Does Your Religion Define How You Think About Economics?

The authors of a new Brookings Institution survey believe the American Dream is dead—or at least in trouble. And who’s to blame? Religious conservatives.

Progressives, on the other hand, want everyone to have equal opportunities in the name of social justice—but with a caveat: If you start out ahead in the race for the American Dream, you have to move back to whatever is deemed the “fairest” starting line.

The survey aims to identify which values Americans think should drive economic policy in light of their religious commitment. The authors define “religious progressives” as those who are dedicated to “promoting equality and fairness,” among whom, they discovered, are “religious, social, and economic liberals alike…the white working class, lower income Americans, young adults, African Americans, the religiously unaffiliated, white Catholics, and Democrats.”

And who’s left? Religious conservatives, who simply don’t fit into a neat political box. The authors are perplexed about these Americans, because they express strong social values but don’t embrace progressive policies:

One of the paradoxes of American politics: while social justice commitments largely unite religious Americans, this potentially progressive constituency does not cohere to the same degree as does the religious movement.

Many religious Americans, according to the authors, have mistakenly identified themselves as conservatives even though their commitments to social justice should align them with progressivism. They need to get with the program! They are getting in the way of a rise of religious progressivism and policies that would promote fairness and opportunity.

But instead of qualifying religious conservatives as paradoxical, the authors should be more open to a serious conversation about what equality of opportunity really means.

Obviously, everyone in America should have the ability to move up the economic ladder and improve his or her circumstances regardless of race, religion, or gender. However, Heritage’s David Azerrad draws an important distinction between “equality of opportunity” and “sameness of opportunity”:

Traditionally, equality of opportunity has meant the absence of legal impediments to getting ahead in life.… Sameness of opportunity, by contrast, requires that all should have exactly the same opportunities in life. It demands that the disadvantaged be given more opportunities (usually through government programs) and that the privileged or naturally gifted be denied certain opportunities.

Sameness of opportunity does not ensure a just society. In fact, it does the opposite. It’s one thing to say that Americans should not encounter unfair obstacles to opportunity, perhaps from lousy local public schools or racial discrimination. But it is quite another to see it as unjust that parents try to give their children a better start in life if they can.

Moreover, interesting new research from the authors’ Brookings colleague Scott Winship suggests that income and wealth differences don’t seem to be closely linked to economic opportunity and realizing the American Dream. And a Harvard-Berkeley study likewise finds big differences in opportunity in the U.S. that don’t seem to be linked to progressive concerns about starting points and economic inequality. More important, it seems, are cultural factors such as strong families and strong religious and social bonds—the kind of things those pesky religious conservatives emphasize.

If we are truly concerned about the American Dream, the answer can’t be found in the progressive economic policies that emphasize larger government and redistribution. The liberal notion of equality of opportunity really means a demeaning sameness of opportunity. Better to focus on removing the barriers to economic advancement present in government regulations and bad schools. Meanwhile, encourage a culture of charity and family stability, as religious conservatives argue. That is the way to keep the American Dream alive.

Mary Clare Reim

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Eurozone Crisis Creates Another Challenge for Merkel

As opposition to the euro continues to build within the eurozone, Germany, the motor of the eurozone—frankly, the only thing holding it all together—is not immune.

Recently, a new political organization has formed in Germany called Alternative for Germany. So far the group is only a collection of like-minded euro-skeptic German intellectuals with a politically populist message looking to mobilize a movement in opposition to the euro. They will reportedly seek to form a political party next month.

The front page of Alternative for Germany’s website makes plain the group’s dissatisfaction with the euro by stating: “We call for the reintroduction of national currencies or the creation of smaller and more stable monetary collaborations.”

The movement correspondingly calls for the ability of countries to leave the euro. While the group does not advocate for the dissolution of the European Union, it does argue for greater sovereignty of individual states within the EU. The group’s supporters have even praised British Prime Minister David Cameron on his recent call to bring more powers back to the national capitals.

