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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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Medicaid Money Laundering--It's Perfectly Legal!

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is trying to build support for his Medicaid expansion plan.  One method he’s proposing is a long-running scam called “hospital assessment fees.”

To understand how these fees work, it’s important to know first that Medicaid is a matching program.  For every dollar a state spends on Medicaid, the federal government will match that dollar and then some.  (In some states, the feds match $2 for every $1 the state puts up.)

Hospital assessment fees are a way for a state government to appear that it is spending more money on Medicaid without actually doing so.  Here’s how it works: A state government imposes assessment fees on hospitals and then adds that money to its Medicaid funds.  With more Medicaid funds, the state will receive even more matching funds from the federal government.  Then the state ensures that enough matching funds go back to the hospitals to cover the amount they paid in assessment fees.  In some cases, hospitals will even get more back than they paid in—see Indiana.  Usually, the states will siphon off the extra fees from the hospitals to spend on some other program.  

By now you’ve probably figured out that if people do this in the private sector, they can go to prison for money laundering.  But if a governor and state legislature do it, it’s just creative accounting.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 states already scam the federal Medicaid program this way.  But it’s not the only legal way to launder money via Medicaid.  Another scheme is succinctly described by the Wall Street Journal:

The swindle works like this: A state overpays state-run health-care providers, such as county hospitals or nursing homes, for Medicaid benefits far in excess of its typical rates. Then the federal government reimburses the state for “half” of the inflated bills. Once the state bags the extra matching funds, the hospital is required to rebate the extra money it received at the scam’s outset. Cash thus makes a round trip from states to providers and back to the states—all to dupe Washington.

This has been going on for quite some time.  Back in 2004 the Government Accountability Office studied it and said, “States’ financing schemes undermine the federal-state Medicaid partnership, as well as the program’s fiscal integrity.”

This assumes that Medicaid, or any government program for that matter, has much fiscal integrity to begin with.  Nevertheless, it’s just one more thing that politicians can do that the government can put you in jail for if you try it in the private sector.


Project 21 Membership Tackles Tough Middle East, Islam Issues

While members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network are popular for their interviews about race relations, the diverse experiences and skills that Project 21 members bring to the table make them qualified to speak on a broad array of issues.  One of these issue areas happens to be another major news item right now -- unrest in the Middle East.

There are three members in particular who are commenting on what’s going on regarding Middle East geopolitics and expansion of radical Islam.

Regarding the recent death of King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, Project 21 member Michael Dozier, PA, Ph.D., a consultant on national security issues, said:

Do not shed a tear for the late King Abdullah.

His kingdom is considered by many to be one of the biggest sponsors of terrorism.  People will read and hear from the mainstream media about how he made Saudi Arabia an ally of the United States, but they will likely not report how he sponsored Afghanistan’s odious Taliban movement since at least 1996 and channeled funds to Hamas and other groups that have committed terrorist acts in Israel and in other parts of the Middle East.

As Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute pointed out, Abdullah's monarchy bankrolled schools and charities rife with hatred of the West and America in particular.  He wrote that children “are also taught that the United States is the center of infidel power in the world and is the enemy of Islam.”  It is speculated that the schools are essentially recruitment centers for terrorists and other extremist groups.

King Abdullah’s death, along with the uprising in Yemen, will further destabilize the Middle East.  ISIS, among other enemies of the United States, may look at this as an opportunity to put pressure on the kingdom and its new leader to support its cause.

Regarding the Iranian nuclear program, possible sanctions against Iran and the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress in February, Project 21 member Kevin Martin, a Navy veteran whose tours often took him to the Middle East, said:

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama warned Congress not to pass legislation to authorize sanctions against Iran because his administration is negotiating over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iranian officials previously said its nuclear program is not open for discussions.  And Iran’s leaders also don’t think the State of Israel has a right to exist.

The very fact that Israelis have faced attacks from Iranian-backed terrorist elements in the past is reason enough for the Obama Administration to seek Israeli input on any nuclear deals or sanction.  The White House, however, has made it all too clear they don’t want it.  Congressional leaders are taking a much different tack, seeking such input at the very least in the form of inviting the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to address a joint session of Congress.

Many members of Congress obviously feel they have reason to be cautious about such deals.  There need not be a repeat of the approach the Clinton Administration took towards North Korea’s nuclear program – a negotiation in which the Clinton Administration took a tack of trusting but not verifying.  Iran and North Korea are two peas in a pod, and intelligence agencies suspect they are actually working together.

I feel the Obama Administration may be rushing into a useless deal to simply save face as the Iranian government runs out the clock in a fashion similar to the North Korea in the 1990s.  The United States only true ally in the region – Israel – has reason to be nervous.

Finally, there is the concern about the expansion of radical Islam.  Project 21 member Bishop Council Nedd II, the rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Central Pennsylvania and Archbishop of Abu Dhabi, wrote late last year about the need to stand up to the expansion of extremist elements of Islam into places such as Africa.  In an August 2014 New Visions Commentary entitled “A Firewall Is Needed against Militant Islam,” Council wrote:

[F]or human rights reasons, it is necessary to build a firewall to stop the international expansion of radical Islam.  Wholly different from peaceful followers of the Muslim faith, the adherents of radical Islam threaten the free expression of faith worldwide because they refuse to tolerate any religious views but their own.

The firewall should be on the African continent…

If militant Islam spreads into Kenya, nations throughout the rest of the continent are likely to be lost in relatively short succession.  South Africa may hold out, but it would eventually succumb as well…

[T]his is not a call to holy war.  It’s not a modern-day crusade.  It’s the need for tolerant people to collectively say “no” to radicals who want to impose their will upon others by any and all means — including heinous acts of violence.


Black Conservatives Say Newest Drive for Redskins Name Change Fouls Free Speech


While most other football fans are fixated on deflated game balls right now, there’s a small but allegedly influential special interest group hard at work trying to lend its credibility to an ongoing pressure campaign to get the Washington Redskins to change its name.

But has the Fritz Pollard Alliance put its credibility at risk by seeking to essentially muzzle the free speech of the team’s owner and those who support his choice to retain the Redskins name?

The Alliance, a nonprofit operated by former players and including minority coaching and front-office staffers working throughout the National Football League as its representatives, decided to join those who claim the name of the Washington Redskins “hurts the League and it hurts us all.”

