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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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Monday
Jul072014

The Three Stupidest News Reports About Changes in Congressional Travel Disclosure Reporting Requirements

Many people seemingly are confused about actions taken by the U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee in regard to travel disclosures, possibly due to ridiculously misleading news reports. Because mendacity and/or stupidity this accomplished deserves recognition, I've singled out the top three most stupid, defined as the three that will leave their readers the most grossly uninformed.

The third most stupid...

#3 Susie Madrak of the Crooks and Liars blog lived up to at least half her blog's name by writing on July 1, "Congress is so corrupted by money that at this point, I shouldn't even be surprised. After all, the Republicans are in charge of the House!," which ran under this misleading headline: "House Ethics Committee Now Hides Congressional Trip Disclosures: Sneaky! When the Republican-controlled committee takes such pains to hide it, they already know it's wrong."

Fact: The House Ethics Committee is not controlled by either party; its membership is 50-50, and travel information remained easily accessible to the public and the news media, including bloggers, under the change. 0-2 for Ms. Madrak.

The second most stupid...

#2 Daniel Wright, writing on FireDogLake July 2, said, "Congress seems intent on getting its public approval rating even lower and destroying what little trust it has left. ...those guardians of the republic have decided to remove the rule that requires publicly disclosing privately funded trips."

Fact: Except under the change, Members of Congress still had to disclose publicly-funded trips, and the information disclosed was promptly put on the Internet in a publicly-available, convenient, searchable form. 100% incorrect, Mr. Wright.

And the most stupid of all...

#1 John Aravosis, writing on Americablog July 1, "In a stunning reversal after three decades of public reporting, the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives will no longer require members of Congress to disclose lavish foreign trips paid for by special interests. For three decades, the House has publicly disclosed such travel. That rule has now changed under John Boehner..."

Completely false, which is ironic given this blog's motto, "A great nation deserves the truth."

Facts:

The House Ethics Committee, a bi-partisan body, approved a rule change that removed the requirement for travel disclosure on annual disclosure forms, deeming it duplicative, as Members of Congress and staff must report all such travel within 15 days of any trip, and those reports are promptly placed online by the House Clerk's office.

Here's how easy it is to read the reports.

Search for the House Clerk on Google and click where indicated:

HouseClerkGoogleSearch070614

Then click where indicated:

HouseClerkPublicDisclosurePage070614

Look on the left side of the page if you want to download the reports chronologically:

HouseClerkTravelFilingsByYear070614

Or look on the right side if you prefer to contact the office directly or search for specific Members of Congress, specific travel destinations, specific sponsors or specific travel dates:

HouseClerkVisitorSearchTravel070614

Easier than waiting for an annual report, wouldn't you say? And the data is hardly hidden. Bellyaching reporters complaining that the change "made it harder" for reporters to find travel disclosure data were essentially complaining about a URL change, and even then, what sort of reporter doesn't even know to check the House Clerk's website? Or to Google something like "House of Representatives travel disclosure information"?

I doubt many people are more in favor of travel disclosure reporting than I am. In both 2002 and 2003, a Member of Congress took a trip and falsely reported that this organization paid for it. We had no idea. In those days learning about Congressional travel required going to the Capitol and looking through paper forms, and who goes to the Capitol to see if a Member of Congress or two that one has never even met has put you down as a travel sponsor? The resulting legal fees were astronomical. What limited Congressional travel we’ve sponsored has all been properly disclosed, and even then, it was subject to gross misreporting (by journalists, yes, but not exclusively: the minority staff of the Senate Finance Committee, directed by Max Baucus (D-MT), told the IRS it should audit us to see if we were more properly classified as a travel agency than a think-tank because we’d sponsored two Congressional trips, one Member each, in our then-24-year history; the subsequent IRS audit, which cleared us, took four years). So I’m in the perhaps unusual position of supporting disclosure because the more of it there is, the more honest people will be protected from bad journalists and other miscreants.

But back to current events. Prompted, no doubt, by the hysterical and misleading reporting about what its rule change really was, the House Ethics Committee announced on July 3 that it was reversing the rule change. People who want to go to the House Clerk's office or website and get the information soon after each trip ends will still be able to do so -- but those reporters who want to wait for annual disclosures so they don't have to change a URL in their browser's bookmarks will still be able to do it the old way. Just a bit later than everybody else.

Sunday
Jul062014

How Mrs. John Witherspoon Was Persuaded to Come to America

Joanne Butler has an article, "John Witherspoon's Presbyterian Rebellion," in the Daily Caller on founding father John Witherspoon, in which she wonders a bit about the circumstances that caused him to emigrate to America.

As the question intersects with some of my family's history on my mother's side, and I have a few moments free on a Sunday evening, I can fill in some blanks for her.

In 1766, my gggggg-uncle, Rev. Samuel Finley, age 51, passed away in Philadelphia of what apparently was some form of abdominal cancer. At the time of his death, Finley was president of the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton University.

ALT TAG

Rev. Samuel Finley, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Rev. John Witherspoon

Finley's death created a vacancy at the college that the trustees naturally were keen to fill, not least because at that time the president personally taught a substantial number of the classes. Rev. Witherspoon, who then lived in Scotland, was invited by the trustees to take the position. Despite his own personal interest, he declined, citing his wife Elizabeth's deathly fear of a transatlantic crossing.

Finley's nephew and ward, a young man named Benjamin Rush who had been raised by the Finleys jointly with his widowed mother since the death of Rush's father when he was six, and a student of Finley's both at Nottingham Academy and the College of New Jersey, felt called to assist. He borrowed money from Benjamin Franklin, an acquaintance or possibly even a friend of the family,* and went to Scotland, where Rush took up studies at the University of Edinburgh and, in a joint effort with a gentleman of historical note named Richard Stockton (whose daughter Julia Rush would later marry), sent letters to Witherspoon urging him to change his mind.

Witherspoon continued to decline the college's appointment, citing the same reason: his wife's fear of the Atlantic crossing. Rush then travelled to the Witherspoon home in Paisley (near Glasgow, Scotland) to convince Mrs. Witherspoon to emigrate. He succeeded. At the end of four days, a friend of Rev. Witherspoon wrote to Stockton in Princeton that, "to Mr. Witherspoon's great satisfaction, his wife has at last given a calm hearing to Mr. Rush, argued the Matter with him, and received a satisfying Answer to all her objections; so that now she is willing if the Doctor is rechosen... to go with him without Grudge."

The trustees then voted once again to elect Witherspoon the president of what would become Princeton University, and the rest, as they say, is history.

