Why Conservative Governors Are Embracing Criminal Justice Reform

John G. Malcolm /

It used to be that, like entitlement spending, criminal justice reform was a third rail in politics—touch it, and you could be sure that your next opponent would run a commercial saying you were “soft on crime.”

It was a one-way ticket to “Loserville.”

That has changed, most notably in conservative states. Listen to what some politicians are saying now.

In the last six years, Texas’ incarceration rate has fallen by 10 percent, and crime has dropped by 18 percent.

Among its many reforms, Texas has embraced specialized courts, such as drug courts, which have dockets that focus on targeted groups of offenders sharing certain common characteristics.

In a recent interview, former Gov. Rick Perry stated, “now we’ve expanded [courts] into prostitution courts and veteran courts and a lot of ways, gives the courts the flexibility to deal with nonviolent drug-related events.”

He added, “That’s not to say that the people didn’t make a mistake, that they weren’t going to be punished for it, but we’re not going to throw them in jail and throw away the key.”

During his first term, Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia initiated some bold criminal justice reforms and proudly touted those efforts during his re-election campaign. Deal made it quite clear during his second inaugural speech that he was not content to rest on his laurels when he stated:

In Georgia, we have taken monumental steps in recent years to give nonviolent offenders a new beginning. As a result, our alternative courts are paying dividends for offenders, their families and taxpayers.  … For those who are already in our prison system, many of them now have the chance for a new beginning too. Approximately 70 percent of Georgia’s inmates don’t have a high school diploma. If their lack of an education is not addressed during their incarceration, when they re-enter society they have a felony on their record but no job skills on their résumé. I am here to tell you, an ex-con with no hope of gainful employment is a danger to us all. This is why we must work to get these individuals into a job. Our prisons have always been schools. In the past, the inmates have learned how to become better criminals. Now they are taking steps to earn diplomas and gain job skills that will lead to employment after they serve their sentences. … Our message to those in our prison system and to their families is this: If you pay your dues to society, if you take advantage of the opportunities to better yourself, if you discipline yourself so that you can regain your freedom and live by the rules of society, you will be given the chance to reclaim your life. I intend for Georgia to continue leading the nation with meaningful justice reform.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed a criminal justice reform bill into law, recently told Congress, “I believe that our prison reform efforts have created a healthy foundation that can, over time, transform the landscape of the entire criminal justice system for the better.”

>>>Read The Daily Signal’s ongoing series for more information about Alabama’s efforts to ease its overcrowded prisons. How Overcrowding Has Forced Alabama to Confront Its Prison Problem

AlabamaPart_image-1

And upon signing a criminal justice reform bill, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a former law enforcement officer, stated:

“We pledged to Mississippians that we would make this the ‘public safety session’, and we have worked hard to develop this ‘Right on Crime’ research-based plan that is tough on crime while using resources wisely where they make the most impact.”

I could go on and cite similar statements from other conservative governors, but you get the point: Attitudes towards criminal justice reform have shifted dramatically.

So what changed?

Several years ago, many states found themselves facing shrinking budgets, rising prison costs and dangerously overcrowded prisons.

Necessity being the mother of invention, governors in red, blue and purple states began thinking that there might be smarter ways of addressing their prison systems—ways that would lower costs and might even enhance public safety—and about whether there might be sensible alternatives to incarceration for some categories of offenders.

Others are studying the results of those efforts and are considering embarking on their own reform efforts.

Financial costs were not the only reason why states undertook this effort. Perhaps of even greater significance, there is the human cost to consider.

The family members of offenders, particularly children, also suffer when a loved one is imprisoned.

Parents who commit crimes may not be the best role models, but they are usually better than having no role model at all.

Many studies indicate that children with incarcerated parents struggle and often end up turning to crime themselves.

Conservative governors have focused on the fact that roughly 95 percent of those who are incarcerated will eventually return to our communities, and that we ought to see if there are things that can be done while these offenders are still incarcerated to address the problems these prisoners will likely face once they are free.

