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InsiderOnline Blog: January 2014

To Do: Figure Out What to Expect Next from the Obama Administration

Prognosticate the next three years. The Heritage Foundation will host a panel discussing what to expect from the rest of President Obama’s term in office. The panel will feature author Tevi Troy, John Halpin of the Center for American Progress, and pollster Scott Rasmussen. The discussion will begin at noon on February 5.

Fight the power with a guitar! If you like freedom (you should) and guitars (also, yes), then get yourself a Government Series II Les Paul. Gibson guitars is releasing the model to commemorate the August 2011 raid by armed(!) Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on its Nashville plant. The rosewood fingerboards are made from the very same wood the government seized (and later returned) when it accused Gibson of importing illegal wood.

Enjoy Bastiat, now in silver. The first of Reason magazine’s Heroes of Liberty coins is now available. The coin depicts Frederic Bastiat, the author of The Law and “What is Seen and What is Unseen.” The coin, of one troy ounce of .999 fine silver, shows the witty Frenchman with, appropriately, a broken window in the background.

Learn how to live the principles of liberty. The Independent Institute is now accepting applications for its Challenge of Liberty Summer Seminars for students. The “five-day series of lectures, readings, films, multimedia presentations, and small group discussion teaches students what economics is, how it affects their lives, and how understanding it can help them achieve better lives for themselves, their communities, and the world at large.”

Discover how government is getting in the way of your kids growing into independent adults. The Cato Institute will host a talk by Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids and host of the TV series, “World’s Worst Mom.” Skenazy’s talk will begin on noon on February 5.

Reserve your spot for the Reason Cruise, which sails the Caribbean February 9 – February 16. Along for the ride will be members Reason’s A-Team, such as Nick Gillespie, Johan Norberg, Ronald Bailey, and Jacob Sullum.

Posted on 01/31/14 10:01 PM by Alex Adrianson

The State Department Says the Keystone Pipeline Poses No Significant Environmental Risk

Would you be surprised to learn the State Department’s latest report on the Keystone Pipeline was released Friday afternoon, and that the report does not support the skepticism the Obama administration has previously expressed of the project? Nicolas Loris has the story:

State’s latest environmental impact statement—the first under Secretary John Kerry—largely draws the same conclusions of its past environmental impact statements. It finds that the pipeline, a Canada-based project to deliver up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day to Gulf Coast refineries, would pose no significant environmental risk and would not contribute substantially to carbon dioxide emissions.

In a speech last June, President Obama said the climate effects of Keystone XL would have an impact on the Administration’s ultimate decision. The reality is that the pipeline’s climate effects would be minimal.

The final environmental impact statement concludes “that approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply demand scenarios.” [The Foundry, February 1]

Posted on 01/31/14 08:23 PM by Alex Adrianson

Why School Choice Is Valuable

This week was National School Choice Week. If you love literature reviews of random assignment studies, please do go read Greg Forster’s “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice,” which reports that 11 out of the 12 gold-standard studies on school choice finds that choice improves students outcomes; the other study found neither a negative nor positive impact. [Friedman Foundation for Educational Excellence, April 2013]

That’s important stuff, but here is a little controversy you might enjoy reading about, too: Slate ran a feature this week highlighting public charter schools and private schools serving students with vouchers or tax-credit scholarships that teach creationism. [Slate, January 26] The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice responded by putting Slate’s numbers in context. It turns out that only a very small percentage of school choice students attend schools that teach creationism. For example, 15 out of 351 choice schools in Arizona have creationism in science lesson plans. For Florida, the figures are 164 out of 1,449 schools; in Indiana, 20 out of 443. And so forth. [Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, January 29]

Remember, the students who attend schools with creationism in the curriculum all choose to attend those schools, unlike this commenter to the Slate story:

Some people fear that school choice will let other people choose the wrong things to learn. Perhaps they have a misplaced faith in public schools always choosing the right things to teach. Patrick went to school 40 some years ago. Milton Friedman first wrote about school choice 59 years ago in his article “The Role of Government in Education.” As the Foundation suggests, “Perhaps, if Patrick had had school choice, he wouldn’t have had to wait until college to learn evolutionary and reproductive science.” [Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, January 31]

Posted on 01/31/14 08:11 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Left Wants Names; and the Internal Revenue Service Wants to Help

So those new rules for 501(c)4s will provide clarity and ensure that conservative non-profits never have to be hassled again by the Internal Revenue Service, right? Not exactly. The Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus explains that the IRS’s effort is really an attempt to drive conservative 501(c)4s from the public square:

Under the proposed rules, “candidate-related political activity” now includes nearly everything that most (c)(4)s do, including voter registration, voter guides, grassroots lobbying, events where candidates appear, candidate debates, and issue advocacy. This means that many (c)(4)s would have to count nearly all their activities as political spending, even though the rules remain unclear on what percentage of spending can be on “candidate-related political activity.” Not coincidentally, the new rules don’t apply to labor unions, which are not (c)(4)s and therefore can still do all those things without running afoul of the IRS.

Want to create a (c)(4) to organize a grassroots campaign to encourage voters to email their member of Congress to oppose the Farm Bill? That is now a “candidate-related political activity” and must be included as part of your organization’s political spending. Want to hold a voter registration drive that doesn’t mention any candidates? That is also considered “candidate-related political activity” under the proposed rules. Even commenting on nominees, such as a Supreme Court justice, can be “candidate-related political activity” even though there is no candidate mentioned.

The rules will essentially force 501(c)4 groups to reorganize under section 527 of the tax code, which requires them to release the names of their donors. What’s so bad about disclosing the names of those funding political speech? Burrus:

Anonymous political speech was essential to American history. Would Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, originally published anonymously, now be called “candidate-related political activity” funded by “dark money?” Would the anonymous Federalist Papers get administrative review from the IRS and an exposé in Mother Jones on the “secret money behind the Constitution?” The country that pioneered the strongest protections for free speech in history is becoming obsessed with the idea that there are people out there trying to illegitimately “influence” politics.

King George III would have of course been happy to shut up Thomas Paine with an obscure section of the tax code. Similarly, the Anti-Federalists might have jumped at the chance to expose the authors behind the Federalist Papers and to report their publishing costs as “candidate-related political activity.” [Forbes, January 30]

By the way, speaking of non-anonymous political speech, here is a text message received by thousands of Ukrainians who were in the streets of Kiev last week: “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.” [The Verge, January 21]

Posted on 01/31/14 05:50 PM by Alex Adrianson

Pete Seeger Was a Totalitarian

Folk singer and progressive icon Pete Seeger died this week. He was 94. From Michael Moynihan, here are some facts about the man you probably didn’t read in the obituaries in mainstream press:

Seeger, once an avowed Stalinist, was a political singer devoted to a sinister political system—a position he held long after the Soviet experiment drenched itself in blood and collapsed in ignominy. So while we wistfully recall the foot-stomping versions of This Land is Your Land, let us not forget Seeger’s musical assaults on the supposedly warmongering F.D.R. (see the justly forgotten Ballad of October 16th), featured on a record presciently released on the very day the Nazi-Soviet Pact collapsed. As Moscow instantly shifted its position from fascist accommodationism to fighting what it had previously denounced as a war for big business, Seeger and his fellow folkies in the Almanac Singers recalled the record and retooled their allegiances. It was soon replaced by a series of pro-war, pro-F.D.R. songs. Art must be used in service of the people—and is always subject to the vicissitudes of the party line.

And few, if any, obituarists have mentioned the forgotten classic Hey Zhankoye, a bizarre bit of Stalinist agitprop Seeger translated from Yiddish, recorded with the Berry Sisters, and frequently revisited during subsequent live performances. Historian Ron Radosh, a former banjo student of Seeger’s, reminds us that as Stalin cranked up his brutal post-war anti-Semitic pogroms, he was singing of a collective farm (“paradise”) where Soviet Jews lived like kings[.] […]

[H]e talked enough peace, equality, and freedom to be eulogized by President Obama. Seeger, the president said, “believed in the power of community—to stand up for what’s right, speak out against what’s wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be.” Which, according to party orthodoxy, would have been an economically backward, single-ideology vassal state of the Soviet Union. [Daily Beast, January 29]

Posted on 01/31/14 03:15 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Simpler the Rules, the More Resilient the Society

That’s what Nicolas Perony learns from studying animals.

Maybe humans could try simple rules. Unfortunately, the people running the government these days seem more interested in “moving the ball forward” than in finding and following simple rules—or, you know, rules.

Posted on 01/31/14 02:28 PM by Alex Adrianson

Obama Is Wrong about the Pay Gap

“Women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns,” said President Obama on Tuesday night. While that it technically true, it is a bogus statistic because it doesn’t take into account the different choices that women make that affect their earnings. Even Slate’s Double X blog recognized this point last August. As Hanna Rosin wrote then, when you take into account things like experience, work hours, education, and choice of profession, the real pay gap is about 91 cents on the dollar for equivalent work. [Slate, August 30, 2013]

But even that figure may still overstate the pay gap. Women are more likely than men to take time off to raise children. In some fields, taking time off means you have devote more time to catching up and developing skills again when you reenter the workforce. As Diana Furchtgott-Roth points out, the data show unmarried childless women on average earn more than men: “In a comparison of unmarried and childless men and women between the ages of 35 and 43, women earn more: 108 cents on a man’s dollar.” [Real Clear Markets, June 18, 2013]

Posted on 01/30/14 05:49 PM by Alex Adrianson

No, the Minimum Wage Is Not Good for the Economy

Tuesday night, President Obama said raising the minimum wage is “good for the economy” and “good for America.” Steve Hanke provides some contrary evidence from Europe:

[Cato Institute, January 29]

The fact that countries with a minimum wage (red line) have higher unemployment rates than those that do not (blue line) is consistent with the argument that critics of the minimum wage have always made: Faced with a choice of paying an employee more than the value of his production or not employing the worker at all, the employer will choose not to employ that worker. Minimum wage laws thus prevent low-skilled workers from entering the job market and gaining skills.