* Benjamin Franklin had published Samuel Finley's sermons in the 1740s. There is surviving correspondence (example here) between Franklin and Finley as well as between Franklin and Finley's brother, James, as well as a letter from Deborah Franklin to her husband in 1766 informing him that "Mr. Finley is near his end and has bin as dead for several days." As late as 1774 Franklin, in a letter to Joseph Priestly, quoted a passage from an old letter of Finley's to Samuel Chandler of the Royal Society about an experiment involving inflammable air (methane escaping from the earth).
Saturday
Jul052014

Big Labor Helped Create Border Crisis; AFL-CIO Should Step Up to Help

AFLCIOLaborCollegeFacility070514

Just about a month ago, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called upon President Obama to issue green cards to everyone eligible for citizenship under the Senate immigration bill, which gives legal status to illegal aliens already here:

...the executive branch must provide all those who would qualify for citizenship under the bipartisan Senate Bill affirmative status with work authorization... - Richard Trumka, May 28, 2014

The AFL-CIO has made three immigration policy recommendations to the federal government:

1) Give legal status with work authorization to everyone who is a "low priority for removal" or "eligible for prosecutorial discretion under existing [Department of Homeland Security] policies;

2) The Department of Homeland Security should attempt to block state and local enforcement of immigration laws;

3) The Department of Homeland Security should stop "criminalizing" immigrant communities and ensure that no one in recommendation #1 (almost every illegal alien) is deported.

DHS, of course, does not create laws, so it "criminalizes" no one. Breaking the law does that.

The AFL-CIO claims it supports citizenship for 11 million (most likely more) illegal aliens because illegal workers can be abused by unscrupulous employers, but one does not have to be a citizen to be a legal resident with a green card. If the AFL-CIO's true interest was as it claims, it would focus on green cards and not citizenship. If, on the other hand, the AFL-CIO is looking to recruit new voters...

The AFL-CIO has explicitly rejected a plan to allow illegal aliens to stay here and work legally, and Trumka has said legislation of that sort would not only fail to receive union support, but would be aggressively fought by the AFL-CIO.

The AFL-CIO is contributing to the impression that anyone who makes it to the United States, and soon, may get citizenship. If it is as humanitarian as it claims to be, it will step up and help some of the innocent children who came here because they, or more likely their parents, believe that.

Big Labor and Big Business have contributed to the humanitarian crisis affecting children on our border. As long as government agencies are overwhelmed, business and labor should step up to help by temporarily contributing food and shelter to those who need it.

Saturday
Jul052014

Hillary Clinton is "Sick and Tired" of Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton, April 2003: "I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you're not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration!"

Here's Barack Obama, July 1, taking a very different view:

Partial transcript, starting at 1:58:

"...We could do so much more if we just rallied around an economic patriotism, a sense that our job is to get things done as one nation and as one people.

Obama hugs Hillary Clinton

Economic patriotism would say that instead of protecting corporations that are shipping jobs overseas, let's make sure they're paying their fair share of taxes, let's reward American workers and businesses that hire them. Let's put people to work rebuilding America. Let's invest in manufacturing, so the next generation of good manufacturing jobs are right here, made in the USA. That would be something to celebrate on the 4th of July.

Economic patriotism says that instead of stacking the deck in the favor of folks just at the top, let's harness the talents and ingenuity of every American and give every child access to quality education, and make sure that if your job was stamped obsolete or shipped overseas, you're going to get retrained for an even better job.

Economic patriotism says that instead of making it tougher for middle-class families to get ahead, let's reward hard work for every American. Let's make sure women earn pay that's equal to their efforts. Let's make sure families can make ends meet if their child gets sick and they need to take a day off. Let's make sure no American who works full-time ever has to live in poverty..."

(Hat tip to White House Dossier for transcript and link to video.)

Are you still sick and tired, Hillary?

Reporters should ask her about this.

Friday
Jul042014

What, to Black Americans, is the 4th of July?

The following New Visions Commentary from Project 21 member Stacy Swimp was originally published in July of 2012:

On July 5, 1852, the famous black abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered a stinging indictment of American independence.  He did so because it was not yet realized for black Americans.

At Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, Douglass declared: “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”  To his hosts, he asked: “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?”

Douglass continued, explaining:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?  I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.  To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.  There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Today, however, Douglass would undoubtedly think differently.  He would more likely be proud of how far America has come in ensuring equal protection under the law.  There are now many reasons to celebrate Independence Day.

Now, for example, under our Constitution, everyone enjoys the guarantee of individual freedom.

Douglass would probably also appeal to modern blacks to remember their predecessors who contributed to American independence.  It is these people, who surely envisioned the America we now live in, who deserve tribute and are a reason to celebrate the 4th of July now with pride and dignity.

It is important to share — especially with our youth — the stories of black patriots such as Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem and Salem Poor.

Crispus Attucks, an escaped slave, was an early casualty of the American Revolution when he was killed by British troops in the Boston Massacre.  He became a martyr during the Revolutionary War and was later a symbol of liberty in fight against slavery.  In spite of restrictions related to the burial of blacks at that time, Attucks was nonetheless buried at the Granary Burial Ground beside other honored dead such as Paul Revere.

Peter Salem and Salem Poor exhibited bravery at battles such as Bunker Hill.  Salem shot and killed British Major John Pitcairn as Pitcairn rallied his troops. His fellow soldiers later presented Salem to General George Washington as a hero.

Poor, who earlier bought his freedom, joined a Massachusetts militia company in part to promote black liberty.  For killing a high-ranking British officer, Lt. Col. James Abercrombie, Poor’s heroism was noted in a petition signed by fourteen of his officers:

We declare that a negro man, called Salem Poor… in the late Battle at Charlestown, behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier.  To set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious, we would only beg leave to say in the person of this said negro centers a brave and gallant soldier.

It’s obvious that lack men of that era believed the Revolutionary War was a fight for everyone’s liberty.  Their loyalty was to the American principle of individual freedom.  Over 5,000 black men fought for the Continental Army. Many black women served as nurses, laundresses and cooks.  They all played a vital role in winning the independence we are all now privileged to enjoy.

Responding to Douglass today about the meaning of and reason to celebrate Independence Day, we ought to proudly stand tall and respond: We have everything to celebrate — for we played a big part in the independence in this great nation.

Friday
Jul042014

Big Business and Big Labor Deserve Partial Responsibility for Dangers Faced by Children Crossing the Border

FacebookImmigration070414

Facebook founder and CEO Jeff Zuckerberg founded FWD.us, a group that lobbies Congress for "a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants."

Hopes of U.S. citizenship, or legal status, is a key factor spurring parents south of the border to send their unaccompanied minor children on the dangerous trip across the border. Some children have died; others have been assaulted. Many are traumatized.

According to Moni Basu, reporting for CNN, the influx of children, which may rise to 130,000 more next year, has

"...overwhelmed U.S. facilities along the border and forced federal authorities to scramble to find viable solutions.

