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Stier Shorts Out Nanny State Argument to Unplug Kids' Electronics

Jeff Stier, director of the National Center’s Risk Analysis Division, said a blogger’s call for banning kids under the age of 12 from using electronic devices is “ignoring balance” and will “do more harm by stifling innovation.”

The nanny state request, which calls for government to get into the act of making judgmental choices for families in addition to trying to shame parents, is criticized by Jeff for “completely distort[ing]” legitimate studies in order to justify extreme desired outcomes.

During this edition of “Byline” on Canada’s Sun News on 3/12/14, Jeff also pointed out that similar activists previously sought bans and taxes on video game systems because they were deemed to cause childhood obesity — and then systems such as the Wii revolutionized exercise activities among kids for the better.


No, 45,000 People Do Not Die Annually Because They Are Uninsured

There were a number of issues I wanted to address during the Senate hearing at which I testified Tuesday, but for which time did not permit.  

One was the claim that 45,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance.  Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made that claim at the beginning of the hearing, as did Dr. Danielle Martin in this exchange with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC):

The basis for that statistic is this study that appeared in the American Journal of Public Health in 2009.  The study is, in technical terms, garbage.  The authors of the study noted insurance status of a group of people in 1993.  They followed up in 2001, checking whether they were dead or alive.  They found that the group who had been uninsured in 1993 had a higher mortality rate than those who were insured, and from that they calculated that 45,000 people die each year due to lack of insurance.

There was only on problem, which the authors noted near the end of the study:

Our study has several limitation.  NHANES III assessed health insurance at a single point in time and did not validate self-reported insurance status. We were unable to measure the effect of gaining or losing coverage after the interview.

In other words the authors had no idea how many people uninsured in 1993 subsequently acquired health insurance.  Someone who was uninsured in 1993, got insurance in, say, 1996, and then died in 2000—well, it would be pretty hard to attribute his death to being uninsured, wouldn’t it?  

The authors try to pull a fast one with the very next sentence: “Point-in-time uninsurance is associated with subsequent uninsurance.6”  In other words, they are suggesting that if a person was in uninsured in 1993, he was likely to be uninsured as well in 1996.  And that’s what you would take away if you didn’t look at the study in the footnote.  

That study was titled “Health insurance coverage and mortality among the near-elderly.”  Here’s what it says:

Among adults who were uninsured in 1992, the proportion of respondents who reported being publicly or privately insured rose progressively in the ensuing four surveys (46.6 percent, 58.4 percent, 66.1 percent, and 74.5 percent), as nearly half reached age sixty-five and became eligible for Medicare by 2000.

Thus, people who are uninsured at one point in time are more likely to be insured in subsequent years. It would be more accurate to say: “Point-in-time uninsurance is associated with a subsequent increase in insurance coverage.” 

Final note:  Two of the authors of the study purporting to show that 45,000 people die annually due to a lack of insurance are none other than David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, founding members of the single-payer advocacy group Physicians for a National Health System and authors of other dubious studies. This particular study, though, isn’t even worth the bites it is sucking up in cyber-space.

And for more on the lack of insurance and mortality debate, see this post by John Goodman.

UPDATE:  Apparently Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times buys into the bogus 45,000 statistic as well.

UPDATE II: Apparently so does Adam Mordecai of Upworthy.


Death Spiral A Comin'

Two major takeaways from today’s exchange enrollment report from the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

First, the number of “young invincibles,” those ages 18-34, didn’t increase as part of the overall risk pool.  It was 25 percent at the end of January and is 25 percent at the end of February.  Currently there are about 4,242,325 people enrolled in the exchanges, of which 1,075,990 are ages 18-34.  The Obama Administration has predicted that it will need at least 38 percent of enrollees to be young invincibles to avoid a death spiral.  The exchanges would have to enroll about 860,000 18-34-year-olds in March to reach that 38 percent mark—and that assumes that no one of any other age enrolls.  Thus, the smart money is on the ObamaCare exchanges falling a little short of that mark.

It should be noted that the Kaiser Family Foundation has released an analysis saying that the lack of young invincibles will only result in a small increase in premiums on the exchanges.  I’ll discuss that more at a later date, but for now that analysis can be read here

Second, the number of people who enrolled in a silver plan inched up to 63 percent, from 62 percent at the end of January.  What’s more, 74 percent of people who have received a subsidy on the exchange have selected a silver plan, and 94 percent of those who have selected a silver plan have a subsidy.

Why does this matter for the death spiral?  Because so many enrollees choosing silver plans suggests that the risk pool may be sicker than is optimal. For enrollees at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, silver plans tend to offer the most coverage for the lowest price.  For persons under 250 percent FPL, ObamaCare offers help with copays and deductibles, but only if the consumer chooses a silver plan. The actuarial value for a silver plan is 70 percent (that is, a silver plan must, on average, cover 70 percent of a policyholder’s medical claims), but when the subsidies for cost-sharing are included, the actuarial value rises to between 73 and 94 percent. As one writer notes, “Why would someone opt for a silver-level plan over a cheaper bronze or catastrophic-level plan? The most plausible explanation is that the enrollee anticipates incurring significant medical expenses over the coming year, which is to say that he’s not healthy.” 

I could say more, but why, when Doug Badger has already provided such cogent analysis on other aspects of the enrollment report?


