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InsiderOnline Blog: March 2012

Chinese Economist and Freedom Advocate Wins Cato’s Friedman Prize

Mao Yushi, an economist and advocate of individual liberty and free market reforms in China, has won the Cato Institute’s biennial Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Cato’s announcement says:

Before economic reform began in China in 1978, he had been an engineer and during his lifetime has faced severe punishment, exile, and near starvation for remarks critical of a command-based economy and society. During the Cultural Revolution, he and his family were deprived of all of their property, and in 2011 he angered some in China with his article “Returning Mao Zedong to Human Form,” which boldly calculated the human cost of Mao’s brutal Communist policies from 1949 to 1976. The article led to calls for his prosecution and execution, with 50,000 left-faction members signing a petition that called for his imprisonment on charges of treason. Immediately following the article’s appearance he had to be surrounded by students to protect him from physical attack from zealots, while the government remained silent and neutral.

In 1993 he and five other economists founded the Unirule Institute of Economics, an independent Chinese think tank committed to the growth of a market economy and to reforming Chinese government policies.

In addition, Mao Yushi has been a pioneer in creating private charity and self-help programs in the People’s Republic of China and has helped countless people become independent members of society through the Fuping Development Institute and other initiatives. He believes that the more income an individual earns the more freedom an individual has, and has devoted himself to China’s transition from a planned economy to a free market economy.

The presentation of the $250,000 prize will be made on May 4 at the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty’s Biennial Dinner and award presentation at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C.

Posted on 03/30/12 02:06 PM by Alex Adrianson

ObamaCare at the Supreme Court: How It Went

The key vote on Obamacare appears to be Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’s questioning on Tuesday expressed considerable skepticism about the government’s position, suggesting at one point that upholding the individual mandate would fundamentally change the relationship of the government to the individual. Below Heritage’s Director of Legal and Judicial Studies Todd Gaziano talks about the hearing (pay no attention to the cat):

Posted on 03/30/12 01:53 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Honor Becket Founder Kevin Hasson

Honor Kevin “Seamus” Hasson, founder of the Becket Fund, by attending the 2012 Canterbury Medal Dinner. Hasson founded the Becket Fund 17 years ago, and the group has won some important religious liberty cases since, including two just this year (Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, Stormans v. Selecky). Becket is also representing four organizations suing the Department of Health and Human Services over its contraception mandates. The dinner is May 10 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Book your ticket by April 10.

Celebrate human achievement by leaving your lights on from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 31. That’s what the Competitive Enterprise Institute is calling Human Achievement Hour, an event intended to highlight how human ingenuity has improved human lives. It’s also meant to counter the simultaneously held Earth Hour, an event designed to make people feel guilty about using electricity—an event that accomplishes nothing, anyway, per electricity experts (The Telegraph, March 27, 2010). And if you have the electricity running, you can check in with CEI’s in-house party, which will be live-streaming over the Internet at CEI.org.

Relive history in the making. The Supreme Court hasn’t revealed its decision in the ObamaCare case yet, but you can read and hear everything that the Court heard this historic week. The transcripts and the audio of the arguments are now available at the Supreme Court’s Web site [Monday transcript, Monday audio, Tuesday transcript, Tuesday audio, Wednesday 1 transcript, Wednesday 1 audio, Wednesday 2 transcript, Wednesday 2 audio]. The key session is the Tuesday arguments on the individual mandate.  

Get a preview of the next big Supreme Court case. The George Mason School of Law, Law and Economics Center will hold a mock Supreme Court argument on whether the courts should allow nuisance suits against global warming. The mock argument will start at 4 p.m., April 10 at Founders Hall Auditorium at the George Mason University School of Law. (By the way, Paul Clement, star of the recent ObamaCare arguments before the Supreme Court will be on the judges panel. Also, by the way, we published an article on just this topic in our spring 2010 issue of The Insider: “Climate Policy by Judicial Fiat,” by Hans von Spakovsky).

Posted on 03/30/12 01:37 PM by Alex Adrianson

Hilton Kramer, R.I.P.

Hilton Kramer, who died on Tuesday, was art critic at the New York Times for over a decade, but left the post in 1982 to start (with Samuel Lipman) a monthly review of the arts and intellectual life. Their review, The New Criterion, “created space for conservative writers to discuss topics that could not be crammed into news magazines and did not belong in publications devoted to policy minutiae,” writes John Miller in his book A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America (quoted at National Review, March 27):

In doing so, it helped conservatives, sometimes blindly loyal to hidebound traditions, come to terms with twentieth-century modernism and at the same time develop a language for rejecting the extreme relativism of an academy saturated with postmodernism.

Current editor of The New Criterion Roger Kimball (Wall Street Journal, March 27):

Hilton Kramer was often described—and accordingly admired or derided—as a conservative. Really, however, he was a liberal, in the sense that Edmund Burke, for example, was a liberal. He believed in disinterested judgment, advancement according to merit, color-blind justice—the whole menu of traditional liberal virtues that have in recent decades been enrolled in the catalogue of reactionary vices.

Above all, Kramer understood something that was central to Eliot’s work, as it was to Burke’s: Tradition is not the enemy but the indispensable handmaiden of originality and lasting cultural achievement.

Hilton Kramer was celebrated, and in many quarters feared, as a polemicist. But his most lasting legacy, I believe, is something more positive. He was most ferocious not in his criticism but in his defense of democratic bourgeois culture and the precious legacy of individual liberty it generated and sustained.

The New Criterion will publish a special issue in May dedicated to Hilton Kramer’s legacy.

Posted on 03/30/12 12:10 PM by Alex Adrianson

Toolkit: Enliven Your Facebook Page

Great, you’ve created a Facebook page for your organization. Now what? Here’s a few tips for building your online community:

• Make sure your status updates include a link back to your Web site.
• Have an enticing cover photo that draws people in visually.
• Create a clear and concise description of your company or organization.
• Stock up on several good photos that represent your company well so that’s what people see when they click the photos section of your page.
• Encourage “likes” and comments. The more “likes” and comments you get, the more weight your content is given and it will have a better chance of appearing on people’s newsfeeds.
• Encourage people to invite their friends to “Like” your page. Don’t be afraid to leverage people who already like you. Most people will have no problem inviting their friends and it’s a great way to grow your fan base.
• Make your updates interesting  by including photos, videos, and quizzes.
• Make your posts interactive by asking questions or encouraging discussion in the comments.
• Use posts to spotlight your fans.
• Promote content from allies’ sites. They will probably reciprocate by posting your content, too.
• Don’t overpost! One to three times per day is probably about right.
• Interact with your fans! Answer their questions, be responsive, and engaging!

Posted on 03/30/12 10:06 AM by Alex Adrianson

Priscilla Buckley, R.I.P.

Priscilla Buckley died on Sunday. As National Review’s managing editor from 1959 to 1985, she trained many conservative journalists, including Paul Gigot, Bill McGurn, and Mona Charen. Previously a reporter for United Press International, Buckley was hired at National Review after Whitaker Chambers recommended her to her brother and magazine founder William F. Buckley Jr.

