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InsiderOnline Blog: February 2012

Environmentalism Uses Up a Lot of Resources

Three pet projects of the environmental movement—biofuels, organic farming, and wind power—are each leading to energy sprawl, writes Robert Bryce (“Get Dense,” City Journal, Winter 2012):

Various recent studies have found that land devoted to organic farming produces 50 percent less wheat, 55 percent less asparagus and lettuce, and 23 percent less corn than conventionally farmed land of the same acreage does. […]

The leading biofuel at the moment is corn ethanol, whose “power density”—the amount of energy flow that can be harnessed from a given area of land—is abysmally low. Some energy analysts put it as low as 0.05 watts per square meter of farmland. By comparison, a relatively small natural-gas well that produces just 60,000 cubic feet of gas per day has a power density of 28 watts per square meter; […]

Cellulosic ethanol’s power density, though higher than corn ethanol’s, is nevertheless very low. Even the best-managed tree plantations achieve power densities of only about 1 watt per square meter of cultivated area. […] [T]o replace 10 percent of the country’s oil needs with cellulosic ethanol, you’d need to plant switchgrass in an area equal to 8 percent of all American cropland currently under cultivation. […]

Wind turbines have a power density of about 1 watt per square meter. Compare that with the two nuclear reactors at Indian Point in Westchester County, which provide as much as 30 percent of New York City’s electricity. Even if you include the entire footprint of the Indian Point project—about 250 acres—the site’s power density exceeds 2,000 watts per square meter. To generate as much electricity as Indian Point does, you’d need to pave at least 770 square miles of land with wind turbines, an area slightly smaller than the state of Rhode Island.

Posted on 02/29/12 05:05 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Iron Lady Is Worth Seeing

The Iron Lady, for which Meryl Streep won an Academy Award for Best Actress on Sunday, has John Blundell’s stamp of approval. Blundell has known and worked with Margaret Thatcher for 40 years. He’s also written a book about her. Here’s what he had to say about the film:

Posted on 02/28/12 06:12 PM by Alex Adrianson

National Standards Aren’t Better Standards

… explains this new video, based on Lance Izumi’s new Encounter Broadside: Obama’s Education Takeover:

Posted on 02/27/12 06:45 PM by Alex Adrianson

Tell the Court What You Think

The Supreme Court will hear the Obamacare lawsuit in March. Before then, go to Change.org and check out the Tea Party Patriots Federation’s petition about why the Supreme Court should throw the individual mandate out. And then sign it if you agree.

Posted on 02/24/12 02:51 PM by Alex Adrianson

Months After Raid, Still No Charges Against Gibson

Reports Reason.tv:

Posted on 02/24/12 02:46 PM by Alex Adrianson

A Confession

In case you missed it, this week Peter Gleick confessed to the crookery that brought Heartland Institute internal documents into public light and generated sensationalized stories about Heartland supposedly conspiring to muddle the scientific debate with financial support from big oil and the Koch brothers. Those stories were carried by the Huffington Post, DeSmogBlog, ThinkProgress.com, and other outlets with little tolerance for skepticism about global warming. Gleick is the President of the Pacific Institute, a vigorous promoter of pro-global warming interpretations.

The quote of the week on this scandal comes from Megan McArdle, who writes: “After you have convinced people that you fervently believe your cause to be more important than telling the truth, you’ve lost the power to convince them of anything else.”

You can read up and follow breaking news on the scandal at the Heartland Institute’s new site Fakegate.com.

Here’s a couple of fun facts: Up until the scandal, Gleick was the chairman of the American Geophysical Union’s Task Force on Scientific Ethics. He has since resigned that post.

Earlier in the week, reports Steve Milloy at JunkScience.com, the EPA Grants Database listed both Gleick and the Pacific Institute has having been recipients of various grants totaling nearly $1.6 million. That database now seems to have been scrubbed of references to Gleick and the Pacific Institute, reports Milloy.

