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Thursday
Feb062014

Throw in the Towel on George Zimmerman Boxing Event

It was announced this week that George Zimmerman, the man cleared of murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin almost two years ago, is involved in negotiations to box rapper DMX in a three-round match as early as next month.

DMX is reportedly in negotiations on money and terms.  Celebrity publicist Domenick Nati said “[n]o contract or paperwork has been signed or agreed to yet.”  Promoter Damon Feldman said he wants to have the planned pay-per-view event to happen as early as March 15.  Zimmerman says he will give any money he earns from the event to charity.

Project 21 member Nadra Enzi is not a fan of the proposed boxing match.  In fact, he thinks the idea should be knocked out before things get out of hand:

I thought the proposed “celebrity” boxing match that is being planned between George Zimmerman and DMX was a hoax until I researched it.

Sadly, it’s not.

A boxing match — with proceeds allegedly slated to go to charity — is actually being discussed between George Zimmerman and DMX!

While I am a fan of the Second Amendment, boxing and non-fratricidal hip hop music, I can’t say I’m enamored by this proposed bout.

The literally deadly serious matter that originally propelled Zimmerman into the global spotlight has, within it all, elements that are too explosive and are better left alone.

Its racial dimension alone begs asking why is this a wise idea.  It smacks of a gladiator match pitting factions of the public who are on violently-opposed sides of that controversial case against each other.

Perhaps some good hovers on the horizon for this stunt, but my initial reaction is simply to shake my head in disgust.

Thursday
Feb062014

Cohn: Putting The Lipstick On The ObamaCare Pig

When the Congressional Budget Office released its Budget and Economic Outlook on Monday that was pretty devastating for ObamaCare, numerous progressives did their best to make it look rosy.

The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn showed us how it’s done.  And he even managed to quote Society’s official spokesman, Jonathan Gruber!

More important, CBO says, most of the people working fewer hours will be choosing to do so. And that’s a very different story from the one Obamacare critics are telling. Some of the people cutting back hours will be working parents who decide they can afford to put in a little less time with their co-workers and a little more time with their kids. Some will be early sixty-somethings who will retire before they reach 65, rather than clinging to low-paying jobs just to get health benefits. “This is what we want in a fair society,” says Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist and Obamacare architect. “We don’t want to enslave the old and sick to their jobs out of some sense of meanness. If they are dying to quit/retire, then let’s them. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

If you want my thoughts on Gruber’s nonsense, scroll to end of this post.  As for Cohn, he’s leaving out some pretty important parts of the report regarding who is going to choose to work less.  I mean, you didn’t think it was all retirees and people wanting to spend more time with their kids, did you?  From page 120 of the CBO report: 

Nonetheless, another subgroup that has employment based insurance does seem likely to reduce their labor supply somewhat. Specifically, those people whose income would make them eligible for subsidies through exchanges (or for Medicaid), and who work less than a full year (roughly 10 to 15 percent of workers in that income range in a typical year), would tend to work somewhat less because of the ACA’s subsidies. For those workers, the loss of subsidies upon returning to a job with health insurance is an implicit tax on working (and is equivalent to an average tax rate of roughly 15 percent, CBO estimates). That implicit tax will cause some of those workers to lengthen the time they are out of work—similar to the effect of unemployment benefits.

What the CBO is referring to are the incentives faced by lower-income workers.  In short, ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion and exchange subsidies discourage such workers from increasing their incomes.  In his piece Cohn states that “Of course, some able-bodied will cut back on hours for reasons that conservatives, in particular, might not like.”  One would think that lower-income workers cutting back on hours worked would be something that progressives like Cohn wouldn’t like.  Or should their recent hyperventilating over income inequality not be taken seriously?  Here’s Cohn from last July:

One reason so many Americans tolerate inequality is their belief that it’s not a permanent condition. Yes, you might start out life without a lot of money. But if you work hard and play by the rules, then you’ll get ahead. You might never become a millionaire, but you’ll still find your way into the middle class. And then your kids will have a shot to do even better. Experts call this income mobility. The rest of us call it “the American dream.”

