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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.


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:


Dishonest Leftists Use Whoppers to Spin Followers Against Supreme Court Decisions


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.


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.


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


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...


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


The Constitution Beats Barack Obama, 9-0

An amusing side note to the major Supreme Court case decided today, NLRB. v. Noel Canning, is how many people believe Noel Canning is a man.

For example, this lead paragraph in The Wire:

In a narrow ruling that preserves much of the presidential recess appointment power, the Supreme Court struck down President Obama's 2012 recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. The court was unanimous in its judgement for Noel Canning, who challenged the president's decision to fill vacancies on the NLRB, even though the Senate was holding "pro forma" sessions to prevent the president from using that power....

Here's a photo of "Mr." Noel Canning:


If you think Mr. Canning bears a remarkable resemblance to a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant, you'd be right.

The Wire is owned by Atlantic Media, which, as the owner of the Atlantic and National Journal (among other media properties), is big enough to have editors.

On the merits of the case: President Obama was trying to use his recess appointment power not to overcome the fact that the Senate was out of town and unavailable to confirm his nominees, but to overcome the fact that the Senate did not approve of his nominees. The Constitution gives no authority to the President to use the recess appointment power to bypass Senate opposition to his nominees. As such, the President's actions were improper, and the Court was right to strike them down.

NLRB v. Noel Canning is an important case for the protection of the Constitution during an Administration that has been shameless about seizing powers belonging to the other branches of government. Fortunately, the Court saw the President's illegal and improper maneuver for what it was, and the Constitution won, 9-0.

I commented further here.


Lesson of the VA: Employees More Likely To Cheat When They Can't Be Fired

The VA scandal is, in part, the result of the fact that most employees at the VA have civil service protections, which makes it very difficult to terminate their employment.

When employees have goals they can’t meet—such as a 14-day waiting standard—and not meeting them means they don’t receive promotions, raises and bonuses, well, the incentive among employees to manipulate the data is much higher when they can’t be fired.  We’d like all people to be honest, even those who have civil service protection, but the odds are on honesty going down the crapper when there are few consequences for dishonesty.

From the Office of Inspector General interim report, here’s a few of the tactics that VA personnel resorted to in order to goose the wait time numbers:

-Don’t put them on the list:  At the Phoenix facility, the OIG “identified an additional 1,700 veterans who were waiting for a primary care appointment but were not on the EWL [electronic waiting list]…The length of time these 1,700 veterans wait for appointments prior to being scheduled or added to the EWL will never be captured in any VA wait time data because Phoenix HCS staff had not yet scheduled their appointment or added them to the EWL. Until that happens, the reported wait time for these veterans has not started. Most importantly, these veterans were and continue to be at risk of being lost or forgotten in Phoenix HCS’ convoluted scheduling practices. As a result, these veterans may never obtain their requested or required primary care appointment.”

-Use the first open date, not the date requested by the patient: “…it appears that a significant number of schedulers are manipulating the waiting times of established patients by using the wrong desired date of care. Instead of schedulers using a date based on when the provider wants to see the veteran or when the veteran wants an appointment, the scheduler deviates from VHA’s scheduling policy by going into the system to determine when the next available appointment is and using that as a purported desired date. This results in a false 0-day wait time.” “Overall, 13 percent of scheduling staff interviewed indicated they received instruction (from supervisors or others) to enter in the ‘desired date’ field a date different from the date the Veteran had requested.” 

 Now, none of this is to suggest that data manipulation doesn’t happen in the private sector. Of course it does!  But, in the private sector, there are actually consequences:

-GlaxoKlineSmith PLC’s former head of R&D in China—whom Glaxo fired this month, saying a scientific paper he helped write contained “misrepresented” data—has denied any involvement in data manipulation.

Glaxo didn’t say who was responsible for misrepresenting the data in the paper, which was published in Nature Medicine in 2010. But earlier this week, the company said it had fired Jiangwu Zang, the company’s China R&D chief, after a company investigation found problems with some data in the Nature Medicine paper.