Currently, many offenders have substance abuse problems, or a lack of education or jobs skills, making them more likely to recidivate and pose a continuing threat to public safety once they have been released. Governors are encouraging offenders to participate in evidence-based programs designed to address their particular needs.

Governors are also starting to address important issues like mens rea reform and collateral consequences, which are the myriad of legal disabilities that accompany a criminal conviction that can make it difficult for an ex-offender who has been released from prison to earn a livelihood or remain in a stable environment.

In a recent report, The Pew Charitable Trusts found that over a five-year period (from 2008 to 2013), the ten states that instituted reforms and cut their imprisonment rates the most experienced greater drops in crime (13 percent average crime rate reduction) than the ten states that increased their imprisonment rates the most (8 percent average crime rate reduction).

Of course, every state is different, and some anomalies exist. What this demonstrates, however, is that we should no longer take it as a given that simply putting more offenders away for longer periods of time is the only—or even the best—way of reducing crime in our communities.

These efforts, of course, are ongoing. Some of these reforms are controversial, and not all of them will work.

If some of these experiments prove unsuccessful, legislators can always return to their old way of doing things.

After all, with the exception of alleviating prison overcrowding, these changes are not constitutionally required. That having been said, it should be noted that the results of many of these reforms look very promising.

If you don’t believe me, just ask a conservative governor.

Obama’s Plan to Combat Climate Change, Explained in Under 90 Seconds - The Daily Signal

Obama’s Plan to Combat Climate Change, Explained in Under 90 Seconds

John G. Malcolm / Alex Anderson /

In an effort to address climate change, the Obama administration has finalized a new rule designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s largest energy sources.

The Clean Power Plan is the first set of national standards to cut carbon emissions, affecting new and existing power plants.

The policy could force hundreds of coal-fired power plants to shut down and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power.

Learn more about the plan in the video above.

What 14 Republican Presidential Candidates Said at New Hampshire Forum - The Daily Signal

What 14 Republican Presidential Candidates Said at New Hampshire Forum

John G. Malcolm / Alex Anderson / Kate Scanlon /

Republican presidential candidates gathered at Saint Anselm’s college in Manchester, N.H., Monday night for the Voters First Forum.

The forum took place only days before the first national debate.

Participants included Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.

Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul participated via satellite.

Businessman Donald Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore did not participate.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to briefly answer questions submitted by voters.

Read below for the highlights from each candidate.

Rick Perry

Perry said that any illegal immigration policy must begin with sealing the border.

He said lowering the corporate tax rate would increase wages and create jobs.

Perry was asked which federal agencies he would eliminate. “I’ve heard this question before,” he joked.

Rick Santorum

Santorum lamented a lack of manufacturing jobs. He proposed a 20-percent flat tax for individuals and corporations.

On immigration, he called for a 25-percent reduction in the “unskilled workforce” coming into the country.

He said the Supreme Court “abused its authority” in legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

John Kasich

Kasich said that sanctuary cities need to be eliminated. He said “law-abiding” immigrants in the country illegally should be allowed to pay a fine and stay.

He said cutting taxes and balancing the federal budget drives job creation. He proposed a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Lindsey Graham

Graham said countries like Russia and China need to be shown a “clenched fist and an open hand.”

He said ISIS and radical Islam need to be defeated by any means necessary.

Chris Christie

Christie said the U.S. must maintain a policy of not negotiating with terrorists.

He said the United States must honor a commitment the nation made to veterans, and work to ensure they receive proper health care.

He said that we need to invest in drug treatment programs.

Ben Carson

Carson said Obamacare must be replaced before it is repealed. He said the Affordable Care Act “flies in the face of what we are as a nation.”

“I would replace it with something that puts the power back in the hands of consumers and providers,” Carson said.