The New York Times (March 26) describes her role at National Review this way:

[S]he oversaw the day-to-day operations of the magazine, riding herd — by all accounts without raising her voice so much as a decibel — on a staff of occasionally bibulous, sometimes fractious and constitutionally dilatory writers. […] As a result of her sustained velvet-gloved sway there, the magazine was long known among its denizens as Miss Buckley’s Finishing School for Young Ladies and Gentlemen of Conservative Persuasion.

National Review publisher Jack Fowler (National Review, March 26) says Buckley was “the impish mirth-maker within the fortress/asylum at 150 East 35th Street, and, through her beams and giggles, the talented managing editor who for over 25 years made NR’s literary style distinct and powerful.”

Mona Charen (National Review, March 27) writes:

Her rule was benevolent and irenic, thank God, because magazines of opinion are known for eccentric and prickly characters and NR was no exception. But while writers would be late with their copy, or fail to show up for meetings, or squabble with their editors, everyone seemed mentally to tuck his shirt in when Priscilla was around. She was so gracious and professional and discerning that people wanted to be better in her presence.

Buckley retired as a senior editor at National Review in 1999. In 2006, she talked about her memoir Living It Up with National Review at a meeting of the Conservative Women’s Network, a video of which is available at C-SPAN.

Posted on 03/29/12 04:41 PM by Alex Adrianson

Keep that Man’s Cardiovascular System Healthy!

The work of Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett is a key reason ObamaCare was before the Supreme Court this week. A New York Times profile (March 26) provides this tidbit:

The challenge to the individual mandate, the provision requiring nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance, has been raised before; David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, both lawyers who served in Republican administrations, made the Commerce Clause critique in a Wall Street Journal opinion article in 1993, when Congress was debating President Bill Clinton’s health care initiative, and again in the fall of 2009.

Their argument prompted an online debate. Professor Barnett joined, remembering how another law professor “wrote a very snarky, no-serious-person-would-think-there’s-a-serious-challenge-here” post. He added, “That just sort of got my blood flowing.”

And on Barnett’s background:

In high school, Mr. Barnett said he was a “William F. Buckley conservative,” and president of the Student Council and his local Jewish youth group. Most of the town was Polish Catholic; Mr. Barnett was one of four Jews in his graduating class.

“I was sort of odd man out,” he said, “which does inspire people to be independent-minded.”

He discovered libertarianism as a student at Northwestern. Later, as a Harvard law student, he took a class in constitutional law from the liberal scholar Laurence H. Tribe, and found himself disenchanted with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. (Professor Tribe remembers him as “a very talented and creative student.”)

He became a prosecutor and later, a contracts professor. But a 1986 invitation to speak to the Federalist Society, then a fledgling group of conservative lawyers, ignited his interest in the Constitution. He developed a specialty in the Ninth Amendment, a favorite of libertarians, which says that rights not spelled out in the Constitution are “retained by the people.”

Posted on 03/29/12 02:38 PM by Alex Adrianson

Forcing Prices Down Comes with Costs

Using government buying power to force down health care prices (which was the point of the “public option” in the original version of ObamaCare) appears to have put patients at risk in Canada.

John Haggie, head of the Canadian Medical Association, warned the House of Commons on Thursday that a national drug shortage was forcing cancellations of surgeries, “leading, at best, to delays and, at worst, to a real deterioration in the health of those patients forced to wait.”

The problem began after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Sandoz Canada about manufacturing deficiencies at its Boucherville plant in February. Sandoz supplies about 90 percent of the injectable drugs used in Canada’s hospitals, and also produces for the U.S. market. The company agreed to make upgrades to its plant, which required cutting back on production.

Marni Soupcoff, writing for the National Post (March 24), says that while the U.S. FDA may be nitpicky about technical infractions at the expense of patient welfare, the underlying problem is Canada’s system of bulk buying:

[I]n the search for cost containment and less expensive drugs, the provinces have been moving toward a bulk purchasing model. Either on their own, or by joining a large group purchasing organization, they enter into agreements to buy drugs in large quantities to get a lower price per item. It reduces the governments’ overall pharmaceutical costs, but tends to result in far fewer suppliers.

[…] Hence, when Sandoz slowed production to focus on revamping its plant, there were no other big pharmaceutical companies set to jump in and start producing the scarce injectables – or (even less likely) with the needed products already sitting around, gathering dust on their shelves.

Posted on 03/29/12 12:46 PM by Alex Adrianson

ObamaCare Case Is About Liberty, Not Just Health Care

Imagining what else Congress might do with the power to compel commerce, as Lee Harris does (The American, March 28), helps illustrate the constitutional problem with Obamacare’s individual mandate:

Imagine that our current recession goes on, or even takes a turn for the worse. […] The bulk of Keynesian economics was to figure out how to get people back to spending their money on stuff, i.e., to increase the aggregate consumer demand. For example, Keynes told governments that they could cut taxes, lower interest rates, decrease the real value of wages through imperceptible inflation, provide stimulus packages, or build highways and even pyramids, all of which were ultimately designed to get people to go back out shopping for things. […]

But what if the president had a new super-Keynesian tool—a Congress that had been granted unlimited power to regulate economic activity and/or economic decisions? Under these circumstances, in the midst of a deepening and intractable depression, there would be a temptation to create a legislative solution that would be quite simple in principle. According to an index of their income, people would be mandated to purchase a certain amount of consumer goods. If they fell below this amount, they would then be compelled to pay the government a penalty. Of course, the government would not need to tell us what to buy—only how much of it. Later, other economic emergencies might come along that required more governmental fine-tuning of our individual economic decisions. But there would be no need for a confrontation with the Supreme Court over whether Congress had the power to regulate these decisions, because, according to my scenario, we are imagining an America where ObamaCare had already established this principle once and for all, after being upheld by the Supreme Court.

Posted on 03/28/12 03:57 PM by Alex Adrianson

School Choice a Crime Fighter

Giving students a choice of schools appears to reduce crime—even if it doesn’t increase test scores. Research by David Deming, assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, finds that high-risk male youth in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) school district “commit about 50 percent less crime as a result of winning the school-choice lottery.” Until recently, Charlotte-Mecklenburg had district-wide open enrollment with a lottery for assigning students to oversubscribed schools. Deming writes about his research in Education Next (Spring 2012):

Among [high-risk] students, winning admission to a preferred school reduces the average number of felony arrests over the study period from 0.77 to 0.43, a pattern driven largely by a reduction of 0.23 in the average number of arrests for drug felonies […] . The average social cost of the crimes committed by high-risk lottery winners (after adjusting the cost of murders downward) is $3,916 lower than for lottery losers, a decrease of more than 35 percent. (Without adjusting for the cost of murder, I estimate the reduction in the social cost of crimes committed by lottery winners at $14,106.) High-risk lottery winners on average commit crimes with a total expected sentence of 35 months, compared to 59 months among lottery losers.

Deming also notes that high-risk middle school students who win the school-choice lottery commit less violent crime but more property crime:

Because violent crimes carry greater social costs, however, winning a school-choice lottery reduces the average social cost of the crimes committed by middle school students by $7,843, or 63 percent. It also reduces the total expected sentence of crimes committed by each student by 31 months (64 percent).