Boycott of Florida Businesses Over Stand Your Ground Criticized 


Discussion threats of a possible boycott of Florida businesses as a means of forcing the repeal of the Sunshine State’s “stand your ground” law, Project 21 member Shelby Emmett warned that protestors need to be “careful” for both legal and economic reasons about the desire and means of their possible actions.

Shelby, a lawyer, pointed out on the 3/11/14 edition of “NewsOne Now” on the TVOne network that pressure to repeal the Florida self defense law — which garnered international attention after the death of black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 — should be rooted in earnest desire for “real change and not [for] media attention” or as a means of seeking corporate financial support of black special interest.

She additionally pointed out that protesters “have to be careful here” and not let emotion dominate reason because “the law is still the law.”

Shelby further noted that an economic boycott — possibly targeting private businesses such as Tropicana and the Walt Disney Company as well as the convention/tourism industry as have been mentioned by activists — could hurt the same families the activists say they want to help.  This concern raised by Shelby was nonetheless disputed by host Roland Martin and fellow panelists Dru Ealons and George Curry — all of whom seemed in general agreement with the professed desires of the Florida protestors.


In the second segment, Martin dipped into an off-air conservation between himself and the panelists in which Shelby discussed one possible reason for differing priorities and differing methods of seeking change among younger black Americans such as herself and the current, older leadership of the civil rights lobby.

Shelby suggested that stand your ground law horror stories were not seen by her as much of a civil rights violation as they were “ridiculous people” doing ridiculous things — actions that would not be changed by the presence or absence of any laws such as “stand your ground.”

Irrational anti-gun laws, she brought up as an example, “are making it OK for the bad guy” to continue unabated at the expense of law-abiding Americans.  As far as what most equates to a civil rights issue nowadays to Shelby and the people she is speaking with in young, black social circles?  School choice.

After once again raising the ire of the rest of the studio, Shelby explained: “Just because my generation doesn’t want to do things the same way that previous generations did does not mean we don’t care as much.  It just means we look at it differently.”


Dr. David Hogberg's Senate Testimony on Government-Run Health Care Problems

Dr. David Hogberg of the National Center for Public Policy Research testifies about foreign problems associated with government-run health care and the political problems that face patients under those systems.

This testimony was presented before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging on 3/11/14.


What the U.S. Health Care System Can Learn from Single-Payer Countries

I’ll be testifying today in from the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Primary Health And Aging.  The title of the hearing is Access and Cost: “What the U.S. Health Care System Can Learn from Other Countries.”  Although, based on the letter I received inviting me to testify, the more accurate title is “What the U.S. Health Care System Can Learn from Single-Payer Countries.”

The hearing begins at 10 am EDT, and you should be able to view a web cast of it here.

And here is the full testimony that I’ve submitted.


Senate Democrats to Stay Up All Night to Protest that They Aren't Doing Anything on Climate 

If they have to do a silly little protest against their own inaction, why not protest that they aren't doing anything about the debt?



Health Care Odds & Ends

1. ObamaCare Beginning To Worry Insurers.

Insurance companies that participate in the exchange are worried that the exchanges won’t be viable for long.  The recent announcement by the Obama Administration that people could keep their health plans through 2015 has only added to the troubles as insurers were hoping those people would see their plans cancelled this year and then join the exchange.

From the Washington Examiner:

Though the department [of Health and Human Services] has reported that 4 million have signed up for health care plans through one of the program’s new insurance exchanges, that number drops to 3 million when individuals who haven’t kept up with paying premiums are included (about 20 percent never paid the first month’s premiums, and an additional 2 to 5 percent haven’t paid the second month’s premium, Laszewski writes, citing insurance carriers).

That isn’t enough to create a sustainable risk pool with a critical mass of young and healthy enrollees to offset the cost of covering older and sicker individuals who are now guaranteed an offer of coverage.

Well, NCPPR warned them about these problems a while ago.  Sometimes being right is a real pain.

2. Unions Also Worried About ObamaCare.

Here is the key paragraph from an analysis by UNITE!, a union that represents people who work in the hospitality industry, airports, food service and so on: 

Ironically, the Administration’s own signature healthcare victory poses one of the most immediate challenges to redressing inequality. Yes, the Affordable Care Act will help many more Americans gain some health insurance coverage, a significant step forward for equality. At the same time, without smart fixes, the ACA threatens the middle class with higher premiums, loss  of hours, and a shift to part-time work and less comprehensive coverage. 
Read more about it here.


3. Testimony Before The Senate HELP Committee Tomorrow

I’ll be testifying before the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, which is part of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  The topic is “Access and Cost: What the U.S. Health Care System Can Learn from Other Countries.”  It will take place between 10am and noon EDT, and you should be able to view a webcast here.  What will I say?  Well, here is a sneak peek at some of the testimony I’ve submitted:

I think the best lessons we can take from other nations is what NOT to do to our health care system.  The most important lesson is that we should avoid putting more and more of our health care system under the control of politicians.  Politicians, like everyone else, face a system of incentives and constraints.  Specifically, most politicians want to get re-elected and that will have a substantial impact on health care policy. Groups that have political clout, that can influence a politician’s reelection chances, are more likely to get good treatment under government-run health care systems.  Groups that lack such clout are more likely to be neglected by politicians and receive inferior care.