That such a political movement questioning the single currency and EU monetary and economic policy sprouted in Germany is significant. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been the staunchest defender of the single currency, and she continues to press for austerity measures in many EU nations while using German economic might to subsidize less responsible member states. Alternative for Germany resulted in large part from a belief among the group’s members that the country needs to stop subsidizing the debt of other European nations.

The eurozone remains hampered by high unemployment, excessive government spending, and political uncertainty and upheavals evident in the recent Italian election. As Heritage’s Luke Coffey remarks in a recent lecture on the future of the EU:

It is not just the euro-skeptic Brits calling for a change. The newly formed coalition government in the Netherlands is also calling for more powers to be brought back to the member states. Buried deep in the “program for government,” agreed by the parties forming the ruling coalition, is a line that states, “The Netherlands will ask the European Commission to list the policy areas that…could be transferred to national governments. We will also make proposals ourselves.” This is the mood across the European Union.

The likely emergence of a new euro-skeptic political group in Germany, of all places—even one that does not call for an end to the EU—would certainly indicate that Europe’s attitude toward the European Project is changing.

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North Korea: A Neglected Human Rights Crisis

North Korea has been making headlines for its threats of preemptive nuclear attacks on the United States. In addition to North Korea’s belligerent military actions, the international community cannot turn a blind eye to the regime’s appalling record of human rights violations and its economic stagnation resulting from three generations of dictatorial reign.

While some speculate that change is afoot, Kim Jong-un’s recent actions offer little hope of reform. The “Hermit Kingdom” remains closed to the outside world as a defense against the contagion of foreign influence. A slowly increasing flow of information is opening North Koreans’ eyes to the outside world while simultaneously allowing the western world brief glimpses into the shrouded regime. But a few Instagram photos are incapable of telling the whole story.

Fortunately, a few defectors from North Korea have been willing to speak. Shin Dong-hyuk has put a face to the perilous plight of North Korean’s imprisoned in our modern day equivalent of the Soviet gulag. Born into prison camp life, Shin is one of few to escape, and his story has touched many.

Fear and hunger are the defining emotions that dominate North Koreans’ lives. Shin recalls the pang of hunger as a familiar feeling that led him to betray his mother and brother in the camp, ultimately leading to their execution before the young boy’s eyes. He felt no remorse until much later in life, and says he did it for food, a reward that he ultimately did not receive.

In desperation, some Koreans have resorted to the unthinkable, even going so far as cannibalism. Contrary to popular belief, food shortages did not end with the 1990s famine that took the lives of over a million Koreans, but continue today, where widespread hunger plagues the peninsula.

But Shin’s ordeal is not unique. The average North Korean is forced to attend multiple “organizational” government-instituted propaganda sessions per week. And the life of a North Korean is coordinated, cradle to grave, by the government. Children learn that everything they receive is a gift from the “Dear Leader.”

The average North Korean citizen has no access to news agencies that provide alternative perspectives. Instead, the regime force feeds them information through government-run media. The Internet is not available to North Koreans; thus, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and even Google are foreign to a North Korean citizen. To criticize the government is to put oneself and one’s family in imminent danger. Simply criticizing the government can result in three generations being sent to the gulag for the “crime” of one family member.

Despite western knowledge of prison camps, religious persecution, food shortages, and the widespread suppression of basic human liberties, North Koreans are rarely granted refugee or asylum status in the U.S. Since the North Korean Human Rights Act was passed in 2004, only 122 North Koreans have been granted legal status in the U.S., with a minimal number granted asylum or refugee status.

Many experts speculate that the U.S. does not grant refugee status because all North Koreans are given automatic citizenship upon their arrival in South Korea. But defectors from North Korea are rarely able to directly enter South Korea because border security is strictly monitored between the two countries. Instead, asylum seekers must risk a perilous journey of thousands of miles through China, Mongolia, or Southeast Asia to reach South Korea.