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder says he will not change the team name, and team spokesman Tony Wyllie told the Washington Post that the Fritz Pollard Alliance “ignored the outstanding support we have received from the Native Americans across this country for the Washington Redskins…”

While the Alliance helped the NFL in the past deal with concerns about minority hiring and the use of hate speech on the field during games to much success, members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network are skeptical of the group for inserting itself in the name-change campaign.

Not only does it seem off the group’s mission of “promot[ing] diversity and equality of job opportunity,” but threatens free speech as well.

For instance, Project 21 member Bishop Council Nedd II, the rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, said:

I have been a Redskins fan my entire life.  My first grade teacher at Woodside Elementary School in suburban Maryland made the entire class learn to sing “Hail to the Redskins” right along with other classic American songs.

People may not like the team’s name, but this is a simple free speech issue.  The Redskins are privately owned.  If the public doesn’t like the name, they don’t have to support the team.  I have some very dear friends who decided to stop supporting the Redskins because of this issue.  That’s fine by me.  If enough people join them, maybe the ownership will actually decide to comply with their wishes.  But trying to force change through heavy-handed tactics such as government intervention is draconian.

Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, is clear that he has no plans to change the name of this historic and storied team.  There aren’t many things I will applaud Daniel Snyder for, but this is definitely one of them.  If people want to talk to Daniel Snyder about something important, ask him if he is going to support the coach on his quarterback decisions.  Ask him why he moved the training camp from Carlisle, Pennsylvania to Richmond, Virginia.  When he did that, central Pennsylvania became Baltimore Ravens territory.  How smart was that?

There aren’t more important things on which the Fritz Pollard Alliance can focus?  Was the issue of long-term effects of head trauma suddenly solved and I missed it?

I think it’s incredibly telling and hypocritical that John Wooten, a former Redskins player, is now blasting the team that once paid his salary.  Where was his interest in “respect and dignity” when he was cashing his paychecks?  Is he planning to return this apparent blood money to the team or donate it to charity?

Additionally, Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a legal commentator who taught constitutional law at George Mason University and was a former leadership staff member for the U.S. House of Representatives, said:

Another so-called civil rights group puts the interests of blacks at the back of the bus.  Instead of staying focused on the interests of black America, the Fritz Pollard Alliance is expending scare resources and credibility on the name of the Washington’s football team.

It’s such a shame when groups claiming to have the interests of black America at heart lose focus.  Here’s a reminder – black unemployment is through the roof, net wealth in the black community is below the floor and family formation is in shambles.  Black Americans care more about these kitchen table issues than what the owner of a private sports team chooses to call that team.  Yet the Alliance is part of an effort that includes lawmakers and government bureaucrats to bring the owner to heel.  What team is next?

Here’s a thought: How about focusing more on making it possible for black America to be able to buy tickets to an NFL game instead of putting the pressing political interests of blacks at the back of the bus by focusing on team names?


Project 21 Members Tear Down Leftist Infrastructure Deception

National Center staff member Bethany Whitlock wrote this blog post.


If the current price of gasoline -- due largely to new extraction on privately-owned land -- is any indication, American innovation is a clear success story. The private sector, so despised by big-government proponents, is proving its worth.

Bishop Council Nedd II and Kevin Martin, both members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network, were interviewed separately by Thom Hartmann on his RT network program, “The Big Picture,” on 1/21/15 and 1/22/15, respectively.  Both debated Hartmann on infrastructure and energy policy.

Both Council and Kevin agreed the private sector is better able to fix infrastructure problems that are arguably created by big government in the first place, while Hartmann blamed Congress for withholding funding for construction projects.

In his opening statement, Council remarked:

You can’t just have these bridges falling down.  It’s a shame when big government lets you down like that… [But] if they can’t keep the roads safe, someone [else] needs to do it.

During the show, another conservative commentator mentioned that technology of “composite-based” products could support bridges and roads for decades, but proposals to use it commercially are blocked by labor unions.  Shifting the blame, Hartmann claimed conservatives in the congressional leadership prevented legislation on infrastructure.  But Council noted this claim ignored the fact those bills Hartmann cited included incredible amounts of pork-barrel spending not necessary to keep bridges from falling down or get rail lines built, and it was this that garnered conservative opposition.

In his segment, Kevin dug a little deeper as he sparred with Hartmann, touching on the Keystone XL pipeline issue.

Kevin said:

First of all, infrastructure is a product of America’s taxes [and] it’s not a freebie because government doesn’t do anything for free… But [the President] wants to select what infrastructure we spend our money on.

President Obama has made it quite clear he will not sign the bill already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives allowing for completion of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Instead, he seems to favor the status quo and the desires of the environmentalist lobby.

However, Kevin pointed out what President Obama failed to mention or apparently realize is that most of the machines used by construction crews run on diesel fuel and use asphalt during the construction of roads and bridges.  Whether he likes it or not, infrastructure improvement projects are inherently dependent on crude oil, since they wouldn’t be able to work without it.

As Council remarked: “It’s a shame when big government lets you down like that.”


Post Coverage of March for Life Suggests Liberal Newsroom Is Reasserting Control

Almost two years ago, I took the leadership of the then-publicly-traded Washington Post Company to task for their coverage of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Representing the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project and using the shares of Accuracy in Media at the company’s 2012 shareholder meeting, I asked why the coverage of the yearly pro-life event which brings possibly hundreds of thousands of people into the nation’s capital on a usually miserable January day received poor coverage compared to smaller rallies about gun control or the environment.  Chairman Don Graham and Publisher Katherine Weymouth both conceded the paper sometimes “makes mistakes” in it’s reporting.  Weymouth later privately admitted the Post’s newsroom was possibly “90 percent” liberal, and “obviously their bias comes through on occasion.”

In 2014, however, it seemed the National Center’s complaint was heard and understood when last year’s March for Life was covered prominently on the front page of the Washington Post’s Metro section.  But Graham sold the Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in late 2013, and Weymouth resigned as publisher last September.

So how did the Washington Post do on reporting the March for Life in 2015?  I think a liberal newsroom is beginning to reassert its authority.

