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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.

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Meet Pam Hopmann--ObamaCare Made Her Coverage Worse

I followed up my study on the quality of policies on the ObamaCare exchanges with an op-ed in RARE.  It began with the story of Pam Hopmann:

Like millions of Americans, Pam Hopmann of Chesterfield, Missouri received a notice cancelling her insurance in September 2013. Her experience after that is a textbook example of the problems caused by Obamacare late last year.

“My husband and I started trying to sign up for insurance on the exchange,” she said of her experience in getting a new plan, “but we never got through. We ended up using an insurance agent.”

Then came the rate shock. The plan she chose had a higher premium—$544 per month versus $400 for her old plan. Her new plan also required more cost-sharing. Her old plan had a deductible of $1,000; the new one had a deductible of $1,750.

She would soon experience the phenomenon that became known as the “skinny network.”

“In the fall of 2013 I started receiving letters from my physicians, including my ob/gyn and cardiologist, saying that they wouldn’t be taking insurance on the exchange because the reimbursement rates were too low,” Pam said.

“I just really feel like it was shoved down our throats—like I had no choice. Obama said we could keep our plans and keep our doctors, and I couldn’t do either of those. I think that’s wrong because if you had something you liked, you should have been able to stick with it.”

Despite the claims of some the law’s supporters, there are real people who suffer because of ObamaCare.

Read the entire op-e here.  More on Mrs. Hopmann in the study.



ObamaCare Has Harmed The Quality Of Insurance

Most of you remember late last year when millions of people were losing their insurance plans in the individual market.  At the time, many ObamaCare apologists, including the president himself, tried to excuse the cancellations by saying that the health plans that people were losing were “substandard.”  MSNBC host Ed Schultz referred to the lost plans as “crappy” but only because he couldn’t “use the S-word.” 

However, ObamaCare supporters never produced a shred of evidence that plans in the individual market in 2013 were inferior in quality to the plans on the ObamaCare exchanges.  The study we are releasing today shows that plans on the ObamaCare exchanges are in fact inferior in quality when compared to the plans on the individual market via and

Entitled “Despite ObamaCare Supporters’ Claims, Health Insurance Plans Prior to ObamaCare Exchanges Were Neither ‘Crappy’ Nor ‘Substandard, it compared the cost-sharing — i.e., the deductibles and the out-of-pocket maximums — of plans on the individual market in 2013 and on the ObamaCare exchanges in ten major metropolitan areas for a 27-year-old single person and a 57-year-old couple. It also examined the provider networks, comparing the number of health maintenance organization (HMO) plans to preferred provider organizations (PPO) plans in the individual markets and ObamaCare exchanges.  

Here are the highlights:

  • There was an average of 33 plans in each area for a 27-year-old on the individual market that had lower premiums and lower or equal deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums than the cheapest plans on the ObamaCare exchanges. Milwaukee, Wisconsin had the most such plans with an average of 68.

  • For a 57-year-old couple there was an average of 10 policies in each area that had lower premiums and lower or equal cost-sharing in the 2013 individual market than the cheapest plans on the ObamaCare exchanges. Louisville, Kentucky had the most with an average of 26. 

  • The ObamaCare exchanges had many more of the restrictive HMO networks in their plans relative to the individual market, an average of 16 more HMO plans for both 27-year-olds and 57-year-olds.

  • The less restrictive PPOs were more common in the individual markets, with an average of 32 more plans with PPOs for 27-year-olds and 25 more for 57-year-olds.

While “quality” is often a very subjective concept, this study focused on cost-sharing and provider networks because they are the least subjective dimensions of quality of health insurance plans. Regarding the relationship of the premium to the deductible and out-of-pocket maximum, few people, if any, would consider it good value for the money to change to a policy with a higher premium and a higher deductible and out-of-pocket maximum than a policy they previously owned. In other words, looking solely at the aspect of premium relative to out-of-pocket costs, almost no one would rationally consider it an improvement in quality to pay a higher premium and get less out-of-pocket coverage. 