One explanation, suggests Deming, is that students choose better schools and better schools provide valuable life skills, even if standardized tests do not measure those skills.

Posted on 03/28/12 12:46 PM by Alex Adrianson

Obama Whispers to Russia: Let’s Talk When I Don’t Need Votes

On Monday in Seoul, South Korea, reporters waiting for remarks following a meeting between President Obama and Russian President Medvedev overhead Obama tell Medvedev: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.” Obama added: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

The antecedent to “this,” is certainly Russia’s various demands that NATO limit the missile defense system it is building in Europe, which is intended primarily as a defense against missiles launched by Iran or other rogue nations. Russia still believes that its security depends on mutual vulnerability to retaliation. Russia has demanded some operational control over NATO’s missile defenses and written guarantees that Russian missiles will not be targeted. Several times, Russia has also threatened to withdraw from the New Start Treaty unless NATO makes concessions, most recently just three days before the Medvedev/Obama summit.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, has already agreed to scale down the original plan for European missile defense; fought for the New START Treaty, which contains several limitations on missile defenses; and has proposed sharing data with the Russians so that they would know how to defeat our interceptor missiles.

Obama sees arms control as a means of getting to a world of zero nuclear weapons. But disarmament can’t work when your negotiating partner really wants to maintain its arsenal to keep you vulnerable. Maintaining mutual vulnerability to retaliation would mean we also remain vulnerable to any aggression. The whole point of missile defense is that we prefer not to be vulnerable at all. Obama’s comments suggest he’s willing to go along with Russia’s program when it becomes politically possible to do so.

See also: “Morning Bell: Obama Whispers Away America’s Security,” The Foundry, March 27.

Posted on 03/27/12 06:40 PM by Alex Adrianson

ObamaCare’s Tax Hikes

ObamaCare violates President Obama’s several promises not to raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year, not once, but seven times, writes Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist (Daily Caller, March 23):

The individual mandate has an excise tax for non-compliance of at least 2.5 percent of adjusted gross income. […]

The medicine cabinet tax prevents families from using their health savings accounts (HSAs) or workplace flex-savings accounts (FSAs) to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines on a pre-tax basis. […]

The “special needs kids” or “braces” tax puts a cap of $2,500 for the first time on FSAs. Prior to Obamacare’s passage, families with very high medical bills could put an IRS-unlimited amount in their FSAs to pay for things like special needs tuition or braces on a pre-tax basis. Obamacare changed all that. […]

Obamacare imposes a 20 percent “surtax” on non-medical, early withdrawals from HSAs. This results in a tax rate on these distributions which can easily exceed 60 percent. […]

President Obama’s signature law decreases the amount that families can deduct in medical expenses from their taxable income. Under present law, medical expense claims must be reduced by 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. Obamacare increases this “haircut” to 10 percent of AGI. […]

Searching under every rock for more tax money, Obamacare has already imposed a 10 percent excise tax on tanning bed sessions. […]

Finally, in 2018 Obamacare will levy a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost (“Cadillac”) health insurance plans — which will, of course, have to be built into the health insurance premium, making them even more expensive. […]

As Norquist notes, none of these tax hikes provide an exemption for those making less than $250,000 per year.

Posted on 03/26/12 05:49 PM by Alex Adrianson

Toolkit: Pinterest Basics

Pinterest is blazing a trail in social media. The platform is evolving from a text-based environment to something more visually-based. It’s growing, and it’s growing rapidly. It also has more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined. For now, most of the users are women, but that will change.

Pinterest works by seeing a picture online that you like and “pinning” it to one of your “boards.” That will be seen by your followers and they will be able to click back to your site and you will get traffic. It is a pretty simple concept, but it has the ability to change the landsdcape.

With Pinterest, there is a lot more focus on images and imagery. Selecting images that have the appeal to be “pinned” and “repinned” will become more important as time goes on.

Here are some tips for Pinterest from the David All Group’s new Pinterest 101 Guide.

• Let the Pins do the talking: Keep the captions brief and showcase the photos.
• Interact: Mention other users and their account names.
• Be social: “Like” pins that are relevant to your cause, or company.
• Plan, plan, plan: Decide how broad, or narrow, each topic will be.
• Don’t be self absorbed: Share what others post, not just your own content.

While you’re on Pinterest, don’t forget to follow The Heritage Foundation.

Posted on 03/23/12 03:40 PM by Alex Adrianson

Congress Has Crossed a Constitutional Line

“Congress’s reliance on the Commerce Clause to support the individual mandate was politically expedient but constitutionally deficient,” explain David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee Casey (The Wall Street Journal, March 21):

As the Supreme Court has consistently acknowledged, the Constitution denies the federal government the type of broad public health and welfare regulatory authority known as a “general police power,” which is reserved exclusively to the states. The court has also repeatedly held that preservation of this division between federal and state authority is a matter for supervision by the courts, and its precedents make clear that congressional Commerce Clause regulation must be subject to some judicially enforceable limiting principle.

The defining characteristic of a general police power is the states’ ability to regulate people simply as people, regardless of an individual’s activities or interaction with goods or services that might themselves be subject to regulation. Thus, the Supreme Court has ruled that states, exercising their general police power, can require all resident adults to obtain a smallpox vaccination. Only this type of authority could support ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which applies to all Americans as such, regardless of any goods they may buy or own, or any activities in which they might choose to engage.

Congress has crossed a fundamental constitutional line. Neither the fact that every individual has some discernible impact on the economy, nor that virtually everyone will at some point in time use health-care services, is a sufficient basis for federal regulation. Both of these arguments, advanced by ObamaCare’s defenders, are flawed because they admit no judicially enforceable limiting principle marking the outer bounds of federal authority.

The Supreme Court will hear the case against ObamaCare on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Posted on 03/23/12 03:32 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Get Ready for the Atlas Experience

• Register for the Atlas Experience. It’ll be April 24 and 25 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Every year, the Atlas Experience, brings together hundreds of activists and thinkers from the worldwide liberty movement to discuss ideas and strategy. This year’s conference will include sessions on innovation in online education, how to create healthy communities without the welfare state, and how to spread the freedom message in today’s media environment. (Come for the Atlas Experience, stay for Resource Bank!)

• Get on the Values Bus. The Heritage Foundation/Family Research Council road trip to save the American Dream will be in Indiana, Pa. on Monday, Pittsburgh, Pa. on Tuesday, and Coraopolis, Pa. on Wednesday. Check ValuesBus.org for more details.

• Register for BlogCon, April 20 and 21 in Charlotte, N.C. FreedomWorks and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity have teamed up to provide a two-day conference on using new media technologies to get your message out, investigate corruption, and hold government accountable.

• Consider signing The Heritage Foundation’s Repeal Obamacare Petition.

Posted on 03/23/12 02:22 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Doom Industry Has Been Proven Wrong Over and Over Again

In the video below, Matt Ridley recounts all the ways Julian Simon was correct in his criticisms of ecological pessimists. Ridley is the winner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s 2012 Julian Simon Award.

Posted on 03/23/12 12:37 PM by Alex Adrianson

Said on this Day

March 23, 1775
Patrick Henry: Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

March 23, 2010
Barack Obama: And we have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.