Posted on 02/24/12 02:43 PM by Alex Adrianson

Oregon Hassles Cold Sufferers for No Gain in War on Meth

Forcing people to go to the doctor to get a prescription in order to get their cold medicine did not reduce methamphetamine use in Oregon, says a new report from the Cascade Policy Institute (“Making Cold Medicine Rx Only Did Not Reduce Meth Use,” February 2012). Oregon lawmakers made the change in 2006 in order to make it harder to obtain the pseudoephedrine that’s used in methamphetamine manufacturing. But, note authors Christopher Stomberg and Arun Sharma, meth manufacturing was declining even before the law became effective—a trend also apparent in other states that do not require cold medicine to be prescription only:

Meanwhile, Oregon has experienced a 26.1 percent decline in the methamphetamine treatment episodes since 2006, but the rest of the country has experienced a 25.6 percent decline over the same period. Mississippi is the only state in the country that has followed Oregon in adopting an Rx-only policy for cold medicines.

Posted on 02/24/12 11:27 AM by Alex Adrianson

Registering Guns Didn’t Help Canadian Police

Canada’s long-gun registry, killed this week by the Canadian parliament, wasted $2.7 billion since it was started in 1998, reports John Lott Jr. and Gary Mauser (“Death of a Long-Gun Registry,” National Review Online, February 20, 2012):

Crime guns are very rarely left at the crime scene, and when they are left at the scene, they have not been registered — criminals are not stupid enough to leave behind a gun that’s registered to them. Even in the few cases where registered crime guns are left at the scene, it is usually because the criminal has been seriously injured or killed, so these crimes would have been solved even without registration.

[…] From 2003 to 2009, there were 4,257 homicides in Canada, 1,314 of which were committed with firearms. Data provided last fall by the Library of Parliament reveals that the weapon was identified in fewer than a third of the homicides with firearms, and that about three-quarters of the identified weapons were not registered. Of the weapons that were registered, about half were registered to someone other than the person accused of the homicide. In just 62 cases — that is, only 4.7 percent of all firearm homicides — was the gun registered to the accused. As most homicides in Canada are not committed with a gun, the 62 cases correspond to only about 1 percent of all homicides.

[…] But apparently, the registry was not important even in those cases. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Chiefs of Police have not yet provided a single example in which tracing was of more than peripheral importance in solving a case.

The authors note $2.7 billion would have paid for an additional 2,300 police officers annually over the 17-year period, which they calculate would have reduced violent crimes in Canada by about 1,800.

Posted on 02/24/12 10:46 AM by Alex Adrianson

Nearly Half of All Americans Don’t Pay Income Taxes

A new high:

Posted on 02/23/12 09:04 PM by Alex Adrianson

Religious Freedom Is Obamacare’s First Casualty

The controversy isn’t about contraception or abortion; it’s about despotism:

Posted on 02/22/12 06:04 PM by Alex Adrianson

City Can’t Use Its Sign Code to Silence Its Critics

Jim Roos might still be the victim of eminent domain abuse, but at least his First Amendment right to tell the world about it have been preserved. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, he’ll get to keep a big mural on the side of his building declaring “End Eminent Domain Abuse.”

Roos put the sign up in 2007 to protest the city’s repeated use of eminent domain to take property from his non-profit, which provides affordable housing for the poor, and give it to a private developer. The city then told Roos’ to take the mural down, claiming it violated its ordinances governing signs. Roos, with the help of the Institute for Justice, sued and won in federal court. The Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear the city’s appeal.

Posted on 02/21/12 06:21 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Contraception Mandate Is Illegal, Too!

The Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate not only tramples religious liberty, it “also violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” write Ed Whelan and David Rivkin (“Birth-Control Mandate: Unconstitutional and Illegal,” Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2012):

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act states that the federal government may "substantially burden" a person's "exercise of religion" only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person "is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest" and "is the least restrictive means of furthering" that interest.

The law also provides that any later statutory override of its protections must be explicit. But there is nothing in the ObamaCare legislation that explicitly or even implicitly overrides the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The birth-control mandate proposed by Health and Human Services is thus illegal.