Unfortunately, people who are quite sick—those who need an operation or cancer treatment or have a serious chronic condition—usually lack such political clout.  First, the very sick are relatively few in number, which means they amount to a very limited number of voters, too limited to have much impact on elections. Second, they are too sick to engage in the type of political activities such as organizing, protesting, etc., that can bring about change in health care policy.  Furthermore, they may be completely unaware of how government health care policy has affected their plight, in which case they will not feel a need to vote or organize to change health care policy.  Ultimately, under a government system, those with the most medical need are the most likely to have difficulty getting the care they need. 

Or, you can see the whole testimony here.


4. And For Something Totally Unrelated To Health Care.

Here is Rosey Grier, one of the defensive linemen of the then-Los Angeles Rams known as the “Fearsome Four”:

And here is Grier singing “It’s All Right to Cry”:

Hat tip, Kyle Smith.



Rutgers Administration, Project 21 Members, Stand with Condoleezza Rice

As the president of Rutgers University in New Jersey stands by the decision to ask former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be the commencement speaker at the school’s New Brunswick campus, members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network are criticizing members of the Rutgers faculty, student body and others who want to trample free expression and the free exchange of ideas by cancelling Rice’s invitation.

In an open letter, Rutgers president Robert Barchi wrote that the planned May 18 speech will not be cancelled, and that “we cannot protect free speech or academic freedom by denying others the right to an opposing view, or by excluding those with whom they may disagree.”

The school’s Faculty Council passed a resolution that demanded Rice be turned away from the Rutgers-New Brunswick commencement because she “played a prominent role in the administration’s efforts to mislead the American people about the presence of mass destruction” weapons prior to the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq during the presidency of George W. Bush.

In a commentary condemning the actions of intolerant liberals in the Rutgers-Rice controversy, liberal political commentator and noted civil rights era historian Juan Williams wrote:

The facts are right.  The conclusion is wrong…

Liberals are shockingly quick to demean and dismiss brilliant black people like Rice, [noted surgeon Ben] Carson, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), Professor Walter E. Williams and economist Thomas Sowell because they don’t fit into the role they have carved out for a black person in America.

Black Americans must be obedient liberals of all things or risk being called a race traitor or Uncle Tom.

In 2011, the Rutgers system was rocked by another controversy regarding campus speeches.  That year, the school was discovered to have paid $32,000 to have MTV’s “Jersey Shore” star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi to speak – $2,000 more than noted black author Toni Morrison received to speak at commencement.  Rice will be paid $35,000 and receive an honorary degree.

Noting that the Rutgers faculty failed to show such outrage about the 2011 Snooki speech and Morrison’s commencement address, Project 21 member Darryn “Dutch” Martin suggested these educators, in particular, should think more about academics than activism.  Dutch said:

Dr. Condoleezza Rice’s academic and professional accomplishments – as a college professor and a university provost, as well as being the nation’s first black female National Security Advisor and Secretary of State – are exemplary to say the least.

But the Rutgers University Faculty Council at the New Brunswick campus feels she doesn’t represent “exemplary citizenship” and wouldn’t “inspire” the school’s new graduates.  However, the same university faculty apparently had no problem at all paying a one-time community college student who became a trashy reality TV star – Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi –  $32,000 in 2011 to tell students to “[s]tudy hard, but party harder” and that “being tan” was her inspiration.

American higher education is supposed to be the one place where vigorous debate and the free flow of dissenting viewpoints should be encouraged and held as sacred.  Yet, in opposing Dr. Rice in this way – while paying Snooki slightly more than Nobel laureate Toni Morrison was paid as commencement speaker the same year – the Rutgers University faculty is irrevocably tarnishing their school’s reputation.

Apparently, a fame-hungry girl of questionable values from New Jersey with no real discernable marketable skills or formal education who spent several seasons on “Jersey Shore” carousing, getting drunk and having run-ins with the law isn’t quite as bad as serving under a conservative president.

The Faculty Council at Rutgers should forever hang its collective head in shame.

Project 21 member Nadra Enzi, added:

It’s tragic that radicals at Rutgers University, the home of everyman Paul Robeson – a progressive and civil rights superlative – tried to “Lib Crow” an exemplar such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice!

It shows, yet again, how nakedly racist the allegedly anti-racist liberals in academia appears to be when encountering blacks who achieve outside their narrow wavelength.

The sheets I see showing during this telling episode don’t look like graduation gowns!


Meet Sir Richard Branson: Concentration Camp Commandant

Branson Climate Deniers National Center 030414W

I wonder if Sir Richard Branson, when he called us "deniers" in response to our activism at the Apple shareholder meeting (a suggestion that we’re like holocaust deniers), realized that under a scenario in which we are akin to holocaust deniers, he's akin to a concentration camp commandant?

In Branson's scenario so, too, is Tim Cook, whom Branson praised.

(For those who do not know it, the term "deniers" is meant to associate people who do not believe humankind is responsible for catastrophic global warming with holocaust deniers. Those who do not believe in the global warming theory, do not believe any global warming that may occur will be catastrophic, or do not believe humanity is mostly responsible for any warming that takes place thus are said not only to be incorrect by those who do believe those things, but morally wrong -- equivalent to deniers of the holocaust -- for not believing in them. For more information and examples, go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here).

Both of these men have directed operations responsible for enormous carbon emissions -- far more than have most of us.

