Social Media
National Center Presents
Category Archives

The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

501 Capitol Court, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 543-4110
Fax (202) 543-5975

Search
Monthly Archives
Twitter feeds
Friday
Aug292014

Border-Jumpers "Spit in the Face" of Legal Immigrants

Darryn “Dutch” Martin, a member of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network, points out how illegal immigration hurts legal immigrants in particular and hurts America as a whole in economic, political and social ways.

As a former foreign service officer and the husband of a naturalized American citizen who came from Africa, he is certainly in a position of great knowledge on this issue.

On the 8/27/14 edition of “The Final Say” radio show with Brett and Jon Rappaport, Dutch said that legal African immigrants such as his wife are “very, very productive citizens.”  He noted that these people played by the rules, brought needed skills with them to this nation and also tend to want to successfully assimilate and immerse their children in American society.  Dutch said that those who sneak across the border rather than follow the stated rules for coming to the United States “spit in the face” of legal immigrants.

Friday
Aug292014

Police-Community Relations Could Be Improved By Community Common Sense

Amidst all the talk about the police needing better community relations, Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper suggests agitators and a rush to judgment whip up so many emotions during tense situations — such as the one recently in Ferguson, Missouri — that people sometimes fail to see there are common sense ways to improve the relationship between cops and the community as well as promote less reliance on government assistance.

For example, Horace said:

I’m open to the idea that law enforcement can — anytime it wants to — sit down with its community where they operate and have conversations.  But,… don’t shoot at the officer, don’t wrestle with the officer, don’t engage in lawbreaking and it’s gonna be really, really hard to actually meet up with an officer [in a confrontational situation].

In his discussion on the 8/28/14 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network, Horace added that there has been a rush to judgment in the case of Michael Brown being shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  All of the facts are still not available and a grand jury is considering potential charges against the officer, yet the combination of agitators, emotional people within the community and a media that embraces the racial narrative of the case gives people a “false impression of where things are” and makes anger and violence about it more likely.

Horace said that the agitators bring with them a political agenda that society owes these communities something and is also holding people back.  This leads to bad behavior such as the rioting and looting that plagued Ferguson for a serios of nights after Brown’s death.  Instead, Horace suggested that a true civil rights agenda would be “tak[ing] productive steps that get [people] to a point where [they’re] financially independent.”  He pointed out:

I would argue that there is resentment that people like Al Sharpton and Benjamin Crump and Jesse Jackson encourage and stoke.  And when I watched the funeral — instead of allowing the family to grieve over the loss of their child, what I saw were people taking opportunities to tell people a bad idea.  And that [idea] is that America is bad and it’s OK for you to act bad in response.

Wednesday
Aug272014

Obama’s Inherently Unfair View on Immigration

This blog post was written by National Center director of administration Bethany Diamond.

Across America, public schools are hurting — and it’s not hard to see.

Think about this: tens of thousands of illegal students, who reportedly cost between $10,000 and $12,000 per student per year in some school districts, are soon going to flood the nation’s public schools.  Add to the problem that President Obama may grant new guest worker visas for illegal immigrants and one doesn’t have to be a scientist to understand what the result will likely be for the nation’s finances.

On 8/26/14, host Rick Amato and David Almasi discussed this issue on Amato’s One America News Network program.  “If you want to talk about racism,” Almasi commented about the impending crisis in the schools, “93 percent of black students are public school students.  These are the kids who are going to have their budgets stretched to the limit” when illegal immigrants enroll.

Illegal immigrant students will overload the public school system, Almasi suggested, compromising already by tight budgets, burdening overworked teachers and disadvantaging the children of tax-paying American citizens.

In addition, teachers will be adversely affected.  In the Amato segment, Almasi said:

What did the teachers unions get from supporting Obama?  They’re getting tighter budgets and bigger class sizes, which are the two things that they really hate!

Looking at the possible effects of Obama’s amnesty program to black Americans and the teachers unions, Almasi saw few positives.

Recently, the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network released information about the effects of illegal immigration on black America.  While forcing school districts to comply with new standards to include illegal immigrants, Project 21 pointed out that Obama Administration officials have effectively given no support to public schools other than the ultimatum to obey the requirement to enroll illegal aliens without question.  Black Americans, who attend public schools at a rate far higher than any other group in America, are figured to be the most likely to be hurt by this policy. 

Regarding jobs, Project 21 member Joe Hicks added in an Orlando Sentinel commentary: “Obama is effectively ignoring the plight of black workers who have lost economic ground and struggled mightily during a recession from which America has yet to fully emerge.”

As noted in Project 21’s 8/11/14 press release on jobs, not only are illegal immigrants typically around the same age as unemployed black Americans, but they also often live in the same area.  This dwindles the job pool, economic prospects and educational opportunities of blacks.  While discussing possible complications to Obama’s amnesty program with Rick Amato, Almasi hit the nail on the head:

That is going to definitely hurt black Americans because the average illegal alien that’s here is about the same age as the average out-of-work black American.  They’re going to be competing for the same jobs.

Blacks, however, are not the only group that might be hurt by Obama’s apparent inconsiderate approach to immigration.  Project 21 has reported that visas for legal immigrants, especially those from the continent of Africa, could be cut in order to accommodate illegal immigrants coming to America from the Mexican border.  Although data and reporting suggest that African-born immigrants are hard workers who waited in line patiently at their home nation and are motivated to educate themselves and assimilate naturally into American society, they are seemingly being discarded like an old rag to cater to line-cutters.

As Darryn “Dutch” Martin, a Project 21 member, said, “How utterly disrespectful it would be to her and others — especially those from far-away lands — if President Obama simply gives the millions of illegals currently in our country a pass because they were able to slip across our border.”

When it comes to immigration, President Obama has done little to endear himself to the black community.

Wednesday
Aug272014

Scientific Sanctimony and Sacrilege 

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice has an enchanting exchange over math abilities with the Red and White Queens.  After much consternation, Alice hopes to turn the tables on them with her own inquiry: 

“Can you do sums?”  Alice said, turning suddenly on the White Queen, for she didn’t like being found fault with so much.

The Queen gasped and shut her eyes. “I can do Addition,” she said, “if you give me time — but I can’t do Subtraction under any circumstances!”

Many progressive activists appear to take the White Queen’s approach to two important scientific issues: climate change and genetically modified foods.    

These progressive activists who bow at the altar of science and hold pious views on the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) flatly ignore actual rooted science when it comes to food. 

It’s an inconsistency that deserves more attention.

The George Soros-funded organization Friends of the Earth provides a good example of this juxtaposing use of science. 

Regarding CAGW, Friends of the Earth declares that: 

The climate crisis is the definitive challenge of our time, and our reliance on fossil fuels is driving it.  Other energy sources also pollute our air and water and threaten our health. But energy use doesn’t have to make us, or the planet, sick.  That’s why Friends of the Earth promotes conservation and clean energy — including wind, solar and geothermal power — and why we fight to end our unhealthy dependence on dirty sources including coal, oil, nuclear and biofuels. 

