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InsiderOnline Blog: March 2014

Why You Shouldn’t Think of Fund-Raising as a Chore

Arthur Brooks has some good news for non-profit leaders: Fund-raising is fun. As he explains, when you connect a giver with a cause he believes in, you are helping to make the giver happy:

Charitable giving improves what psychologists call “self-efficacy,” one’s belief that one is capable of handling a situation and bringing about a desired outcome. When people give their time or money to a cause they believe in, they become problem solvers. Problem solvers are happier than bystanders and victims of circumstance. […]

[…] I have found that the real magic of fund-raising goes even deeper than temporary happiness or extra income. It creates meaning. Donors possess two disconnected commodities: material wealth and sincere convictions. Alone, these commodities are difficult to combine. But fund-raisers facilitate an alchemy of virtue: They empower those with financial resources to convert the dross of their money into the gold of a better society.

Of course, not everyone shares the principles that motivate my institution’s scholars and supporters. But with millions of 501(c)(3)s and houses of worship nationwide, no one needs to wait on the sidelines and hope that politicians will marshal government power in service of their priorities. By investing their own time, talent and treasure, every American can bring his or her core principles to life. That can mean promoting literacy, conserving nature, saving souls or something else entirely. [New York Times, March 29]

Posted on 03/31/14 05:09 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Left Doesn’t Understand the Difference Between Tolerance and Approval

Liberals claim the point of mandating contraception and abortion coverage in employer health plans is to make sure women have access to those products and services. But that’s just veneer covering up the illiberalness of what they really desire—making sure nobody is expressing judgments by refusing to participate. As Kevin Williamson explains, the Left’s stubborn defense of the mandate is just the latest example of “everything not forbidden is compulsory”:

The effects of the pathologically delusional tendency that once styled itself “the sexual revolution” are everywhere to be seen. In the 1960s and 1970s, our cultural discourse was dominated by the benefits side of that revolution’s ledger; since then, we’ve had sufficient time to have a good long look at the cost side, too, and the tradeoffs are more severe than our bell-bottomed Aquarian prophets had predicted. It reads like an Old Testament genealogy: Sexual chaos begat family chaos, family chaos begat social chaos, social chaos begat economic chaos, economic chaos begat political chaos. And so the generations unfold. The relevant political reality is that those costs and benefits are not distributed equally: The benefits of license accrue mainly to the well-off and educated, who have the resources to make the most of their enjoyment of them; the costs accrue mainly to the poor, who cannot afford to live, economically or morally, beyond their means. Kate Moss can afford to be a single mother in her $20 million London townhouse. Not everybody can. Our so-called liberals find themselves in the queasy position of having created a moral culture that has destroyed millions of lives and many communities among the very disadvantaged people they claim to care most about, but they are incapable of criticizing a culture of license that none of them can imagine living without, even if they themselves are square as houses in their sexual habits.

The result of that is, if not guilt, at least a nagging awareness that this all turns out to be a great deal more morally complex than our liberationist-latitudinarian forebears had imagined. The way to assuage the collective liberal conscience is to institutionalize and normalize liberal social preferences: There is nobody to be blamed for social anarchy if that’s just the way things are. And if everybody is involved — as taxpayers or as employers providing health insurance — then everybody is implicated. They are a little like those addicts who are uncomfortable in the social presence of abstainers, taking that abstention as a rebuke, whether it is intended as one or not. [National Review, March 25]

Posted on 03/25/14 12:32 PM by Alex Adrianson

Does the Obama Administration Have the Authority to Give Away Internet Governance?

Whether free speech is preserved on the Internet may turn on an arcane legal question: Who owns the “root zone file” that stores all the names and addresses for all the websites around the world. The Obama administration wants to give up control of the root zone file to an unspecified international body that would oversee the work of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). That move might give China the power to shut FreeTibet.org down or Russia the ability to censor speech by Ukrainian critics.

But, as Gordon Crovitz points out, it’s unclear whether the administration even has the authority to give control of the root zone fie” away:

Congress doubted that the president could do this on his own when the issue was considered in 2000. The General Accounting Office, now called the Government Accountability Office, concluded it was “uncertain” whether Congress has to pass a law. The Property Clause of the Constitution says Congress must pass legislation to effect a transfer of government property. Arguably the president could no more transfer the valuable control over the naming and domains of the Internet than he could give Alaska back to Russia.

Contacted by this columnist last week, a spokesman for the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration said the agency reviewed this legal issue and concluded the administration can act without Congress but refused to share a copy of the legal analysis. Congress should ask for a copy and do its own analysis. [Wall Street Journal, March 23]

The GAO report to which Crovitz refers is “Department of Commerce: Relationship with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers,” (GAO/OGC-00-33R), July 7, 2000.

Posted on 03/25/14 11:46 AM by Alex Adrianson

Education Choice Wins in Arizona

Giving parents vouchers that they can use to pay for private school tuition or other educational services for their children does not violate the Arizona Constitution. On Friday (March 21), the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to a state appeals court decision finding Arizona’s education savings accounts constitutional. The Arizona teachers union had challenged the law, claiming it violated both the state constitution’s prohibition against using public monies for private schools and the constitution’s prohibition against using public monies to support religious worship or teaching.

The program, officially called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, gives parents a portion of the money that the state would have spent on their child in traditional public schools. The parents can spend that money on a variety of education services and products, including tutors, textbooks, online classes, and private school tuition. Parents can also accumulate savings in the accounts and apply the funds to a college savings plan. Currently, children that have special needs, attend failing schools, are adopted out of the state foster system, or whose parents are on active duty in the military are eligible for the program.

In October, the Arizona Court of Appeals had upheld the law. The court said:

The ESA does not result in an appropriation of public money to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion. Any aid to religious schools would be a result of the genuine and independent private choices of the parents. The parents are given numerous ways in which they can educate their children suited to the needs of each child with no preference given to religious or nonreligious schools or programs. [Niehaus v. Huppenthal, Opinion of the Court of Appeals of the State of Arizona, October 1, 2013]

By declining to hear an appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision. The Goldwater Institute came up with the idea of Education Savings Accounts following a 2009 court decision finding a school voucher program unconstitutional. On Friday’s decision, Clint Bolick, vice president of litigation for the Goldwater Institute said: “The constitutional cloud has been lifted from the nation's most innovative educational opportunity program. Arizona is blazing the trail to expand choice and competition in education.” [Goldwater Institute, March 21]

The Institute for Justice, representing several of the families participating in the program, intervened in the case to defend the law. Institute for Justice President and General Counsel William Mellor said: “Today’s decision finally and fully vindicates the ESA Program’s constitutionality. The Court of Appeals’ decision now joins a growing list of state courts, including Ohio, Wisconsin, and most recently Indiana, to vindicate the parental right to choose the educational environment that best suits their child’s unique educational needs.” [Institute for Justice, March 21]

[See also: “Giving Parents Choices: How Education Savings Accounts Can Give Every Child a Better Education,” by Jonathan Butcher, The Insider, Summer 2013]

Posted on 03/24/14 04:06 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Share Ideas with 500 of Your Best Allies in New Orleans

• Confab with 500 conservative policy experts, think tank leaders, activists, and donors at The Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank 2014 in New Orleans. Among the things you’ll learn by attending: What the Left’s agenda is for keeping conservatives from participating in politics and policymaking; how to transform the welfare state; how Louisiana has put parents in charge of their kids’ education; what’s going to happen next on ObamaCare; and what are the best strategies for getting your message out. You’ll hear from experts such as John Fund, Cleta Mitchell, Robert L. Woodson Sr., Ed Meese III, Clint Bolick, Randy Barnett, and John Goodman. Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Bobby Jindal will be there, too. The conference will be held March 26 – 28. RSVP now.

• Join Hobby Lobby Day on Facebook to show your support for religious liberty. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear the lawsuits of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Retailers against the Department of Health and Human Service’s contraception and abortion coverage mandates.

Figure out if government could get better results with better designed policies. The Cato Institute will host a talk by Peter Schuck, author of Why Government Fails so Often. Schuck’s talk will begin at noon on March 27.

Liberty-minded filmmakers, apply for an opportunity to hone your craft. Taliesin Nexus is looking for 10 creative people with some filmmaking or video making experience for its Liberty Lab for Film program. The program gives you $10,000 to make a short liberty-themed film along with guidance from seasoned professionals. The early-bird application deadline is May 1, and the final application deadline is May 15.

Learn how to make a difference for freedom by attending the Civitas Institute’s Conservative Leadership Conference. Speaking will be Walter Williams, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Mike Lee, Tim Phillips, Stephen Moore, Michael Cannon, Catherine Engelbrecht, John Papola, and many others. The conference will be held March 28 – 29 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Examine your career options in the conservative movement. The Leadership Institute will hold a Conservative Career Workshop on March 24 – 25 at its headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Posted on 03/21/14 10:00 PM by Alex Adrianson

Stanford Contemplates Taxing Conservative Views

Stanford is the latest institution of higher education to confirm William F. Buckley’s observation: “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” Mike Gonzalez reports:

The [Graduate Student Council] last week voted to deny funding for an event organized by the Stanford Anscombe Society, a group that believes that sexual relations should be only within marriage, which they define as being between a man and a woman. The university itself told the Anscombe Society it could find the money elsewhere (how generous), after students raised objections that labeled the society’s work “hate speech.”