The quality of the network of physicians, hospitals and other health care providers available through an insurance plan is a bit more subjective.  While HMOs are more restrictive than PPOs, there are HMOs like Kaiser Permanente and Group Health Cooperative that get high marks from consumers. Nevertheless, data from the employer-based market shows that people tend to prefer less restrictive networks. The Kaiser Family Foundation shows that at the height of HMO coverage in 1996, about 31 percent of employees with employer-provided health insurance were in an HMO plan. By 2013, that had dropped to 14 percent. At the same time, PPOs grew from 28 percent to 57 percent of covered employees. Based on actual consumer choice, most of those consumers appear to consider the less restrictive networks of PPOs to be higher quality than HMOs. 

Unfortunately, as this study demonstrates, quality has declined in these areas in the plans on the ObamaCare exchanges.  This is due to the regulations that ObamaCare places on exchange plans, such as the benefit mandates.  Those regulations cause premiums to increase.  To keep premiums anywhere close to reasonable on the exchanges, insurers had to skimp on cost-sharing and provider networks.

There is nothing wrong with doing that—provided that’s what consumers want.  Yet consumers no longer get to make that choice. They no longer have the option of foregoing some benefits for lower out-of-pocket costs and broader networks.

So, not only has ObamaCare reduce insurance quality, it has reduced our choices as well.


Thank you, Oklahoma Daily, for Sowing Discord and Inaccuracy

RacistBraUnderwearLingerieDFC AMR

How much whining should the world have to put up with?

This article, by the editorial board of the Oklahoma Daily, complains that calling a bra's color "nude" is "racist."

Please, people. In other countries, children are being buried alive by Islamist radicals, starved to death by North Korean's evil dictatorship, dying of curable diseases because of ignorance and superstition, married off in childhood to ancient putrid lechers -- we all know I could go on and on.

If this rises to the level of a problem in your life, get on your knees and thank God for your good fortune.

Furthermore, Oklahoma Daily: Lazy reporting is inexcusable. As a commentator to your own article had to point out for you, "nude" bras are called "nude" because they can't be seen through light-colored shirts. This is true regardless of the skin tone of the woman.

As the commentator said:

As someone who used to work in a high end lingerie store, let me explain to you the point of a nude bra. It's really quite simple and has absolutely nothing to do with skin color. A nude bra is made in a light beige color because it's the only color that won't show through a lightly colored shirt. A white bra, for example, will show through a white shirt, so of course a dark colored bra would show through a white shirt. I sold nude bras to women of every skin color, because they understand the purpose of owning one. A nude bra is simply about making sure a woman's outfit is what's on display, rather than her undergarments.

The example of "racism" was ridiculous even if it had been true, and it wasn't even true.

Another banner day for the nation's media, sowing discord and inaccuracy and making the world a worse place than it found it.


Never Forget

Today is the 13th Anniversary.


Tribute here.


Project 21's Kevin Martin: "The Strategy Laid Out by the President is Nothing New"

Kevin Martin

Project 21's Kevin Martin has some strong thoughts about President Obama's ISIS speech tonight:

The strategy laid out by the President is nothing new outside the application of United States air power.

President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senators McCain and Graham were advocates of arming so-called 'moderate Muslims' inside Syria back in 2010 over the objections of conservative voices, who factually stated that there more radical elements within the opposition forces to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. These radical elements were allowed to gain power and influence within the opposition before breaking with them and forming what we know as ISIS today.

I find it difficult to accept the President's plan to arm these so-called moderate forces when it failed the first time and produced ISIS, a group of radicals that now have nearly a billion dollars in assets. These assets include military equipment looted from the governments of both Syria and Iraq, including heavy weapons, MANPADS and aircraft. This makes the policy of limited airstrikes inside Syria a difficult task.

As a veteran, I find it most difficult to support the President's strategy of arming these supposed moderates in light of the fact that the White House cannot confirm if these same moderate forces within Syria sold American Journalist Steven Sotloff to the forces of ISIS that later beheaded him.

It is time for the President to go before the American people and Congress to put forth a real strategy that completely destroys ISIS and does not create another Son of Al-Qaeda by contracting out our national security to so-called 'moderates.'

Kevin Martin is a member of the National Advisory Council of the Project 21 black leadership network. An environmental contractor in the Washington-Baltimore area and a long-time public policy commentator, Kevin frequently appears on the Fox News Channel and typically is interviewed by radio talk shows over 70 times each year on behalf of Project 21.