Posted on 03/23/12 11:05 AM by Alex Adrianson

Someday Soon Your Doctor Won’t Work for You Anymore

Pretty soon, under Obamacare, the interests of patients are going to be subordinated to the interests of the state, explains Jeffrey Singer (Reason, March 15):

[H]ospitals, clinics, and health care providers have been given incentives to organize into teams that will get assigned groups of 5,000 or more Medicare patients. They will be expected to follow practice guidelines and protocols approved by Medicare. If they achieve certain goals established by Medicare with respect to cost, length of hospital stay, re-admissions, or other “core measures,” they will get to share a portion of Medicare’s savings. If the reverse happens, they will face economic penalties.

Private insurance companies are currently setting up the non-Medicare version of the ACO. These will be sold in the federally subsidized exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act. In this model, there are no fee-for-service payments to providers. Instead, an ACO is given a lump sum, or “bundled” payment for the entire care for a large group of insurance beneficiaries. The ACOs are expected to follow the same Medicare-approved practice protocols, but all of the financial risks are assumed by the ACOs. If the ACOs keep costs down, the team of providers and hospitals reap the financial reward: a surplus from the lump sum payment. If they lose money, the providers and hospitals eat the loss.

In both the Medicare and non-Medicare varieties of the ACO, cost control and compliance with centrally-planned practice guidelines are the primary goal. The hospital and provider networks will live or die by these objectives. […]

In a few years, almost all doctors will be employees of hospitals and will be ordered to practice medicine according to federally prescribed guidelines—guidelines that put the best interests of the state ahead of the interests of individual patients.

Posted on 03/22/12 05:53 PM by Alex Adrianson

Robbing Young Peter to Pay Old Paul

In Indiana, health insurance premiums are going to go up drastically after Obamacare’s rules on private insurance markets kick in, according to an analysis produced for the state by Milliman. Under the new rules, insurers can no longer set premiums according to individual health risk. That means the healthy, who are typically younger, will have to pay more. Also driving up premiums is the government’s mandate that everyone buy insurance, a mandate that entails a benefits package larger than most insureds would buy on their own, per HHS diktat. Some of the results of Milliman’s analysis, as summarized by Grace-Marie Turner (National Review Online’s Condition Critical blog, March 21, 2012):

• By eliminating rating on health status, the ACA brings the highest risk to the general marketplace resulting in premium increases of 35 percent to 45 percent.

• The essential-health-benefit requirements will represent a benefit expansion for the individual market, forcing Hoosiers to buy coverage they may not want or need. This will increase premium rates by 20 percent to 30 percent.

• The increases in premiums are not equally distributed. On average, individual-market premiums will increase by 75 percent to 95 percent. However, these increases will be greatest for young healthy males due to the fact that the ACA eliminates premium rating based on gender and health status, and restricts premium rating based on age.

• Young healthy males at 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), or $28,000 a year, can expect to experience almost a 100 percent premium increase even after the application of the premium tax credit. Young healthy males at higher income levels — 400 percent of the FPL and above, or about $45,000 a year — can expect to realize premium increases over 250 percent in 2014.

Posted on 03/22/12 04:32 PM by Alex Adrianson

No Wave of Gun Violence Following Stand-Your-Ground Passage

Both violent crime and homicides per capita fell following the enactment of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in 2004. That law and others like it have come under scrutiny following the shooting of an unarmed teenager by a neighborhood watchman in Florida. “Stand Your Ground” laws allow the use of deadly force for self-defense without any duty to retreat in order to avoid violence.  

Yet, as Walter Olson notes (Cato-at-Liberty, March 22), the media are focused on a different and misleading talking point about such laws:

News stories often mention that (quoting ABC): “Since the law was enacted seven years ago, justified homicides in Florida have jumped threefold, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.” But a tripling in the assertion of this defense (from a low base) tells us little in itself since the whole idea of the law was to make the defense more available. In particular it does not signify that some sort of killing began to happen three times as often, even if some seem determined to interpret it that way.

Posted on 03/22/12 02:53 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Property Rights Win at the Supreme Court

Property owners now have at least some legal recourse when the Environmental Protection Agency comes calling with a compliance order, thanks to a big win at the Supreme Court by the Pacific Legal Foundation. In 2005, the EPA told Mike and Chantrell Sackett they couldn’t build on their two-thirds of an acre in Priest Lake, Idaho. The EPA claimed the couple’s property was wetlands and therefore subject to EPA control under the Clean Water Act. (At right is a picture of the Sackett’s lot.) The EPA then claimed, and lower courts agreed, that the Sackett’s could not legally challenge the designation of the property as wetlands until the EPA sues them for noncompliance. In the meantime, the owners would be subject to fines up to $75,000 per day.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said:

In a nation that values due process, not to mention private property, such treatment is unthinkable.

The Court’s decision provides a modest measure of relief. At least, property owners like petitioners will have the right to challenge the EPA’s jurisdictional determination under the Administrative Procedure Act. But the combination of the uncertain reach of the Clean Water Act and the draconian penalties imposed for the sort of violations alleged in this case still leaves most property owners with little practical alternative but to dance to the EPA’s tune.

Real relief requires Congress to do what it should have done in the first place: provide a reasonably clear rule regarding the reach of the Clean Water Act.

The ruling was unanimous.

Posted on 03/21/12 05:47 PM by Alex Adrianson

Crony Capitalism in Health Care

Yes, there is crony capitalism in health care, it’s stifling innovation, and Obamacare has made the problem worse, reports David Hogberg (The New Individualist, March 7).

Back in 2010, the authors of Obamacare got the support of the big hospitals by agreeing to protect them from competition from smaller, more-focused physician-owned specialty hospitals (PSH). By specializing, these outfits could offer higher quality services than the bigger general hospitals, and that threatened the bigs business model. The writers of the law included a provision that essentially excluded new PSHs from serving Medicare patients and added new rules making it very difficult for existing PSHs to expand if they wanted to continue serving Medicare patients.

The big hospitals have long claimed that physicians who own shares in a hospital face a conflict of interest because they gain financially whenever they refer a patient to a hospital in which they have an ownership share. They also claim that these hospitals cherry-pick the most profitable patients. These practices, they say, put general hospitals at a disadvantage to PSHs.

Hogberg reports that the research on these questions is mixed, generally finding the incentives for such self-dealing to have small if any effects on physician behavior. These incentives, in any case, are certainly far smaller than the incentives every doctor already routinely faces for recommending his own services to his patients.

As health business guru Regina Herzlinger continually teaches us, increasing specialization has enabled just about every industry to discover better ways of doing things at lower costs. Hogberg’s report is a good reminder that the real incentive problem is our system of third-party payment, which Obamacare perpetuates. When the patient isn’t the payer, then his interests get defined for him by all the other players vying to influence the flow of dollars.

Posted on 03/20/12 06:16 PM by Alex Adrianson

Obamacare Must Go

Obamacare is a cancer that must go says Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner (The Foundry, March 19):

The law’s escalating regulations and costs weigh heavily on the businesses that fuel our economy, one of the reasons job creation has been so anemic and economic recovery has been lackluster. Obamacare is expected to force Americans to pay $99 billion more in taxes and penalties than originally anticipated. Families earning over $250,000 will get hit with a higher Medicare payroll tax.

