblum, immigration policy specialist at CRS, wrote in his May report. “Thus, analysts do not know if a decline in apprehensions is an indicator of successful enforcement, because fewer people are attempting to enter, or of enforcement failures, because more of them are succeeding.”

The report said recent drops in illegal immigration can likely be attributed to a combination of enforcement and the economic downturn in the U.S., “though the precise share of the decline attributable to enforcement is unknown.”

In other words, to borrow from Donald Rumsfeld, we’re dealing with a “known unknown.” That is, by definition, the only data we have is on people that we’ve stopped. The ones who get through obviously don’t get counted. So we known the numerator with no idea as to the size of the denominator.

There isn’t really a policy fix to this problem. Stepping up enforcement may reduce the number of illegals that get through, but we’ll never be able to do more than make rough estimates as to how much of the overall attempted inflow they represent.

Thus, the lesson here isn’t so much that you can’t trust government to do it’s job (though you can generally take that as a given); It’s that you should take any claims about dramatic successes in securing the border with about 10,000 grains of salt. The statistics always look good when you get to record all your successes without reference to your failures.

August 16th, 2013 at 2:51 pm
Study: Young & Healthy People Can Defund ObamaCare

Want to defund ObamaCare, but think DC’s politics make it impossible? Don’t worry. A new study confirms that convincing young healthy people to opt out is the best and fastest way to starve the beast.

“This study finds that in 2014 many single people aged 18-34 who do not have children will have a substantial financial incentive to forego insurance on the exchanges and instead pay the individual mandate penalty of $95 or one percent of income,” says the study’s author, David Hogberg, Ph.D.

Both the savings and the numbers of people affected are potentially huge. “About 3.7 million of those ages 18-34 will be at least $500 better off if they forgo insurance and pay the penalty,” Hogberg writes. “More than 3 million will be $1,000 better off if they go the same route. This raises the likelihood that an insufficient number of young people and healthy people will participate in the exchanges, thereby leading to a death spiral.”

The reason for the massive savings is that young and healthy people won’t use health insurance as much as older and sicker people on the same plan. Thus, the young and healthy will “cross-subsidize” the old and sick by paying in more than they take out in services.

The Obama administration knows this and is gearing up a multi-million ad campaign to convince at least 2.7 million 18-34 year olds (the amount estimated necessary to make the risk pools solvent) to buy a product ObamaCare’s architects don’t want them to use.

But if that sounds like too much of a conspiracy for some (albeit one that’s true), the young and healthy should be reminded of this: Cash-strapped cities like Chicago, Detroit and others are planning to dump thousands of retired public employees into ObamaCare’s risk pools to reduce the legacy costs associated with unsustainable union benefits. Filling the pool with even more older and sicker consumers than anticipated will make enrolling in ObamaCare even more financially absurd for the young and healthy.

Despite all the spin, paying for insurance through an ObamaCare exchange is little more than a voluntary tax on the young and healthy. If conservatives want to stop the health law in its tracks, hammering this point seems like a great way to do it.

August 16th, 2013 at 1:51 pm
ObamaCare’s Voter Registration Ploy Will Spawn Lawsuits

Democratic strongholds like California, Vermont and New York have been quick to use ObamaCare’s state-based insurance exchanges as an excuse to register voters.

State officials are claiming that 1993 National Voter Registration Act (aka the “Motor Voter Act”) requires combining election prospects with health insurance, but the reality is much murkier.

To start, ObamaCare is silent on voter registration. “The health care law spans 974 pages and regulates nearly one-fifth of our economy,” Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) wrote in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, “yet nowhere in the law is voter registration mentioned.”

Then there’s the Motor Voter Act itself.

As written, the law “requires states to offer voter registration at government offices, most commonly departments of motor vehicles,” explains the Detroit Free Press. “With the exchanges, which are in some ways a new kind of government office, some are questioning whether the law applies to them.”

But unlike a state’s motor vehicles department, not all ObamaCare exchanges are standard government agencies. The paper continues, “In some states, the exchange will be a nonprofit; in others it will be part of the state’s health or human services agency. And in many Republican-controlled states, the federal government will operate the exchanges.”

The lack of uniformity is already leading to differing interpretations about whether the Motor Voter Act applies, which in turn is spawning lawsuits.

With this much uncertainty leading to costly court battles, states and their taxpayers would be much better served leaving the question whether Motor Voter applies to ObamaCare for academics to debate.

The alternative is an expensive and unnecessary distraction.

August 16th, 2013 at 11:04 am
“Settled Science?” Only 2% of Climate Projections Were At or Below Actual Temperature Results
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Climate alarmists like Barack Obama typically – but falsely – claim that their agenda rests upon “settled science.”  Of course, that doesn’t explain why they’ve shifted their rhetoric from “global warming” to “climate change” after temperatures flattened over the past two decades despite continual increases in worldwide carbon output.

In that vein, Marlo Lewis over at the Competitive Enterprise Institute made an interesting observation regarding a new paper entitled “Can Climate Models Explain the Recent Stagnation in Global Warming?” from German meteorologist Hans von Storch.  Out of 62 global average temperature projections from climate models used in an upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, only 2% were as low or lower than the actual flat temperature trend over the past 15 years.

So the next time someone claims that anthropomorphic (man-caused) global warming is “settled science” among climatologists, calmly point out that only 2% of those within that herd of independent minds projected temperatures at or below the temperatures that actually occurred.