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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 16, Issue 32: August 12, 2014

  1. CIA Chief John Brennan Needs to Go
  2. Fresh Ideas for Fighting Poverty
  3. Casualties in Obama’s War on Coal
  4. The Atomic Bombing of Japan—and Its Conservative Critics
  5. New Blog Posts
  6. Selected News Alerts

1) CIA Chief John Brennan Needs to Go

The Central Intelligence Agency has made a mockery of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers. The basic facts of its latest known abuses are undisputed: the agency’s own inspector general admits the CIA broke into computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee—a chamber tasked with ensuring that spy agencies comply with the law. This outrage warrants the immediate firing of CIA Director John Brennan, whether or not he knew the agency was engaging in the misconduct, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland. A former congressional investigator tasked with helping to monitor the U.S. intelligence community, Eland calls for stronger congressional oversight of the CIA and lauds members of the Senate Intelligence Committee for calling out the agency on its blatantly unconstitutional malfeasance—a scandal that, constitutionally speaking, is worse than Iran-Contra and Watergate.

“John Brennan needs to be fired, the perpetrators of all illegal acts at the CIA finally should be investigated and prosecuted, and the intelligence budget needs to be slashed as a penalty,” Eland writes in the Huffington Post. “Only if the CIA is severely punished for its latest transgression will U.S. intelligence agencies be deterred from violating the Constitution and laws at home and encouraged to redirect their activities overseas to help safeguard the republic—instead of undermining it.”

The revelation of the CIA break-in, which sparked condemnation from both Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), follows a pattern of lawlessness that includes the agency’s illegal detention, rendition, and torture of suspected terrorist—programs the committee has tried to investigate by using the hacked computers. Along with the NSA’s illegal tracking of Americans’ telephone records, this latest breech shows that unless the U.S. intelligence community is reined in, the executive branch of the U.S. government will run roughshod over Congress and the courts, depriving the American people of their rights to effective representation and undermining their civil liberties.

A Constitutional Scandal Worse Than Iran-Contra or Watergate, by Ivan Eland (The Huffington Post, 8/4/14)


2) Fresh Ideas for Fighting Poverty

An anti-poverty proposal making its way through Congress offers hope on a variety of fronts. It promises to improve the nation’s dysfunctional welfare system, augment the Earned Income Tax Credit, reduce federal control of early-childhood education, redirect higher-education spending to needy students, ease the nation’s overburdened prison system, slash regulations that especially harm low-income families, and require that anti-poverty programs show evidence of their effectiveness. The proposal—House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s “Expanding Opportunity in America” plan—plants seeds of bold innovation in a political landscape usually barren of fresh ideas, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman.

As Goodman notes, even the Washington Post has good things to say about one of Ryan’s ideas—his proposal to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for adults without children. But Goodman devotes most of his attention to the need to reform welfare—a key component of the Ryan plan. “There are 185 means-tested welfare programs, and government at all levels is spending more than $1 trillion on them,” Goodman writes in an op-ed for Townhall. “Yet the poverty rate today is about as high as it’s been in 45 years.”

One reason that welfare programs have failed to slash the poverty rate is that most of them provide disincentives to getting a job or earning more money. That’s because they phase out the benefits in ways that raise the effective marginal tax rate for the recipients. Ryan’s proposal would help by replacing several federal government programs with a block grant to the states and giving the states flexibility to craft innovative approaches, including one proposed almost 30 years ago by Goodman himself: a case-management approach that would structure assistance to the needy on a case-by-case basis. Goodman lauds this component of the Ryan plan, but wishes the House Republican had gone one step further. Rather than having the states run the anti-poverty programs, Goodman would outsource this task to the private sector: “There is mounting evidence,” he writes, “that the private sector does a better job at getting aid first to those who need it most, at encouraging self-sufficiency and self-reliance, at encouraging the family unit, and at using resources efficiently.”