If Branson wants to stop what he apparently thinks is an atrocity, CO2 emissions, he can close the Virgin companies down immediately.


About Those February Jobs Numbers

If things are getting better, why doesn’t it feel like it… and why doesn’t the supporting information seem to support the official unemployment rate?

It’s the first Friday of the month, and that means the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report on the jobless numbers for the previous month.

In February, the unemployment rate went up slightly to 6.7 percent, but it is part of a troubling stagnant trend.  Once again, the key word for the BLS is “unchanged.”

It’s gone up a tenth of a point since last month, which is easy to believe.  But that fact that it is still fairly low considering all of the other factors involved makes things harder to swallow.

For example, the labor force participation rate is unchanged (there’s that word) at an abysmal and almost record-low 63 percent.  And the alternative U-6 rate that also covers those who are unemployed or have given up looking for work is very high at 12.6 percent.

For yet another month, it would also seem that President Obama’s most loyal constituencies were the ones really left wanting when it comes to jobs.  Black unemployment is still quite high at 12 percent.  Black teen unemployment is at 32.4 percent.  The Hispanic jobless rate is 8.1 percent.  All of these loyal, key constituencies are on the hind-end of an already anemic Obama recovery.

It’s certainly impolitic, but — overall — it’s just plain bad for these demographics in particular and the American workforces as a whole.

And the latest budget is yet another disappointment.  Austerity does not appear to be in the President’s vocabulary as the proposed budget spends tens of billions more than last year and offers no substantial way to pay for more welfare state expansion outside of the obvious taxes on the job creating class and from a military that is finding it harder and harder to defend the homeland and our interests abroad as the appeal to do more with less can no longer be considered humanly possible.

But the unemployment rate is allegedly below seven percent by their estimates.  Happy days are here again!

Really?  Really?!

In his monthly “About Those Jobs Numbers…” analysis of the state of the Obama economy, Project 21 member Derryck Green remains pessimistic.  Derryck’s pessimism is justified, as he paints a picture of a president apparently wholly uninterested in economic matters and distracted by the many scandals derail his legacy and play havoc with the normal and expected affairs of state.

Derryck said:

Because the Obama Administration is in perpetual damage control mode these days — attempting to manage the repercussions of the President’s ongoing and mounting missteps — the economy seems all but forgotten.

Domesitcally, these blunders include — but are not limited to — the continuing and unanswered questions surrounding possible IRS political intimidation.  There’s also the man-made distraction that is Attorney General Eric Holder — who recently encouraged his state-based counterparts to disregard their oaths to their respective state constitutions and not defend laws they personally disagree.  He also wants states to lift bans that would allow convicted felons voting privileges.

And there’s yet another ObamaCare implementation modification and a two-year delay to the imposition of the individual mandate.

On the world stage, White House blunders include the repercussions of Syria’s civil war and the humanitarian disaster that occurred while Obama professed (but later walked back) red line of tolerance for Assad’s murderous assault on his own people.  Then there’s Iran’s disruption of Middle East politics and mocking of the President’s threat of military force to contain Iran as well as Putin’s attempt to expand the Russian empire.

Again, because of the President’s contribution to these distractions, the economy is the forgotten man.  The economy receives scant mention by the media and not taken seriously by the President or his economic advisors.

So now we have word that unemployment may be on the rise again.  The new official rate went up to 6.7 percentAbout 10.5 million of our fellow Americans are looking for jobs in a tough market.  Of those, 3.8 million — a more than 200,000-person increase since last month — are considered “long-term unemployed” because they’ve been jobless for more than 27 weeks.

The labor force participation rate is stagnant at 63 percent — a low that harkens back to the Carter era.  That’s surely not a comparison that the President want to hear.

This week was also the release of Obama’s proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year.  It was a minor news story.  The fanfare of past presidents’ budgets was lacking.  It seems the dismal track record of previous Obama budgets makes the sixth one a non-story.

While the national unemployment rate rose, the rate for blacks and Hispanics fell ever so slightly — but it’s still way above the national rate.  While the Obama Administration may desperately try to cherry-pick this and spin it as more so-called evidence of an economy slowly gaining momentum, it cannot be forgotten that the nation’s GDP was revised downward to a 2.4 percent annual growth pace in the fourth quarter, not the 3.2 percent that was initially reported.  Oops!

Five years after the President’s celebrated almost $900 billion “stimulus” package, there are still more people out of the workforce today than when he took office in January of 2009.

There are more people receiving food stamps and federal disability than when he took office as well.  The annual average labor force participation rate reached a 35-year low, averaging 63.2 percent for 2013.

All of this is indicative of the fact that this economic “recovery” — if one still wants to call it that — is the weakest since the Second World War.

The Congressional Budget Office’s recently released report describes the reality in detail.  It notes that the sluggish recovery, the inverse relation of the unemployment rate drop to the high numbers of disaffected, potential employees who’ve left the labor force (including high numbers of long-term unemployed) and low demand for goods and services is partially responsible for the slow growth of payrolls — and it is expected to negatively affect the nation’s economy for at least a decade.

Month after month, the economic indicators become increasingly ominous — yet very little seems to have been done to address the problems.  The nation is in a vulnerable position and in need of real leadership.  But such leadership apparently cannot be found with the person now disrespectfully reclining in the Oval Office with his feet up on the desk.