“Definitive challenge of our time?”  Overwrought much? 

Considering that CAGW is just a theory that is based off consistently changing and constantly corrupt computer models, Friends of the Earth makes some pretty bold claims here.

But consider the organization’s stance on the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – also known as high yield produce.  Every major scientific body that has studied GMOs has determined that they are safe for human consumption.  Yet, in this arena, Friends of the Earth ignores actual science and instead peddles fear and junk science, stating: 

Our farms and food are one of our most important connections to our environment.  Yet as corporate agribusiness expands its control over our agricultural system and increasingly uses toxic chemicals and risky technologies to produce our food, our environment and health are threatened.

That’s some pretty scary stuff.  Except it isn’t real.  As the activists are want to say regarding the theory of CAGW, the science on GMOs is settled.  

Here is just a sampling of the scientific consensus that exists regarding the safety of GMOs.  

  • The National Academy of Sciences has stated: “no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”
  • The Royal Society of Medicine unequivocally notes: “There is no reason to doubt the safety of foods made from GM ingredients that are currently available, nor to believe that genetic modification makes foods inherently less safe than their conventional counterparts.”
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science has stated that the “science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”
  • The World Health Organization notes: “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health.  In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”
  • The American Medical Association – which has plainly stated that, “[b]ioengineered foods have been consumed for … 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.” 
  • The European Union also spent ten years and hundreds of millions of Euros in an exhaustive examination of GMOs that determined that “[t]he main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”

Despite this clear accord, anti-GMO activists such as Friends of the Earth continue to sow seeds of doubt in an obvious effort to alter public perception and co-opt corporate behavior.  

And, by most estimations, they are doing an incredible job.  Fear and deception are powerful tools.  

According to ABC News, 93 percent of Americans favor government-mandated labels for products containing GMOs.  Additionally, 62 percent of women and 40 percent of men think GMOs are unsafe.  

The only reason to want to label a safe product is to sow the seed of distrust and create an environment to push for regulation at a later date.  But a whole lot of people who are either unaware of the clear scientific findings on GMOs or who have irrationally given into the fear campaigns that are often propped up by the organic food lobby.  

Corporate tepidness also plays into these numbers.  

Recently, Friends of the Earth and its allies scored major corporate victories in the battle over GMO salmon. 

AquaBounty Technologies, a Massachusetts-based biotech firm, developed the first genetically modified animal protein.  It allows salmon to grow and mature faster than they otherwise would.  Developed more than two decades ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may soon announce a final decision on whether GMO salmon can be sold in stores and restaurants.    

The FDA’s preliminary findings noted that the GMO salmon would not adversely affect the U.S. environment. 

But Friends of the Earth isn’t going to wait for the U.S. government scientists to come to a conclusion before they condemn GMO salmon.  The very same activists that promote the yet unproven scientific theory of CAGW to call for increased federal regulations are already declaring GMO salmon unsafe – ahead of the federal government’s final, and seemingly inevitable, positive scientific assessment. 

Friends of the Earth proudly claims:  

We are working to keep genetically engineered “frankenfish” – which would be the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption – off of grocery store shelves. 

And corporate America is all too happy to be the dupe for this fear-based campaign.  

According to Food Navigator, Safeway, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have all pledged to not carry GMO salmon should it gain approval.  In the short term, this can relieve these companies from the activists’ specific campaign.  In the long-term, however, these corporations are doing much more harm than good.  

GMO salmon could dramatically increase competition in the fresh fish market driving down the costs of this very healthy source of protein and fats (which is one reason why traditional salmon fisheries have been working against GMO salmon).  It could lower consumer prices and bring salmon to a whole new segment of the population that currently see salmon as a luxury food.  

Furthermore, giving in to the activists only increases their appetite – so to speak.  

For example, when Safeway kowtowed to activist demands on GMO salmon, it wasn’t enough.  At Safeway’s annual shareholder meeting last month, the Green Century Equity Fund presented a shareholder proposal that – if approved – would have required the company to label all of its products that contain GMOs.  I attended that meeting and presented the investors, company management and board of directors with the actual facts and science regarding GMO safety.  The shareholders rejected the proposal with nearly 90 percent casting votes against this mandatory labeling scheme. 

This is a dramatic about face from public opinion.  And it shows just how powerful the introduction of science and facts into an irrational debate can be.

But the anti-high-yield produce activists are relentless.  Presently, Friends of the Earth is sending out a form letter that its followers can submit to Costco demanding that demands the wholesaler join with Safeway, Target and Kroger to renounce GMO salmon.  

Costco CEO Craig Jelinek has not always been the strongest advocate for free markets, but he could make a very strong stand by rejecting this buffoonery.  

But it can’t just be Costco.  Many more companies must join the fight against these would-be food czars.  

In September, General Mills shareholders will also vote on an anti-GMO shareholder proposal that asks the company to eliminate GMOs from all of its products altogether.  And why is General Mills a target?  Because, in January, they made a major concession to anti-GMO activists when they announced they would remove all GMO ingredients from original Cheerios.  This concession put a target squarely on General Mills because the activists are never satisfied.  For a group of people who are willing to ignore science and peddle fear at the expense of human life, conceding one breakfast cereal was never going to be enough. 

General Mills shareholders should follow Safeway’s lead and reject this junk-science proposal.  But, more than that, the company’s management should take the lead in promoting the great potential that GMOs hold.  

Earlier this year, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project lauded Starbucks for standing firm against anti-GMO activists.  It also urged Monsanto, Pepsi and Kraft to do more in the public arena to promote GMOs. 

At the Monsanto meeting, I once again rose to speak out against a shareholder proposal that sought to have the genetic seed giant work with the Food and Drug Administration to label all GMO food.  Again, the shareholders sided with science and reason and roundly rejected the proposal.  Perhaps more importantly, however, at the National Center’s urging, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant recognized the need for the company to actively engage the public in a rigorous manner concerning the great benefits and health safety of GMOs.  The company had long believed that it was not its job to engage in the public dialogue since it only makes seeds and isn’t the end supplier of food products, but it is now taking a much more aggressive stance.  

This is welcome news because junk-science activists currently dominate the public narrative and corporations have a moral obligation to correct the record with science, facts and common sense because the fight for GMOs is literally a life and death struggle in some areas of the world.

In a great expose about perhaps the world’s leading anti-GMO activist –Vandana Shiva – published in the New Yorker on Monday, staff writer Michael Specter explained that: 

By the end of the century, the world may well have to accommodate ten billion inhabitants — roughly the equivalent of adding two new Indias.  Sustaining that many people will require farmers to grow more food in the next seventy-five years than has been produced in all of human history.  For most of the past ten thousand years, feeding more people simply meant farming more land.  That option no longer exists; nearly every arable patch of ground has been cultivated, and irrigation for agriculture already consumes seventy per cent of the Earth’s freshwater.

That’s where genetics holds such promise.  Genes can be introduced that allow produce to both be more nutritious and generate a greater yield on the same amount of land.  Genes are also added to crops to prevent disease and blight.  