So the Anscombe Society raised the money themselves from other sources and when they found the money this week, the university upped the ante, saying they’d have to pay an extra $5,600 for “security”—ten security personnel at a conference with an expected attendance of 120. The security was only deemed necessary after students at Stanford argued they felt threatened by the idea of the conference. […]

According to the minutes [of the GSC debate], a student named Addy reminded GSC that in the past it had “sponsored events with keynotes speakers being dictators, convicted rapists[.]” [National Review, March 19]

On Thursday, Stanford changed its mind. Ken McIntyre reports that Nanci Howe, Stanford’s associate dean of students, informed the Anscombe Society by email that funds had been found to cover the full costs of security. [The Foundry, March 20]

Recently, Jonah Goldberg also reviewed the Left’s curious habit of promoting diversity by demanding conformity, noting some choice quotes.

One student from Swarthmore said: “What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion. I don’t think we should be tolerating [Robert George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.”

And a student from Harvard stated: “If our university community opposes racism, sexism and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’? When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.” [Townhall.com, February 21]

Posted on 03/21/14 04:47 PM by Alex Adrianson

When May State Attorneys General Decline to Defend Their States’ Laws?

Any fan of Boston Legal, JAG, or Perry Mason would react with disgust if their favorite legal defender stood up in the courtroom and declared: “Your honor, my client is guilty. I refuse to defend her. In fact, I think she’s so indefensible, I’m joining the prosecution.”

At least the client in a legal drama would have recourse to another attorney—one faithful to his legal oath to defend his client whether innocent or guilty.

Virginia and the six other states whose attorneys general have refused to defend their marriage laws do not have this privilege. So explained Ken Cuccinelli, Former Attorney General of Virginia, and two other legal experts at a panel discussion at The Heritage Foundation last week.

A state attorney general’s duty is to represent his client—his state—against challenges to its constitution and law. Can a state attorney general ever decline to defend a state law against constitutional challenge? The answer is yes, but there is a narrow, clear, and historically consistent standard for determining when that is permissible. The law must be “blatantly unconstitutional”—unconstitutional “as a matter of objective law.” In other words, an AG’s personal opinion concerning the law is irrelevant.

Although present Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring claimed a constitutional basis for his recent refusal to defend Virginia’s marriage amendment, his adherence to this established legal standard is questionable. Herring voted for the 2006 Virginia Marriage Amendment, which 57 percent of Virginians ratified. Yet, weeks into his tenure as attorney general, he compared Virginia’s democratically passed constitutional amendment to laws banning integrated schools and interracial marriage. His action, he promised, would put Virginia “on the right side of history” and the “law.”

But to what “law” did AG Herring refer? The Supreme Court’s Windsor v. United States decision struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Amendment (DOMA). But, this is far from a constitutional justification to strike down state marriage laws, as Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network pointed out in her remarks. The majority in Windsor upheld the state’s central role in writing marriage law and explicitly limited the decision to “valid state marriages.” Thus, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA as an infringement on the state right to pass laws defining marriage—laws such as the Virginia amendment AG Herring claims is unconstitutional.

By failing to defend the law, Herring failed to do his job. As long as non-frivolous arguments exist, the code of legal ethics binds a lawyer to advance them in his client’s defense. Similarly, a state attorney general has the duty to defend any reasonable argument in defense of state law. Personal opposition to the law does not relieve him of that duty.

Herring not only refused to defend Virginia law, but he joined the opposition. On the same day he turned on his client and declared the Virginia amendment unconstitutional, he switched teams, aligning himself with a suit filed by two same-sex couples against the state of Virginia.

No one is challenging the attorney general’s freedom to change his mind—or to serve his political ambition—but supporters of same-sex marriage should think twice before they overturn the ethical boundaries on attorneys general discretion. Undermining the rule-of-law harms everyone because it sets a treacherous precedent. Every victim suffers when the advocate of justice can leave his client defenseless and turn and testify for the prosecution. [By Jenna Adamson]

Posted on 03/21/14 03:56 PM by Alex Adrianson

Why Does an Evil Person Like Frank Underwood Thrive in Congress?

EconPop examines the television show House of Cards to explain why we shouldn’t expect the legislative process to lead to the public good:

Posted on 03/21/14 03:21 PM by Alex Adrianson

Throwback Thursday: The New York Times v. The Minimum Wage

The New York Times used to be in favor of helping the poor. This editorial is from January 14, 1987:

Raising the minimum wage by a substantial amount would price working poor people out of the job market. A far better way to help them would be to subsidize their wages or – better yet – help them acquire the skills needed to earn more on their own.

An increase in the minimum wage to, say, $4.35 would restore the purchasing power of bottom-tier wages. It would also permit a minimum-wage breadwinner to earn almost enough to keep a family of three above the official poverty line. There are catches, however. It would increase employers’ incentives to evade the law, expanding the underground economy. More important, it would increase unemployment: Raise the legal minimum price of labor above the productivity of the least skilled workers and fewer will be hired.

If a higher minimum means fewer jobs, why does it remain on the agenda of some liberals? A higher minimum would undoubtedly raise the living standard of the majority of low-wage workers who could keep their jobs. That gain, it is argued, would justify the sacrifice of the minority who became unemployable. The argument isn’t convincing. Those at greatest risk from a higher minimum would be young, poor workers, who already face formidable barriers to getting and keeping jobs. Indeed, President Reagan has proposed a lower minimum wage just to improve their chances of finding work. [New York Times, January 14, 1987]

Posted on 03/20/14 05:08 PM by Alex Adrianson

Sunshine Week: The Freedom of Information Act Isn’t What It Used to Be

This week is Sunshine Week, so it’s time to point out that changing laws outside the politically accountable method of passing a new law—i.e., the set-up created by the Constitution—is the opposite of transparency. You may have heard that the Obama administration has unilaterally changed ObamaCare a couple dozen times already. Did you know that the Obama administration has rewritten the Freedom of Information Act on its own discretion, too?

Let’s run that back: The Obama administration has done an end-run around democracy in order to rewrite a law passed by Congress to make sure citizens know what their government is doing so that citizens can hold their government accountable via the democratic process. Mark Tapscott reports the details:

The rewrite came in an April 15, 2009, memo from then-White House Counsel Greg Craig instructing the executive branch to let White House officials review any documents sought by FOIA requestors that involved “White House equities.”

That phrase is nowhere to be found in the FOIA, yet the Obama White House effectively amended the law to create a new exception to justify keeping public documents locked away from the public. […]

The Greg memo is described in detail in a new study made public today by Cause of Action, a Washington-based nonprofit watchdog group that monitors government transparency and accountability. […]

The equities exception is breathtaking in its breadth. As the Greg memo put it, any document request is covered, including “congressional committee requests, GAO requests, judicial subpoenas and FOIA requests.” [Washington Examiner, March 18]

Another term for the “changing the law by executive fiat” would be “breaking the law.”

Posted on 03/20/14 04:06 PM by Alex Adrianson

What’s at Stake in the HHS Mandate Cases

Next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear two cases that ask the question: Can the government force employers to pay for insurance that covers contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, even when the employer has a religious objection to doing so? The plaintiffs are two small companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, who sued the Department of Health and Human Services after it issued such a mandate as part of its implementing rules under ObamaCare. Ninety-four similar lawsuits are still working their way through the lower courts, and the 300 plaintiffs represented in those cases will be watching the Supreme Court closely. Here is a profile of one of those plaintiffs, the Hepler family and Seneca Hardwood Lumber:

Posted on 03/20/14 12:04 PM by Alex Adrianson

As Putin Grabs Crimea, the Obama Administration Decides to Give Him the Internet, Too

Last Friday, the Obama administration announced that it will relinquish its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the body that assigns and maintains domain names and Web addresses for the Internet. This move, explains L. Gordon Crovitz, is the digital equivalent of announcing that the U.S. Navy would no longer patrol the sea lanes:

If authoritarian regimes in Russia, China and elsewhere get their way, domains could be banned and new ones not approved for meddlesome groups such as Ukrainian-independence organizations or Tibetan human-rights activists.

Until late last week, other countries knew that Washington would use its control over Icann to block any such censorship. The U.S. has protected engineers and other nongovernment stakeholders so that they can operate an open Internet. Authoritarian regimes from Moscow to Damascus have cut off their own citizens’ Internet access, but the regimes have been unable to undermine general access to the Internet, where no one needs any government’s permission to launch a website. The Obama administration has now endangered that hallmark of Internet freedom. […]

The Obama administration has played into the hands of authoritarian regimes. In 2011, Vladimir Putin—who, as Russia took over Crimea in recent days, shut down many online critics and independent media—set a goal of “international control over the Internet.”