Posted on 01/29/14 05:57 PM by Alex Adrianson

Harvard Researchers: Income Mobility Has Not Declined; and Parents Still Matter

A person born into a family in the middle of the income distribution or below is just as likely to move up today as such person was a decade earlier. That is the main finding from a new study by researchers at Harvard University. David Leonhardt summarizes the key finding:

The study found, for instance, that about 8 percent of children born in the early 1980s who grew up in families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution managed to reach the top fifth for their age group today. The rate was nearly identical for children born a decade earlier.

Among children born into the middle fifth of the income distribution, about 20 percent climbed into the top fifth as adults, also largely unchanged over the last decade. [New York Times, January 23]

Circumstances can matter, though. Most notably, the study finds:

[T]he strongest predictors of upward mobility are measures of family structure such as the fraction of single parents in the area. As with race, parents’ marital status does not matter purely through its effects at the individual level. Children of married parents also have higher rates of upward mobility if they live in communities with fewer single parents. [“Where Is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States,” by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, and Emmanuel Saez, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 19843, January 2014]

Other researchers have found single-parent households are much more likely to be poor than households headed by married parents. See for example, Robert Rector’s 2012 paper, “Marriage America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty,” [The Heritage Foundation, September 5, 2012]. Rector found, for example that “[b]eing married has roughly the same effect in reducing poverty that adding five to six years to a parent’s education has.”

Posted on 01/28/14 03:41 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Kronies Have a Kind of Power that No One Else Has

Actual action figures may be coming. Sign up for Kronies notifications at thekronies.com.

Posted on 01/28/14 02:35 PM by Alex Adrianson

New Jersey’s Jock Tax Is Perverse

If Peyton Manning plays football next year, he’ll owe the state of New Jersey about $59,000 less if he plays for any team other than the Denver Broncos. Huh? What does New Jersey’s tax code have to do with where Peyton Manning plays next year?

New Jersey, like many states, taxes professional athletes for the games they play in their state—so called “jock taxes.” Since Super Bowl XLVIII (for you non-Romans, that’s Super Bowl 48) will be held in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the participants will have to pay taxes for working in the state for seven days. The tax will be applied to a ratio of what Manning earned working for the Denver Broncos in 2014. If Manning gets traded, that income will be his playoff bonuses—either $157,000 (if the Broncos win the Super Bowl) or $111,000 (if the Broncos lose). But if Manning continues playing for Denver, he’ll have to pay a higher tax rate on a smaller ratio of a much larger salary. Manning is set to earn $15 million from the Broncos in 2014, and he’ll also probably play in New Jersey again in 2014 when the Broncos visit the Jets. (The New York Jets are in New Jersey, remember.) K. Sean Packard calculates that Manning will pay New Jersey either $1,575 (if the Broncos win) or $982 (if the Broncos lose) if he does not play for Denver next year, but will pay either $60,414 (if the Broncos win) or $60,229 (if the Broncos lose) if he remains a Bronco. Manning’s Super Bowl bonus will be $92,000 if the Broncos win and $46,000 if the Broncos lose. If you do the math, Manning is facing a pretty high marginal tax rate on his Super Bowl bonus if he continues playing for Denver. [Forbes, January 27]

By the way, states that impose “jock taxes” do not give their own athletes a break on income earned out of state. Thus, imposing such taxes is not so much an exercise in fairness as an exercise in targeting a specific group of high earners who have no representation in the state. [See: “Nonresident State and Local Income Taxes in the United States: The Continuing Spread of Jock Taxes,” by David K. Hoffman and Scott A. Hodge, The Tax Foundation, July 2004]

Posted on 01/28/14 01:39 PM by Alex Adrianson

No Net Neutrality Means More Innovation for the Internet

The Federal Communications Commission, explains Richard Epstein, should respond to the District of Columbia Circuit Court’s decision striking down the Commission’s net neutrality regulations by doing exactly nothing—because the possibility that cable operators will charge different rates for the transmission of different types of content is not a problem that needs to be fixed:

Federal Express does not have a monopoly in the shipping business. In order to bolster its service, it engages in extensive forms of price discrimination. It lets its customers decide whether they want same-day, one-day, or two-day delivery, and then charges them in accordance with their preferences, with rate differentials that it sets for itself. The upshot is a wide array of services that is only possible when government does not stand between the conception and execution of a planned program. Product and price differentiation improve consumer welfare.

Similar practices have driven success in hotels and airlines. Indeed, the forces of innovation are so great, that it may well be the case that it is better, especially in rapidly evolving industries, to forget the idea of rate regulation altogether, given that future competitors, sensing opportunity, will attack first those market niches where monopoly power still exists. […]

[T]here are certain markets in which some service providers may well possess monopoly power. But for those incursions, net neutrality is still not the answer. Even in the short run, rival plays will seek to steal market share from the monopolist. In the long run, the rapid movement of technology has already left us with a new and vibrant landscape that is light years removed from a generation ago when the major premise of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was that landlines would continue to hold a monopoly position for years to come—about two years, in fact. That false premise led to extensive regulatory battles over all the interchange relations between local exchange carriers and long line carriers. But the rise of cell phones and VoIP technology changed all that, so that the regulation did much to hamper innovation, but virtually nothing to protect consumers. [Defining Ideas, January 20]

Posted on 01/24/14 08:18 PM by Alex Adrianson

Interesting People We Met

Spotted in beautiful and balmy Myrtle Beach last weekend at the South Carolina Tea Party Convention:

• Alice Linahan from Women on the Wall. She is the creator of the #CANiSEE project, which recruits parents to become involved with their children’s education by asking: Can I see what you are teaching my child? Can I see how you are teaching my child? Can I see who is benefiting financially from the curriculum being used?

• Debbie Dooley from Tea Party Patriots in Georgia, who is an excellent speaker on how to hold your legislators to their campaign promises.

• Jude Eden, a former marine, who gives a contrarian view of women in the military and other topics at PoliticalAnimalblog.com.

• Ben Smith, a former Navy Seal and founder of Helping Our Warriors Foundation, an organization devoted to helping soldiers transition back into civilian life.

Joe Dugan, Ron Hughes, and the Myrtle Beach Tea Party put on a fun and informative event! You can view some of the speeches on the Tea Party Patriots website!

Posted on 01/24/14 07:53 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Learn about School Choice’s Successes

Learn how school choice is helping students. This coming week is National School Choice Week, and hundreds of participating organizations around the country will host events. You can find events in your area at SchoolChoiceWeek.com. One option is to check out Bob Bowdon’s new film The Ticket: The Many Faces of School Choice, which is being screened by a number of organizations, including the Nevada Policy Research Institute (January 28 in Las Vegas), the Platte Institute (January 29 in Omaha), the Rio Grande Foundation (January 29 in Albuquerque), and the Mackinac Center (January 30 in Birmingham, Michigan).

Examine the supply side of the education market. The American Enterprise Institute will host a conference looking at how school choice can be made more effective by reforming constraints on the supply of high-quality private schools. The conference will begin at 9 a.m. on January 30 at AEI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Find out how economic freedom leads to better health care, education, and environmental results. The Heritage Foundation will host a discussion featuring Donald Boudreaux, economics professor at George Mason University. The discussion will begin at 11 a.m. on January 27.

Learn how natural rights philosophy forms the foundation of The United States Constitution. Timothy Sandefur will be at the Cato Institute to talk about his new book The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty. Sandefur’s talk will begin at noon on January 30.

Help welcome the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to Washington, D.C. FIRE is opening an office in the District of Columbia, and the Reason Foundation is throwing them a happy hour party—at Reason’s DC headquarters, of course. Virginia Postrel will be there, too. The party will begin at 6 p.m. on January 28.

Inspire, educate, and connect with the next generation of leaders for liberty. The Foundation for Economic Education’s Inspire, Educate & Connect Summit will equip you with the foundational principles of freedom and entrepreneurship. The Summit will be held in sunny Naples, Fla., on February 1.

Apply for a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship. The program allows working journalists to pursue a journalism project of their choosing that supports American culture and a free society. Fellowships of up to $50,000 are available. Applications will be accepted up to February 11.

Posted on 01/24/14 07:39 PM by Alex Adrianson

Over 56 Million Unborn Children Have Been Killed Since Roe v. Wade in 1973

Forty years ago this week, the Supreme Court ruled that having an abortion is a decision protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution—which is another way of saying that the Court invented a right that wasn’t actually in the Constitution. This week, hundreds of thousands of Americans braved sub-20 degree temperatures, high winds, and snow to protest that decision by participating in the March for Life. Here is a report on the event from the National Mall in Washington, D.C.:

For the calculation of the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade, see “56,662,169 Abortions in America Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973,” by Randy O’Bannon [LifeNews.com, January 12].