Three Cheers for Ryan’s Plan, by John C. Goodman (Townhall, 8/2/14)

Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, by John C. Goodman


3) Casualties in Obama’s War on Coal

The White House believes wind and solar power can, with the right mix of subsidies and regulations, replace the country’s reliance on coal and gas for its energy needs. And so, under Obama’s leadership, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced stringent regulations designed to cut fossil fuel emissions by 30 percent over the next decade and a half. Along with the illusion that wind and solar power are up to the task, the EPA hopes the public will buy into the myth that the green agenda will cause little economic pain. But according to Independent Institute Research Director William F. Shughart II, the agency’s new regulatory onslaught will impose huge costs on American households and businesses.

Shughart cites a new study, commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that puts a price tag on the EPA’s war against coal, oil, and natural gas. Under the new regulations, by 2030 a typical household could see its disposable income fall by up to $3,400 per year. Compare that loss with the alleged “benefit”: The regulations would cut carbon emissions by only 1.8 percent in the United States, but worldwide emissions would increase by an estimated 31 percent. So what would be the benefit? One needn’t be skeptical of anthropogenic global warming to have valid concerns about President Obama’s climate-change policies.

But the EPA’s new war on fossil fuels is counterproductive even according to its own professed goals. Why? Because it discourages the construction of coal-fired power plants that use environmentally friendly technologies. “One such technology—ultra-supercritical pulverized coal plants—can burn coal as much as 30% more efficiently than conventional coal plants and therefore cut carbon emissions significantly,” Shughart writes. Another advanced technology discouraged by the new EPA regulations—coal gasification—creates an ashy by-product useful to farmers. Clearly, the Obama administration’s green-tinted glasses have blinded it to evidence and reason.

Declare a Ceasefire in EPA’s War on Coal, by William F. Shughart II (American Thinker, 8/11/14)

Coal and Nuclear Power Belong in Utah’s Energy Policy Portfolio, by William F. Shughart II (Deseret News, 7/13/14)


4) The Atomic Bombing of Japan—and Its Conservative Critics

Last week marked the anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. For the past few decades, condemning the attacks has carried the risk of being branded “left-wing” or “anti-American,” but Stanford University Professor of History, Emeritus, Barton J. Bernstein, an advisor to the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace and Liberty, reminds us that it wasn’t always so. Some of the harshest critics of President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bombs came from America’s political right, including conservative stalwarts such as former President Herbert Hoover and National Review contributor Medford Evans.

In an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News, Bernstein notes that conservative critics of the A-bomb are largely forgotten today, but in 1945 and for many years later their dissents were highly visible—conservatives at the top of their professions in journalism, diplomacy, and the military. David Lawrence, founder and editor of what became U.S. News & World Report, condemned the bombings in a column first published in August 1945—and reprinted for the following 27 years. Washington Post editor Felix Morley called the bombings “atrocities.” Henry Luce, founder of Time, Life, and Fortune, said the bombings violated the just-war doctrine and were not necessary to achieving victory against Japan.

Conservative ex-diplomats who had worked in the Truman administration—former Under Secretary of State Joseph Grew and his colleagues Eugene Dooman and Joseph Ballantine—castigated the bombings and called them militarily unnecessary. Even distinguished military commanders such as Gen. Curtis LeMay and Gen. Douglas MacArthur criticized the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan. “Such conservative support does not necessarily make those criticisms right or wrong, or good or bad history, but certainly an important part of an earlier postwar dissenting culture,” Bernstein writes. “That is an important but mostly forgotten part of the past, which Americans today—whether young or old, Republicans or Democrats—usually do not know.”

American Conservatives Are the Forgotten Critics of the Atomic Bombing of Japan, by Barton J. Bernstein (The San Jose Mercury News, 8/2/14)

Terrorism by Any Reasonable Definition, by Anthony Gregory (The Beacon, 8/6/12)

The Man Who Bombed Hiroshima, by Anthony Gregory (11/8/07)

August 9, 1945, a Date that Will Live in Infamy, by Robert Higgs (The Beacon, 8/9/08)

Delusions of Power: New Explorations of the State, War, and Economy, by Robert Higgs


5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost News & Blog:

Laying Track for More Spending
K. Lloyd Billingsley (8/11/14)

Inflating Away the National Debt
Craig Eyermann (8/11/14)

Somewhat Less Than Transparent
Craig Eyermann (8/7/14)

Border Crisis and Leviathan
K. Lloyd Billingsley (8/6/14)

You can find the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website here and blog here.


6) Selected News Alerts


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless