Van der Vaart to EPA?

vandervaartcleanpower-092115It’s a prospect Michael Bastasch explores for the Daily Caller.

Members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team are interviewing candidates to head up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While media reports indicate the president-elect has narrowed the field down to two candidates, a new name is on the lips of some on Trump’s transition team: Dr. Donald van der Vaart.

Van der Vaart is a PhD chemical engineer who currently heads the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. If appointed and approved by Congress, Van der Vaart would be the first PhD scientist to head EPA. He also holds a law degree.

Sources close to Trump’s transition team said van der Vaart would put a halt to overreaching regulations and the so-called “secret science” EPA relies on to push ever-stricter rules on businesses.

“He can see right through this stuff,” a source told The Daily Caller News Foundation, arguing van der Vaart would be critical of any shoddy science coming out of the agency.

Van der Vaart has been a vocal critic of the EPA as North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, especially in regards to the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and the “waters of the United States” rule. Repealing both those rules are top priorities for Trump.

“He understands that time consumption and reams of paperwork, to comply with regulations that accomplish nothing to improve our environment, are economy killers,” North Carolina state Rep. Chris Millis, a van der Vaart supporter, told TheDCNF.

Trump’s Supreme Court picks and an ideological war with the left

U.S. News and World Report looks ahead to the likely ideological battles surrounding President-elect Donald Trump’s Supreme Court choices.

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Improving health care involves more than fixing Obamacare

Darcy Bryan, Jared Rhoads, and Robert Graboyes of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University explain a project that’s designed to improve American health care, not just scrap Obamacare.

Ranked No. 43, it looks as if North Carolina has some work to do.

The Healthcare Openness and Access Project (HOAP) is a collection of state-by-state comparative data on the flexibility and discretion US patients and providers have in managing health care. HOAP combines these data to produce 38 indicators of openness and accessibility. …

… There is broad agreement in the United States that it would be desirable to lower the cost and improve the quality of health care and broaden health insurance coverage. There is much disagreement about how this trio of goals is to be accomplished. The years-long political struggle over the Affordable Care Act (ACA, commonly known as Obamacare) is the most visible manifestation of this divergence of views. The ACA represents one approach to tackling the three goals. Many on the political Left argue for still-more-centralized public-sector control over health care and particularly for a federal single-payer insurance system. Policymakers and commentators on the Right have offered a variety of proposals that, generally speaking, would shift more power to private-sector entities and to states. All these proposals have one thing in common: they assume the key to lower costs and better care lies in reconfiguring the insurance system.

We believe the three goals of healthcare reform cannot be attained by fixating solely, or even primarily, on health insurance reform. States have (and should have) substantial control over the delivery of health care—and not solely or principally in the area of insurance reform. To make maximum use of state powers in improving care, it is vital to have a basis for comparison—to see what works in other states. The Healthcare Openness and Access Project (HOAP) is a set of tools providing state-by-state measures of the flexibility and discretion that patients and providers have in managing health and health care. In other words, how open are each state’s laws and regulations to institutional variation in the delivery of care, and how much access to varying modes of care does this confer on the state’s patients and providers?

N.C.’s Walker on conservatism in Congress

The new leader of the U.S. House’s Republican Study Committee, North Carolina’s Mark Walker, offered the American Enterprise Institute some interesting thoughts about the next year in Congress.

Rep. Walker on “effective conservatism”:

However long we’re privileged to serve here, whether it’s two years or twenty years, can you look back and say ‘was it simply about winning the argument? Or was it about making a difference? Are there measured marks of success where you’ve moved the needle forward? Now I think that consists of three things: 1) the right policy 2) the right approach, and 3) the right voice.

What do I mean by the right voice? If you go back to business and marketing […] products can sometimes reach a ‘maturity stage’: people are walking past it on the shelf in the grocery store. Kelloggs’ had that problem in thge late 1980s. So in 1990 they release this commercial, they had this New Englander eating this big bowl of Corn Flakes, but the tag line was this: Taste them again for the first time.

And when you talk about your question as far as the different factions, conservatives as a whole across the conference, I feel like it’s ‘Hear us again for the first time.’ We have an opportunity, an incredible moment in history right now, to allow our voices to be heard.

Rep. Walker on the opportunities for growing the conservative community:

There is fertile soil right now. We have the data on our side that the last eight years have not benefited any community. … The conduit of how we share that message is crucial. If we come in with our strong armor, if we come in attack, attack, attack… In any aspect of life, when you start from an adversarial position, you limit your gain immediately. And I feel like, if we’re willing to look across the conference, across the RSC, to talk about these non-traditional items, we have an incredible opportunity to impact our culture.

The impact of Trump’s war on the media

Kopin Tan of Barron’s raises a red flag about President-elect Donald Trump’s dismissive treatment of the media.

Given Trump’s distaste for answering questions from reporters—he hasn’t held a press conference since July and has favored addressing Americans directly through tweets and YouTube videos—one wonders what will become of this press room. Maybe it’ll make an amazing spa. Maybe the chairs can be cleared to make room for Zumba!