Great Moments In Single-Payer Health Care

1. Will It Be A Best Seller? Angela Johnson, president of Medical Confidence, Inc., has just released a new book entitled “Step by Step Guide to Navigating your way through Canada’s Health Care System and Minimizing Your Wait Time.”  The press release states that the book is “a first of its kind and must read for Canadians, providing them with 14 valuable tips to overcome these issues and minimize their wait times.”  I wonder if the book instructs patients to go to this website for British Columbia that enables people to see wait times for surgery by clicking on a body part?

2. The Psychiatrist Will Not See You Soon.  In Canada’s capital, Ottawa, “1,195 children and youth are waiting for mental health outpatient and outreach services at CHEO and the Royal, up 10 per cent from 1,082 a year ago,” according to an article in the Ottawa Citizen.  The wait time for mental health treatment could be up to a year.  Young people are recommended to plan their bouts of depression in advance.

3. A Cancerous System.  Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends that no cancer patient should wait more than 62 days to start treatment.  Yet the Daily Mail reports just over 9,900 British cancer patients waited longer than that in the first six months of 2014.  It would be interesting to know just where the NHS came up with the 62 day standard, because the longer one waits for treatment, the odds increase that the cancer will recur.  According to an article in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology, for breat cancer there is an “increase in the risk of recurrence of 1.0% per month of delay” and for head and neck cancer there is an “increase in the risk of recurrence of 3.7% per month of delay” (p. 12).

4. Records Are Made To Be Broken! The Daily Mail reported last month that the “number of patients languishing on NHS waiting lists for operations is at its highest for six years…There are 3.2 million people awaiting surgery – a rise of 700,000 compared with 2010.”  Not only are there 3.2 million people on the wait list for surgery, 809,000 patients were waiting for a diagnostic test and 15,600 operations were cancelled at the last minute in the second quarter of 2014. To top it off, these numbers may be an undercount due to errors and incomplete records.


9 + 6 = Our Friend '10' Because 6 Is 1 + 5 And If You Take The 1 And Add It To 9 You Get 10 And Then Add In That 5 = 15

Is that headline a wee bit confusing?  Welcome to Common Core math!  Enjoy the decline of our education system:

Hat tip:


Opponents of E-Cigarettes "Neo-Puritan" in Refusing Science and Logic

Despite a being a “boon” to public health that has won the approval of many health experts as a means of “reduc[ing] the harm from smoking,” there are still “entrenched” nanny state activists acting in a “neo-puritan” fashion who refuse to accept science or logic showing that e-cigarettes are a viable tool in helping people quit using tobacco.

On the 8/29/14 edition of “Byline” on Canada’s Sun News Network, National Center Risk Analysis Division director Jeff Stier bluntly said the “nanny state is focused on controlling how we live.”  He added that the opposition to e-cigarettes as an alternative to cigarettes and other tobacco products have changed the terms of their crusade from “improv[ing] public health” to “reducing dependence on nicotine.”  In particular, the United Nation’s World Health Organization is calling for a ban on the use of e-cigarettes indoors — at least until more research can be done on e-cigarette vapor.

On the issue of international control of e-cigarettes, Jeff said the U.N. agency is “kind of running the show now” because 168 countries have signed onto an international treaty governing tobacco control and are thus obligated to “implement[ing] the rules” that the WHO hands out.


"American People Expect" Obama to Work with Congress on Illegal Immigration

Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper says the only way to defuse the current immigration crisis is for the “White House and Congress to come together” and “work collaboratively” to achieve a solution.  This is opposed to President Obama’s threat to use his executive power to unilaterally declare amnesty or something similar that will change the status of possibly millions of illegal aliens residing in the United States.

On internationally-broadcast Voice of America television on 8/30/14, Horace reminded views:

That’s the process the founders intended.  That’s what the American people expect.  And that’s the normal way to proceed…


Obama Employment Numbers Lackluster, Underperforming

Vacation is over — it’s time for the President to get back to work.