The refusal, for religious reasons, to provide birth-control coverage is clearly an exercise of religious freedom under the Constitution. The "exercise of religion" extends to performing, or refusing to perform, actions on religious grounds—and it is definitely not confined to religious institutions or acts of worship. Leading Supreme Court cases in this area, for example, involve a worker who refused to work on the Sabbath (Sherbert v. Verner, 1963) and parents who refused to send their teenage children to a public high school (Wisconsin v. Yoder, 1972).

In the high-school case, the Supreme Court found that even a $5 fine on the parents substantially burdened the free exercise of their religion. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers who fail to comply with the birth-control mandate will incur an annual penalty of roughly $2,000 per employee. So it is clearly a substantial burden.

Posted on 02/17/12 12:48 PM by Alex Adrianson

Things to Do

Defend the Constitution edition:

1. Check out the State Policy Network’s new resource for understanding the American system of liberty. We the People is a “series of educational stories about American founding principles, the Constitution, and economic freedom in the form of curriculum, videos, podcasts, and blog posts.” 

2. Take an online course on the Constitution from Hillsdale College. The 10-week course begins February 20 and lets you read the course materials at your leisure. Anybody can sign up, and it’s free.

3. Consider signing the Becket Fund’s petition opposing the new Department of Health and Human Services mandates that trample on religious liberty: Mr. President, I Still Believe.

Posted on 02/17/12 12:33 PM by Alex Adrianson

An Accounting Trick

The Obama administration’s “accommodation” on requiring religious organizations to cover contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in employee health plans is little more than an accounting trick, says a new petition signed by 300 scholars and leaders:

The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services. Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things. […]

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer. It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer. What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.

As the title of the petition indicates, the accommodation is “Unacceptable.”

Posted on 02/17/12 12:10 PM by Alex Adrianson

Now You Need Permission to Practice Your Faith

The religious liberty exemption in the HHS contraception coverage mandate remains extremely narrow. As David Addington notes (“Obama Administration Refuses Again to Protect Religious Liberty,” the Foundry, February 16, 2012), the Obama administration talked a good game on accommodating the freedom of conscience of religious schools and charities, but refused to budge when the final rules were published this past Friday:

[T]he summary of the final rules that [Sebelius] published in the Federal Register could not have been clearer that she changed absolutely nothing: “SUMMARY: These regulations finalize, without change, interim final regulations authorizing the exemption of group health plans and group health insurance coverage sponsored by certain religious employers from having to cover certain preventive health services under provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

The rules trampling on religious liberty are now final and binding and will take effect on April 16, 2012.

Religious organizations have been given an extra year to comply with the rule. But even that minor concession turns faith organizations into supplicants needing government permission to maintain their values, as Addington notes:

[Sebelius’s] memorandum said that employers and group health plans will not, for the next year, “be subject to any enforcement action . . . for failing to cover recommended contraceptive services” if they certify to the government that they are non-profit, do not provide the mandated coverage because of their religious beliefs, and will ensure that their employees covered by their group health plan receive a government-drafted notice that their health plan will not cover contraceptive services during the year.

Secretary Sebelius did not change the rules; she simply said she would choose not to enforce the final rules (a choice she can, of course, reverse at any time).

Posted on 02/17/12 11:42 AM by Alex Adrianson

Needing Contraception Is Not an Insurable Event

You don’t need insurance to obtain contraception or abortion-inducing drugs—a fact that would be plenty obvious if the tax code had not corrupted our sense of what insurance is, explains Sheldon Richman (“Contraception: Insuring the Uninsurable,” The Freeman, February 10, 2012):

Weirdly, some say the [HHS contraception mandate] actually affirms religious freedom. How so? Sens. Barbara Boxer, Jeanne Shaheen, and Patty Murray explained in the Wall Street Journal: “[T]he millions of American women who choose to use contraception should not be forced to follow religious doctrine, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.”

In other words, lack of insurance coverage for contraception is equivalent to being forced not to use contraception. […]

It shouldn’t be necessary to point this out, but coming of child-bearing age and choosing to use contraception is not an insurable event. It’s a volitional act. It may have good consequences for the person taking the action and society at large, but it is still a volitional act. It makes no sense to talk about insuring against the eventuality that a particular person will use contraception. Strictly speaking, contraception has nothing to do with insurance.