While an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 defectors from North Korea reside within South Korea, countless others are in hiding in China or forced to go to Southeast Asia. Various aid organizations have provided support, but many people remain caught in the middle, either as stateless individuals in China, trafficking victims across Southeast Asia, or as a citizen in a country utterly foreign to them.

Even though U.N. sanctions were recently increased, their effects are negligible since sanctions are rarely enforced by China. It’s time to hit North Korea where it really hurts, at its expansive network that props up the regime and enables it to perpetuate its large scale campaign against its people.

North Korea is our modern-day horror story. History should prompt us to act and not repeat the mistakes of the past. The present spotlight on the regime should remind the international community that North Korea is not just a hypothetical security threat to the outside world, it is also a threat to itself. Without serious actions that provide a cushion for the people of North Korea, there is little hope for a peaceful resettlement once the regime falls.

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Silent Conquest: A Tale of Sharia and Western Self-Censorship

At yesterday’s debut showing of Silent Conquest: The End of Freedom of Expression in the West at The Heritage Foundation, one of the most shocking moments was a comment by Lars Hedegaard, a Danish historian and chairman of the Danish Free Press Society.

Hedegaard was asked: Could the screening of this movie and the free intellectual discussion of the advance of Islamic Sharia law in the West have taken place at a European—say British—think tank “No, I don’t think so” was his chilling answer.

The subjects of Islam and Sharia have simply become taboo in many European countries. Free speech advocates, among them moderate Muslim voices, are deeply concerned.

As shown in Silent Conquest, throughout Europe, in Canada, and even in the United States, judicial systems in countries with large Muslim minorities are under pressure to adopt Sharia free speech restrictions. As a result, in many places, including Denmark, it is now a crime to say anything negative about Islam or the prophet Mohammed, regardless of whether such statements are factual or not. The concept that even offensive speech is protected—so fundamental to the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment—is collapsing.

Even if those accused of insulting Islam are acquitted, as Hedegaard himself was after a grueling legal battle, outraged Muslims may take matters in their own hands. Hedegaard narrowly escaped assassination in February when a Muslim immigrant posing as a mailman attempted to shoot him. Another Dane, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard of Mohammed cartoon fame, survived two assaults by knife-wielding immigrants and is now under permanent police protection. (The fact that Denmark has stringent anti-gun laws protected neither from attack, one might add.)

The extent of the problem is startling. In 2010, Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders was acquitted after being charged with the crime of “insulting Muslims” and “inciting hatred of Muslims.” That same year, Hedegaard was charged with hate speech and finally acquitted two years later by the Danish Supreme Court. In France, actress Brigitte Bardot was sentenced to a two-month suspended sentence and a fine of $15,000 for complaining about Muslims in her neighborhood. In Canada, author Mark Steyn was acquitted in 2008 after a prolonged legal battle over his article “Why the Future Belongs to Islam.”

Even though some are acquitted, all of this has a chilling effect. Europeans “are acting as though Sharia law has already been adopted in Europe,” Nasar Khader, a moderate Muslim member of the Danish parliament, stated in the movie.

Disturbingly, so does the U.S. government. While the 9/11 Commission report from 2007 contained hundreds of references to words such as Islam, Muslim, and Jihad, not a single instance of these words is found in the national security strategy documents of the Obama Administration, a deliberate government decision. Furthermore, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threw U.S. support behind U.N. anti-blasphemy Resolution 16/18 in December 2011, which would effectively repress free speech if enacted in member countries.

At least in the United States, the First Amendment still stands as a bulwark, and lawmakers have taken up the cause of free speech and the free exercise of religion. On March 7, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced S. Res. 69, “Calling for the protection of religious rights and freedoms in the Arab world.” It specifically “urges in the strongest possible terms that the United States Government lead the international effort to repeal existing blasphemy laws.”

Though it is not likely the Obama Administration will heed this plea, it is imperative for the future of this country, this civilization, that the defenders of freedom remain vigilant.