They've had to open temporary shelters because the existing ones are filled to capacity. Journalists are not allowed inside, but leaked photographs of a Border Patrol holding facility in Nogales, Arizona, show cramped cells without enough food, beds, toilets or showers. They seem more befitting of refugee camps Americans hear of in war-ravaged regions of the developing world than right here at home.

From those less-than-ideal conditions have risen allegations of sexual abuse, threats of violence, strip searches and filthy conditions.

A complaint filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and four immigrant rights groups lists accusations made by 116 children. Half described a lack of medical care. Others describe ice-cold holding cells in which bright fluorescent lights were kept switched on day and night. About 70 percent of these children said they were held by the Border Patrol longer than the statutory limit of 72 hours."

Big Business and Big Labor should accept that they are contributors to this crisis, and act accordingly.

Friday
Jul042014

Project 21’s Derryck Green on the Price of, Threat to Freedom

On the occasion of Independence Day, Project 21 member Derryck Green reflects on the sacrifices made in the name of freedom, the current state of that liberty in our nation and what might be done to improve the future.

Our nation is facing many problems on the anniversary of its independence.

Based on historical recovery scenarios, the American economy is nowhere near where it’s supposed to be.  Quality jobs are scarce.  Job creation isn’t maintaining pace with population growth.  Wages are stagnant.  Government dependency has increased.  Confidence is waning.

Much of this is the likely result of imprudent economic and political policies that lead us to sustained apathy and diminished optimism.

Our borders are largely porous — some claim they are left that way on purpose.  Our Border Patrol agents are increasingly overwhelmed by the numbers of illegal immigrants confidently flooding into our nation without much apparent fear of imprisonment or deportation.  As they contemplate their journey, they obviously see a federal government in the United States whose leadership stubbornly refuses to properly enforce its own immigration laws and fights states that attempt to do so in their place. 

Average Americans have a growing distaste and a distrust of the insulated political class in Washington.  Approval ratings for politicians are at an all-time low, as they are seen as more interested in the desires of the bureaucrats and favored elites before the rest of the population’s own pressing kitchen-table concerns.

Internationally, our nation’s reputation — the prestige of our military force, our diplomatic honesty and faith in a trustworthy follow-through on our word appears impressively diminished.  For our friends and allies, what confidence there is in continued cooperation and protection seems weak.  Our enemies seem emboldened as they detect a reluctance to acknowledge and confront the evil they represent.  They undoubtedly take this reliance as a sign of weakness. 

Much of this, obviously, is the result of the agenda put forth by President Barack Obama.

At the same time, however, we must remember that Obama is an emblem.  He is a mascot of sorts for the body politic — a reflection of those who placed him in office and, in this case, a culmination of a cancerous strain of thought.  He is the personification of a poisonous ideology seeking to take full advantage of the opportunities America provides while simultaneously seeking to destroy or, in Obama’s own words, “fundamentally transform” that very system that provides the blessings he enjoys, takes for granted and sometimes even attempts to prevent others from enjoying.

Obama is most closely representative of those convinced by their own arrogance.  They express themselves and their beliefs in a healthy and robust naïveté — ignorance borne in conceit — and are an antithesis to that which is great about America.

Once again, it isn’t just Obama — though he does bear considerable responsibility.  It’s political leftism in general that seeks to devour the cultural norms and the traditions of Western civilization.

Obama is the catalyst for this attempt to change America, seeking to recreate it in a way that’s failed everywhere else it’s been tried.  The fact that such altruism failed before, time and again, seems of no concern to Obama and his ideological acolytes.  In their perceived wisdom, these true believers appear to believe that they know better.  They are so fully convinced of their ability, intellectual prowess and good intentions that they believe themselves able to perfect the problems of the past and faithfully trust in themselves that it will work this time simply because they are in charge. 

But left unaided, they too will fail.  Like the failures of the past, Obama and his supporters lack the ability, foresight, wisdom and intellectual maturity to think out their grand idea to its logical conclusion.  In the end, as history shows, the system they lust after always implodes.  They still haven’t fully learned this certainty.

Patriotic Americans cannot passively watch our self-destruction at the hands of a bunch of narcissistic and naïve fools.  They may not acknowledge and appreciate the God-given blessing that is America, but good portions of us do.

God gave us this gift of America for a reason, and we also owe the signers, framers and others who sacrificed and risked considerable amounts to create this nation and the potential it offers its lawful citizenry.  We owe it to ourselves to do our part to seek its preservation for our progeny and for those willing to take on the responsibility of its perpetuation.  Lastly, we owe it to the world to continue this fight because, as imperfect as we may be, we have been a reservoir of goodness in many forms to countless beneficiaries across the globe who would otherwise not have enjoyed food, safety, education and our protection of their freedoms.

America has fought and sacrificed to overcome the forces of evil that would no doubt proliferate in our absence, already evidenced in the wake of our self-imposed international withdrawal during this presidency.

Much of the calamity is the result of those who refuse to respect freedom as much as they revere government growth and coercion.  It is aided by those in politics who have more interest in feuding amongst themselves for alleged ideological purity or possess a considerable lack of testicular fortitude, an atrophied spinal column or outright lack strength and courage when it comes to confronting and limiting the status quo of leftism.

For many, the cultural and political fight to redeem the country isn’t over.  For others, the fight hasn’t begun.  Whether one is ready to continue the fight or ready to join up lies among the individual.  One can be part of the decline or part of the redemption.  It’s a simple choice.

On this Fourth of July, the anniversary of our forefathers’ declaration of independence, keep in mind why that independence was declared, what it meant to them and what it cost them.

May God continue to bless America and continue to bless the world through America.

Thursday
Jul032014

Hat-Trick! Obama Leaves Labor Participation Stagnant for Three Months Straight

It’s customary for the previous month’s unemployment numbers to be released on the first Friday of the successive month.  With the first Friday of July being a federal holiday, the government’s release of new jobless data was moved up by a day.

That’s good news for President Obama even though the numbers that were released were not.  Coming at such a time, it becomes part of the post-holiday news dump.  It’s a common tactic in which news that is bad but cannot be avoided is released at a time when most people aren’t going to be paying attention — such as just before the weekend or before a major holiday.

Today’s jobless numbers certainly fall into the category of something that the White House probably won’t want repeated by newscasters and analyzed by commentators.

The overall unemployment rate, as calculated by the federal government, is 6.1 percent.  The numbers are much higher for demographic groups such as blacks, black teens, Hispanics and the more inclusive unemployment rate that measures those looking along with those who have given up.  That last rate was regrettable at 12.1 percent.

While the official unemployment rate went down slightly, the devil is in the details.  For the past three months — a quarter of a year — the workforce participation rate has remained at an unacceptably low 62.8 percent.  The rate that includes those out of the job search is relatively unchanged, but just under twice the official rate that was fed to the public with great rejoicing.

