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InsiderOnline Blog: August 2004

Organic Food Purveyors Can't Be Wrong.

I was wondering why I hadn't seen any pictures of impassioned protest against Health Savings Accounts in New York yet. It must because Whole Foods, the largest seller of organic foods in the nation, offers its employees HSAs, along with the personal responsibility that comes with them.  

Clearly, the protestors can't go after this point too much. They can't fight Whole Foods, lest they lose their guilt-free, vegetarian fuel for protesting other, much bigger problems in the Big Apple. Bad news for the left, but good news for Whole Foods. (subscription required)

Whole Foods Market, a 159-store grocery chain with about 30,000 workers, has had “dramatic” results with its new consumer driven health plan. About 95% of eligible workers are enrolled in the new plan, which has a $1,500 deductible and a savings account to which Whole Foods contributes between $300 and $1,800 each year for employees, depending upon length of service.

Most workers do not pay an insurance premium under the plan, and they can rollover any unspent money in their health account at the end of the year. In 2003, only 10% of Whole Foods employees spent all of the money in their savings accounts. A total of $14 million rolled over to 2004, or about $560 per account. And while national health insurance premiums increased an average of 13.9% from 2002 to 2003, Whole Foods’ overall medical-claims costs fell 13% from the year before and hospital admissions per 1,000 employees fell 22%.

Posted on 08/31/04 05:11 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

The Single-Payer Miracle

Found this quote under the above headline in a newsletter from the Ethan Allen Institute in Vermont.

"The single-payer plan will cut bureacracy, reduce administrative costs, establish a budget, eonforce cost controls, and provide for public scrutiny and accountability. This can be accomplished without creating a new state bureacracy, and without increasing health care spending."

--Cheryl Rivers, 1994

Rivers was a state senator back then and is now running for Lt. Governor. She uses just a few words to explain the magic the market can do when not meddled with. Sounds about right to me.

Posted on 08/31/04 03:45 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Trying TABOR on for Size

The Thomas Jefferson Institute does its fourth annual Fairfax County Budget Analysis and finds (surprise!) that the county government and school board could be using money more wisely. The TJ folks apply a TABOR-like spending restraint of inflation + population growth to the largest county budget in Virginia. They find that over the last four years, the county could have saved more than $300 million, but it's not the county government that's really the culprit. 

"net overspending" has totaled $321,652,852 and the total overspending by the county during this period was only 16.8 percent of the total, or $54,125,080, while the school system accounted for 83.2 percent, or $267,527,772.

The study also offers tips for what could be done with saved money, such as raising teacher pay or funding school infrastructure needs without raising taxes. Let's just hope the Fairfax School Board members have no math-teaching aspirations.

Check here to find out what a decade of state-wide TABOR has brought the people of Colorado. The answer starts with "lots of" and ends with "their own money." The Heritage Foundation's Brian Riedl explains how a federal TABOR could bring all of us the same.

Posted on 08/31/04 11:01 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Get Rich Quick. Get Married!

The National Center for Policy Analysis has more criticism of the Census Bureau's income distribution numbers, released last week. The NCPA also points out what it takes to get into the top fifth of "rich" Americans-- $86,867.

According to the Census Bureau, the median earnings for a male working full time last year was $40,668 and those for females was $30,724, for a combined income of $71,393.

In short, all it takes to be relatively well-to-do in America today is to work full time and be married to someone else who also works full time.


Posted on 08/30/04 11:49 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Hurricane Economics

Turns out they're just like free-market economics in any other situation. Unfortunately, many, many people don't understand that, and run around calling the people selling ice and generators to Floridians "price-gougers" and "profiteers." Here's Jeff Jacoby's lesson on the storm of market efficiency that hit Florida right after Charley.

Imagine a system that could instantly respond to a calamity like Hurricane Charley by mobilizing suppliers to speed urgently needed resources to the victims. Imagine that such a system could quickly attract the out-of-town manpower needed for cleanup and repairs, while seeing to it that existing supplies were neither recklessly squandered nor hoarded. Imagine that it could prompt thousands of men and women to act in the public interest, yet not force anyone to do anything against his will.

Actually, there's no need to imagine. The system already exists.

Hat tip, Hit & Run.


Posted on 08/27/04 11:46 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Actual Research in the NYT

After the New York Times gave plenty of coverage to the American Federation of Teachers' pick-on-charter-schools study last week, a group of researchers placed an ad in the paper pointing out the AFT's and NYT's research shortcomings. An excerpt from the ad:

The news media has an obligation to assess carefully any research sponsored by interest groups engaged in policy debates. Such studies need to be vetted by independent scholars, as is commonly done in coverage of research on the biological and physical sciences.

Ouch. The ad was signed by 29 researchers from universities all over the nation, one Manhattan Institute scholar and one Brookings scholar. The group can hardly be called part of the vast right-wing conspiracy. Between these guys and Policy Weblog, we have hope for the media, right? Right?

Posted on 08/27/04 11:01 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Heritage Policy Weblog or Journalism School?