Posted on 01/24/14 03:18 PM by Alex Adrianson

Some Questions and Answers about Abortion

Q. Doesn’t a woman have the right to choose?

A. Many women find themselves in complicated, painful situations that leave them with difficult choices. But when we talk about rights, we have to talk about the rights of all people. Every human being has the right to life—before and after birth. Nothing in the Constitution, rightly understood, prevents the government from protecting that right for everyone.

In fact, government has a duty to protect the most vulnerable in society and recognize the inherent value of all human life. We cannot exclude the youngest children from the precious right to life. We should recognize the dignity of every life by ensuring mothers have accurate information and children are welcomed in life and protected in law. […]

Q. How does America compare to other nations in terms of abortion law?

A. The United States is one of only a handful of developed countries in which late-term abortions after 20 weeks—5 months—are allowed. At that stage, the child is capable of feeling pain and women are at increased risk for the negative effects of abortion. The United States—a country founded to protect unalienable human rights—should not deny those rights to the most vulnerable in our society.

More: “How to Speak Up for Life,” The Heritage Foundation, January 21, available at SpeakUp4Life.com.

Posted on 01/24/14 02:30 PM by Alex Adrianson

Free Market Is the New Normal

The Heritage Foundation hired Stephen Moore this week as its chief economist. Moore has worked for The Heritage Foundation previously, and has also worked for the Cato Institute. He comes back to Heritage from the Wall Street Journal, where he was a member of the paper’s editorial board. At Heritage, Moore will oversee a new yet-to-be-named research center. Noting that Moore’s views are more pro-immigration than Heritage’s, the liberal Talking Points Memo has speculated that the hiring signals a shift at Heritage. But TPM went beyond the immigration issue and called the hire “a potential return to normalcy and respectability for the foundation.” [Talking Points Memo, January 23]

To provide a sense of what such a “return to normalcy and respectability” might entail, we thought it would be helpful to identify some of the key things Moore has written about issues in recent years. Herewith, a Stephen Moore sampler:

On how to make the rich pay their fair share:

The near 100-year history of the tax code teaches this inviolable law of politics: The higher the tax rate, the more tax carve-outs there will be for yacht owners. That is why the rich paid a smaller share of the income tax in the early 1960s when the top tax rate was 91%, and in the 1970s with a 70% rate, than they do today with a 35% rate.

That’s why the flat tax is the fairest tax of all. The combination of a single tax rate with a family-size allowance—shielding, say, the first $35,000 of income for a family of four—ensures that everyone would pay the same marginal tax rate above that level. A family of four with an income of $70,000 would pay an average tax rate of about 8.5%, whereas the members of the Buffett billionaire club would pay 17%. [Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2011]

On Democrat’s promises for future spending cuts:

Perhaps the biggest lie from the Keynesians is the premise that – with so many Americans unemployed – we should delay cuts in spending during this soft patch in the economy and lock in long-term cuts in entitlements in future years, when the economy is growing. This is the Obama pitch. But when have Democrats (or even Republicans for that matter) ever in any of our lifetimes said, “Now is the time to cut spending”? Nancy Pelosi has sprinted to the microphone after every negotiation with Republicans pledging that there would be no cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—not now, not next year, not ever. These are the programs that nearly everyone acknowledges are driving the red ink tsunami, with budgets that are expected to climb to $2.4 trillion from $1.6 trillion this year, and yet they are labeled untouchable by the fiscal doves.

Republicans would be fools to fall for the “spend now, save later” gambit. This is the attitude of a teenage girl roaming the mall with daddy’s credit card. It is a promise never to cut spending. [American Spectator, October 2011]

On stimulating the economy:

Abolishing the income tax. Now that really would be a genuine economic stimulus. [Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2009]

On providing a social safety net:

[W]e have a moral obligation to help our fellow man. It’s always an open question how much of that should fall to private charity and how much should be done through government taxation. That said, the truth is, such safety nets, if focused on the truly needy and designed to rely on modern markets and incentives, would not be costly compared to the immense wealth of our society.

But once such policies are established, going further—taking from some by force of law what they have produced and consequently earned, and giving to others merely to make incomes and wealth more equal—is not justifiable. [American Spectator, April 2012]

On education spending:

[E]ducation is an industry where we measure performance backwards: We gauge school performance not by outputs, but by inputs. If quality falls, we say we didn’t pay teachers enough or we need smaller class sizes or newer schools. If education had undergone the same productivity revolution that manufacturing has, we would have half as many educators, smaller school budgets, and higher graduation rates and test scores. [Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2011]

On labor unions in the auto industry:

[Creating a union at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant is] like inserting a cancer cell into a body. That one cancer cell is going to multiply and kill the body. It’s a disruptive influence. […] America is not losing auto jobs. Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are losing auto jobs. I think that, over time, if the UAW is approved, there’s a real risk of the plant leaving [Chattanooga]. [as quoted in “Volkswagen Labor Battle Seen as Pivotal for the South,” by Shelly Bradbury, Chattanooga Times Free Press, January 16, 2014]

On whether there are death panels in ObamaCare:

With 159 new bureaucracies, boards, agencies, commissions, and programs to govern American health care, plus the individual and employer mandates that require specific health insurance policies, Obamacare could be rightly Labeled “government-centered health care.” The government takes primary responsibility for paying health expenses. The government takes primary responsibility for deciding what health care services its citizens are allowed to consume. The government, then, decides whether each individual’s health care is worth the price. This is why the concept of the government “death panel” expresses a fundamental truth about Obamacare. [American Spectator, July-August 2012]

So there you have it: If Stephen Moore’s past writings are any guide, you can expect Heritage going forward to favor lower, flatter taxes; entitlement reforms; cutting government spending as the path to economic growth; checking union power; replacing the public school monopoly with school choice; and trading ObamaCare for consumer empowerment. We, too, call those normal and respectable views.

See also: Rob Bluey’s “WSJ’s Stephen Moore to Join Heritage as Chief Economist,” [The Foundry, January 21] discusses Moore’s new role at Heritage and addresses the few issues where Moore has disagreed with Heritage in the past.

Posted on 01/24/14 12:51 PM by Alex Adrianson

Things You Might Not Have Known about the Citizens United Decision

If you think all people are sheep, maybe you need new friends.

Posted on 01/23/14 04:16 PM by Alex Adrianson

Public Schools Create Social Conflicts

In theory, public schools are supposed to instill a common civic culture in students. But, as the Cato Institute’s new Public Schooling Battle Map shows, public schools are also the source of much conflict over things like curriculum; teaching philosophy; treatment of controversial issues like religion, evolution and creationism, sexuality, particular works of literature; and student rights. Cato’s Battle Map is a compilation of media reports of such schooling conflicts since 2005. You can search the database by type of conflict, state, school district, keyword, or year. Then you can click on the map markers to learn more about each incident.

As you can see from looking at the map there is a lot of conflict over schools. There is more school choice today than ever before, but the traditional public school set-up remains dominant. About 260,000 students participated in school choice voucher or tax-credit programs in 2013. [“Fast Facts on Private School Choice,” Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, August 2013.] Meanwhile, 3.8 million students attended either charter or magnet schools according to 2011 data. Total enrollment in primary and secondary schools in 2011 was 49.2 million. [Table 108 in Digest of Education Statistics: 2012, National Center for Education Statistics, December 2013]

Thus, the public school set-up—everybody pays for them (via taxes) and students must attend their local school—leaves many parents with no control over their children’s education except trying to influence what the schools do. And different parents want different things from their schools. Cato’s research on this problem raises the question of whether public schools do more good or harm for a democratic society.

Posted on 01/23/14 03:30 PM by Alex Adrianson

Peddling Poverty

From the Los Angeles Times, here’s the correction of the week:

A previous version of this post said the 85 richest people owned nearly half of global wealth and the same amount as the bottom half of the population. The 85 richest people are a small part of the wealthiest 1%, which owns 46% of the world’s wealth. The 85 richest people own about 0.7% of the world’s wealth, which is the same as the bottom half of the population. [Los Angeles Times, January 20]

The Times reporter, Jim Puzzanghera, was attempting to write about a recent report from the group Oxfam. But here is another, bigger problem: That particular datum, and much of the Oxfam report, concerns wealth inequality not differences in income or consumption levels. [“Working for the Few: Political Capture and Economic Inequality,” Oxfam, January 20]

Note that a person can have both a great lifestyle and very few assets—if he spends most of what he earns. So comparing asset levels doesn’t directly tell you anything about poverty or inequality of living standards—what people normally think of when they think of economic inequality. And since the poor consume a greater portion of their incomes than the wealthy, Oxfam’s choice of data to compare makes the inequality problem seem bigger than it really is.

If Oxfam had looked at consumption instead of assets, the authors would have had to tell a story of dramatic poverty reduction. The World Bank has estimated that the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 2 billion in 1990 to 1.3 billion in 2005. Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz of the Brookings Institution updated the World Bank’s estimate in 2011:

We estimate that between 2005 and 2010, the total number of poor people around the world fell by nearly half a billion people, from over 1.3 billion in 2005 to under 900 million in 2010. Looking ahead to 2015, extreme poverty could fall to under 600 million people—less than half the number regularly cited in describing the number of poor people in the world today. Poverty reduction of this magnitude is unparalleled in history: never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period of time. [“Poverty in Numbers: The Changing State of Global Poverty from 2005 to 2015,” by Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz, The Brookings Institution, January 2011]

Posted on 01/22/14 05:30 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Really Offensive Part

Matthew Schmitz: “[Gov. Andrew] Cuomo says pro-life people aren’t welcome in New York. What he really means is that the unborn aren’t welcome. This is the real outrage, one not tied to the controversy of the week but grinding on day after day, year after year.” [First Things, January 21]

Posted on 01/22/14 12:32 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Bad News Is That the Bureaucracy Has Gotten More Efficient

We hear the federal civilian workforce today is no bigger than it was in the 1960s. Meanwhile, the U.S. population has grown about 74 percent since 1960. Are we under-governed compared to 1960?