In short, it would seem that the jobless outlook is a house of cards waiting to tumble.  It’s just a matter of time before the bubble bursts.

Derryck Green, a member of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network, is a regular commenter on the state of the Obama economy.  In his monthly analysis of the federal jobless report, Derryck sees a lot of talk — but not a lot of proof — of a working Obama economic recovery:

Any pain that President Obama may be experiencing right now as a result of recent economic news is purely self-inflicted.

Pain felt by the American people?  It doesn’t seem deserved.

Last month’s news of a revision of the first quarter’s gross domestic product figures — the best indicator of national economic growth through goods and services — showed an economic contraction to a degree that seemed like great news when compared to the next revision from a few days ago.  This second revision showed the first quarter’s GDP actually contracted at an annual rate of 2.9 percent — the fastest pace at six years.

Mainstream media outlets largely dismissed this unsettling news rather than sounded alarm bells.  They continued to blame a harsh winter for the contraction while, at the same time (and at the same time as they repeat warnings about global warming), they seem to try to manufacture confidence by offering better-than-expected projections regarding future economic growth.  They’ve also taken to celebrating that fact the economy recovered all the jobs it lost in the recession that allegedly ended in the summer of 2009 — even though that alleged recovery took almost six years to happen.

There are a lot of aspects of the Obama-administered economic recovery that fail to impress — or even convince — many of the experts.

There are certainly not that many average Americans who won’t take the bait anymore because everything around us at this time points to the unfortunate reality that the economy won’t meet the rosy expectations they read or hear in the media.

Though the unemployment rate dropped slightly, the number of Americans who continue to see themselves outside of the economy looking in, continues to grow.  About 288,000 jobs were created last month, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  ADP, an alternative to government job estimates, similarly said private payrolls added 281,000 private sector jobs last month.

Yet the current official percentage of unemployed Americans is 6.1 percent, (a decrease from the previous month).  For blacks, it’s down slightly to 10.7 percent.  For black teenagers, however, it’s rocketed up to 33.4 percent.  For Latinos, it’s up to 7.8 percent.

The labor force participation rate is 62.8 percent that harkens back to the Carter Administration.  And the rate has remained unchanged over the past three months!

The alternative U-6 unemployment rate — the measurement of unemployed, underemployed and able-but-despondent who have given up looking for a job — fell a little to 12.1 percent.  Many observers of jobless figures consider this rate the best indicator of the true extent of Obama’s financial and joblessness crisis.  This rate is almost double the official rate promoted to the media.

It bears repeating that the unemployment rate — the official one that most of the media reports on — is artificially low because more Americans are leaving the workforce and not because there’s any substantial evidence of an economically robust pattern of job creation or hiring patterns by employers. Those who regained the jobs that are celebrating by the media aren’t really much to crow about when considering there are millions of Americans who were been added to the labor force during the same time span (which means it’s more than 7 million jobs behind where it needs to be) or the fact that the quality of jobs gained doesn’t match the quality of jobs lost.

Furthermore, a recent report by the Center of Immigration Studies claims that all job growth since 2000 has effectively gone to immigrants even though native-born Americans account for two-thirds of the labor force.

Here are some other economic clues that the economy is nowhere near where it needs to be right now for this alleged economic recovery the media and the White House talk about to be working:

  • Unemployment rates of people aged 20-24 and 25-34 — college graduates and young adults — has long been higher than the national average;
  • Median household income is roughly $53,000, representing a seven percent drop from where it was in 2000;
  • Generation X households have less wealth than their parents did at comparative ages, indicating stalled careers and less advancement — an effect that essentially redefines what it means to be middle class.  It also means that Gen Xers will have to work longer while trying to overcome the difficulties of having to save more money later in the game.  Add to all this the uncertain future of Social Security.  It means the age at which Generation X retires (and opens up jobs for younger Americans) is in serious question;
  • Inflation is occurring.  The price of meat, poultry, fish and eggs recently hit an all-time high;
  • The average national price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.68, which is a six-year high.  Though many will blame this increase on the chaos in Iraq, a reason only partly at fault, it should be noted (again) that Barack Obama’s energy policy deserves blame.  Blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, reducing offshore drilling and increasing regulation on coal plants while subsidizing (at taxpayer expense) an economically and practically inefficient “green energy” industry only increases the costs struggling Americans have to pay at the pump and other energy needs;
  • Americans who have money saved for emergencies has sharply declined.  Close to two-thirds of Americans don’t have at least six months of expenses saved.  Income stagnation, combined with the increased costs of goods and services, inhibits working Americans from creating and sustaining their own personal economic safety nets;
  • And, speaking of safety nets, beneficiaries of federal disability has topped 11 million for the first time.

President Obama bears an overwhelming responsibility for these perpetually pathetic statistics.  To look at his recent poll numbers, people are finally acknowledging the President’s culpability for our economic inertia.

But Obama isn’t alone in being to blame for the economy.  The job approval rating for Congress is at an all-time low.  Ninety-three percent of people polled expressed little or no confidence in Congress as American institution — a number very well-deserved.

It’s time, for instance, for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to clean off Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s desk and put some of those bills from the House of Representatives that he’s been holding on to up for a vote.

Thursday
Jul032014

Harry Reid Meet Linda Rolain

Actually, the illustrious Senate Majority Leader would have to meet the family of Linda Rolain since Mrs. Rolain is, sadly, dead.

Rolain was unable to get treatment for a brain tumor as she did not have coverage under the Nevada exchange—even though she had signed up for it:

Rolain’s husband, Robert, said the couple began trying to sign up in November, well ahead of the Dec. 15 deadline for January coverage. After wrestling with repeated sign-up problems, the Rolains bought a plan that took effect in March. But they said Xerox staffers miscommunicated the policy’s effective date, so they didn’t know until May that they had coverage.

Linda Rolain was first diagnosed with a brain tumor in early 2014, after a seizure in late 2013. Robert Rolain said in a June 19 news conference at the downtown Las Vegas offices of Callister, Immerman and Associates that his wife’s care was delayed for months because of their insurance troubles.

Robert Rolain alleges his wife’s tumor went from treatable in winter to fatal in spring as the couple fought for coverage.

Linda was “one of about 150 Nevadans suing Nevada Health Link contractor Xerox for enrollment mix-ups that left them without the health insurance they paid for.” She is the first of those 150 to die.

It’s not clear if Gary Smith is among those 150, although he too was unable to get his diabetes medication because of similar incompetence by Xerox.  I wrote about him back in March when all manner of left-wing pundits were promoting the “No Obamacare Horror Stories” Fairy Tale.  Wonder if any of them will write about Mrs. Rolain.  Don’t hold your breath.