Unfortunately, we don’t speak strictly about health insurance. One reason we don’t is the tax code. Since World War II compensation for labor in the form of employment-based health insurance does not count as taxable income. (Money spent independently on health insurance does count.) The tax code thus creates perverse incentives to 1) depend on one’s employer for medical insurance, 2) shift income from liquid cash to restricted insurance benefits, and 3) define uninsurable events as insurable. Would someone care to explain how well-baby care can be insurable? […]

In the medical realm insurance no long means insurance.

Instead it’s a game by which we get other people to pay for stuff.

Posted on 02/16/12 03:52 PM by Alex Adrianson

Detroit Is Indeed a Model City

“In 1950,” writes Jarrett Skorup, “Detroit was the wealthiest city in America on a per capita income basis. Today, the Census Bureau reports that it is the nation’s 2nd poorest major city, just ‘edging out’ Cleveland.”

This was the same city, notes Skorup, that was going to be the Model City of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. And indeed, the city has all the planks of progressive economic policies:

• A “living wage” ordinance, far above the federal minimum wage, for all public employees and private contractors.
• A school system that spends significantly more per pupil than the national average.
• A powerful school employee union that militantly defends the exceptional pay, benefits and job security it has won for its members.
• Other government employee unions that do the same for their members.
• A tax system that aggressively redistributes income from businesses and the wealthy to the poor and to government bureaucracies.

Detroit progressives still win at the ballot box, but progressive policies are losing the votes cast by foot: In the middle of the last century, nearly 2 million people lived in Detroit. Today, just over 700,000 live there, and in the last decade alone, the city lost a staggering quarter million residents. For more on what’s wrong with Detroit, see Skorup’s article “Detroit: The Triumph of Progressive Public Policy,” at Michigan Capital Confidential, February 14, 2012.

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

School Bureaucrats Inspect Kids Lunch Bags

In North Carolina, what parents pack in their child’s lunch is now the state’s business, reports Sara Burrows (“Preschooler’s Homemade Lunch Replaced with Cafeteria ‘Nuggets’,” Carolina Journal, February 14, 2012):

A preschooler at West Hoke Elementary School ate three chicken nuggets for lunch Jan. 30 because a state employee told her the lunch her mother packed was not nutritious.

The girl’s turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to the interpretation of the agent who was inspecting all lunch boxes in her More at Four classroom that day.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs – including in-home day care centers – to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.

When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones.

The girl’s mother – who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation – said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25. […]

“What got me so mad is, number one, don’t tell my kid I’m not packing her lunch box properly,” the girl’s mother told CJ. “[…] She eats vegetables at home because I have to watch her because she doesn’t really care for vegetables.”

Posted on 02/15/12 12:51 PM by Alex Adrianson

Investment that Has to Be Subsidized Is Not Worth Having

The recent sale a solar ranch provides an example of Milton Friedman’s dictum, “Investment that has to be subsidized is investment that’s not worth having.” First Solar, a maker of photovoltaic solar modules, sold its Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 (AVSR1) to Exelon for $75 million, according to a recent SEC filing. The ranch comes with a Department of Energy loan guarantee of $646 million. When you do the math, as David Kreutzer does (“Money Loser + $100 Million Subsidy = Money Maker?” The Foundry, February 13, 2012), the loan guarantee turns out to be more valuable than the company as a whole:

Using a ballpark guess that the loan guarantee would lower the interest rate by two percentage points (say, from 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent), we can calculate the annual savings. For a 20-year loan, that saving is a little under $9 million per year. […] [T]hose savings have a present value of about $100 million—more than the purchase price of the project and the loan guarantee together. […]

To be fair, the $646 million is not likely to be paid all at once on day one. Adjusting for that would lower the value of the guarantee. On the other hand, the interest rate to finance the project without the loan may be higher than 6.5 percent per year, which would raise the value of the guarantee.

In any event, working with round numbers, subtracting the value of the loan guarantee from the purchase price gives a negative number: –$25 million.