But for too many of us, it really is a dream—and nothing more. The comparison to other developed nations is striking. In Europe and in Asia, the countries most similar to the U.S. have both more equality and more mobility. In other words, they have fewer rungs on the income ladder to climb, and they have an easier time making each step.

Will giving lower-income workers incentives to work less make it easier for them to get ahead?  The question is rhetorical.  Perhaps that’s why Cohn ignored that part of the CBO report.

As for Gruber, he’s absolutely right!  Slavery of must end!  We as a society must stop our practice of sending cruel overseers to ensure that workers in their 50s stay chained to their desks!  I mean, the floggings those poor codgers endure when they merely ask to use the bathroom at the wrong time!

On a more serious note, I wonder what the 28-year-old living in Omaha, Nebraska making $32,000 annually thinks about his 58-year-old neighbor who has $40,000 annually in retirement income.  As the Kaiser Family Foundation subsidy calculator shows, the 28-year-old receives no subsidy on the ObamaCare exchange.  He will, though, pay over $2,800 in federal income taxes according to the Tax Calculator.  Presumably those taxes help pay for the annual subsidy of $2,684 the 58-year-old retiree receives on the exchange.  I wonder, does the 28-year-old agree with Gruber that this “is what we want in a fair society”?

UPDATE: Via Twitter, Cohn said that he did address the issue of low-income workers when he wrote “some able-bodied.”  I think using that term is too vague, but I’ve always known Cohn as a straight shooter, so if he says that phrase was meant to address it, I take him at his word.

Tuesday
Feb042014

Sorry NAACP, Project 21 Members are Not Simply Conservative Mouthpieces

Less than a month after demeaning a black conservative lawmaker by comparing him to a ventriloquist’s dummy, an NAACP leader upped the ante by attacking black conservatives and other minorities who favor smaller government and more liberty – calling them “mouthpieces” for an apparently white political conspiracy.

The Washington Post reported that the Reverend William Barber – the head of the NAACP in the state of North Carolina – made his latest claim during an unspecified conference call.  During that call, he implied that white conservatives seek out minorities who share their values to be their “mouthpieces.”  Barber said:

They frantically seek out people of color to become mouthpieces for their particular agenda.

Barber insists his comments – now and when he compared Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) to the ventriloquist’s dummy – are not, according to the Post, “meant to be racial.”  Barber additionally said, “The issue is: Who are you a mouthpiece for when you fight the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”

Project 21, a volunteer-driven entity, has helped to promote black conservatives for over 20 years.  The National Center, which sponsors Project 21, has never sought to use black conservatives as a “mouthpiece” for any racial agenda – black, white or otherwise.  Members of Project 21 have sought out the organization after they already chose to embrace conservative values and principles of their own volition (and sometimes they were referred by a like-minded friend).

Project 21 members spoke out against Barber when he attacked Senator Scott.

And they certainly don’t agree with the latest musing of this high-ranking NAACP official.

Rebutting Reverend Barber and critics like him that he must deal with on a regular basis due to his outspoken conservative beliefs, Project 21 member Kevin Martin said:

It would seem that William Barber is at it again.  This time, he seeks to attack conservatives of color such as myself as “mouthpieces.”

Barber needs to look in the mirror before he calls out others.  The fact of the matter is that personal experiences and the overall condition of my community shaped my conservative thoughts and ideas.  It has become all too apparent to me that people such as Reverend Barber are opposed to the free will and thought that I want for the black community.  I’m sure that if the modern NAACP had its way, the black community would be nothing more than mouthpieces for liberal causes.

I am fully aware that I will come under attack from people such as Reverend Barber because I am willing to stand up to their failed ideas and their hypocrisy.  Their attacks also show me that I am winning the unspoken debate of ideas with each passing day.

