Archive for March, 2010

Unintentional Comedy at 70 mph

Posted by on Mar 31 2010 | Economics, Idiot Box (TV Show), Transportation

As Yogi Berra once said, “it’s deja vu all over again.”  Remember those FasTracks lies we’ve been told for 30 years?  Well, a new report from the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority makes RTD’s distortions look like child’s play.  The report claims that “high speed” rail lines between Fort Collins and Pueblo, and Denver International Airport and Eagle County – I-25 and I-70 respectively – would cost over $21 billion AND not need a dime of tax payer money.  I’ll let you finish laughing before I go on….

Further, the study claims, “for every dollar of capital and operating costs, the project creates economic benefits greater than one dollar.”  If true, that begs the question: why on earth would we need government to do it if the project is both economically feasible and profitable? The fact that entrepreneurs are not jumping all over this alleged gold mine is proof enough it’s a money loser.  Obviously I don’t even need to rely on any sort of theoretical argument here.  Look at the history!  Look at the empirical evidence right in front of our eyes!  We’ve got a FasTracks project underfunded, over-budget, and largely unbuilt that is already over 30 years in the making.

For your viewing pleasure, an additional assortment of unbelievable claims and interesting tidbits:

  • We’re supposed to believe that this passenger rail system can be maintained without taxpayer money, while AmTrak is subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of $50 per ticket.
  • The study was funded by a firm that designs rail projects and manages construction projects.
  • That people would be willing to pay $80 round trip to Vail just to go as fast as they would in their cars.
  • That $40 ticket each way is the low cost estimate. As in, “could be as low as $40 per ticket.” Wow.
  • It projects ridership upwards of 35 million passengers a year. The Boston to Washington DC corridor carries around 10 million per year.
  • About that last figure, the 35 million one, Amtrak carries around 10 million per year as well.  That math just don’t add up.
  • These great facts and figures were brought to my attention through this fantastic Denver Post editorial and Denver Daily News piece. The DDN article features our very own Senior Fellow in Transportation Randal O’Toole. Randal has been a waging a war on the bogus claims made by RTD over the years and pulled no punches on this outrageous report saying, “They’re using the most optimistic assumptions imaginable and then relying on compounded optimistic assumptions.” Yeah, kind of like compounded interest. Except with compounded optimism you don’t make money, you lose a ton and go deep into debt.

    If the project gets off the ground and begins indebting our state and delivering nothing like all other ambitious transportation projects, the Independence Institute will be there once again to say, “I told you so.”  Randal will have the opportunity to say, “You should have listened to me.”  Again.

    If you haven’t had the chance to hear Randal, take a few minutes and listen.  His recent appearance on my TV show Independent Thinking was an opportunity to say “I told you so” with Denver Post columnist Chuck Plunkett.  Randal also presented to an audience for an event here at the Institute a little while ago titled, “Mobility vs. Gridlock: Colorado’s Transportation Future.” You can view that event via “YouTube playlist here.

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    Leave Our State Alone: A Constitutional Path to Prosperity

    Posted by on Mar 31 2010 | The Founders, U.S. Constitution

    It’s no secret that University of Colorado economics professor and senior fellow Barry Poulson is a prolific writer.  The man cranks out a consistent bevy of works that are both substantive and interesting (the latter being something you almost never get from an economist).  His latest piece is no exception.

    In “Restoring Federalism and State Sovereignty: A Constitutional Path to Prosperity,” Barry gives a brief overview of how we got to where we are – states becoming more and more subservient to Federal power – and the important role the Judiciary played in steering us in that direction.  (I say steering, but Barry would probably say “pushing”).  After years of judicial abdication bolstering Federal powers and all but eviscerating Constitutional constraints, what can we do to turn the ship around?  Is it too late?

    Barry offers a few different paths we can take, all Constitutionally compliant.  One of the possible solutions happens to be the subject of yesterday’s post regarding a very special podcast featuring AG Suthers.  Give Barry a few minutes of your time to flesh out some other solutions.  You won’t regret it.