It’s as if, says Kreutzer, someone sold a house containing a box with $100,000 in it for less than $100,000. And the taxpayers are the ones who put the box of money in the house.

Posted on 02/13/12 06:13 PM by Alex Adrianson

The Left Is Too Down on Wages

The case for wage stagnation falls apart on closer inspection—Don Boudreaux’s closer inspection:

Posted on 02/10/12 01:59 AM by Alex Adrianson

The Budget Control Act Is Not Much of a Control

Federal discretionary spending for 2012 will exceed the caps in the Budget Control Act by about $156 billion, says the Congressional Budget Office’s latest outlook. Patrick Louis Knudsen breaks it down (“FY 2012 Spending Blows Through Cap, CBO Shows,” The Heritage Foundation, February 8, 2012):

The one defensible exception to the cap, about which Congress was forthright, allows an adjustment for U.S. activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), totaling $127 billion. By their nature, these operations are temporary and funded year by year, with amounts determined by conditions in the theater. […] It is still real spending and should be accounted for, but a spending cap exception for these activities is at least understandable. […]

Two of the more egregious loopholes are for “disaster” funding and certain “program integrity” initiatives, which total about $11 billion in the FY 2012 spending bills.

The roughly $10.5 billion in disaster funds provided in the appropriations bills go toward relief from weather events that have already happened, such as Hurricane Irene and even Hurricane Katrina of six years ago. The legal definition for what qualifies as a disaster comes down to pretty much whatever the President says it is—and the current President has been extravagant about it. […]

[T]he appropriators also employed the zoologically named gimmick known as CHiMPs, short for “changes in mandatory programs.” In this maneuver, appropriators make one-time reductions in entitlement programs—not normally in their jurisdiction—and apply the “savings” to their annual appropriations bills. This allows them to hide higher spending on the discretionary side. […]

In their FY 2012 spending bills, appropriators employed $18 billion worth of CHiMPs, allowing them to spend another $18 billion above the BCA cap. The CHiMP savings are temporary, but the discretionary spending increase is permanent.

Posted on 02/10/12 01:36 AM by Alex Adrianson

Five Things to Do

1. Take a course on the Constitution. Hillsdale College has just published The U.S. Constitution: A Reader. The volume, developed for teaching Hillsdale’s core course on the U.S. Constitution, contains 113 primary source documents along with introductions written by Hillsdale faculty.

2. Observe National Marriage Week (which actually covers eight days: February 7 – 14) by learning some of the many reasons marriage is valuable at FamilyFacts.org or by reading the Family Research Council’s recent paper “162 Reasons to Marry.”

3. Become an executive producer on a film about fracking. All it takes is one dollar donated to Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer’s latest film project, Frack Nation. You can donate to help them finish the film at the Frack Nation kickstarter page.

4. Get trained on market-based approaches to conservation. If you are a mid-career environmental leader who wants to learn more, check out the Enviropreneur Institute, a program run by PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana, June 24 – July 6.

5. Fill out your calendar: The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents, noon, February 13 at The Heritage Foundation; Are Think Tanks Becoming Too Political? noon, February 16 at the Hudson Institute; European Integration: What’s Gong Wrong? noon, February 21 at the Cato Institute; Were the President’s Recess Appointments Constitutional? 1:30 p.m., February 21 at the American Enterprise Institute.

Posted on 02/10/12 12:10 AM by Alex Adrianson

Reasons to Marry

There are at least 162 reasons to make marriage a life goal, according to a new review of the social science literature by Pat Fagan, Anne Dougherty, and Miriam McElvain (“162 Reasons to Marry,” Marriage and Religion Research Institute, February 8, 1012). Here are some:

Men raised in married families have more open, affectionate, and cooperative relationships with the women to whom they are attracted than do those from divorced families. […] Married mothers report more love and intimacy in their romantic/spousal relationships than cohabiting or single mothers. […] Married parents are more encouraging and have higher expectations for their children than always-single parents are, even after adjusting for intelligence and abilities. […] Children from intact married families are most likely to earn mostly As in school. […] Adolescents from intact married families are less like to be suspended, expelled, delinquent, or experience school problems than children from other family structures. […] Men’s productivity increases by 27 percent as a result of marrying. […] Married men are less likely to commit crimes. […] Married men are less likely to murder their partner than cohabiting men are, and married women are less likely to be killed by their spouse than cohabiting women are to be killed by their partner. […] Married men and women have higher survival rates after being diagnosed with cancer. […] Children, teenagers, and adults from married households have lower mortality rates. [Internal citations omitted.]