Consider the statistics.  The 1/23/15 article for the 2015 March for Life is on page A-6 — in the front section and above the fold.  Some would consider that buried, as opposed to being on the front page of the Metro section.

In an article with a total of 27.2 column inches, only about 6.75 inches is actually devoted to the March itself.  There is 3.5 inches for people who participated to support life issues besides abortion (namely, anti-capital punishment) and 2.75 inches about March leadership not allowing representatives of those other causes to address marchers at a rally.  And 2.125 inches was allocated to a pro-abortion Catholic activist.   The rest was devoted to abortion-related news from places elsewhere than the teeming streets of D.C on a cold day in January.

Furthermore, the photo accompanying the article prominently featured pro-abortion protesters.

In the Post’s free Express newspaper, a page 3 article was 4.75 inches long and gave 1.5 inches with that copy to the March’s opponents and featured two photos that represented the hundreds of thousands of opponents of abortion and the probably dozens of supporters of abortion who were present.

The Post article had one reporter this year as opposed to two last year, and the Express drew from an Associated Press report.

A critique of the coverage by Media Research Center Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham noted that, in coverage of the March and another article the same day about congressional debate on abortion-related legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, “[t]he word ‘pro-life’ wasn’t used.”  While deeming the coverage “fairly objective,” MRC’s Graham nonetheless pointed out “[n]o speakers from the rally were quoted.”  He also noted that, in comparison, the Post gave two days of coverage to what was an approximately 100-person rally against the Washington Redskins professional football team (over their allegedly offensive name) last December.

While it was not a backslide into the paltry coverage it received even just a few years ago, this year’s March for Life coverage in the Washington Post isn’t as good as last year.  Unfortunately, the Post is no longer part of a publicly traded company (Bezos owns it outright, and not through his Amazon empire) and thus will not be in the same position to take complaints from entities such as the Free Enterprise Project.

The big question on the table is: How Washington Post coverage of the March for Life will be in 2016?  Will reporting be objective and befitting a movement that brings in masses of people and snarls the D.C. transit gird in the process, or will it revert back to a tiny Metro section mention and photo of counter-protesters as had been the norm for so long?


Thomas Sowell: Welfare, Not Slavery Or Racism, Cause Of Racial Inequality

The 1st edition of Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics, published back in 2000, came in at 366 pages.  The book has proven so popular that the 5th edition, released late last year, has ballooned to 689 pages.  The final part of my recent interview with Sowell appears at FrontPage Magazine. (Click on these links for part 1 and part 2.) In part 3, he discussed many of the new topics in his book, including inequality, human capital, imperialism and non-profits.  Here’s an excerpt:

David Hogberg: Now, let me go back to President Obama’s speech on race for a minute. In it he states, “[W]e do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.”  Do you agree with that?

Thomas Sowell: They’re always talking about a legacy of “slavery,” and they use that as an excuse for crime and broken families and so on.  Yet in the first half of the 20th century, you’d have a hard time finding five ghetto riots like that of Ferguson.  In the second half of the 20th century, you can choose from at least 100.  If that is a legacy of anything, it is the legacy of something that came along in the second half of the 20th century.  It is the legacy of a liberal-left vision of the world and the policies based on it, both as regards law enforcement and welfare.  Welfare alone has had an enormous impact.  And it’s not just the welfare itself, the material goods that are provided.  In a democracy you can’t have a welfare system unless you first have a welfare-state ideology that triumphs.  And that ideology is non-judgmental, it makes excuses for things that are wrong, and it subsidizes things that are wrong.

People have no idea that the black community in the first half of the 20th century was from the point of view of common decency miles ahead of the ghettos of today, especially places like Ferguson.  Harlem in the 1920s was a place where many whites, including many white celebrities, frequented.  And it was not only for the entertainment places like the Cotton Club and so on, but places where they met with the black elite of that time.  Back then, no one worried about being mugged.  I was a grocery delivery boy in that area.  On Saturday nights I’d work until midnight and then I’d walk home.  I weighed about 100 pounds soaking wet, yet no one ever bothered me, no policeman ever stopped me.   This notion that you have to be afraid of the cops, they’re out to get you and so forth, there was nothing of that sort.

The blacks in first half of the 20th century had a decency that is long since gone, but they had that at a time when they were even closer to the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow than are blacks today.

Read it all here.


Project 21’s Gardner Answers the Question: “What Would Martin Luther King, Jr. Say?”

National Center staff member Bethany Whitlock wrote this blog post.

With the recent national observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and with all of the events that have strained race relations over the past year, many people are probably asking the question: “What would MLK say?”

This year, his words were definitely quoted repeatedly — but they were almost certainly uttered with very different intentions depending on the person saying them.

Project 21 member Dr. Day Gardner, while appearing on the 1/19/15 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network on MLK Day, responded poignantly when posed this question:

I think I know exactly what [Dr. King] would say.  You know, when you think about everything that is going on in this country, especially with [Eric] Garner and… what happened at Ferguson… America is not perfect, but we’ve come so far and we are growing.

Day also lamented on how she saw the racial divide in America decreased and tensions eased over the past few decades only to “fall apart” in just the last few years.

After the election of President Obama, she said, hopes were high that he would be able to build upon and strengthen the foundation.  It seems, however, that the result was actually quite the opposite.

Whatever people may have interpreted as to what Dr. King might say if he were still alive and commenting the nation’s current situation, there’s no denying what he actually did say in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963.  His words were: “But there is something that I must say… In the process of gaining our rightful place… We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”


Thomas Sowell: 'Resentment' of America Fueling Obama Amnesty

Today, FrontPage Magazine has published part 2 of my three-part interview with economist and social philosopher Thomas Sowell.  (For part 1, go here.)This portion covers more on civil rights, illegal immigration, the rule of law and the so-called “War on Women.” Below is an excerpt:

David Hogberg: Now, with President Obama’s recent executive order on illegal immigration, effectively legalizing possibly up to 5 million of them, is he trying to expand the base of the Democratic Party?

Thomas Sowell: It’s that, but I think it’s also more fundamental than that.  I think he believes that the world is unfair and those who are more fortunate are just lucky—you know, “You didn’t build that”—and that his role, as he said to Joe the Plumber, is to spread the wealth around. And so he is letting people into this country so they can partake in the wealth that the existing American population has created.  I think his response to the Ebola crisis was typical, sending our troops over there.  He doesn’t view his role as protecting the American people from this disease.  I think this is a man who has enormous resentments toward this country, especially towards those people who have flourished and prospered here.