Not when you consider what those federal workers are doing. As Chuck DeVore points out, the federal government outsources more jobs today than it did in the 1960s, making it less likely that the average federal employee wields a mop and bucket and more likely that he focuses on writing regulations. Indeed, DeVore calculates that the number of federal regulators has grown from 39,595 in 1960 to 137,159 in 2013. Meanwhile, technology has helped the average worker today become three times more productive than the average worker in 1960. That means regulators are likely to be more productive, too.

Indeed, the data show that the federal rule writers are writing rules at a much faster pace:

In the four years from 1960 to 1963, an average of 46,786 regulators produced an average of 13,835 pages in the Federal Register, most of those pages being regulations. This means that an average regulator could churn out roughly 0.30 pages of Federal Register every year. In the four years from 2010 to 2013, it took an average of 132,742 regulators to write 79,723 pages in the Federal Register—or, about 0.60 pages per rules-writing bureaucrat. [Internal citations omitted.] [“The Soft Tyranny Index: A Measure of Government Power to Command the Economy and Erode Liberty,” by Chuck DeVore, Texas Public Policy Foundation, January 2014]

We do wonder though, if the average private-sector worker is three times more productive today than he was in 1960, why is the average government regulator only twice as productive?

Posted on 01/21/14 02:33 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Defend Life

Defend life, by participating in the annual March for Life Rally—the most important pro-life rally of the year. The rally begins at 11:15 a.m. on January 22. Also: Listen to Jim DeMint’s message on why this event is so important!

Go behind the scenes to get the story of how the Supreme Court’s disastrous Roe v. Wade decision came to be. Clarke Forsythe will be at The Heritage Foundation to talk about his new book Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade. Forsythe’s talk will begin at noon on January 23.

Hear what P.J. O’Rourke thinks about his own generation. O’Rourke will be at the Cato Institute to talk about his new book, The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way … And It Wasn’t My Fault … And I’ll Never Do It Again. O’Rourke’s talk will begin at 6 p.m. on January 22.

• Plan your activities for National School Choice Week, which officially runs January 26 to February 1. There will be over 5,500 events around the country that highlight the benefits of giving families choices in primary schooling. You can get an early start on the week by participating in The Heritage Foundation’s Run for School Choice 5K. The run starts at 11 a.m. on January 25 at Fletcher’s Cove Boathouse, 4940 Canal Road, NW, in Washington, D.C.

Discover what the television show “House of Cards” teaches us about politics as it really is. The Learn Liberty Academy, a project of the Institute for Humane Studies, is offering an online course on “House Of Cards: Politics Without Romance.” Steve Horwitz, Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University, will teach the course, which uses the episodes of “House of Cards” to illustrate the principles behind public choice theory. The one-week course begins March 3.

Posted on 01/17/14 07:42 PM by Alex Adrianson

Some People Get to Wait in Traffic, Others Get Told to Shut Up

There’s been a lot of pixels devoted to apparently politically-induced traffic jams in New Jersey, perhaps justifiably so. Meanwhile, there’s some political mendacity going on in Wisconsin that has gotten almost zero coverage in the national media. Wisconsin Reporter, however, has been on the story of Wisconsin’s John Doe investigation of conservative groups charged with illegally coordinating with Gov. Scott Walker during the state’s recall elections. This week, Wisconsin Reporter reports that Eric O’Keefe director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth is striking back:

O’Keefe’s attorney, David B. Rivkin has sent a letter to prosecutors stating the nearly two-year John Doe investigation, conducted with a court-ordered gag order in place, has no basis in Wisconsin law and that it violates O’Keefe’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association.

The prosecutors’ legal reasoning “is unsupportable as a matter of law and crystal clear evidence of bad faith,” the release states.

“I am confident that any federal court that reviews the facts will see your investigation for what it is, put a stop to it, and hold you publicly accountable,” the letter states. […]

The letter demands Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, and the other prosecutors in the multiple-county probe “close the investigation immediately, publicly exonerate Mr. O’Keefe and the Club, and dissolve the gag order that bars discussion of the proceeding.” […]

The court-sanctioned dragnet has subpoenaed more than 100 conservative and free-market activists. Though gagged by provisions of the subpoenas, several sources have told Wisconsin Reporter the manifold legal attack on nonprofit political organizations has included pre-dawn raids on homes and offices; confiscated equipment and files; and demands for phone, email and other records.

Judge Gregory A. Peterson, the probe’s presiding judge, on Friday quashed several of the subpoenas to conservative groups and ordered the return of property to the targets of a so-called John Doe campaign-finance probe, according to a story broken by the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board.

O’Keefe’s Wisconsin Club for Growth – as well as Walker’s campaign, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Inc., and Citizens for a Strong America – were victims of improper subpoenas, according to the judge. Peterson said the subpoenas “do not show probable cause that the moving parties committed any violations of the campaign finance laws,” according to the sealed opinion, obtained by the Journal. [Wisconsin Reporter, January 15]

Posted on 01/17/14 05:32 PM by Alex Adrianson

And Speaking of Economic Freedom …

Alejandro Chaufen of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation has an idea for Pope Benedict: Instead of redistributing income, let’s make the distribution of economic freedom more equal—by giving it to those who don’t have it.

Hernando de Soto and his team of researchers and the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, showed how an overregulated economy creates such high costs of entrance to the market for the poor, that it ends up excluding them from just opportunities. In addition to this process, and to explain why so many poor can’t improve their lot, I have argued that we need to look into the unequal distribution of economic freedom. The unequal distribution of economic freedom leads to a system where the rich get richer because they are the only ones who can afford the costs of legality; or the ones who have a better chance to buy from producers other than the state the services, such as education and security, inefficiently produced by government officials and bureaucracies. The poor get stuck with little access to legality and poor essential services. In most indices that measure rule of law, only a minority of countries qualify as having a strong and just juridical framework. In those countries the population, as well as moralists, see how the rich who are close to the government continue to enrich themselves even in periods where most of the population is suffering. [Forbes, January 15]

And P.J. O’Rourke notices that Hong Kong (ranked the most economically free country in the world in the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom) offers a model of economic growth for Detroit:

I know how to fix Detroit, because it reminds me of another favorite place, Hong Kong—two things so opposite that they evoke each other the way any Kardashian is a reminder that you love home and mother.

Hong Kong’s per capita GDP is among the highest in the world. But it was once a worse mess than Detroit. Devastated by Japanese occupation, the British colony’s population had declined from 1.6 million in 1941 to 600,000 by 1945. Then, after the 1949 communist victory on the mainland, a million refugees arrived. Most of them were penniless. Britain’s Labor government was penniless, too. Maybe Hong Kong could have gone into Chapter 9. But who would have been the bankruptcy judge? Chairman Mao?

Instead Hong Kong had the good fortune to get John (later Sir John) Cowperthwaite, a young official sent out to push the colony’s economy toward recovery. “I did very little,” he once said. “All I did was to try to prevent some of the things that might undo it.”

Such as taxes. Even now, Hong Kong has no sales tax; no VAT; no taxes on capital gains, interest income or earnings outside Hong Kong; no import or export duties; and a top personal income-tax rate of 15%.

Cowperthwaite was financial secretary from 1961 to 1971, Hong Kong’s period of fastest economic growth. Sir John, however, wouldn’t allow collection of economic statistics for fear they’d lead to political meddling. Some statistics nonetheless: During Cowperthwaite’s tenure, Hong Kong’s exports grew by an average of 13.8% a year, industrial wages doubled and the number of households in extreme poverty shrank from half to 16%. [Wall Street Journal, January 9]

Posted on 01/17/14 05:10 PM by Alex Adrianson

Who Is Intolerant?

Many of the kerfuffles that flare up from the world of pop culture are entertaining for all of 15 minutes. After that, you’re just wasting brain cells if you ever think of them again. L’affairre Robertson is not one of those. Phil Robertson’s comments about homosexuality to GQ magazine, the A&E network’s response of cancelling the show Duck Dynasty, and the subsequent reaction from the public teach two very important lessons: (1) The progressive side of our political cleavage is the real intolerant faction in America today; and (2) most of America instinctively understands that.

David Theroux’s review of the incident, published this week at Patheos, is comprehensive, thoughtful, and worth bookmarking for anybody tracking the culture wars. Some key facts and points to take away:

In the article, when asked about his religious faith, Robertson noted that his own youthful debauchery was self-destructive and put his marriage on the rocks, and that these were reversed only by his conversion to Christianity. He added that he now considers sexual relations other than those between a man and woman in wedlock to be sinful. In so doing, Robertson did not support bans on homosexual advocacy or relations […] .