The Heritage Foundation's Policy Weblog continues its noble quest to teach reporters how to report, here, laying out all a journalist ever needed to know about reading the Census Bureau poverty figures. 

The bottom line: The poor aren't getting that much poorer, the rich aren't getting that much richer, and "poverty" may not be exactly what you think it is. March on, Policy Weblog, your quest is far from over!


Posted on 08/26/04 02:43 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Federal Court Buries Free Market

A federal court in Oklahoma declared this week that economic protectionism is a “legitimate state interest.” The case involves a group of entrepreneurs who want to sell caskets in Oklahoma, but can’t because of a state law that says they must be funeral directors in order to sell them. The law blocks competition and allows funeral directors to inflate prices.

An excerpt from the ruling, which even drops the pretense of consumer protection:

"While baseball may by the national pastime of the citizenry, dishing out special economic benefits to certain in-state interests remains the favored pastime of state and local governments. While this case does not directly challenge the ability of states to provide business-specific economic incentives, adopting a rule against the legitimacy of intrastate economic protectionism and applying it in a principled manner would have wide-ranging consequences."

Consequences like... economic freedom, market efficiency, cheaper caskets, the list goes on. My gosh, people go to law school to learn to write stuff like this?Luckily, a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision struck down a nearly identical Tennessee law as unconstitutional economic protectionism. Similar laws in Georgia and Mississippi have also been struck down, so there's hope for Oklahomans. IJ plans to keep fighting.

In the meantime, this ruling provides a rare glimpse into a federal judge's mind-- a place where protecting groups of businesses from fair competition and ripping off the good folks of Oklahoma is just as legitimate and benign a pastime as enjoying a baseball game and a hotdog. Perhaps he took a pitch to the head?

Posted on 08/26/04 11:56 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Which Health Care Plan Will Make You Sick?

The Council for Affordable Health Insurance released a study today, which compares the Kerry and Bush health care proposals. Some conclusions:

President Bush — whose plan is estimated to cost about $90 billion over 10 years — supports reforms that would energize the private health care system, lead to more people having access to affordable health insurance and reduce the number of uninsured. But some of his other proposals would expand government programs, which already account for about 50 cents of every health care dollar spent in the U.S. — and that’s before the new Medicare drug benefit goes into effect in 2006.

Sen. Kerry’s proposal — estimated at $653 billion over 10 years (down from an original estimate of more than $900 billion), which he says he can pay for by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year— would, generally speaking, take the opposite approach. Part of his plan would expand heavily regulated private, employer-provided coverage under the FEHBP, and it would also open the door to even more government involvement in the health care system. More importantly, he supports eliminating the recently passed Health Savings Accounts, imposing price controls on prescription drugs, importing drugs from other countries and expanding the new Medicare legislation, making it even more expensive that it already is — and it’s already projected to cost more than half a trillion dollars over 10 years.

This is good stuff for those interested in the future of health care policy and those who weren't even sure either candidate had any plans.


Posted on 08/25/04 04:52 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Preaching With Impunity

Many politically-minded preachers are puzzled about what they can preach in the pulpit (alliteration alert!). Americans for Tax Reform has collected guidelines from several organizations-- American Center for Law and Justice, Priests for Life. The basic can-dos:

As a private individual, a minister, priest, rabbi, imam may exercise any and all of the political rights that we all possess. It must be made clear, however, that the minister is acting exclusively in a private capacity and not on behalf of the church, synagogue, mosque or with the implicit authority of the church. Even with disclaimers, a minister should not give his or her views from the pulpit.

A minister, priest, rabbi, imam, e.g . may acknowledge the presence of a political candidate at church services and/or allow the candidate to speak, provided that equal opportunity is provided to all candidates and there is no solicitation by the candidate or anyone else of financial or political support. 

A church, synagogue, mosque, e.g . may sponsor and a minister, priest, rabbi, imam may be involved with political debates, political forums, voter guides, voter registration and get-out-the vote drives, provided that there is no explicit or implicit bias for or against any candidate or party. No explicit endorsement or party symbols can be used in these activities. (Ex. Republicans for Life is prohibited, but Citizens for the Protection of Life is permitted).

The Rutherford Institute also has a guide posted.



Posted on 08/25/04 02:00 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Low-Income, High-Performance

The two can and do go together in Maryland schools, according to "Getting Results", a book being released tomorrow by the Maryland Public Policy Institute. From an MPPI press release:

Says (author Megan) Farnsworth: “The success of the schools highlighted in this study show that poverty is not educational destiny—schools serving poorer students can do great things. It is hoped that this report will provide ideas and inspiration to parents, educators, activists, and political leaders seeking ways to improve student learning.”

"Getting Results" profiles 12 elementary schools in urban, rural, and suburban areas of Maryland. These schools prove that low-income students can perform as well as, and sometimes better than, schools with wealthier populations. These schools performed in the top third of schools statewide in at least one grade level of the state standardized test.