Read it all here.


ObamaCare's 'Success' Is One of Making Americans More Dependent on Government 

During last night’s State of the Union speech, President Obama made one grandiose claim regarding ObamaCare: “And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.”

The claim is based on an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that uses data from the Gallup-Healthways survey.  But digging into the survey data shows that ObamaCare has actually succeeded at making Americans more dependent on government: 

If you do the math, you’ll notice that the number of people who are on Medicaid has increased by over 29 percent since Q3 2013. No doubt this is due in large part to the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion.  Then there are the “self-paid” insured who have increased 23 percent.  But as John Graham notes, “‘Self-paid’ is actually a misnomer, because most of these people are in Obamacare health-insurance exchanges, where almost all of them receive subsidies.”

Then there is Medicare enrollment—which has increased about 17 percent.  That’s not the fault of ObamaCare. This increase is probably due to the big uptick in people who have joined Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) since 2009.  SSDI recipients are usually eligible for Medicare after a two-year wait period.  Of course, they wouldn’t be going on SSDI if the economy had recovered quickly after 2009.  We can thank the Obama Administration’s economic policy for the fact that it didn’t.

So, when Obama says that 10.3 million Americans have gained health coverage, what he means is that about 10.3 million have become more dependent on government.


Thomas Sowell: Unrest Suits Sharpton’s ‘Income Interests’

FrontPage Magazine has published part 1 of my three-part interview with economist Thomas Sowell, who has just released the 5th edition of his best-selling book Basic Economics. The interview covers not only his new book, but also civil rights, race hustlers and immigration.  Here is a snippet:

David Hogberg: What do you think motivates Al Sharpton and Bill de Blasio to involve themselves in these incidents? Is it in any way really a concern for civil rights?

Thomas Sowell:  Not in the slightest. It is obvious that for de Blasio it suits his political interests and for Sharpton it suits his power and income interests.  De Blasio hopes to use this to turn out the minority vote next time around.  As for Sharpton, well, he owes, I think it is literally, millions of dollars in back taxes. I have never owed millions of dollars in back taxes. Alas, I never had any reason to be owing millions of dollars.  So, really, a man of fairly modest accomplishments is living very high on the hog, on the strength of his ability to exploit the guilt of white people and the gullibility of such blacks as he can get to follow him.

Read it all here.


Project 21 Member’s Spiritual and Racial Redemption Highlighted by National Black Radio Network

As part of its coverage and commemoration of the anniversary of the birth of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the American Urban Radio Networks interviewed Project 21 member Reverend Steven L. Craft, M.Div.

Reverend Craft offers a unique story of redemption and rebirth, making him a compelling speaker – particularly during his national observance.

At one time a discouraged veteran who sank into a life of racial animosity and drug abuse that eventually landed him behind bars, Reverend Craft kicked his drug habit, strengthened his faith in God and found racial understanding in the process.  His changed outlook led him to become a prison chaplain.

In his AURN interview, Reverend Craft said:

What I discovered over a period of time was simply this: that my major enemy was staring me straight in the mirror.  Because I am the only one who has the power to change me.

If I’m not willing to change myself, how do I think I’m going to change 6 million white folks?

So, that was my starting ideology – what opened up freedom for me.

He said this revelation further helped him understand that “[t]here [is] only one race: the human race.”

In his ministry work, Reverend Craft said his focus on working with those who are still obsessed with race and hatred of others because of perceived discrimination is in “challenging them to take responsibility for their actions and behavior.”

To hear the full AURN interview of Reverend Craft by correspondent Kim Lampkins, click here.



Despite the Rise of the Race Hustlers, America's Youth Provide Optimism for a More Perfect Union

The following post was written by Michael Dozier, a member of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network:

When I was in elementary school, I auditioned to be the lead in a school play.  I was given the part.  And, ironically, my co-star’s name was Coretta Scott.  I kid you not, that was her real name.

Coretta played my wife, and I was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I remember telling my parents I got the part.  They were so proud.  My father sat me down and told me that it was a big responsibility playing Dr. King, and that I had to make sure I showed respect to the man who changed our lives and the lives of millions of people.

For weeks, I studied my lines and practiced in front of my family.  My father stressed to me that I had to memorize each word and say the lines flawlessly.  To this day, I still remember my lines from Dr. King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. 

Over the years, Dr. King’s message has been taken out of context.  His dream of equality for all people has been blatantly misinterpreted by race-hustlers and charlatans that use the claim of discrimination as a tool to extort money from others.

Dr. King did not die for the black race.  His message was not about retribution or reparations.  It was not for the advancement of a certain group of people over another.  It was for the equality and freedom for all people. 

As a black American growing up in the seventies, I witnessed true racism.  My family and I were treated horribly by bigots who did not care about the content of our character and only the color of our skin.

As the years went by, I saw how the sting of discrimination was replaced with tolerance and equality.  However, I began to notice a disturbing trend in the black communities.  Instead of advancing, upward mobility stalled and, in some cases, retrogressed.

Black families are being torn apart.  Crime rates in the black communities are at epidemic numbers. Excuses have taken the place of personal responsibility.  Virtues are no longer required, and immoral behavior is being promoted as black culture.

Leaders such as Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall and Booker T. Washington, who fought for full legal, social and economic equality, died off and were replaced with self-appointed civil rights hatemongers and opportunist such as Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan and Eric Holder.

Their hate speech and rhetoric has caused division in our country and is helping to undo the very fabric that civil rights leaders stitched together.  They use their position of power to exploit and manipulate the ignorant and uninformed.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is arguably the greatest warrior for the American civil rights movement.  His message of equal rights for all has inspired little black boys and girls to strive to be pillars of our society.

Sadly, people such as Barack Obama and Eric Holder are trying to convince blacks that they should be treated differently because they cannot be held up to the same standards as the rest of humanity.

This misguided narrative frightens me, but, like Dr. King, I am hopeful that we as a people will get to the promised land.  My son caused me to be optimistic.

A couple of years ago, he was also awarded the opportunity to play Dr. King in a school play.  Like my father, I felt the pride and joy of watching my son play the man I so admire.