It’s probably just as futile to hope that Senator Reid has any second thoughts about this:

Wednesday
Jul022014

Dishonest Leftists Use Whoppers to Spin Followers Against Supreme Court Decisions

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Monday's two pro-freedom decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court has the anti-freedom totalitarian left up in arms, but that's no excuse for lying.

Here's a sample of just a few of the whoppers just one of the leftist groups, ThinkProgress, published yesterday, along with a correction added by me:

ThinkProgress: "In Harris v. Quinn, the five conservative justices undermined public sector unions by barring homecare workers in Illinois from collecting fair share fees to ensure that everyone shares in the cost of bargaining."

Truth: Homecare workers in Illinois were being forced to pay (not collect) fair share fees to the SEIU, which used the fees to lobby for the expansion of Medicaid. There was no "bargaining" in the conventional sense. These are workers who help disabled people, usually family members who are Medicaid recipients, in their own home. They do not work for the government and should never have been required to send fees of any kind to a government union.

ThinkProgress: "The plaintiffs in [the Hobby Lobby] suit took the unscientific stance that pregnancy begins at fertilization..."

Truth: It is not "unscientific" to believe pregnancy begins at conception. Pro-abortion activists find it convenient to say pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants on the uterine wall, as this helps them keep the action of preventing implantation legal, even subsidized by the taxpayers, even though such action kills the new human life. Their definition is not binding on the morality of others, nor is it a matter of science. It is simply a definition. It's no coincidence, I'm sure ,that ThinkProgress cited the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which is affiliated with Planned Parenthood, and not a dictionary, as a source for its definition.

Speaking of dictionaries, a glance at the Free Dictionary shows pregnancy defined as "the period from conception to childbirth" and "the condition of carrying developing offspring within the body." Or choose Merriam-Webster: "The condition of a woman or female animal that is going to have a baby or babies." Collins, for pregnant: "having (an) offspring developing in the uterus; that has conceived; with young or with child." Online Etymology Dictionary, for pregnant: "with child," early 15c., from Latin praegnantem (nominative praegnans, originally praegnas) "with child," literally "before birth," probably from prae- "before" (see pre-) + root of gnasci "be born" (see genus)."

ThinkProgress: "...99 percent of U.S. women... use contraception at some point in their lives."

Truth: By age 44, only 86.8 percent of American women have ever had vaginal intercourse, even one time, so that's 13.2 percent right there who don't need birth control, even if we assume (ridiculously) that every American woman who has ever had vaginal intercourse used birth control. Inasmuch as contraceptive use for other health care purposes is not covered by the HHS mandate, was not addressed in the Hobby Lobby case and is not objected to by anyone active in the debate (including the Catholic Church), ThinkProgress cannot honestly claim contraceptive use for non-contraceptive purposes is affected.

Part of the hysteria from the left about Monday's two Supreme Court decisions is entirely under false pretenses. Too bad many leftist leaders don't seem willing to ask themselves why they need to mislead their followers, and too many leftist followers accept what they are told without critical thinking.

Wednesday
Jul022014

Veterans Will Suffer Another Scandal As Long As Bureaucracy Runs Their Health Care

Why did VA employees manipulate wait time data, resulting in thousands of Veterans lingering on wait lists for care and at least 23 veterans dying because they had to wait too long?

Phillip Longman, author of the Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours—which, I’ve argued elsewhere, is partially responsible for the scandal—blames it on veterans migrating to states in the “Sun Belt” area. `The Sun Belt is roughly the strip of states running from Nevada and Southern California all they way over to Florida and then up into South and North Carolina.  Longman claims so many veterans moved to these areas in recent years that the VA facilities there were overwhelmed, leading to long wait times.

In my latest National Policy Analysis, “Veterans Will Suffer Another Scandal As Long As Bureaucracy Runs Their Health Care,” I find the evidence does not support the Sun Belt theory.  The VA’s recent audit of the scandal listed 81 facilities needing “further review ” (see pages 38-40). Of those 41 are in the Sun Belt, while the other 40 are not. review of Government Accountability Office and VA Office of the Inspector General reports that examine wait times shows a similar pattern. Examining reports from 2000-2014 that contained wait-time data on specific locales reveals 21 in the Sun Belt and 22 located elsewhere.

Clearly, this is not a scandal limited to a specific geographic location.  Rather, the explanation is to be found in the incentives and constraints that a bureaucracy like the VA faces.  Here’s one:

[One] problem with bureaucracies is they don’t get their funding from the people who are seeking their services. In the private sector, those people are generally called “customers,” although in the healthcare sector they are usually referred to as “patients.” If customers have to wait too long to receive a service from “Business A,” they will take their money to businesses that offer shorter wait times. Business A will see its revenues decline and either have to shape up or go under. Like most bureaucracies, the VA has no such “feedback loop,” since the people seeking their services aren’t the same ones paying for it. In short, there is no financial consequence for poor customer service.

For the other problems, read the NPA or the version at the Federalist.

Tuesday
Jul012014

On 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act, Crazed Anti-Hobby Lobby Activists Claim it is a Civil Rights Act Violation to Not Give Women Something that is Not Being Given to Men

CivilRightsActHobbyLobby070214Corrected

Left-wing opponents of yesterday's Hobby Lobby decision are suggesting that companies that decline for religious reasons to provide early abortion drugs and devices could be sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, or religion:

The New Republic: "There has been speculation that if Hobby Lobby did win, employees could file a Civil Rights Act Title VII complaint, claiming that the company is treating female employees differently than men."

Think Progress: "There’s been some speculation that Hobby Lobby employees may be able file a Civil Rights Act Title VII complaint, on the grounds that the company is treating female employees differently than male employees..."

The HHS mandate requires that employers provide female employees with coverage, without co-pays, for contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs and devices.

Hobby LobbyThe HHS mandate is sexist. The left loves it.

Now obviously males can't have abortions, so it is impossible for employers to cover this for males and not females, but they can use contraception and they can get sterilized. The HHS mandate does not cover males for any of this. Under the mandate, for example, a (female) tubal ligation is covered, while a (male) vasectomy is not.

Birth control pills are covered, but condoms (despite their significant side benefit in helping to prevent the spread of disease) are not.

If anything or anyone in this situation is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it is the HHS mandate itself and its backers, such as President Obama and the left-wing groups, not those who wished to receive a partial exemption from it.

Even if that were not so, the Civil Rights Act's Section VII says, flat-out, "This subsection shall not require an employer to pay for health insurance benefits for abortion..."

And yet another cog in the left's scheme: case law saying businesses can't be required to provide abortion services against their sincerely-held religious beliefs. The cite on that? A case called Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc...

Tuesday
Jul012014

Does Burger King Fund ThinkProgress? And Other Questions

1. Hat tip to Kevin Williamson for linking to this year-old post from ThinkProgress.  In support of a “living wage” of $15 per hour for fast-food workers, ThinkProgress cites research from a University of Kansas graduates student saying that McDonald’s would only have to increase the price of Big Mac 68 cents to double the pay of most of McDonald’s workers.