Project 21 member Christopher Arps, a founder of Move-on-up.org, a social network for black conservatives, added about Barber’s assertion:

To the contrary, the only ventriloquist trick being performed here is by liberal puppet masters having their African-American surrogates advocate for policies that have been detrimental to the future prosperity and vitality of African-Americans.

Darryn “Dutch” Martin – a Project 21 member, former American diplomatic official and business consultant – said:

The fact that the NAACP, through Reverend Barber, chooses to take cheap shots at black conservatives plainly shows the declining relevance of that group.  Since their liberal big-government platform is crumbling in the age of Obama, and since their race card has long since expired, they are resorting to the only card they have left to play: ad hominem attacks.

Tuesday
Feb042014

Science for Senators

Real Clear Science published my piece today challenging absurd claims by environmental activists claiming that chemicals such as BPA are responsible for surging medical costs. The assertions were touted in an article by Huffington Post’s Environment columnist, Lynne Peeples. I’m proud that the influential and widely read Real Clear Science published my article debuking the claims. But I’ll admit, I submitted the piece somewhere else first. The Huffington Post, which has published many of my columns, declined to publish this one. I don’t know why.

I do know that anti-chemical activists want the government to step in and protect the public from obesity they say is caused by BPA. Their champion is California Senator Dianne Feinstein who tweeted yesterday about the phony evidence that BPA is an obesogen.

In the Senator’s defense, she probably reads Huffington Post and doesn’t have time for Real Clear Science. In retrospect, maybe I should have titled the article, “Science for Senators.” Especially if you live in California, please help Senator Feinstein understand some pretty basic scientific principles, such as the difference between association and causation. You can begin by sending her my piece. Who knows, maybe she’ll become a fan of Real Clear Science

Monday
Feb032014

Project 21’s Kevin Martin Slams Obama O’Reilly Interview “Filibuster”

Before Denver and Seattle took to the gridiron, President Obama and Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly scrapped it up during a pre-game interview that the President has traditionally offered to the network airing the big game.  That game was on the Fox network this year — the sister network of the Fox News Channel.

O’Reilly brought up issues largely ignored by the mainstream media: alleged IRS abuses, the Benghazi debacle and an apparent lack of accountability over the botched rollout of ObamaCare.

Obviously not accustomed to such blunt questioning, Obama pushed back — essentially blaming the Fox News Channel for hyping the stories O’Reilly asked about during the segment.

Even the New York Times reported that Obama’s responses “shed little if any new light on some of the most controversial moments of Mr. Obama’s presidency.”

On Benghazi, in defending his then-U.S. Ambassador and now National Security Advisors Susan Rice over her characterization of the attack on the American diplomatic compound as anger over a video rather than a coordinated terrorist attack, Obama said people “believe [the latter] because folks like you are telling them.”  He denied any “mass corruption” involving the suspected targeting of conservative organization by the IRS, and insisted there is “not even a smidgen of corruption” at the agency and that “these kinds of things will keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them.”

Pressed on ObamaCare and how few appear to have been held responsible for mismanagement of his federal health care takeover, Obama said, “I try to focus not on the fumbles, but on the next play.”

Project 21 member Kevin Martin, who watched the Obama-O’Reilly interview as part of his pre-game entertainment, thought President Obama’s uncomfortable and unrevealing performance was a precursor to the big game’s disappointment for so many people:

President Obama’s attempts to essentially blame the Fox News Channel for the scandals plaguing his administration is a tactic that has become a typical tactic, albeit an unbecoming one, for his administration.

By blaming his detractors, it’s obvious to me that President Obama believes that an American public he thinks adores him will simply accept what he says and excuse his lack of leadership on a whole host of issues from ObamaCare to the alleged IRS targeting of conservatives.

But the President went further, blaming the American public for believing what they may see on the Fox News Channel.  The truth of the matter, however — and something that the President clearly missed, in my opinion — was that the majority of people have come to feel his administration has not been truthful on a whole range of issues.  Things brought up by Bill O’Reilly, such as the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the poor rollout of ObamaCare, just scratched the surface.