In subsequent comments, he included himself as a “sexual sinner”: […] “However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

In contrast, Doug Ellin, creator of HBO’s Entourage, has actually tweeted a call for gays to shoot Robertson: “I think it would be a better show if gay people got to throw Phil Robertson [sic] up in the air and shoot at him then [sic] him shooting at cute ducks.” […]

A&E was seeking an entertainment show portraying Middle America as “hickville” in order to get people to disparage and laugh at those who do not subscribe to “progressive” culture (social liberalism achieved and policed through bullying and government mandates). What A&E was not expecting is that instead of the audience laughing at a self-described “bunch of rednecks from Louisiana,” the 14.6 million who view the program each week have been laughing with the Robertson’s at the hypocrisy, foolishness, and tyranny of “progressive” elites. […]

One of seven children raised in a log cabin in northern Louisiana with no electricity, bathtub, or toilet, Robertson grew up in a poor family living off garden fruits and vegetables; deer, squirrels, fish, and other animals that they hunted and fished; and the pigs, chickens, and cattle that they raised. Nevertheless, in high school he became All-State in football, baseball, and track and received a football scholarship to Louisiana Tech University. At Tech, later football legend Terry Bradshaw was at the time benched as second-string to Robertson, who was star quarterback. And although Robertson chose to quit football in college for the freedom to hunt during duck season, he went on to receive a master’s degree in education, taught school, and became a commercial fisherman. In 1972, the young enterprising Robertson patented his first duck call and created the Duck Commander Company, which has been leveraged into today’s vast fortune and cultural phenomenon that includes Duck Dynasty. […]

[P]ostmodern, cultural elites disdain almost everything upon which civilization has rested and work toward silencing all contrary views. Litmus tests that trigger such campaigns have included (but are not limited to) global warming, Obamacare, gender and race identity, Judeo-Christian beliefs, and birth- and gun- control.

In response, Duck Dynasty has remarkably broken through this Nanny-State malaise, connecting with many millions of people fed up with the absurdities and bullying of “liberal” elites. [Patheos, January 14; and Patheos, January 15]

Posted on 01/17/14 04:45 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Good News and the Bad News on Economic Freedom

The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released this week, contains bad news for the United States but good news for the world. First, the bad news: In the United States, economic freedom has now declined seven years in a row, from a score of 81.2 in 2007 to 75.5 in 2014. During that span, the United States has fallen from the fifth freest economy in the world to the 12th. This year is the first time that the United States has not been in the top 10 in economic freedom. According to the Index, the primary culprits for this year’s decline are higher taxes, higher spending, and more regulation. [See also: “America’s Dwindling Economic Freedom,” by Terry Miller, Wall Street Journal, January 13]

Good news for the world: This year’s average country score, 60.3, is the highest in the history of the Index. That score means the average country in the world now has a moderately free economy—though barely. Once again, Hong Kong (90.1) tops the list of the most economically free countries in the world with Singapore (89.4) close behind. The rest of the top ten are Australia (82.0), Switzerland (81.6), New Zealand (81.2), Canada (80.2), Chile (78.7), Mauritius (76.5), Ireland (76.2), and Denmark (76.1). Of the 178 countries ranked, North Korea has the lowest score—1.0.

What difference does economic freedom make? As we noted earlier, there is considerable evidence that countries with more economic freedom have higher living standards. Freer countries also have fewer people living in poverty, more democratic governance, and better environmental results. [See in particular Chapter 1, by Terry Miller and Anthony Kim, and Chapter 2, by Anthony Kim, in this year’s Index of Economic Freedom.]

At a panel discussion launching the book on Tuesday, Bryan Riley (remarks at 44:54) noted that the very first Index was published 20 years ago, the same year that the North American Free Trade Agreement became law. Trade freedom is, of course, one of the components of economic freedom. As Riley explained, free trade has been a key driver of rising living standards in many countries around the world. Worldwide trade barriers have fallen roughly in half while the volume of international trade has tripled in the past 20 years. Over that period, roughly a billion people around the world have been lifted out of poverty.

[See also: “2014 Index of Economic Freedom: Five Points You Should Know,” by Anthony B. Kim, The Foundry, January 14]

Posted on 01/16/14 04:07 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Facts on Inequality Tell a Story That’s Different from the One You’ve Heard from the Left

The Brookings Institutions’ Gary Burtless put together this chart, based on data from the Congressional Budget Office, that shows how different segments of the income distribution have fared since 2000. The chart shows everybody gaining except the top 1 percent, and the bottom 20 percent gaining the most.

Burtless:

To be sure, the pre- and post-tax incomes of the top 1% improved in 2010 compared with 2009 while incomes in the bottom 90% of households remained essentially flat. Thus, almost all the net income gains in 2010 went to people at the very top. 2010 was the first year of the current recovery, and a disproportionate share of income gain in the early recovery was concentrated on the well-to-do. Income reports published by the IRS suggest this trend continued in 2011 and 2012, when the most affluent taxpayers continued to enjoy big income gains. The flip side is that Americans at the top of the distribution also saw the biggest percentage losses in their incomes during the Great Recession. CBO’s new numbers show that households in the top income percentile saw their before- and after-tax incomes shrink more than one-third between 2007 and 2009. Middle-income Americans experienced pre-tax income losses of 4.5% and after-tax income losses of just 1.4%. In the bottom one-fifth of U.S. households, after-tax incomes actually edged up during the recession. [Brookings Institution, January 6]

Posted on 01/16/14 11:20 AM by Alex Adrianson

Jimmy Kimmel Spots the Problem with ObamaCare

Kimmel also spots the problem with the politics of ObamaCare:

[Via Media Research Center, January 15]

Posted on 01/15/14 03:10 PM by Alex Adrianson

More Freedom, More Prosperity

Once again, The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom finds a strong correlation between economic freedom and economic prosperity. Every year, the Index measures economic freedom throughout the world’s economies. The measurement is based on ten factors of economic freedom that consider things like corruption, taxes, government spending, labor regulations, the burden of business licensing, trade restrictions, and other factors. This year the Index ranked 178 countries. Below are some of the results when you compare economic freedom to per capita income and other measures of a country’s prosperity. The first two charts are from Chapter 1 and the third chart is from Chapter 2 of the Index:

  

Posted on 01/14/14 05:29 PM by Alex Adrianson

Watch Out for the FCC’s Crumbling House of Cards

Courts are noticing that technology has brought new competition to the information marketplace, and at least one judge has now said that the changes mean the Federal Communications Commission can no longer justify regulations that impinge the First Amendment rights of cable television service providers.

In Agape v. Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the FCC was within its power when it decided to let some rules requiring cable service providers to carry local television broadcasts expire. In his concurring opinion, Judge Brett Kavanaugh went further, writing that maintaining the rule would have been constitutionally impermissible. The Supreme Court had previously held that such regulations did not violate the First Amendment because counteracting cable operators’ monopoly power was a valid public purpose. The increased competition in the marketplace, said Kavanaugh, should now compel courts to strike down those regulations:

Cable operators today face intense competition from a burgeoning number of satellite, fiber optic, and Internet television providers – none of whom are saddled with the same program carriage and non-discrimination burdens that cable operators bear. As this Court has flatly stated, cable operators “no longer have the bottleneck power over programming that concerned the Congress in 1992.” Unsurprisingly, cable regulations adopted in the era of Cheers and The Cosby Show are ill-suited to a marketplace populated by Homeland and House of Cards. […]

Because cable operators no longer wield market power, the Government can no more tell a cable operator today which video programming networks it must carry than it can tell a bookstore what books to sell or tell a newspaper what columnists to publish. [Internal citations omitted.] [Agape Church v. Federal Communications Commission, United States District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, December 27, 2013]

The reference to “House of Cards” is apt, says Randolph May, who predicts that before long other justices will join Kavanaugh in recognizing the constitutional problem: “This First Amendment jurisprudence is a ‘House of Cards’ waiting to crumble.” [Free State Foundation Blog, January 6]

Posted on 01/13/14 05:28 PM by Alex Adrianson

To Do: Find Out How Much Economic Freedom We Still Have

Discover just how much economic freedom has mattered over the past 20 years. The Heritage Foundation will release the 20th edition of its seminal Index of Economic Freedom (co-published by the Wall Street Journal) at 11 a.m. on January 14. The launch will feature remarks from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Help make government better by entering the Pioneer Institute’s Better Government Competition. This annual citizens’ idea competition will honor the best ideas for improving the performance of state government. The deadline for entry is April 7. The Pioneer Institute will announce the winners at a June awards dinner.

Recognize the social entrepreneurs you know. The Manhattan Institute is now accepting nominations for its William E. Simon Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Social Entrepreneurship and its Richard C. Cornuelle Award for Innovation in Social Entrepreneurship. The Simon award recognizes individuals who are groundbreaking social entrepreneurs, while the Cornuelle award recognizes nonprofit organizations that excel at serving the public. If you know either an individual or a group deserving to be honored for their social entrepreneurship, then send their names in. The deadline for both awards is March 3.

Become a citizen journalist. Watchdog Wire wants citizens to become local government watchdogs, and has a checklist of ways for you to get involved.

Hear some ideas for New Year’s Resolutions for the liberty movement. A panel discussion hosted by the America’s Future Foundation will discuss what the liberty movement’s 2014 priorities should be. The discussion will begin January 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Reason Foundation headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Posted on 01/10/14 08:35 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Internal Revenue Service Still Wants to Silence Conservatives

Fifty-five leaders of conservative and free market groups have signed a letter urging Congress to stop the Internal Revenue Service from creating new rules for 501(c)4 non-profit organizations. Here is the heart of the letter:

The IRS proposal would restrict the free speech rights of such groups by arbitrarily deeming political a wide variety of activities in the newly-created category of “Candidate-Related Political Activity,” which includes voter registration drives, candidate debates, voter guides, voting records and key votes. They would restrict any criticism of an incumbent federal, state, or local politician within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election and effectively require groups to remove any reference to politicians from their websites during these windows. They even distort the definition of “candidate” to include appointees, so groups weighing in on executive or judicial nominations would be restricted.