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Broad, Diverse Defense of Marriage at Supreme Court

Scholars have filed more than 50 amicus briefs with the Supreme Court urging it to uphold California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). While the media seems intent on ignoring these briefs and hyping the briefs on the other side, the sheer number and quality of the briefs in defense of laws recognizing marriage as the union of a man and a woman is impressive.

Austin Nimocks, Senior Counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, explains the significance:

During the Supreme Court’s 2011-2012 term, an average of only 10 amicus briefs per case were filed. And in the historic landmark case of Roe v. Wade, only 26 total amicus briefs were filed.

By comparison a combined total of 58 amicus briefs were filed in support of Prop 8 and DOMA. The pro-marriage arguments are deep, rich, well-reasoned, common sense- and common good-based, and worthy of serious reflection by the Court and any other American interested in the future of our most important social institution.

Here are just a few of the arguments:

Family law expert Helen Alvare argues that society’s interest in the upbringing of children and marriage’s unique ability to serve that interest explains the government’s involvement in marriage. Tracing the consequences of the past half century’s “retreat from marriage,” and its disparate effects on America’s poor, Alvare argues that redefining marriage to exclude sexual complementarity would cause social harms to increase. The consequences of redefining marriage is the focus of the amicus brief that I filed with my co-authors Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese responds to charges that marriage laws violate legal guarantees of equal protection and argues that same-sex and opposite-sex relationships are not similarly situated:

Given the near-universal view, across different societies and different times, that a principle, if not the principal, purpose of marriage is the channeling of the unique procreative abilities of opposite-sex relationships into a societally beneficial institution, it is clear that same-sex and opposite-sex couples are not similarly situated with respect to that fundamental purpose.

A group of international jurists and academics points out that not until the year 2000 did any political body recognize same-sex unions as marriages, that even today only 12 non-U.S. jurisdictions recognize same-sex unions as marriages, and that “same-sex marriage is not required by international human rights norms”:

The European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the French Constitutional Court, the Italian Constitutional Court, the German Federal Constitutional Court, and the New Zealand Court of Appeal have all rejected the notion that same-sex marriage is a constitutional or human right. (emphasis added)

Indeed, a group of historians and other professors explain the historical consensus that existed prior to the year 2000: “While the procedures and incidents of marriage have varied over time and across cultures, its primary form and legal meaning have remained remarkably constant. … Marriage as an opposite-sex institution is a universal phenomenon.”

A team of social science professors present the scientifically robust data that exists on family structure and child wellbeing.

Indeed, the only studies that were based on large, random, representative samples tended to reveal … significant differences in the outcomes of children raised by parents in a same-sex relationship and those raised by a married biological mother and father. What is clear is that much more study must be done on these questions. But there is no dispute that a biological mother and father provide, on average, an effective and proven environment for raising children. And it is reasonable to conclude that a mother and father function as a complementary parenting unit and that each tends to contribute something unique and beneficial to child development.

Eminent political scientists Leon Kass and Harvey Mansfield caution the Court against accepting politicized science: “Claims that science provides support for constitutionalizing a right to same-sex marriage must necessarily rest on ideology. Ideology may be pervasive in the social sciences, especially when controversial policy issues are at stake, but ideology is not science.”

The Attorneys General for 20 states defend the rational basis of their states’ marriage law and the irrationality of redefining marriage: “No limiting principle for excluding other groupings of individuals.” And 37 scholars of federalism and judicial restraint argue that “[p]rinciples of federalism and judicial restraint urge this Court to exercise caution when considering the expansion of constitutional rights in areas of contentious social dispute.” The laboratories of democracy-not unelected judges-should make marriage policy for the nation.

Several briefs argue that trying to cast gay and lesbian Americans as a “suspect class” rests both on bad science and bad politics. For example, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School chief psychiatrist Dr. Paul McHugh explains the academic research on sexual orientation:

Sexual orientation is neither a “discrete” nor “immutable” characteristic in the legal sense of those terms.… Scholars do not know enough about what sexual orientation is, what causes it, and why and how it sometimes changes for the Court to recognize it as the defining feature of a new suspect class.