In the past few years, Russia and China have used a U.N. agency called the International Telecommunication Union to challenge the open Internet. They have lobbied for the ITU to replace Washington as the Icann overseer. They want the ITU to outlaw anonymity on the Web (to make identifying dissidents easier) and to add a fee charged to providers when people gain access to the Web “internationally”—in effect, a tax on U.S.-based sites such as Google and Facebook. The unspoken aim is to discourage global Internet companies from giving everyone equal access. […]

By a vote of 89-55, countries in the ITU approved a new treaty granting authority to governments to close off their citizens’ access to the global Internet. This treaty, which goes into effect next year, legitimizes censorship of the Web and the blocking of social media. In effect, a digital Iron Curtain will be imposed, dividing the 425,000 global routes of the Internet into less technically resilient pieces.

The ITU is now a lead candidate to replace the U.S. in overseeing Icann. [Wall Street Journal, March 18]

Posted on 03/19/14 03:59 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Simple Error of Economic Reasoning that the Left Keeps Making on Health Care

Some people see that countries with more government financing and more price controls spend a lower percentage of their gross domestic products on health care and they conclude that the United States should copy those countries’ health care systems. The “savings,” however, are an illusion, explains John Goodman:

While it is true that we spend more than other countries in an accounting sense, we actually use fewer real resources: fewer doctors, fewer nurses, fewer hospital beds, shorter lengths of stay, etc. That means that from an economist’s point of view, we aren’t necessarily spending more than other countries. […]

We can’t devote more real resources to non-health care unless we use fewer real resources in health care. But if we copy other countries, the resource flow will go in the opposite direction. That is, in order to have more doctors, nurses, hospital beds, etc., we will have to have fewer teachers, fewer roads, less R&D!

Real savings, says Goodman, are to be found in more competition, which can only happen when more patients spend more of their own money. We know competition can work in health care, because it already is. Consider cosmetic surgery and Lasik surgery, mostly paid for out-of-pocket by patients:

Over the past two decades the real price of cosmetic surgery has gone down dramatically ? even in the face of soaring demand and technological innovation of the type that we are told increases costs for every other type of surgery.

Over the past decade the real price of Lasik surgery has declined by 30 percent ? again with soaring demand and technological innovation, a satisfaction rate of 93 percent, and quality competition reflected in deferential prices. (So much for the problem of transparency!) [John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog, March 19]

Posted on 03/19/14 12:45 PM by Alex Adrianson

Toolkit: What Content Goes Viral?

People share content they find on the Internet when it “helps them to make a strong statement about who they are,” and when the content gives them a strong, positive emotional response, explains Jack Shepherd of Buzzfeed:

[O]n today’s internet, your readers are your publishers – they are the people who decide which of your articles or lists or quizzes or infographics (another piece of jargon that’s worth avoiding because it sounds like homework) to share with their friends. They are more likely to do that if the act of sharing helps them to make a strong statement about who they are. […]

A 2010 study of the New York Times “most emailed” list found the articles that made the list tended to fall into one of four categories: awe-inspiring, emotional, positive or surprising. And the lesson from this isn’t so much that people like to feel feelings when they engage with a piece of content, it is that when it works – when the thing actually makes them cry or exclaim or feel inspired or shocked or happy – they want to share that experience with others. [The Guardian, March 16]

Posted on 03/18/14 05:35 PM by Alex Adrianson

Toolkit: What Makes a Movement? The Underappreciated Role of the First Follower

“The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow. When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.”

Posted on 03/18/14 04:18 PM by Alex Adrianson

Sunshine Week: New York Could Use Some Sunshine

The Empire State is a laggard on government transparency, and the Empire Center for Public Policy wants to fix the problem with some model legislation:

The See-Through Government Transparency Act would update [Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)] by requiring state and local government agencies to post on a single database the records they are now required to release in response to FOIL requests, including payrolls, expenditures, contracts for purchases and services, collective bargaining agreements and annual reports. [Empire Center for Public Policy, March 18]

Posted on 03/18/14 03:31 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Little Bit of Union Accountability in Michigan

The union that skimmed $34 million from the benefit checks of home-based caregivers in Michigan has been hit with the second-largest fine ever for a campaign finance violation in Michigan. The SEIU will pay $199,000 in penalties for reporting violations committed in 2012 when it created two organizations to support Proposal 4, which would have written the dues-skim set-up into the state constitution. Jack Spencer reports that the reporting violations were part of an SEIU attempt to conceal its role in funding the pro-Proposal 4 effort, which was rejected by the voters in November 2012.

The dues skim set-up, which ended in 2013, “featured a dummy employer, a mail-in stealth election, and the use of the term ‘home healthcare workers’ to describe caregivers in the Home Help Program,” reports Spencer: “The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has filed a complaint against the SEIU to try to get back some of the dues that was paid to SEIU. That case is still pending.” [Michigan Capital Confidential, March 12]

Posted on 03/18/14 03:19 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Problem with the “Corporations Can’t Pray” Argument

The government’s position in defending its contraception mandates against freedom of religion claims is inconsistent with the view the courts have long taken regarding racial discrimination. Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty explains:

The government says it is a “bedrock principle that a corporation is legally distinct from its owners.” Thus, there is “no basis on which to impute the [owners’] religious beliefs to the corporat[ion],” and no basis for a corporation to sue for religious discrimination.

That’s just what defendants accused of race discrimination have argued. They claim that a corporation is distinct from its owners, and there is no basis to impute the owners’ race to the corporation. On this view, there is no such thing as racial discrimination against a minority-owned business.

How do you think those defenses fared?

They’ve lost. Every single time.

The latest rejection came just yesterday [March 6], from the unanimous U.S. Court of the Appeals Fourth Circuit. As the court explained: “[A] minority-owned corporation may establish an ‘imputed racial identity’” based on the race of its owners. In support, it cited similar rulings from the First, Second, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits. And the Supreme Court. The court marveled: “[I]t is hard to believe that the Supreme Court would deny standing to the corporation because it ‘has no racial identity.’” That would gut the civil rights laws.

The same is true in Hobby Lobby. If a corporation can have an “imputed racial identity” based on the race of its owners, it can have “imputed religious identity” based on the religion of its owners. Otherwise, the government would be free to penalize a corporation simply because the owner was a Christian. Or Muslim. Or Jew. [Salt Lake Tribune, March 15]

The mandate forces people to choose between their religion and having a business. What kind of freedom of religion is that?

Posted on 03/17/14 06:21 PM by Alex Adrianson

Speaking of Sitting on Assets …

The federal government spends about $1.7 billion per year maintaining 77,000 empty or underutilized buildings, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Bureaucracy is a big part of the problem, reports Laura Sullivan:

No federal agency can sell anything unless it’s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Those are expensive fixes.

Then the agency has to make sure another one doesn’t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits — and finally, a 25-year-old law requires the government to see whether it could be used as a homeless shelter.

Many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it. [NPR, March 12]

Ilya Somin adds:

The whole situation is an unintended lesson in the advantages of private property rights. If a private owner has a piece of unused property, he or she has strong incentives to find some valuable use for it. If he can’t, he has a strong incentive to sell it to someone else who can do better. In both cases, he gets to keep the profit. For that reason, he also has incentives to keep track of the property he owns, and avoid imposing burdensome bureaucratic procedures that make it difficult to sell unused land. [Washington Post, March 13]

Posted on 03/17/14 04:08 PM by Alex Adrianson

Work Weeks Are Shorter Since ObamaCare Became Law

Businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees are exempt from ObamaCare’s mandate to provide their employees with health insurance. One way of staying below that threshold of 50 full-time employees is to hire more part-time workers. Are businesses responding to that incentive? They might be, says Edward Lazear, who notes: “The average workweek in the U.S. has fallen to 34.2 hours in February from 34.5 hours in September 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

The incentive to replace full-time workers with part-time workers may be making the employment situation look better than it really is, explains Lazear: “[A]lthough the U.S. economy added about 900,000 jobs since September, the shortened workweek is equivalent to losing about one million jobs during this same period. The difference between the loss of the equivalent of one million jobs and the gain of 900,000 new jobs yields a net effect of the equivalent of 100,000 lost jobs.” [Hoover Institution, May 16]

Posted on 03/17/14 01:33 PM by Alex Adrianson

Daily Links: We Can Help Ukraine with More and Cheaper Energy

• Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was published 70 years ago this week, and its warnings “about the dangers from an ever encroaching paternalistic and interventionist government are no less valid now,” says Richard Ebeling: “Think of the mounting corruption from special interest groups feeding at the trough of government spending; or the misuse and abuse of intrusive power into people’s lives in the name of ‘national security’; or the imposition of a paternalistic scale of values concerning presumed ‘fair wages’ and ‘progressive’ redistribution of income and wealth; or the misguided and dangerous presumption that those in political power know better how people should live than those people themselves; or the arrogant discarding of the Rule of Law and constitutional procedures and restraints.” [Somewhat Reasonable, March 11]

• As we ponder the liberals’ idea that incentives to work less make people better off, we should consider the possibility that the 1990s welfare reform contributed to the remarkable decline in violent crime in the United States over the past 20 years. Michael Barone hypothesizes: “Mothers with jobs are away from home during work hours. But they are also likely to have more moral authority. They bring home the bacon and are entitled to demand good behavior in return. And, especially if they move ahead at work, they set a better example for their children, male and female. They show that there is a connection between honest effort and legitimate reward. A mother who earns success shows her children they can, too.” [Washington Examiner, March 20]