It seems that, in agreeing to do this traditional interview — but with O’Reilly as the interviewer, Obama wasn’t ready to answer tough questions.  In the end, he instead chose to filibuster the conversation and express emotional disdain for an interview that was not full of softball questions.

Monday
Feb032014

On DOJ's Investigation of the IRS: The Fix is In, and Here's How We Know

080

Attorney General Eric Holder says that the Department of Justice's investigation into alleged wrongdoing at the IRS isn't over and that the leaks that no charges will be brought are false, because the investigation is on-going.

Now we have the President of the United States, in a February 2 interview with Bill O'Reilly, repeating what the leak said. Namely, that there was just a lot of confusion over at the IRS and no lawbreaking... not a smidgeon of corruption.

How can both these things be right?

Either Holder lied before the Senate Judiciary Committee or Obama lied in his interview with O'Reilly.

Furthermore, I think it is absolutely stunning that in the middle of a DOJ investigation into the IRS, the President of the United States announces what the conclusion of the investigation is.

There can be no better indication than this that the fix is in.

Monday
Feb032014

Should Ecig Ads Be Banned?

Activist groups want the government to ban advertisements for E-cigarettes. A spot for e-cigarette brand NJOY, which aired in some markets during the Super Bowl, has sparked controversy.

In an op-ed in today’s New York Post, the Heartland Institute’s Greg Conley joins me in writing, 

One of Sunday’s most controversial Super Bowl ads came with the message “Friends don’t let friends smoke.” Bizarrely, it’s organized anti-smokers in the public-health establishment who want the commercial banned.

The line comes in an ad for the NJOY King, an electronic cigarette produced by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based NJOY. The commercial shows people helping each other in situations like moving a couch up a flight of stairs or helping a friend in a bar fight. Then one man starts to light up a cigarette, only for his friend to offer him an NJOY King.

For most people, the message is clear: If someone close to you smokes cigarettes, try recommending they switch to a smoke-free alternative.

Those who care about public health should be rejoicing that the private sector is not only placing anti-smoking ads on the country’s largest stage, but that the ad actually offers smokers an appealing alternative to smoking.

Many smokers complain that nicotine gum and patches, which are promoted by government-funded anti-smoking campaigns, aren’t satisfying; e-cigs give those trying to quit an experience closer to smoking. Many ex-smokers who’d failed to quit smoking with the government-endorsed solutions are now succeeding with e-cigarettes.

Yet the response from many of America’s most prominent anti-smoking groups is a call for a ban on all TV and radio advertising of e-cigs. Last year’s NJOY Super Bowl ad made activists furious. That ad, which also ran in select markets, focused on distinguishing between smoking and vaping (for the vapor emitted from e-cigs). Yet Bill Pfeifer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association’s Southwest chapter, fumed that the NJOY ads were “slick misinformation” that should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration, and that both CBS and the NFL should have benched the ads.

Why would the American Lung Association, whose purpose is to reduce lung disease, oppose letting smokers learn about smoke-free e-cigarettes, which even opponents acknowledge are dramatically less harmful than smoking? Because, they argue, some e-cigs look like the real thing.

No, really. E-cigarette opponents say the products should be demonized because they look like cigarettes, or as the World Health Organization claims, they “normalize” smoking.

That’s nonsense.

That some e-cigs look, feel and taste somewhat like cigarettes is actually what makes them so appealing to people trying to quit smoking. Yet if it were up to activist groups, alternatives to cigarette smoking would be entirely unappealing — and therefore ineffective.

As Clive Bates, the former head of Action on Smoking and Health, the largest anti-smoking group in the United Kingdom, recently stated at an e-cig investors conference held in New York City, “If you’ve got a very, very low risk product that no one wants to use, you don’t get much harm reduction.”

Instead, Bates encourages a pragmatic view of harm reduction that recognizes that so long as a product is far less hazardous than smoking, it should be free to compete with deadly combustible tobacco cigarettes.