-Barclays sacked five staff over Libor manipulation scandal. Investment bank chief Rich Ricci tells banking standards commission 13 were disciplined – but others had already left.

-Apparently, even the press frowns on this:  ”April 1 may forever haunt Colin Crawford, Los Angeles Times Director of Photography, and Brian Walski, a staff photographer covering the war in Iraq for the paper. That was the day Walski was fired, after it was revealed that a photo he submitted on Sunday was actually a composite of two images he had captured.”

-Even firms that are only partially private sector hand out pink slips to data manipulators: Government Motors General Motors “Tavera recall gets murkier as company fires staff for fudging data.”

Such consequences increases the amount of honesty in the private sector and prevents more data manipulations from happening than otherwise would.  Thus, it makes good sense that some of the VA reform proposals contain provisions making it easier to fire VA employees.   


Black Conservatives Discuss Canning Case

Today’s big decision from the U.S. Supreme Court was a unanimous ruling against the Obama White House in the case of NLRB v. Canning.

The justices found that President Obama acted improperly in making recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board at a time when the Senate was in session.

A president acting decisively in this manner, such as making appointments during a crisis when senators were out of town, was more of factor when travel was not so easy.  In this case, the Senate was in session and the appointments in question were controversial nominees who likely would not pass Senate muster had a vote even been scheduled.

Project 21 members are speaking out about the Canning decision and what this means and says about the Obama Administration method of governing.

Project 21 co-chairman Horace Cooper, a legal commentator who taught constitutional law at George Mason University and is a former leadership staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives, lays a lot of the blame for the circumstances that brought the justices wrath upon this executive branch overreach on Attorney General Eric Holder, the Obama Administration’s chief legal officer.

Horace said:

The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling makes clear that President Obama should never have attempted these appointments to the NLRB.

This is yet another loss based on ill-considered legal reasoning.

The Obama Administration has been ill-served by the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder.  Recommending to the President that he has authority he clearly lacks created unnecessary conflict and will result in a host of challenges to the activities of the NLRB.

An Attorney General committed to the Constitution more than to his political party would never have let this happen.

Project 21 Deroy Murdock, a syndicated columnist and Fox News Channel contributor applauded this limit on Obama’s quest for increased and unbalanced executive power:

Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision in the NLRB v. Canning case is a major and much-welcome rebuke to Obama’s “go-around Congress” approach to governing.

As he grows more dictatorial by the day — using his “pen and a phone” to issue decrees and re-write ObamaCare and other legislation at his whim — the Supreme Court has put our Dear Leader back in his place.

While Obama may not like it, the federal government is composed of three separate and co-equal branches of government.  Obama should learn from this humiliating defeat, stop behaving like a Third World despot and cooperate with Congress when he hopes to change public policy or appoint federal officials.


Project 21's Derryk Green: Federal Unemployment Numbers Not What You Think

Project 21 member Derryck Green tells Soul of the South host Angela Rae that the reported decline in the government’s unemployment calculations is “not impressive,” noting that factors such as a lack of confidence on the part of potential employers and the many people despondent and living under “a heavy blanket of apathy” has profoundly affected workforce participation.  This factor, which is as bad as it was in the late 70s Carter era of malaise, is more authoritative and shows a more negative picture of the nation’s employment crisis.

On the 6/17/14 edition of “D.C. Breakdown,” Derryck notes many new college graduates are unable to find good jobs, and are often forced to make ends meet by taking jobs below their skill level.  Job creators are wary, with many thinking it more prudent right now to try to “ride out the Obama wave.”  But the longer the innovators and the employers wait, the harder it is likely to be to restart America’s stalled economy.

This perilous cycle of circumstances forces many young people to move back in or remain living with their parents and makes it difficult — if not impossible — for them to repay expensive student loans.