And it’s all uphill for President Obama.  Abroad, he openly revealed he has no strategy on dealing with the growing problem of ISIS (but didn’t he announce the terrorists were on their heels back in 2012?) and he seems powerless to stop Putin’s march on Ukraine.  At home, he is beset by scandal, a “humanitarian situation” along our southern border and an economy that he just can’t seem to turn around.

Today’s jobs report news doesn’t help.  The official unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.1 percent, but only 142,000 jobs were reportedly created.  Experts were deflated, as they were looking for at least 75,000 more jobs to be created.  And the total unemployment rate — the one that includes the underemployed and disengaged — was still almost double the rate that gets the headlines at 12 percent.

As he does every month, Project 21 member Derryck Green provides his analysis of the jobless statistics in particular and the state of the Obama economy in general.

To follow is this month’s installment of Derryck Green’s “About Those Jobs Numbers” as reported for August of 2014:

Listening to the President’s speech at the Milwaukee Laborfest earlier this week, it’s clear that he would have the nation believe the economy is booming — or, at the very least, it is strong enough to give Americans more confidence in his stewardship.

Among other things, Obama bragged that his administration created around ten million jobs and that the country is stronger because Americans now have “quality, affordable health insurance that [we] can count on.”  He also claimed that, because of his economic policies, the American economy is stronger now than when he took office back in 2009.

But, also according to Obama, the main reason more people don’t realize how well the economy is doing is because of the media.  The media!  Yes, he’s talking about the same media that has effectively defended his poor economic policies and appears to have willingly spun the jobs report for him month in and month out no matter how gloomy the details past the official unemployment rate have been over the years.  It is now apparently at fault, however, for not spinning more economic news in his favor.

Unfortunately for the President, the actual jobs numbers and other economic indicators paint a much different and less optimistic picture of the economy under his leadership — regardless of good or bad media input.

The initial estimate of the second-quarter GDP growth rate of four percent was revised upwards to 4.2 percent.  Now that does seem like good news considering that the first quarter contracted by 2.1 percent.  But, when averaged with the first quarter, the economy has grown slightly – to above one percent.

As for jobs numbers, payroll processor ADP estimated 204,000 jobs were added in August.  Though down from the previous month’s job additions, August was the seventh month that private job creation exceeded 200,000.  The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the President’s job-counter, says there were a scant 145,000 jobs created last month.  So much for that streak.  Digging deeper into their report, the number of people stuck in part-time employment is 7.3 million (down 200,000), while those Americans out of the labor force altogether rose from 741,000 to 775,000.

In August, the national unemployment rate did go down ever so slightly to 6.1 percent.  That is the official unemployment rate — the rate that’s reported by the allegedly biased media.  The U-6 rate, the more accurate indicator of unemployment — which includes discouraged workers, workers marginally attached to the labor force and those working part-time but prefer full-time work — is 12 percent.  This is yet another month in which the U-6 rate has been at or above 12 percent.

Then there are the broken dreams of the President’s core constituencies.

The unemployment rate for blacks remained steady at 11.4 percent, while black teenage unemployment was extremely high at 32.8 percent.   The unemployment rate for the coveted Latino demographic fell slightly to 7.5 percent

The labor force participation rate for all Americans went slightly further down (and that’s not a good decline) to 62.8 percent.

But that’s not all the recent news.

Other economic indicators show:

  • Every month for the last 36 months, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at least 45 million Americans have been enrolled to receive food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).  In May 2014, the last month in which the data is known, more than 46 million people received food stamps.
  • The Bureau of the Fiscal Service’s Monthly Treasury Report, 2013 saw over $2 trillion in benefits and entitlements paid out by the federal government.   Almost 70 percent of this amount was paid out in non-means tested programs.  This is program eligibility that isn’t tied to income.
  • According to Census Bureau data, more than a third of Americans are receiving some form of government assistance.
  • Data recently released by Sentier Research shows that the median household income is more than three percent lower now than it was when the recession was declared over in June 2009.   It is almost five percent lower than it was in December, 2007.
  • The Pew Charitable Trust shows that no state in America could claim employment gains between 2007 and 2014.
  • The Congressional Budget Office recently revised an April 2014 report on the potential effects of ObamaCare on the economy over the next ten years.  Not only does the CBO project a smaller labor force participation rate than pre-recession levels, but it expects the labor force participation rate to be further reduced because ObamaCare subsidies are tied to income.  After a certain level (400 percent of the federal poverty level), the higher the income means the fewer subsidies that are available for increasing premiums — a clear incentive not to work.