And just last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that costs, originally pegged at $938 billion, have now risen to $1.76 trillion. Congressional Republicans estimate the tab to be $2.6 trillion. CBO also says that as many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-provided coverage because of Obamacare.

Turning to the individual mandate forcing all Americans to buy insurance, it quickly led to a revolt by a majority of states, who are now challenging the law before the Supreme Court. The Heritage Foundation weighed in on the issue and filed an amicus brief urging the Court to strike down the law. If government can regulate inactivity, it can do anything.

As Obamacare moves into its implementation phase, we are beginning to see more clearly where it is headed. A heavy-handed mandate for preventive services collides with religious liberty by ordering all insurance plans to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization at no-cost to the insured. Religious groups serving the public will have to provide such coverage regardless of their religious beliefs and deep moral objections. Those who choose not to comply will face heavy fines that will divert resources from their work to serve the poor, elderly, and sick, if not cause them to leave this work entirely. […]

This is only the tip of the iceberg. With each new requirement, Obamacare will make insurance more expensive, reduce flexibility and choice, and take away liberty.

Posted on 03/19/12 05:04 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Internal Revenue Service Has the Wrong Priorities

The agency that has time to harass independent tax preparers can’t be bothered to secure its data, says the Government Accountability Office. PC World Reports (March 18):

The Internal Revenue Service isn’t doing such a great job of protecting its key financial and tax-processing systems, according to the government’s watchdog agency, the GAO.

“Specifically, the [IRS] continues to face challenges in controlling access to its information resources,” states the Government Accountability Office in its report published Friday. “For example, it had not always (1) implemented controls for identifying and authenticating users, such as requiring users to set new passwords after a prescribed period of time; (2) appropriately restricted access to certain servers; (3) ensured that sensitive data were encrypted when transmitted; (4) audited and monitored systems to ensure that unauthorized activities would be detected; or (5) ensured management validation of access to restricted areas.”

The GAO also notes its audit found the IRS did not always “promptly correct known vulnerabilities” in its systems, saying that “76 out of 105 previously reported weaknesses open at the end of the GAO’s prior year audit had not yet been corrected.”

Taken collectively, these failings “impair IRS’s ability to ensure that its financial and taxpayer information is secure from internal threats,” or that it’s being “safeguarded from unauthorized disclosure or modification.”

Posted on 03/19/12 04:58 PM by Alex Adrianson

Some Twitter Basics

If you or someone in your organization is not using Twitter yet, you’re missing out on an opportunity to reach people. Twitter allows instantaneous news sharing to one’s followers. That news can spread very quickly when followers “retweet” the information you’ve shared. You might think Twitter’s potential is limited, since it limit messages to 140 characters. However, Twitter isn’t the message itself. It’s the mode of transportation. Twitter exists to spread information, not change policies. Policy changes come with the more in-depth papers and pieces that are tweeted out. The main goal of Twitter is to get eyeballs on the information at hand.  Using Twitter creatively can put that information in front of thousands of people who otherwise would not have seen it.

You can easily join the conversation on Twitter. Hashtags (words following the # sign) are used to index conversations. If a hashtag is popular enough, it will appear under the “Trending Topics” section on the Twitter website, where all users can see what’s popular. This is a very easy way to see what people are talking about most on Twitter so you can add something to relevant topics.

Here are a few tips to use to get maximum impact from Twitter:

• Use quick snappy headlines. Give people a reason to click.
• Use hashtags and try to fit in with what people are already talking about on Twitter.
• Leave space for retweets. Depending on how long your username is, you should leave about 20 characters.
• Make sure you interact regularly by referencing Twitter handles when speaking to a specific person or organization.
• Include shortened links to what you are discussing for reference.
• Join Twitter chats and be sure to promote your handle to gain more followers.

For more information, check out the excellent guide to Twitter published by the group American Majority.

By Ericka Andersen and Todd Thurman

Posted on 03/19/12 04:40 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do (When You’re Not Remembering Obamacare)

• Take in a colloquium on Washington’s D.C. architecture. Hillsdale’s Kirby Center and the National Civic Art Society will host an discussion and a showing of the documentary, Washington: The Classical City, on Thursday, March 22, at 6:30 p.m., at the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, 227 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C. RSVP to kirbyrsvp@hillsdale.edu.

• Enhance your public policy skills. If you are a current or recent graduate student, you should consider applying for the Lovett C. Peters Fellowship in Education Policy at the Pioneer Institute. The Lovett C. Peters fellow “will develop a broad range of research and public policy skills; he or she will also have an opportunity to devise and complete a ‘Lead’ project, which can consist of research or a practical policy project.The fellowship comes with a generous stipend. Applications are due by April 25. Check the Pioneer Institute Web site for more details.

• Find out if the Internet will remain free from public utility regulation. You can do that by attending the Free State Foundation’s Fourth Annual Telecom Policy Conference, on Tuesday, March 20, 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Posted on 03/19/12 04:26 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Remember Obamacare

Friday, March 23, is the two-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act becoming law. That would be Obamacare, the law that created massive new entitlements in spite of the red ink already drowning taxpayers; the law whose mandates on employers make it harder to create jobs at a time when unemployment is already high; the law that forces everyone to buy government-approved insurance or pay a fine; the law whose health insurance mandates have already led to premium spikes; the law that provides almost no religious liberty exemptions to any of its mandates. Here are some things to do to mark the anniversary:

• Attend an event. Lots of organizations are holding events on Obamcare in the coming weeks. Here is a partial list:

Obamacare in Briefs: The Amicus Writers Preview the Key Questions
Tuesday, March 20, noon to 1 p.m., at The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C.

The Affordable Care Act Turns 2 … Will It Turn 3?
Hosted by the American Action Forum, Wednesday, March 21, 9:30 a.m. to noon, at The Hamilton Live, 600 14th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

Capitol Hill Health Policy Briefing: Repeal and Replace: The Patient OPTIONS Act
Hosted by FreedomWorks, Thursday, March 22, at 10 a.m., at the Cannon House Office Building, Room 441, Washington, D.C. To attend RSVP to erandall@freedomworks.org.

Obamacare on Trial: The Impact of the Court’s Rulings
Thursday, March 22, noon to 1 p.m., at The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C.

Is the Individual Health Insurance Mandate Constitutional?
Hosted by Prosperity Caucus and America’s Future Foundation Thursday, March 22, at DCI Group, 1828 L Street, NW, 4th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Obamacare Update: In the Courts and in Practice
Thursday, March 22, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., at Judicial Watch, 425 Third Street, SW, Washington, D.C.

Obamacare in the Supreme Court
Friday, March 23, 10:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., at the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.

Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally
Friday, March 23, various locations nationwide.

Road to Repeal Rally
Hosted  by Tea Party Patriots, Saturday, March 24, noon to 2 p.m., at Upper Senate Park, Washington, D.C.

Hands Off My Health Care Rally
Hosted by Americans for Prosperity, March 27, at 1 p.m., on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.

