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InsiderOnline Blog: March 2015

Losing a Subsidy Is Not the Same as Losing Coverage

Will turmoil reign in health insurance markets if the Supreme Court disallows tax credits on the federal exchanges? The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim that ObamaCare creates a tax credit subsidy program only for health insurance purchased through a state exchange, not the exchanges set-up by the federal government in the states that declined to create their own. Some worry that a Court decision agreeing that the Internal Revenue Service improperly extended the credits to federal exchanges would create too much disruption for those covered on the exchanges. As Ed Haislmaier explains, however, a loss of subsidy is not the same as a loss of coverage:

The ACA instructed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) not only to establish “annual open enrollment periods” during which eligible individuals may purchase subsidized coverage through an exchange, but to also provide for enrollment outside of open season under certain circumstances. Such so called special enrollment periods are triggered when an individual experiences a qualifying event specified in regulation such as gaining or becoming a dependent due to marriage, birth, or adoption or moving to another state. An individual also can qualify if he or she is “determined newly eligible or newly ineligible for advance payments of the premium tax credit or has a change in eligibility for cost-sharing reductions.” Thus, anyone losing subsidies as a result of the Court’s ruling would qualify for a special enrollment period. […]

The regulations further specify that in such circumstances, the individual must be allowed to “enroll in or change from one Q[ualified] H[ealth] P[lan] to another.” That means the individual must be given the choice of any other plan—at any coverage level and from any insurer—that is offered in his state through the exchange. Thus, individuals could stay with their current plans or could switch to less expensive plans.

Data released by HHS on the 2015 exchange open enrollment period show that many subsidized exchange enrollees did not select one of the less expensive plan options available to them. Specifically, HHS reported that among subsidy-eligible enrollees, 77 percent could have picked a plan with a monthly after-subsidy cost of $50 or less but that only 38 percent of them actually did so. This indicates not only that the availability of subsidies encouraged enrollees to “buy-up” to more expensive coverage, but also that should the Court rule that those subsidies can no longer be paid, they could respond by “trading down” to less expensive coverage. [Internal citations omitted.] [The Heritage Foundation, March 30]

Posted on 03/31/15 05:06 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Assess the Future of Innovation

Assess the future of innovation. The Mercatus Center’s Tyler Cowen will have a conversation with Peter Thiel. The talk begins at 2 p.m. on March 31 at the Founders Hall Auditorium at the Arlington Campus of George Mason University.

Celebrate human achievement. The Left wants you to think turning your lights off for an hour during Earth Hour represents some kind of penance for your impact on the Earth. The Competitive Enterprise Institute says phoey: Turn your lights on and celebrate the technology that enhances our lives. Human Achievement hour will begin at 8:30 p.m. on March 28. Celebrate by enjoying some television, listening to music, talking with friends over the Internet, or in whatever other way you want (except sitting in the dark).

Learn why basic economics works in a crisis, too. The John Locke Foundation will host Peter Boettke, talking about what policymakers did wrong during the 2008 financial crisis. Boettke’s talk will begin at noon on March 30 at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, Va.

Find out why school choice is important to hispanic and other minority communities. The Texas Public Policy Foundation will host a panel discussion on the value of school choice on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. in the Texas State Capitol, Room E2.1002.

Learn about the issues facing Latin America. The Heritage Foundation will host former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, who will discuss Mexico’s energy revolution, the crisis in Venezuela, the upcoming Summit of the Americas, and other topics. Fox’s talk will begin at 11 a.m. on March 31.

(Also at The Heritage Foundation next week: Living Life to Its Fullest: Supporting the Sick and Elderly in their Most Vulnerable Hours, noon, March 30; and Does Antitrust Trump State Regulation? – The Supreme Court’s North Carolina Dental Decision, noon, March 31.)

Posted on 03/27/15 10:26 PM by Alex Adrianson

New Mexico Is Nearing a Major Victory for Civil Liberties

Last Saturday, both chambers of New Mexico’s legislature passed a bill that will make it a lot harder for law enforcement to take the property of people not convicted of a crime. The bill places significant restrictions on a procedure known as civil asset forfeiture, under which police can seize property that they suspect has been used in a crime. The property owner then has to prove his property wasn’t used in a crime in order to get it back.

If Gov. Susana Martinez (R) signs the bill, police will be unable to seize property unless there is first a conviction for the criminal act in which the property was allegedly used, proceeds from seized property will be deposited into the state’s general fund rather than the coffers of police departments, and state and local law enforcement will be unable to get around these restrictions through the federal equitable sharing program (which gives local and state police departments a share of assets seized in federal investigations in which state and local police participate).

Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation says the bill “strikes exactly the right balance by allowing law enforcement to bring criminals to justice while protecting the property rights of innocent New Mexicans.” [Rio Grande Foundation, March 22]

Last year, an Institute for Justice video explained how civil asset forfeiture turned robbers into cops. [Institute for Justice, August 12, 2014] And Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Radley Balko, and Scott Bullock spoke at The Heritage Foundation about the need to reform civil asset forfeiture laws . [The Heritage Foundation, July 29, 2014]

Posted on 03/27/15 09:11 PM by Alex Adrianson

Taxation Without Representation

The federal deduction for state and local taxes is a handout to high-tax states. It lets them raise their taxes higher than would otherwise be politically sustainable by shifting that tax burden to taxpayers in other states—who don’t vote for the lawmakers who raised the taxes.

What if the federal government eliminated that deduction and commensurately lowered federal taxes for everybody? According to a new analysis by Rachel Greszler and Kevin Dayaratna, federal income tax rates could be reduced by as much 12.5 percent without reducing federal revenue. Further, they calculate that at least 70 percent of taxpayers would face lower combined federal and state taxes because they do not itemize their deductions.

Just 10 states account for 62 percent of the value of the deduction, and the deduction primarily benefits high-income earners. But even taxpayers in those high-tax states may be better off without the deduction. If taxpayers were unable to deduct their state and local taxes, they would start demanding a dollars’ worth of state services for every dollar they paid in state taxes. Lawmakers would then face pressure to trim state budgets and cut taxes to make voters happy. [“Time to End the Federal Subsidy for High-Tax States,” by Rachel Greszler and Kevin D. Dayaratna, The Heritage Foundation, March 26]

Posted on 03/27/15 08:13 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Export-Import Bank Is Welfare for Really Big Corporations

The Export-Import Bank’s charter expires on June 30, but Congress is considering a bill to extend the life of the bank, which provides financing for foreign purchasers of U.S. goods. That would be great news for a number of big companies but bad news for thousands of small companies who compete with the foreign purchasers being subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer. Dan Ikenson explains:

[I]n 2013 about 75 percent of Ex-Im largesse was dispensed to the benefit of ten large, creditworthy companies, including Boeing, General Electric, Bechtel, Dow Chemical, and Caterpillar. But another large company, Delta Airlines, raised objections last year over Ex-Im’s financing of Boeing aircraft sales to foreign carriers, such as Air India.  Delta’s complaint was that the U.S. government, as a matter of policy, was subsidizing Delta’s foreign competition by reducing Air India’s cost of acquiring airplanes.  Those lower capital costs enabled Air India to offer lower prices than it otherwise could, which had an obvious, adverse impact on Delta’s bottom line.  In essence, Ex-Im forces taxpayers to underwrite the success of some U.S. companies at the expense of others. […]

While it is relatively easy for a big company like Delta to connect the dots and see that Boeing is being favored at its expense (airplanes constitute a large share of Delta’s total costs), most manufacturing companies are unaware that they are shouldering the costs of government subsidies to their own competitors. But the victims include big and small producers — of electrical equipment, appliances, furniture, food, chemicals, computers, electronics, plastics and rubber products, paper, metal, textiles — from across the country. Companies producing telecommunications equipment incur an estimated collective tax of $125 million per year.