With statistics like these, it’s no wonder why the majority of Americans — 54 percent — are disappointed in the job President Obama is doing on the economy.  Then again, he is “doing a job” on the economy!  It’s also no surprise that almost half of Americans — 49 percent — think the economy is still in recession.

But, according to Obama, this isn’t the real news to pay attention to.  This is just stuff brought up by a media that doesn’t have his best interest, or the best interest of the nation in mind.


Don’t Talk About Race

In a recent New Visions Commentary, my colleague Demetrius Minor addressed the need for increased dialogue regarding racial issues. 

To wit, he wrote: “Because of the hypersensitivity to which our world has succumbed, race is a frightening or taboo subject for many.  Nonetheless, we should all talk about it.” 

I would add alter his last sentence to read, “[n]onetheless, we should all [be able] to talk about it.”

I would advise many Americans to avoid talking about race at all costs.  Doing otherwise may place their livelihoods in jeopardy.  But corporate America could go a long way to fixing this problem.   

One logical place to have earnest discussions about race is at work.  Indeed, President Obama suggested in a 2010 speech that: 

We should all make more of an effort to discuss with one another, in a truthful and mature and responsible way, the divides that still exist — the discrimination that’s still out there, the prejudices that still hold us back — a discussion that needs to take place not on cable TV, not just through a bunch of academic symposia or fancy commissions or panels, not through political posturing, but around kitchen tables, and water coolers (emphasis added).

But having a water cooler discussion about race is currently a dangerous proposition for many public and private sector employees that is fraught with the specter of demotion or even firing. 

As law professor Eugene Volokh noted after President Obama’s 2010 speech: 

I certainly agree that it would be good for people to discuss racial issues in a truthful, mature, and responsible way.  But I’m pretty sure that discussing such issues around “water coolers” is pretty dangerous advice, at least if one really wants a discussion in which people aren’t afraid to air their views. 

To begin with, any arguments that some might see as racist could lead to complaints and even lawsuits about a supposedly “racially hostile work environment”; and while such lawsuits are hard for plaintiffs to win, no employer wants to have to fight them, and no employee should want to have his speech be the subject of such suits.

The legal standards at play here are very vague, giving the arbiter of such complaints (be it a judge, jury or mediator) tremendous latitude in interpreting the offending party’s speech.  But the problem is that employees should also be wary of what they say and do outside of the workplace – even if it is constitutionally-protected speech.  

Only about half of American workers live in a jurisdiction that provides statutory protection against employer retaliation for engaging in First Amendment activities.  And some of these laws are weaker than others.  Furthermore, many corporations do not offer this protection as a condition of employment.  

Racial discussions can be fraught with peril for workers.  Whether at the water cooler or not, consider the following:  

  • Are you against affirmative action on the grounds that it discriminates against whites and Asians?  You might be deemed a racist. 
  • Are you white and think you can talk about inner-city violence?  You might be deemed a racist. 
  • Do you support common sense voter protection measures such as voter identification laws?  You might be deemed a racist. 
  • Do you support the presumption of innocence for criminal defendants as well as for police officers accused of a crime?  You might be deemed a racist
  • Do you think it is a tragedy that black babies are aborted at a higher rate than other babies?  You might be deemed a racist (and also hostile to women).  
  • Do you think it is unseemly for President Obama to interject himself into local matters such as the arrest of a black Harvard professor, the mess in Ferguson, Missouri or Trayvon Martin’s death?  You might be deemed a racist. 

That last example isn’t theoretical.  It happened, and an employee was demoted because of it. 

In the very recent case of DeMay v. Richmond County Dep’t of Social Servs., 2014 WL 4206296 (N.C. Office of Admin. Hearings), an individual was demoted because of comments she made during a staff meeting.  