Obamacare’s Assault on Religious Liberty
Tuesday, April 10, noon to 1 p.m., at the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship, 227 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C.

• Follow the battle to preserve religious liberty against Obamacare mandates. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has created a page of consience protection resources. And be sure to follow the Becket Fund’s four lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Services.

• Hear the oral arguments in the National Federation of Independent Business’s and the 26 states’ challenge to the constitutionality of Obamacare at the Supreme Court. The hearings will be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, March 26 – 28. But if you can’t be there in person, the Court plans to post audio and transcripts of the hearings within hours of their conclusion.

Posted on 03/19/12 02:52 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Internal Revenue Service Thinks It Doesn’t Have Enough Power Already

The Internal Revenue Service’s new licensing scheme for tax preparers is protectionism for the big tax prep firms like H&R Block; not only that, explains the Institute for Justice, the agency has no such power under law to impose such a scheme:

Posted on 03/14/12 06:13 PM by Alex Adrianson

Liberals More Intolerant than Conservatives

Liberals on social media sites are more intolerant of different political opinions than are conservatives on social media sites, according to a recent Pew survey (via Hot Air, March 13):

Posted on 03/13/12 07:10 PM by Alex Adrianson

Finally, a $50 Bulb

It’s now possible to spend $50 on one light bulb. No, there’s no burgeoning demand for luxury light bulbs. Rather, the federal government has been doing more counter-productive incentivizing. As Katherine Mangu-Ward explains (Reason, March 9), way back in 2007 Congress created a $10 million prize “to encourage the development of a cheap, green, domestic light bulb to replace the dearly departed Edison model.”

The winner, Dutch electronics company Philips, was the one and only entrant, suggesting that the prize failed to stimulate widespread additional private spending on R&D. The portion of the LED bulb made in America is less than initially envisioned. And the guidelines for pricing were utterly ignored: The goal was $22 price tag in the first year, falling rapidly to $8 by year three.

Meanwhile, a lot has happened in those five years. Americans are (perhaps grudgingly) adopting new light bulb technologies; experimenting with CFLs, halogens, and LEDs. The florescence of options was partially due to the fact that the relevant technologies reached a natural tipping point, partially due to the increasing cost of energy, and partially a response to the impending ban. […]

In this case, the prize was a first-past-the-post arrangement. So electronics giant Philips, which also makes a Chinese-manufactured version of the same product for half the cost, quickly fiddled with the specs and figured out a way to make some of the chips in San Jose—all jobs that will go to American citizens, no doubt—and do the assembly in Wisconsin. Two other companies had announced their intention to join the fray, General Electric and Lighting Science Group, when the Department of Energy abruptly declared a winner.

Posted on 03/12/12 06:46 PM by Alex Adrianson

Register Now for Resource Bank!

This year’s Resource Bank, the annual conference where hundreds of conservative leaders share ideas and strategies for advancing liberty and constitutionally-limited government, will take place April 26 and 27 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. You can register online now. About 500 think tank leaders, policy experts, investigative reporters, activists, film makers, and philanthropists are expected to attend. Among the offerings at the this year’s meeting will be a social media lab, a fundraising workshop, a look some of Colorado Springs innovations in government, a discussion of reaching out to Hispanic audiences, a keynote address from Robert George, a panel on Obamacare, as well as the invaluable opportunity to talk face-to-face with others in the movement.

Posted on 03/09/12 02:58 PM by Alex Adrianson

Renewables Get More Tax Breaks than Fossil Fuels

Tax breaks for Big Oil aren’t nearly as big a giveaway as tax breaks for renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and ethanol, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office (Federal Financial Support for the Development and Production of Fuels and Energy Technologies, March 2012). Last week, President Obama called on Congress to end $4 billion worth of tax breaks for oil companies, saying: “These are the same companies making record profits – tens of billions of dollars a year. I don’t think oil companies need more corporate welfare.”

The CBO finds, however, that tax breaks for renewables cost more. In the chart below, the cost of tax breaks for fossil fuels are shown in light blue and those for renewables in dark blue.

“Provisions aimed at energy efficiency and renewable energy accounted for 78 percent of the budgetary cost of federal energy-related tax preferences in 2011,” reports CBO. Renewables provide only 8 percent of the country’s energy needs, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Posted on 03/09/12 12:41 PM by Alex Adrianson

First They Came for the Fetuses

Killing a newborn is just another form of abortion, says a paper recently published by the Journal of Medical Ethics. Here’s the abstract, as quoted in the National Catholic Register (February 27):

Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

Just to be clear, authors Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva definitely draw the line short of killing actual people. Newborns are fine to kill, they say, because, like fetuses, they’re not actual people. They say. Hope that’s clear.

By the way, the article, “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” has since been taken down and the authors have kind-of apologized, reports Wesley Smith (Daily Caller, March 6).

Posted on 03/09/12 12:01 AM by Alex Adrianson

TARP Encouraged Looser Lending

Bailing out big banks that messed up their balance sheets by making bad loans appears to have encouraged big banks to make even riskier loans. That’s what a new Fed study of the Troubled Asset Relief Program finds, anyway. Here’s the nut, as quoted by James Pethokoukis (The Enterprise Blog, March 7):

The results from the event study illustrate that the average risk rating at large TARP recipients increased more than at large non-TARP recipients following the capital infusions. Conversely, the risk of loan originations by small TARP recipients appears to have decreased relative to non-TARP recipients.

In our regression results, we find consistent evidence that the TARP capital injection significantly increased the risk of loan originations by the large banks receiving the funds and significantly decreased the risk of loan originations by the small banks receiving the funds.

Supporting evidence from interest spreads also indicates that the spreads on loans from large TARP recipients widened substantially following the TARP capital infusions.

Overall, we find that the degree of risk in commercial loans made by TARP recipients appears to have increased for large banks but decreased for small banks.

As Pethokoukis notes, estimates of the the taxpayer cost of TARP (which Treasury now pegs at $68 billion) certainly understate the real costs. If today’s bailouts make banks less averse to making unwise loans, then there will be more bailouts in the future.

Posted on 03/08/12 10:53 PM by Alex Adrianson

Get Ready for Really Good Contraception!

Big Pharma will be the biggest beneficiary of the Department of Health and Human Service’s contraception mandate, writes Avik Roy (The Atlantic, March 6):

The reason why birth control is so cheap is because there are no longer any patents covering the use of a combination of estrogen and progesterone for the purpose of oral contraception. The first Pill, Enovid, was made available in the U.S. in 1957. These hormones are very inexpensive to synthesize and manufacture.

Under the current system, drug companies have an incentive to compete on price. If you have health insurance that covers birth control today, your insurer is likely to charge you a higher co-pay for expensive, “branded” versions of birth control over cheaper, generic ones. If you don’t have health insurance, and you’re buying the Pill directly from the pharmacy at Wal-Mart, you have even more incentive to shop on price.

Under the new mandate, this price incentive disappears. Insurers will be required to pay for any and all oral contraceptives, without charging a co-pay, co-insurance, or a deductible. This “first dollar coverage” of oral contraception kills the incentive to shop based on price.