• If President Obama really wants to take a tough stand on Russia’s actions against Ukraine, he should free up U.S. energy markets. Allowing more production and more energy exports from the United States will in the long run make Ukraine and Europe less dependent on Russian energy, write Nicolas Loris and Jack Spencer. Among the actions they say would help are ending the permitting requirements for exporting natural gas, lifting the ban on crude oil exports, and ended efforts to make fossil fuel consumption artificially expensive (regulations on greenhouse gas emissions). [The Heritage Foundation, March 13]

• If you’ve ever heard the claim “ethanol is the cheapest molecule in the fuel tank,” then you have been mislead. James Agresti explains: “[A] gallon of ethanol has 31% less energy than a gallon of gasoline. In practical terms, this means that a car fueled with E85 (a mixture of 70-85% ethanol and 15-30% gasoline) will get 25-30% fewer miles per gallon than the same car when it is fueled with gasoline.” When calculated on the basis of price per unit of energy “the average nationwide retail price for ethanol in 2013 was 22% more than gasoline, and biodiesel was 41% more than gasoline.” [Just Facts Daily, March 12]

• One of the reasons Volkswagen took the unusual step of inviting the United Auto Workers to organize a union at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant was that it wanted to form a workers council but by law could not discuss working conditions with its employees outside of collective bargaining. James Sherk says it’s time to update the National Labor Relations Act, to give workers and employers more flexibility: “Canada permits [employee-involvement (EI)] programs and has a union density over twice the American rate. EI programs would weaken unions only to the extent that workers prefer them to unions. Congress should not make non-union workplaces as unpleasant as possible in order to compel workers to unionize. Labor unions exist to serve workers, not vice versa. Any competition with EI programs would force traditional unions to innovate and modernize to better suit workers’ needs.” [The Heritage Foundation, March 13]

• As of March 1, the ObamaCare exchanges are about 2.8 million short of the goal of reaching 7 million sign-ups by March 31, reports Jonathan Easely. Oddly enough, as the deadline draws near, enrollments have dipped—from 1.1 million in January to 942,000 in February. The Department of Health and Human Services had previously projected 1.3 million would sign up in February. [The Hill, March 11]

Posted on 03/14/14 08:12 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Find Out What’s Going on at the Federal Communications Commission

Assess the new realities in the telecommunications marketplace and the role of the Federal Communications Commission at the Free State Foundation’s Sixth Annual Telecom Policy Conference. FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly will be among the featured speakers. The conference will begin at 8:45 a.m. on March 18 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Find out what the defeat of the United Auto Workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant means for the future of organized labor and federal labor law. The Heritage Foundation will host a discussion with Matt Patterson of the Center for Worker Freedom at Americans for Tax Reform, and Professor John Raudabaugh of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The discussion will begin at noon on March 17.

Hear Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal share some reform ideas with supporters of the Alabama Policy Institute. The Institute’s annual Mobile Dinner will be held at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center, starting at 7 p.m. on March 20.

Examine the structure and role of the Federal Reserve. The American Enterprise Institute will host a discussion on the topic “The Fed: Philosopher King or Servant of the Treasury?” The event will begin at 3:30 p.m. on March 20.

Discover how to restore freedom and prosperity in America by attending the Institute for Humane Studies & Mercatus Center’s annual retreat. The theme of this year’s retreat is “Advancing Liberty, Creating Change,” and it will be held March 20 – 23 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Explore the Founders ideas on national greatness. James Ceaser will take up the topic at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center in Washington, D.C. Ceaser’s talk will begin at noon on March 20.

Learn the best ideas and strategies for advancing liberty. Register now for The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Resource Bank. The conference will be held March 26 – 28 in New Orleans. Resource Bank is a must-attend conference of today’s top conservative leaders—policy experts, think tank CEO’s, activists, and donors—filled with strategy sessions, networking, coalition building, and policy collaboration.

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

Video of the Week: Social Capital in the Big Easy

The Institute for Humane Studies’s Learn Liberty project is using New Orleans culture to examine economic ideas. Or maybe it’s just an excuse to enjoy a good party. Either way, here is Off-the-Clock economist Dan D’Amico exploring how music helped New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina:

By the way, did we mention that The Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank will be in New Orleans this year? Register now, so that we’ll see you March 26 – 28.

Posted on 03/14/14 04:06 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Left Cheats

A few items from the past month:

• The North Carolina State Bar is interfering in judicial elections by threatening to sue a challenger for false advertising because his campaign signs don’t include the words “for” or “vote for.” The challenger is a Republican, and the incumbent is a Democrat. Dan Way reports: “Like campaign signs posted by a host of candidates, including Supreme Court hopeful Sam Ervin IV and Court of Appeals candidate Lisa Inman, both Democrats, Phillips’ signs displayed only his name and the position for which he is running.” [Carolina Journal, March 13]

• Another item from North Carolina: The conservative John William Pope Center doesn’t count as a credible think tank on education issues—not in the eyes of the profs at the University of North Carolina, anyway. Jenna Robinson reports that the faculty’s resource page lists only one think tank alongside links to a variety of government offices—“NC Policy Watch, the ‘progressive, nonprofit and non-partisan public policy’ project of the NC Justice Center that regularly calls for increased funding for the UNC system.” [The Locker Room, March 12]

• Suggest that public schools shouldn’t get any money unless students choose to attend them and you’re likely to see a liberal’s head explode. Public schools will teach the kids that President Herbert Hoover had laissez faire economic policies; for a liberal, that kind of whacky history is a feature, not a bug of public schools. But what happens when you are a non-profit that teaches about the philosophical connections between religious faith and free market economics? Apparently, that’s so far out that it disqualifies you from being considered a charitable educational institution in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Acton Institute conducts a variety of outreach and educational programs that present a faith-based case for free market economics, including its annual Acton University. The Institute is recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit by the Internal Revenue Service. Nevertheless, Grand Rapids has denied Acton’s request for nonprofit status in a letter that did not explain the reasons for the denial, reports Matt Vande Bunte. The city values Acton’s newly renovated offices, purchased in 2012, at $1.8 million and wants the Institute to pay $91,000 in property taxes on the property. [MLive.com, March 7]

• In Wisconsin, Democrats are chilling conservative political speech by conducting a John Doe investigation of 29 conservative groups that they say illegally coordinated their communications with the Scott Walker (R) campaign during the 2012 recall campaign. Of course, the prosecutors don’t have any evidence of that, which is the reason they have resorted to a John Doe investigation instead of filing charges. As Jason Stverak notes, such investigations come with gag orders on the non-accused targets of the investigation; which means the targets are prevented from responding when investigation details leak to the media. [Watchdog.org, March 4]

• The Federal Communications Commission has backed off of its plan to monitor broadcast newrooms to find out if stations are covering “the right” stories. The agency, however, is still busy implementing its media ownership rules, and those may turn into a tool to keep down a black conservative, reports Phillip Swarts. Armstrong Williams recently purchased two television stations, and a key part of that purchase was a service-sharing agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting Group. Shortly after the conservative commentator bought the stations, the FCC announced it would examine whether service-sharing agreements are a way for media companies to evade limits on media concentration. Williams said he would not have been able to make the purchase without the service-sharing agreement, under which Sinclair sells advertising for the station and provides other services. [Washington Times, March 10]

• Media critics, meanwhile, are worried that the late Andrew Breitbart’s and James O’Keefe’s expose-driven journalism has permanently lowered the quality of news consumption. In February, the Brookings Institution’s Darrell West and Beth Stone published a paper contending that the media should present more thoughtful, less polarizing analysis of public policy issues. As Mike Gonzalez notes, however, West and Stone begin their argument by observing that the most conservative Democrat is to the left of the most liberal Republican. As a rule, complaints about political polarization are almost always a cipher for complaints about conservatives winning policy arguments. Indeed, as Gonzalez goes on to point out, West and Stone “make clear that ‘thoughtful reporting’ would be what Ezra Klein, Andrew Sullivan, Jill Abramson, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez—journalists ranging from liberal to very liberal—think is thoughtful.” If news consumers need help finding “thoughtful” analysis, who is to do the helping? Facebook and Google, of course. Conservatives should be wary, says Gonzalez. [The Federalist, March 13]

Less nuanced assaults on free speech abound: Global warming scientist Michael Mann wants to silence critic Mark Steyn with a libel suit. Modesto College wanted to keep student Robert Van Tuinen from handing out the Constitution on Constitution Day (it lost in a lawsuit by Van Tuinen). McGill University forced a student to apologize for the “micro-aggression” of emailing a non-flattering Obama gif.