He said that health savings accounts, shared among families, would be a good step towards a solution.

Carson believes that taxpayers should not fund Planned Parenthood.

His ideal tax rate, he said, would be between 10 and 15 percent with “no loopholes.”

Jeb Bush

Bush said ISIS is not a “JV” team, and the nation needs a serious strategy to confront it.

He said that as president, he would work toward a 4-percent economic growth rate.

Carly Fiorina

Fiorina said leadership is “challenging the status quo.”

“Our government has gotten bigger and bigger every year for almost 50 years,” Fiorina said.

Fiorina believes that Planned Parenthood must be defunded.

She said that the Iranian agreement should have “actually” included “anytime, anywhere inspections.”

Bobby Jindal

Jindal called for the military to be armed on military bases and for term limits for Congress.

He said the president’s Iranian nuclear agreement is a “bad deal.”

“He’s declared war on trans fats and [made] a deal with the largest state sponsor of terrorism,” Jindal said.

Scott Walker

Walker criticized the president’s new regulations on carbon emissions.

“I want to balance a sustainable environment with a sustainable economy,” Walker said.

He said Planned Parenthood should be defunded.

“We defunded Planned Parenthood [in Wisconsin] long before these videos came out,” Walker said.

George Pataki

Pataki said Obamacare should be repealed, Common Core should be eliminated and the federal workforce should be reduced by 15 percent.

Rand Paul

Paul said he is “the one candidate” who has stood up to the government’s “indiscriminate” collection of personal data.

He said the right to privacy doesn’t conflict with national security.

“We have a way to get information; it’s called the Fourth Amendment,” Paul said.

Ted Cruz

Cruz said that Planned Parenthood needs to be defunded, and that he hopes “that we see Republican leadership actually lead the effort” to defund it.

He called the president’s deal with Iran “catastrophic.”

He said Obamacare has been a “disaster,” and he’s been “proud to lead the fight against it.”

Cruz said Americans should be permitted to purchase health insurance across state lines, and that insurance should be “personal, portable and affordable.”

Marco Rubio

Rubio said many illegal immigrants overstay their once legal visas and that the U.S. must monitor their entry at airports and seaports. Employers, he said, must be required to use E-Verify.

Legal immigration must be based on “merit.”

He said the next president must understand the opportunities and challenges of the new century, such as changing economic prospects and national security threats.

The Truth About Defunding Planned Parenthood and Women’s Access to Health Care - The Daily Signal

The Truth About Defunding Planned Parenthood and Women’s Access to Health Care

John G. Malcolm / Alex Anderson / Kate Scanlon / Sarah Torre /

Supporters of Planned Parenthood claim that an end to federal funding of the organization will limit women’s access to family planning services and preventive care.

In reality, Planned Parenthood itself has decreased cancer screenings and other preventive care since 2004, all the while increasing the number of abortions its affiliates perform by about 70,000 every year.

Indeed, Planned Parenthood performs about 1 out of every three abortions in the United States, performing 327,653 abortions during its last reporting year alone. And despite some supporters’ statements to the contrary, Planned Parenthood does not and cannot provide mammograms.

803mammograms

Moreover, health care services are already being provided for those who need them without unethical practices or entanglement in abortion. There are roughly 9,000 health clinics across the country that served 21 million people in 2012 alone.

According to new research by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, those clinics serve nearly eight times the number of individuals served by Planned Parenthood every year. These clinics are located in medically underserved rural and urban areas and can provide birth control options, cancer screenings and women’s health exams, not to mention a wide range of primary health services for low-income women, children and men.

Additionally, roughly 2,000 pregnancy centers provide prenatal care, ultrasounds and childbirth classes, among other services to women facing unplanned pregnancies, empowering them with life-affirming options.

Policymakers looking to put limited taxpayer funds to more efficient and effective use should redirect those dollars to centers and clinics that can provide more comprehensive care for women. All women—but especially those facing difficult circumstances—deserve better care for their health and more options than the cold doors of an abortion facility.