In a world where malnutrition is already a rampant concern, it is not a stretch to say that anti-GMO leaders such as Vandana Shiva and Friends of the Earth have blood on their hands.  

For example, to battle malnutrition and Vitamin-A deficiency in India, Syngenta created a product called Golden Rice that inserts genes from carrots into rice.  Golden Rice was tested, found safe and ready to go in 2002, but activists such as Shiva have prevented it from coming to market.  Two agricultural economists recently published a study showing the effect of this unnecessary delay.  As explained by Scientific American:

The delayed application of Golden Rice in India alone has cost 1,424,000 life years since 2002.  That odd sounding metric – not just lives but “life years” – accounts not only for those who died, but also for the blindness and other health disabilities that Vitamin A deficiency causes.  The majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children.

The fight over GMOs is deadly serious.  And I urge corporate America to stand up for the science, value, promise and potential of GMOs.  

Tuesday
Aug262014

Black Supporters of the Police in Ferguson?  Yes!

Project 21 member Murdock Gibbs has a shout-out to an unlikely and virtually unknown voice in the crowd in Ferguson, Missouri:

While still following the Ferguson tragedy, I saw an interview with a protestor who is supporting Officer Darren Wilson, who stands accused of murdering Michael Brown.  Yes, he does have people supporting him.

This woman is unafraid of all the death threats the officer’s supporters typically get – so much so that they often hide their faces and identities.  This police supporter, a black woman, courageously spoke on camera in support of the men and women willing to “take a bullet for me” (and all of us).

She called the police her family.  I admire her for putting her own life on the line, publicly voicing her support for a beleaguered white policeman facing the weight of federal and state investigators and the anger of millions of people who already consider him to be guilty even before he can be charged.

I am sure Officer Wilson appreciates you, Robin Clearmountain.

Tuesday
Aug262014

Project 21's Martin Worries "Political Message is Bubbling Up" in Ferguson 

In a discussion about the latest developments related to the death of Michael Brown and the subsequent civil unrest and political grandstanding in Ferguson, Missouri, Project 21 member Kevin Martin rhetorically asked host Rick Amato: “I thought this was about justice?”

“All of a sudden,” Kevin commented, “the political message is bubbling up.”  Talking on the 8/25/14 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network about complaints that the grand jury considering potential charges against the police officer who shot Brown is predominantly white, Kevin wondered “what the heck does the racial make-up have to do with it,” and added, “it’s getting ridiculous” that critics are “always looking for the racial component in something.”

With the recent revelation that the White House is going to Al Sharpton for information and advice about the developments in Ferguson, Kevin said that he could not understand why the Obama Administration would not instead rely on federal officials already based in the St. Louis area rather than choosing to hear something filtered through a “professional agitator” such as Sharpton.

Friday
Aug222014

Three Project 21 Members Talk Ferguson on Three Segments of "Rick Amato Show"

There was somewhat of a takeover of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network.  Not one, not two, but THREE members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network appeared on 8/20/14 edition of the program.

Project 21 member Archbishop Council Nedd II spoke about the problems associated with the politicization of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the obvious pandering by some to base emotions that are rooted in race.  In criticizing the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who rushed to Ferguson and the multitude of media there, Council said:

They’re playing politics rather than saying, “you know what, let’s call for prayer.”…

You know, at this time — more than any other time — people need to be praying together and praying for the same thing… for peace, for unity and for cooler heads to prevail.  And nobody’s doing that.

In further criticizing politicians who are also inserting themselves into the tense situation, Council added that they are making the problem worse because “rather than standing up for what’s right, they stand up for what’s politically expedient.”

During his segment, Project 21 member Michael Dozier was praised by host Rick Amato as a “well-grounded” messenger of “common sense” who is the perfect representative of what Amato called “the silent majority.”

Michael was critical of Attorney General Eric Holder for inserting himself into the controversy in Ferguson.  He noted that the optics of Holder showing so much concern there when there are multiple active cases around the country that are similar in nature but have different racial demographics can be seen as unfair treatment and can also be considered “a black eye for civil rights.”

In pointing out that there is a lack of apparent concern for heinous crimes that don’t present political opportunity or garner national media coverage that still pose a grave threat to black America, Michael said: “Now imagine if the mainstream media, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton focused more on the blacks kids [who] are killing themselves in the inner city… What about them?”

Later, on the “Grassroots Citizen Panel,” Project 21 member Kevin Martin joined Amato, political analyst T.J. O’Hara and talk radio host C.S. Keys to talk about issues ranging from the murder of journalist James Foley at the hands of ISIS terrorists to rioting in Ferguson.

Kevin criticized our unprotected border and the intent of ISIS to being their radical jihad to America.  He warned of a potential lack of comprehension of this threat by the Obama Administration when he said about ISIS: “They are al Qaeda on steroids.  And the President once called them the [junior varsity] team?  These guys have made it to the playoffs!”

Discussing the nationalization of the Ferguson protesters as radicals pour in from across America to loot and recruit, Kevin said “these people are coming from there for the express purpose of getting themselves on the news and causing anarchy.”

Friday
Aug222014

Philadelphia Fed: ObamaCare Hurting Workers and Consumers

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia just released its Business Outlook Survey for August.  Here’s a table that appears on page 2:

First the good news (yes, there is some).  Only three percent of employers are dropping coverage because of ObamaCare.  That’s three percent too many, of course, but not nearly as bad as many of us had worried it might be.  Of course, this is year one—it could get worse as time goes on.  Let’s hope it doesn’t.

Also, the effect that it is having on wages and compensation appears to be a wash (15.1 percent lower vs. 16.7 percent higher), while the number of employers who have increased the number of employees receiving insurance (17.6 percent) is slightly higher than those who have reduced that number (14.7 percent).

Other than that, the news is all bad.  The number firms that have lowered the total number of employees is six times higher than those firms that have increased them. There are also wide disparities between the number of firms that have increased part-time workers and outsourcing and those that have reduced them.

On modifications to employee health plans, the disparities aren’t wide.  They are chasms.  The worst is the deductible category where 91.2 percent of employers are requiring a higher deductible in response to ObamaCare versus 0 percent that are lowering it. The differences aren’t much better for out-of-pocket maximums, copays, range of medical coverage and the size of the network—with all going in the wrong direction thanks to ObamaCare.

And the problems aren’t limited to jobs and health coverage. Nearly 29 percent of employers will be increasing their prices in response to the health care law.  Zero percent will be lowering them.  So not only does everyone get to pay for this as employees and taxpayers, we also get it as consuers too. Who said that ObamaCare wouldn’t require shared sacrifice?

So, if you force employers to provide r r to full-time workers, they hire less of them and hire more part-time workers.  And, if you mandate that their plans must cover various benefits, employers find other ways to keep costs down such as increasing cost-sharing and reducing provider networks.

Who knew?

UPDATE: More on this issue from National Center for Policy Analysis and the Wall Street Journal.