The industries in which companies bear the greatest burdens — where the costs of Ex-Im’s subsidies to foreign competitors are the highest — are of vital importance to the manufacturing economies of most states. In Oregon, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Nevada, and Maryland, the 10 industries shouldering the greatest costs account for at least 80 percent of the state’s manufacturing output. The most important industry is among the ten most burdened by these costs in 33 of 50 states. The chemical industry, which bears a cost of $107 million per year, is the largest manufacturing industry in 12 states. [Forbes, March 17]

Posted on 03/27/15 06:11 PM by Alex Adrianson

Congress Wants to Fix Medicare by Making It Worse

Congress wants to fix Medicare’s doctor payments so that seniors don’t suffer even worse access to health care than they already have. But they may end up making the program worse for the sickest patients. The bill passed by the House on Thursday would replace the Sustainable Growth Rate formula—the source of the automatic cuts that Congress annually suspends—with something called the Merit Based Incentive Program (MIPS). MIPS uses a scoring system to calculate bonuses and penalties to doctor’s payments. As David Hogberg explains, MIPS will encourage doctors to avoid the sickest patients:

Consider A1c, the level of a patient’s blood sugar and a common quality measure for diabetics. Physicians who are subject to this quality measure can boost their score by limiting their diabetic patients to those who watch what they eat, exercise regularly, and take their medication. They will avoid diabetic patients who need much more encouragement and monitoring, since taking on too many of those patients could result in a below average score on the A1c measure and, hence, a penalty.

MIPS will also incentivize the most talented physicians to pursue the least challenging avenues of medicine. The least challenging areas of health care will be the ones where it will be easiest to achieve high scores on quality measures and thus receive bonuses. It likely won’t be long before the “best and brightest” in medicine figure that out. Since the least challenging areas will also probably contain the healthiest patients, then the most talented physicians will not be treating the sickest patients.

Ultimately, the sickest patients will suffer as MIPS incentivizes the best physicians to avoid them. [The Federalist, March 27]

Posted on 03/27/15 05:42 PM by Alex Adrianson

Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore Showed that Health Savings Accounts Work

Lee Kuan Yew died last week at the age of 91. One of the most important things he did as Prime Minister of Singapore, argues John Fund, was to show that voucherizing social programs is the way to have a welfare state that doesn’t run out of money or trample a free economy:

Singapore’s approach to the provision of health care, retirement income, and housing is in sharp distinction to that of other countries. People are required to make relatively high payments into savings plans from which they can later buy a home, pay tuition, and purchase a variety of insurance policies. For those under age 50, the employee contributes 20 percent of his income, and the employer 16 percent. A third of the employee’s share is put into a private Medisave account. When the balance reaches 34,100 U.S. dollars, any excess funds can be used for non-health-care purposes. All are enrolled in a catastrophic-health-care plan, although they can opt out.

Health-care expert John Goodman is credited (along with economist Richard Rahn) with first proposing medical savings accounts in the U.S. He says Singapore shows that they can work as the backbone of a health-care system. “The issue is,” he says, “can individuals be counted on to manage their own health-care dollars responsibly, or does health care work better if all the dollars are controlled by government or insurance companies?”

The answer is clear.

Not only is Singapore’s population healthy, but the private sector dominates health-care spending, and consumer choice keeps health-care costs down. In Singapore, the government’s share of health-care spending has fallen to 20 percent, down from 50 percent 30 years ago. “Singapore has found a rational way to provide services that are provided by legalized Ponzi schemes in the rest of the developed world,” Goodman told me in an interview. “Those governments have made promises they must either default on or impose draconian taxes to pay for. Singapore has avoided that problem.” [National Review, March 27]

Posted on 03/27/15 11:02 AM by Alex Adrianson

The Hudsucker Proxy Shows the Value of a Price-Coordinated System

Market prices are signals that help people figure out what economic activity is valuable to society and what isn’t. The film The Hudsucker Proxy helps us to see the point, explains Andrew Heaton in the latest edition of EconPop:

Posted on 03/25/15 03:44 PM by Alex Adrianson

Did ObamaCare Really Reduce Health Care Inflation?

ObamaCare’s defenders seem to believe the law contains a wayback clause, the “most celebrated effect” of which, writes David Catron “is its retroactive reduction of medical inflation during the years preceding the law’s implementation.” [American Spectator, March 23]

He’s referring to the tendency of the law’s supporters to give ObamaCare credit for lower health care inflation after the law passed in 2010, even though most of its provisions didn’t take effect until 2014. Chris Conover has put together this chart that tells a different story. It shows “excess” health inflation—the difference between overall inflation and health care inflation:

Conover writes:

This provides a more realistic (and I would argue, far less rosy) picture of Obamacare’s impact on medical inflation. Admittedly, there is a lot of year-to-year variation, but in this chart, we can see even more clearly that a general downward trend in gradually diminishing “excess” medical inflation began well before President Obama’s arrival in the Oval Office. And since Obamacare was enacted, at best this metric has been flat. And at worst, one can detect a slight upward trend rather than a continuation of the downward trend that had been in place for at least a half decade for President Obama took office. It’s a rather sizable stretch to point to this chart and argue it is proof that Obamacare has whipped healthcare inflation. One might generously say it has not made things worse on the medical inflation front. But even that comes with a caveat in light of the sharp upward spike in January 2015. This may well turn out to be only a temporary spike, but the point again is to emphasize that any conclusion that Obamacare has tamed the medical inflation monster really cannot be supported by the evidence at hand. [Forbes, March 9]

Posted on 03/24/15 07:27 PM by Alex Adrianson

Good Policies Should Be Able to Withstand Scrutiny

The deal on Iran’s nuclear program, writes Danniel Henninger, is shaping up to be “a virtual Rube Goldberg machine, a patchwork of fixes” that does not have adequate political support—in other words, the ObamaCare of arms control:

Presidents Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan all submitted major arms-control treaties and agreements for Senate approval. They did so to give their work political credibility with the American people and indeed the world. But somehow Mr. Obama believes he has an exemption from the basics of U.S. politics. So we wake up one day to find he is substituting the judgment of the Security Council, with such famous allies as Russia and China, for consent from the U.S. Senate. Result: an arms deal as politically flaccid as ObamaCare.