A brief from the Concerned Women for America points out that gay and lesbian Americans are hardly a politically powerless class. In fact, they have the President of the United States advocating on their behalf. If marriage policy is to be changed, it ought to be done legislatively.

While the media takes little note of their voices, many Americans who experience same-sex attraction are opposed to redefining marriage. Two separate briefs (here and here) make their case.

Likewise, two additional briefs (here and here) argued that laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman are nothing like laws that prevented African-Americans and whites from marrying. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty argues that when courts create rights to same-sex marriage they create new hazards for religious liberty.

Many, many more briefs could be highlighted, and the Alliance Defending Freedom has listed a selection of them here. In the coming days Heritage will spotlight in greater detail these briefs. Marriage matters and the Court should recognize the Constitutional authority of citizens and their elected officials when it comes to making marriage policy.

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Morning Bell: Now Is a Time for Commitment

Dear friends,

I write to tell you to take heart.

Yes, conservatives are disappointed that a President who recklessly spent trillions, expanded government and put many of our values and institutions at risk has won a second term. But many of us have been here before. In Washington, there are no permanent victories or permanent defeats, just permanent battles.

Now is the time to stand up and declare we will continue to fight against big government and for freedom.

We will see unfold over the next four years a crucial battle for the soul of America. This struggle requires committed warriors for the cause. The line must be held against bad policy while we continue advocating conservative solutions. We must fight against the efforts to divide the country through class warfare.

Rest assured this is what The Heritage Foundation is determined to do.

We know that the First Principles reflected in our Constitution made this country great. Those principles are alive and well in the hearts and minds of the American people. We will work harder than ever before to defend them and to see them translated into the right public policies.

President Obama may have won an Electoral College victory, but he knows that he lacks a mandate for changing our nation according to his progressive vision. He is the first re-elected president since World War II not to improve his margin of victory and to get fewer Electoral College votes in re-election.

Let me be clear: The President does not have a mandate. But even so, he may claim he has a dictate to radically transform our country with his Euro-socialist agenda. We cannot allow him to get away with any such false claim or dangerous plan.

The President’s much-diminished support should make clear to Mr. Obama that he lacks a mandate for radically transforming this country, and we hope that will be the case. Of course, given the record of the past four years, we are not holding our breath. So we must be ready.

We must be ready to seize opportunities and to make opportunities. There is the breakdown in Congress, a coequal branch of government. Conservatives were reelected to the House of Representatives, while Harry Reid and his friends still own the Senate. The status quo in Washington sadly still exists, and it is up to us to make sure that conservatives going forward present the clearest, most compelling contrast possible to the policies of the left. You can count on Heritage to work with our conservative allies in Congress to make this happen.

We will fight by offering the right policy proposals. From entitlement reform to national defense and energy policy, The Heritage Foundation will continue to fight for the solutions the country needs.

We have a lot of work to do. Obamacare is dragging down our already struggling economy. Our nation is going broke with a national debt of $16 trillion-a 60 percent increase under President Obama. We must stop our national binge of spending, taxing, and borrowing.

We now immediately face a lame duck Congress. The present House of Representatives must hold the line over the next two months and refuse to sign on to even more spending or higher taxes.

The Heritage Foundation has a comprehensive plan-Saving the American Dream-to reduce the size, scope and cost of government. It balances the budget within 10 years while maintaining a strong defense and without raising taxes. To achieve that goal, we must reform America’s entitlement programs-Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security-if we want to save them.

I understand it will not be easy. But the alternative is unthinkable. We cannot keep spending money we do not have.

Let us do what is best for America. Let us resolve to save the American Dream for our children and our children’s children.

Let us build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish and where an oppressive government does not hold anyone back or down.

Fellow conservatives, now is a time for commitment. Let’s get to work to save America-starting today.

Will you encourage your neighbors, your family, your friends? Will you commit to the battles ahead? Join our fight today.


Ed Feulner

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Media Scandal in the Making: CBS Posts Still More of President’s Benghazi Interview

On Sunday night, a full 54 days after the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, CBS finally posted a critically important segment of the 60 Minutes interview with President Obama conducted on September 12.