These draconian rules will effectively muzzle 501(c)4 groups in the run-up to November’s mid-term elections while unfairly exempting 501(c)5 labor unions that support liberal candidates and causes.

The rules proceed from the assumption that political engagement and discussion of health care, government spending, and other public policy issues and the merits of nominees who implement them cannot logically be part and parcel of a social welfare mission. This is not what the law requires and it is inconsistent with longstanding historical practice and understanding.

While Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code specifically bars those organizations from engaging in political activity, no such statutory prohibition exists in Section 501(c)(4). For half a century the IRS has defined “social welfare” in our democratic society to include activities such as nonpartisan get-out-the-vote drives, voter registration, and voter education on issues of public concern.

The 501(c)(4) category has always been the home of groups that advocate public policy and hold politicians accountable for the policies they pursue at every level of government. The IRS is disregarding these facts and severely limiting rights of association and speech, especially for smaller grassroots groups that cannot easily afford high-priced lawyers to navigate complex new rules. [Posted at Independent Women’s Voice, January 9]

Reminder, you can send comments on the Internal Revenue Service proposal directly to the IRS until February 27:

Send submissions to: CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-134417-13), Room 5205, Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC 20044. Submissions may be hand-delivered Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-134417-13), Courier's Desk, Internal Revenue Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC, or sent electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (IRS REG-134417-13).

Posted on 01/10/14 07:34 PM by Alex Adrianson

We Knew Him Before He Became a Big Deal

This week we’d like to note one of the better Heritage intern graduation speeches we’ve ever heard. It was delivered by Jordan Long, and it was so good, The Foundry decided to publish it.

Jordan happens to have interned for us; and by “us” we mean yours truly, the folks who put together The Insider and do other coalition-building stuff at Heritage. We’re not at all surprised that Jordan was selected by his fellow interns to deliver a graduation address. We noticed very early last fall that his work was excellent and it got only better. As you can see from the excerpt below, Jordan has an excellent understanding of how unique America’s experiment in self-government really is:

How can it be that as “young” leaders in our youth-obsessed and increasingly diverse nation, we are so firmly bound to quill and parchment and the ideas of some much maligned old dead white men who didn’t even have Facebook, let alone Twitter?

Perhaps as a history major I am not the best suited to answer such questions. But I will try.

As young people, it is quite natural to be defending and proselytizing on behalf of the freshest and most innovative ideas on man and how he ought be governed in history: that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

These words were penned more than 200 years ago. But that length of time pales in comparison to the thousand-year reigns of much more established theories in the organization of human affairs: despotism, aristocracy, plutocracy, warlordism, tribalism, empire. The animating principle of these regimes has always been the same: the unfettered exercise of power by those who happen to possess it at the time.

The notion of an enlightened philosopher king and his wise counselors, centrally planning an economy and society from an imperial capital for the benefit of his ignorant subjects, is nothing new. The administrative state is nothing new.

In fact, it is deeply ancient. Much more ancient than the seemingly old system of ordered liberty our Founding Fathers gave voice to in Philadelphia in 1776, and the constitutional structure they negotiated in that same city in 1787. [The Foundry, December 31, 2013]

Keep an eye on that guy. He’ll continue doing great things for liberty!

Posted on 01/10/14 07:16 PM by Alex Adrianson

Health Care Spending Growth Started Declining a Decade Before ObamaCare Passed

The Obama administration wants people to believe that recent slower growth in health care costs is an accomplishment of ObamaCare. But the slowing of health care costs is part of a decade-long trend. As you can see from the chart below, produced by Investor’s Business Daily, the trend even preceded the economic slowdown that started in 2008-2009.

One likely reason for the slowdown, as IBD’s editors note, is that businesses have been shifting to consumer-directed plans that give workers incentives to be smarter health care shoppers:

Health savings accounts, for example, have exploded in popularity. These plans combine higher deductibles with lower premiums and tax-free savings accounts for out-of-pocket costs. HSAs now account for more than 20% of the employer market, up from zero in 2005.

A RAND study concluded that expanding the HSA market share to 50% would cut health costs by nearly $60 billion a year.

Wal-Mart offers its employees individual coverage for about $40 a month. And that’s for a plan with a deductible of $2,750, access to a wide network of doctors and hospitals, and at least $250 deposited in a worker’s own health reimbursement account, according to the Washington Examiner.

But rather than learn from the Wal-Marts of the world about what’s working and what isn’t, President Obama decided that Washington politicians and federal bureaucrats know better. And as a result, ObamaCare will severely undercut these positive trends.

That becomes clear when you compare what Wal-Mart workers can buy to the “great products” ObamaCare has to offer.

As a result of ObamaCare’s myriad benefit mandates, rate regulations, taxes and fees, the best a 27-year-old can do in any one of 18 major cities is $122 a month for the skimpiest bronze plan. Even with tax subsidies, a young worker pulling down just $29,000 a year will still pay more than $110 a month for ObamaCare insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. [Investor’s Business Daily, January 7]

Posted on 01/10/14 06:46 PM by Alex Adrianson

Those Medicaid Numbers Are Probably Wrong, and Definitely Nothing to Celebrate Anyway

Late last week, Josh Marshall at the liberal Talking Points Memo blog claimed that 10 million people now have health care coverage because of ObamaCare. [TalkingPointsMemo, January 3] He gets that figure by adding together enrollees in the federal and state health insurance exchanges (2.1 million is the latest figure from the Department of Health and Human Services), the number of young adults under 26 now covered by their parents’ plans because of ObamaCare’s provision requiring insurance companies to offer that benefit (3.1 million, also according to HHS), the number of Medicaid sign-ups since the exchanges opened (4.3 million, according the tabulation by the website ACASignups.net), and the number of people who bought ACA-compliant policies from private insurers instead of through the exchanges (500,000, an estimate from Josh Marshall himself based apparently on his desire to reach an estimate of 10 million total newly covered people).

Various analysts have picked apart those numbers, most notably the Medicaid sign-ups. Medicaid serves 60 million people, and so there are always a lot of people signing up for Medicaid. And there are a lot of people who drop off of Medicaid, too, because their income and employment situations change. How much of the 4.3 million sign-ups is from normal churn and how much is it from people signing up because they are newly eligible because of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion?

Sean Trende has inferred an estimate by comparing the changes in sign-ups in states that expanded Medicaid to changes in sign-ups that did not expand Medicaid. He estimates that ObamaCare’s expanded Medicaid is responsible for only 190,000 sign-ups, though he cautions that is an extremely rough estimate. [RealClearPolitics, January 7]

It’s important to make sure that cheerleaders for the program are not trafficking in bad numbers. However, there is a much simpler way of knowing that 10 million is a bad number: Marshall is adding together things that shouldn’t be added together: Being covered by Medicaid is a very different experience than having private insurance. In short, it’s much worse. In some situations, it appears to be even worse than having no insurance.

The Heritage Foundation’s Kevin Dayaratna reviewed studies comparing the experience of being on Medicaid with the experience of having private insurance and no insurance. He found considerable evidence that Medicaid is a very bad deal for the low-income people the program tries to help. He notes, for example:

[A] 2010 study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine found similar results for non-cancer-related illness. In this study, the authors examine the relationship between insurance status and health outcomes for myocardial infarction, stroke, and pneumonia patients.

The authors statistically analyzed a nationally representative hospital database and noticed, even after adjusting for factors such as age, gender, income, other illnesses, and severity, higher in-hospital mortality rates for Medicaid patients than for privately insured patients. Additionally, even after adjusting for these factors, the study found that Medicaid patients hospitalized for strokes and pneumonia also ran up higher costs than the privately insured, as well as the uninsured. [Internal citations omitted.]

Similar findings have been reached by studies looking at the experiences of adults with different kinds of cancer, pneumonia, and diabetes; children with asthma; and boys with urology problems. [“Studies Show: Medicaid Patients Have Worse Access and Outcomes than the Privately Insured,” by Kevin Dayaratna, The Heritage Foundation, November 9, 2013]

What’s the problem? As Paul Howard has explained:

Despite the program’s enormous cost, Medicaid reimbursements are so low in many states that providers often refuse to treat Medicaid patients altogether. The result is that the program’s beneficiaries have rich medical coverage in theory, but very limited health-care access in fact. Indeed, a recent Health Affairs study found that more than 30% of physicians (both primary-care doctors and specialists) would not accept new Medicaid patients. While Obamacare will raise primary-care provider reimbursement rates for Medicaid patients to the same levels as those for Medicare patients, the increase is only temporary, scheduled to last just two years. (The reimbursement rate for specialists will not increase at all.) States will either be on the hook for these costs after the federal funding expires or will have to cut reimbursement ratescreating further headaches for state lawmakers. Meanwhile, Medicaid’s incentives encourage providers to focus on high-cost institutional care (for which they can receive more money) rather than on disease prevention and management for high-risk populations. The result is that there is little relationship between Medicaid’s open-ended spending and improvement in beneficiaries’ health outcomes. [National Affairs, Spring 2013]

In short, expanding Medicaid is no success story, even if that’s what the program intended. [See also: How Medicaid Fails the Poor, by Avik Roy, Encounter Books, (November 2013).]