No society that is truly committed to protecting basic human rights can continue funding an industry that harms women, takes the lives of the most vulnerable children and cheapens our respect for life—especially when its leader allegedly harvests and sells tiny organs for profit.

Why the Defund Planned Parenthood Vote Matters - The Daily Signal

Why the Defund Planned Parenthood Vote Matters

John G. Malcolm / Alex Anderson / Kate Scanlon / Sarah Torre / Genevieve Wood /

Serious questions have been raised as to whether Planned Parenthood is selling tissue and body parts of unborn babies for profit. So serious that Congress is planning to hold investigations this fall.

But apparently not serious enough to get 60 members of the U.S. Senate to be willing to vote Monday to take taxpayer dollars away from the abortion giant and redirect them to other health clinics that don’t perform abortions.

There is some good news. The fact that there were 53 votes to defund Planned Parenthood Monday will be a very important number when Congress returns in September.

Here’s why.

Because Congress hasn’t passed individual appropriation bills to fund various government agencies, departments and programs, it will have to put all those appropriations into one big continuing resolution this fall, and pass it, to keep the entire government operating.

Monday’s vote in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood shows that there aren’t 60 votes to pass that continuing resolution if Planned Parenthood funding is included in it.

The question is, do the 46 senators who voted for continuing to fund Planned Parenthood believe it is so important to continue giving taxpayer dollars to the nation’s largest abortion provider, especially in light of the current scandal, that they will refuse to pass a continuing resolution that doesn’t fund Planned Parenthood? Are they willing to shut down the government rather than pass such a continuing resolution?

Sadly, the answer to that question is likely yes. But it doesn’t have to be.

It is not unprecedented for both political parties to come together to defund organizations found committing activities that are unethical at best and illegal at worst.

Remember the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN? It too found itself in hot water when an undercover video investigation exposed the group’s fraudulent behavior. The House and Senate, by large majorities, voted in 2009 to strip the group of all federal funding.

What Planned Parenthood is accused of is far worse than the scandals surrounding ACORN. But while ACORN didn’t make political contributors to political candidates, Planned Parenthood does. The vast majority, over $675,000 in 2014, of its campaign contributions goes to Democrats.

Most of the action to limit abortions has been taking place at the state level in recent years, but now the opportunity for a pro-life victory has found its way to the national stage—and just in time for Congress’s August recess.

Members of Congress, especially those who claim to be pro-life, have a choice to make. It shouldn’t be a hard one.

There are many other ways to make sure women have access to health care besides funding Planned Parenthood.

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, there are over 9,000 federally qualified health centers operating around the country. Each year they provide 21.1 million Americans, in both rural and urban areas, with many of the same health services, with the exception of abortion, Planned Parenthood claims it provides. By comparison, Planned Parenthood operates only 700 centers and serves only 2.8 million people.

And for the record, Planned Parenthood does not have a license to perform mammograms at any of its facilities. Not one. But that doesn’t mean American women have nowhere to turn—according to the Food and Drug Administration, there are over 8,000 licensed mammogram facilities operating across the country as of July 2015.

803mammograms

And yet, even with those facts (and the videos featuring Planned Parenthood staff negotiating pricing for the sale of tissue and body parts) staring them in the face, the Senate is currently unable to defund the scandal-ridden organization.

Supporters of defunding Planned Parenthood, which included almost all Republican senators (Mark Kirk of Illinois voted against the measure) and two Democrats (Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Pennsylvania voted for it), didn’t have the 60 votes they needed to get the bill on the floor of the Senate this week.

That’s a shame. But this battle is far from over.

Did Your Senator Vote to Defund Planned Parenthood? See Here. - The Daily Signal

Did Your Senator Vote to Defund Planned Parenthood? See Here.