After the Affordable Care Act became a one-party law, many governors refused to participate. A mirror-image opt-out from the Iran deal is emerging now among the most significant nations of the Middle East.

Earlier this week, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, told the BBC, “I’ve always said whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same.” He wasn’t talking about forsaking the nuclear option. Elaborating, he said, “If Iran has the ability to enrich uranium to whatever level, it’s not just Saudi Arabia that’s going to ask for that. The whole world will be an open door to go that route without any inhibition.” By the “whole world” he of course means Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Are all these countries opposed to the Iran deal because they “hate Obama?”

On March 5 at the deal’s 11th hour, Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Saudi Arabia to reassure King Salman about the Iran deal, which is at least more time than Mr. Obama gave doubting U.S. governors on his health-care plan. The result was the same: no political buy-in. Emirates commentator Mishaal al-Gergawi told The Wall Street Journal: “A lot of the Gulf countries feel they are being thrown under the bus.” Welcome to the club. [Wall Street Journal, March 18]

Posted on 03/23/15 05:24 PM by Alex Adrianson

If You Think a Carbon Tax Matters, then You Should Also Be Against the Minimum Wage

Many liberals tend to believe both that raising the minimum wage will help low-income workers and that a carbon tax will succeed in reducing carbon emissions. Don Boudreaux, seeing a “first-rank inconsistency” between those propositions, addresses the following question to one of his readers:

[I]f you (correctly) understand that a government mandate that forces businesses to pay more for each unit of carbon they emit will cause businesses – regardless of their cash holdings – to reduce the amounts of carbon they emit, why do you think that a government mandate that forces businesses to pay more for each unit of low-skilled labor that they employ will not cause businesses to reduce the amounts of low-skilled labor that they employ? [Cafe Hayek, March 13]

Posted on 03/23/15 12:55 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Obama Administration Is Not, as Advertised, the Most Transparent Administration Ever

“The Obama administration,” writes the Associated Press’s Ted Bridis, “set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.” [, March 18]

Marlo Lewis highlights some findings from the AP’s analysis:

• The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

• It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law – but only when it was challenged.

• Its backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end grew remarkably by 55 percent to more than 200,000. It also cut by 375, or about 9 percent, the number of full-time employees across government paid to look for records. That was the fewest number of employees working on the issue in five years. [, March 18]

Posted on 03/20/15 05:58 PM by Alex Adrianson

Keynesianism Is Alive at the CBO

While the broad outlines of the Republican budget plans—eliminating the deficit by 2024 while bringing federal spending down to about 18 percent of GDP—suggest a return to slightly more responsible budgeting, the plans don’t contain a lot of detail yet. There is one detail, however, that is bothersome, as Dan Mitchell explains:

[T]he House and Senate proposals both indirectly embrace very bad economic analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

Here’s some language that was included with the House plan (the Senate proposal has similar verbiage).

CBO’s analysis…estimates that reducing budget deficits, thereby bending the curve on debt levels, would be a net positive for economic growth. …The analysis concludes that deficit reduction creates long-term economic benefits because it increases the pool of national savings and boosts investment, thereby raising economic growth and job creation.

But here’s the giant problem. The CBO would say – and has said – the same thing about budget plans with giant tax increases.

To elaborate, CBO has a very bizarre view of how fiscal policy impacts the economy. The bureaucrats think that deficits are very important for long-run economic performance, while also believing that the overall burden of government spending and the punitive structure of the tax code are relatively unimportant.

And this leads them to make bizarre claims about tax increases being good for growth.

Moreover, the bureaucrats not only think deficits are the dominant driver of long-run growth, they also use Keynesian analysis when measuring the impact of fiscal policy on short-run growth. Just in case you think I’m exaggerating, or somehow mischaracterizing CBO’s position, check out page 12 of the Senate GOP plan and page 37 of the House GOP plan. You’ll see the “macroeconomic” effects of the plans cause higher deficits in 2016 and 2017, based on the silly theory that lower levels of government spending will harm short-run growth.

So hopefully you can understand why GOPers, for the sake of intellectual credibility, should not be citing bad analysis from the CBO.

But even more important, they should stop CBO from producing bad analysis is the future. The Republicans did recently replace a Democrat-appointed CBO Director, so it will be interesting to see whether their new appointee has a better understanding of how fiscal policy works. [International Liberty, March 19]

Posted on 03/20/15 05:47 PM by Alex Adrianson

Disconnect on Defense

Republicans want the President to do more to confront foreign threats, but they don’t seem willing to provide the means, observes Robert Kagan:

Congress is debating the federal budget, and part of that debate concerns defense spending. Until recently, the Republican leadership in both houses favored maintaining “sequester” spending levels, which would force further sharp cuts to an already ravaged defense budget. A House Budget Committee proposal this week sought to use increases in emergency contingency funding to smooth this over, but the hard spending caps would remain in place this year and in future years. At those budget levels, as successive secretaries of defense and service chiefs have warned, the United States’ ability to defend its interests would be gravely in doubt.

Meanwhile Obama, whom Republicans like to castigate as weak, is actually proposing an increase in the defense budget, to $561 billion — or $38 billion above the sequester caps. In a statement to the Senate Armed Service Committee this month, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the president’s request is “what we need to remain . . . at the bottom edge of manageable risk to our national defense. . . . [T]here is no slack. There is no margin left for error, nor for a response to strategic surprise.” In other words, the president’s request is itself inadequate, but it’s still higher than what Republicans propose. Apparently, Republican congressional leaders are willing to have the U.S. armed forces operate below what our top man in uniform calls “the bottom edge of manageable risk to our national defense.” [Washington Post, March 19]

And as Romina Boccia and Paul Winfree explain, using the Overseas Contingency Operations fund to evade budget caps does not inspire confidence that lawmakers are really committed to funding the defense we need:

The fiscal year 2016 budget will allow for $90 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund for defense, an increase of 40 percent from last year. Exploiting the Overseas Contingency Operations loophole to get around the Budget Control Act’s spending cap avoids the politically difficult but very important choices to prioritize defense spending responsibly.

The budget should fund defense spending at the appropriate level based on America’s national security strategy and military capability requirements in the base budget and offset the spending increase for defense with smart cuts in domestic discretionary spending and structural reforms to entitlement programs. While the House budget follows this approach over the decade by increasing defense spending and phasing out Overseas Contingency Operations by 2022 with offsetting savings in domestic spending, fiscal year 2016 will have the greatest impact on budget policy—and here the budget falls short. [Daily Signal, March 17]

Stating that last point more directly: There is no such thing as a 10-year budget. A budget plan that says future Congresses will end the fiscal gimmick of the OCO is a budget plan that continues the OCO.

Posted on 03/20/15 05:31 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Learn How to Be Part of the Conservative Solution

Learn how to advance conservative ideas in your community. The Civitas Institute’s 2015 Conservative Leadership Conference will be held March 27 - 28 at the Embassy Suites Raleigh-Durham-RTP in Cary, North Carolina. Carly Fiorina, Jim DeMint, Bob Woodson, and Ann McElhinney are just some of the scheduled speakers.

