Grassroot Perspective – March 19, 2003-Expanding Contractors; Net Tax Tango; The Grim Green Giant: The Environmentalist Establishment's Lobbying Behemoth; The Four Horsemen of Cafe

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“Dick Rowland Image”

”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


– Expanding Contractors

The shooting is probably just weeks away and when it starts private contractors will be helping it make it happen. This is both good and bad.

It is positive development that so many defense functions have been contracted out to the private sector. This is cheaper and more efficient, and it frees up the uniformed services to do the truly nasty stuff. The “back office” support functions can also stay up-to-date with civilian technologies and procedures rather than be relegated to some government manual for decades at a time.

The downside is that modern war — especially with a non-conventional foe — already makes little distinction between civilians and combatants. Using contractors in nearly frontline conditions blurs that boundary even more.

Right now, there is no clear understanding of how close contractors should get to the fighting. A hard and fast bright line may be impossible to find, but erring on caution should be the rule. There should be no question that the uniformed military is actually fighting the war.

Civilian support for that fighting will be direct enough in terms of repairing systems that blow things up or direct fire onto targets. If there is need for any more direct civilian involvement in combat, the U.S. might need to consider some sort of foreign legion and place contractors in the role of mercenaries. They wouldn’t exactly be within the traditional command structure, but they wouldn’t be civilians any longer either.

In the meantime, one sure growth area for contractors is the new Homeland Security department. The operation is short of help to run the infrastructure protection unit. The job transferred over from the FBI. The staff didn’t.


– Net Tax Tango

Having squandered billions in new spending in recent years, state legislatures are casting about for more revenue. Internet sales taxes, they feel, should be the new another honey pot.

Trouble is, even assuming states have the legal standing to levy taxes on transactions outside their borders, they have done next to nothing to solve the practical hurdles. Even states that are members of the Streamlined Sales Tax Project have yet to actually streamline their taxes.

Until states come to some sort of agreement on what is taxable at the state level, it will be effectively impossible to collect taxes on retail transactions. No small Web-retailer could possibly comply with the thousands of permutations of state sales taxes.

Meanwhile, many sales taxes exist not so much to raise revenue as to favor or punish particular items. Snack taxes, food exemptions, sale tax “holidays” — all show that officials like to bring a good bit of social engineering along with their revenue expectations.

They can’t have it both ways. If they want to tax out-of-state transactions, they’ll have to significantly simplify their sales levies. If they want to play favorites with certain sectors, they’ll have to kiss off whatever they think they are losing in Web-based revenue.


Above articles are quoted from Reason Express 3/4/03

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

– The Grim Green Giant: The Environmentalist Establishment’s Lobbying Behemoth

By Hugo Gurdon

The 12 biggest environmental pressure groups in the United States enjoy combined annual revenues of $1.9 billion, according to recent Internal Revenue Service figures. Of 20 million corporations in the United States, only 725 can boast such an opulent income.

The green Big Twelve include some organizations that are merely left-of-center, such as the Nature Conservancy ($731 million) and the Wildlife Conservation Society ($311 million). But there are also genuinely extreme organizations that militate aggressively against new technology, the market, and property rights — like the World Wildlife Fund ($118 million) and the Sierra Club ($73 million) — to the detriment of the economy and the majority of ordinary people.

These organizations are richly financed by the developed world’s comfortable middle classes, among whom they stoke a largely romantic environmentalism that, when manifested in policy, does harm to less fortunate people everywhere. A fitting collective name for them is the Grim Green Giant — always looming, waiting to sow fear at every step of technological innovation.

The Grim Green Giant’s immense resources have allowed it to mount brilliant public relations campaigns that have moved the terms of the policy debate in its direction, successfully selling a view of economic activity as being antithetical to the public interest and the environment: that mankind can enjoy robust growth or maintain a livable planet, but cannot have both.

This is a false choice. Economic growth and prosperity are allies, not enemies, of conservation; wealth allows people to invest in the environment. But for environmental pressure groups, alarmism and doomsaying bring in far more in donations than does reasoned weighing of risks.

Radical environmentalists are not the David in the David-and-Goliath fight against evil, polluting Big Business that they like to portray — but their propaganda has convinced many otherwise.

The worst impact of the greens’ P.R. success is the policies they push. Green prescriptions are often merely sublimated socialism that, like more traditional forms of socialism, cares little for the livelihoods it wrecks along the way. The vested environmental interests get their money and the poor of the world get the shaft.

Let’s look at some examples. Genetically Modified Foods. Genetically modified (GM) crops are environmentally friendly because they reduce the need for pesticides. In 2000, for instance, the use of pest-resistant GM cotton in the United States saved 3.4 million pounds of raw materials and 1.4 million pounds of fuel oil in the manufacture and distribution of synthetic pesticides. Cotton farmers used 2.4 million gallons less fuel and 93 million gallons less water than they would have with non-modified crops.