Consider the President’s recently released, nearly $4 trillion dollar budget that his partisan allies will undoubtedly use as a campaign platform during their mid-term election campaigns.  The President wants more tax increases, with projected revenue of more than a trillion dollars.  He wants to decrease the size and pay for members of our military (even though food stamp use among our soldiers, sailor and airmen has increased during his tenure).

Obama wants to create and fund more social programs like universal preschool, and he wants to extend unemployment insurance.  There are even outrageous budget sub-topics, such as ending homelessness, increasing minimum wage and immigration reform.

If that wasn’t unserious enough, the President’s budget also calls for a $1 billion-dollar, “resilience fund” that would combat the negative effects of climate change.  This would, in essence, give the EPA the money and power to impose the President’s regulation-heavy agenda on the country — causing energy costs to increase, cheating the economy of over $2 trillion over the next 20 or more years.

In no way can Obama’s budget be considered a sober attempt to deal with the economic difficulties facing America — many of which he directly contributed to.  In other words, there is zero substance in it.  And this is also perfectly reflective of the man in the top post.

It would appear to be clear that the state of the nation’s economy matters very little to the President.

Obama hasn’t been held accountable for the nation’s poor economic situation thus far, and it’s suspect that very little will change regarding that fact in the forseeable future. 

top and bottom photo credits: iStockPhoto


Black Conservatives Discuss Barack’s Budget

Many reports about President Obama’s proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year suggest that it is more of a stunt meant to affect the outcome of the 2014 mid-term elections than the fulfillment of a solemn constitutional obligation.

At nearly $4 trillion in size, the Obama budget released earlier this week increases federal spending by around $56 billion.

It’s a populist strategy rooted in class warfare.  It will more likely divide Americans than a tool for uniting the nation.

While Obama calls it “a road map for creating jobs, with good wages and expanding opportunities…,” Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) — the chairman of the House Budget Committee — said the budget isn’t serious and it “a campaign brochure.”  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) called it Obama’s “most irresponsible budget yet.”

According to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation, the Obama budget busts the caps meant to restrain spending while most of the cuts will be borne by the military.  There are increased allocations to sustain the welfare state, and more burdens are put upon America’s earners.

Members of the National Center’s Project 21 [] black leadership network are also talking about the prospects of the Obama budget proposal and the political ends they feel it was written to achieve.

Project 21 member Hughey Newsome, for instance, a financial analyst and a regular columnist for the Daily Caller web site, said:

It is clear that President Obama has chosen the partisan path over attempting for bipartisanship with his latest budget proposal.

With a $1.8 billion tax increase, cuts to the military and no serious attempt to curb the effect of entitlements, it is clear that the President is de-prioritizing agenda items that are responsible and important in order to make room for items that are important to his party’s base.  One example of this is an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit.

It is disappointing that the President has chosen this route, making an agreement both sides can agree upon more difficult to reach.

Project 21 member Dr. B.B. Robinson, the founder of web site, who feels the budget does nothing to deal with increasing debt, added:

The Obama budget proposes a front-loaded and intricate maze of programs called the “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative,” which is heavily weighted toward the future.

While the budget does include programs designed to address current adverse conditions faced by the working poor, these programs are relatively small and secondary.

As for the long-run, assuming that underlying economic assumptions hold, the fact remains that the nation will begin to spend more on net interest payments — debt service — in 2020 than on discretionary defense or nondefense programs. 

photo credit: iStockPhoto


Despite “Nuclear Option” in Senate, Adegbile Nomination Was Radioactive

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way — not during President Obama’s “year of action.”

Yesterday, a bipartisan coalition of senators defeated the nomination of radical lawyer Debo Adegbile, Obama’s choice to run the civil rights practice at the U.S. Department of Justice, by a vote of 47-52.

While there are plenty of aspects of Adegbile’s career to make lovers of the Constitution cringe, the issue that really turned the former NAACP general counsel into a lightning rod of controversy was his previous advocacy for convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Because of Adegbile’s work while at the NAACP on behalf of Jamal, who was convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, Adegbile’s nomination was adamantly opposed by police organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Officials.  Groups supporting the failed nomination included the NAACP and the AFL-CIO, among others.

According the Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the nomination failed to advance despite a “full-court press” by the White House.

This was the first time an Obama nominee failed to win a cloture vote since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made dramatic changes to the way the Senate operates — lowering the number of votes needed to invoke cloture from 60 votes to 51.  This move impairs the minority party’s ability to filibuster presidential nominations (with the alleged exception of nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court).

Eight Democrat senators joined with all Senate Republicans when they opposed the advancement of the Adegbile nomination.  One of those eight was Reid — whose “no” vote, however, was a procedural move that allows him to bring the nomination up for a vote at a later date.  Several of the liberal senators who voted against President Obama’s will are up for re-election.

In the wake of this stunning defeat for the President, an obviously outraged Obama said the vote to not invoke cloture and thus bring the nomination to a final confirmation vote was a “travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”

But, noting that people such as Adegbile choose their clients, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) said that Adegbile, in working for the cop-killer Jamal, “decided to join a political cause… and, in my view, by doing so he demonstrated his own contempt for — and frankly a willingness to undermine — the criminal justice system of the United States.”

Toomey’s summation of the radicalism that undermined the Adegbile nomination and brought about its bipartisan defeat is shared by legal experts and leaders of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network.