After I picked myself up off the floor in hysterics, I listened very carefully.  I could hear not only the chorus of lefties chanting, “McDonald’s raise your prices 68 cents!,” but also owners of Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell….

2. Here is a little logic quiz for you.  Say you have a job that pays you $30,000.  Over the next ten years your income doesn’t fall below that and, by the end of that ten years, you are making $40,000.  If that was the case, could you reasonably say that by year ten you’ve recovered to the level of income you had in year one?  I suspect most of you would say “No” since you can’t recover to a level of income if you never dropped below that level in the first place.

Thankfully, we have left-wing journalists to set us straight on this. Angelo Young of the International Business Times writes a story with the headline: “Wealthiest US Households Are Worth More Than They Were In 2003; Everyone Else Is Still Trying To Recover.”  The piece begins, “While investors have been enjoying solid gains since the end of the Great Recession five years ago this month, a new study shows just how much wealth most American households have yet to recover. For the poorest households, debt has increased threefold since 2003, with recessionary effects lingering.”

And here is the supporting evidence Angelo provides:

 

You’ll notice that those in the 90th and 95th percentiles haven’t recovered to 2003 levels since they never slipped below them in the first place.  You’ll also notice that the data doesn’t seem to support Angelo’s claim that “investors have been enjoying solid gains since the end of the Great Recession five years.”  If so, why is their household wealth still lower than it was in 2007 or 2009?

3. The take away from this Sally Kohn column on the Hobby Lobby case is that freedom of religion means that owners of companies must be forced by the government to provide their employees with birth control.  That’s not what she writes, but there is no other way to explain nonsense like this:

Moreover, as I have written previously, freedom of religion explicitly includes not only the freedom to practice one’s religion but to be free from the imposition of someone else’s religion. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cannot be allowed to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

How does refusing to pay for birth control impose a religious belief on anyone?  It doesn’t, of course.  But never underestimate a feminist’s ability to twist words away from any sensible meaning in order to achieve her political goals.

Monday
Jun302014

Five Reasons the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Decision is Good for Americans

Hobby Lobby

I made the following statement today regarding the Supreme Court's decision to strike down ObamaCare's HHS contraception mandate and uphold an employer's right not to be forced to provide birth control and early abortion drugs and devices to employees against their conscience(s):

Today's decision was a victory for freedom, because a person who does not have the right to order his or her professional and personal life in accordance with his or her religious beliefs does not have freedom at all. Supporters of the mandate who claimed incorporated businesses cannot exercise religion ignore that corporations are directed by human beings, and nothing in the act of incorporating strips away the humanity of business owners. There are many examples of businesses being operated under the constraints of the religious beliefs of their owners. Chik-Fil-A forgoes significant profit by closing every Sunday for religious reasons, for example. If it were not possible for a corporation to exercise religious beliefs, Chik-Fil-A would be open on Sundays. There are five key reasons Americans – women, men, liberals, conservatives, religious, atheists, users of birth control and non-users, should celebrate the Hobby Lobby decision today: freedom, finances, privacy, equality and the Constitution.

Freedom. If you believe birth control or abortion is morally wrong, you shouldn't have to buy it for others just because you offered them a job. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal government can only force people to violate their religious beliefs if the government has an extremely important reason for doing so and the government cannot accomplish its goals in any less restrictive way. It is debatable whether the provision of birth control and early abortion drugs and devices is even a function of the federal government, but even if that is to be so, clearly there are other ways of distributing these easily-accessible, inexpensive drugs and devices without forcing the involvement of religious employers.

Finances. Employees and employers should have the legal right to negotiate the pay packages that work best for them. If an employee would rather be paid in cold hard cash than birth control, the federal government has no moral right to tell her she cannot negotiate such terms. Cash can buy birth control, if that is desired by the employee. It can also buy groceries. Some employees prefer groceries..

Privacy. Bosses don't belong in bedrooms, and ObamaCare's insistence on forcing employers to pay for birth control puts employers there – and the federal government in there with them. Employees have the right to close their bedroom doors. Nothing about this case has been more nonsensical than supporters of the contraception mandate claiming that employers who don't want to be involved in their employees' birth control are somehow meddling in their employees' personal lives.

Equality. As Obama Administration's Federal Register makes clear, the birth control mandate when imposed was never about helping low income women afford birth control: It was about enhancing the power and financial position of women relative to that of men. It is not the proper role of the federal government to try to help one group of Americans versus another. The government should stand for equality of opportunity, not sexism.

The Constitution. Americans have a First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Whenever this right is upheld, it is strengthened.

Constitution Stethescope istockW copy

In case anyone is interested, I have written the following on the Hobby Lobby case and HHS birth control mandate: "A Quick Guide to ObamaCare's HHS Contraceptive Mandate and Why the Supreme Court Should (and Will) Throw It Out" (March 2014), "Hobby Lobby's Court Victory in HHS Mandate Case is a Victory for Religious and Economic Freedom: Claims of an "Attack on Women who Use Birth Control" are Foolish Leftist Spin," (July 2013), "9 Takeaways from the Hobby Lobby HHS Contraception Mandate Oral Arguments" (March 2014), "How Can Senator Patty Murray Be So Ignorant about a Law She Voted For?" (March 2014), "White House Birth Control Statistics Don't Add Up" (Feb. 2012), "Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz Tells Four Lies in One Sentence, Washington Post Grades Two Pinocchios" (April 2014), "Democrat Congresswomen Walk Out of HHS Mandate Hearing to Protest Omission of Witness Who Wanted to Talk About Something Else Entirely" (February 2012), "Catholic Bishops Cannot Accept White House 'Compromise' on Birth Control Without Surrendering Principles" (Feb. 2012), "16 Seconds To Understanding the HHS Birth Control Mandate" (Oct. 2012), "Should Conservatives Choose HHS Mandate, Climate Change Positions Based on What is Likely to Win the Most Votes?" (March 2014), "Would Jesus Pay for Abortions?" (Feb. 2012)," and "Obama Compromise Infringement of the First Amendment is Still Unconstitutional" (Feb. 2012).

Monday
Jun302014

Repeal The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Act

One almost has to give the President Obama points for chutzpah.  He signs an executive order that has resulted in a huge flood of underage illegal immigrants into the nation, and now he wants Congress to authorize the spending of $2 billion to clean up the mess.

Well, I say give it to him.  But only in a bill that contains language that repeals the president’s executive order, known as the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”, and also contains language that prevents Obama or any other president from ever taking such an action again.

President Obama agrees to those two provisions, he gets his $2 billion.  Otherwise, forget it.

The President signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in June of 2012.  It allowed “undocumented children who were brought here by their parents to stay in the U.S. for two years or more, if they meet certain requirements.