Find out just how good the government is at backing losers. The Acton Institute will host Burton Folsom talking about his book, Uncle Sam Can’t Count: A History of Failed Government Investment, from Beaver Pelts to Green Energy. Folsom’s talk will begin at 11:30 a.m. on March 25 at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Learn whether expanding Medicaid would be good for North Carolina’s economy. J. Scott Moody of State Budget Solutions will give an assessment of how Medicaid under ObamaCare would affect North Carolina. Moody’s talk will begin at noon on March 23 at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Assess ObamaCare at year five. At noon on March 23, The Heritage Foundation will host a panel discussion on the fiscal impact of ObamaCare.

Discover what can be done to end poverty. The Cato Institute will host a half-day conference assessing the war on poverty and whether there are better alternatives to the welfare state. The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. on March 26, and will be held at the Roone Arledge Auditorium at Columbia University in New York City.

Learn how Ronald Coase changed economics. The Center for International Private Enterprise will host a two-day conference examining Coase’s work and his influence on economic research today. The conference will begin at 8:45 a.m. on March 27 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

Posted on 03/20/15 05:08 PM by Alex Adrianson

Federal Spending Is Rising

Under current policies, federal spending per household will continue rising and reach $34,632 by 2023.

For more charts on government finances, see The Heritage Foundation’s new compendium, 2015 Federal Budget in Pictures.

A reminder from Milton Friedman:

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income. [Fox News Interview with Friedman in 2004, as quoted in “Friedman’s Four Ways,” by Ron Ross, American Spectator, October 5, 2011]

Posted on 03/20/15 11:21 AM by Alex Adrianson

Cities Continue to Pour Public Money into Sports Stadiums

If they’re good investments, why do they need public money?

Posted on 03/19/15 07:03 PM by Alex Adrianson

Change the Players or Change the Rules?

The reality that legislators are often rewarded and rarely punished politically for supporting federal spending programs has led many observers to assert there is a pro-spending bias in the making of federal budget policy. Peter Boettke put the problem this way:

The bias in democratic decision making is to concentrate benefits in the short run on the well-informed and organized interest groups, and to disperse the costs in the long run on the unorganized and ill informed. In this way, good politics is not necessarily good economics.” [“Why Does Government Overspend: Because It Has Too Much Power,” by Peter Boettke, The Insider, Summer 2013]

The political incentives to spend are so powerful that would be reformers are often corrupted, too, as the recently departed Stan Evans observed: “The trouble with conservatives is that too many of them come to Washington thinking they are going to drain the swamp, only to discover that Washington makes a great hot tub.”

Is there a more reliable solution than electing new candidates promising to do the right thing? New research by the International Monetary Fund supports the contention that changing the rules governing the making of fiscal policy is the key to getting less profligate government. Specifically, the researchers found that countries with expenditure limitation rules written into law spend less than countries without such limits. IMF researchers looked at 33 national expenditure rules between 1985 and 2013. They found “that the introduction of expenditure rules is indeed followed by smaller governments both in advanced and emerging countries.” They also found that governments with expenditure limitation rules tend to do a better job of prioritizing the most valuable public investments.

The IMF found that rules setting out expenditure caps are more likely to be followed than rules aimed at limiting deficits:

Countries have complied with expenditure rules for more than two-third of the time. […] [E]xpenditure rules have a better compliance record than budget balance and debt rules. […] The higher compliance rate with expenditure rules is consistent with the fact that these rules are easy to monitor and that they immediately map into an enforceable mechanism—the annual budget itself. Besides, expenditure rules are most directly connected to instruments that the policymakers effectively control. By contrast, the budget balance, and even more so public debt, is more exposed to shocks, both positive and negative, out of the government’s control.

One of the desirable features of expenditure rules compared to other rules is that they are not only binding in bad but also in good economic times. The compliance rate in good economic times, defined as years with a negative change in the output gap, is at 72 percent almost the same as in bad economic times at 68 percent. [Internal citations omitted.]

The researchers also observe that the design of the rules matter: They found countries are more likely to adhere to spending caps expressed in nominal figures than caps expressed as percentages of GDP or calculated in reference to inflation:

The government controls these nominal expenditures directly. In contrast, the government does not have full control over expenditure targets if these are defined in relationship to GDP or inflation. […] Nominal expenditure growth rules compared to GDP and real expenditure growth rules have a poor performance record for two reasons. First, the government can aim to comply with the rule, but fail due to unexpected economic shocks. […]

Second, the government has a lower incentive to comply with rules specified in relation to other macroeconomic factors because independent institutions, legislators or the general public cannot hold the government directly accountable for non-compliance. In several countries, the rule was so vaguely specified that even independent institutions had problems to check compliance. [“Expenditure Rules: Effective Tools for Sound Fiscal Policy?” by Till Cordes, Tidiane Kinda, Priscilla Muthoora, and Anke Weber,” International Monetary Fund, February 2015; h/t Dan Mitchell at International Liberty, March 16]

Posted on 03/17/15 02:50 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Few More Cheers for M. Stanton Evans, Journalist, Teacher, and Truth Teller

Some links to some good reads on Evans from the past two weeks:

• “M. Stanton Evans, RIP,” by Steven Hayward, Powerline, March 3;
• “Remembering the Unique Conservative Voice of M. Stanton Evans,” by Lee Edwards, Daily Signal, March 3;
• “Stan Evans, Scholar-Comedian of the Conservative Movement, Passes at 80,” by Daniel J. Flynn, Breitbart, March 3;
• “M. Stanton Evans, Who Helped Shape Conservative Movement, Is Dead at 80,” by Adam Clymer, New York Times, March 3;
• “With Stan Evans’ Passing, the Nation Loses a Conservative Pioneer,” Investor’s Business Daily, March 3;
• “M. Stanton Evans, Conservative Icon, Dead at 80,” by Ralph Z. Hallow, Washington Times, March 3;
• “How the Late Stan Evans Changed the World,” by Craig Shirley, Breitbart, March 3;
• “M. Stanton Evans: The Conservative Movement’s Hilarious Happy Warrior,” by John O’Sullivan, National Review, March 4;
• “The Great, Amazing, Incomparable Stan Evans Is Dead,” by Ann Coulter, Townhall, March 4;
• “M. Stanton Evans Led a Revolution,” by Wayne Laugesen, Colorado Springs Gazette, March 5;
• “Stan Evans: Right from the Beginning,” by David Franke, March 5;
• “A Tribute to Stan Evans,” by Becky Norton Dunlop, Washington Times, March 5;
• “Stan Evans, RIP,” by Michael S. Greve, Library of Law and Liberty, March 8;
• “M. Stanton Evans, R.I.P.,” by Roger Pilon, Cato Institute, March 9;
• “Losing a Friend, Gaining an Inspiration,” by Malcolm A. Kline, Accuracy in Academia, March 10;
• “Funeral Homily for Stan Evans,” Vince Rigdon, American Spectator, March 18.