Friday
Aug222014

Project 21's Hicks Debates Illegal Immigration in Orlando Sentinel

Project 21 member Joe Hicks made a forceful case against possible Obama Administration amnesty for illegal immigrants in a commentary that appeared in 8/22/14 Orlando Sentinel, one of the largest newspapers in the state of Florida.

The Sentinel reached out to Project 21, the National Center’s black leadership network, after the first of a series of press releases on immigration was published.  Members of Project 21 are aggressively pointing out how potential executive action on the part of Barack Obama that would effectively legalize millions of foreigners residing illegal in the United States would pose a threat to black Americans in ways such as competition for jobs, educational opportunity and other factors.

In Joe’s commentary, he wrote:

Obama is effectively ignoring the plight of black workers who have lost economic ground and struggled mightily during a recession from which America has yet to fully emerge.  The unemployment rate for blacks in 2013 without a high school diploma was 20.5 percent; for those with a diploma, it was still disproportionately high at 12.6 percent.  The rate for all races was 7.4 percent, and 6.5 percent for white workers.

Highlighting the dilemma is that unauthorized workers and black entry-level citizens have a similar median age — approximately 36 and 39 years old, respectively.  Once settling largely in border areas, unauthorized immigrants are now migrating to major urban areas and rural areas in southeastern states that also tend to have higher black populations.  This puts unauthorized immigrant workers in direct competition for jobs with black citizens.

All too often, a claim is made that low-skilled black workers are simply unwillingly to work low-paying jobs or that foreigners work harder.  But that’s not the case.  Studies have shown a driver of unauthorized immigrant labor is their willingness to work for substandard wages in substandard conditions.

And it’s not just black workers who are harmed by those entering the country illegally. Unauthorized-immigrant workers also harm the employment prospects of all low-skilled domestic workers.  For example, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta conducted a study that concluded that, because of growth in the state’s population of unauthorized immigrants,”… the annual earnings of the average documented worker in Georgia in 2007 were 2.9 percent ($980) lower than they were in 2007.”

Joe later added:

As civil rights leaders now converge on Ferguson, Missouri to claim racism in the police shooting of Michael Brown, they are strangely silent on the economic threat illegal immigration poses to millions of low-skilled black workers.  Might it be that these leaders have simply become loyal foot soldiers to partisan politics and a president who looks like them?

This commentary was part of a regular pro-con feature that the Sentinel runs every Friday.  Joe’s opposition in this match-up was Frank Sharry, the founder of the immigration special interest group America’s Voice.  Sharry strongly supported unilateral action on the part of President Obama to allow illegal aliens to flood American workplaces, writing:  “Is such a move good policy?  Definitely.  Staying the deportation of low-priority immigrants and giving them work permits on a temporary, revocable basis are well-established practices in immigration enforcement.  In Florida alone, some 500,000 immigrants could benefit.  And a program to register undocumented immigrants and turn them into documented taxpayers will improve the economy and workplace conditions for workers and employers alike.”

In making Joe’s point, Sharry boasts that the overall job market in the state of Florida will increase by half-a-million prospects at Obama’s stroke of a pen.  In July, Florida’s unemployment rate was 6.2 percent, with 597,000 residents looking for work.  Amnesty has the potential to almost double the number of Floridians competing for jobs in an uncertain economy.

Joe’s full commentary can be read by clicking here.

Wondering why Joe doesn’t use the term “illegal alien” in his commentary?  It wasn’t submitted that way.  The Orlando Sentinel stylebook does not allow the terms “illegal alien” or illegal immigrant.”  Grudgingly, “unauthorized” was allowed by Project 21 to be substituted for the more appropriate “illegal.”

Friday
Aug222014

Project 21's Cooper on "O'Reilly": Sharpton, Others Criticized for Lack of True Concern for Civil Rights 

After Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly delivered a scathing indictment of race-mongering by the likes of Al Sharpton and others in charged situations such as the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper was brought on “The O’Reilly Factor” the very next night to debate the issue further.

With guest host Greg Gutfeld sitting in for Bill O’Reilly on the 8/21/14 edition of the show, Horace humbled NAACP senior vice president Hilary Shelton in an exchange in which Shelton actually seemed to try to up the ante by dropping in loaded words and phrases regarding Brown and Ferguson that included “execution,” “blue versus black” and “gun down unarmed citizens.”  Shelton further sought to raise dubious complaints about Ferguson such as the fact that the city has many white ranking government officials and a majority of white officers on its police force without really addressing the fact these officials were elected in the 67 percent black community and whether police applications and hiring procedures back up the bias Shelton obviously meant to infer exists.

While all agreed that Sharpton has a right to speak his mind, Shelton did not repudiate the wrong direction advocated by Sharpton while Horace was quick to call it out.  When Gutfeld suggested Sharpton was “trouble” in these crises, Horace said:

Well, that’s his game plan.  And, in fact, even if there’s not a crisis going on, he brings a can of fuel and pours it all around.  And then the match, and lights it up and then [Shaprton] watches everyone else.

If you want him to talk about what America is going to do so that America addresses how blacks, whites and browns all get along, Al Sharpton isn’t the man to do that.  But if you want to talk about how it can be blown up, how it can be destroyed, how the problems can be exacerbated and the progress can be denied — he’s the man to call.

To drive the point home and expose the “deflection” he says is being used by those stirring up trouble through the use of the race card in Ferguson, Horace added:

What they have done… is try to exploit this situation.  And the governor of the state has joined in, along with a number of other people.  When you race to judgment and pre-judge this before we know all of the facts, it reminds me of something — the first and most important civil right is the right not to have the government charge you, indict you, incarcerate you, penalize you without the right process, the right investigation.

The rush to justice is the kind of thing I would’ve hoped the NAACP and Al Sharpton would have issued an announcement immediately when those people were making these rush to judgment type statements — even the governor of Missouri.

Their silence tells you all you need to know about their real concern about fundamental civil rights.

Thursday
Aug212014

It Should Be Repealed Anyway

A report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that ObamaCare’s medical device tax generated about $300 million less than what was expected.  The IRS expected that it would take in $1.2 billion from the tax in the first half of 2013; it actually received about $913.4 million.

Government agencies usually employ “static scoring” when they estimate the effect of tax changes.  That it, they assume that a tax increase or tax cut will have no impact on people’s behavior.

According to an article at California Healthline:

The report also noted several mistakes IRS had made in collecting funds owed under the tax. Although electronic tax returns automatically check to make sure taxes paid match the amount of a company’s reported medical device sales, IRS does not have a similar system in place to check paper returns, according to the report. Specifically, the report found 276 errors in the 5,100 collected forms, resulting in discrepancies worth $117.8 million

Hmmm…I wonder how many companies switched from filing electronically to using paper form?  In other words, how many changed their behavior to lower their tax liability?

The tax should be repealed anyway.  For more on that, see NCPPR’s study on this from April 2013.

Thursday
Aug212014

Black Conservatives Promote Opportunity Over Victimization in TV Debates

Rioting in Ferguson, Missouri has generated more overall debates about race relations in America.