Posted on 01/10/14 04:08 PM by Alex Adrianson

We Predict ObamaCare Will Continue to Get Its Name in the Newspaper

Healthcare.gov now seems improved to the point where people can actually sign up. And the administration is reporting that sign-ups are now in the millions. So everything’s good with the law, right? Grace-Marie Turner makes “Ten ObamaCare Predictions for 2014.” [National Review, January 6] Her list identifies the issues that people need to remember as they hear reports about sign-up levels and other measures of the law’s success. For example, there is a difference between signing up and actually paying for a plan. How many sign-ups will eventually pay? And how many sign-ups will continue to pay once they’ve started? What is the health status of the enrollees? If too many are sick and not enough are healthy, then rates will have to be adjusted upwards next year. How many new enrollees had insurance they liked, but lost it because of ObamaCare’s new market rules? How many of the newly insured are just Medicaid sign-ups? Some studies show that for certain conditions, those without insurance actually do better than those on Medicaid. Clearly, “newly insured” denotes many different circumstances, not all of them actually success stories. 

Further, how will the constant revising of the rules in response to political pressures affect insurance companies’ willingness to participate in the program next year? And the insurance market rules change again in 2015. How many more private companies will respond by cancelling the insurance they had provided their employees?

Print up Turner’s predictions, post them on your bulletin board, and see how many come true this year. We will.

Posted on 01/10/14 12:58 PM by Alex Adrianson

Government Isn’t Your Neighbor

The new issue of The Insider is out with an examination of how government has affected American civil society. Take a look. Here is the editor’s note:

The important questions in politics, as Milton Friedman taught us, begin with “Who”: Who pays? Who benefits? And especially: Who chooses? Leftism wants to make those questions go away. Hence, middle-class entitlements: What person can complain about high taxes when he also gets a check from the government?

Earlier this year, President Obama urged people to reject voices that “incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity” because they suggest “that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

Even earlier, Rep. Barney Frank: “Government is simply the name we give to the things we do together.” The government is us, and that means it’s you, too!

Except that it isn’t. The people didn’t harass conservative nonprofits. The Internal Revenue Service did. The people didn’t shut World War II veterans out of the National Parks. The National Park Service did. The people didn’t force the owners of Hobby Lobby to choose between their faith and staying in business. The Department of Health and Human Services did.

And the people don’t mail benefit checks to those in need. The government does. You don’t get credit for charity by paying your taxes; you get to not go to jail. As Kim Holmes explains, more and more government has become a substitute for individuals’ connections to their communities. The results are a smaller bank of social trust, higher stakes when government makes choices, and courser politics.

Solutions? First, get out and talk to your neighbors. William Mattox and Glen Morgan write separately about think tanks taking their messages to the people. Second, tell people their happiness is for them, not the government, to choose. Iain Murray details what’s wrong with the happiness agenda, while Bruce Thornton urges us to understand politics as a contest over who—individuals or government—does the choosing. Third, stop the government from further centralizing things—like education. Jennifer A. Marshall and Lindsey Burke detail Common Core’s race to the middle.

Posted on 01/09/14 01:22 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Conspiracy Against ObamaCare

National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (the lawsuit that challenged Obamacare’s individual mandate) was one the most important Supreme Court cases of the past 50 years. It was a special case for another reason, too: The arguments that made their way to the Court were developed publicly on the Internet, in particular on legal blogs such as The Volokh Conspiracy. Even though the Court upheld ObamaCare, most of the constitutional arguments made against the law received five votes at the Supreme Court. As Randy Barnett explains, the saving construction that Chief Justice John Roberts crafted (redefining the mandate as a tax) was the second-worst outcome possible for the Left. The result of that ruling is that the Commerce Clause does validate any and all attempts by government to regulate individual choices. That’s kind of important, in the grand scheme of things.

Barnett and his fellow Volokh conspirators came to The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday to discuss their new book A Conspiracy Against ObamaCare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case, which traces the blog’s role in shaping the constitutional debate leading up to the case. As Barnett points out, that piece of the history is important to know. Courts are mainstream institutions. If a constitutional argument is seen as outside the mainstream of public opinion, the courts are very unlikely to accept it. In the case of the ObamaCare lawsuit, the legal blogs developed an argument that was at first derided by most legal academics and made it into a mainstream view. ObamaCare is now facing several other significant constitutional challenges; how the courts rule will depend in part on whether those arguments become accepted by the mainstream of public opinion.

Posted on 01/08/14 06:19 PM by Alex Adrianson

One More Reason ObamaCare Will Cost More than Advertised: Emergency Room Visits Will Go Up

If we could just give people subsidies through ObamaCare, then taxpayers wouldn’t have to pick up the tab for so many expensive emergency room visits. Or something like that was one argument made for ObamaCare. As recently as September, White House spokesman Jay Carney said:

[W]e’re obviously pleased with developments in Ohio and in states across the country where the decision to expand Medicaid has been made, because […] that creates enormous benefits for those states in terms of reducing costs in emergency rooms […] . [As quoted in “Oregon Study Exposes Another ObamaCare Falsehood: Rather Than Reduce Unnecessary ER Use, Medicaid Increases It,” by Michael Cannon, Forbes, January 2]

New research published by Science magazine highlights a problem:

We find that Medicaid coverage significantly increases overall emergency use by 0.41 visits per person, or 40 percent relative to an average of 1.02 visits per person in the control group. We find increases in emergency-department visits across a broad range of types of visits, conditions, and subgroups, including increases in visits for conditions that may be most readily treatable in primary care settings. [“Medicaid Increases Emergency-Department Use: Evidence from Oregon’s Health Insurance Experiment,” by Sarah L. Taubman, et al., Science, January 2]

And right now more people are signing up for Medicaid than for coverage on the ObamaCare exchanges. The figures that have been reported are 4 million sign-ups for Medicaid in October and November, while only 2 million have signed up for coverage through the exchanges. (It’s not clear how may Medicaid sign-ups are people who would have been eligible even without ObamaCare’s expansion of the program.)

Two points from Avik Roy: First, the new ObamaCare entitlements, whatever their other merits, cannot possibly cost less than the taxpayer subsidies to emergency rooms: “Nationally, it’s estimated that we spend about $50 billion a year on uncompensated care for the uninsured. But Obamacare spends $250 billion a year of taxpayer money on covering the uninsured.”

Second, of course Medicaid enrollees use emergency rooms more than the uninsured. The program is designed to achieve that result!

Because Medicaid was nearly free to the program’s enrollees, those enrollees ended up seeking—and receiving—lots of inappropriate care. That led to massive cost overruns that, even today, are bankrupting state governments. But states have had little flexibility to reform Medicaid’s cost-sharing features. The one thing they have been able to do is pay doctors and hospitals less and less to provide the same care.

That trend, in turn, has led many doctors to stop accepting new Medicaid patients. So it’s extremely difficult for Medicaid enrollees to get appointments with primary care physicians. They have to spend weeks on the phone to find someone who will treat them.

Put yourself in the shoes of that Medicaid enrollee. Why would you bother calling primary care docs all day and all week, if you can go to the emergency room and get the same care for the same price? So that’s what Medicaid patients do. [Forbes, January 2]

Posted on 01/07/14 05:13 PM by Alex Adrianson

It’s Resolution Time!

If you haven’t made yours yet, then you had better get on it! We’re here to help. Here are some ideas for resolutions that can help you make 2014 a successful year:

1. Read more books. There’s no time like anytime to read a classic, but here are five that seem especially good choices for 2014:

Animal Farm (1945), by George Orwell. By all accounts, inequality is going to be a major political issue in 2014. It was a major issue for the animals of Manor Farm, too. After overthrowing farmer Jones, they decreed: “All animals are equal.” In Animal Farm, you’ll learn how their utopian project turned out.

Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (1980), by Milton and Rose Friedman. In 2014, you’ve got to have health insurance or pay an extra tax (not a penalty, said Chief Justice John Roberts!). What better time could there be to read a classic on the power of individual choice?

Darkness at Noon (1940), by Arthur Koestler. Last year, President Obama said we should reject voices that “incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity” because they suggest “that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.” He might as well have sang: “Who hounded 501(c)3s? When after all it was you and me?” In Darkness at Noon, Koestler’s protagonist learns how dangerous it is to think there is only an “us” and not an “I” or a “you.”

The Naked Public Square (1984), by Richard John Neuhaus. The Department of Health and Human Services, under ObamaCare, has ordered almost all employers, regardless of religious beliefs, to provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortion. Thirty years ago in The Naked Public Square, Neuhaus explained that hostility to faith isn’t just bad for believers; it’s bad for democracy, too.

The Liberal Mind (1963), by Kenneth Minogue. Last year, liberals focused on issues like the size of gun magazines, the size of the container in which beverages are served, whether health plans offer mental health benefits, the size of the fees banks charge retailers for swiping debit cards, how mean people on the Internet can be, whether the food we buy is grown too far away, and how healthy are the lunches that parents pack for their kids. Meanwhile, you can’t read the news without seeing some article decrying the lack of laws passed by the 113th Congress. What gives? As Kenneth Minogue explained in The Liberal Mind, the liberal needs his dragons to fight, and the dragons keep getting smaller and smaller.