“An unintended consequence is that parents now believe that if they send their children alone across the U.S. border, they will receive a permit to stay even if apprehended by Border Patrol. The policy was never intended to invite a wave of children to enter the country without their parents, but that’s been the result.”

Indeed, the Border Patrol has arrested 52,000 children at the border this year who came without their parents. Another 39,000 women with children have also been apprehended.

The one drawback if Republicans in the House push such a deal is the Obama Administration, Senate Democrats, the liberal press and others will call them cruel and willing to hurt children.  So, be ready for that.  

In fact, get out in front of the issue.  When Republicans in the House make their counteroffer, they must get up and say, “This is needed to end a policy that has cruel results for those most vulnerable among us, children.  It encourages families to send children alone to the U.S., which is no doubt a harrowing journey for an adult, let alone a child.  They are at great risk.  Thus, it’s time to end this terrible policy.”

There needs to be both some backbone and creative thinking in the GOP Caucus on this issue.

Sunday
Jun292014

Harris v. Quinn: Tomorrow's Supreme Court Sleeper Case May Not Be So Sleepy

ALT TAGI wonder if SEIU President Mary Kay Henry is getting much sleep tonight.

Nearly all eyes turned toward the Supreme Court tomorrow are focused on the combined Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Woods cases -- but two First Amendment-related decisions are to be handed down tomorrow, and the one few people have heard about could be just as big.

The other case, Harris v. Quinn, examines First Amendment free speech issues that arise when public employee union collective bargaining intersects especially keenly with the formation of public policy.

I write "especially keenly," because of course whenever a public sector union successfully makes a demand, the public feels it in some form.

Background

In Harris v. Quinn, employees of disabled persons who receive Medicaid were forced to support, through compulsory fees for collective bargaining purposes, a public sector labor union that lobbies for expanded public Medicaid expenditures.

The union considers this lobbying to be a form of collective bargaining, because the workers will be paid more if certain Medicaid reimbursement rates are increased.

Some of the affected workers, however, oppose expanded Medicaid reimbursement rates because of the burden it places on the public. These individuals believe that being forced to pay their "fair share" of what the union considers collective bargaining is in fact a violation of their First Amendment free speech rights. They say the union is forcing them to lobby for a change in Medicaid policy with which they disagree.

Why This Matters - Big Time

An intriguing aspect of Harris v. Quinn is that while the public policy nature of the issues in which the union has engaged itself here are especially keen, it is undeniable that every collective bargaining action by a public sector union has some public policy impact.

Thus, any government employee who is forced to contribute to a public sector union to offset its collective bargaining expenses could make the same claim as the disgruntled workers in Harris v. Quinn: Why should I be compelled to make political speech with which I disagree?

In 1977, the Supreme Court examined this question when Detroit public school teachers, forced to pay service charges to a teachers union equal to the amount of dues, objected to the union's use of a portion of their service charges for expressly political purposes, such as support for specific candidates for public office. The high court, in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, ruled then that the union could charge non-members service fees for collective bargaining activities, but could not charge them for expressly political or ideological work.

The Obama Administration, unsurprisingly, argued before the court in Harris v. Quinn that the protections afforded workers by the compromise arrangement made in Abood is sufficient to safeguard the workers' First Amendment rights.

The plaintiffs in Harris v. Quinn, who do not support the union's views toward Medicaid expansion, disagree. They say they don't care that the union considers lobbying for Medicaid expansion to be part of its collective bargaining duties; as far as they are concerned, the union is engaging in political speech with which they disagree, and they don't want to be forced to help pay for it.

What Could Happen

If the high court rules in favor of the petitioners tomorrow, a huge change in U.S. labor law is possible -- one that results in public sector unions losing access to mandatory service fees from workers who chose not to join a union, but who still must pay for their share of that union's collective bargaining activities.

If that happens, expect to hear MAJOR screaming and protesting from unions.

Intriguingly, rumor has it that Justice Alito is writing the majority opinion in this case. In the oral arguments, Justice Alito equated a teachers union's ability to force a teacher to contribute to causes with which he or she disagrees as a condition of employment to an ability by unions to deny a person's right to become a teacher. So we can probably assume he's sensitive to the rights of public workers to be employed without donating against his or her will to political causes.

And even more intriguingly, the court scheduled the release of Harris v. Quinn for the last day of the term -- the evening of which justices can go out of town, where it is harder for unions to find them for protests.

Harris v. Quinn came about as a result of what many consider to be a union overreach, as public sector unions sought to unionize people who in many cases are employed by a member of their own families, not the government. If the case results in all public sector workers being released from paying compulsory service fees nationally -- still a longshot, admittedly -- it will turn out to have been the most ill-advised overreach in the history of organized labor.

Friday
Jun272014

We Have an Absolute Right to Not Participate in Abortion Against Our Will

ALT TAG

Here's hoping that when the U.S. Supreme Court hands down Burwell (formerly Sebelius) v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell on, presumably, Monday, it not only delivers a resounding victory for Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Woods by a 9-0 margin (I actually predict 6-3), but bases the victory not just on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but the First Amendment itself.

That way, if the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is ever repealed (which is not, alas, farfetched), we won't have to re-litigate the freedom to not be forced to help others commit abortion against our will.

Not being forced to participate in an abortion is an absolute right, not one that should be seen as owing its existence to transitory statutory law.

Victories for freedom should be permanent ones. Better a 5-4 decision that includes the First Amendment than a 9-0 on RFRA alone.

Friday
Jun272014

Intellectuals and the VA: Veterans Suffer Because Of A Bad Idea

I have a new National Policy Analysis out today entitled, “Intellectuals and the VA: How A Bad Idea and Bad Reporting Contributed to a Health Care Catastrophe.”

It traces how Phillip Longman’s book Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Healthcare Is Better Than Yours created an amen chorus of academics, policy wonks and journalists promoting the idea that VA health care is the best in the U.S. It also examines how Longman’s idea was absorbed by politicians who were supposed to be overseeing the VA and the consequences that had for veterans.  Here are a few excerpts:

In all the finger-pointing over the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal, one group has thus far largely escaped accountability: intellectuals.

The people whose work begins and ends with ideas — academics, policy wonks and, to some extent, journalists — helped create an atmosphere of complacency regarding the Veterans Health Administration that led to the catastrophe.

By now, the story is familiar. Employees at the VA were manipulating data on wait times for care so that the VA appeared better than it was at meeting its standard of a maximum 14-day wait for treatment. Many whistleblowers at the VA were harassed and, in a few cases, even fired. The result was that over 57,000 veterans waited at least three months for a doctor’s appointment while nearly 64,000 veterans were never added to any waiting list. We may never know exactly how many of these veterans suffered in pain or saw their conditions worsen while they waited for treatment. We do know the deaths of at least 23 veterans are attributable to delays.