A quarter of the corn in the U.S. commodity stream is genetically modified, and Americans have been eating it and other GM foods for years without ill effect. The risk of introducing human allergens into food is lower with genetic engineering than with conventional plant breeding because the new science is more selective about which genes it transfers from one species to another.

Yet, the Grim Green Giant has persuaded many people, particularly in Europe, that genetic engineering is creating poisonous-or at best hazardous-“Frankenfoods.” Fine. Europe wealthy enough to look after herself, and has chosen to pay too much for groceries with massive farm subsidies for years. But GM food imports are banned in Europe and this green protectionism has dire, even fatal, consequences elsewhere. Drought-stricken African countries have rejected GM corn seed for fear of losing exports to Europe, even though it would increase crop yields and afford that continent some protection against the ravages of pests and drought.

Zambian President Levey Mwanawasa, rejected milled corn from the U.S., saying: Simply because [2.4 million of] my people hungry, that is no justification to give them poison food that is intrinsically dangerous to their health.” Whatever Mr. Mwanawasa’s motives for this outrage, green alarmism is the main culprit. For instance, Sierra Club calls for “a moratorium on planting of all genetically engineered crops, including those now approved.” This, acknowledges the Club, is “in accordance with the Precautionary Principle,” which calls for the prevention of any new activity that may harm the environment, “even if the causal line between the activity and the possible harm has not been proven.”

DDT. Many people in Western nations still consider the banned pesticide DDT what Silent Spring author Rachel Carson called it in 1962: an “elixir of death.”

The truth, however, is that can DDT be used safely and if used properly can save millions of lives. Malaria was an increasing rarity in Africa until DDT use was stopped, but has surged back and now kills over a million people on that continent every year. But, as a recent New York Times editorial points out, “there are still too many obstacles preventing nations that need it from using DDT when appropriate.” Fears about DDT — stoked by statist environmentalists — have led developed nations that have banned DDT to refuse to pay for its use in poorer countries.

The recently signed Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) wisely allows for the use of DDT for malaria control in underdeveloped countries. But the National Resources Defense Council sees the POPs treaty as “only the beginning of the process that will eliminate POPs globally.”

An environmental movement genuinely concerned about protecting ordinary people would advocate widespread use of the pesticide against malaria rather than spend huge amounts of money to scare people from using it.

Sales of Ivory. Environmental groups were furious when the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species(CITES) voted in November to allow South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia to sell 60 tons of elephant ivory.

World Wildlife Federation (WWF) vice president Ginette Hemley said that “legal sales could fuel demand for illicit ivory.” But CITES is hardly the poachers’ friend. Its safeguards will ensure legal ivory is not used to launder poached ivory into the world market. And by giving local Africans a financial stake in the survival of the species, CITES will encourage locals to conserve herds-benefiting both humans and the African elephant. Yet, the WWF brags that “strong lobbying” by it “and other conservation groups” led African countries to withdraw their requests for annual sales in addition to the approved one-time sale.

The Kyoto Treaty. Even if every country in the world signed the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, the treaty would reduce global warming only by about 0.14 of a degree Celsius by the year 2100. With China, South America, Africa, India, and the United States outside the treaty, the actual figure will be more like 0.04 of a degree. Even if the science of global warming were solid, which it is not, this would be a pointlessly small reduction. Green activists implicitly agree when they say Kyoto is just a first step — Sierra Club president Adam Werbach calls Kyoto a “first baby step” — but it is more like a slippery slope towards global economic stagnation.

The European Union, the treaty’s principal backer, can achieve its Kyoto emissions reductions by simple measures such as shutting down unproductive factories in the former East Germany and switching British power generation from government subsidized coal to clean burning gas. These were happening even without Kyoto-dictated by sound economics. But for poor nations that must use whatever energy they have available, reducing emissions will mean cutting down energy consumption to levels that will retard economic development.

By militating against economic advancement, the Grim Green Giant makes it more difficult for millions to escape poverty and its attendant evils-hunger, disease, and illiteracy. Rather than help up the little guy, he sits comfortably up on a perch of wealth and privilege, pulling up the ladder as others try to join him.

Left-of-Center Groups Total 2001 Income Nature Conservancy $731,893,471 Wildlife Conservation Society $311,725,830 Ducks Unlimited $139,232,266 Trust for Public Land $124,816,000 Humane Society $61,728,724 Subtotal $1,369,396,291

Radical Environmentalists Total 2001 Income World Wildlife Fund $118,144,311 National Wildlife Federation $98,801,711 National Audubon Society $94,141,652 Sierra Club Foundation $73,814,363 Conservation International $68,960,797 Natural Resources Defense Council $55,696,677 Environmental Defense $42,868,851 Subtotal $552,428,362

TOTAL $1,921,824,653 Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy Hugo Gurdon is CEI’s 2002-2003 Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow.