Project 21 members noted that Obama’s stunning overreach and even the willingness of his supporters to bend the rules to their favor still has its limits.

Project 21 co-chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a former senior counsel with the Senate Judiciary Committee, commented on how Senate rule changes meant to enact the Obama agenda with more ease still failed to favor such an extreme pick.  She said:

Liberals always said there would be no winners in a nuclear war, and Harry Reid’s use of the “nuclear option” in the Senate seems to have proved them right.

By forcing his caucus to publicly commit to a radical nominee such as Debo Adegbile with a vote rather than being able to find political cover behind the filibuster rules he recently jettisoned, Reid left vulnerable members to choose between cowering or letting their constituents see their true colors.  When push came to shove in the Senate, the White House lost.

This is also a teachable moment for President Obama that trying to trump the legislative norms for governing is a double-edged sword.

Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper, a former congressional leadership staffer and former professor of constitutional law, added:

I want to commend the United States Senate for rejecting this nominee.

Debo Adegbile’s record shows that he was wrong on the law and wrong for America.

President Obama should respect this decision and nominate an individual who supports victims’ rights and equality for all, not simply someone as divisive as this nominee.

photo credit: iStockPhoto


Apple Transparency, Green Goals Questioned by National Center on Cavuto Show 

After being castigated by Apple CEO Tim Cook at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, Justin Danhof of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project took to the Fox Business Network’s “Cavuto” to tell host Neil Cavuto — also a Apple shareholder — that Cook could not stand being asked “a very basic question” about the logic behind company expenses related to green activism.

Justin noted that Cook “went off the rails” when he probed Cook further at the meeting about whether Apple would consider alternative energy investment profitable and in the company’s and shareholders’ best interests if the investments weren’t subsidized by taxpayers.

In the conversation with Cavuto on 3/5/14, Justin added about Apple that “a lot of their green initiatives really are greenwashing because taxpayers foot the bill.”  This green myth is perpetuated by having former Vice President Al Gore on the Apple board of directors and former Obama Administration EPA administrator Lisa Jackson as an Apple employee as the company aggressively pursues profits.


Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof to Discuss Apple Meeting on Cavuto Tonight

The National Center's Free Enterprise Project Director, Justin Danhof, will appear on the Fox Business Network's Cavuto Show tonight at 8 PM eastern to discuss what we did at the Apple shareholder meeting and why.

Tune in!


So What Were We Doing at Apple and Why Did Tim Cook Get So Mad?

Silver Apple Logo WhiteI hadn't yet been able to find the time to write a properly comprehensive post on what we were doing at the Apple Computer shareholder meeting last Friday, but with something like a thousand news media articles out there getting the story either wrong or incomplete, I don't want to leave our story untold.

The Guardian newspaper sent us three questions on Monday for an article, it said, to run Tuesday. I answered them by email and in so doing touched on at least some parts of this story that are largely uncovered.

As Tuesday has come and gone, I figure I've given the Guardian fair time to use the words first, if it wanted to, so I'm going to post its three questions, and my answers. After that, I've added a bit more detail that goes beyond what the Guardian asked, but which should give anyone following this story -- and that includes you, Apple fans -- some food for thought.

The three questions:

1) Will [National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin] Danhof [who represented the National Center for Public Policy Research at the shareholder meeting] be withdrawing any investments from Apple? Will any other NCPPR figures?

2) Do you plan to continue campaigning on this issue against Tim Cook, and if so what measures will you consider next?

3) You mention that over 95% of all climate models have over-forecast the extent of global warming - any chance you can give me a source for that?

And the question with my answers:

1) Will Danhof be withdrawing any investments from Apple? Will any other NCPPR figures?

Neither the National Center for Public Policy Research nor its top executives have any plans to sell our shares in Apple. We've been an Apple-only office since 1985 and do not intend to abandon the company in any respect despite CEO Tim Cook's invitation to do so. Cook does not have the authority to determine who is allowed to be a shareholder.

2) Do you plan to continue campaigning on this issue against Tim Cook, and if so what measures will you consider next?

We are not campaigning against Tim Cook; we are campaigning for transparency and competitive markets and we will continue.

Tim Cook's agitated response at the shareholder meeting was somewhat surprising. Apple cares greatly about return on investment, and Tim Cook knows it. In fact, while we asked that Apple undertake no projects specifically to fight global warming that are unrelated to business goals - a very reasonable pledge we were able to get from General Electric - we actually have no evidence Apple is doing any such thing. It is a very profit-focused company. But as our shareholder proposal made clear, we sought transparency on this and related issues, which is a reasonable request for a shareholder to make.

We wonder if Mr. Cook's outrage was feigned. What constitutes a "green" company is subjective, but it is hard to imagine that Apple qualifies. Minimalist packaging is a big priority within the sustainability movement. Apple's packaging is beautiful, but not minimalist.

In 2012, Apple withdrew from the industry-funded Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) sustainability registry when many believed the then-new line of MacBooks would not meet EPEAT's standards. Days later, Apple rejoined EPEAT, and somehow earned EPEAT's top "gold" certification for its new laptop. How was Apple able to earn this approval? Would a smaller company have been treated the same? Minus the transparency we sought with our shareholder proposal, who knows?

And then there's cap-and-trade. Apple was all for reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions through a cap-and-trade law. But Apple does a very substantial amount of its manufacturing in China, which would not have been subject to the law. Would the same be true for all current and future Apple competitors?