The schools in this study share many positive strategies, such as staff collaboration, parentteacher partnerships, varied instructional techniques, benchmark assessments, test-driven instruction, and strong administrative leadership. "Getting Results" calls for an increased focus on math and reading skills, along with higher expectations for students and teachers.

Farnsworth is an independent education consultant, a former elementary school teacher and a Heritage Foundation alumna.


Posted on 08/24/04 04:36 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

There is No Government Tooth Fairy

Walter Williams offers a helpful economics lesson, as usual. This definitely goes under the category of things I never learned during my public school career. Thank goodness for Walter.

Posted on 08/24/04 02:21 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Attack of the Diversity Clause! Part II

Just got an update from the Rutherford Institute today. Rutherford is fighting for freedom and winning, but you'd be amazed the kind of battles they even have to fight.

  • A Christian AT&T employee fired because he refused to sign a diversity clause, which required him to accept and condone homosexuality. Rutherford won him back pay and 401(k) contributions, but the fight took three years to win.
  • The Young Men's Christian Association revokes a young Christian man's gym membership because he was talking to other members about Christianity. A phone call to the Y from Rutherford lawyers solved that problem quickly.
  • A Fort Lewis College student was invited to display his photographs with captions, but when the photographs were displayed, one caption was missing-- the one from the book of Ephesians in the New Testament of the Bible. He was told to avoid references to God in the future until Rutherford informed the school of the student's rights.
  • A Nevada movie theater refused to run ads before movies for local churches and religious groups unless they removed the word "Christian" from their messages. Rutherford contacted the theater, and the policy has been changed.

Rutherford also offers a study on 10 years of religious discrimination in the American workplace.

Posted on 08/24/04 01:32 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Strike Two for Religious Liberty at UNC

For the second time in as many years, the University of North Carolina will not recognize a student group because it restricts its membership to Christian students. Alpha Iota Omega Christian fraternity lost its access to campus facilities, its Web access and account in August after refusing to sign an agreement which would have prohibited it from using religious affiliation as a criterion for membership. Two years ago, the university derecognized (apparently, this is a UNC term) another Christian group, InterVarsity.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is holding the university chancellor's feet to the fire just as it did in 2002. Their Web site has plenty of links, including one to the chancellor's ridiculous letter, which includes this tidbit:

Baptist student groups are open to Presbyterians, Jewish student groups are open to Christian students, the Italian club is open to Korean students; and the Black Student Movement is open to white students.

FIRE won last time. UNC's also up against the John Locke Foundation, which notes that the school is having a hard time finding someone to defend its actions. Even a local, liberal columnist is against them. The gig is up Tarheels; put your hands in the air and step away from the diversity clause.

Posted on 08/23/04 04:02 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Charter This!

The American Federation of Teachers made a splash in the NYT last week, releasing a study that purportedly showed the underperformance of charter schools. The Commonwealth Foundation takes the AFT to task in a commentary:

As in so many matters of education policy, the AFT release is one part meat, and three parts bologna. The meat is that charter school test scores usually do fall below traditional district school test scores, even after controlling for some student characteristics...

But do low scores mean that charters provide children with a lesser education than do traditional district schools? Hardly. Quite simply, parents whose kids are doing great in traditional district schools rarely choose charters. Instead, charters educate children—many with special needs—who were floundering in traditional public schools.

The Center for Education Reform has its own rebuttal, which includes state figures and other studies from non-teacher union sources. So why is a teacher's union running down charter schools that are serving a challenging population of kids well? Robert Maranto of Commonweath:

As in so many aspects of public policy, to understand why traditional district employees and labor unions so hate charter schools, you have to remember that education policy is all about the grownups, not the children.



Posted on 08/23/04 02:20 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Gunning for a Gun Ban

The Federalist Patriot has some thoughts on controlling gun control. The Clinton-era "assault weapons ban" is nearing its sunset date-- Sept. 13. But there are six bills pending in Congress and many backers anxious to get it renewed.

Dianne Feinstein, co-sponsor of the original bill and one of its modern counterparts, had this to say about gun rights in 1994: "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate...for an outright ban, picking up every one of them -- Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in -- I would have done it!"

Ouch. I guess if Dianne gets her way, we'll all just have to hope our robberies go as smoothly as this man's did Thursday in Northern Virginia: Cell Phone Foils Robbery (page 3, sorry no permalink).

An attempted robbery came to an abrupt end Thursday night when a 69-year-old man– when confronted by four strangers – pulled out a cell phone, Alexandria police said.

Arm yourselves citizens, with polyphonic ringtones and really bad reception. These are the crime-fighting tools of Feinstein's world. Good luck! Check here for AEI's documentation of the real results of gun control. 

UPDATE: Dave Kopel at NRO on how more guns could have meant less death in Darfur.

Posted on 08/23/04 01:33 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Answering All Your Questions About Marriage...

...Except maybe "when are you going to mow the lawn?" The Heritage Foundation has a new site set up with all you need to know about the marriage debate. It's an expansion of the very helpful, "Marriage in the 50 States," which offers a frequently updated run-down of where the marriage debate is in every single state.