As for the performance of President Obama in dealing with the problem, Derryck says Obama makes the situation worse because he “advocates for equality [in the economy]… not wealth creation.”  Congressional inactivity also adds to the problem, and conservatives need to be more convincing and forceful with a counter-narrative to the agenda of the Obama Administration and its supporters.


Skeleton of VA Nursing Home Patient Found After Missing 15 Years

Carl McKenzie, a psychiatric patient, had been missing for four months from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salem, Virginia.  In late March, his body was finally found in some underbrush near the hospital.  That same day, a groundskeeper found patient Leonard Cunningham who had been missing since February.  Cunningham was hanging by a rope on a tree not far from where McKenzie had been found. In response, the authorities initiated a clearing of the underbrush that covered much of the facility. 

In May, that effort resulted in the discovery of a skeleton.  It’s wristband revealed it to be a patient who had wandered off from the facility’s nursing home 15 years earlier.

After that, measures were taken to improve the search procedures at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salem, but the effectiveness of those measures is open to debate. In December of that year, Roy Phillips, a Korean War veteran who could barely walk, went missing from the hospital.  A search was organized but was called off later that night.  Two groundskeepers found Phillips the next morning dead from exposure.

While that sounds like something that happened recently at the VA, it occurred back in 1992.

It’s no secret that the VA has had a long history of such scandals.  Ironically, though, I found the above story in Phillip Longman’s book Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours. In a piece that will be out shortly, I show how the idea popularized by Longman’s book is, in part, to blame for the VA waiting list scandal.

One of Longman’s contentions is that the VA works so well because of its computerized medical record system known as VistA.  Supposedly VistA enables physicians and other health care providers to avoid making serious, sometimes deadly, medical errors.  That makes this recent story about the VA seem rather curious:

Two psychiatric patients at a veterans facility in Brockton received no regular evaluations of their condition for years, part of a “troubling pattern of deficient patient care” that federal investigators say they have confirmed at veterans health care facilities nationwide.

One of the neglected patients at the Brockton Community Living Center who had been admitted for “significant and chronic mental health issues” was living in the 106-bed facility for eight years before he received his first psychiatric evaluation, investigators reported.

The other unidentified patient, although he was classified as 100 percent mentally disabled due to his military service, had only a single “psychiatric note” placed in his medical file between 2005 and 2013.

How good is a medical record system if it takes eight years for a patient living in a VA facility to receive an evaluation?  Granted, errors will happen even in the best record system, but that’s one pretty big error. I suspect that as this scandal unfolds we are going to find out that VistA isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

To read more about VA disasters, a report released yesterday by Senator Tom Coburn’s is a good place to start. Here’s one example:

A nurse at the Lexington medical center was charged with killing a World War II veteran and eventually admitted fault with very little consequence. The veteran, who served in Europe, was killed by a morphine overdose at a VA Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky in September 2006. The nurse who administered the lethal dose was charged with murder. Some of the veteran’s family members said the nurse “harassed them for two years to try to get them to admit guilt” in the death. The veteran’s stepdaughter said, “the FBI was here a couple of times. They interrogated me and tried to make me say I did it and not to ruin the VA hospital’s reputation.”The court found the “additional doses of morphine provided by” the nurse “were a contributory cause of” the veteran’s death and she eventually pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter. At least two other veterans cared for by the same nurse “died under suspicious circumstances” after being given morphine, according to a special agent with the VA Inspector General (IG). The nurse was sentenced to “time served of eight days.” Eight days represent significantly less time than most veterans spend waiting to receive care at a VA center.  


The U.S. Supreme Court Should Stop Keeping Secret What Cases It is Handing Down and When

Supreme CourtWould you look twice at one of these people, dressed normally, at the supermarket?

Far be it for me to criticize the U.S. Supreme Court, which has ways many and sundry of communicating that its members are superior to those of us who are (so it thinks) mere peons in comparison, but why must the public go through, every year, the suspense of waiting until the Court hands down decisions to find out which decisions it is handing down?