There were two such debates on the 8/20/14 edition of “Midpoint” on the NewsMaxTV network, and members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network were there to help dispel the sour message perpetrated by the left that virtually no progress has helped equal the playing field for blacks here in America and that a victim mentality is not hurting opportunity.

In a debate with Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, in which Price echoed the radical notion that America is still a “cesspool” of racism, Project 21 member Joe Hicks replied that “to talk about a cesspool of oppression or racism in America today is a caricature — that’s not what America is.”

Joe added: “To claim that blacks are victims… that’s the problem — that blacks want to continue to narrative of victimization.  And most people scratch their heads and go ‘what the hell are they talking about?’”

When Price began making claims that inherent racism in American society is keeping the black community from earning equal pay or getting comparable loans to whites, Joe pointed out:

Would you be content with earning 60 percent less that a white colleague?…  Would you think any black American who has any awareness around them would tolerate that?…  We hear these kind of… racial talking points constantly.  And, at every point, you’ve got to take each of those… and ask why.  If the answer is not that it’s raw, naked racism — as I’m hearing you alleging — then there must be other undercutting factors that contributed to that.  But people don’t generally want to go to that level of sophistication to ask these questions.  And we see that taking place in the streets of Missouri.

Don’t miss it, about three minutes into the segment, when host Ed Berliner learns that Joe — now a staunch conservative — was once a “gun-toting black nationalist.”

After just a few minutes into the other debate, Project 21 member Wayne Dupree seemed to have his opponent agreeing with him when it came to those who want to be seen as leaders of black America!

Wayne debated Trevor Lee Hardin of People of African Descent in America about the current state of race in America in general and black progress in particular.  Wayne came out swinging against a pessimistic Hardin, saying “things are different that they were in the 60s.”  The problem, as Wayne explained, is that “big government programs [are] still out there to carry people” and that so-called black leaders are always playing the victimization card and trying to convince people “you have to look to the government… [as your] savior.”

In the end, after hammering away at so-called black leaders Wayne insisted are “in it for themselves” and that the black community should have rid themselves of these millstones long ago because they “always had a chance,” even Hardin was taking Wayne’s position.  They appeared to agree that black Americans — if they must have a leader at all — must find people different from the victimizers who now claim to represent them.

Wednesday
Aug202014

More Ferguson Media from Project 21 Members

There are more television appearances to share from members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network talking about the civil unrest and legal proceedings in Ferguson, Missouri.

Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper said that too many politicians and protestors and others speaking the loudest about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson “seem to have prejudged the issue.”  This is not helped by the press, as Horace added “the mainstream media has been very effective in creating a false narrative” about what happened surrounding Brown being shot by a local police officer.

In discussing the continued unrest with host Rick Amato on the 8/19/14 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network, Horace pointed out that “there’s a reason investigations occur and take time.”  He noted that vitriolic assertions and the aforementioned false narrative created around the situation could lead to increased tensions and renewed violence if the grand jury does not indict the officer or if he is not found guilty if there is an indictment.

Should there be a criminal trial, Horace said, “all of the claims and allegations are going to have to be responded to.”  Assertions by more radical elements that Brown was executed, for example, will likely be quickly dismissed and can only “feed racial resentment.”  Not anticipating or addressing this, Horace said, is a failure on the part of Attorney General Eric Holder, who “ought to know better” in his position as the nation’s top lawyer and due to the fact that he has injected himself into the situation. 

Asked about the violence that has become a nightly occurrence in Ferguson, Project 21 member Nadra Enzi said host Ed Berliner calling the rioters “opportunists” was “very kind… they are criminals.”

On the 8/19/14 edition of “Midpoint” on NewsMaxTV, Nadra gave his “wholehearted support” to the police and National Guard in Ferguson trying to keep the situation under control.  He said members of the law enforcement community are protecting everyone there from those rioters — many who are coming to the area from far away — and diminishing “the chance for them to harm more people” directly through violence or through property crimes.

Talking about the reaction to the shooting and the media coverage, Project 21 member Joe Hicks said on Fox11-Los Angeles on 8/19/14 that the story of police officers shooting teenagers might happen more often that people may like, but “it’s fairly unique… it doesn’t happen every day… that’s what policing is all about.”  This uniqueness, however, attracts the media and the reaction feeds itself.

Responding to the anger and demands for a premeditated resolution, Joe said there will be no satisfaction for those who are effectively saying: “I want the kind of justice I demand you give me.”  Instead, Joe explained:

We don’t get the kind of justice we demand, we get the kind of justice that comes as a result of actual facts that are gathered that informs a process.

This is why he fears that the apparent politicization of the case may end up with another situation that disappoints the angriest elements involved in the situation such as what happened during the George Zimmerman trial in Florida in 2013.

Wednesday
Aug202014

Government Health Care Rewards Failure

Today I have a new National Policy Analysis up entitled “Government Health Care Rewards Failure.”  A version has also been published at Rare

In it I examine recent events at the ObamaCare exchanges in Maryland and Massachusetts and the waiting list scandal at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.  The article notes that “[u]nless powerful political interests are harmed by [government] failure, government employees often face no penalties for incompetence or misdeeds. In fact, sometimes incompetence or failure is rewarded.”

Consider just the case of the Massachusetts exchange.  Known as the Massachusetts Health Connector. It enrolled about 31,700 people by April—only about 13 percent of its 250,000 goal.  Although it was clear to many working at the Connector that they wouldn’t be able to meet the Oct. 1, 2013 launch date, the CEO of the Connector, Jean Yang, failed to inform the Connector’s board of directors about it.

Was Jean Yang fired? Is that a rhetorical question?  Yang still has her job, do the people who work just below her. Apparently, she is so pleased with their performance that she recently gave out raises of $10,000 or more to 11 of the 53 workers at the Connector. 

The message she sends is one of “screw up and we’ll give you more money.”  She, of course, defended the action, saying the raises were “needed to retain valued employees and improve performance going forward.” Which leads to the question what kind of value does she put on her employees if the exhange doesn’t work properly?

Read it all here.

****

On a related note, Jillian Kay Melchior at National Review reports on one Jacqueline Middleton who has been indicted by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio for “awarding publicly funded contracts in exchange for kickbacks, home-renovation work, and other pay-offs.”

Middleton was CEO of the non-profit Council of Economic Opportunities of Greater Cleveland (CEOGC) from 1993 until last April.  CEOGC received over $600 million in taxpayer funds from 1999 to 2012 despite numerous news articles exposing her misdeeds.

Melchior ends her article noting that “as Middleton awaits trial, taxpayers would be justified in asking why state and federal officials repeatedly dished out taxpayer money to CEOGC, given the repeated and disturbing reports about misuse of funds and other misconduct.”

For starters, most of those employees are civil service, so they can’t be fired for giving out grants.  In fact, they may have faced heat at work had they blow the whistle on Middleton, especially if she was politically connected.