If history is any guide, this significant change will drive up the price of oral contraception. Today, Tri-Sprintec costs $9 a month. In 2020, don’t be surprised if it costs $30. Drug companies will be able to market “branded” contraceptives at premium prices, knowing that women are free to choose the most expensive, designer product because it will cost them the same as the cheapest generic. Prepare yourself for multi-million-dollar Super Bowl ad campaigns from competing manufacturers. […]

The contraception contretemps is a case study in how thoughtless laws and policies drive up the cost of health care, making it less accessible to those who are most in need.

Posted on 03/08/12 10:19 PM by Alex Adrianson

Unions Threaten the First Amendment

The Supreme Court will soon have a chance to bolster First Amendment rights if it accepts Theresa Riffey’s suit against Illinois for forcing her to join the Service Employees International Union. Riffey provides in-home care to her quadriplegic brother and receives a stipend from the state. A state law deems such home workers to be state employees, effectively unionizing them. Even though SEIU is powerless to improve Riffey’s working conditions, she still has to pay dues. The state’s fiction, as David Rivkin and Andrew Grossman explain (National Review, February 29), is a case of forced speech:

[T]here has always been a tension between the First Amendment, which protects all Americans’ rights to free association and to speak or remain silent, and labor laws that compel all workers subject to a collective-bargaining agreement to support financially a union’s advocacy on their behalf, even if they dissent from the union’s goals and message.

The consistent rationale for the union exception to First Amendment freedom is “labor peace,” a term that harkens back to the violent strikes and lock-outs of the 1930s. But laws such as California’s and Illinois’s turn this narrow exception into a license to compel speech and association in any instance. Is labor peace really at issue when there is no workplace, no employer property is at risk, and workers’ only relationship to their putative employer is payment for services rendered to a third party? If so, doctors and lawyers who are often paid by state governments for services rendered to indigent clients or, for that matter, any person who accepts a government benefit or payment — which is to say virtually everyone — could be forced to kick back a portion to organized labor to fund speech with which they disagree.

Posted on 03/08/12 09:51 PM by Alex Adrianson

Gun Rights Victories

Two gun rights victories this week:

Students can now carry guns at the University of Colorado—with the proper permit—thanks to the Colorado Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the Court ruled the University’s refusal to allow licensed carry on its campuses violated the state’s Concealed Carry Act. (See: Regents of the University of Colorado v. Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.) David Kopel at Volokh Conspiracy (March 5) explains:

Colorado’s 2003 Concealed Carry Act provides that licenses issued pursuant to the CCA shall be valid “in all areas of the state, except as specifically limited” by other portions of the CCA (such as the rule that CCA licensees can have a gun in the car when they are on K-12 school property, but may not carry the gun outside the car). […] The Court rejected CU’s theory that because the University is created by the State Constitution, the Concealed Carry Act could only apply to the University if the statute expressly mentioned CU.

And as of Monday, Maryland residents no longer need to give a “good and substantial reason” for wanting a gun in order to receive permit. U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg struck down just such a requirement in the case Woollard v. Sheridan, reports Fox News (March 5):

[…] Legg wrote that states are allowed some leeway in deciding the way residents exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms, but Maryland’s objective was to limit the number of firearms that individuals could carry, effectively creating a rationing system that rewarded those who provided the right answer for wanting to own a gun.

“A citizen may not be required to offer a ‘good and substantial reason’ why he should be permitted to exercise his rights,” Legg wrote. “The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”

Posted on 03/08/12 09:41 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Start Tracking Bribery

• Start tracking bribery online. Bribery-tracking Web sites have sprung up in a number of countries around the world, including Bangladesh, India, Kenya, and Pakistan, reports the New York Times (“Web Sites Shine Light on Petty Bribery Worldwide,” March 6, 2012). The trend started with IPaidaBribe.com in India, which has made its code available to others who track bribery in their countries. The sites allow users to report anonymously requests for bribes that they have received. According to the Times, the Indian site prompted officials in Bangalore to reform the state’s department of motor vehicles.

• Support a museum that has something important to teach about American government: The Museum of Government Waste. Right now it’s just a film about the culture of corruption in Congress, but it needs a little financing—because it couldn’t get its own earmark!—to be completed. But the filmmakers also aspire to build an actual Museum of Government Waste, too.

• Find out whether nuclear power is the answer to the country’s energy needs: Watch the new Heritage Foundation documentary, Powering America. It’ll be on the Documentary Channel, March 11, 17, and 25; and April 2, 6, and 10.

• Bookmark StateCourtsGuide.com, a comprehensive guide to how judges are selected in all 50 states. Some states have elections, other states have appointments, and still others have a hybrid set-up. Want to figure out which system works best? Want to change your state’s judicial makeup? Start by getting the facts on how the process works with this resource from the Federalist Society.

Posted on 03/07/12 05:37 PM by Alex Adrianson

James Q. Wilson, R.I.P.

The scholarly work of James Q. Wilson, who died Friday at age 80, helped revive the common sense ideas that criminals should be punished and that police should maintain order, ideas credited with helping reduce crime in America beginning in the early 1990s. His 1975 book, Thinking About Crime, argued for swifter and more certain punishment as a deterrent to crime. His 1982 Atlantic article, “Broken Windows,” co-authored with George Kelling, argued that in their efforts to become better at solving crimes, police departments had neglected their order-maintenance functions. That shift, they argued, contributed to the crime wave of the 1960s and 1970s.

For Kelling and Wilson, maintaining good order meant minimizing loitering, rowdy behavior, public drinking, panhandling, solicitation, graffiti, litter, and abandoned property (i.e., broken windows). Such disorder, the authors argued, told criminals where violent crimes were more likely to go unchecked. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his police chief William Bratton put the “Broken Windows Theory” into practice beginning in 1994. Murder rates in the city fell by more than half by 1999 and continued to drop throughout the next decade.

President George W. Bush awarded Wilson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003. George Will sums up Wilson contributions this way: “Every contemporary writer about American society and politics knows how Mel Torme must have felt being a singer in Frank Sinatra’s era. Everyone else has competed for the silver medal. Wilson won the gold.” (“Wilson Was a Prophet for the Ages,” Columbus Dispatch, March 6).

For more on James Q. Wilson’s life and work, see these tributes: “The Sinatra of Social Science,” The American Enterprise Institute, January 6; “A Man of Reason,” Heather MacDonald, City Journal, March 4; “James Q. Wilson’s Life-Saving Work,” Thomas Sowell, National Review, March 6.

Posted on 03/06/12 06:42 PM by Alex Adrianson

Regulating Monopolies Isn’t Always Good for the Consumer

... explains Lynne Kiesling in the video from the Learn Liberty series:

Posted on 03/05/12 05:58 PM by Alex Adrianson

Hope for Religious Freedom

Last week’s Becket Fund victory in Stormans v. Selecky offers a preview of the religious freedom issues at stake in the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that all employers must cover contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their insurance plans. In that case, explains Anneke Green,

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and her Planned Parenthood cronies were defeated in their campaign to compel pharmacies and their employees to choose between their religious beliefs and their livelihoods.