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    The State Board of Ed… According to Bob

    Posted by on Mar 30 2010 | education,

    Ever wonder what the Colorado State Board of Education does?  I was curious myself, so I tuned in to this 2 part podcast between Fiscal Policy Center Director Penn Pfiffner and former legislator and now current State Board of Education Chairman Bob Schaffer.

    In this first installment, Bob gives listeners news from board – what’s going on, what they’re planning, and information regarding the “Race to the Top” funds.

    In this second installment, Bob goes over what the board does, its functions, its impact, and how it shapes policy for all of Colorado’s schools.

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    AG Suthers on the Obama Care Lawsuit

    Posted by on Mar 30 2010 | Health Care,, Kopelization, The Founders, U.S. Constitution

    We’ve got an extra special podcast today for you.  Colorado Attorney General John Suthers joins our Research Director Dave Kopel to discuss the lawsuit he and 12 others State Attorneys General have jointly filed, that claims that the health care bill recently signed by President Obama  is unconstitutional via a violation of the 10th Amendment.  States’ rights issues are hot right now and this lawsuit is one of many attacks on the Federal government’s encroachment on state sovereignty.  (You might remember Montana’s legislative finger to the Federal government last year).   AG Suthers makes a good point: if Obama Care is allowed to ride, it will be a dangerous precedent – one that we can never return from.  As the AG puts it, if the Feds can punish you for NOT engaging in commerce, is there any limit to their power?  To get the whole scoop, listen to the podcast on

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    Friday’s Funny

    Posted by on Mar 26 2010 | Friday's Funny, Health Care

    © 2010, Benjamin Hummel. To see more cartoons like this go to

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    Renewable Energy Madness

    Posted by on Mar 25 2010 | Environment, Idiot Box (TV Show)

    The recently passed House Bill 1001 mandates that 30 percent of Colorado’s energy be generated from renewable sources by 2020. But can mandates and subsidies really get us to the “New Energy Economy”? On this week’s Independent Thinking, Sate Senators Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) and Mike Johnston (D-Denver) join me for a lively discussion on markets versus mandates and the future of renewable energy in Colorado. That’s this Friday at 8:30 PM on KBDI Cannel 12. Re-broadcast the following Monday at 1:30 PM.

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    Getting Smart on Crime – Unanimously

    Posted by on Mar 24 2010 | Government Largess

    The Denver Daily News reported yesterday that House Bill 1352 passed unanimously. This bill addresses Colorado’s exploding prison population by allowing for treatment for some drug offenders, rather than the currently required jail terms. Justice Policy Center Director Mike Krause has been working on this issue for many years, and believes that this bill is a step in the right direction. You can read Mike’s 2005 Issue Paper – “Getting Smart on Crime: Time to Reform Colorado’s Drug Offense Sentencing Policies” to get an idea of what he thinks drug sentencing should look like, and how sensible reform can bring skyrocketing prison costs down to earth.

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    What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

    Posted by on Mar 23 2010 | Health Care, Property Rights

    I help answer the perennial question now that Obama Care has been passed AND signed into law: What can we do to protect ourselves and our states from the monstrosity that is Obama Care?

    Please take a listen to this quick 6 minute podcast on I did yesterday with Ben DeGrow.

    Please join us in this important fight!
    Read the amendment here.

    Give us your contact info to help gather signatures.

    And please donate to this fight here.

    Become an Defend Colorado fan on Facebook!

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    130+ Economists Agree…

    Posted by on Mar 23 2010 | Economics, Government Largess, Health Care

    Our resident economist, senior fellow, and professor at CU-Boulder Barry Poulson was one of more than 130 economists who signed a letter to President Obama and Congress outlining why Obama Care will be disastrous for our economy and our health. And let’s face it, they ought to take note considering over 130 economists actually agreed on something.

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    Had Enough?