– The Four Horsemen of Cafe

By Sam Kazman

Warning: This was written before the appearance of the fifth and biggest CAFE Horseperson: Arianna Huffington.

We did not mourn the congressional stalemate over an energy bill this past year. While it meant the death of several deregulatory measures, it also stopped, at least temporarily, a bipartisan array of boondoggles and climate control curtsies. But what the impasse meant for one of our favorite (not) programs, CAFE, won’t be clear for some time.

CAFE-short for Corporate Average Fuel Economy-is the federal government’s set of fuel economy standards for new cars and light trucks. CAFE was the focus of heated debate last year, when the Senate took up a Democratic proposal to make the standards far more stringent than they currently are. The fact that the proposal even made it to the Senate floor indicates the Alice in Wonderland nature of the debate. In the summer of 2001, a National Academy of Sciences study corroborated what CEI and others have claimed for over a decade — that CAFE kills. Specifically, the study found that, through its downsizing effect on cars, CAFE contributes to between 1,300 and 2,600 highway deaths per year.

Despite this, the congressional debate was not over repealing CAFE, but over how much more stringent — and deadly — to make it. CAFE advocates, who generally subscribe to the Precautionary Principle (“Do absolutely nothing unless it’s proven to be absolutely safe”), ditched their alleged safety concerns by dismissing the NAS findings. Their major argument: The finding wasn’t unanimous, since “only” 11 of the 13 NAS panel members agreed that CAFE kills.

The safety issue did have an impact: Moderate CAFE proposals won out over the radical ones. But the energy bill impasse left CAFE in congressional limbo, and, since politics abhors a vacuum, the field is now filling up with activists calling for dangerous CAFE “reform” proposals. There are four noteworthies:

*1) Keith Bradsher, author of High and Mighty: SUVs-The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way. When Bradhser was the New York Times’ Detroit bureau chief, he wrote a seemingly endless series of stories on the horrors of SUVs: SUVs are unsafe for their occupants; they are unsafe for nonoccupants; they’re really unsafe when passed down to teenage drivers, etc. In his book, Bradsher takes this theme to infinity and beyond, exploring the allegedly asocial psyche of SUV owners and the need for such legal “reforms” — I kid you not — as extra punishment for SUV owners involved in accidents if they didn’t really “need” their SUVs. But if SUV owners are such asocial beasts, then why are they the ones called upon during snow emergencies to ferry patients to hospitals?

*2) Consumer Reports. Decades ago, Consumer Reports magazine accurately noted that large cars are more crashworthy than small cars. But that was before car size became fused with politics: Big cars are now “wasteful” and therefore evil. In a December 2002 four-page article, “Fuel Economy-Stalled In Traffic,” Consumer Reports dismisses the CAFE-safety issue as an industry claim that has supposedly been refuted. You won’t find a word, not one single word, about the NAS finding on CAFE deaths.

*3) What Would Jesus Drive? The WWJD campaign went into high gear in November, when its leaders — gathered under an umbrella named the Evangelical Environmental Network — met with Detroit auto execs, apparently to reveal some divine truths about consumer demand. Bringing religion into the issue of car ownership seems pretty questionable. But if morality does bear on this, then what about the sanctity of human life? In its push for higher CAFE standards, the WWJD campaign simply ignores the CAFE safety issue. Apparently, for these folks the NAS study isn’t just inconvenient; it’s blasphemous.

*4) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In early December NHTSA proposed to raise the CAFE standard for SUVs and other light trucks. NHTSA didn’t exactly ignore the safety issue, but it did come close to burying it, arguing that the higher standard would not force automakers to do anything they weren’t already planning to do. But if that’s so, then why raise the standard?

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, CEI and Consumer Alert sued NHTSA, arguing that it had illegally ignored CAFE’s lethal effects. A federal court ruled in our favor, finding that this agency had done its best to conceal the fact that one of its programs kills people. (Remember, NHTSA’s middle name is safety.) In the court’s words, the agency’s whitewashing of CAFE was based on “lame claims,” “statistical legerdemain,” and “bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.” Regulatory history, it seems, repeats itself.

Above articles are quoted from Competitive Enterprise Institute CEI” Monthly Planet Volume 16, Number 1>

”Evergreen (Today’s Quotes)”

“You can have a lord, you can have a king, but the man to fear is the tax collector.” — ancient sumerian proverb “Money does not pay for anything, never has, never will. It is an economic axiom as old as the hills that goods and services can be paid for only with good and services.” — Albert Jay Nock, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man [1943]

“As surgeon general, I was called everything … I was called the ‘condom queen.’ But I don’t mind putting that crown on my head and sleeping with it.” — Jocelyn Elders, Former Surgeon General

”’Edited by Richard O. Rowland, president of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. He can be reached at (808) 487-4959 or by email at:”’ ”’For more information, see its Web site at:”’