Some links to a few of Evans’s public talks:

Accepting the Media Research Center’s 2006 “I’m Not a Political Genius but I Play One on TV” Award on behalf of Rosie O’Donnell, March 30, 2006;
Accepting the American Spectator’s Barbara Olson Award, November 1, 2011;
Comparing Watergate to the recent scandals at the Internal Revenue Service, at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in August 8, 2013

If you haven’t already, you should take some time to read Evans’s books The Theme Is Freedom and Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Joe McCarthy and His Fight against America’s Enemies. He wrote many others, but those two especially are must reads. We’ll close this post with this quote from The Theme Is Freedom:

No human being can be treated as divine, or above the law, or entitled to make his will the rule of society’s existence. Nor can the people over whom the rulers wield their power be treated as a herd of atomistic beings, animals, or objects; they are persons created in God’s image, possessed of dignity and reason, and capable of living out their earthly lives in a regime of liberty. Such was the foundation of our political culture, and the provenance of our freedom.

Posted on 03/16/15 03:01 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Figure Out What to Do about the Islamic State, Iran, and Russia

Hear Sen. Tom Cotton’s views on U.S. national security policy. Cotton (R-Ark.) will be at the Hudson Institute at 11:30 a.m., March 18, to discuss the rise of the Islamic State, nuclear talks with Iran, and Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Figure out where Internet policy is going. The Free State Foundation’s Seventh Annual Telecom Policy Conference will examine the question of whether free market innovation or government control is the future of the Internet. Among the speakers will be Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.); Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.); and FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Ajit Pai, and Michael O’Rielly. The conference will begin at 8:15 a.m. on March 19 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Examine the state of modern conservatism. Lee Edwards, Amity Shlaes, James Ceaser, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Yuval Levin, and David Davenport will explore the roots and the future of the movement at a Hoover Institution event. The program will begin at noon on March 16 at the Hoover Institution’s Washington D.C. offices.

Find out what Churchill and DeGaulle teach us about defending our way of life in a world hostile to freedom. Will Morrisey, professor of politics at Hillsdale College, will speak at Hillsdale’s Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C. The talk will begin at noon on March 20.

Learn about political discrimination in higher education. Teresa Wagner will share the story of how the College of Law at the University of Iowa discriminated against her based on her conservative and pro-life views—and how her claims were vindicated in court. Wagner’s talk will begin at noon on March 18 at The Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

Make sense of our fiscal crisis. Bill White, former mayor of Houston, will talk about his new book, America’s Fiscal Constitution: Its Triumph and Collapse, at The Heritage Foundation. White’s talk will begin at noon on March 18.

Posted on 03/14/15 01:23 AM by Alex Adrianson

How to Survive a Catastrophe

The most likely person to survive a disaster is a married, church-going, high-school-educated, gun-toting yoga instructor, says James Jay Carafano. In his new book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror, Carafano discusses practical ways to be prepared for a catastrophe, including the surprising role of lifestyle choices:

Posted on 03/14/15 12:41 AM by Alex Adrianson

Seattle Is Creating Lots of Ex-Restaurant Workers

It looks like Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, which goes into effect on April 1, is going demonstrate that the real minimum wage is zero. The city’s restaurants, writes Paul Guppy, are trying to figure out how to adjust to the higher labor costs, and some of them are simply deciding to close:

The closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront. […]

Advocates of a high minimum wage said businesses would simply pay the mandated wage out of profits, raising earnings for workers. Restaurants operate on thin margins, though, with average profits of 4% or less, and the business is highly competitive.

When prices rise consumers seek alternatives, a behavior economists call the “substitution effect,” which results in lower demand for the higher-priced product. In the case of restaurants, consumers have access to the ultimate substitution – they can stay home. […]

Restaurant owners seldom cite the minimum wage mandate directly as a reason for closing. Restaurateurs are business people, not politicians, and angering the Mayor over the law he signed is not a smart business move. A spokesman for the Washington Restaurant Association is more blunt, however. “Every [restaurant] operator I’m talking to is in panic mode, trying to figure out what the new world will look like.” He added, “Seattle is the first city in this thing and everyone’s watching, asking how is this going to change?”

Seattle is rightly famous for great neighborhood restaurants. That won’t change. What will change is that fewer people will be able to afford to dine out, and as a result there will be fewer great restaurants to enjoy. People probably won’t notice when some restaurant workers lose their jobs, but as prices rise and some neighborhood businesses close, the quality of life in urban Seattle will become a little bit poorer. [Washington Policy Center, March 11]

Posted on 03/14/15 12:02 AM by Alex Adrianson

Would the Rubio-Lee Tax Plan Be Good for the Economy?

Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have put forth a tax plan that will help the economy primarily because of its provisions on business taxes. The plan lowers the U.S. corporate rate from 34 percent to 25 percent, putting rates in line with the rest of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; ends the double taxation of business income by eliminating capital gains taxes; and ditches the depreciation rules that forces business to delay deducting their capital expenses—sometimes for decades—to allow full expensing of capital investment.

According to the Tax Foundation, these reforms increase the incentives for investment, which in a decade produces an economy that is 14.7 percent bigger than it otherwise would be. Wages will 12.6 percent higher.

The plan also reduces the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, and reduces the number of brackets from seven to two. Those reforms increases the economy a further 0.9 percent, according to the Tax Foundation’s model. [Tax Foundation, March 9]

The plan isn’t perfect, however: It also creates a new $2,500 child tax credit that produces no growth in the Tax Foundation’s model because it doesn’t change incentives to work, save, and invest. Curtis Dubay and David Burton of The Heritage Foundation explain that the child tax credit “represents an enormous missed opportunity.”

The new $2,500 credit would use a substantial amount of revenue that the plan could have otherwise used to lower rates. The top rate, therefore, could have been much lower than 35 percent. […]

Credits, such as the CTC, have no impact on economic growth. Lower rates improve incentives for working, saving, investing, and taking entrepreneurial risk, the basic components of economic growth. They do so by lowering the tax-imposed bias against work, savings, investment, and entrepreneurship. The slightly lower top rate will only slightly increase these incentives. If the Lee–Rubio plan lowered rates further instead of expanding the CTC, those incentives would increase substantially more, making the plan more pro-growth. [Internal citations omitted.] [The Heritage Foundation, March 9]

Posted on 03/13/15 11:50 PM by Alex Adrianson

Government Can Help Low-Income Workers by Getting Out of Their Way

New research by Stephen Slivinski finds: “The states that license more than 50 percent of the low-income occupations had an average entrepreneurship rate that was 11 percent lower than the average for all states, and the states the licensed less than a third had an average entrepreneurship rate that was about 11 percent higher.”