As Melchior’s story suggests, that was probably the case: The late “Ohio representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones — who received $775 in campaign donations from Middleton between 2005 and 2006 — held a press conference in support of Middleton and praised her for ‘do[ing] a commendable job’ and offering ‘dedicated service.’”

The could easily have have been a warning shot across the bow—do anything to stop Middleton and the cry of “racism” will go up (Middleton is black.)  The last thing government officials want is the NAACP, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others who profit from race hustling to show up at their doors for a protest (just ask officials in Ferguson, Missouri about that.)  In short, federal officials did nothing because politically powerful groups could have caused them no end of headaches.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Project 21's Black Conservatives Discuss Ferguson Riots on TV

With investigations underway and riots continuing in Ferguson, Missouri without an apparent end in sight, members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network are all over television — providing commentary for a media that is fascinated with the story of racial unrest that Project 21 members say is due to a lack of facts and exacerbated by the intense media attention the riots are receiving.

Project 21 member Joe Hicks disputed the portrayal of Ferguson police as “inherently racist.”  On CNN on 8/19/14, he pointing out that any “illegal police behavior has to be stopped,” but also noted that FBI statistics show there are a disproportionate amount of crimes committed by black Americans — and that gang and drug-related activities that are unfortunately more prevalent in black communities do draw police interest.

Joe said an overall problem in Ferguson (and everywhere) right now is that “we need to have the facts,” and there are too many people pronouncing judgment in the matter “without the benefit of any real facts.”  This, he added, applies to those who would assert a racial conspiracy existing within the Ferguson Police Department without knowing facts such as how many minorities did apply to become officers and how many qualified.

Over at the Fox News Channel, Project 21 member Wayne Dupree critiqued the media performance regarding Ferguson coverage on “Fox and Friends” on 8/19/14.

In particular, Wayne was asked about a Don Lemon interview on CNN in which Lemon told the parents of Michael Brown that the entire world was behind them and they should come to him personally “if either of you need anything.”  Wayne said this was an example of Lemon “playing to the emotion of the viewers” and “becoming a part of the story.”  This, he pointed out, “is not helping the situation.”

Project 21 member Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., appeared earlier in the Fox News Channel programming day on the “Fox and Friends First” program.

Talking about President Obama’s apparent willingness to not chose sides in this police-community crisis and to call for calm, Alveda said what Obama said on this occasion was “saying what needs to be said… for justice to prevail.”  On the 8/19/14 edition of the program, Alevda said the “no justice, no peace” sloganeering so prevalent in Ferguson should be abandoned in favor of “pray[ing] for peace.”  She added that “we must have peace in the process.”

Responding to a reported claim by Al Sharpton that the public reaction to the death of Michael Brown is a “defining moment” in American history, Wayne Dupree told host Rick Amato it might be a “defining moment in his history” but that Sharpton needs to be called out for his “lack of working for a solution.”  Sharpton, Wayne said, is simply going for an “emotional response” that can only serve to enhance Sharpton’s own reputation rather than bring about any positive outcome for Ferguson, Missouri in particular or black America in general.

On the 8/18/14 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network, Wayne said the police “need to protect themselves” in the face of violence that may be directed against them during nightly rioting in Ferguson.  He added that he was always taught to respect authority figures such as police officers — being told that respect would be shown toward him as a result.  “If the police tells me to move to the side,” he noted, “I’m moving to the side.”

Wayne also said there is an inherent problem in the Ferguson standoff in that the media is helping to make problems fester as “false stories… incite and make people crazy.”  He suggested the community would be well-served by getting most or all of the media out of town.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Nanny State Sodium Suggestions Could Actually Harm People

Consumer rejection of allegedly healthier French fries at Burger King and new medical findings that a low sodium diet may be as unhealthy as high sodium diet created what Sun News host Brian Lilley called a “bad week for food police.”  Jeff Stier, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Risk Analysis Division, pointed out that the old maxim of everything in moderation is turning out to be true.  Stier added that the “levels that most of us are consuming don’t harm us” already — despite “government guidelines… pushing for not low, but very low levels” of sodium and that businesses feel pressured to comply through the threat of future regulation.

Commenting on how the campaigns to further-regulate individual behavior often lacks a sound scientific grounding while appearing on the 8/15/14 edition of “Byline” program on Canada’s Sun News network, Stier said:

I think it exposes the fact that the food police, the nanny state, the people who want to use government control to tell us how to live, don’t really care about the science.  They’re driven by this neo-puritanical ideological agenda, and they stick with it even when the science goes the other way.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Slate's Emily Bazelon Misleads In Order To Hype Racism

One of the unstated assumptions among leftist intellectuals is that absent racism, different racial groups would have roughly equal outcomes.  If statistics show that different racial groups have different outcomes, then racism must be afoot.

That was the assumpton that Emily Bazelon’s brought to her article on why she doesn’t like to call the police, especially on black people.  Consider this passage:

The divide opens early in life: Black kids are far more likely to be suspended, expelled, and funneled into the juvenile justice system than nonblack kids. Again, the disparity can’t be explained by their behavior: It reflects the heavy hand of systemic bias.

The link leads to a Washington Post article on a 2012 U.S. Dept. of Education Civil Rights Survey showing that black students were disciplined more often than other racial groups.  For example:

In a more focused analysis of school systems with more than 50,000 students enrolled, the data showed that African American students represented 24 percent of enrollment but 35 percent of arrests. White students accounted for 31 percent of enrollment and 21 percent of arrests. For Hispanic students, there was less of a disparity in arrests. They accounted for 34 percent of enrollment and 37 percent of arrests.

Yet the data from the survey does not reveal whether the different outcomes stem from student behavior or some “systemic bias.”  It doesn’t show how many times students from various racial groups misbehaved—only the number of times they received some form of discipline for it.  Bazelon assumes that students of all racial groups misbehave at equal rates and that unequal rates of discipline must reflect systemic bias—presumably the racism of the white officials who run those schools given the tone of the rest of her article.

But the Post article actually throws some cold water on that theory which Bazelon might have noticed but for her ideological blinders:

Beyond police contact, the data show persisting disparities in out-of-school suspension. African Americans were more than 3½ times as likely to be suspended or expelled as white students, the data showed.

Black males stood out, with 20 percent being suspended from school during the 2009-10 school year. By comparison, 7 percent of white males, 9 percent of Hispanic males and 3 percent of Asian American males were removed from school for disciplinary offenses. (Italics added.)

So, let’s see if you buy this theory:  The white racism that is systemic in the school system discriminates heavily against blacks, treats Hispanics only slightly worse that whites, and treats Asians the best of all.

Here’s another theory: The school system is actually run by racist Asians who, of course, treat Asians the best but for some reason have a disproportionate animus toward blacks.

And here’s a theory that’s a great deal more plausible:  Students from different racial groups have not been misbehaving equally.

Digging down into the Dept. of Education data a bit reveals some other holes in the Bazelon’s “equality of misbehaving” assumption.  Take, for example, Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago.  Below is the enrollment and discipline data of that school broken down by race from the Dept. of Education’s website:

 

Notice that with the exception of expulsions—of which there were only five—the pattern repeats itself.  Black students are suspended at a rate higher relative to their rate of enrollment, while other races are suspended at rates similar to or below their rate of enrollment.