Each case handed down is of keen interest to some people, but each case is not of equal interest to all people. Nonetheless, the court forces everyone with an interest in any case to set aside time, over and over again, in case any given day in which decisions are handed down is THE DAY in which the decision(s) they care about are handed down.

It's obnoxious, that's what it is.

I realize many people are content to wait to learn to decision of the court on the news, but many others -- the parties to the cases, attorneys, reporters, government officials and policy analysts like myself -- have specific work to do when certain cases are handed down. Yet we aren't allowed to schedule that work in advance because the court doesn't have the simple courtesy to give advance notice: "Monday we will be handing down Jarndyce v. Jarndyce."

Heck, even to post on the court website the night before what is scheduled for morning release would be better than the current situation, in which thousands of people repeatedly set aside time to deal with, report upon or analyze the aftermath of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, only to find the court instead has handed down a decision on Argentinian bonds.

And for their part, how many Jarndyce v. Jarndyces did the Argentinians have to sit through, waiting for their decision?

There's no reason the court can't tell us what decisions will be handed down when once it knows, and don't tell me "tradition." That might get me started on some of the other "traditions" of the court, one of which was "corruption." Hopefully we gave that one up.

My belief is that the justices enjoy being the only ones in the know. It's really impossible to watch the rude way they treat attorneys in the court without recognizing that a few of them have gotten way too big for their gowns.

Oh, and the part I said about "far be it for me to criticize the U.S. Supreme Court"? If you haven't noticed by now, I take that back. In addition to making more than one bazonkas decision, and interrupting the lawyers too much, and jerking people around as to when specific decisions will be handed down, the Court should allow cameras in the courtroom so we the people can watch and hear the arguments as they are made in real time, as well as the interruptions, excuse me, questions, made by the justices.

Doing so would help educate people about the arguments made in cases. Transcripts of oral arguments are good and appreciated, but let's face it, many people (inexplicably) avoid reading. It's not good of them, but it is true. And much of the news media ignores aspects of stories if there's no footage. Ratings, you know.

I wrote an article on this in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel in 2000 when the court was hearing arguments in Bush v. Gore. Public interest in that case was a wee bit high, but we mere peons in the public weren't allowed to watch. Might discomfit our betters.

Maybe if the public had been able to watch, more people would have understood the issues grappled with, and fewer would have been bitter at the result. I don't know how many times in the intervening 14 years I've read comments by bitter Gore partisans about that case -- comments that made it clear they did not understand the issues (other than the presidential race) on the table.

My take: Who cares if Justice Souter wanted to go to the supermarket without being recognized? He quit anyway.

P.S. Here is a group circulating a petition to the Chief Justice asking for cameras in the courtroom.


Commonwealth Fund Study: Cost Versus Access

I recently appeared on the Andrew Wilkow show to discuss the new Commonwealth Fund study that purports to show that the U.S. health care system is dead last among 11 industrialized nations.  

Greg Scandlen adds some more points about the flaws in the study at The Federalist:

Commonwealth places excessive emphasis on costs to bring down the American ranking. In virtually every instance of the U.S. ranking below other countries it is due to the cost of care. For instance, in questions of access to care it reports on the number of people who –

  • “Had medical problems but did not visit the doctor because of cost in the past year.
  • “Did not get recommended test, treatment, or follow up because of cost in the past year.
  • “Did not fill a prescription of skipped doses because of cost in the past year.”

(Bolding mine) Note that it is unconcerned about access denied or delayed for other reasons such as availability of services.  One might think that having access to a needed service, even if it costs you something, is far better than not having access at all. But that is not how Commonwealth sees things. It is also unconcerned about how the service is paid outside of direct out-of-pocket spending.

Yes, I may have a substantial copayment in getting a needed treatment, but how much more in taxes would I have to pay to avoid that out-of-pocket expense? Is it more efficient to pay taxes to a government agency, which then pays the provider for the service, or to skip the administrative burden and pay the provider directly? Passing the money through Washington before it goes to the provider means paying many additional people to handle the money.

Read it all here.

And here is my appearance on “Wilkow!”:

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