Posted on 08/20/04 11:51 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Rarer than Footage of Bigfoot

The Liberty Film Festival will document a little-known creature-- the conserative filmmaker. Set for Oct. 1-3 in Hollywood, the festival will show films by established and up-and-coming directors on patriotic and conservative themes. The festival’s slogan is great:

The Liberty Film Festival: America’s First Conservative Film Festival, Right Before the Election, Right in the Heart of Hollywood, and There’s Nothing Michael Moore Can Do About It

You can watch trailers of "Michael Moore Hates America" and conservative short films on the site. And if you need reasons to get behind an idea like this, the festival folks provide 15... like "The Manchurian Candidate," "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Hunting the President," and the list goes on.

Posted on 08/19/04 12:08 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Tax Foundation Proves Tax-Cut-Haters Wrong Again

Another Tax Foundation study undercuts the assertion of most of the media this week that the Bush tax cuts only benefited the rich. The new study shows that the Bush tax cuts actually wiped out income tax liability for 7.8 million Americans, bringing to 44 million the number of Americans not paying any income tax. So, who are these people? They’re predominantly low- to middle-income families, young dual-income couples with children, and they’re concentrated in construction and manufacturing jobs, said Tax Foundation President Scott Hodge Wednesday. 

Hodge also pointed out that since the CBO report came out, media and Dems have changed the discussion from one of income tax burden to total federal tax burden. If tax-cut opponents are so concerned about the total federal tax burden, maybe we should look into reforming Social Security? Somehow, I don't think that's the object of all their squawking.

Posted on 08/19/04 11:11 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

It's a Crime!

A quick case from

On April 3, 2002, Kay Leibrand surrendered to the police. She was fingerprinted. They took her mug shots. The 61-year old grandmother and software engineer was told that she had broken the law. She might go to jail or perhaps she would get off with just a fine. On May 30, 2002, she was arraigned. Her crime was allowing street-side xylosma bushes to grow more than two feet high.

Leibrand, who eventually cut her hedge to stumps and was threatened with major fines and jail time, is the victim of overcriminalization. As described in the full case study, "Palo Alto successfully attacked one of its own citizens with a criminal statute about plant size."

Read the full case study here. Very little legal jargon, we promise!

Kay Leibrand's case is emblematic of over-criminalization, which is when formerly civil matters are brought into the criminal realm in ways that break the bounds of the traditional limits of criminality. While criminal acts once required both a bad intent and a harmful act, today many Americans are charged as criminals though they've done nothing that fits the common-sense, traditional view of criminality.

Overcriminalization creates a huge burden on the criminal justice system, the limited resources of which could be better used to fight crime as it is traditionally understood. Overcriminalization leads to legal confusion, selective enforcement, and unfair prosecutions. It dangles massive and disproportionate penalties over the heads of citizens who are honest and otherwise law-abiding.

Zero-tolerance laws in schools, the prosecution of honest and successful businessmen and women, and criminal cases against doctors who may have made billing errors are all examples of the burden that overcriminaliation puts on those whose behavior is not criminal, as the term is commonly understood.

For more case studies, court cases, and commentary, visit Heritage's

Posted on 08/18/04 09:16 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Help Stop Hate Crimes Against Tax Cuts

Here's another antidote for all the tax-cut-hating going on these days. The Joint Economic Committee explains how tax cuts make the U.S. more competitive when up against other advanced nations-- Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom. 

Capital investment is highly mobile; it tends to flow to places where it is most lightly taxed. Accumulation of capital tends to raise productivity and increase living standards and wages. From a tax standpoint, the United States is now more attractive than it was several years ago as a destination for capital.

Overall, the United States is at or near the top among the large advanced economies in terms of how favorable its tax climate is for economic growth.

Moreover, tax relief begins accruing at incomes as low at $10,750, although the dollar amount of the taxes saved is lower because people at those levels of income pay few dollars in taxes than people at higher levels.

Posted on 08/17/04 01:39 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

A Study for Every Story

The Washington Post makes quite a mess in just few paragraphs on the front page of the Express commuter paper today.

Over two decades, the income gap has steadily increased between the richest Americans, who own homes and stocks and got big tax breaks, and those at the middle and bottom of the pay scale, whose paychecks buy less, government data shows.

No word on which government data shows this; perhaps it was speaking on condition on anonymity.

The growing disparity is even more pronounced in this recovering economy. Wages are stagnant and the middle class is shouldering a larger tax burden.

Are they really? Not according to The Myth of Stagnant Wages, which says "there is substantial evidence that the recovery is producing middle- and upper-income jobs." As for "the middle class is shouldering a larger tax burden," I can only guess that comes from the media's willfull misreading of the CBO report, which Policy Weblog breaks down, here.

Prices for health care, housing, tuition, gas and food have soared.

So what makes health care prices, housing prices, tuition, and gas prices rise? Government meddling, meddling, meddling, meddling. As for food, I can still get a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy's for 99 cents, so I have no complaints. I also should point out that the Post rebuts itself, here. But back to the Express...