From 2000 to 2011, there were at least 26 reports — six from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and 20 from the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG)—that examined wait times within the VA system. They cover the gamut. They examine both wait times in general and wait times for specific treatments such as cancer care and rehabilitation for the blind. They cover wait times across the entire VA to specific locales such as West Palm Beach, Chattanooga, Dallas, Portland and, yes, Phoenix. And there were even a few reports on the possible manipulation of wait-time data.

Twenty-six reports in 12 years should have been an alarm bell that something was wrong, but to hear some intellectuals tell it, the VA, despite awful scandals in the past, had transformed into a wonderful system of health care by the 1990s.

The politicians who were charged with oversight of the VA clearly absorbed the belief that the VA was the best health care system in the U.S.:

In late 2009, then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said at an Army medical symposium that the VA operated “more than 1,400 points of care, where nearly 18,000 VA doctors, 49,000 VA nurses, and a legion of clinical and support staff provide some of the best care anywhere.” At his confirmation hearing, VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel said, “I have spent my entire professional life in the Veterans Health Administration striving to provide the ‘Best Care Anywhere’ to America’s Veterans.”

…During Shinseki’s confirmation hearing, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) said the VA “does provide some of the best health care in the world.”

As Congress debated ObamaCare during 2009 and 2010, the VA’s quality medical system was a common theme. At a markup for the legislation, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said, “And the VA, in fact, has been the leader in electronic medical records and in looking at health information technology and new quality measures, but that is a completely government-run system.” Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) seconded that sentiment, claiming, “everybody agrees [the VA] is the best health care system in the country.”

The result of that idea was lax Congressional oversight: “There were two hearings on wait times held in late 2007, one by the Senate Special Committee on Aging and the other by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. After that, there was almost nothing until 2013.”

Mark Tapscott at the Washington Examiner has given it a nice write up here.

And check back a little later as I’ll have a list of the 26 reports from GAO and OIG if you are interested.  UPDATE:  The list is posted here.

UPDATE: The website RARE has now run a version of the paper.

Friday
Jun272014

Progressive Labor Laws Hurt Poor, Black Americans

Minimum wage laws — a centerpiece of President Obama’s class warfare agenda — has its origins in anti-black sentiment?

Yes!

That fact and other unsettling details about the racial underpinnings of progressive labor laws are laid bare by Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper in a new paper published by the Capital Research Center.

Featured in the June issue of the Capital Research Center’s “Labor Watch,” Horace chronicles a myriad of landmark labor laws to show how many of them were tainted by the Jim Crow law mentality of the era in which they were created.  But, rather than throwing them on the ash heap of history like other racial laws of that era, these progressive labor laws are still championed by the left and their troubling histories are largely ignored by those regularly hypersensitive about issues of race.

In the paper, “The Untold, Racist Origins of ‘Progressive’ Labor Laws,” Horace writes:

Many federal labor laws in the United States originated in efforts to saddle black men with extra burdens and limitations, in order to (as racists often put it) “protect white jobs.”  Tragically, these laws, in one form or another, remain on the books today and continue to hamper the ability of blacks, especially men, to enjoy gainful employment.  Yet so-called Progressives hail these laws for their supposedly humanitarian effects, and praise the sponsors of these laws for their supposedly good intentions.

For instance, the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which requires a “prevailing wage” (read: local union rate) for federally-financed or federally-assisted construction projects, had the “primary objective… to make it harder for black tradesman to compete for work on federal construction projects.”

Horace also notes:

In the 1920s and ‘30s, black tradesmen were generally barred from joining most labor unions, which meant that any mandated “union wage” was effectively a “white man’s wage” and, at the time, would not be paid to an itinerant, non-unionized black construction crew.

Even the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the “quintessential labor-law achievement of the Progressive movement” that allowed union organizing, collective bargaining and labor strikes had “racially significant exceptions” in the fact that the law did not apply to agricultural and domestic workers — groups that had extremely large black participation rates.

And the minimum wage guarantee set up by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 also contained an exemption for agricultural jobs.

Horace points out how these unfair laws continue to affect black America:

The laws all but eviscerated opportunities for blacks, particularly unskilled black men, and the racial consequence — to use a liberal term, the disparate impact of these laws — continues today…

Before these laws were enacted, blacks were making rapid progress.  Hiring blacks made good economic sense and practically every black man that wanted a job could have one.  Black employment empowered the community and led to dramatic gains in terms of lifestyle.  Black employment was so robust that non-black communities organized and successfully created roadblocks to give one group — white men — a competitive advantage.  The effects of these policies persist today.

To read the full test of Horace Cooper’s paper on unfair and racial labor laws created by the Progressive Movement, click here.

Thursday
Jun262014

Bloomberg Soda Ban a Bust, Project 21’s LeBon Comments

In a devastating blow to the New York City nanny state of former mayor Michael Bloomberg, judges on the New York State Court of Appeals voted to uphold two lower court rulings thus keeping the city government from banning the sale of certain soft drinks in certain places under the mayor’s regulatory grip.

This was the last possible appeal, and the extent of the former mayor’s overreach in crafting the ban may deal a devastating blow to other nanny state policies in the Big Apple and elsewhere because the ruling now calls into question the authority of the city’s Board of Health.

Under Bloomberg’s rule, the Board of Health imposed a ban that prohibited specified sugary soft drinks from being served in containers larger than 16 ounces.  Besides the assault on consumer choice and basic freedom, the plan was criticized for having many exceptions (milkshakes and coffees were exempted from the ban that was largely seen as targeting carbonated beverages) and only restaurants, theaters, arenas and other venues under the authority of the Board of Health were affected.

The judges voted four to two to go along with the lower court rulings that stopped the ban from going into effect, with Judge Eugene F. Piggott, Jr. writing that the Board of Health “exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority.”

In dealing this blow to city regulators, other harsh rules imposed by the New York City Board of Health such as the infamous ban on trans fats and the menu calorie-count requirement – things that are now championed by the likes of the Obama Administration – could be at risk.

Project 21 co-chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon, a long-time critic of nanny state policies in general and the Bloomberg soda ban plan in particular, is cheering the judges’ decision to curtail the power of city bureaucrats.  Cherylyn said:

While we all acknowledge that obesity is a problem in our country, attempting to mandate behavior by regulation is not the best approach.  I am glad that New York’s Court of Appeals ruled that the city’s health board lacked authority to impose the ban.  I wholeheartedly agree.

We should focus on programs which help individuals make better choices for themselves and encourage schools to increase physical education programs and after-school activities promoting activity instead of sitting in a room.

In the end, individuals have to be motivated to change their behavior.  Limiting the availability of soda in one establishment only motivates people to patronize another business – it did not dissuade people from wanting to consume soda.

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