Health and safety is the usual justification for licensing requirements. Those requirements can pose a significant barrier to entering an occupation or starting a business. Slivinksi notes, for example, that 35 out of 102 low-income occupations identified by the Institute for Justice require more than a year of education and training. Among the occupations included in Slivinkski’s analysis were animal breeder, carpentry, cosmetologist, door repair contractor, farm labor contractor, interior designer, landscape worker, manicurist, earth driller, taxi driver, and tree trimmer. [“Bootstraps Tangled in Red Tape: How State Occupational Licensing Hinders Low-Income Entrepreneurship,” by Stephen Slivinksi, Goldwater Institute, February 23]

Posted on 03/13/15 10:15 PM by Alex Adrianson

The First Amendment Protects Racist Speech, Too

On Tuesday University of Oklahoma President David Boren announced that two students from the OU chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon would be expelled for leading a racist chant that included a reference to lynching. Eugene Volokh explains why that action isn’t OK with the Constitution:

[R]acist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on their speech. That has been the unanimous view of courts that have considered campus speech codes and other campus speech restrictions […] . […]

[S]peech doesn’t lose its constitutional protection just because it refers to violence — “You can hang him from a tree,” “the capitalists will be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes,” “by any means necessary” with pictures of guns, “apostates from Islam should be killed.” […]

[I]n specific situations, such speech might fall within a First Amendment exception. One example is if it is likely to be perceived as a “true threat” of violence (e.g., saying “apostates from Islam will be killed” or “we’ll hang you from a tree” to a particular person who will likely perceive it as expressing the speaker’s intention to kill him); but that’s not the situation here, where the speech wouldn’t have been taken by any listener as a threat against him or her. Another is if it intended to solicit a criminal act, or to create a conspiracy to commit a criminal act, but, vile as the “hang him from a tree” is, neither of these exceptions are applicable here, either. [Washington Post, March 10]

By the way, Boren explain his decision by saying: “There is a zero tolerance policy for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma.”

The chant, of course, contained no real threat of violence, merely a reference to a violent act; and it wasn’t directly at anybody in particular. In any case, the school’s policy toward actual violence on campus is somewhat more tolerant than its policy toward what it perceives to be threats of violence. As Blake Neff reports, last July OU student Joe Mixon punched OU student Amelia Rae Molitor “so hard he broke four bones in her face and knocked her unconscious.” Mixon was convicted of misdemeanor assault, but the university allowed him to continue taking classes.

Mixon did receive one sanction from the university. He’s on the football team, but he wasn’t allowed to play last season. He rejoined the team in February. [Daily Caller, March 11]

Posted on 03/13/15 08:11 PM by Alex Adrianson

An Idea for Sweet Briar

Sure, the closing of Sweet Briar College might by the first pin-prick in the popping of a higher education bubble. But it could also be a sign that politically liberal college administrators have no imaginations, says Steve Hayward:

One of the claims about why the college has no future is that its location is too remote from the attractions of urban civilization necessary for today’s students. Excuse me, but has anyone around Sweet Briar ever heard of Hillsdale College, which is much more remote than Sweet Briar, and yet thrives for the simple reason that it is self-consciously different (that is, conservative) from other liberal arts colleges.

So what if Sweet Briar had decided that instead of trying to compete head-to-head with Smith and Wellesley, they self-consciously set out to be the anti-Smith and anti-Wellesley? I have little doubt that a women’s college that advertised its deliberate rejection of the gender politics of “mainstream” womens’ educational institutions would have no shortage of applicants for admission.

Unfortunately, Sweet Briar’s president is a “typical mediocre liberal” who “has a track record of hostility toward conservatives on campus.” That track record includes trying to hijack an endowment created by Shelby Cullum Davis to support a program for the study of free enterprise at Trinity College. “Meanwhile,” continues Hayward, “the Sweet Briar campus is spectacular, and raises the obvious idea: why not form a consortium of conservative philanthropists to buy Sweet Briar and reopen it as a self-consciously conservative college—possibly coed? I’m sure there’s room for another Hillsdale.” [Powerline, March 13]

Posted on 03/13/15 05:43 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Left Likes Presidential Prerogatives When the President Is One of Theirs

Forty-seven Republican U.S. senators broke the law and possibly the Constitution this week, according to a host of Lefty commentators. They’re wrong, however.

What has them riled up is an open letter sent by the senators to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In that letter, the senators advise the Iranian government that international agreements that do not have the status of a treaty can be revised by Congress or revoked by future administrations. Just some American civics 101 to ponder during negotiations with the President over its nuclear program, they advise the ayatollahs.

That open letter amounts to an illegal and unconstitutional interference in the conduct of foreign policy, say progressive critics. They cite the Logan Act, which makes it a crime to engage in “any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States […] .”

Steve Vladeck explains why the Logan Act does not prohibit the Senate from communicating with foreign officials in the way that they have:

[C]ritically, the citizen must act “without authority of the United States.” Although most assume that means without authority of the Executive Branch, the Logan Act itself does not specify what this term means, and the State Department told Congress in 1975 that “Nothing in section 953 … would appear to restrict members of the Congress from engaging in discussions with foreign officials in pursuance of their legislative duties under the Constitution.” That doesn’t mean Members would have immunity under the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause; it just means the statute would arguably not apply in the first place. Combined with the rule of lenity and the constitutional concerns identified below, it seems likely that contemporary and/or future courts would interpret this provision to not apply to such official communications from Congress. […]

The Logan Act, recall, was written in 1799, well over a century before the rise of modern First (and Fifth) Amendment doctrine with regard to protections for speech and against prosecutions for unclear misconduct. It seems quite likely, as one district court suggested in passing in 1964, that the terms of the statute are both unconstitutionally vague and in any event unlikely to survive the far stricter standards contemporary courts place on such content-based restrictions on speech. Thus, even if the Act does encompass official communications from Members of Congress acting within their legislative capacity, it seems likely that it would not survive modern First Amendment scrutiny were it to be invoked in such a case. [Lawfare, March 10]

Nor is it true that there is something unprecedented about Congress exerting a role in the conduct of foreign affairs. James Jay Carafano observes:

The list of tug-of-war contests between the Hill and the White House is pretty long. The Mexican-American War, the League of Nations debate, the U.S. entry into NATO, the bitter debate over the SALT II talks, the Panama Canal treaty negotiations and U.S. support for the Contras in Nicaragua are just a few examples of such contests. [Daily Signal, March 10]

Posted on 03/10/15 06:21 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Electronic Medical Records on which Taxpayers Spent $30 Billion Don’t Talk to Each Other

A report from Eric Whitney shows how a good idea can still become a boondoggle in the government’s hands:

Technology entrepreneur Jonathan Bush says he was recently watching a patient move from a hospital to a nursing home. The patient’s information was in an electronic medical record, or EMR. And getting the patient’s records from the hospital to the nursing home, Bush says, wasn’t exactly drag and drop.

“These two guys then type—I kid you not—the printout from the brand new EMR into their EMR, so that their fax server can fax it to the bloody nursing home,” Bush says.

In an era when most industries easily share big, complicated, digital files, health care still leans hard on paper printouts and fax machines. The American taxpayer has funded the installation of electronic records systems in hospitals and doctors’ offices—to the tune of $30 billion since 2009. While those systems are supposed to make health care better and more efficient, most of them can’t talk to each other.