John G. Malcolm / Alex Anderson / Kate Scanlon / Sarah Torre / Genevieve Wood / Kelsey Harkness /

A Senate bill to strip Planned Parenthood of its $500 million in federal funding fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance, gaining the support of 53 senators.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted no, which allows him to bring it back for a vote at a later time. Sen. Lindsey Graham R-S.C., was absent for the procedural vote held Monday night.

Click the below link to see the 53 senators who voted in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood, and the 46 who voted against it.

>>>Roll Call Vote

The legislation, led by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; James Lankford, R-Okla.; and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., among others, came as a result of a string of undercover videos that surfaced showing Planned Parenthood senior employees discussing the harvesting of fetal body parts from aborted babies.

The measure would have stripped federal funding from Planned Parenthood and redistributed it to other qualified health centers.

Planned Parenthood adamantly denies any wrongdoing in the videos, which have triggered multiple investigations and calls to strip the organization of its taxpayer dollars.

Monday’s vote was largely symbolic, with some Republicans wanting to test the waters to see if they have enough support to link the measure to defund Planned Parenthood with a spending bill this September that’s required to keep the government running.

Doing so would require 41 votes. In order to continue funding Planned Parenthood, supportive lawmakers—the majority of them Democrats—would need the backing of 60 senators.

Given today’s 53-46 outcome, they now face an uphill battle.

If both sides fail to reach an agreement by Oct. 1, the government faces another shutdown.

“To threaten a government shutdown is absolutely reprehensible and abhorrent,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., during debate.

Paul, who is running for president in 2016, said a government shutdown would be on Democrats and President Obama.

“If President Obama wants to shut down government because he doesn’t get funds for Planned Parenthood, that would be President Obama’s determination to shut down government,” he said yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In the House, Republicans are divided on how to best address the recent Planned Parenthood scandal, with Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggesting that Congress get “facts first” before defunding the organization and conservatives arguing that there’s no time to wait.

Pro-life members like Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., pressured House leadership to take up legislation this week that would place an immediate one-year moratorium on federal funding of Planned Parenthood until Congress completes its investigations. But members departed last week for their month-long summer break without taking any action.

Obama’s New Energy Plan Could Cost $2.5 Trillion in Lost Economic Growth - The Daily Signal

Obama’s New Energy Plan Could Cost $2.5 Trillion in Lost Economic Growth

John G. Malcolm / Alex Anderson / Kate Scanlon / Sarah Torre / Genevieve Wood / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris /

The Obama administration unveiled its climate change regulations for new and existing power plants, calling the plan “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”

It may be the most “important” from a top-down, regulatory mandate for high energy prices, but it won’t accomplish much, if anything, in terms of combating climate change.

Even though electricity generation accounts for the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, the estimated reduction is minuscule compared to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Climatologists estimate that the administration’s climate regulations will avert less than two hundredths of a degree Celsius by 2100.

In fact, all the plan will do is bring about higher energy bills, lost income, fewer jobs and a weaker economy – with little to no impact on the Earth’s temperature.

The role of the federal government should be not to promote or restrict any energy source or technology, but instead to enforce free-market policies that generate innovation and provide competitive prices.

In fact, the federal government has done much more to restrict the development of these energy sources than promote them, with Obama’s climate regulations being the latest blow.

Coal currently provides approximately 40 percent of America’s electricity as an affordable, reliable source.

Obama is upping the ante on existing power plants, forcing power plants, on average, to cut carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, with interim targets starting in 2022.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed separate carbon dioxide (CO2) regulations for new power plants and existing units but issued the final regulations concurrently.

The emissions threshold for new power plants will require coal-fired plants to install carbon capture and sequestration technology (CCS).

This will likely spell the end of new coal-fired power plants since no credible basis exists to state that CCS is adequately demonstrated today.

CCS faces questions about technical scalability, regulatory challenges, long-term liability of storing the captured CO2 and above all, cost that make it a non-option.