Already read those? Want more ideas? Check out these sources for additional classics: “Read to Lead,” by Morton C. Blackwell, The Leadership Institute; Reading the Right Books: A Guide for the Intelligent Conservative, by Lee Edwards, The Heritage Foundation; The March of Freedom: Modern Classics in Conservative Thought, by Edwin J. Feulner, The Heritage Foundation; The Online Library of Liberty; the Federalist Society’s Conservative & Libertarian Pre-Law Reading List; National Review’s 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century; and the First Principles Page at Heritage.org (click on More Resources to see reading lists in each of the subcategories).

2. Make more friends. If you’re a conservative looking for allies, then you’ve probably got more friends than you realize. There are state-based free market think tanks in every state. Among the newly launched think tanks are Libertas in Utah, the Palmetto Policy Forum in South Carolina, and the California Center for Public Policy. You can find a free market think tank in your state by checking out the State Policy Network’s online directory.

Four key people whose work you should follow for insight on ObamaCare’s implementation this year are Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, John C. Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis, Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute, and Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute. Cannon and law Prof. Jonathan Adler, as well as folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, have helped get a key lawsuit against ObamaCare into the federal courts; this case involves the question of whether ObamaCare’s exchange subsidies are actually authorized in the exchanges run by the federal government rather than the states. Meanwhile, the Becket Fund, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Center for Law and Justice, the Thomas More Law Center, and the Liberty Institute have each filed important lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Services abortion and contraception mandate.

And we think everyone should get to know the folks at the Pelican Institute, a group that’s about five years old and doing great work for energy and education freedom in Louisiana. (We’ll be down in New Orleans in March, by the way. See #3.)

There are too many great organizations working for liberty to list in here, but there are plenty of resources to help you find pro-liberty friends. In addition to the State Policy Network directory, check out the Atlas Economic Research Foundation’s directory of groups working for liberty around the world. If you are looking for a liberty-minded scholar, you should get in touch with the Institute for Humane Studies’ Find Scholars service. And The Heritage Foundation’s Policy Experts database lets you search among several thousand experts and organizations by 175 different issues.

3. Travel more. Get out and see the world—and attend some conservative conferences, too! The Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank will be in New Orleans on March 26-28. Freedom Fest, the world’s largest gathering of free minds, will be in Las Vegas, July 9-12. The Reason Cruise will tour the Caribbean, February 9-16; while the National Review Cruise will tour the Caribbean November 9-16. The Atlas Liberty Forum will be held on November 12-13, and will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And don’t forget the granddaddy of conservative conferences, the Conservative Political Action Conference, which will be held March 6-8 at the National Harbor on the Potomac River.

Other must-attend events include Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the American Dream Summit and Right Online Conference (both usually held in September) and the Values Voter Summit (usually held in Washington, D.C., in October).

Students should consider attending the International Students for Liberty Conference, February 14-16, in Washington, D.C.; and the Young America’s Foundation’s National Conservative Student Conference in July, also in Washington, D.C.

4. Be more optimistic. One way to be more optimistic is to tell stories of success and human progress in spite of bad government policies. The Cato Institute’s Human Progress website amasses a wealth of data that tells exactly that story. Did you know, for example, that in 1990 people in 26 countries consumed less than 2,000 calories per day, but by 2008 there were only three countries whose populations consumed less than 2,000 calories per day?

And here’s a recent chart from the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry:

There is even good news on the culture front. As Leslie Ford notes, Americans are now more pro-life than ever, Americans are volunteering more, and marriages are lasting longer. [The Foundry, December 31, 2013] Spread the good news!

5. Prioritize your spending. We conservatives want government to trim the fat. We should make sure we practice what we preach and be good stewards of our donors’ dollars. By now, you have probably written your budget plan for the year. Will you stick to it? Here is some advice from Lawrence Reed that might help:

It’s both tempting and easy for a new group to fly in all directions, to chase dollars instead of focusing on key issues and core competencies, and otherwise allow spur-of-the-moment impulses to dictate their agendas. But the most successful groups are those that know precisely who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they want to accomplish in the way of specific, measurable, short-term and long-term objectives.

Take the time with your staff, board of directors, and key supporters to develop meaningful mission and vision statements. Identify the key “customers” or intended audience for your products. From there, develop a strategic plan that lays out the steps by which your mission and vision can ultimately become reality. A thoughtful strategic plan should be a living document that keeps the organization on track and accountable. When someone suggests a new project, use the strategic plan as a guide in determining whether that new project is in keeping with your agenda or a time- and resource-consuming diversion.

Supplement your strategic plan with an in-house manual of important tasks and functions. You’ll be forever reinventing the wheel, so to speak, if you don’t keep good records of how things are done, where things are kept, what your policies and practices are, and who is responsible for what. For-profit businesses do this all the time, and it’s one good way for nonprofits to conduct their affairs in a more efficient, business-like fashion. [“Thinking Through a Successful Think Tank,” by Lawrence W. Reed, Chapter 9 Think Tank Primer, published by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation]

6. Embrace new challenges. We can already see what some of the major policy battles will be for 2014, and while none of the arguments are entirely new (there are no permanent victories, no permanent defeats, we’ve heard it said) the contours of the debates are evolving.

The Left is more focused than ever on inequality as an issue. Conservatives need to make the case that big government is a major cause of inequality. The Left will continue arguing for higher minimum wages. Conservatives need to make the case that minimum wage laws are really minimum skills laws that lock people out of the job market.

Almost all the major provisions of ObamaCare are in effect this year, including some new taxes. While conservatives have done a good job of pointing out how ObamaCare is failing, they need to do more to make the case for free market alternatives in health care.

The Department of Health and Human Services contraception and abortion coverage mandates are in the courts, but there are other religious liberty issues that should be on everyone’s radar. Do public accommodation laws trump religious freedom? If the courts rule against, for example, the rights of wedding photographers to decline their services, protecting freedom of conscience would require legislatures to pass new laws.

Expect the Supreme Court to rule on President Obama’s “recess appointments” to the National Labor Relations Board. If the Court doesn’t rule the appointments unconstitutional it will be a significant blow to the constitutional design of separation of powers.

In January, Dodd-Frank will unleash new regulations that will reduce the availability of and increase the cost of mortgages, especially for low-income borrowers. Conservatives will have to continue making the case that Dodd-Frank is a bad law should be a priority.

Finally, the Department of Treasury has proposed new limits on what 501(c)4 organizations can do without jeopardizing their non-profits statuses. These proposals are essentially a further crackdown on 501(c)4. All conservative non-profits should strongly consider submitting comments on the new proposals:

Send submissions to: CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-134417-13), Room 5205, Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC 20044. Submissions may be hand-delivered Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-134417-13), Courier's Desk, Internal Revenue Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC, or sent electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (IRS REG-134417-13).

Comments will be accepted until February 27.

7. Get organized. Have your fundraisers had their strategy session yet? Ann Fitzgerald and Steven Kiel suggest every non-profit schedule an in-depth strategy session in January, which should be attended by all members of your fundraising team:

We recommend that your strategy session include, at a minimum: review of the past year’s results; introduction of detailed goals for the coming year, including opportunities and challenges; discussion of each one of your fundraising programs: direct mail, prospecting, online, events, planned giving, and major gifts; development of a communications strategy and mailing calendar; review of each major gift donor in order to develop goals, cultivation steps, solicitation strategies, and trip lists.

We’ve developed a donor profile template for strategy sessions that includes information that should be compiled for each of your major gift donors. Don’t spend your limited time re-inventing the wheel. Use this tried and true template that our clients have successfully used for years. [A.C. Fitzgerald & Associates, December 19, 2013]

For other think tank how-to ideas, check out InsiderOnline.org’s toolkit.

8. Help others and be nicer to people. Recognizing others’ accomplishments is one way to help them, as well as inspire others to do great work. There are many conservative and free market organizations that recognize the contributions individuals and organizations make to the cause of liberty with regular awards. Here are a few to keep an eye on this year: the Reason Foundation’s Bastiat Prize; the State Policy Network and the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation’s Unsung Hero Award; the State Policy Network’s Roe Award; Americans for Prosperity’s Breitbart Awards; The Heritage Foundation’s Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship; the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize; the Manhattan Institute’s Hayek Prize; the Young Conservative Coalition’s Buckley Awards; the Atlas Economic Research Institute’s Templeton Freedom Award, Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Award, and Fred Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty; The Bradley Prizes; the American Enterprise Institute’s Irving Kristol Award; and the Becket Fund’s Canterbury Medal.

You should consider submitting nominations for those awards that accept them, and attending the events associated with each award.

Everyone, conservatives and liberals alike, should remember that we owe civility to all our fellow citizens whatever their political persuasion. As Ed Feulner recently wrote, there is a rising chorus incivility that “is driving out citizens of honest intent and encouraging those who trade in jeering and mockery.” Feulner continued: “If we are to prevail as a free, self-governing people, we must first govern our tongues and our pens. Restoring civility to public discourse is not an option. It is a necessity.” [The Foundry, December 29, 2013]

Finally, if, as Ben Franklin said, politics is the art of the possible, then the first thing we conservatives should do is make sure we are not reducing the scope of what we can accomplish by gratuitously bashing potential allies over tactical disagreements. Conservatives have always had lively debates among themselves about the best way forward. Let’s have those debates; but let’s not let minor disagreements prevent us from working together to achieve common goals.

Posted on 01/04/14 02:06 AM by Alex Adrianson

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