Unbelievably, it was left on the cutting room floor even as 60 Minutes aired a long segment with President Obama criticizing presidential challenger Mitt Romney over his remarks on protests in Egypt. Given the substance of what was left out, this editorial decision shows CBS as either shamelessly biased in favor of the President or hopelessly incompetent as a news organization.

Central to the newly released segment is President Obama’s failure to describe the Benghazi attack as terrorism in his Rose Garden statement made earlier the same day. It will be recalled that he was pressed hard by Mitt Romney on this point in the second presidential debate.

This is how the exchange went:

CBS’S STEVE KROFT: Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya attack. Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?

OBAMA: Well, it’s too early to tell exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.

KROFT: It’s been described as a mob action, but there are reports that they were very heavily armed with grenades. That doesn’t sound like your normal demonstration.

OBAMA: As I said, we’re still investigating exactly what happened. I don’t want to jump the gun on this. But you’re right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt. And my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start. So we’re gonna make sure that our first priority is to get our folks out safe, make sure that our embassies are secured around the world, and then we are going to go after those folks who carried this out.

KROFT: There have been reports, obviously this isn’t the first time…there have been attacks on the consulate before. There was an attack against the British ambassador. Do you … this occurred on September 11. Can you tell me why the ambassador was in Benghazi yesterday? Was it to evaluate security at the consulate?

OBAMA: Well, keep in mind Chris Stevens is somebody who was one of the first Americans on the ground when we were in the process of saving Benghazi and providing the opportunity for Libyans to create their own democracy. So this is somebody who had been courageous, had been on the ground, had helped to advise me and Secretary Clinton when we were taking our actions against Muammar Qadhafi, and is somebody who is very familiar with the terrain. He was doing the work that he does as a diplomat, helping to shape our policies in the region at a time when things are still fairly fragile. But I think it’s important to note that we have a Libyan government in place that is fully cooperative, that sees the United States as a friend, that recognizes we played an important role in liberating Libya and providing the Libyan people an opportunity to forge their own destiny. And in fact we had Libyans who helped protect our diplomats when they were under attack. But this is a country that is still rebuilding in the aftermath of Qadhafi. They don’t necessarily always have the same capabilities that countries with more established governments might have in helping to provide protection to our folks. But beyond that, what I want to do is make sure that we know exactly what happened, how it happened, who perpetrated this action, then we’ll act accordingly.


Kroft asks reasonable and informed questions, which the CBS audience would undoubtedly like to have answered. Why did the President choose not to call the attack an act of terrorism? Given the lack of security, was there a plan to evacuate the Benghazi consulate? Was that why Stevens went there in the first place?

Equally interestingly, President Obama’s answer is totally misleading. Stevens had been pleading for months for additional security in Benghazi and believed his life was in danger. He had also informed the Administration that Libyan forces were insufficient and unreliable as protection.

Why CBS chose not to post the above portion on the Internet until November 4 is a mystery. It was done entirely without fanfare and was revealed by Fox News’s Bret Baier.

American mainstream media coverage of the Benghazi terrorist attack is a scandal in its own right. The “fourth estate” is supposedly an additional check on the powers of the federal government. Yet in this case, when four Americans-including an ambassador-lost their lives, most of the media have shamefully abdicated responsibility.

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Green Graveyard: 19 Taxpayer-Funded Failures

While there’s speculation over which federally supported green energy company may be the next to declare bankruptcy, plenty have already gone belly up. In one of the most extensive compilations to date, Heritage has identified 19 bankrupt green energy companies-unable to make it even with the $2.6 billion in financial assistance and incentives the government promised.

This blog is part of the “Green Graveyard” series, which will profile each of the 19 now-bankrupt companies and detail all the types of government assistance offered. These companies were all part of President Obama’s attempt to stimulate the economy by developing and expanding the “green” energy industry.