More than a million jobs have been added back to the 2.6 million lost since President Bush took office, but they pay less and offer fewer benefits, such as health insurance.

Tim Kane and the American workforce must not have gotten the memo, because according to "How Good Are the New Jobs":

  • Average real earnings for "production and nonsupervisory" workers are 2.4 percent higher today than in January 2001.
  • The vast majority of U.S. jobs are in service sectors (83.3 percent), and most future growth will be in the health, education, retail, and technology subsectors.
  • There will be zero growth in "burger-flipper jobs" relative to the overall labor force, according to U.S. Department of Labor projections for 2002-2012.

It's a good thing the Express doesn't attempt stories much longer than this five-paragraph piece of work, because my database is tired.


Posted on 08/17/04 11:25 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

When Life Hands You Health Inspectors...

...make lemonade. Well, there's nothing like ridiculous regulations and overzealous government officials for squelching the entrepreneurial spirit. Luckily, two young businesswomen in St. Louis wouldn't stand for it.

Two seventh graders are back in business after the city's health commissioner apologized because their lemonade stand had been shut down.

Mim Murray, 10, and Marisa Miller-Stockie, 12, have sold lemonade together for three summers, hoping to save enough for laptop computers before school starts.

But on Tuesday, the girls said, a Health Department inspector told them they didn't have the proper business licenses and were selling unsafe ice cubes. The girls were using powdered lemonade mix with ice cubes bought from a store.

After a call to the local TV station and a whole lot of publicity, the girls got an apology from the health inspector and $112 in business on their reopening day. For more on ridiculous regulations, this study shows how small businessmen in Seattle must adhere to 100,000 regulations and this Cato study is an annual snapshot of the federal regulatory monster.

Posted on 08/16/04 10:01 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

More Scary Kerry Spending Estimates

AEI expands on a National Taxpayers Union study, which predicted $226 billion in new spending in Kerry's first year. AEI takes us 10 years and $2 trillion into the future of Kerry policy:

The Kerry proposals would, if enacted into law, add about $1.7 trillion in new government spending over ten years. More than half of this additional spending is attributable to Kerry’s health care proposalsm, which would add more than $900 billion in federal outlays. Education expenditure accounts for nearly one quarter of Kerry’s new spending, with almost $500 billion added over ten years.

A $400 billion expansion of military personnel and benefits for veterans comprises most of the remainder of Kerry’s spending plans, with the balance distributed among numerous social programs and increases in international aid.

Posted on 08/13/04 02:52 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Those Rascally Payrolls

Now that we've all had some time to take a couple deep breaths, and the Fed has assured us that the economy is in good shape, what the heck happened with the jobs numbers last week? Turns out the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the same agency that gave us the 32,000 figure, released a study the same day, which examines inaccuracies in the payroll survey and its sometimes huge divergence from the household survey.

Because CES (payroll survey) is a count of jobs not workers, if workers change jobs within the payroll survey reference period, both jobs are counted. Because CPS (household survey) is a count of persons, this phenomenon does not affect that survey’s estimates... the CES grew faster than the CPS during the rapid expansion period of the mid-to- late 1990s, and the CES has shown slower growth than the CPS since the last official business cycle peak in March 2001. If job changer rates increase during expansionary periods and decline during recessionary and slow growth times, the job changer effect may explain some of the apparently cyclical nature of CES and CPS divergences.

Hmmm, seems like I've heard that somewhere before. In the words of Heritage's own Tim Kane:

  • The payroll survey double-counts many workers who change jobs and is now artificially deflated because job turnover is down. Decelerating turnover in 2002-2003 explains up to 1 million jobs artificially "lost" in the payroll survey since 2001.
  • The BLS household survey indicates record high employment. The disparity of 3 million jobs (in employment growth) between the household and payroll surveys since the recovery began is unprecedented.
  • The disparity between the two BLS surveys of total employment is cyclical. The disparity widens during recessions and narrows during periods of rapid growth in gross domestic product (GDP). Such variation strongly suggests a statistical bias in one of the surveys.
  • Payroll survey data are always preliminary. Past revisions have regularly shown the initial estimates to be off by millions of jobs. For example, initial estimates of job losses in 1992 were revised in 1993, 1994, and 1995 and now show net job creation.
  • The payroll survey does not count the surge in self-employment. The household survey has recorded a surge of 650,000 self-employed workers. This number may be even higher if modern workers in limited liability companies and in consulting positions with traditional firms are not identifying themselves as self-employed.

Both are great studies to be armed with when future employment numbers come out. More from Kane on payrolls, here.

Posted on 08/13/04 10:25 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Club for Growth Liberal?

Apparently that's an allegation tossed out in the Republican primary for the 10th Congressional District in my home state of North Carolina. The Club for Growth, not surprisingly, doesn't feel the need to offer a rebuttal, just a bemused blog post.

The race is a battle between Catawba Sheriff David Huffman and state representative Patrick McHenry, whom Club for Growth is backing. You can decide for yourself about the Club for Growth's philosophical leanings.