The reason I chose Curie Metropolitan High School is that systemic racism doesn’t seem to explain these results. At the time these data were taken in 2009-2010, Curie’s principal, Phillip C. Perry, was black, as was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Ron Huberman.  

Economist Thomas Sowell has long pointed out that it is almost impossible to find different racial groups with equal outcomes.  The norm through history is one of different groups having very different outcomes.  But don’t expect the political left to acknowledge this any time soon.  

CORRECTION: While Ron Huberman has a dark complexion he is not an African-American.  He is, in fact, the son of Holocaust survivors.  Sorry for the error.

Monday
Aug182014

More Comments from Project 21 Members About Ferguson Rioting

This morning, Project 21 member Christopher Arps had this to say about the current situation in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown:

Governor Nixon calls in the National Guard as the narrative falls apart that Michael Brown was fleeing while shot in the back, turned around and was fatally shot while his hands were up while surrendering.

Over the weekend, Chris, a St. Louis area native who has previously commented for Project 21 on the violence in the St. Louis suburb, was regularly posting about unfolding events on Facebook.  Among them were these observations:

Angry crowds and the cover of night is just not a good mix.  Is protesting at night more forceful and compelling than protesting during the day?

Complete chaos in Ferguson right now — before the curfew begins.  Tear gas has been deployed and gunshots have been reported (not police) one gunshot victim.  [Al] Sharpton comes to town and gives a fiery speech, and rioting starts earlier than in previous nights.  Coincidence?

People just aren’t thinking rationally in this Ferguson case.

How much sense does it make to do a rushed investigation, [possibly] indict and arrest the officer and then have him acquitted at trial a year later because it was a rushed and shoddy investigation.  And then folks will be crying that black people can’t get justice in America!

This not an ordinary case of one person shooting an unarmed man.  This is a police officer who is given a reasonable assumption under the law to use his weapon if he thinks he needs to.  Let the investigation play out.  Rushing this will not get “justice” for Michael Brown.

 Watching this press conference and the reaction from the crowd towards the institution of the curfew is like watching a bad “Twilight Zone” episode.

People are rioting and looting in the streets, thus creating an unsafe situation for the residents and police.  But people are claiming their constitutional right to assemble is being infringed.  In extraordinary circumstances, constitutional rights can be infringed to keep the general order.  They have a choice to make between still being able to protest until all hours of the night — and inviting the thugs and hooligans to run rampant — or respecting the curfew and protesting during the times allowed and letting peace and order be restored to Ferguson.

Chris also had this to say about critics of the police tactics used in dealing with the crisis in Ferguson:

This “militarization of police” red herring that Rand Paul and others are advancing on the right and left is really getting under my skin.

What Senator Paul and others aren’t telling us is that the “militarization” happened after 9/11 when cities and police departments wanted this equipment in the face of terrorist threats in this country.

It wasn’t to prepare for a police state, it was to help protect us and keep order in the wake of another 9/11-style attack.  This spreading of paranoia by so-called leaders is really irresponsible, in my opinion.

Additionally, Project 21 member Stacy Washington, who hosts a Saturday night radio show on WFTK-St. Louis, and was interviewed on WLS-Chicago as well as other shows nationwide throughout the week for Project 21, reported a deluge of nasty post-show messages on her Twitter account in response to her comments.  She wrote:

Massive amounts of hatred on twitter tonight.  Just no words for the ugliness.  No dissenting views are allowed.

She also reported on other people being “villif[ied]… for having an opposing opinion” regarding Ferguson-related issues.

Also on her Facebook page, Stacy reported the following Ferguson businesses are among those “damaged or destroyed” so far by looters: QuikTrip, Firestone, Kmart, Radio Shack, T-Mobile, Cricket, Walgreens, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Taco Bell, AutoZone, GNC, Boost Mobile, CityTrends, Ross Fashions, Sam’s Meat, Ferguson Liquor, Sprint, Prime Sole, Shoe Carnival, AT&T and King David Fashions.

Saturday
Aug162014

Raising taxes on certain foods, drinks does little to fight obesity

In an op-ed in Saturday’s Houston Chronicle, I challenge the claims being used to justify a wave of soda taxes rolling across Latin America. I also explain how this could impact the potential for taxes in the United States.

HoustonChronicleOutlookLogoW

What do Latin American governments do when they realize they are spending more money than they have? In part, they raise taxes on the poor in the name of fighting obesity by taxing food and beverages. That’s only the beginning of the ugliness.

In April, in a piece for the Daily Caller, I detailed how Mayor Bloomberg’s junk-science food police have gone national. It turns out, though, that they’ve actually gone international. In the Houston Chronicle, I explain what happened:

It started last year in Mexico, where former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent a controversial $10 million of his own money to influence the outcome of a proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and high-calorie foods. The billionaire’s own advocacy group now admits that the money was used, in part, to fund scientists to produce research that would support the taxes, according to both the Associated Press and the Bloomberg Philanthropies webpage. This type of outcome-oriented research may get the job done in terms of advancing a political agenda, but it won’t address obesity.

In fact, a simple economic reality explains why these tax schemes won’t do any good.

A recent article in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics explains consumer behavior in the face of such taxes. Lead author Chen Zhen explained, “Consumers can simply substitute a taxed high calorie for an untaxed one.” Reduced consumption of certain foods does not necessarily cause a reduction in obesity.

If Michael Bloomberg gets his way, the Latin American soda taxes will be used to justify soda taxes in the United States —even if they don’t reduce obesity.

In fact, Bloomberg food police ally Marion Nestle, food policy and nutrition professor at New York University told Politico last month that, “If the taxes are shown to reduce consumption - and I’m hoping studies are under way - I’d say it’s game over.” The taxes will be adopted across the United States even if the Bloomberg-funded Mexican tax has an impact only on consumption, but not obesity.

The piece continues,

Now, after enactment last year of a peso-per-liter soda tax in Mexico, the fad is spreading to other nations of Latin America. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet is enacting a soda tax as part of a wider set of measures targeting foods she doesn’t want her citizens to eat. So is Argentina, as it teeters on the brink of its second debt default in 13 years. In Brazil, where officials increased taxes on sodas, beer and energy drinks by 19 percent to 23 percent over the past two years, revenue-starved officials sought a further tax hike timed to bilk thirsty soccer fans from around the world. At the last minute, the World Cup taxes were given a time out until the fall.

Clearly, the science to support these taxes as a serious anti-obesity tool hasn’t yet been established, despite Bloomberg’s millions. So why was the tax adopted?

Rather simply, it is Sutton’s Law. The “law” is named after the infamous American bank robber Willie Sutton, who was incorrectly credited with answering a reporter who asked him why he robs banks by saying, “That’s where the money is.”