The problem is that these taxpayer-funded handouts never achieve the intended objective. Rather, they artificially support politically preferred companies and industries, like green energy, while shifting jobs and resources from another sector of the economy.

As the following examples demonstrate, the government’s proclivity to offer financial assistance and incentives to the green energy industry is a bad policy that’s been plaguing Washington since long before President Obama took office.

News of federally backed bankrupt energy companies is infuriating, but failed companies are not the only problem. The fundamental problem is that the federal government is risking taxpayer dollars to bet on companies in the first place. Regardless of their fate, the government should not be “investing” in private-sector companies, especially for an industry in which there is already ample demand and diverse supply.

The fact is, we should be equally infuriated about the successful companies. These are companies that have good products to offer and do not need taxpayer support. There is a phrase for subsidizing successful companies: corporate welfare. As Heritage’s Nick Loris has explained many times before, “Two kinds of companies seek subsidies: economically uncompetitive companies, which need the subsidy to survive, and potentially competitive companies, which use subsidies to pad their bottom lines. Neither case can be justified.”

Nonetheless, pointing out the failed companies is important, as it reveals the contortions politicians will go through to support private companies when their political narrative is at stake. While government intervention in the private economy didn’t start and will likely not stop with President Obama, the growing list of failed companies demonstrates the futility of central economic planning.

Before taking a closer look at the individual bankrupt companies and the financial assistance and incentives the government offered to them, a few caveats. These numbers do not reflect the amount of government funding the company necessarily received or used-these are amounts the government was willing to risk. These figures do offer estimations of assistance provided by local, state and/or federal governments. This assistance could have been promised to the companies in a variety of ways, including tax credits, loans, loan guarantees, grants, and other forms of financial incentives and support. The numbers below are the best calculations possible given the incomplete, at times even inconsistent, information from the government and other sources.

Additionally, during bankruptcy proceedings, these companies could very well be purchased by another company and be brought back to life. However, their tombstone in the Green Graveyard will remain as a reminder of the darker days.

Total of Government’s Bad Bets: Approximately $2.6 billion

  1. Abound Solar – Government’s Bad Bet: $ 790.3 million
  2. Solyndra – Government’s Bad Bet: $570 million
  3. A123 Systems – Government’s Bad Bet: $377.1 million
  4. Ener1 (EnerDel, subsidiary) – Government’s Bad Bet: $182.8 million
  5. Range Fuels – Government’s Bad Bet: $162.3 million
  6. Azure Dynamics – Government’s Bad Bet: $119.1 million
  7. Energy Conversion Devices (subsidiary, United Solar Ovanic) – Government’s Bad Bet: $110.3 million
  8. Evergreen Solar, Inc. – Government’s Bad Bet: $84.9 million
  9. Beacon Power – Government’s Bad Bet: $77.4 million
  10. Raser Technologies – Government’s Bad Bet: $33 million
  11. Nordic Windpower – Government’s Bad Bet: $24.6 million
  12. SpectraWatt – Government’s Bad Bet: $20.5 million
  13. Konarka Technologies – Government’s Bad Bet: $13.6 million (Heritage’s calculations), $20 million according to Konarka’s website
  14. Satcon Technology Corporation – Government’s Bad Bet: $17 million
  15. Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Co. – Government’s Bad Bet: $10.8 million
  16. Stirling Energy Systems, Inc. – Government’s Bad Bet: $10.5 million
  17. Thompson River Power, LLC – Government’s Bad Bet: $6.5 million
  18. Cardinal Fasteners and Specialty Co., Inc. – Government’s Bad Bet: $480,000
  19. Mountain Plaza, Inc.  – Government’s Bad Bet: $424,000

As our Green Graveyard series continues, we will go in-depth with each of these companies and provide details of funding sources, timelines, and more.

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The Heritage Guide to the Electoral College

 Abigael Evans should be happy. She’s the four-year-old who’s so sick of the election that she cried. Her tears went viral.

It should all be over soon, although we’ll have to wait a bit for the official tabulation of the Electoral College.