Judge Ronald Leighton found unconstitutional a State Board of Pharmacy rule targeting pharmacists with conscience objections to dispensing Plan B and ella, the so-called “morning after” and “week after” pills. These drugs are in the same heap of free contraceptives/abortifacients that HHS is forcing all insurance plans to cover along with sterilizations to female policyholders. Like pharmacists in the Evergreen State, faith-based employers are being told to abort their religious convictions or face serious penalties. In his legal opinion accompanying the ruling, Judge Leighton asked the million-dollar question: “Can the state compel licensed pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense lawfully prescribed emergency contraceptives over their sincere religious belief that doing so terminates a human life?” The Obama administration says yes. (“Right to Refuse,” Washington Times, February 27, 2012.)

The Becket Fund is representing four different organizations suing the Department of Health and Human Services over the contraception mandate. Look for our interview with the Becket Fund in the forthcoming issue of The Insider.

Posted on 03/02/12 03:39 PM by Alex Adrianson

Dan Popeo, R.I.P.

Dan Popeo, who died February 21 at 61, founded the Washington Legal Foundation in 1977 to champion free market principles and accountability in government. The blog of the Legal Times reported his death on Thursday, noting:

He attracted some prominent legal minds to tackle issues that impact the free enterprise system and individual rights. The group has been zealous in filing amicus briefs across the country in business-related litigation.

“Dan was a giant in that field,” said former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, the chairman of WLF’s Legal Policy Advisory Board. “The array of talent he could assemble on a given question was amazing.”

Thornburgh, of counsel at K&L Gates, said Popeo assembled discussion panels that had every top advocate who had argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Popeo “spoke in no uncertain terms” when criticizing government policies in newspaper opinion pieces, but in private “he was a very self-effacing kind of guy, he was not a self promoter,” Thornburgh said.

And Popeo was persistent, persuasive and engaging. “I think he felt he had a good product to sell,” Thornburgh said. “He was a good guy.”

Posted on 03/02/12 03:15 PM by Alex Adrianson

Andrew Breitbart, R.I.P.

Andrew Breitbart made it his mission in life to take down the institutions of the cultural Left by exposing their hypocrisy and corruption. Indeed, before he died early Thursday morning at the young age of 43, he had already taken a few big swings with his new media axe. Because of the reporting of Big Government and other of his Web sites, the activist group ACORN lost its federal funding for its willingness to help set-up brothels trafficking underage girls; NEA executives were fired for urging artists to use their work to support the Obama administration; and New York congressman Anthony Weiner resigned for using his Twitter account to send pictures of his genitals to women who were not his wife.

He once explained: “I’m committed to the destruction of the old media guard. And it’s a very good business model.” He had great zeal for the battle, enjoyed making enemies, and often reposted criticism on his own Twitter account. In life, he took the barbs of the Left as proof he was doing something worthwhile. Perhaps, then, the best testament to the value of his work is that some on the Left have been positively gleeful at the news of his death. The worst of that has been rounded up by The Examiner: “Liberals Celebrate the Death of Andrew Breitbart,” March 1, 2012.

For other thoughts on Breitbart, ones that sound like they come from human beings, check out these articles: “Heritage Staff Remembers Andrew Breitbart,” The Foundry, February 29, 2012; “Andrew Breitbart, ‘Reborn’ on the Internet, Died a Force in Media and Politics,” Michael Calderone,” Huffington Post, March 1, 2012; “The Breitbart Building,” Andrew Klavan, City Journal, March 1, 2012; “The Five-Alarm Firebell Falls Silent,” Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online, March 2, 2012.

Posted on 03/02/12 02:59 PM by Alex Adrianson

Andrew Breitbart Had American Heart

Talk Radio host Bill Bennett explains his own scrappy nature by pointing out he is an Irishman. He then tells the story of the Irishman who happens upon a fight, muscles his way into the middle, and asks: “Is this a private fight, or can anyone join in?” Fighting is just part of his nature, you see.

With a name like Breitbart, you wouldn’t imagine he was Irish, but he was. Adopted by a Jewish couple, Andrew grew up in the Westwood section of Los Angeles with an adopted Hispanic sister. He said he was a “default liberal” who grew up in West L.A. listening to alternative rock. He drank more than he studied in college and graduated with fewer skills than when he went in. His ideological conversion began when his father cut off the funding of this lifestyle, and Andrew had to get a real job. “I believe that walking for the first time in shoes that I bought, started … my path towards conservatism,” he told us during a Heritage talk in April 2011.

Much like David Mamet, Dennis Miller, David Horowitz and other former liberals “mugged by reality,” Andrew said he was outraged by the hypocritical display of liberalism.

Those who saw Andrew only on FoxNews may assume that he was always outraged. After all, much of what his Web sites Breitbart.com, BigGovernment, BigHollywood, BigJournalism, and BigPeace have uncovered is outrageous.

But, Andrew was also a great friend and inspiration to so many in the freedom movement—young investigative reporters, conservatives and libertarians in Hollywood, students on liberal campuses, Tea Party activists from every corner of the country, and all those who’ve decided they’re outraged too.

The first occasion I had to see Andrew in action over several days was at a Tea Party convention in Nashville in early 2010. He was already a bit of a rock star in this community and swarmed by the media who had turned out in droves to hear Sarah Palin. You could also find him in the middle of groups of tea partiers answering questions. There were flag-wearing contingents who had arrived from the Midwest, couples who’d driven down from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, activists from California, Florida, and all points in between. They were all invigorated by their conversations with Andrew, and they told you about them. These were worried folks looking for answers to how we could turn our country around. Andrew inspired. He assured them that these were not private fights in Washington. We were all supposed to join in.

One evening he introduced the packed Nashville ballroom to his good friend—“a great American patriot and a tea party attendee” —singer Jon David who performed an original song that night. “American Heart” brought the crowd to cheers and tears. Hearing the stunning news about Andrew’s passing this morning, I thought about this song and how the refrain summed up Andrew’s optimistic scrappy nature so well:

I’m American made
I’ve got American parts
I’ve got American faith
In America’s Heart
Go on raise a flag
Cause I got stars in my eyes
Oh, I’m in love with her
And, I won’t apologize

His memory will live on in those who have been inspired to join the fight. Andrew Breitbart, RIP.

—Bridgett Wagner

Posted on 03/01/12 07:44 PM by Alex Adrianson

Cost of Common Core

Adopting federal education standards won’t be cost-free. Forty-five states have committed to adopting Common Core Standards, but none have released a cost analysis of the project. The Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts, however, has made a stab at pegging the nationwide costs. Using previous state experiences with implementing new standards as a guide, Pioneer calculates that participating states will have to spend $10.5 billion initially just to set up the new standards. Those funds will be needed in order to obtain new textbooks and instructional materials, train the teachers to implement new standards, and upgrade school computers and networks to implement online testing. The annual cost of the testing and maintaining the online testing system will add another half a billion to a billion dollars every year, the Institute estimates. The nationwide cost over the first seven years of implementing Common Core Standards will be $15.8 billion, says the Pioneer study (“National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards,” February 2012).

Posted on 03/01/12 05:43 PM by Alex Adrianson

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