Posted on 02/09/12 05:28 PM by Alex Adrianson

Yet More Dependence

Dependence on federal government assistance grew 8.1 percent last year, according to The Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Index of Dependence. The index is a weighted measure of the growth of federal government assistance spending in five areas: housing, health care, retirement, higher education, and rural and agricultural services. The index is up 149 percent since 1989. The autopilot growth of entitlements (Medicare and Social Security) accounts for some of the growth in the Index, but policy changes have mattered, too. In the past few years, the federal government started bailing out bad mortgages, took over the operations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, expanded Medicare to cover prescription drugs, and overturned a key element of welfare reform by rewarding state welfare agencies for expanding their welfare rolls.

According to the Index, 67.1 million people now receive some form of government assistance in the five areas of housing, health care, retirement, higher education, and rural and agricultural services. That is the highest level ever, while the percentage of the population receiving this assistance is 21.8 percent, up sharply in recent years and close to the 1994 high of 23.1 percent. The amount of assistance received per person in these programs now exceeds the per capita disposable income in the United States:

Posted on 02/08/12 05:45 PM by Alex Adrianson

Still No Job Growth

“Even with the better news on employment and the unemployment rate, the percentage of the working age population that is actually working is not rising,” writes John Taylor (“Reassessing the Recovery,” Economics One, February 6, 2012). Taylor’s chart below compares the current recovery with that from 1982, which he says is the best standard for judging a recovery from a deep recession:

Posted on 02/07/12 04:52 PM by Alex Adrianson

Many Faiths Push Back Against HHS Mandates on Contraception

Organizations representing a variety of religious denominations have expressed opposition to the Obama administration forcing religious charities to offer their employees health insurance that covers contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. These include, reports David Addington (“Many Faiths Unite in Opposition to Obama Attack on Religious Liberty,” The Foundry, February 6, 2012), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America, and the Agudath Israel of America, which stated:

The Obama Administration had an opportunity to declare that there is a fundamental American value at stake here — religious freedom — and provide strong and unequivocal protections to religious employers. Instead, it took a step backwards by imposing religiously-objectionable mandates on countless religious entities, and by devising a cramped limitation on what “religious groups” are and what their public mission in society should be.

Posted on 02/07/12 03:45 PM by Alex Adrianson

Contraceptive Mandates Threaten Services for the Poor

It’s the poor who are most threatened by the Obama administration’s decision to apply Obamacare’s insurance mandates equally to religious charities. Charities whose faith affiliation precludes providing employees health insurance covering contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs would forgo offering their employees health insurance and then pay a fine. Or they might withdraw services that government could not afford to replace, reports Michael Gerson (“The Poor Pay the Price for Obama’s Politics,” Washington Post, February 7, 2012.):

Ram Cnaan of the University of Pennsylvania has documented the domestic role of “sacred places that serve civic purposes” — homeless shelters, food banks, health care, welfare-to-work, prisoner re-entry programs. Cnaan estimates the “replacement value” — the cost to government agencies of assuming these roles — to be about $140,000 each year for the typical community-serving religious institution.

Take the case of one city: Philadelphia. There are about 2,000 such faith-based institutions, many of them Catholic. Replacing them would require about a quarter of a billion dollars every year. Catholic Social Services helps more than 250,000 people a year in soup kitchens, shelters and centers for the disabled. Its Community-Based Services division runs adoption and foster-care programs, staffs senior community centers and supports immigration services. The Catholic Nutritional Development Services, working in partnership with public agencies, delivers nearly 10 million meals a year — accounting for about half of all meals delivered to poor children in Philadelphia in the summer months when school is out.