Posted on 08/12/04 02:22 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Discounts on Drugs Should Be an Easy Sell

The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new study out, which gives some figures for how much seniors can save using various Medicare discount drug cards. The results below are based on weekly pricing from May to June of this year on 10 drugs commonly prescribed to Medicare recipients.

The results of our pricing analysis are consistent with what card program proponents have said: at least some cards do provide savings when compared with the retail prices paid by cash customers...

A Medicare beneficiary purchasing at retail one of the 10 drugs sampled would save between 8% and 61% for a drug, with the precise level of savings dependent on the specific drug, card program, and location of the pharmacy.

Savings on brand products were less in terms of percentages than generics but more in actual dollars. For example, the highest percentages in savings – 61% and 89% -- were for a generic, furosemide, which retails in urban Maryland at $9.04 to $10.89 for a 30-day supply.

Using mail order provides significantly greater savings for the sample of drugs over the Maryland Attorney General's reported prices, providing savings of 23% to 89%, again depending on the product, the card program, and location, although most cards require the purchase of a 90-day supply rather than a 30-day supply.

Another Kaiser study analyzes seniors' perceptions of the discount card and the new Medicare law in general. Also a Heritage look at the discount card-- perhaps the first step toward a market revolution?

Posted on 08/12/04 12:18 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Good News From Good Lawyers. No, Really.

I got updates from several public interest law firms this week, who've racked up some big victories in the last month. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation won $105,000 in back pay for strawberry pickers illegally fired for not joining the United Farm Workers union.

The Washington Legal Foundation is after the plaintiff's lawyer in a product liability case brought against Bayer over its cholesterol drug Baycol. It seems the lawyer admitted to the Wall Street Journal that he was giving the press negative information about Bayer in order to depress Bayer stock and force a settlement.

"I was feeding a lot of [negative] information to European and U.S. papers . . . . It was part of my strategy to affect the stock price, which I was very successful at."

Now, WLF is pressing for an SEC investigation.

The Center for Individual Rights won a partial victory in settlement talks over a discrimination complaint against the New York school system. CIR opposed the settlement on behalf of non-minority school employees. And, of course, Institute for Justice and others contributed to the big Poletown win in Michigan, which could cut back on abuse of eminent domain in a big way all over the nation.

For more on just about the only good lawsuit news you'll hear, check the legal action section of, which is updated with victories like these regularly. 

Posted on 08/11/04 12:55 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

You Can't Spell That On Television!

The John Locke Foundation blog shows how the politically-correct police have invaded good, wholesome, formerly-free game of Scrabble. 

Posted on 08/09/04 02:06 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

If You Build Them, They Will Come.

Jay P. Greene of the Manhattan Institute reports that allowing charter schools to flourish helps with overcrowding in all of Florida's public schools. Greene explains the simple math behind this concept:

In 1993-1994 there were 2,867 schools serving 2,041,714 students for an average school size of 712 students. By 1998-1999 the state had opened 312 additional public schools for a total of 3,179 schools, but the number of students grew at an even faster rate to a total of 2,336,793, or 735 students per school.

Since 1998, however, the average number of students per school in Florida has actually been declining, reaching 685 students per school last year — that's even lower than it was a decade ago...

The quicker pace is primarily explained by the large expansion of charter schools in recent years. Of the "extra" 304 schools brought online in the last five years, 231 were charter schools. Before 1998, the state had only a handful of charter schools.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute took notice of Greene's article in its weekly E-bulletin, calling it a "lesson for Nevada." Perhaps charter schools could help with the problem NPRI discusses in a recent paper, "Nevada Public School Performance: Parents and Employers Give a Failing Grade." More research here and here on charter schools from the Center for Education Reform.



Posted on 08/09/04 11:51 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

University of Colorado Class: No Whites Allowed

Big win for the Independence Institute in Colorado this week. The University of Colorado had designated one section of a course called "School and Society" for minorities and first-generation college students only, but they backed off that plan in the face of a complaint from the CU College Republicans and the threat of a lawsuit from Independence and three students.

On Tuesday, Lorrie Shepard, dean of the School of Education, issued a "clarification" regarding registration guidelines for the class. Shepard said an e-mail sent last week had incorrectly stated that one section was "restricted" to minorities...

CU spokeswoman Pauline Hale said the class was never intended to preclude white students from enrolling in the minority section, which is taught on Fridays. The section was created to create "a critical mass of students of color and first-generation students," Hale said.

"It's still a special section for that purpose," she added. "But if white students go through the process (of applying for that section), they would not be turned away."

Oops, what we meant to say is white students aren't restricted, per se, merely discouraged, in the interest of helping those students who, "said they felt uncomfortable when the subject of race came up and they were the only minority in the class."

More on this from the Denver Post and Independence. Right about here is where "diversity" becomes just plain disgusting.

Posted on 08/06/04 03:44 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Government-Regulated Football?

Soccer for us here in America. The Bruges Group in London points out an interesting clause in the EU Constitution, which could very well have government sticking its hands in the game of soccer. The clause in question:

The Union shall contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues, given the social and educational function of sport. --Article III-182

Yuck, I have a feeling contribute means control. A state-aid probe is already underway by the European Commission into the financial affairs of football teams in Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the UK.