Here’s how it works: Each state has a number of electoral votes equal to its number of Representatives plus two Senators. California has the most (55). Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming have the least (three each). Under the 23rd Amendment, the District of Columbia has the same as the least populous state (three).

The candidate who wins the popular vote in a state receives all the state’s electoral votes (except in Maine and Nebraska, where electors are awarded by congressional district). The first candidate to amass a majority of electoral votes (270 out of 538) will become President.

The Electoral College ensures that the President is chosen by a constitutional majority. Candidates will be “moderated by the need to accommodate a variety of interests and viewpoints,” as Charles Kesler puts it. Candidates who focus too narrowly on a handful of states, regions, or metropolitan population centers will not be successful in the Electoral College.

There are no permanent “safe states” under the Electoral College. Some states “have simply already made up their minds based upon the years of decisions that preceded the election,” explains Tara Ross. Yet when a state ceases to be satisfied, it either becomes a safe state for the opposite political party or a swing state.

To date, President Obama and Governor Romney have visited the same 26 states. This list includes “purple” Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia. But it also includes solidly blue states (California, New York) and deep red ones (South Carolina, Texas). Those states, after all, are where the money is.

The Electoral College magnifies the margin of victory, thereby giving a new President a burst of momentum.

For instance, in 1960, John F. Kennedy won only 49.7 percent of the popular vote, compared to Nixon’s 49.5 percent. However, Kennedy won 56 percent of the electoral vote, compared to Nixon’s 41 percent.

In some 200 years, only three Presidents won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote: Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888), and George W. Bush (2000).

When that happens, some want to exchange the Electoral College for a national popular election. Yet as Kesler argues, the choice is not between a democratic and an undemocratic process:

[T]he issue is democracy with federalism (the Electoral College) versus democracy without federalism (a national popular vote). Either is democratic. Only the Electoral College preserves federalism, moderates ideological differences, and promotes national consensus in our choice of a chief executive.

What about a tie? If no candidate wins a majority of the Electoral College, then according to the 12th Amendment, the House of Representative selects the President, and the Senate chooses the Vice President. In the House, each state gets one vote, and the candidate who gains a majority (26 votes) wins. In the Senate, each Senator votes, and 51 votes are required. These contingent elections are rare. On two occasions, the House has selected the President (1800 and 1824); the Senate selected a Vice President once in 1836.

Tomorrow, voters in 50 states and the District of Columbia head to the polls to choose our next President. The Electoral College system isn’t perfect, but it’s still the best system for our federal republic, and hopefully that can convince young Abigael to stop weeping.

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Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism

Barack Obama calls himself a “progressive” or “liberal,” and we should take him at his word. He had the distinction of being the most liberal member of the United States Senate when he ran for President in 2008. The title had been conferred by National Journal, an inside-the-Beltway watchdog that annually assigns Senators (and Congressmen) an ideological rank based on their votes on economic, social, and foreign policy issues.

But what does it mean anymore to be a liberal?

Charles R. Kesler reveals the answer in his latest First Principles Essay, “Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism.”

Modern liberalism, he argues, spread across the country in three powerful waves, interrupted by wars and by rather haphazard reactions to its excesses. Each wave of liberalism featured a different aspect of it-call them, for short, political liberalism, economic liberalism, and cultural liberalism-and each deposited on our shores a distinctive type of politics-the politics of progress, the politics of entitlements, and the poli­tics of meaning.

These waves were so powerful that the 20th century can be described as the liberal century. But there’s another complicating factor: Liberalism is in crisis.

This kind of crisis is probably not their favor­ite kind-an emergency that presents an opportunity to enlarge govern­ment-but one that will find liberal­ism at a crossroads, a turning point. Liberalism can’t go on as it is, not for very long. According to Kesler, it faces difficulties both philosophical and fiscal that will compel it either to go out of business or to become something quite differ­ent from what it has been.

What will it mean to be a liberal then?

To find out more, read Charles R. Kesler’s latest First Principles essay, adapted from I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism.

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