Posted on 02/07/12 02:09 PM by Alex Adrianson

Heritage at CPAC this Week

A number of Heritage experts will speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference beginning Thursday in Washington, D.C.

At 9:50 a.m. on Thursday, Matthew Spalding will moderate a panel assessing the future of the conservative movement. Then at 10:45 a.m. he will sign copies of his book We Still Hold These Truths. Spalding will be back at 3:45 p.m. to talk about how to revive civics education.

At 1 p.m., Ron Utt will participate in panel assessing privatization opportunities.

At 1:30 p.m., Becky Norton Dunlop will contribute to an examination of whether Fusionist conservatism is still possible.

On Friday at 9 a.m., Nina Owcharenko will moderate a panel explaining why Obamacare must be repealed.

At 10:15, Lee Edwards will talk on a panel discussing what we can learn from the enduring legacy of William F. Buckley Jr.. Then at 11:30, Edwards will sign copies of his book William Fl. Buckley, Jr.: The Maker of a Movement.

At 2 p.m., Luke Coffey will participate in a discussion on the Thatcher-Reagan legacy in Europe.

At 2:40 p.m., Jim Talent will moderate a panel on threats to U.S. national security.

At 2:50 p.m., Ed Meese III will talk on a panel about President Obama’s transgressions against the Constitution. Meese will then sign copies of The Heritage Guide to the Constitution at 4 p.m.

And on Saturday at 10:15, Hans von Spakovsky will participate in a discussion on whether we should worry about voter fraud in the 2012 elections.

Posted on 02/06/12 06:24 PM by Alex Adrianson

Don’t Forget About Obamacare

Obamacare is still around, even though President Obama isn’t talking about it much. Here are four health care scholars reminding us what’s wrong with it, why we shouldn’t necessarily assume the Supreme Court will strike down the whole law, and what should replace it:

Posted on 02/03/12 02:49 PM by Alex Adrianson

This Summer School Looks Like Fun

For an opportunity to learn more about liberty by dabbling across disciplines, consider applying to the first ever Legatum Summer School. Here’s the program’s description:

The first Legatum Summer School will take place in northern Italy, from 30 July – 5 August, 2012.

The Legatum Summer School seeks to promote a deeper understanding of the role liberty and responsibility play as the basis of prosperity in a changing, increasingly complex world. Through a prism of history, culture, arts, and science, Legatum’s world class faculty will engage participants in a conversation about today’s global economic and political challenges. This year’s week-long programme explores the question: “Why do Civilizations flourish – and fail?”

Summer School faculty includes the best-selling writer and chair of business journalism at Columbia University Sylvia Nasar (author, “A Beautiful Mind”); historian Wang Gungwu of the National University of Singapore; political commentator and Brookings Institution scholar Robert Kagan; renowned curator, art historian and Director of the Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.) Dorothy Kosinski; and neuroscience expert Iain McGilchrist, amongst others.

Legatum is looking for “early to mid-career professionals of accomplishment and promise (up to 40 years of age) who have a proven track record of thinking creatively, locally and globally.” The deadline for applying is Sunday, February 19, 2012.

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

Facebook Provides Lesson on Regulatory Burdens

The prospectus for Facebook’s initial public offering this week is a testament to how the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law hampers economic growth, says John Berlau (“Facebook Filing Blasts Obama-Bush Overregulation of Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank,” OpenMarket.org, February2, 2012). The prospectus warns investors that the “requirements of being a public company may strain our resources and divert management’s attention”:

As a public company, we will be subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (Exchange Act), the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Dodd-Frank Act, … and other applicable securities rules and regulations. Compliance with these rules and regulations will increase our legal and financial compliance costs, make some activities more difficult, time-consuming, or costly, and increase demand on our systems and resources.

These days, points out Berlau, you need to be a big company in order to handle the reporting burdens of going public:

AOL founder Steve Case, a member of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, recently noted in a Washington Post op-ed, “Initial public offerings of less than $50 million were 80 percent of IPOs in the 1990s but just 20 percent in the 2000s.”