Trump isn’t obliged to hold press conferences, of course, and he won’t be the first president to have his preferred medium: Franklin D. Roosevelt liked radio addresses, and John F. Kennedy beamed his face into your living room through the television. But no recent president has been so openly derisive of the press.

Mario Cuomo once said that you campaign in poetry, but govern in prose, which Trump must have taken to heart when he called reporters “scum,” “lowlifes,” and then, for added emphasis, “the lowest form of life.” Already, Trump has accused the press of inciting protests. In a recent speech, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour cautioned that “first the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating—until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives.”

Living as he does in a Fifth Avenue tower decked out in gold, Trump calling the press “elitist” is a little like cheddar calling Gruyère cheesy. But in the coming years, it’ll be interesting, and important, to see how the Trump administration affects the way the press does its job, and whether Corporate America co-opts the media tactics of the billionaire-in-chief. After all, if there’s any place where the money and the incentive to lie are even bigger than in politics, it’s in the stock market.

Just think: Which CEO wouldn’t want to sidestep a conference call after a lousy quarter when he or she must field pesky questions from analysts and reporters? Why not just tweet the explanation for adopting a more-forgiving accounting rule? Denigrating the messenger to discredit the message also could prove useful when companies have bad news to unload. This doesn’t even count the cottage industries that have been spawned that Trump didn’t directly create. If fake-news Websites with an allegedly Russian sheen can persuade some Americans that, say, the pope had endorsed Donald, then these for-profit entrepreneurs might be mobilized whenever public opinion needs reshaping—such as when one needs to push a new hamburger patty or a hot tech stock.

Of course, if Tan proves prophetic, biased media outlets will have only themselves to blame.

Barron’s editorial page editor offers health care ideas to Trump

Thomas Donlan of Barron’s explains in his latest editorial commentary that President-elect Donald Trump has an opportunity to make major positive changes in health care.

As a form of insurance, Obamacare is a fraud: About 60% of its beneficiaries are on Medicaid, a welfare program, and the rest are in a tangled mess of exchanges that provides an illusion of good insurance.

If Trumpcare is to be any better, the new president and the Republican majority in Congress should think bigger, and also think more slowly.

They are talking about a quick legislative repeal of the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but wise heads want to postpone the effective date for two or three years. It may not take that long to create a simple health-insurance plan that covers all Americans, but whatever Congress does probably will not be simple, and it will require a lengthy period of adjustment and adaptation.

It would be even better if they repeal and replace all of the other federal programs that take the place of real health insurance for a third of Americans. Their names are legion, but the six big ones are Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Health Administration, Children’s Health Insurance, Tricare (for military families), and the Indian Health Service.

A seventh program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, needs no serious adjustment. It relies on private insurance and gives beneficiaries a wide variety of plans to choose from. It should be expanded to serve the beneficiaries of the other six.

Trump said in 2000, in a book called The America We Deserve, “We must have universal health care. Our objective [should be to] find an equivalent of the single-payer plan that is affordable, well administered, and provides freedom of choice….The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program can act as a guide for all health-care reform. It operates through a centralized agency that offers considerable range of choice. While this is a government program, it is also very much market-based. It allows private insurance companies to compete for this market. Once a year, participants can choose from plans which vary in benefits and costs.”

Trump and his co-author went further in the right direction: The book proposed that groups and individuals receive the same kind of tax breaks for health insurance that employers now receive.

“This would allow ordinary citizens to buy coverage that complements their company policy and gives them more of what they need. It would also give them the option to jettison the company policy altogether and just buy their own insurance.”

New Carolina Journal Online features

Barry Smith reports for Carolina Journal Online on the potential impact of a rare 2017 election for members of the N.C. General Assembly, including the expectation of low voter turnout.

Smith also reports the state elections director’s assessment of challenges linked to a special 2017 election.

John Hood’s Daily Journal explains why U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s re-election deserves special attention.

Tom Ross: Donate your time and energy to government

During a speech at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, Former UNC system president Tom Ross said “that in the wake of a historically divisive election American democracy is ‘inching toward failure.’”

For the most part, it’s pretty much the typical liberal/academic stuff you’re seeing on social media: scared, angry white people “voted based on emotion rather than facts or issues.”

I expected that from a guy like Ross, but then the other shoe drops (emphasis mine):

There is no “miracle solution” for fixing our current political system, Ross said. He encouraged members of the standing-room crowd to donate their time and energy to government. Addressing the students in attendance, he encouraged them to consider careers in government after graduation, reminding them that they are “the ones who can really make a difference.”

He also asked people to remind their friends and families about the good that government does – and what it costs to do that good.

“Stop taking things for granted, and think about how government matters to us,” he said. “Help people understand that it isn’t free. Roads aren’t free. Sewer systems aren’t free. You have to invest in those. That infrastructure requires an investment. It’s called taxes. We have to invest. We don’t get the returns if we don’t make the investment.”

To be fair to Ross, that’s not a direct quote, so it’s possible the News & Observer reporter’s paraphrasing was a bit off. Whatever the case, let me just say that anyone suggesting that we “donate our time and energy to government” is a far more dangerous sign that our republic is inching toward failure than the fair square election of Donald Trump.