Again, the indelible Eugene Volokh has culled the important facts of the case, which are available here.  But, essentially, the employee – who was a governmental employee in a supervisory role – during a break in a staff meeting, read a Facebook post aloud so her fellow employees could hear.   Written from the imagined vantage point of a white, 13-month old baby who had been murdered, the post said, among other things: 

My family made the mistake of being white in a 73% non-white neighborhood, but my murder was not ruled a Hate Crime.  Nor did President Obama take so much as a single moment to acknowledge my murder.

President Obama has no children who could possibly look like me — so he doesn’t care and the media doesn’t care because my story is not interesting enough to bring them ratings.

So while you are seeking justice for Trayvon, please remember to seek justice for me too. Tell your friends about me, tell you [sic] families, get tee shirts with my face on them and make the world pay attention, just like you did with Trayvon.  

From the discussion of the office’s rules for personal conduct, it is clear that the employee broke plenty of protocols for both using her phone and Facebook in inappropriate manners.  Also, government employers have the latitude to restrict speech that injures morale – as the employee’s actions arguable did here.  So her demotion on those grounds appears perfectly reasonable.  However, the disposition of the case presents potentially troubling precedent for other workers. 

That’s because the decision also said that the employee created a “hostile work environment.”  

As Professor Volokh explains, 

in the hearing officer’s opinion, this sort of “racially and politically provocative” speech would be legally actionable even if it was said in a private workplace, even when the employer itself had no desire to restrict it.  That would not be justifiable under the special rules applicable to the government acting as employer.  That would be the government restricting political speech even on private property, based on its content and viewpoint.

And while this case involved speech said by a supervisor in a mandatory meeting, hostile environment harassment law can likewise impose massive liability based on speech by co-workers, and speech outside such mandatory meetings.  To be sure, it’s less likely that co-worker speech or speech in the lunchroom or around the water cooler would be found to be actionable by itself.  But, as I argue here, harassment law inherently pressures employers to restrict even such individual instances of speech.

This is a bridge too far.  Hostile work environment (harassment) laws are often decidedly vague and, in many instances, likely unconstitutionally contravene the First Amendment.  

Certainly, actual instances of hostility and harassment should be swiftly and judiciously handled.  But having a frank discussion about race should not fit into that category. Yet, as racial agitators stir tensions and decide the parameters of corporate America’s acceptable group think, there will likely be more cases like this in the future, not less.  


Did George W. Bush Deregulate?  No.

One of the other points of contention between Ben Cohen and myself on Thom Hartmann’s show the other night was whether President George W. Bush deregulated. Cohen claimed there was a “massive binge of deregulation” under Bush. When I insisted there wasn’t, Cohen replied, “Just saying there wasn’t doesn’t make it so.”  (The discussion starts at about 35:20, below.)

No, my saying it doesn’t make it so.  But the evidence does:


The first figure shows the accumulation over time of restrictive words in the Federal Register such as “shall,” “must,” or “required.”  The year before Bush became president, there were 856,209 such words.  In his last year of 2008 there appears to be about 960,000, an increase of over 100,000.

The second shows the number of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations. I’m eyeballing it here, but it appears there were about 130,000 pages in 2000 and 150,000 in 2008.  Regardless, it’s clear the number of pages and, hence, regulations increased during Bush’s tenure.

(Hat tip, James Pethokoukis.) 

Further, Bush’s regulations may have been more costly than his predecessors.  A few years ago Veronique de Rugy claimed that, while the number of new rules from the Bush Administration had slowed, 

the new regulations’ cost to the economy will be much higher than it was before 2001. Of the new rules, 159 are “economically significant,” meaning they will cost at least $100 million a year. That’s a 10 percent increase in the number of high-cost rules since 2006, and a 70 percent increase since 2001. And at the end of 2007, another 3,882 rules were already at different stages of implementation, 757 of them targeting small businesses.

She also noted, correctly, that “Some people still seem to think Republicans take a hands-off approach to regulation, probably because the party is always quick to criticize the burdens regulations place on businesses. But Republican rhetoric doesn’t always match Republican policy.”

Unfortunately, some people still think that.


Does Britain Have Medical Bankruptcies? Yes.

Score one for this side of the pond!  