But, says Berlau, when a bigger company goes public it’s more likely doing so in order to realize value for existing investors and to make that value liquid, rather than to raise funds for future growth. That’s how Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg characterized his company’s IPO. The result of these regulations, in other words, is that the next Facebook or Google or Home Depot is being snuffed out before it has a chance.

Posted on 02/03/12 01:34 PM by Alex Adrianson

Fill Up Your Calendar

Some upcoming events you might want to take in:

Matt Welch and Jonah Goldberg will debate whether libertarians are part of the conservative movement. Welch v. Goldberg will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8, at the American Enterprise Institute.

Tom Grace will discuss his revelation that novels cannot have overtly conservative protagonists—not if they are to be published by a major imprint, anyway. Grace will be at The Heritage Foundation at noon on Wednesday, February 8 to talk about the reception his sixth novel, The Liberty Intrigue, received from the publishing industry.

Those who’ve done good for the cause of liberty will be recognized at the annual Weyrich Awards Dinner. The dinner, named in honor of conservative organizer par excellence Paul Weyrich, will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 8, at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, authors of Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution, will talk about the resurgence of interest in the constitutional constraints on government, how they started one of the leading groups in Tea Party movement, and where they see the movement headed. Hosted by the Cato Institute, Meckler and Martin will speak at noon on Thursday, February 16 at the Mount Vernon Place, Undercroft Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

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

The People Can Defend Themselves

Ordinary citizens are a lot more competent using guns to defend themselves than proponents of gun control give them credit for. That’s the takeaway from a new Cato Institute analysis of 4,699 news reports of Americans using guns in self defense gathered from 2003 to 2011. And that figure probably understates the number of times guns were used successfully in self defense. “After all, ‘Man Scares away Burglar, No Shots Fired’ is not particularly newsworthy,” note authors Clayton Cramer and David Burnett. 

According to Cramer and Burnett’s tally, in 154 of those stories a woman defended herself, including 25 instances in which a rape was prevented; and in 201 of those stories a senior citizen defended himself. Among the nearly 5,000 stories, Cramer and Burnett identified only five accidental shootings, 210 instances of a defender being shot but not killed, and a further 36 cases of a defender being killed. Perhaps most surprising:

In 227 incidents, a criminal’s gun was taken away from him by the victim. This does not necessarily mean that the vic­tim shot the criminal, but it does mean that the victim successfully disarmed the crimi­nal and then threatened the criminal with it in order to make him leave, or make him remain on the scene until the police could arrive. Often, these were situations where the victim, at the start of the attack, did not have a gun. […]

By comparison, the data set contains only 11 stories out of 4,699 where a criminal took a gun away from a defender […] .

Cramer and Burnett’s report is “Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance from Citizens.”

Posted on 02/03/12 12:04 AM by Alex Adrianson

Health Insurance Premiums Rise Faster After Obamacare

Some recent health insurance data, noted by John Graham of the Pacific Research Institute, tells a story (“If Health Spending Is Increasing Slower, Why Are Premiums Rising Faster,” January 2012). As one might expect when economic growth is slow, private health care spending has not increased as fast lately:

[T]he annual rate of increase in spending by private health insurance was 7.8 percent in 2007. It has dropped by more than two thirds to an annual increase of just 2.4 percent in 2010, according to data analysed by the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

At first, health insurance premiums followed suit. The net cost of health insurance declined by 1.4 percent in 2008 and by 2.2 percent in 2009. Since Obamacare passed in early 2010, however, health insurance premiums and insurance company profits have spiked:

The “net cost of health insurance” jumped by 8.4 percent in 2010 […] . CMS’ analysts conclude that “for the first time in seven years, growth in total private health insurance premiums exceeded growth in total benefits” in 2010. […]

According to an analysis by Bloomberg Government, average operating profit margins for four of the largest insurers (UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Cigna, and Humana) increased to 8.24 percent in the 18 months after the law was signed, versus 6.88 percent in the 18 months before the law was signed.

It’s almost enough to make you think Obamacare isn’t working the way its supporters wanted it to. Didn’t they say the problem with health insurance was greedy insurance companies making too much profit?

Posted on 02/01/12 06:48 PM by Alex Adrianson

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