The big and continuing story, of course, is the Internal Revenue Service’s invasive, burdensome, and selective requests for information from conservative nonprofits applying for tax exempt status, and the agency’s efforts to codify its abuse with new rules. Official Washington is hung up on the question of whether there was White House direction of the agency’s foot-dragging that sidelined conservative groups from legitimate participation in the political process for one whole election cycle. We learned this week from the report of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the key official at the Internal Revenue Service was very worried that the Internal Revenue Service would get blamed for letting conservatives win elections. The report quotes Lois Lerner, head of the IRS’s exempt organizations unit:

The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year old precedent that basically corporations couldn’t give directly to political campaigns. And everyone is up in arms because they don’t like it. The Federal Election Commission can’t do anything about it. […]

So everybody is screaming at us right now: ‘Fix it now before the election. Can’t you see how much these people are spending?’

The report continues:

Lerner openly shared her opinion that the Executive Branch needed to take steps to undermine the Supreme Court’s decision. Her view was abundantly clear in many instances, including in one when Sharon Light, another senior advisor to Lerner, e-mailed Lerner an article about allegations that unknown conservative donors were influencing U.S. Senate races. The article explained how outside money was making it increasingly difficult for Democrats to remain in the majority in the Senate. Lerner replied: “Perhaps the FEC will save the day.” [“Lois Lerner’s Involvement in the IRS Targeting of Tax-Exempt Organizations“ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, March 11, 2014]

Do we really need evidence that somebody at the White House told somebody at the IRS to crackdown on conservatives in order to know what’s going on? We can see that liberals are worried about losing power to conservatives, and we can see how often in the normal course of affairs they bend the cultural and professional institutions they control as well as the ostensibly non-partisan government agencies to the task of keeping liberalism in power. The evidence is all around us.

Posted on 03/13/14 09:35 PM by Alex Adrianson

Daily Links: Warning: Some of These Links May Induce Pro-Liberty Activism

• The Federal Communications Commission’s media ownership rules, which are intended to make sure there is a diversity of views in the media, may force one of the few black television station owners from the business, reports Phillip Swarts. Armstrong Williams recently purchased two television stations, and a key part of that purchase was a service-sharing agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting Group. Shortly after the conservative commentator bought the stations, the FCC announced it would examine whether service-sharing agreements are a way for media companies to evade limits on media concentration. Williams said he would not have been able to make the purchase without the service-sharing agreement, under which Sinclair sells advertising for the station and provides other services. [Washington Times, March 10]

• Two-hundred and fourteen out of 552 enhanced prescription drug plans would have been cancelled under a rule that limits the number of plans insurers may offer under Medicare Part D, says the consulting firm Avalere Health. Those cancellations and the resulting redesigning of continuing plans would have affected 94 percent of Medicare Part D beneficiaries. [Avalere Health, February 12] The justification for the new rule was that seniors were confused by too many options, but widespread opposition to the proposal has forced the Obama administration to shelve the plan, report Aylene Senger and Robert Moffit. [The Heritage Foundation, March 11]

• Government doesn’t understand accountability, least of all in primary education, write Joseph Bast, Lindsey M. Burke, Andrew J. Coulson, Robert Enlow, Kara Kerwin, and Herbert J. Walberg: “Most low- and middle-income families today have no viable alternative to their zoned public school. Absent any alternatives, the school is not directly accountable to them, so policymakers try to approximate real accountability through one-size-fits-all regulations. But distant bureaucrats cannot know the individual needs and preferences of every family. Nor do they share the local knowledge enjoyed by educators. Nevertheless, some policymakers and education experts have come to view top-down regulations as synonymous with ‘accountability’ rather than as a pale imitation. They therefore mistakenly view parent-driven choice programs as ‘unaccountable,’ confusing regulation with accountability.” [National Review, March 12]

• The Obama administration has suspended the individual mandate for two years, but didn’t tell anyone about it. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that health insurance plans not meeting ObamaCare’s minimum coverage requirements would be allowed to continue until 2016. Burried within that announcement, reports the Wall Street Journal, was a paragraph and footnote that “allows Americans whose coverage was cancelled to opt out of the mandate altogether”: “[A]ll you need to do is fill out a form attesting that your plan was cancelled and that you ‘believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy’ or ‘you consider other available policies unaffordable.’” [Wall Street Journal, March 11]

• Rules for trigger warnings—notices of content that may trigger post-traumatic stress disorder—have arrived on college campuses. The fuss, reports Cathy Young, is more about ideology than psychological conditions: “[T]rigger warnings are rooted in the assumption that our colleges are full of walking wounded—victims/survivors of ‘the rape culture,’ the violent capitalist patriarchy, and traumas that are nearly always inherently political and related to oppression. The trigger-warning mindset ostensibly encourages traumatized people to remain stuck in their fragility; but it also cultivates entitlement and self-righteous outrage. When several students get up and walk out of a classroom because the (female) professor uses an analogy involving rape to illustrate the difference between correlation and causation, it is doubtful that their walkout is prompted by a debilitating fit of panic and anxiety; moral indignation is a far more likely motive.” [Minding the Campus, March 11]

• Supreme Court watchers expect the Justices to defer to Congress on the question of whether the ObamaCare shell bill procedure conforms to the Constitution’s requirement that revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives (the origination clause). What we have here, writes Randy Barnett, is the problem of “double deference”: “On constitutional questions, the courts defer to Congress’s assessment that its acts are constitutional. Then when you ask members of Congress whether what they are doing is constitutional, they respond by saying, ‘that is the job of the courts’ or, even more commonly, they predict that ‘the courts will uphold us.’ Of course, if the courts defer constitutional judgments to Congress, and Congress defers constitutional judgments to the courts, then no one is considering the Constitution itself. Double deference is a shell game, not to be confused with a shell bill.” [Washington Post, March 12]

Posted on 03/12/14 01:34 PM by Alex Adrianson

Image of the Week: Ukraine’s Choice

Eastern European and former Soviet countries that have integrated with the European Union have done much better economically than those that have remained closer to Russia. This chart, from Kevin Hassett, shows why President Yanukovych’s decision to nix an agreement to integrate Ukraine’s economy with the European Union ignited so much protest:

[American Enterprise Institute, March 10]

Russia ranks 140th in the world in economic freedom, with a score of 51.9 (out of a possible 100) in the latest edition of The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom. Every country of the European Union ranks ahead of Russia. The EU has an average country score of 68.8—and that doesn’t even include Switzerland, the fourth freest economy in the world with a score of 81.6. [The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal]

Posted on 03/11/14 05:56 PM by Alex Adrianson

Daily Links: Who Checks the Progressives’ Privilege?

• Sharyl Attkisson broke the story of the “Fast and Furious” scandal and investigated the Obama administration’s responses to the Benghazi attacks for CBS news. On Monday, she resigned from CBS News. Dylan Byers reports that Atkkisson “felt that her work was no longer supported,” while her colleagues “saw evidence of a political agenda, particularly against President Barack Obama.” [Politico, March 10] “If Attkisson is being shown the door at CBS,” writes Jonathon Tobin, “it is not because her work is not highly regarded but because she has violated the prime directive of liberal media insiders: thou shalt not report on Obama in the same way that you reported on George W. Bush or even Bill Clinton. The liberal bias that conservatives have long complained about is out of the closet.” [Commentary, March 10] As John Nolte notes, Attkisson’s boss and President of CBS News, David Rhodes, is the brother of President Obama’s National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, who helped draft the infamous Benghazi talking points. [Breitbart, March 10]

• Progressives keep saying “check your privilege,” so B.K. Marcus checked the definition of privilege found in Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus trilogy. Here is what anarchist Hagbard Celine told the Council on Foreign Relations: “Privilege is defined in most dictionaries as a right or immunity giving special favors or benefits to those who hold it. Another meaning in Webster is ‘not subject to the usual rules or penalties.’ The invaluable thesaurus gives such synonyms as power, authority, birthright, franchise, patent, grant, favor and, I’m sad to say, pretension. Surely, we all know what privilege is in this club, don’t we, gentlemen? Do I have to remind you of the Latin roots, “privi, private, and lege, law, and point out in detail how we have created our Private Law over here, just as the Politburo have created their own private law in their own sphere of influence?” [The Freeman, March 11]

• The SAT test is changing, and that may be bad news for Common Core educational standards, says Neal McCluskey. Why? Because the SAT redesign will reflect some of the same dumbing-down of standards that the Common Core is perpetrating; and when people realize Common Core is driving SAT changes, then they will realize Common Core standards really are national standards. Also, David Coleman is both President of the SAT-owning College Board and a chief architect of the Common Core. [Cato Institute, March 10]

• Healthcare.gov still has no way of letting a shopper report changes to his address, email, and phone number to insurance companies, reports Jeryl Bier, who notes the following disclaimer now appears at Healthcare.gov: “To change your home address, email address, or phone number, update the information on your Marketplace Profile page. Be sure to report address, email, and phone changes to your insurance company too. Otherwise they may not know about your new contact information. [Weekly Standard, March 11]

• If Russia annexes Crimea, it will risk radicalizing “an otherwise peaceful indigenous Tatar community,” writes Ariel Cohen: “As conflict between Russia and the Crimean Tatars escalates, there is a danger that it might bring international extremist organizations like al-Qaeda into the region, as happened in Chechnya during Russia’s military campaigns there in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some Tatar extremists, who are Sunni Muslim, have already fought in Syria against the pro-Iranian Alawite regime of Bashar El-Assad and have links to the Islamic militants.[…] This year marks seventieth anniversary of deportation of the entire population of Crimean Tatars by Joseph Stalin to North Kazakhstan and Central Asia in 1944. Up to 25 percent of the Crimean Tatars died in these deportations.” [The Foundry, March 10]

