Category: Public Policy

shavethatyakSince today is Earth Day you’ll be hearing even more discussions than usual about the problem of anthropocentric climate change. What you aren’t likely to hear is sufficient consideration of the question, “What kind of problem is it?”

Many people claim that it is an environmental problem. Some claim that it is a technological, scientific, or even moral problem. Others vigorously contend that is it not a “problem” at all. I believe that, first and foremost, anthropocentric climate change is a political problem. And political problems require that we choose a solution from a range of political options.

Although it may not exhaust the range of possibilities, I believe the basic listing of positions and options on climate change can be derived from a combination of these three categories:

tubman-on-tenLast Summer I predicted that Harriet Tubman would be replacing Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. I was almost right. She’ll be replacing Andrew Jackson.

The U.S. Treasury announced last year that the $10 bill is the next paper currency scheduled for a major redesign — a process that takes years because of the anti-counterfeiting technology involved — and will feature a “notable woman.”

The new ten will be unveiled in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the passage of the nineteenth amendment, which gave women the right to vote. As the Treasury explained, “The passage of the nineteenth amendment granted women their right to fully participate in the system our country was founded on—a government by the people, a democracy.”

In a post last June I wrote: “I’m almost certain they already know who Treasury is going to choose: It’s going to be Harriet Tubman.” Instead, it was Jackson who got demoted to the back of the currency while Tubman will take his place on the front.

I think the Treasury made the right decision. As the first Treasury secretary, Hamilton deserved to stick around on the $10 (leaders of the women’s suffrage movement will be featured on the other side). But it was time for a woman to join the men on our money and, based on the criteria used for consideration, Tubman is a solid choice. She was not only an abolitionist, she served in the Civil War as a Union spy and became the only woman during that conflict to lead men into a battle.

Unfortunately, fans of Tubman will have to wait awhile longer to see her new portrait: the $20 isn’t scheduled for a redesign until 2030.

In the meantime, here was my reasoning from last year on why Tubman was all but inevitable based on the Treasury’s criteria for a “noble woman” candidate:

Kris Mauren, executive director of the Acton Institute, kicks off the second season of the Free Market Series, a television program for American and Canadian audiences produced by The World Show in partnership with the Montreal Economic Institute and broadcast on PBS affiliates. In Episode 1, Mauren takes apart the “fatally flawed poverty industry” and talks about Acton’s Poverty Inc. documentary. Interview notes:

Many people imagine that free markets are synonymous with self-interest and greed, but for Kris Mauren, freedom is a necessary condition of a good society. As he describes in this illuminating interview, when he co-founded the Acton Institute, the errors of rejecting markets were becoming undeniable. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and of real communism, he says, “we could see the results of generations of socialist experimentation, and the results were not good. And people of good will have to be concerned with results, not just philosophy.” (more…)

techrevolutionAcross the globe, extreme poverty has been reduced by the advent and ubiquity of a simple tool: cell phones. As USAID says, mobile phones “fundamentally transform the way people in the developing world interact with one another and their governments, and access basic health, education, business and financial services.”

Could the same technology that is alleviating extreme poverty around the world also be used to help solve America’s homeless problem?

In an intriguing paper by the America Enterprise Institute, Kevin C. Corinth proposes giving the homeless smartphones as part of a “tech revolution for the homeless.” “I propose equipping homeless individuals with free smartphones and service plans in exchange for providing daily information on themselves through a specialized app—including their sleeping locations, use of services, and personal outcomes,” says Corinth. “The possibilities could transform how we understand and confront homelessness.”

29taxes.2-500In an attempt to trap Jesus, some Pharisees and Herodians asked him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” In response, Jesus said,

“Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The Pharisees and Herodians “marveled” at Jesus answer, but had they asked an agent of the Roman IRS they likely would have been given a similar answer.

Governments have always had to contend with citizens who make what are considered “frivolous tax arguments” to avoid complying with tax laws. Such arguments rarely work (it’s usually not effective to try to present a creative interpretation of tax law to the people who interpret tax laws) but people keep trying.

The IRS has an entire list of responses to the most common frivolous tax arguments. In honor of Tax Day*, here are four of my favorites:

Video source: The Harry Read Me File. More clips from the hearing here.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, co-founder and president of the Acton Institute, testified at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works. The hearing aimed “to examine the role of environmental policies on access to energy and economic opportunity … ” A report at the Energy & Environment news service said the hearing was “full of fireworks.” It was convened by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a sharp critic of the Obama administration’s climate policies.

“The true purpose of the president’s climate polices have nothing to do with protecting the interests of the America people,” Inhofe said. “Instead, they are meant to line the pocketbooks of his political patrons while promoting his self-proclaimed climate legacy.”

Democrats on the committee pushed back against those arguments. But it was majority witness Alex Epstein, the author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” who caused much of the contention at the hearing.

Epstein testified that rising carbon dioxide levels benefit plants and Americans. He defended fossil fuels as a driver of stability and prosperity in an ever-changing climate.

“The president’s anti-fossil-fuel policies would ruin billions of lives economically and environmentally,” he said, “depriving people of energy and therefore making them more vulnerable to nature’s ever-present climate danger.”

In a follow up report, the news service highlighted testy exchanges between Democrat members of the committee and Sirico: (more…)

How-to-Understand-Federal-Tax-FormsAfter almost three decades of filling out increasing complex tax forms, you’d think I’d be used to it (or at least resigned to the onerous task). But every tax season I complain even more than I did the year before. Why do I have to do this?

Perhaps the problem, notes Daniel J. Hurst, is that I’m forgetting that it’s part of my responsibility as a Christian. “While we may have grumbled when filing our taxes this year,” says Hurst, “did we pause to think that giving the government part of our income is a way we honor the Lord and express our trust in his grand design?”