And that CCS yields no environmental benefit makes the requirement farcical.

The new regulations would drop that to 27 percent by 2030, forcing states to switch to more expensive, less reliable renewable power.

But “the war on coal,” as many are dubbing the regulations, is truly a war on American families and businesses.

Americans feel the pain of higher energy prices directly, but also indirectly through almost all of the goods and services they buy, because energy is a necessary staple of production for almost all goods and services.

Further, a regulation that increases energy prices will disproportionately eat into the income of the poorest American families.

The cumulative economic impact of higher energy prices will be hundreds of thousands of jobs lost and more than $2.5 trillion in lost economic growth.

To allegedly soften that blow, the EPA is touting the notion of flexibility to the states, arguing that states can set up regional cap-and-trade programs, increase renewable or nuclear power generation or mandate more energy efficiency standards.

States will have one year to develop and submit their own compliance plan or develop regional plans with other states, though the EPA will grant extension waivers as long as two years.

No matter how states concoct their plans, the economic damages will be felt through higher energy costs, fewer job opportunities and fewer choices through implementation of efficiency mandates that remove decision making from producers and consumers.

The EPA’s idea of flexibility will not soften the economic blow; it merely means that families, individuals and businesses will incur higher costs through different state or regional-imposed mechanisms.

And by placing the entire onus on the states to devise their own carbon-cutting plans, the federal government evades all accountability to Americans and leaves state officials to take the political heat.

The climate benefit that Americans receive for higher electricity rates, unemployment and lower levels of prosperity is almost, if not completely, nonexistent. Government regulators could limit all greenhouse gas emissions produced by the United States, and that number jumps to only a tenth of a degree of averted warming.

Therefore, Congress and state officials should not wait on the courts to act in this matter.

Any delay in fighting the entirety of the regulation could cause the closer of many reliable, low-cost power plants, mandate pricier alternative energy and set steep prices on carbon dioxide for regional cap-and-trade programs.

Members of Congress and state governments should fight the regulation, rather than settling for a slightly more palatable version of the regulation that will still bring injurious economic results and no climate or environmental benefit.

Why Defunding Planned Parenthood Wouldn’t Violate Medicaid Statutes - The Daily Signal

Why Defunding Planned Parenthood Wouldn’t Violate Medicaid Statutes

John G. Malcolm / Alex Anderson / Kate Scanlon / Sarah Torre / Genevieve Wood / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Sarah Torre /

Later today, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that would remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood. This is a good and necessary response to the shocking reports of Planned Parenthood harvesting and selling body parts from recently aborted unborn children.

Ahead of the vote, supporters of Planned Parenthood are claiming the Senate bill defunding the organization could run afoul of Medicaid statutes.

But that argument is flawed.

S. 1881, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, would prohibit any federal funds, including Medicaid reimbursements, from going to Planned Parenthood. It would instead redirect those dollars to clinics that provide women’s health services as well as a wider range of primary care.

During its 2013-2014 reporting year, Planned Parenthood reported receiving over $528 million in government funding—41 percent of the organization’s total revenue. The annual report does not provide a breakdown of federal versus state funding or the exact government grants, contracts and reimbursements it receives.

A 2015 Government Accountability Office report, however, shows that the organization receives some federal taxpayer money through Title X family planning grants but derives most of its government funding through a combination of state and federal payments under Medicaid.

Some supporters of Planned Parenthood point to what’s known as Medicaid’s “free choice of provider” clause to claim that the Senate bill could face legal trouble should it be signed into law. The relevant statute reads:

A State plan for medical assistance must…provide that…any individual eligible for medical assistance (including drugs) may obtain such assistance from any institution, agency, community pharmacy, or person, qualified to perform the service or services required (emphasis added).

The Seventh and Ninth Circuits have interpreted that provision to prevent Indiana and Arizona from withholding public funds to abortion providers under the state’s Medicaid plan—arguing that doing so would violate federal law by limiting a Medicaid recipient’s choice of family planning providers.