I asked my son, “What did Dr. King stand for?”  His answer sent chills down my spine.  He said, “Dr. King’s dream was that all people, no matter what color their skin, gender or religious affiliation, will one day be able to achieve the American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I couldn’t be more proud.


Race-Conscious Public Policy Puts Public at Risk in Buffalo, NY

Discussing the organization’s participation in a racial preference case that was recently argued before the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, Project 21 Co-Chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon said actions by city officials in Buffalo that denied firefighters promotions because the candidates were all white distorts “laudable goals” of preventing discrimination and sidelines the community’s need for first-responder advancement that is “based on merit and ability.”

Cherylyn bluntly surmised: “I want someone… to lift me out of a burning building who is qualified to do that regardless of what their color is.”

On the 1/14/15 edition of the One America News Network’s “The Rick Amato Show,” Cherylyn explained about Project 21’s legal brief that was submitted to the court in the case of Margerum v. City of Buffalo:

We discuss the difference between the disparate impact theory and the Equal Protection Clause [of the U.S. Constitution] because [it’s] wrong… when you want to combat racial discrimination by discriminating against another race.

Diving deeper into the heart of Project 21’s Margerum brief, Cherylyn noted:

In the earnestness to be concerned about the black firefighters and their ability to be promoted, you are then denying the white firefighters the ability to get promoted because they were the next ones in line.  And here’s the important thing… You have these bean-counting politicians who are so [politically correct] and worried about, you know, the effect on the black firefighters that, in essence, they are making the decision to who is gonna be hired and fired and it’s not based on merit.  And that, I think, really goes against the grain of what our country stands for.


Creating Unjustified Racial Strife Dishonors MLK Legacy

Bishop Council Nedd II, a longtime member of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network, explained that there are too many people in America these days whose action “dishonor” the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  They dishonor him, for example, when they continue to fixate on race and help to breed discontent after all of the work Dr. King accomplished to successfully open up opportunities and tear down institutional discrimination against his fellow black Americans.

Commenting on how society has changed so radically for the better with regard to dealing with outright racial discrimination over just the past few decades, Council said:

[W]e shouldn’t dishonor him by still pretending things are problems when they really aren’t problems anymore [and] by allowing people like Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to stand up and cause discontent just for the sake of causing discontent.

In a discussion about the King legacy on the 1/15/15 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network, Council lamented that he actually sees race relations getting worse in America despite all of the gains Dr. King helped accomplish.  And Council found President Barack Obama’s leadership style to be lacking in particular when it comes to working to reverse this potential crisis for our nation:

In my lifetime, I don’t know that I’ve seen this much racial tension…

If the election of President Obama is somehow some sort of fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, you know, maybe, at this point, Dr. King’s dream has become a nightmare.  A horrible nightmare that’s sort of run amuck.

There are hurting people in this country right now.  There are a lot of people upset.  There are a lot of people who are ill at ease for a variety of different reasons which, in my opinion, all fall on President Obama’s lap…

When Amato asked Council to expand on his charge against President Obama, Council explained that he believes Obama squanders opportunities to help fix the problem of strained race relations and discontent:

He’s the President of the United States.  He’s got the bully pulpit.  He’s in a position to stand up and speak with authority about certain issues — about all issues that affect people in this country.  And what does he tend to do?  He’s still playing pandering games.  He’s still pandering to people…

Now would be the time for him to stand up, to speak with authority and say “this is what I really believe, this is what I want to do.”  But, again, he’s still playing politics.


E-Cigarettes Help Tobacco Smokers Quit - Public Health Groups Should Get Out of Their Way

An editorial in the January 15 Detroit News by our own Jeff Stier asks the question: Will Michigan Governor Snyder "drop the ball" on e-cigarettes?

The Michigan legislature passed a bill to ban the sale of e-cigarettes (tobacco-free nicotine-delivery devices that emit water vapor, not smoke, and which many smokers have been using to quit carcinogenic tobacco cigarettes) to minors, but certain so-called public health groups have been urging the governor to veto it.

The reason: the legislation does not go a step further and treat e-cigarettes just like tobacco cigarettes in other ways -- ways intended to deter their use.

The problem with this advice -- even though it comes from "public health" groups -- is that it almost certainly is lethal.

People shouldn't smoke. They should not start, and if they do start, they should quit. But some people -- many people -- have trouble quitting, so they keep inhaling tobacco smoke and tar and nasty dirty ingredients that increase their chance of getting lung and other cancers and other really horrible diseases, too, such as emphysema and heart disease.

Michigan e cig

Some of those folks in recent years have been able to quit with the help of nicotine patches or gum, and still others with the help of drugs such as Bupropion (brand names: Zyban, Wellbutrin and Aplenzin), a prescription anti-depressant that helps with nicotine withdrawal symptoms, or Varenicline (brand name: Chantix), which blocks some nicotine receptors in the brain, making smoking less pleasurable and reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

But not everyone who tries to quit with these devices or drugs, or by willpower alone, has found success.

For them, e-cigarettes can be lifesaving.

A British study released in 2014 found that, according to WebMD, "people who wanted to quit smoking were about 60 percent more likely to succeed if they used e-cigarettes compared to would-be quitters who tried an anti-smoking nicotine patch or gum."

"The same 60 percent statistic held," WebMD reports, "when the study authors compared the use of e-cigarettes as a quit-smoking aid to people who tried to quit using willpower alone."

The Guardian has more here.

We hope Governor Snyder, and policymakers in other states, will agree with our Jeff Stier that keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors but available to people trying to quit smoking is THE BEST policy to save lives.

As Jeff noted in the Detroit News, the FDA's chief tobacco regulator, Mitch Zeller, has said:

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

Sign the bill, Governor Snyder. Save lives.


ObamaCare: Is 40 Hours Worse than 30?

Under ObamaCare, employers with 100 or more full-time employees must provide those employees with health insurance or pay a fine, with “full-time” being defined as 30 hours or more a week.  Last Thursday the House of Representatives voted 252-172 to change the definition of full-time to 40 hours a week.

The 30-hours-a-week definition gives employers with large numbers of part-time employees an incentive to limit their employee hours to no more than 29 per week.  Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily counted at least 450 employers who have cut employee hours in response to ObamaCare.  He also found that, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, low-wage workers ($14.50 an hour or less) have seen their hours reduced.