And public-health advocates should favor giving them competitive edges over cigarettes, such as the opportunity to advertise to adults on TV.

Saturday
Feb012014

The Faces of ObamaCare: Watch as Employees at a Pennsylvania Company Learn about Their New Health Plan Under ObamaCare

Pittsburgh's WTAE-TV went inside a car repair business in McKeesport, PA to watch and record as employees learned the details of their new health plan under ObamaCare.

It's really very affecting; it seemed to me that some of the employees were having a hard time not breaking down.

We must repeal ObamaCare. We simply must.

Friday
Jan312014

The ObamaCare 'Risk Corridors' Are STILL An Insurance Company Bailout

Two more noted writers, both in Forbes and both conservatives, have argued that the “risk corridors” in ObamaCare are not an insurance company “bailout.”  (If you don’t know what a risk corridor is, go here and scroll to the end.)

Dr. Scott Gottlieb writesIn Obamacare, these schemes [including the risk corridors] are an unlimited taxpayer lifeline, designed to reimburse complicit insurers for the many laws of economics and common sense that Obamacare deliberately violates. The three R’s [including the risk corridors] aren’t a bailout. They’re an inevitable form of financial aid..”

Yevgeniy Feyman writes:

The main reason the program exists is because insurers generally have less experience in how to accurately price policies in the individual market than the group market, and have virtually no experience pricing policies for the new demographics under Obamacare. Risk corridors serve as a “bridge over troubled waters….[A]ny conservative reform plan for universal coverage will have to use similar methods of risk adjustment. The point here is simple – if you want insurers to participate more broadly in the individual market, you’ll need to offer a carrot to offset the unavoidable uncertainties. And railing against risk corridors now will make them a hard sell further down the road. Risk adjustment mechanisms get you the buy-in of insurers, but they also helps keep premiums at manageable levels while insurers develop enough experience to properly price plans on their own.

The problem with both of these analyses is they fail to define the term “bailout.”  If you want to show that a particular policy is not a bailout, you need to provide a definition of the term and then explain why the policy doesn’t fit the criteria of the definition.  Neither Gottlieb or Feyman do that.  Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic did provide a definition in his attempt at arguing that the risk corridors were not a bailout.  The problem was that the risk corridors actually do fit his definition of bailout.

Running the terms “bailout” and “definition” through Google returns “an act of giving financial assistance to a failing business or economy to save it from collapse.”  If one accepts that as a definition, then the risk corridors are a bailout.  They are financial assistance given to insurance companies on the exchanges.  Few insurers will probably collapse without the risk corridors.  But the business they do on exchanges could very go under with that financial assistance.  As history shows, health insurers leave markets that are regulated the way the ObamaCare exchanges are.

Thursday
Jan302014

Minimum Wage Could Cause Maximum Pain for America’s Most At-Risk

A minimum wage increase, a earning rate that affects just 1.1 percent of Americans workers over the age of 25, is one of the key 2014 policy priorities for President Barack Obama and his supporters.

It’s a small goal that could have a devastating effect on the American workforce over the long term.  A 2006 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the minimum wage increases disproportionate harm among low-skilled workers.  Milton Friedman, the famed Nobel laureate in economics, said: “I have often said that the most anti-black law on the books of this land is the minimum wage law.”

This view of minimum wage politics causing more harm than good is shared by members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network.

Project 21 member Christopher Arps, a founder of the Move-on-up.org social networking web site for black conservative, said:

It should really make one evaluate their priorities if they see stalwart political allies run around in limousines, patting themselves on the back for alleged compassion while advocating for a minimum wage increase.  A few workers get a few extra pennies in their paychecks, but what’s really in it for them — especially if mandated wage increases force bosses to cut back, eliminating jobs and worsening things?

And how can we believe the President really wants “to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off” when his administration effectively eliminated work requirements to receive welfare benefits?  Unbelievable!

But one can apparently get away with that when so many people get their news from the three networks and Jon Stewart.