Even if that interpretation of the statute is correct, the “free choice of provider” provision applies only to states as they make decisions about which family planning providers to reimburse under a state-run Medicaid plan.

Congress is not bound by those regulations and can determine which providers are “qualified” to perform the services covered under the entitlement program.

Planned Parenthood does not have a right to the hard-earned money of American taxpayers. Congress can—and should—end federal funding of the abortion giant.

The Social Cost of Carbon: It’s Not What You Think - The Daily Signal

The Social Cost of Carbon: It’s Not What You Think

John G. Malcolm / Alex Anderson / Kate Scanlon / Sarah Torre / Genevieve Wood / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Sarah Torre / Kirby Lawrence /

The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a metric that the Obama administration uses to justify increased regulations across the energy sector of the economy. It is derived using various statistical models that try to measure the extent and impact of climate change.

Any statistical model, however, is based on assumptions and must be critically analyzed before being used for policymaking. Kevin Dayaratna, Heritage’s senior statistician, recently testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources on the use of SCC estimates in energy policy.

Dayaratna argued that while the statistical models “might be interesting for academic exercises, they are far too sensitive to the modeler’s assumptions to be legitimate tools for regulatory policy.”

Dayaratna testified that his research, based on a variety of simulations performed with some of the same models used by the U.S. government Interagency Working Group (IWG), revealed some obvious and serious problems with the IWG’s assumptions. These included:

  1. Projections 300 years into the future, far beyond a reasonable time frame, and selected seemingly to make the size of potential damages to the economy as large as possible. Our Founding Fathers had no idea what the American economy would look like today. It is sheer nonsense to believe that policymakers can make projections that far into the future.
  2. An outdated equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) distribution published nearly a decade ago that exaggerates the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on climate variables. Since then, a number of newer ECS distributions have been published with far more modest claims.
  3. The use of artificially low discount rates of 2.5 percent, 3 percent, and 5 percent, ignoring the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance that a 7 percent discount rate be used.

Added together, these questionable assumptions account for almost all of the potential damage from climate change. Tellingly, according to Dayaratna, when more realistic assumptions are incorporated in the model, the SCC can even be negative—suggesting there might be net benefits to carbon dioxide emissions.

For the complete testimony transcript, please click here.

Kirby Lawrence is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.

Rand Paul: Congress Will Reject the Iran Deal - The Daily Signal

Rand Paul: Congress Will Reject the Iran Deal

John G. Malcolm / Alex Anderson / Kate Scanlon / Sarah Torre / Genevieve Wood / Kelsey Harkness / Nicolas Loris / Sarah Torre / Kirby Lawrence / David Brody /

Sen. Rand Paul believes that the United States Congress will reject the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

“There’s a very good chance that Congress will vote to disapprove of the agreement,” Paul tells The Daily Signal. “I think there’s a very good chance the president will then veto it, and then the real question is, will there be 67 votes to overcome this?”

Congress is expected to vote on a resolution regarding the controversial deal sometime in September.

The Obama administration is focused on making sure it has enough Democrats on board to sustain a veto. Recently, the administration picked up support from two more Democrat House members, including Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Democrat Sen. Tom Udall is also on board.

Senate GOP leadership is pressing the Obama administration to provide the so-called “side agreements” that the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran have in place. For Paul, one of the biggest problems with the deal is the process of how sanctions are lifted.

“What I would have preferred in this agreement would be that we gradually reduce sanctions over a several-year period,” he said, “so therefore we can continue to use those as leverage to try and enforce compliance on Iran’s part.”

Paul says ultimately this deal will require the United States to trust the Iranians, and that’s a big leap of faith.

“The thing that bothers me and what I’m concerned about is whether or not we can have leverage to continue to have Iran comply. They have to show some initial steps, but the question is, will they consistently comply?”