Bush lays a lot of blame for that at the feet of this federal financing.

“I called it the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ bill,” he says. “It gave $30 billion to buy the very pre-internet systems that all of the doctors and hospitals had already looked at and rejected,” he says. “And the vendors of those systems were about to die. And then they got put on life support by this bill that pays you billions of dollars, and didn’t get you any coordination of information!” [NPR, March 6; h/t Jeffrey Miron at Cato at Liberty, March 6]

Posted on 03/09/15 06:50 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Find Out What’s Next for Relations between Russia and the West

Assess how the Ukraine conflict will affect Russian-Western relations in the years ahead. The Heritage Foundation will host a talk by Eugene Rumer, co-author of Conflict in Ukraine: The Unwinding of the Post-Cold War Order. Rumer’s talk will begin at noon on March 10.

Find out what it will take for two of America’s most important allies to get along with each other. The American Enterprise Institute will host a panel discussion on Japan-Korea relations at 50. The event will begin at 9 a.m. on March 13.

Celebrate the life of Stan Evans. The Heritage Foundation will host a reception honoring the man who helped spark the conservative revolt. The event will begin at 11 a.m. on March 13.

Examine our options for combatting terrorism. The John Locke Foundation will host a talk by author Tony Tata at noon on March 9.

Discover what’s next for trade between Canada and the United States. The Hudson Institute will host a panel discussion on how small and medium businesses can find customers across the U.S.-Canadian border. The discussion will begin at 1 p.m. on March 11.

Posted on 03/07/15 05:56 AM by Alex Adrianson

Even the IRS Fell into that Plain Meaning Trap

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the central question of which is: Did Congress really mean to provide subsidies only for health insurance purchased in state exchanges and not federal exchanges, too? That would appear to be the case judging from the plain meaning of the section that authorizes tax credits for health insurance purchased “through an Exchange established by the State.” One key argument advanced by the government, however, is that “Exchange established by the State” is merely a term of art that includes the fallback federal exchanges. If that were true, then the Internal Revenue Service would be exactly right to make the credits available in all exchanges.

But the agency’s behavior in 2011 suggest it didn’t really believe that. Michael Cannon notes that an early draft of the IRS was faithful to the text of the law, but was later changed when IRS officials realized that fidelity to the text might undermine the goal of broad expanding coverage. Further:

IRS officials recognized that what they wanted to find in the statute simply wasn’t there. In a March 25, 2011, e-mail, Treasury and IRS officials described the lack of authorization for subsidies in federal Exchanges as a “drafting oversight.”

IRS officials also recognized the “apparently plain” language limiting tax credits to state-established Exchanges. Investigators found that a draft of the final rule contained a discussion of this issue that “stated that agencies have broad discretion to reasonably interpret a [law] if the ‘apparently plain statutory language’ is inconsistent with the purpose of the law.” Agency officials dropped that discussion from the final rule shortly before issuing it.

IRS officials chose to issue tax credits in federal Exchanges “because they concluded this was required for the new health-care initiative to succeed,” the Washington Post reported. “And, the officials reasoned, Congress would not have passed a law that it wanted to fail.” [National Review, March 4]

If agency officials had understood the phrase was a term of art, then they wouldn’t have needed to ponder the outer limits of executive discretion. And if the phrase had really been a term of art, then why didn’t the agency charged with implementing the law understand that?

Another argument advanced—mostly in the media—by those trying to save the IRS’s interpretation is that ObamaCare’s regulations would make health insurance too expensive without the subsidies, which would undermine health insurance markets in the states that chose not to establish exchanges. And that would, so this theory goes, amount to unconstitutional federal coercion of the states, which Congress couldn’t have intended.

As James Taranto points out, however, an interpretation of a law can be both correct and unconstitutional, since “Congress has been known to enact unconstitutional laws[.]” And anyway, there is a simpler remedy than letting the executive branch change tax laws without congressional authorization:

[I]t is more or less the same one the court used with Medicaid in NFIB v. Sebelius: permit states to opt out of ObamaCare’s regulatory burdens at the cost of their residents’ forgoing subsidies. If the appellants prevail in King, one suspects state attorneys general will be standing by to file lawsuits seeking such relief. [Wall Street Journal, February 27]

Posted on 03/07/15 04:08 AM by Alex Adrianson

Soon Responds

Global warming skeptic Willie Soon responded to his critics this week. They had accused him of failing to disclose funding he had received from industry sources. Noting how the controversy has spawned a congressional fishing expedition targeting other scientists whose work doesn’t fit neatly into the doomsday narrative of climate change, Soon stated: “This effort should be seen for what it is: a shameless attempt to silence my scientific research and writings, and to make an example out of me as a warning to any other researcher who may dare question in the slightest their fervently held orthodoxy of anthropogenic global warming.”

Regarding the allegations about his disclosures, Soon stated:

I have never been motivated by financial gain to write any scientific paper, nor have I ever hidden grants or any other alleged conflict of interest. I have been a solar and stellar physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for a quarter of a century, during which time I have published numerous peer-reviewed, scholarly articles. The fact that my research has been supported in part by donations to the Smithsonian Institution from many sources, including some energy producers, has long been a matter of public record. In submitting my academic writings I have always complied with what I understood to be disclosure practices in my field generally, consistent with the level of disclosure made by many of my Smithsonian colleagues.

If the standards for disclosure are to change, then let them change evenly. If a journal that has peer-reviewed and published my work concludes that additional disclosures are appropriate, I am happy to comply. I would ask only that other authors—on all sides of the debate—are also required to make similar disclosures. And I call on the media outlets that have so quickly repeated my attackers’ accusations to similarly look into the motivations of and disclosures that may or may not have been made by their preferred, IPCC-linked scientists. [Heartland Institute, March 2]

Posted on 03/07/15 01:33 AM by Alex Adrianson

Stan Evans on How Indiana Is a Little Different than Washington, D.C.

We could reprint a bunch of Stan’s best lines, but there’s nothing like hearing them delivered by the man himself. Here is Stan accepting the American Spectator’s 2011 Barbara Olson Award:

Posted on 03/07/15 01:09 AM by Alex Adrianson

What If Wisconsin Had Been a Right-to-Work State 30 Years Ago?

Wisconsin is poised to become a right-to-work state, which means workers can’t be required to join a union as a condition of employment. Wisconsin workers can expect more investment in their state and faster wage growth as a result of this move. Richard Vedder, Joseph Hartge, and Christopher Denhart:

Over the last 30 years, states with right-to-work (RTW) legislation have experienced greater per capita personal income growth than other states. And that positive correlation between right-to-work and higher incomes remains true even after controlling for other important variables (such as tax rates in various states) that might have had a simultaneous impact.

Our statistical results suggest that, in fact, the presence of a RTW law added about six percentage points to the growth rate of RTW states from 1983 to 2013. With such a law, Wisconsin’s per capita personal income growth of 53.29% would have been, instead, about 59.29%. Wisconsin would have gone from having economic growth below the national average over those three decades to having slightly above average growth – enough above average that it would have erased the current income per capita deficit between Wisconsin and the nation as a whole.