Apple is extremely good at looking green. This is what the famous environmental groups call "greenwashing." Why is Al Gore on its board? Because of his technology and innovation expertise or because he helps make Apple look green? Why did Apple hire the Obama Administration's scandal-plagued Environmental Protection Agency chief? Was it because executives who circumvent transparency laws are highly prized, or because hiring her helped make Apple look green?

Observers should remind themselves that Apple manufactures devices that use a lot of energy and Apple works hard to assure that customers will want to replace them every few years, if not sooner. Apple's business plan includes making its products disposable. Is this a sustainability strategy, or a return-on-investment strategy?

Don't get us wrong. We love Apple products. Our office has used them exclusively since 1985, far longer than Tim Cook has been employed there. We even stuck with Apple through the 90s, wondering for a time if we would be the last Apple users anywhere. But Apple is a profit-making company, not an environmental organization, and Tim Cook's statement to us that we can get out of his company's stock if we don't agree with his non-profit priorities ignores that Apple is all about profits.

Tim Cook didn't get paid some $40 million in 2013 because he's an environmentalist, but he is more valuable to Apple when he plays one on TV. As such, Tim Cook's statement may simply have been public relations. He looked nice and green, standing there, indignant that someone might think one of the world's most successful companies should focus on... business success.

But does Apple walk this talk? And since Apple is considered to be "cool," does the media even expect it to?

We asked for nothing that would hurt the environment. In fact, once they got over the fact that it is so-called "global warming deniers" (though we reject that the nasty Holocaust-referencing slur) like the National Center for Public Policy Research that was proposing it, even environmental groups presumably would like our call for transparency regarding trade associations that presumably are pro-green, but which are quite secretive, and which run the risk of favoring big companies over small ones, without regard to the environment.

CMIP5 90 models global Tsfc vs obs thru 2013 Roy Spencer3) You mention that over 95% of all climate models have over-forecast the extent of global warming - any chance you can give me a source for that?

Of course we can give you a source for my statement about the climate models. I am referring to an analysis by climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer. He put a description of his analysis on his website at:

In case you are not familiar with Dr. Spencer, he is regarded as a "skeptic," but he does believe some portion of global warming is due to human influences (he just isn't prepared to say how much). When various persons report that 97% of all climate scientists believe in global warming/climate change (the wording used varies), Dr. Spencer's work is included among, not outside of, the 97% they refer to. His bio and email address is included on the website and he is known to be a person who is open to answering questions about his findings.

That's it for the Guardian's questions and answers. I still recommend British writer Tim Worstall's article on all this, as I believe he got closer to what is going on here than almost everybody else (I haven't read every article on this story and don't want to be unfair to anyone).

I'll also end this post with a closing thought. Last year, we flew a member of our board of directors to the Apple shareholder meeting to ask Tim Cook a question about trade association "sustainability" activities that officially are about being green but which in practice threaten competitiveness and give big businesses an unfair edge over smaller companies. Tim Cook only took five questions (one about bathrooms!) and ignored ours. So we issued a press release. Did anyone care? Mostly, not.

So for the 2014 shareholder meeting, we submitted a shareholder proposal calling for reasonable transparency for these trade association activities, and we asked Tim Cook a question (which wasn't easy; after calling on our representative Cook tried to pick someone else immediately after recognizing him, but our guy got his question out fast) to find out where Apple really stands. There are many calm and professional ways Cook could have answered our question, but he instead choose to lose his temper, pretend we objected to things like the development of accessibility tools for the blind (we don't object and never mentioned the subject), and duck much of what we asked.

Why is that? In our view, it isn't because Apple is too green. It is because it is brilliant at greenwashing. Tim Cook got a question that -- had he answered it -- could have illustrated the difference between Apple's green reputation and Real World Apple.

Tim Cook didn't like that question, so he scolded us and played the green card, and got out of giving a straight answer.

And based on the amount of email we've gotten since Friday with the words "F--k you" in them, a lot of you fell for it.

We suggest that you ask yourselves: Why did Apple's management oppose our shareholder resolution [resolution #9 at the link], which called for transparency in its relationships with trade associations and sustainability registries such as EPEAT?


Richard Branson, Jet-Fuel Burner, Criticizes Us on Climate

RichardBranson National Center for Public Policy Research 030414

Big talk from a guy who got rich burning jet fuel.

We hear he wants to go to the moon or Mars or something now. Solar-powered rocket?


We Asked Apple's Tim Cook a Question and He Got Mad and We Think This is Why

Silver Apple Logo White

Responding to one of many media inquiries, I've written a somewhat detailed explanation of what our thinking is about Apple and what was behind both our shareholder proposal and question -- the question that Apple CEO Cook responded to with anger, and which has now gotten press coverage on every continent except Antarctica.

I'll be posting that tomorrow after the newspaper in question has a chance to quote from it (if it wants to), but in the meantime, I refer everyone to an article by the British writer Tim Worstall that, we believe, explains what happened -- why Tim Cook got so mad, and why he said a few things that not only were non-responsive to the question, but also not particularly wise things for a corporate CEO to say -- perfectly.

The article: "Apple’s Tim Cook And His Dilemma Over Sustainability And Climate Change."

We'll be saying more tomorrow, but Tim Worstall "gets it."