Despite that, I’m on the fence as to whether increasing the definition of full-time employee from 30 hours a week to 40 is a good idea.  Obviously, repealing the employer mandate in its entirety is the best policy.  But the increase to 40 hours was a change that some of us thought President Obama might sign into law.  Alas, what were we thinking? (“You weren’t thinking!” —the Wife.)

But is this proposed increase really a change for the better?  Yuval Levin at National Review Online lays out a strong case against it:

As Sherry Glied and Claudia Solis-Roman recently found, nearly 29 million employees of large firms work between 40 and 44 hours a week (and about 27 million of them work exactly 40 hours a week), while only about 3 million work between 30 and 34 hours a week and another roughly 4 million work between 35 and 39 hours a week for such firms. Even if you just look at workers not now offered employer coverage, this difference means that putting the cut-off for the employer mandate at 40 hours would likely put far, far more people at risk of having their hours cut than leaving it at 30 hours. That would make for a worse effect on workers and on the economy. So by setting the definition lower, Obamacare’s architects were trying to mitigate the damaging effects of the employer mandate some, and by setting it higher Republicans would be worsening those effects.

While I find this line of reasoning plausible, I’m not yet convinced.  I wonder if lifting it to 40 hours a week would do much damage. About 99% of employers with 200 or more employees offer insurance.  Presumably those companies offer health insurance because the employees provide enough value to make it worth it.  So would lifting the employer mandate to 40 hours really change the value those employees provide?

I also suspect the 30 hour standard would do more damage than the 40 hour one would.  Part-time workers usually don’t provide enough value to employers to warrant health insurance, so employers with large numbers of part-time workers have a much bigger incentive to reduce hours to 29 a week.  Lifting it to 40 could give those part-time workers a much needed increase in work hours.

Then there is the politics.  If Congress passes the 40 hour definition and Obama does sign it, and it does negatively impact employees working 40-hours a week, the GOP is likely to be blamed.  On the other hand, if Obama makes good on his veto threat, then the GOP has a great issue to put in the arsenal.

What do you think?  Should Congress change the definition of full-time worker to 40 hours a week?


Armed and at Risk, Police Critic Learns the Value of Compliance with Cops

Given a gun and a mission, a once-vehement critic of the police quickly found his “attitude has changed.”  Furthermore, he has pledged to let people know that they “need to comply with the orders of law enforcement officers — for their own sake.”

Just last month, Reverend Jarrett Maupin was helping lead an anti-police march in Phoenix, Arizona after an officer shot an unarmed suspect.  A local news crew filmed Maupin yelling into a bullhorn about that officer: “We want his badge!  We want his gun!  We want his job!”

But Maupin experienced the reality of what officers face in times of crisis when he was put through a series of “force-on-force” simulations by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.  Issued a fake gun, Maupin was filmed as he reacted to common police situations in which an officer may be forced to draw and use his gun:

  • A suspect suspiciously checks out cars in a parking lot, ducking behind a vehicle and drawing his own gun (Maupin was “killed”).
  • While trying to break up a fight, one of the men advances on Maupin (Maupin shoots and “kills” the unarmed man).
  • A suspected burglar is uncooperative while being handcuffed and yells out that he is being abused by Maupin (no shots are fired, but the suspect was armed with a knife).

In the fight scenario, Maupin shot the man who advanced on him menacingly, and told the other man — who demanded to know, in the heat of the moment, why Maupin used his gun — that “he shouldn’t approach me!”  Afterward, Maupin said he shot the man because he was an “imminent threat,” was “within that zone” of danger and since the man “came clearly to do some harm.”

Maupin admitted, after feeling what it is like to be behind the badge, that “it’s hard to make that call — it shakes you up.”

He said the biggest lesson learned was that he “didn’t understand how important compliance was” on the part of the public.  That changed when he experinced how quickly things can unfold and how fast a decision must be made by an officer.

Having seen this news report on Maupin’s apparent converstion — and experiencing such training, as one member has — Project 21 members are commenting on how Maupin’s epiphany is something that more community organizers need to experience.

Project 21 Joe Hicks is a former executive director of the Los Angeles Human Rights Commission and former executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference:

I have undergone similar “use of force” experiences under the direction of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  It was always a sobering experience.

To my discredit, I “shot” several people who should not have been “shot,” and, in turn, was “shot” on numerous occasions by suspects I reacted slowly to.  Needless to say, I was not offered a badge by these police agencies.

Decisions to use deadly force are made within split-seconds.  That our peace officers get this right almost every time is a testament to their professionalism and training.   Being a law enforcement officer is, outside of foreign deployment as a member of our military in a theatre of war, perhaps one the toughest jobs imaginable.  They have my thanks and admiration for being that “thin blue line” between civilization and deadly chaos. 

The embarrassingly ignorant leftists, liberals and anarchists marching in our streets chanting: “What do we want?  Dead cops!  When do we want it?  Now!” pose a great threat to the generally positive race relations that have been patiently constructed over generations, and our collective future as a lawful, civilized nation.  I routinely walk up to police officers and say to them “thanks for your service.”  They are usually shocked to hear these words, but are very thankful to hear them.

Project 21 member Stacy Washington, a talk radio host in St. Louis, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force:

I have a lot of respect for an individual who is willing to undergo training scenarios in order to understand the position of his opponent.  That’s exactly what happened here in the case of anti-police violence activist Reverend Maupin.  He chose to undergo use of force training scenarios with his local law-enforcement agency to explore the arguments of those supporting the position of law enforcement. 

As a result, Reverend Maupin now understands that decisions law enforcement officers routinely make happen in a matter of seconds and are a matter of life and death.

During the training exercises, he uses his firearm to shoot an unarmed man.  Reverend Maupin experienced genuine fear for his life, a game changer for him.  As he summed up his change of heart, he clearly stated that “you must comply with the orders of police.”

As the daughter of a police chief, this has been my position from day one.  Not complying with the orders of law enforcement can result in your apprehension or physical harm.  Why risk that? 

This discussion has been woefully absent from the national discourse by so-called protest leaders and the notorious Reverend Al Sharpton.  If these leaders truly thought black lives mattered, wouldn’t they offer suggestions on how to prevent negative encounters with police that might result in death?  