• The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is not a charitable nonprofit organization, says the city of Grand Rapids, Mich. The Institute conducts a variety of outreach and educational programs that present a faith-based case for free market economics, including its annual Acton University. It’s also recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit by the Internal Revenue Service. But Grand Rapids has its own view, and has denied Acton’s request for nonprofit status in a letter that did not explain the reasons for the denial, reports Matt Vande Bunte. The city values Acton’s newly renovated offices, purchased in 2012, at $1.8 million and wants the Institute to pay $91,000 in property taxes on the property. [MLive.com, March 7]

Posted on 03/11/14 04:21 PM by Alex Adrianson

Daily Links: Industry Protected by Government Policy Sees No Problem with Its Business Model

• Can higher education reform itself? Jim Windham notes: “[A] survey conducted by Gallup in partnership with the Lumina Foundation found that only 11% of business leaders strongly agree that graduates have the skills and competency levels that their companies need. On the other hand, a recent survey by Gallup showed that 96% of college chief academic officers were ‘extremely or somewhat confident’ in their institution’s ability to prepare students for 21st century workforce readiness.” [See Thru Edu, March 7]

• The Obama administration has some odd priorities, notes James Roberts: “The Obama Administration is insisting that before Congress can support courageous, Westward-looking Ukrainians, it must first reduce the power of the United States at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The White House wants Congress to attach its approval of an IMF governance ‘reform package’ that has been pending for three years to any legislation providing urgently needed U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine.” [Internal citations omitted.] [The Heritage Foundation, March 7]

• “Of the 3.3 million people that the White House has touted as Obamacare exchange ‘sign-ups,’ less than 500,000 are actual uninsured people who have actually gained health coverage,” writes Avik Roy: “McKinsey’s most recent survey, conducted in February with 2,096 eligible respondents, found that only 48 percent had thus far signed up for a 2014 health plan. Within that 48 percent, three-fifths were previously insured people who liked their old plans and were able to keep them. The remaining two-fifths were the ones who signed up for coverage on the Obamacare exchanges. Of the Obamacare sign-ups, only 27 percent had been previously uninsured in 2013. And of the 27 percent, nearly half had yet to pay a premium.” [Forbes, March 8]

• Leftist governments are in danger of losing elections they expected to win comfortably in El Salvador and Colombia, reports Roger Noriega. In El Salvador, Norman Quijano, the candidate of the conservative ARENA party, is virtually tied in the vote count with the FMLN candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren. “The FMLN’s close association with the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro became a major issue in the second-round campaign, because the brutal government crackdown on peaceful protesters there reminded voters of the FMLN’s radical political past.” And in Colombia, “former president Alvaro Uribe led a slate of candidates under the newly formed ‘Democratic Center’ that garnered about 15% of the votes cast, matching the party of current president Juan Manuel Santos.” [AEIdeas, March 10]

• Property rights won at the Supreme Court on Monday when the Justices ruled eight-to-one that easements given to railroad companies revert to the private owners of the land—not the government—when the railroads stop using the land. As Trevor Burrus explains, the ruling is consistent with how both American and English common law of dealt with easements. The ruling, in Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, protects the rights of tens of thousands of landowners across the United States. [Cato Institute, March 10]

• Fracking “has catapulted the U.S. from being a has-been producer of oil to the world’s largest total supplier in 2013 when we include natural gas liquids, biofuels, and crude oil,” writes Gary Libecap: “The U.S. produced around an average of 12.1 million barrels a day of these liquids, 300,000 barrels a day more than Saudi Arabia and 1.6 million more than Russia, the previous leaders.” It’s also a major economic bright spot: “In the fourth quarter 2013, GDP grew at a 3.2% annual rate, which would have been 1.3 percentage points lower were it not for an inflation-adjusted narrowing of the trade deficit by nearly 12%, driven by the fall in oil imports and increased exports.” [Defining Ideas, March 5]

Posted on 03/10/14 05:18 PM by Alex Adrianson

Some Call It a Budget

This week, a lot of people read President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget so that you didn’t have to. Here are some of the things they discovered:

• The budget raises federal revenues over the next decade by $3.15 trillion. Federal revenues would reach 19.9 percent of gross domestic product, matching the level reached in 2000, which was the highest ever, reports Philip Klein. [Washington Examiner, March 4]

• The budget spends $3.901 billion in 2015, which is $250 billion more than in 2014. If you haven’t seen those numbers in the media, notes Scott Rasmussen, it’s probably because “[i]t’s hard to write that the president’s budget is cutting spending by $600 billion while also reporting numbers showing spending going in the opposite direction.” [Wall Street Journal, March 7]

• President Obama’s budget breaks existing caps on discretionary spending, yet assumes discretionary spending will grow more slowly in future years (when Barack Obama is no longer President). That’s one reason the budget can project that federal debt held by the public declines from 74 percent of GDP to 69 percent of GDP by 2024, notes Chris Edwards. But if future presidents and congresses spend the way past and current presidents and congresses have, no such declines will happen. Edwards calculates that if discretionary spending remains the same as a percentage of GDP as it is now, then total outlays will rise from 20.5 percent of GDP to 24.5 percent of GDP by 2024, while debt held by the public will soar to 91 percent of GDP. [Cato Institute, March 7]

• Unrealistic economic assumptions account for a further $800 billion of the plan’s 10-year deficit reduction, reports Philip Klein. The President’s budget assumes average annual growth rates of 2.68 percent over the ten-year budget window, while CBO projects 2.51 percent annual growth. [The Examiner, March 5] Furthermore, Obama’s budget assumes growth this year will be 3.1 percent, the fastest economic growth since 2005, notes Kasia Klimasinska. The economy grew 1.9 percent last year. [Bloomberg, March 4]

• Interest payments on the debt will exceed U.S. defense spending in five years, and possibly sooner if interest rates return to their normal levels, reports Daniel Halper. [Weekly Standard, March 4] “So,” writes Mark Styen ,” within a few years US debt interest payments would be covering the entire cost of the Chinese armed forces. If they ever have a military showdown over Taiwan, Washington will be funding both sides of it.” [SteynOnline, March 6]

Posted on 03/07/14 07:53 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Are We Doing What We Can Do to Advance Freedom?

Figure out how the West should respond to the forces of oppression and tyranny in the world today. Walter Newell will deliver a talk on “The Many Faces of Tyranny: Why Democracy Isn’t Always Possible,” at The Heritage Foundation at noon on March 13.

Find out if the Obama administration has a Middle East policy. The Hudson Institute will host a panel discussion on the topic at 2 p.m on March 11.

Learn just how intolerant of dissent today’s college administrators are. Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education will speak at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., at 6:30 p.m. on March 10.

Celebrate champions for life. The Susan B. Anthony List Campaign for Life Gala and Summit will be held March 12 - 13 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Upgrade your Twitter strategy. The Cato Institute will host a discussion with Sean Evens of Twitter at noon on March 13.

Be an enviropreneur. Get your application in for the Property and Environment Research Center’s 2014 Enviropreneur Institute. The Institute teaches “how property rights and markets can turn environmental conflicts into business opportunities.” The deadline for applying is coming up: March 17.

• Save the date: Join leaders in the conservative movement for The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Resource Bank Meeting, March 26 to March 28 in New Orleans. Resource Bank is a must-attend conference of today’s top conservative leaders—policy experts, think tank CEO’s, activists, and donors—filled with strategy sessions, networking, coalition building, and policy collaboration.