I guess if the trend continues, Europe can look forward to much slower soccer players costing much more money and a run at the Inefficiency Cup 2008. Not quite the same ring as World Cup.

Posted on 08/06/04 12:35 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Putting the "Doh" in Eminent Domain

Some good news on the public interest law front. From an Institute for Justice press release, July 31:

In a case with nationwide implications to halt the abuse of eminent domain, the Michigan Supreme Court ... reversed its infamous Poletown decision, which had allowed the condemnation of private property for so-called 'economic development.' In a unanimous decision in County of Wayne v. Hathcock ... the Court decisively rejected the notion that 'a private entity's pursuit of profit was a public use for constitutional takings purposes simply because one entity's profit maximization contributed to the health of the general economy.'

The 1981 Poletown decision allowed for an entire neighborhood (1,000 homes and 600 businesses) to be bulldozed to make way for a GM plant, which would yield more jobs and taxes. Poletown was intended to be the exception because the GM plant was to have such a huge economic impact on the community, but it became the rule in every state, encouraging businessowners and local government to simply overstate the economic impact of a project in order to get their hands on other people's property.

"The Poletown decision gave cities the green light to take property for private parties," said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice. "It was a terrible mistake. Now, the Michigan Supreme Court has restored the rights of all Michiganders to keep their homes and businesses, even if another, politically connected private business wants them. This is a great day for property rights nationwide."

IJ, The Mackinac Center and the Pacific Legal Foundation all filed friend of the court briefs in the case. PLF's announcement is in our legal action section, here, Mackinac's take is here.

Posted on 08/06/04 11:19 AM by Mary Katherine Ham

Georgia Secedes From the "Two Americas"

My alma mater, the good ol' University of Georgia, has put out a new study on minority buying power in the state. Turns out minorities in Georgia are not stuck in one of John Edwards' "two Americas," working hard but never getting a taste of a better life.

The report measures buying power, or a person's total income available to spend on goods and services after taxes, and shows a more than doubling of that money among the state's blacks, Hispanics, Asians and American Indians since the center first began looking at the information in 1990.

In the Athens metro area, the buying power for blacks has increased 145 percent since the study started, reaching $543 million this year. The Hispanic community in the area has seen its disposable income skyrocket by 720 percent to $168 million.

Turns out, they're living in what I like to call the "real America," where,

The overall expansion during the years has influenced the growth in minority buying power, said Jeff Humphreys, director of the Selig Center.

"That's also created opportunity for those who didn't have, for example, inherited wealth, that weren't already part of the haves," he said. "Some of it is just closing the gap as far as per capita income."

Read the study here.

Posted on 08/05/04 03:20 PM by Mary Katherine Ham


There's a new study from the Tax Foundation, which finds that most of the top 1 percent of earners we hear so much about are businessmen and entrepreneurs, not just a crowd of Scrooge McDucks diving in their bullion-filled swimming pools. From the Tax Foundation's press release:

Business income could amount to as much as 65 percent of all the income earned by the top one percent of earners ($317,000 and up in 2004). The report concludes that 55 percent of all income taxes in 2004 will be paid by business owners. High-income business owners ($200,000 or more) will pay most of that ? 37.4 percent of all income taxes.

Why so much business income on personal returns?

The rapid increase in business income reported on individual tax returns can be traced to laws that have persuaded businesses to organize themselves as S-Corporations, Limited Liability Corporations, sole proprietorships and partnerships, instead of as regular C-Corporations that report their profits to the IRS on corporate income tax returns. Many regular C-Corporations have even jumped through the administrative hoops necessary to convert to S-Corporations. These firms are mostly small businesses, and they report their profits on the individual tax returns of the business owners. As a result, tax cuts not only help them personally but enable their businesses to grow. (emphasis mine)

Posted on 08/05/04 02:41 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

"Fat Tax" Rears Its Chubby Head

This doesn't look promising for the freedoms and wallets of Maine citizens. A brilliant idea from the Commission to Study Public Health:

The most controversial aspect of a commission subcommittee proposal took the form of a $4-per-gallon tax on every gallon of carbonated beverage syrup or its equivalent sold in the state for the purposes of raising $12 million. The beverage tax amounts to about 4 cents per 12-ounce container. The money would be used to coordinate school health programs; institute annual Body Mass Index assessments for students in grades kindergarten, one, three, seven, and nine; fund media campaigns promoting healthful diets and physical fitness; and increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in schools.

The idea, thank goodness, sparked some opposition from politicians, so the Commission has backed off a little, handing the decision on where to get more money for these healthy programs over to the legislature to decide. Of course, there is always the distinct possibility that the state legislators will think the recommendations don't go far enough. After all, look at all the problems they'd have to fix to stop the trend:

Public health officials cite a combination of factors, including more sedentary lifestyles, more "screen time" in front of televisions and computers, an increase in the number of times per week that people eat meals outside the home, the "supersize" phenomenon in restaurant portions, and a culture that is more likely to accept its increased girth.