Additionally, Project 21 member Kevin Martin, the owner of a small environmental abatement business, said:

President Obama’s call for an increase in the minimum wage is another attempt at keeping his populist rhetoric going.  The truth of the matter, however, is that many small business owners pay their workers well above the minimum wage each and every day because they want to remain viable and prosper in this economy.

When the jobs are difficult and workers must be skilled, employers would never dream of paying only the minimum wage because there is competition and a desire to see the job is done well.  It’s as simple as that.

There is a disconnect here because President Obama refuses to look at the real reasons why small businesses in particular are not hiring new employees.  It is because new federal regulations and increasing fees and taxes at every level are crushing small business owners.  Many small business owners, in this economic climate, are often forced to repair and rent equipment than buy new things.  Likewise, small business owners would rather maintain and reduce their workforce to the functional minimum to offset the costs of operating in the Obama era.

President Obama can use Costco as a prop in his cheerleading for that minimum wage increase, but Costco is a big, multinational corporation able pay well above the current federal minimum wage.  For small businessman in communities across the nation such as myself, we must face tough choices that often require doing more with less.  And an increase in the minimum wage is going to make that process even harder.

A lot of small businesses may no longer be able to survive.  Obama’s State of the Union address showed that he refuses to change course.  This is also the reason why we have 92 million Americans no longer in our workforce and a jobless recovery.

Thursday
Jan302014

Success Stories Of ObamaCare Exchange Show Why It Will Fail

The Health Care Blog at the Health and Human Services website routinely recounts the experiences of people signing up for health insurance on the ObamaCare exchanges. But what HHS often considers a “success story” is in fact an example of why the exchanges are likely to fail.  For example:

One of the most important benefits of the Affordable Care Act is that insurance companies will no longer be able to turn you down or charge you more because you have a pre-existing condition.

This is good news for Americans like Diane, an attorney from Michigan. Recently, Diane enrolled for coverage using HealthCare.gov after going without insurance for over six years. Her pre-existing condition made  finding a quality, affordable health insurance plan nearly impossible

As many critics have warned, the rules governing the ObamaCare exchanges like community rating and guaranteed issue would make the exchanges more attractive to folks who were older and sicker and less attractive to the young and healthy.  The leads to a “death spiral” or, as the case may be with ObamaCare exchanges, a bailout for the insurance companies and then a death spiral.  The story of Diane suggests that this process is in the beginning stages.

The HHS blog has quite a few similar examples.  There’s Jacob:

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act Jacob, a father of three from Arkansas, was forced to shop around for a high-risk insurance plan.

Jacob’s pre-existing condition also forced his three children and wife to be on a separate health insurance. When the family included Jacob in his plan, they were denied coverage. That’s not all, says Jacob:

“Even with my wife and kids on a separate plan, one of my sons is charged extra because he had trouble gaining weight after he was born.”

There’s Noelle:

When soccer is your passion, not being able to hold down food because of an esophagus condition called Esophagitis is a roadblock.

“I struggled a lot with the condition these last 5 years, living without health insurance. Solids and liquids don’t go down easily, and throwing up a lot makes it very hard to get the nutrition I need as an athlete.

My employer doesn’t offer health insurance, and I’ve tried to get coverage through the individual market and couldn’t because I was either denied coverage or would have to pay 4 or $500 a month, way out of my price range.”

And James

For James, a 29 year old in Pensacola, FL, a normal week involves hunting, welding, fishing, and before January 1st, worrying about his lack of health insurance.

“I’ve always been able to afford health insurance—they just wouldn’t cover me, because I’m a diagnosed diabetic. Being without health insurance was terrifying because you could be bankrupted by someone else not paying attention on the road. Or what if something bad happened in the shop?”

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, James was able to enroll in coverage without worrying about his pre-existing condition.

People who are costly to insure and some getting premiums well below what they’d get on a less regulated market—in the long run, there is only one way this ends.