Last night I was on Thom Hartmann’s “The Big Picture” with Ben Cohen of the Daily Banter.  Cohen, who is from Great Britain, suggested that I didn’t know how his home country’s single-payer health care system works because I claimed that there were bankruptcies due to medical bills in the U.K.  The exchange begins at about 22:49:

The link I was referring to in that exchange is a report from Britain’s Insolvency Service entitled “Causes of Failure in Bankruptcy and Compulsory Liquidation.” Here’s Table 2 from page 10:

Additionally, a report from the World Health Organization also cites research that “within the United Kingdom, sickness or disability accounted for 5% of households in financial difficulties in 2002.”

The idea that single-payer systems don’t have medical bankruptcies is based on the fact that health care is “free” at the point of service in such systems.  After all, if people don’t have to pay for health care (at least not directly), how could they have a bankruptcy due to medical bills?

For starters, medical bills are not the only way a medical bankruptcy can occur.  For example, if you have an illness that requires a major operation in Britain, you are likely to end up on a long waiting list.  And if the illness renders you unable to work, then the longer you are on the waiting list the more your finances will be strained.

Consider Torron Eeles, a British plumber who broke his upper left arm in a fall. While he waited for an operation, his arm twisted into a … well … just take a look at the photo. As the article stated, Eeles’s arm “twisted out of shape, hangs limply by his side, meaning he cannot work for a living and now faces the prospect of losing his home.”  At one point Eeles had waited 12 months because his operation had been cancelled four times. He called the wait “disgusting” and said “I wish I’d had the money to go private.”  I can’t find any information on how long Eeles had to wait for an operation or how precarious his finances became, but it’s not hard to see how a situation like his could result in bankruptcy.

Eeles is far from alone.  Britain’s National Health Service estimates that, as of June, at least 3 million patients were waiting for treatments such as surgery, while over 15,600 operations were cancelled at the last minute in the second quarter of 2014.  Another 809,000 patients were waiting for a diagnostic test. With so many people waiting for care, and some of those people unable to work because of it, some bankruptcies are inevitable.

It’s a myth that there are no medical bankruptcies in single-payer systems.  But as Ben Cohen showed, such myths die hard.


African Legal Immigrant Numbers Cut, Hispanic Illegal Immigrant Numbers Surge, if Obama Gets His Way

Project 21 has issued a press statement noting that President Obama's immigration policies, both formal and rumored, are biased in favor of Hispanic immigration and against immigration from African nations.

Among other things, they note that S. 744, the immigration bill passed by the Senate last year and very strongly supported by Obama, eliminates the diversity visa program.

AfricanImmigrationCaption083014About 50 percent of all immigrant visas distributed through the diversity visa program go to people in African nations, and a full quarter of the Africans who were granted permanent residence in the United States are getting it because of the diversity visa program.

Thus, if Obama gets his way, expect legal immigration from African nations to drop by a quarter.

This possibly is not what naturalized American citizens from Africa had in mind when they enthusiastically supported Obama's election in 2008, with many citing Obama's connection to Africa (his biological father being Kenyan) as the reason for their enthusiasm.

To be sure, other Democrats and Republicans oppose continuing the diversity visa program. Some believe its design (in brief, a visa lottery eligible only to citizens of nations with historically low immigration to the U.S.) lets in riffraff, although I haven't heard them use that word, exactly.

Columnist Michelle Malkin believes terrorists could win entry to the U.S. through the lottery. The thing is, though, if you win the lottery you still have to go through a screening process. If the screening process needs to be toughened, we can toughen it. We don't need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Prominent Members of Congress prefer requiring immigrants to have certain skills or letting them immigrate because they have family members in the United States.

I think we'd be making a mistake if we eliminate the diversity visa program without procedures in place to make certain people from historically-underrepresented countries have an equal shot at getting in as folks from historically-overrepresented countries.

One reason is that diversity -- a decent word ruined by liberals -- is a good thing when we're talking about immigration, because having a lot of immigrants from many different places is a lot more likely to lead to a melting pot than having the same number of immigrants from a much smaller number of places.

The melting pot is a good thing. It forges Americans.

For this reason I also believe policymakers make a mistake to emphasize family reunification in immigration policy, because it leads to over-represented countries being increasingly more and more over-represented.