Project 21 Members Predicted First Lady’s Food Fanaticism

Celebrating the fourth anniversary of her “Let’s Move!” kid nutrition and fitness regulatory crusade, First Lady Michelle Obama used last week as a springboard from which she launched more new ways to further regulate away Americans’ food freedom.

This sort of nanny state parochialism has never gone over well with members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network.  In fact, they saw much of this coming from a mile away, and have warned against such radicalism.

Obama, in one instance, while heralding the unveiling of a new content-labeling regime possibly affecting over 700,000 food products – an action that could cost billions – had the audacity to belittle the shopping powers of the American family.  In suggesting that it’s too difficult for discerning shoppers to understand current food labels, Obama condescendingly suggested:

But unless you had a thesaurus, a calculator, a microscope or a degree in nutrition, you were out of luck.  So you felt defeated, and you just gave up and went back to buying the same stuff you always buy.

And that’s a familiar scenario for far too many families and parents trying to do the right thing for their kids – and it’s simply not acceptable.

Project 21 co-chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a working mother who is largely responsible for the meals for her husband and two small children, previously wrote about how nanny state prerogatives for fresh and local offerings, and a demonization of processed, frozen and canned items, can create new hassles and undue burdens for heads of household without the luxury of a lot of time or money to spare.

Responding to pressures by food activists “to purchase ‘locally grown’ products or ‘eat fresh,’” Cherylyn wrote in a New Visions Commentary in March of 2013 that “a one-size-fits-all approach to eating is simply not financially feasible, nor is it physically possible for many Americans.”

Cherylyn added:

[T]he last thing on any mother’s mind is likely having to make another stop at the farmers’ market for fresh vegetables.  For many obvious reasons, the produce section of their neighborhood grocery chain is the best option.

Although elitists foodies will probably beg to differ, another healthy and affordable option for families is to browse the frozen food section in a local grocery store…

Similarly, I am a big fan of eating fresh and healthy meals.  But every family must define “fresh” and “healthy” for their family.

Back in May of 2012, responding to the assault on government-approved lean finely-textured beef – dubbed “pink slime” by its critics – Cherylyn responded in another New Visions Commentary that the campaign against the meat mixture ignores its cost and nutritional benefits:

Grocers and meat processors can appropriately label their hamburger and allow families to make their own decisions.  If we allow the food elitists to define the narrative, it may be the consumers who are left without a choice and with fewer options and higher prices.

Also last week, Obama discussed additional federal standards for food at government-run schools.  One of the main features of the new Department of Agriculture edicts is a ban on drink vending machines from beverage makers such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi spotlighting their own flagship carbonated beverages.

In hyping the new rules – which have not yet been finalized – Obama crowed: “We need veggies to make our bodies efficient.  Roll my chicken in a wrap and don’t jam it in a nugget.”

As if she knew in advance, Project 21 Robin Carter-Martin was nonetheless sharply criticized by liberal critics – including one member of Congress – on the PBS program “To The Contrary” when discussing Obama’s initial foray into food restrictions back in March of 2010.  While not brazenly opposed to the Obama initiative at the time, Robin was wary of the federal government someday regulating to such a degree that it overrode school district decisions and even her own choices for what was packed in her kids’ lunches.

While Obama Administration orders still do not officially micromanage schoolkids’ lunches – homemade or provided by schools – cases of overzealous administrators manhandling meals have been reported.

And it’s obvious from this video clip of the program that this level of intervention was not anticipated by Robin’s counterparts – particularly congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who told Martin that “the federal government… can’t say to the local school board what they have to put in their vending machines.”


ObamaCare Exchanges: Less Choice, Higher Prices

You may recall this apology from President Obama to people who lost their insurance.  At about the 45 second mark he claims the insurance on the exchanges will be cheaper and there will be more choice of policies:

I have a new study out today titled “ObamaCare Exchanges: Less Choice, Higher Prices,” that tests those claims.  In short, they don’t hold up.

The study examines the choices and prices of insurance that a single 27-year-old and a 57-year-old couple has on the exchanges and then compares those to what was available in 2013 on (“eHealth) and (“Finder).  Here is what the study found for the choice of insurance for a single 27-year-old:

A 27-year-old male had, on average, ten more policies to choose from on eHealth versus the exchange and 31 more on Finder. A 27-year-old female had an average of ten more insurance options on eHealth and 38 on Finder. There were an average of nine more policies on eHealth and 19 more on Finder for a 57-year-old couple.

Across all areas examined, the exchanges have resulted in a substantial reduction in choice. For 27-year-olds, there were 442 fewer policies on the exchanges versus eHealth, a drop of 18 percent. There were 1,306 fewer policies on the exchange versus Finder for 27-year-old males and 1,716 fewer for females, declines of 38 percent and 46 percent, respectively. For 57-year-old couples, there were 406 fewer policies on the exchanges compared to eHealth and 855 fewer versus Finder, drops of 18 percent and 31 percent, respectively. 

The study examines choice and price across metropolitan areas in 45 states.  In most areas, consumers had access to many policies on eHealth and Finder that were cheaper than the lowest price policy on the exchange. That includes even some people who had access to subsidies, such as a 27-year-old making $25,000 annually:


Thus far the exchanges have resulted in fewer choices and higher prices for consumers shopping for insurance. That will get worse if and when the exchanges start moving toward a death spiral.

For more, go here.