Of course, that depends on whether these examples are representative of many of the people signing up on the exchanges.  Surely, a few anecdotes do not add up to data.

For that, let’s turn to the most recent enrollment report.  Or, rather, let’s turn to Spencer Cowan’s recent analysis of the enrollment report.   At the Weekly Standard, Cowan explains why the choice of plans that exchange enrollees are making is indicative of trouble to come.  He notes that the silver-level plans

which represent 60 percent of all plans sold to date through the Obamacare exchanges.  In fact, the silver-level plans are three times more popular than the cheaper bronze-level plans and sixty times more popular than the cheapest catastrophic-level plans, which are available only to enrollees under 30 years old.

Why would someone opt for a silver-level plan over a cheaper bronze or catastrophic-level plan? The most plausible explanation is that the enrollee anticipates incurring significant medical expenses over the coming year, which is to say that he’s not healthy.

Cowan goes on to explain why they would choose silver over the even more generous gold- and platinum-level plans.  In short, though, the evidence suggests the exchanges are creating exactly the type of insurance pool that is headed for a death spiral.

Wednesday
Jan292014

Random Thoughts On SOTU

1. No, I did not watch the State of the Union address last night.  I wanted to watch TV that kept me interested.  I was completely sincere in this tweet:

 

Read it here this morning.

2. Maybe the Hatch-Burr-Coburn health plan did do some good. I don’t think much of their health care plan for reasons I list here.  But, perhaps by releasing it a day before SOTU, it prevented President Obama from saying the Republicans “don’t have a plan.” Or maybe the President has just gotten tired of saying that. Or maybe he realized he couldn’t say it in a direct way and so said, “We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.”  

3. It’s STIMULUS THE SEQUEL!

Moreover, we can take the money we save from this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes — because in today’s global economy, first- class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. That can happen.

But — but I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible. 

Why?  Because STIMULUS worked out so well the first time!

4. Obama wants to raise the minimum wage.  Here’s a better idea: Let’s let states and cities experiment with lowering the minimum wage.  States and cities would be able to apply for a four or five-year exemption from federal minimum wage laws and could set minimum wages lower than the federal rate or set no minimum wage at all.  Then we can see what happens to employment in those areas, especially among sectors of the economy most impacted by the minimum wage such as minority teenagers. Alas, Obama would never agree to that since he believes that the minimum wage is surefire poverty-prevention device, despite all of the research showing that raising it harms employment.  It will have to wait for another administration.

Wednesday
Jan292014

More Black Conservative Criticism of Obama’s State of the Union Address

Last night, just minutes after the end of the State of the Union, ten members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network issued blistering rebuttals to President Barack Obama’s angry rhetoric and sweeping promises.

Today, some of those same members have expanded their remarks while more Project 21 members added their own criticisms.

Derryck Green, who writes a monthly analysis about the state of the economy for Project 21 every month on the day federal jobless estimates are announced, added:

President Obama lacked the political capital coming into last night’s State of the Union address that he had last year.  People have rightly lost faith in his leadership.  It’s a result of his ineffective economic policies and the nightmarish effects of ObamaCare’s implementation (among many other things).

Knowing this, one would think that the President would humbly approach the American people with serious and constructive ideas to address the perils facing our nation.

Instead, the President chose to recycle the stale messages of increasing the minimum wage (for federal employees), feeding the envy that characterizes income inequality (which, by the way, increased during his presidency) and talked about a meaningless pledge from some corporations to give the long-term unemployed a “fair shot” at a new job.

The problem is that there are too few jobs and too many unemployed thanks to President Obama’s economic policies that have stifled growth and expansion.

As usual, the President prefers shallow campaign-style issues to serious economic policy.

As a result, President Obama once again demonstrated that progressives and their economic policies don’t seem to be focused on — or concerned with — creating and generating wealth.  They only appear interested in the redistribution of it. 