Wisconsin’s per capita personal income received from all sources in 2013 was $43,244, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis – $1,521 less than the national average of $44,765.

Our regression analysis suggests that had Wisconsin adopted a RTW law in 1983, per capita income would have been $1,683 higher in 2013 than it actually was – and would have brought the state slightly over the national per capita personal income average. [“The Economic Impact of a Right-to-Work Law on the Wisconsin Economy,” by Richard Vedder, Joseph Hartge, and Christopher Denhart,” Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, February 2015]

Posted on 03/06/15 11:43 PM by Alex Adrianson

Class Warfare!

Finds the Joint Committee on Taxation:

For 2015, the top 10 percent (in terms of income) of all tax returns receive 45 percent of all income and pay 82 percent of all income taxes. The top five percent of all tax returns receive 34 percent of all income and pay 71 percent of all income taxes. The top one percent of all tax returns receives 19 percent of all income and pay 49 percent of all income taxes. [“Fairness and Tax Policy,” Joint Committee on Taxation, February 27, as quoted at TaxProfBlog, March 2]

Posted on 03/06/15 11:12 PM by Alex Adrianson

Evans’s Words Live On

When the country lost Stan Evans earlier this week, it lost one of the most brilliant exponents of conservative principles of the past half century. Lovers of clear thinking and truth telling will still be reading Stan’s books and articles generations from now. But one of Stan’s most important works does not contain his byline. That is the Sharon Statement, adopted by Young American for Freedom at its founding meeting in 1960. Ed Meese III calls the Sharon Statement “a declaration of the modern conservative philosophy that guided the movement for decades and continues to be a strong statement of conservative principle today.” We think you’ll not find a more succinct and precise statement of conservative beliefs. Like the rest of his works, it stands the test of time and should be a source of inspiration for coming generations of conservatives. Here it is in full:

IN THIS TIME of moral and political crisis, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths.

WE, as young conservatives, believe:

THAT foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;

THAT liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;

THAT the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice;

THAT when government ventures beyond these rightful functions, it accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty;

THAT the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power;

THAT the genius of the Constitution – the division of powers – is summed up in the clause that reserves primacy to the several states, or to the people in those spheres not specifically delegated to the Federal government;

THAT the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;

THAT when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation, that when it takes from one to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both;

THAT we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies…

THAT the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;

THAT the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with this menace; and

THAT American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?

Posted on 03/06/15 07:23 PM by Alex Adrianson

M. Stanton Evans, R.I.P.

M. Stanton (Stan) Evans died March 3 at the age of 80. In 1961, at the age of 27, Evans wrote Revolt on Campus, which predicted that what was then a small cadre of conservative students would grow into a movement that would challenge liberals for control of the country’s institutions—and win. He then spent the rest of his life working to make that prediction come true—as an intellectual, as a journalist, as an historian, as a teacher, and as one of the wittiest commentators on the Washington scene.

After graduating from Yale, Evans began writing for National Review in the magazine’s very early days. He would write for both National Review and Human Events regularly for decades.

In 1960, he became the youngest editor of a metropolitan daily newspaper, the Indianapolis News. That same year he helped found Young Americans for Freedom, authoring the group’s founding statement of principles. Adopted at the first YAF meeting at William F. Buckley’s family home in Sharon, Conn.—and thus known as the Sharon Statement—the Evans-authored credo shaped the modern conservative movement as a fusion of libertarian and traditionalist principles. William Rusher said the statement came as close as “there will ever be to a statement of the original principles of the modern American conservative movement.”

As chairman of the American Conservative Union from 1971 to 1977, Evans helped the Reagan campaign mount a challenge to President Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination. Ford eventually won the nomination, but Reagan’s momentum leading up to the convention laid the foundation for his 1980 run. Reagan’s challenge, however, would have died in March of that year had he not won the North Carolina primary. And he would not have won the North Carolina primary without Stan Evans and the American Conservative Union.

ACU had joined the lawsuit known as Buckley v. Valeo, the landmark case that challenged federal limits on campaign contributions and spending. After the Supreme Court upheld contribution limits but not spending limits, Evans convinced the ACU board to approve independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of Ronald Reagan in Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas. Candidate Reagan had lost the previous five state primaries and was being urged to pull out. ACU’s campaign, which featured over 882 radio commercials that aggressively outlined the differences between the moderate Ford and the conservative Reagan, helped Reagan pull off the upset in North Carolina.

Evans founded the National Journalism Center in 1980 because he believed that the best way to fight liberal bias in the news was to have more reporters producing good, honest journalism. He explained: “I don’t think that the way to correct a spin from the left is to try to impart a spin from the right. […] [A]n information flow distorted from the right would be just as much a disservice as distortion from the left. What we really should be after […] is accurate information. And I don’t see what any conservative or anybody else for that matter has to fear from accurate information.”

Under Evans’ direction NJC trained thousands of journalists, including John Fund of National Review, William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, John Merline of USA Today, book writer Malcolm Gladwell, columnist Ann Coulter, and commentator Greg Gutfeld.

In addition to Revolt on Campus, Evans wrote seven other books. Evans’s The Theme Is Freedom challenged the liberal view that the writers of the U.S. Constitution were primarily inspired by enlightenment ideals. Evans traced their influences back to Christian roots, showing how their commitment to individual liberty was built on Christian precepts.

Evans undertook another debunking of the liberal version of history in Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joseph McCarthy and His Fight for America.  He dug into the declassified files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and showed that McCarthy, while perhaps imprudent in some of his methods, was essentially correct in his charge that there was a security problem in the United States government in the early 1950s.

Evans also published Consumers’ Research magazine for over two decades. The magazine, published since 1927, had been one of the few consumer magazines sympathetic to the idea that the free market is the consumer’s best friend. Evans took over publication of the magazine in order to keep it going, explaining that it would be a shame if Consumer Reports were to have a monopoly on consumer reporting. Evans’s Consumers’ Research published articles explaining how the rise in third-party payment was at the center of the problems in health care, how competition in cable television lowers prices, and why energy regulations never work. “Consumers’ Research,” he would tell people “is the magazine that understands that Ralph Nader is hazardous to your health.”

Evans was also the author of some of the most memorable bon mots on politics. Here are three of our favorites:

“Liberals don’t care what you do as long as it’s compulsory.”

“We have two parties here, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party. I’m very proud to be a member of the stupid party. Occasionally, the two parties get together to do something that’s both evil and stupid. That’s called bipartisanship.”

“We all know that Mrs. Clinton has complained about the vast right-wing conspiracy, and of course, she is correct about that, and we are all part of it, but when I was starting out, it was only half vast.”

Indeed, today the movement is a lot more right-wing and a lot less half-vast because of Evans; and the country is at least a little bit freer, too, because of his good works.

Posted on 03/04/15 03:58 PM by Alex Adrianson

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