GirlwithCokeSodaChipsCroppedW

According to Christopher Wilson, an associate at the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, “Traditionally, 30 to 40 percent of the budget came from oil exports, and that has been declining. That has made for a strong imperative to increase tax collection, which is extraordinarily low as a portion of GDP, and that is the driving force behind fiscal reform,” Wilson told the magazine, Governing, in reference to the food and soda tax. Mexicans spend money on high-calorie food and soda, so Willie Sutton would have taxed it, too.

The problem is, taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and so-called “junk-foods” have a disproportionate impact on the poor. To Bloomberg, whom nobody could accuse of being poor, this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Since there’s a high-rate of obesity among lower socio-economic groups, a sin tax that hits poor people the hardest is right on target.

But there’s more to it than money. Even proponents of the taxes concede they aren’t a silver bullet. Throughout Latin America, advocates are pushing a full menu of laws an regulations aimed at soda and food. At the top of the food police wish-list is a restriction on the advertising of foods they don’t want people to eat. Instead of following the science, proponents of advertising restrictions attempt to advance their cause in a way that makes Bloomberg’s attempt to purchase science look honorable by comparison. Activists in Canada, the United States and Chile are suggesting that advertising to kids is akin to molesting children.

Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa Dr. Yoni Freedhoff says it most delicately, “We need to stop allowing the food industry to target our most vulnerable and precious population, our children.” New York’s Meme Roth, founder of “National Action Against Obesity” is less subtle in evoking thoughts of child molestation by referring to food advertising to children as “predatory” and arguing that we shouldn’t let food company executives have a “relationship with our kids.”

But it took the chairman of the Committee on Health of the Chilean Senate to put innuendo aside and make the allegation Freedhoff and Roth were too polite to directly state. Senator Guido Girardi, told La Nacion that (as translated by Google), “Chile has companies that are the pedophiles of the 21st century, because they abuse children by labeling fatty and sugary food as healthy.”

In their zeal to advance an unpopular agenda, it’s the food police who have become the real creeps. Advocates who want to fight obesity have their hearts in the right place. But that shouldn’t free them from being held to legitimate science and common standards of decency. With a little less emotionally manipulative rhetoric and a bit more nonpartisan science, we could come together and address obesity in a constructive way.

Thursday
Aug142014

The Missouri Legislature Should Override Governor Nixon's E-cigarette Veto

Tobaccocigarettee cigDPCW

Now that the comment period for the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed “deeming regulations” has closed, attention is shifting back to state and local legislative approaches to e-cigarettes. (See our comments to FDA.)

While federal regulations ultimately have supremacy, state and local governments around the country are considering e-cigarette policies such as how to tax them, local usage bans, and bans on sales to minors. Two of these issues are now playing out in a fascinating way in Missouri, where Governor Jay Nixon has vetoed a bill that should be seen as a model for how to properly regulate these products at the state level.

The challenge of how to regulate e-cigarettes at any level of government is about getting the right balance between considerations such as product safety and protecting youth, versus the risk of a regulatory scheme which would have the effect of discouraging adult smokers from switching to these dramatically less harmful  products.

Mitch Zeller, the FDA’s chief tobacco regulator summed up his approach in a recent interview with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He said, 

 … if at the end of the day people are smoking for the nicotine, but dying from the tar, then there’s an opportunity for FDA to come up with what I’ve been calling a comprehensive nicotine regulatory policy that is agency-wide and that is keyed to something that we call the continuum of risk: that there are different nicotine containing and nicotine delivering products that pose different levels of risk to the individual.”

Zeller hit the nail on the head about how to think about reaching the right balance, with the continuum of risk in mind:

 Right now the overwhelming majority of people seeking nicotine are getting it from the deadliest and most toxic delivery system, and that’s the conventional cigarette. But if there is a continuum of risk and there are less harmful ways to get nicotine, and FDA is in the business of regulating virtually all of those products, then I think there’s an extraordinary public health opportunity for the agency to embrace some of these principles and to figure out how to incorporate it into regulatory policies.”

 In Missouri, the legislature codified Zeller’s well-reasoned strategy by banning the sales of e-cigarettes to minors, and, simply enough, defining e-cigarettes as vapor products. Such a definition would have the effect of ensuring that e-cigarettes are not inappropriately taxed and regulated as tobacco products, at least  not without deliberation of the legislature. The bi-partisan bill garnered 127 votes in the house, with only 19 votes in opposition. It was approved 27-4 in the senate.

Yet last month, under pressure from a shrinking number of activist groups who deny the potential public health benefits of e-cigarettes, Governor Jay Nixon vetoed this common-sense approach.

  The governor’s veto message feebly attempted to justify his action, but doesn’t even pass the laugh test. He writes,

First, Missouri law should not limit the regulation of products derived from tobacco that contain a highly addictive chemical and carcinogenic, noxious chemicals. Not unlike traditional tobacco cigarettes, these products may carry significant health risks to users and others through direct and secondhand inhalation in a manner not unlike traditional tobacco cigarettes.” 

It is as if the governor thumbed his nose at the FDA’s Mitch Zeller, who cautioned against this unlimited regulatory approach to e-cigarettes. But Nixon goes further. He awkwardly manages, twice in one sentence, to equate non-combustible tobacco-free e-cigarettes with actual cigarettes. That’s exactly the opposite approach called for by Zeller. 

Governor Nixon’s veto message continues, 

Second, … Senate Bill No. 841 would harm the health of Missourians because it would contravene and undermine more comprehensive proposed federal regulation.”  

Governor Nixon should know better. State law cannot “contravene” federal regulations, even if legislators wanted to. Federal regulations have supremacy. More importantly, the bill passed by the legislature would do nothing to “undermine” proposed federal regulations.  

Let’s put aside the fact that the comment period for the FDA’s proposed rule closed only last week and the agency must review and take into account a reported 81,881 comments, some of which exceed 100 pages, before any final regulation is developed. No state law could contravene or undermine regulations that haven’t been finalized yet. The bottom line is that the governor and the activists who pressured him to veto the bill admit that they want to regulate and tax e-cigarettes like tobacco products such as cigarettes. 

Those moves are not only unsupported by the science, but would violate the very essence of the regulatory approach the FDA seeks to pursue, as Mitch Zeller described it. The FDA recognizes that there is a “continuum of risk: that there are different nicotine containing and nicotine delivering products that pose different levels of risk to the individual.” Those products should be regulated differently. Governor Nixon, however, goes out of his way to equate, rather than differentiate the products.

Ironically, if the governor gets his way and the legislature does not override the veto, minors in Missouri would be permitted to purchase e-cigarettes from unscrupulous sellers. What’s worse, the table would be set to for bureaucrats in the governor’s office to undermine the will of an overwhelming majority of members of both parties in both houses of the legislature, as well as the strategy sought by the FDA, by regulating and taxing e-cigarettes as if they were cigarettes. 

Indeed, if the veto is allowed to stand, it would contravene the very principle central to the FDA’s planned approach to the regulation of e-cigarettes as outlined by Mr. Zeller. 

The legislature should act swiftly to overturn the governor’s misguided veto.