Why not tell protesters that the simplest way is to avoid criminal activity?  In encounters with police, answer their questions and comply with their orders.  Stating these truths is the right thing to do.

Don’t hold out hope that Sharpton or other social justice mouthpieces will ever take the path Reverend Maupin has chosen.  There’s no money in it. 

Project 21 member Nadra Enzi is a community policing activist in New Orleans:

I’m very glad the good Reverend Maupin got to see how the “other side” — the police — have to use force in their own self-defense and the enforcement of the law.  Now he understands how compliance on the part of citizens maximizes survival.

This exercise, pun intended, shot holes in the whole shooting unarmed men narrative.

This is the type of brothers-and-badges-together experience I promote.  Reverend Maupin went in as a police critic, and he emerged a proponent of not rushing to judgment — or literally rushing police officers.  Bravo!

Project 21 member Michael Dozier is an expert in issues involving homeland security issues, risk analysis, emergency management and disaster preparedness:

This video reveals that when rhetoric, ignorance and race are removed from the equation, the truth will prevail.

Civil rights activist Reverend Jarrett B. Maupin, Jr. was so blinded by rhetoric that he failed to understand why many of our black children are losing their lives.  The epidemic of violence and crime in the African-American communities and the lack of respect for authority, has led to the unnecessary deaths of many black people.
Reverend Maupin was placed in a simulated life-threatening situation that police face every day — only it is real for the officers.  Now, he has the opportunity to open a dialogue between the police and the community he represents.  Let’s pray that his newfound revelation will not make him a pariah to the very same people who may not want to take their blinders off.


About Those Jobs Numbers for December: The Devil Is in the Details

Federal figures on jobless numbers were released this morning, and the appearance of good news unfortunately has a lot of bad news hidden in the details.

To explain the devils in those details, as he does every month, is Project 21 member Derryck Green:

The first jobs report of the new year is in, and the message seems to be mixed at the very least. 

The American economy continues to plod slowly along, trying to regain the pre-recession economic strength that ensures consumer confidence and makes employers want to hire.

But it’s hard to realize that listening to President Obama as he touts the “success” of his economic agenda.  He’s building hype ahead of his second-to-last State of The Union Address later this month.

During a speech this past week in Wayne, Michigan, the President made several questionable statements, attempting to convince the nation that things are getting better.  For example, he said one of his New Year’s resolutions was to “make sure… more Americans across the country…[feel] like they’re coming back.”

“Coming back.”  That’s what the workers at that plant in Wayne likely want to be doing.  The unspoken fact that day was that the Wayne plant is closed temporarily because there just isn’t demand for the Ford Fusion compacts and C-Max hybrids built there.

Mr. President, people will feel like they’re “coming back” when they’re actually coming back.  That would mean the jobless must be able to find decent work.  That’s when more jobs are being created, there are higher wages to be earned, there’s lower inflation and an ability to save money.

Financial confidence and economic security breeds emotional confidence.  And this is just the start of “coming back.”  Simply asking people to force upon themselves emotions that are unchecked and not rooted in reality is a terribly foolish thing to suggest.

Speaking of job creation, according to payroll company ADP, private payrolls increased by 241,000 in December — an increase of 13,000 from November.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 252,000 jobs were created.  Americans are always thankful for any jobs created, but, just like last year, job creation continues to lag significantly behind population growth.

The was a reported drop in the official unemployment rate determined by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  This will undoubtedly encourage people to celebrate — especially at the White House and among the President’s supporters — but only because they willingly ignore the plight of Americans remaining on the fringes of the workforce.

The official unemployment rate that is reported by the mainstream media fell from 5.8 percent to 5.6 percent in December.  But the U-6 alternative rate, that includes those same people measured in the official rate as well as those stuck in part-time jobs they wish offered more and the able-bodied who have just quit looking for jobs out of frustration, is double the official rate at 11.2 percent.

On top of that, the amount of people looking for work has dropped as the labor force participation rate fell two-tenths of a point to 62.7 percent.  Also in December, there were more people “marginally-attached” (up 200,000) and more “discouraged” (up 42,000) than in November.  It begs the question as to how much of the decline in the official unemployment rate is due to people dropping out or giving up their goals for substantial positions just to get by.

And, last month, for the first time in years, hourly wages went down.  Jobs may have been created, but earnings are an indicator that the economy is still quite stagnant.

Then there are the problems facing the President’s alleged core constituencies.  Black overall unemployment went down to 10.4 percent, but so did the black workforce participation rate.  Hispanic unemployment similarly declined, but with a decline in the participation rate.  And black teen unemployment rocketed back up into the 30s — from 28.2 percent in November to 33.2 percent in December!

Making matters worse, the job creation that’s taking place doesn’t seem to be benefitting native-born Americans.  According to a recent report from the Center for Immigration Studies, the net gains in jobs since 2007 have predominantly gone to immigrants — both legal and illegal.  This means there were likely fewer native-born Americans employed at the close of 2014 than in 2007.  This should give all Americans tremendous pause and concern as they consider the President’s recent politically, economically and morally unjustified decision to delay the deportation of at least five million illegal immigrants and possibly give them a much-hyped path to citizenship.

The lack of economic opportunity plaguing our nation continues to affect Americans at all levels.  According to a recent report by the Census Bureau, 20 percent of adults (13.5 million people) between the ages of 18-34 years old live in poverty.  The report also says that “[m]ore Millenials are living in poverty today, and they have lower rates of employment, compared with their counterparts in 1980.”  In 1980, only 14 percent of adults between of that age group were reportedly living in poverty.

In addition to Millenials experiencing poverty, another Census Bureau report claims 65 percent of American children live in homes receiving some sort of federal assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid or the Federal School Lunch Program.  This shocking reality means American children not dependent on federal aid are now a minority.  This is a concerning picture for the U.S. economy and for children now experiencing and learning the cadence and ritual of government dependency.

And, as it relates to SNAP, the number of enrolled beneficiaries exceeded 46 million for 37 straight months.

With so many people depending on the government for assistance, it’s no surprise Americans are also experiencing the difficulties of saving money.  Over 60 percent of Americans polled for the financial firm Bankrate don’t have enough money saved to cover the unexpected like emergencies, bills or car repairs.  No money today likely means no money tomorrow.