Posted on 03/07/14 05:57 PM by Alex Adrianson

Daily Links: A Victory for Teacher Freedom in Michigan

• The Michigan Education Association hasn’t been making it easy for teachers to exercise their rights to opt out of union membership under Michigan’s right-to-work reforms. Thanks to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, however, two Michigan teachers have won their complaints against the MEA, which agreed to return dues money and cease aggressive collection actions. The union had established a policy of requiring teachers who wanted to opt out to send their opt-out notices to the union in the month of August only. The teachers say the union did not inform them of that restriction. [Michigan Capitol Confidential, March 6]

• Was there any federal arm-twisting in getting states to adopt Common Core standards? The Obama adminstration’s FY 2015 budget suggests so: “Forty-six States are implementing rigor­ous college- and career-ready academic standards and nearly all will field test performance-based assessments tied to those standards this spring, a movement fueled by previous [Race to the Top] grants.” [Fiscal Year 2015 Budget of the United States Government, Office of Management and Budget, pp. 70-71.] But the administration is doing more than taking credit, says Neal McClusky, who notes that the President’s budget proposes an annual appropriation of $14 billion for “College- and Career-Ready Students.” Race to the Top was just the foot in the door to federal control, says McCluskey. [Cato Institute, March 5]

• Dave Camp’s tax reform plan is the first such proposal to include an estimate of the economic growth that will occur from lowering tax rates and how that growth will partially offset revenue losses from a decline in rates—i.e. dynamic scoring. Rea Hederman Jr., Rachel Greszler, and John Ligon write: “The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) “provided both its conventional score and two versions of dynamic estimates. […] JCT estimated that the positive growth effects of the proposal would allow the corporate tax rate to decline to between 18.9 percent and 24.2 percent. This is between 3 percent and 24 percent lower than the static score as a result of the positive feedback effects on economic growth.” [Heritage Foundation, February 28]

• Why is President Obama procrastinating on the Keystone XL Pipeline decision? It’s not like pipelines are some new exotic technology. Deroy Murdock notes: “The first U.S. pipeline to transport oil started carrying crude from Coryville to Williamsport, Penn., in 1879. In the intervening 135 years, the continental USA became interlaced with 2,600,000 miles of these steel tubes. And how many more such miles would KXL add? A grand total of 852. That’s an increase of 0.033 percent, or the rough equivalent of delivering an extra faucet to the plumbing department at your local Home Depot.” [National Review Online, March 7]

• Attempts to limit carbon emissions in development projects are having some painful consequences, note Roger Pielke and Daniel Sarewitz, for example: “A recent report from the non-profit Center for Global Development estimates that $10 billion invested in renewable energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa could provide electricity for 30 million people. If the same amount of money went into gas-fired generation, it would supply about 90 million people – three times as many.” [as quoted by Mark J. Perry at AEIdeas, March 6]

• Save the date: Join leaders in the conservative movement for The Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Resource Bank Meeting, March 26 to March 28 in New Orleans. Resource Bank is a must-attend conference of today’s top conservative leaders—policy experts, think tank CEO’s, activists, and donors—filled with strategy sessions, networking, coalition building, and policy collaboration.

Posted on 03/07/14 05:04 PM by Alex Adrianson

Who Is Giving Money to Politicians?

Unions dominate the list of the top 25 political givers since 1989, according to data compiled by Veronique de Rugy and Rizqi Rachmat. Also among the top 25 are a few banks, and some trade groups like the National Association of Realtors and the American Medical Association. The biggest political giver is the progressive organization ACT Blue, while the pro-choice group Emily’s List also makes the top 25.

[Mercatus Center, March 4]

Posted on 03/07/14 02:23 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Heritage Foundation at the Conservative Political Action Conference Today and Tomorrow

Hans von Spakovsky will moderate a panel on “Obama’s IRS:  Political Arm of the Left?” at 12:53 p.m. today in the Potomac Ballroom.

Ted Bromund will moderate a panel on “American Leadership in Europe:  What’s the Future of Reagan/Thatcher-style Conservatism?” at 3:30 p.m. today in Chesapeake D-F.

Becky Norton Dunlop will moderate a panel today on “Can America Survive Obama’s War on Fossil Fuel?” at 3:30 p.m. in Potomac 1&2.

Genevieve Wood, Derrick Morgan, Jennifer Marshall, Terry Miller, and Steve Bucci will discuss The Heritage Foundation’s plan, “Solutions 2014:  Ideas to Unite America” at 3:30 p.m. in Chesapeake A-C.

Sen. Jim DeMint will sign copies of his book “Falling in Love with America,” on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Exhibit Hall B&C. Then he will speak about his book at 1:12 p.m. in the Potomac Ballroom. [CPAC 2014 Schedule of Events]

Posted on 03/07/14 11:42 AM by Alex Adrianson

Daily Links: ObamaCare Next Election Cycle, Never This One

• The Obama administration has changed ObamaCare yet again without any legal authority to do so. On Wednesday, the administration announced that health care plans that did not meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum coverage requirements would be allowed to continue for an extra two years. That change, reports Robert Pear, is expected avoid another wave of cancellations that would have occurred right before the fall elections. [New York Times, March 5] Peter Suderman notes that the change creates several new problems for insurers, however, including potential liability for not covering mandated benefits: “[T]he law is still the law. The administration may be declining to enforce the provision. But what would the courts say?” [Reason, March 6] The latest change makes 20 unilateral changes the Obama administration has made to the Affordable Care Act so far, according to Tyler Hartsfield and Grace-Marie Turner’s count. [Galen Institute, March 5]

• Remember that Congressional Budget Office report some weeks ago that estimated ObamaCare’s mix of subsidies and penalties would make not working seem a more attractive option for some? That was the report that estimated that total compensation to labor would fall by about 1 percent because of ObamaCare. Since the disincentives to work arise because of law’s subsidies, which are targeted toward helping low-income workers, you would naturally expect that most of the decline in labor compensation would be experienced by low-income workers. But by how much? Drew Gonshorowski estimates that low-income workers would experience many multiples of a 1 percent decline in their incomes. In fact, those whose income falls below the federal poverty level are likely to experience between a 10 percent and a 20 percent drop in compensation. Those earning between 100 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level are going to experience drops in compensation of between 3 percent and 5 percent. [The Heritage Foundation, March 5]

• Do school districts care more about retaining the best teachers or making peace with teachers unions? In 2011, Michigan made it illegal for teacher placement, performance evaluation, and layoff and recall policies to be subjects of collective bargaining. According to research by Audrey Spalding, 130 Michigan school districts have signed collective bargaining agreements since Michigan’s reform took effect, and 60 percent of those contracts contain provisions prohibited by the law. [“Roadblocks to Reform: A Review of Union Contracts in Michigan Schools,” by Audrey Spalding, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, March 5]

• The national debt is $17 trillion and change, but that doesn’t begin to account for the federal government’s actual liabilities. For example, writes James Agresti, “the federal government owes $6.5 trillion in retirement and health benefits to federal employees and veterans,” amounting to “$53,000 for every household in the United States, but none of these liabilities are reflected in the 2013 budget deficit or national debt.” To get a fuller picture, dive into the Department of the Treasury’s latest “Financial Report of the United States Government,” which uses the accounting standards the government requires private companies to use. Based on the Treasury data, “Just Facts calculates that the federal government now has $71.0 trillion in debts, liabilities, and unfinanced Social Security/Medicare obligations,” which amounts to “$580,000 per household.” [Just Facts Daily, March 3]

• Interest payments on the debt will exceed U.S. defense spending in five years under President Obama’s budget, and possibly sooner if interest rates return to their normal levels, reports Daniel Halper. [Weekly Standard, March 4] “So,” writes Mark Styen ,” within a few years US debt interest payments would be covering the entire cost of the Chinese armed forces. If they ever have a military showdown over Taiwan, Washington will be funding both sides of it.” [SteynOnline, March 6]

• More evidence that minimum wage laws price the low-skilled out of the labor market: Spikes in youth unemployment occurred in 1974, 1978, 1990, and 2007; minimum wage increases are associated in time with each of those spikes: 1974-1976, 1978-1981, 1990-1991, and 2007. The only anomaly was a 1996-1997 minimum wage increase that was not followed by a rise in youth unemployment. Matthews suggests that a strong economy masked the effect. [Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, March 6]

Posted on 03/06/14 05:08 PM by Alex Adrianson

What Dallas Buyers Club Teaches

A new series called Econ Pop aims to examine the economic ideas illustrated in popular culture and the Academy Award winning movie Dallas Buyers Club is the subject of the first episode. The movie tells the real-life story of Ron Woodruff, an AIDS sufferer who in the mid-1980s goes around the Food and Drug Administration to import non-approved treatments from Mexico in order to sell them to fellow AIDs patients. As Econ Pop host Andrew Heaton explains, the movie not only inspires with a story of bucking the system for the greater good, it illustrates some key economic ideas. The movie shows, for instance, an entrepreneur guided by the profit motive doing a better job of serving the public good than government regulators, who, in this instance, are motivated to avoid the risk of making a bad decision. The movie also shows a character who at first is unlikable but develops caring relationships with his customers. The character’s evolution in the film illustrates an argument Adam Smith made in his lesser known but perhaps more important work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith argued that free markets not only increase society’s wealth but can make us better people, too. In order to succeed in the marketplace, we must figure out how to fill a need for which others are willing to pay. Free markets thus guide us to develop the habit of seeing the world through others’ eyes.

Posted on 03/05/14 05:40 PM by Alex Adrianson

Daily Links: Time for a Kiev Airlift?