    Posted by on Mar 22 2010 | Capitol Crazies, Health Care, The Founders, U.S. Constitution

    If there were any doubt that our constitutional protection has been lost, that doubt should be removed by the congressional vote subjecting the personal health care decisions of every American to central governmental authority.

    By an extremely narrow majority, the House of Representatives has crammed a profoundly unpopular and unconstitutional measure down the throats of the American public:  And not only unpopular and unconstitutional, but expensive enough to virtually ensure our nation’s eventual bankruptcy.

    Unless it is overturned, nationalized health care will complete the process of changing the Founders’ system of a government dependent on the people to one where the people are dependent on the government.  Citizens will be thoroughly re-molded into subjects.

    The unseemly legislative conduct (the Founders would have called it “corruption”) leading up to the vote have communicated even to those previously not paying attention that federal politicians are now absolutely, utterly out of control.  The majority in Congress has rendered it perfectly clear that there is no constitutional or legal restriction they will not violate.

    As congressional rumblings about the recent Citizens United decision have suggested, protections for free speech may be next.

    There is no “good” response to these outrages – that is, “good” in the sense of easy and foolproof: After all, the very people who perpetrated them also control America’s nuclear arsenal.  There are only responses that, while difficult, offer real hope of success.  Here are a few:

    *    Widespread court challenges, on every colorable constitutional, legal, and technical ground we can think of.  State governments can take a leading role in this, by virtue of the fact that state governments are more likely than individuals to have standing in federal court.  State governments and officials also have much to lose if the feds are allowed to complete their health care takeover.

    *    Health care provider non-compliance:  To the extent they can, physicians and other providers should opt out of the system.  Their choices include partial or complete refusal to participate in Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs; refusal to take any but direct-payment patients; reduced work hours; and even career change and early retirement.  Students considering a medical career should now reconsider.  Given the ominous nature of the federal health care coup d’etat, my guess is that a lot of this will happen anyway.

    *    State constitutional amendments.  One excellent idea is the amendment proposed in Colorado guaranteeing that the state will never participate in any system that denies patients and physicians the right to their own health-care decisions.

    *    Civil disobedience.  This should include state non-compliance with federal health-care mandates and peaceful resistance by providers and citizens at every level.  The model here should be the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

    *    Redoubling efforts for the 2010 elections.  The people responsible for this bill should be cleaned out of Congress – all of them.  In addition, we need to gear up for 2012 and ensure that state lawmakers elected in 2010 fully understand their constitutional obligations.

    *    Amend-to-Save.  A clean sweep of Congress is not enough.  There is now no escaping it – we need amend our Constitution to save it, or we will not have any Constitution left.

    There is nothing new in this last proposal.  Our fathers, grandfathers, and their predecessors all adopted constitutional amendments designed less to change the system than to preserve it.  Again and again, the American people adopted formal amendments to rein in the politicians and restore or reinforce Founding principles.

    Thus, the Ninth Amendment made clear that federal powers were not to be interpreted too expansively.  The Tenth Amendment clarified that the central government had no authority other than that granted by the Constitution.  The Eleventh reversed a Supreme Court opinion that conflicted with the dominant understanding of the ratifiers.  The Twenty-First Amendment restored control over alcoholic beverages to the states, where the Founders had left it.  The Twenty-Second Amendment restored the two-term presidential tradition set by Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.  The Twenty-Seventh, although not finally adopted until 1992, had been proposed by James Madison and sent to the states by the First Congress.  The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth (the post-Civil War amendments) were more radical, but also principally fulfilled the ideals of the Founding.

    Now we need a Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Ninth, and Thirtieth Amendment – not so much to change the Founders’ Constitution as to restore it.  How?   Congress will not reform itself.  Fortunately, the Founders recognized that when Congress veered completely out of control, there had to be a way to amend without its consent.  Hence, they wrote into the Constitution a procedure whereby two-thirds of the states could propose amendments, which would then be drafted by a convention, and approved only if three-quarters of the states ratified them.

    We now have no choice: We are going to have to use that method.  That’s why state legislative races are so important this year.

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