The cause of this economic misery apparently being deliberately ignored by the Obama Administration and the media — aside from poor job creation — is evident.  ObamaCare continues to be a drag on the economy as businesses continue to do what they’ve been forced to do to stay open.  Some are successful, others aren’t.  Several companies recently announced major layoffs, among them JC Penney (40 stores closed, 2,250 employees let go), clothier Wet Seal (3,700 jobless) and the Coca-Cola Company (1,800 layoffs).

In addition to the suffocating effects of ObamaCare (lack of hours and jobs), the Obama Administration is also addicted to regulations that can further debilitate the economy in 2015.  According to the American Action Forum, the Obama Administration imposed 79,066 pages of regulations in 2014 that cost more than $181 billion.  And Obama obviously wants no oversight and no accountability — he just wants to use his just a pen and phone since he knows that the new Congress wants to put a brake on his activism.

There is a bright spot.  Crude oil is around $50 per barrel for the first time in five years.  Thanks to the domestic ingenuity and increase in fracking and shale exploration, the price of crude has dropped and the price of gas has dropped with it.  According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of gas is $2.18.  As a result of the continuing decline of gas, Americans saved $14 billion in 2014.  If gas continues the expected drop, Americans will save even more in 2015.  The price drop works just like a tax cut, keeping more disposable money in the wallets of Americans to be spent at their discretion.

And for that — and not his jobs report — we can be thankful.


Michigan Legislators Got E-Cig Regulation Right. Will Governor Snyder Drop the Ball? RAD Sets Record Straight

Michigan’s legislature got it right last year, passing bills to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Only a handful of states haven’t gotten around to this sensible, limited form of e-cigarette regulations.

Under pressure from activist groups who oppose this approach, Governor Snyder hasn’t signed the bill, and may veto or pocket veto it in the next week.

You read that right: so called “public health” groups have been lobbying governors and legislators around the country against bans on sales of e-cigarettes to minors. Why? Get this: because bans on sales of e-cigarettes to minors make sense and are popular. So the activists are trying to load up these bills with all sorts of nanny state provisions that would incorrectly treat e-cigarettes as if they were actual cigarettes.  Then the activists could accuse opponents of the add-on regulations of supporting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

I lay bare the strategy, and its perils, in a letter to Governor Snyder yesterday:

Dear Governor Snyder,

I’m writing to share with you my perspective on the legislation banning the sales of e-cigarettes to minors, which awaits your signature.

 As a long-time anti-smoking policy expert, I have studied the issue of tobacco harm reduction at the city, state, and federal level. 

Failing to sign this legislation would leave Michigan as one of the few remaining states that allow the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. 

By definition, no reputable retailer sells e-cigarettes to minors, even without this legislation on the books. However, like in any field, there are unscrupulous actors. This legislation would properly make their actions illegal, and send a clear message that these products, which are meant for adult smokers, are not for minors.

There is a nearly universal consensus that there should be a ban on sales of e-cigarettes to minors. However, groups who seek your trust have been advising you not to sign the bills. Instead, they seek to keep the sale of e-cigarettes to minors legal, until they are able to pass legislation that rushes to treat e-cigarettes exactly like combustible cigarettes. However for this, there is little support in the scientific community. 

In fact, treating e-cigarettes like cigarettes would undermine a central tenet of the U.S. FDA’s approach to securing the potentials benefit of e-cigarettes, while minimizing any potential harm. 

As the FDA's chief tobacco regulator, Mitch Zeller, told the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's New Public Health, "The other example is if at the end of the day people are smoking for the nicotine, but dying from the tar, then there’s an opportunity for FDA to come up with what I’ve been calling a comprehensive nicotine regulatory policy that is agency-wide and that is keyed to something that we call the continuum of risk: that there are different nicotine containing and nicotine delivering products that pose different levels of risk to the individual.

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

Certainly, regulatory approaches to e-cigarettes, beyond those already underway at the Food and Drug Administration will need to take into account what Mr. Zeller and others refer to as the “continuum of risk” among different products. Failure to do so risks unintended consequences that include discouraging smokers from switching to significantly less harmful products such as e-cigarettes.

Those who encourage you not to sign the ban on e-cigarette sales to minors are seeking a range of potentially harmful regulations. Yet those proposals deserve individual consideration on their merits, taking into account the best science available. Those approaches do not deserve any halo from the consensus of banning sales to minors. Conversely, a ban on sales to minors should not be delayed because some groups seek to advance approaches that aren’t supported by science and may undermine public health. 

In the meantime, you should act today to remove Michigan’s name from the quickly shrinking list of states which still legally permit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. 


Jeff Stier, Senior Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research


Sometimes Reality Even Finds Its Way into Harvard

Every so often, a really wonderful article appears in the New York Times.  Robert Pear’s “Harvard Ideas on Health Care Hit Home, Hard,” is one:

“For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

“Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed….

“In Harvard’s health care enrollment guide for 2015, the university said it ‘must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform,’ in the form of the Affordable Care Act. The guide said that Harvard faced “’dded costs’ because of provisions in the health care law that extend coverage for children up to age 26, offer free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies and, starting in 2018, add a tax on high-cost insurance, known as the Cadillac tax.”

This may be one of the few good things to come out of ObamaCare.

The article should not only be read, but savored.  For example, some Harvard faculty are upset that their insurance policy will now include a deductible.  For an individual, that deductible will be—wait for it—$250!  Oh, the horror, the horror!!  How will those impoverished Harvard professors ever afford it?

Then there is the ignorance:

“But Jerry R. Green, a professor of economics and a former provost who has been on the Harvard faculty for more than four decades, said the new out-of-pocket costs could lead people to defer medical care or diagnostic tests, causing more serious illnesses and costly complications in the future.

“‘It’s equivalent to taxing the sick,’ Professor Green said. ‘I don’t think there’s any government in the world that would tax the sick.’”

If requiring people to pay more for their health care is equivalent to taxing the sick, then what exactly are wait lists for surgerydiagnostic tests and cancelled surgeries?  Perhaps Professor Green should travel to Great Britain and ask some of the patients there.

ObamaCare lends credence to William F. Buckley’s statement that he’d “rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

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