It's one thing to let in a spouse of a permanent legal resident or citizen, or minor children, or elderly parents, but at this point, two-thirds of legal immigration into the United States is for family-reunification purposes, and that's just nuts.

African Imm Labor Force Participation 083014We worry that a visa lottery followed by a screening process will let in terrorists, but we let in adult, married children and adult siblings? Terrorists have siblings, too.

If a person wants to live with his or her entire extended family, he or she might consider staying home. Or visiting them! Many native-born Americans live thousands of miles from their adult siblings, parents, etc. inside or outside the United States and we don't consider it a hardship. We consider it a choice.

Letting in people with desired skills is fine, but it doesn't have to be at the expense of letting in folks from under-represented regions (typically Africa, eastern Europe and Australia).

People in under-represented countries have skills, too. As Project 21 pointed out about immigrants from Africa:

  • According to the Migration Policy Institute, adult immigrants born in Africa were more likely than native-born Americans to have bachelor’s degrees or higher. The Immigration Policy Center reports that “two-fifths of African immigrants have at least a bachelor’s degree, and more than one-third work in professional jobs.”

  • African immigrants are more likely to participate in the civilian labor force than other immigrants of the same gender and also are more likely to participate in the civilian labor force than are native-born Americans. Specifically, African-born immigrant males over 16 had an 83.7 percent labor force participation rate compared to 80.0 percent for all foreign-born men and 69.1 percent for native-born men. African-born women had a higher labor force participation rate, 67.2 percent, than all foreign-born women at 57.4 percent and native-born women at 60.2 percent.

I reviewed a White House Fact Sheet released in August 2013 to placate criticism from Americans who support inclusion for African natives in our immigration policy, and found it pathetic.

Most of the arguments made for why the White House's immigration policies are good for African immigrants cited policies that are even better for Latin Americans than for Africans. I think it is ironic and sad that even in a White House run by a man whose biological father was African, the Africans are nonetheless second-class would-be citizens.

Other White House arguments in the Fact Sheet are demeaning, such as the emphasis on letting illegal aliens among the African immigrant community "out of the shadows." Unfortunate terminology aside, this is insulting to an immigrant community that overwhelmingly has not chosen the illegal immigration route. Obama is in fact placing non-African illegals ahead of Africans who played by the rules in the immigration line, and insulting them in the process.

Also demeaning were White House statements that imply Africans should especially like reforms that let in refugees. Should an African person have to become a refugee to get the same shot at immigrating here as a Mexican or Central American who is far more likely to have a relative who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (or to marry one)? Family reunification policies do include Africans, but you have to have family here first, and, mostly, Africans don't and Central Americans and Mexicans, relatively speaking, do.

As Project 21 pointed out, "America has 9 times as many immigrants from Central America and Mexico compared to all of Africa, even though more than four times as many people live in Africa as in Central America and Mexico combined."

In response to some criticisms, Obama backers have noted that Obama supported the diversity visa program in 2006, when he was a Senator, and they say he couldn't control what was in the Senate-passed immigration bill.

True, but he could have leaned on the Senate to make sure African immigration wasn't cut any further than it already is, and he didn't even try, with the result that passage of the Senate bill Obama so ardently supports is likely to cut already-meager African immigration by a quarter while legalizing many millions of immigrants from Latin America.

Furthermore, a White House immigration proposal intended to be a "Plan B" if Capitol Hill could not craft an immigration reform plan palatable to the White House made no mention either of retaining the diversity visa program or removing it but including some other process to make certain African would-be immigrants have the same shot at emigrating here as otherwise equally-qualified people from other parts of the world.

Personally, I don't believe the President cares about this issue. Africans don't immigrate here in sufficient numbers to sway national elections, and in any case, as Project 21 noted, they tend to settle in CA, DC, NY and MD, which are not swing states. Hispanic immigrants are here in much larger numbers and are much more diverse in where they have chosen to settle geographically, making them much more interesting to people who are consumed by politics.

But for those of us who still value the melting pot, making sure Africans (and eastern Europeans, Australians and others from under-represented countries) get a fair shot within our legal immigration programs -- if not via the diversity visa program, then by some other mechanism -- just makes sense.


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.


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.


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.


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.  


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.


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.