• What can President Obama do about Russia’s incursion into the Crimea short of using military force? Plenty, write Steven Bucci, Nile Gardiner, and Luke Coffey, including freezing Russian financial assets, imposing visa bans, enforcing the Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russian officials involved in the aggressions, deepening our relations with Eastern Europe, and withdrawing immediately from the flawed New Start treaty. [The Heritage Foundation, March 4] March Thiessen has a few more ideas, including sponsoring humanitarian relief flights to Kiev; targeting sanctions against the Russian oligarchs backing Putin; kicking Russia out of the Group of Eight; and announcing another round of NATO expansion, including brining Montenegro in this year. [AEIdeas, March 4]

• Doctors and hospitals participating in federal health plans are going to have to devote more of their time to paperwork beginning on October 1. That’s because coding requirements for federal health plans are getting more complicated, write Grace-Marie Turner and Tyler Hartsfield: “Were you hit by a falling kayak? Injured while baking, vacuuming or spending too much time in a deep freeze? Encountered a lamppost for the second time? Were you bitten by a turkey? […] Starting this October, your doctor will be required to record precisely whether you were bitten or struck by a parrot, macaw, chicken, turkey, or any ‘other psittacines,’ or encountered any one of 140,000 other specific medical conditions, injuries or diseases.” Of course, doctors can avoid all that paperwork by choosing not to take patients in Medicare and Medicaid. [Galen Institute, March 5]

• The Internal Revenue Service never really stopped harassing conservative non-profits last year, writes Kimberly Strassel, who details how the agency’s expedited review worked: “Those taking part in the ‘expedited’ process had to agree to limit to 40% the amount of spending and time (calculated by employee and volunteers hours) they spend on political activity. Current 501(c)(4) rules allow political spending up to 49%, and have no ‘time’ component. The clear point of the ‘deal’ was to use the lure of 501(c)(4) approval to significantly reduce the political activity of targeted conservative groups going forward. Some groups, desperate to get their tax exemption, took the deal. Others refused to be victimized twice. One of them is the Tea Party Patriots[.] […] Not long after, the IRS was back hounding the Tea Party Patriots with new requirements.” [Wall Street Journal, February 27]

• Chicago is now only three notches away from junk bond status, after Moody’s cut the city’s credit rating to Baa1. That’s not surprising, writes Ted Dabrowski, since Moody’s calculates Illinois’s state pension debt stands at $187 billion, nearly double the state’s official estimate of $97 billion. Dabrowksi continues: “Unfortunately, the city of Chicago’s pension debt is just one part of the crisis facing Chicago taxpayers. The Chicago Public Schools’ operating shortfall and its pension debt are just as disconcerting. Add to that debt of the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Park District and the share of Cook County debt that Chicago taxpayers are on the hook for, and the numbers are alarming. A recent [Illinois Policy] Institute report put the debt of Chicago taxpayers at more than $61,000 per household. And when Moody’s more conservative approach to pensions is included, that number jumps to $84,000 per household. [Illinois Policy Institute, March 5]

• In order to help the poor, taxpayers end up spending a lot of money on bureaucracy, finds a new report by the House Budget Committee: “There are at least 92 federal programs designed to help lower-income Americans. For instance, there are dozens of education and job-training programs, 17 different food-aid programs, and over 20 housing programs. The federal government spent $799 billion on these programs in fiscal year 2012.” [“The War on Poverty 50 Years Later,” by House Budget Committee Staff, March 3, 2014]

• If policymakers are worried about conserving water, they should end subsidies for biofuels and synthetic fuels instead of trying to ban fracking. The Manhattan Institute’s E21 reports: “To produce one million British Thermal Units (MMBtu) of energy, natural gas from fracking uses an average of 1.25 gallons of water. Biofuels use over 2,500 gallons of water per MMBtu.” [Economics 21, March 4]

Posted on 03/05/14 11:57 AM by Alex Adrianson

Sixty-Eight Years Ago Today

March 5, 1946; Westminster College, Fulton Missouri:

Winston Churchill: “From what I have seen of our Russian friends and Allies during the war, I am convinced that there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness. For that reason the old doctrine of a balance of power is unsound. We cannot afford, if we can help it, to work on narrow margins, offering temptations to a trial of strength. If the Western Democracies stand together in strict adherence to the principles will be immense and no one is likely to molest them.” [Full text of the speech is available at NationalChurchhillMuseum.org.]

Posted on 03/05/14 10:49 AM by Alex Adrianson

Minimum Wage Laws Are Still Minimum Skills Laws

Do minimum wage laws, as basic economics teaches, make some low-skilled workers unemployable? Consider this chart, which shows that around 2004, the 16- to 17-year-old unemployment rate began to rise dramatically in Great Britain:

[graph from the blog Uneconomical, February 27]

Note that around 2004 Great Britain for the first time established a minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-olds. Prior to that, there were minimum wages for adults over the age of 22, and also a minimum wage for those 18 to 22, but no minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-olds. And, as Mona Chalabi reports, the 16- to 17-year-old rate has risen steadily since then. [The Guardian, January 16]

Posted on 03/04/14 05:37 PM by Alex Adrianson

California Tells Schools Teaching Actual Marketable Skills to Knock It Off

… making it the nanny state of the month, says Reason magazine:

Posted on 03/04/14 04:54 PM by Alex Adrianson

Daily Links: Not “as Truthy as Calling a Mandate a Tax”

• Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes approved payoffs, prostitutes, and other privileges to the leaders of the ultraviolent gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in exchange for their support of the ruling political party FMLN. The party’s candidate to succeed Funes “is a hardline, anti-American ideologue who recently praised the authoritarian regime in Venezuela as ‘a light that will illuminate Latin America, the Caribbean and the world,’” writes Roger Noriega. [American Enterprise Institute, March 3]

• President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget, released Tuesday, raises federal revenues over the next decade by $3.15 trillion. Under this budget, federal revenues would reach 19.9 percent of gross domestic product, matching the level reached in 2000, which was the highest ever, reports Philip Klein. [Washington Examiner, March 4]

• Realizing that voters now understand that Common Core State Standards are really national standards, some states are busy changing the names of their standards, reports Lindsey Burke. For example, Florida is now calling its standards the “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards,” while Iowa has branded its standards “Iowa Core.” Both states have adopted the Common Core standards. [The Foundry, March 1]

• A third letter from Texas State Senator Judith Zaffirini to University of Texas President Bill Powers and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa on behalf of an applicant was revealed last week by the Texas Tribune. While lawmakers often write letters of recommendation for college applicants, they do not normally send them to the President and the Chancellor of the school. Zaffirini has served as the chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. In one of the two emails about applicants that had been previously uncovered (by Watchdog.org), she mentioned the funding she had secured for the University of Texas. [Watchdog.org, March 4]

• “[W]here would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America?” ask Ilya Shapiro and P.J. O’Rourke. Their amicus brief to the Supreme Court defending the constitutional right to be “truthy” in politics continues: “Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular-humanist professors of Chicano studies.” [Brief of the Cato Institute and P.J. O’Rourke, Susan B. Anthony List v. Steven Driehaus, February 28, 2014]

Posted on 03/04/14 03:15 PM by Alex Adrianson

Daily Links: Invading Other Countries Is So Last Week

• The 21st century isn’t as different from the 19th as the Obama administration figured. Washington Post’s editors: “Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding.” [Washington Post, March 2] And Michael Auslin: “The toxic brew of negative perceptions of Western/liberal military capability and political will is rapidly undermining the post-1945 order around the world. Reduced military budgets, global perceptions of American and European weakness, the outright dismissal of presidential redlines, and memories of total inaction like during the 2008 Georgian invasion or Syrian civil war have set the stage for future opportunism.” [Forbes, March 3]

• Health insurance consumers have fewer and more expensive choices in the ObamaCare exchanges than they previously had, finds David Hogberg: “For 27-year-olds, there were 442 fewer policies on the exchanges versus eHealth, a drop of 18 percent. There were 1,306 fewer policies on the exchange versus Finder for 27-year-old males and 1,716 fewer for females, declines of 38 percent and 46 percent, respectively. […] A 27-year-old male had, on average, access to 32 policies on eHealth that cost less than the cheapest policy on the exchanges and 38 policies that cost less on Finder. There were an average of 18 cheaper policies on eHealth and 20 on Finder for a 27-year-old female.” [National Center for Public Policy Research, March 2014]

• The Environmental Protection Agency really, really doesn’t want the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Christopher Horner to find out what is in the emails that former EPA administrators Lisa Jackson sent under the alias Richard Windsor. In fact, writes Jillian Kay Melchior, they don’t want Horner getting any information from the agency using the Freedom of Information Act: “[T]he EPA told Horner it would process several of his other public records requests after it was done with the Richard Windsor ones, putting their due date sometime past the year 2113. Next, they sent Horner a note telling him that any of his requests – and the requests of any organization he was affiliated with – would be considered as being from a single requester. In other words, any of the groups Horner is affiliated with may face a decades-long wait time, too.” [National Review, February 28]

• Rep. Dave Camp’s tax plan is a mix of good and bad, write William McBride and Scott Hodge: “Camp simplifies and lowers tax rates for many taxpayers and businesses, but does so through a net tax increase on businesses and taxpayers earning over $200,000. As a result, the plan makes the individual tax code even more progressive, it increases the amount of redistribution from high-income taxpayers to other taxpayers, and it worsens the current bias against saving and investment—all of which will be a drag on long-run economic growth.” [Tax Foundation, February 28]

• New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has reversed the city’s policy of providing free public space to three schools in Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter school network. Since charter schools are public schools without a capital budget, the decision effectively means these schools will shut down. Some 700 students of the charter schools will now be forced to attend their traditional neighborhood schools. Marcus Winters notes that there is no evidence that co-locating charter schools in facilities used by traditional public schools hurts the performance of traditional public schools. [City Journal, February 28]

Posted on 03/03/14 06:05 PM by Alex Adrianson

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