Clearly, there's a need for taxing couch-sitting-time, screens of all kinds, eating out, and Biggie combos. Changing the "culture that is more likely to accept its increased girth" will be harder, but Maine can start by identifying people who love overweight spouses and relatives as a threat to public health. Strange, wasn't it just a few episodes of Oprah ago that we weren't loving or accepting overweight people enough? Now, our tolerance is just contributing to the problem! Oh, tolerance is so confusing!

Perhaps my favorite part of this article is when a member of the public health commission recognizes that the market is actually offering healthy alternatives to soft drinks without government help but alas, it's just not working as efficiently as the government would in solving the problem. Ain't that always the way it goes?

"Consumption levels have more than doubled in the last 20 years and marketing has pretty much targeted kids, and even with changes going on in the industry, the fact is that kids consume way too much," he said. "So attacks on those beverages are not unrealistic."

Look out for this kind of talk to gain and gain since the federal government decided obesity is a disease, setting the stage for many, many fat lawsuit settlements. Reason magazine addresses the trend in its latest issue, in "Is the Size of Your Butt the Government's Business?" and the Washington Legal Foundation put out this paper in July on how the fat wars will infringe on your freedoms.

Posted on 08/05/04 01:47 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Subway's "Fat Americans" Campaign Torpedoed

A couple coalition members mobilized this week, putting Subway in their crosshairs. The result? German Subway franchises dropped tray-liners featuring an ad for Morgan Spurlock’s Mc-Expose “Super-Size Me,” bolstered by a quote from Michael Moore and a picture of a corpulent Lady Liberty.

The Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom mobilized public opposition to the tray-liners, which promoted Morgan Spurlock's film, "Super Size Me." The film shows how Spurlock gained weight by gorging himself at McDonald's for 30 days straight. (Subway bills itself as a healthy alternative to McDonalds.)

Last week, the Center sent an "action alert" to thousands of people across the country, urging them to call Subway and demand that the company put an end to the America-bashing ad campaign overseas.

The Michael Moore quote on the tray-liner in question: “The only time I have been scared for my life has been going through a McDonald’s drive-thru.”

Clearly, Michael Moore is a brave, brave, brave man, withstanding several such harrowing trips per day. Frontiers of Freedom was also involved in the attack on German Subways. But the best news is all of us conservative Capitol Hill folks can go back to eating at the nearby Subway, one of few fast-food options on the Hill, probably thanks to the scare tactics of food police like Spurlock and Moore.

For the conservative anti-Spurlock, read Soso Whaley's Debunk the Junk, a diary of her McDonald's-eating adventure, during which she lost 18 pounds in two months by making smart choices with the McDonald's menu. She's working on a movie herself. I wonder if they'll serve fries at the theater. If so, I'm sure the heroic Moore will be there, selflessly throwing his mouth in between moviegoers and the food that could hurt them.

Posted on 08/03/04 03:11 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

De-Acronyming the Left!

Confused about HSAs? Of all the acronymns floating around in public policy (AFL/CIO, ACLU, EPA, oh my!), HSA (Health Savings Accounts) is one of the most promising for conservatives. The HSA Coalition, a group of many free-market groups we know and love, has a great site for just about anything you need to know about the newest trendy acronym. It offers a basic lesson on HSAs, Q&A, an HSA provider locator, news on the subject, and "Ask an Expert," if the site doesn't quite do it for you. 

This combined with ATR's work toward lowering taxes shows a shocking trend toward American citizens being in charge of their own money. Whatever will The State think? We're defunding the Left and de-acronyming them as well. More on HSAs here and here. Search the site for other favorite conservative acronyms, like CEI, ALEC, etc.

Posted on 08/03/04 12:02 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

Anarchists for Tax Reform?

Americans for Tax Reform has been getting beat up on the editorial page of The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. The State editorial board has called the organization, "a radical Washington" organization "whose goal is to virtually abolish government." Why the nasty (and inaccurate) words?  Don Weaver, head of South Carolina Association of Taxpayers, explains in the South Carolina Policy Council's newsletter:

Their writers simply do not see a danger in raising taxes, and they do not want lawmakers to be reluctant to do so. In truth, the media and other anti-tax pledge folks ... attack ATR and our No New Tax Pledge because of our success. Our state has not had a general tax increase since 1987, thanks in large part to the effect of our No New Tax Pledge.

Weaver also points out that the South Carolina media has never minded pledges put forth by other Washington-based groups.

Many national organizations also have a presence in our state. The AARP has a chapter in our state... Furthermore, when the South Carolina Education Association released a report card last year that flunked conservative legislators, they did so with financial help from their umbrella organization, the National Education Association, which is located in our nation's capital as well. In both these cases, the only thing we heard from The State was silence.

Check here for incumbents and candidates in your state who have signed anti-tax pledges and here for state groups that work with ATR in its radical, sinister quest to-- cut taxes!

Posted on 08/02/04 12:24 PM by Mary Katherine Ham

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