Five years or so into the President’s so-called recovery — a recovery that feels worse than the actual recession — it’s safe to say his administration has shown a remarkable and indefensible indifference to the U.S. economy at the expense of millions of Americans.  And he doesn’t seem bothered by it.  With the unemployment rate dropping because over 92 million Americans out of the workforce; a labor-force participation rate matching a 35-year low, 47 million Americans on food stamps and emergency unemployment benefits close to being extended, issues such as minimum wage and wealth redistribution — though characteristic of an unsound and unserious economic strategy — aren’t the solutions that are going to jumpstart a lagging economy.

It appears the President prefers empty campaign rhetoric to serious, thoughtful and productive economic policies.

Project 21 member Ak’bar Shabazz, a small businessman and music promoter, said:

Last night, President Obama spoke about income inequality, high corporate profits and stagnating wages for workers.  He said he intends to help rectify this situation by at least increasing the minimum wage for federal workers by executive order.

This is a clear indication that the one who was supposed to unite the country has become impotent.  He has to resort to force and strong-arm tactics to enact his version of change.

Of course, any increase in the minimum wage will have a minimal impact for Americans until inflation is reigned in by stopping the quantitative easing that has caused it to skyrocket.

Dr. Elaina George, a board-certified and award-winning otolaryngologist, commenting on President Obama’s cheerleading of his health care takeover, warned:

The power to choose your doctor and for you, in partnership with your doctor, to decide your course of treatment is the foundation of excellent medical care.

With the “Affordable Care Act” — ObamaCare — the government has inserted itself to become the final arbiter of your care.  It will ultimately decide who the health winners and losers are.  Proponents of ObamaCare want people to believe that the system is so broken that it can only be fixed through fundamental change.  The disastrous roll-out has certainly fed the argument for a single-payer system, and there is an argument to be made that the government bailout written into the bill has actually already ushered in single-payer since whomever controls the money controls the access and thus makes the rules.

As the ObamaCare train wreck continues to roll out, it will become painfully obvious to patients that — although they have health insurance with no pre-existing conditions, free birth control and preventative care — they still may not be able to afford to access medical care when they need it because the out-of-pocket costs from their co-insurance and deductibles are so high.  Or they will find that, because they qualified for a subsidy, they will have that money clawed back the following year if their financial situation improves.  Even if they took the Medicaid option, they will be unable to leave any of their wealth to loved ones because the government will take it to recoup payments made for their health care.

Physicians will ultimately find that they will have no control of their talents.  They will be considered to be providers of services that are a “right” that must be given for whatever value the government deems to be fair.  They will become interchangeable with the health care team and, with that “innovation,” individualized health care and the art of medicine will be gone forever.

The antidote to what is ailing the American health care system is not more government intervention, but more choice via free-market medicine.  

Project 21 member Demetrius Minor, a youth minister and former White House intern during the George W. Bush presidency, said:

If the job market was so great, there wouldn’t be a push for unemployment benefits because there would be a greater incentive to work.

I actually attempted to watch the entire State of the Union address, but the President’s glorification of an anemic economy forced me to turn away.  A weak labor force and a generation welcoming a $17 trillion debt as a family heirloom is not economic progress.

Project 21 member Darryn “Dutch” Martin, a business consultant, remarked about Obama’s move to raise the federal contracting minimum wage:

Where’s Obama’s budget authority to do this?

Congress authorizes spending levels, not contract terms.  The executive branch negotiates contracts within their authorized spending levels.  So, yes, a president can issue this kind of executive order.  But it doesn’t give him any more money to spend.

So, when prices go up, things won’t get done until Congress authorizes more money. 

Wednesday
Jan292014

Will Iowa Be Next To Ban Use of E-cigarettes in Public Places?

Iowa’s Attorney General wants his state to ban the use of E-cigarettes wherever cigarette smoking is banned.

In a guest column on the op-ed page of today’s Des Moines Register, I explain why doing so would be a terrible idea. 

The law’s findings clearly state the purpose of the smoking restriction: A reduction of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke “would improve the public health of Iowans.”

Restricting the use of e-cigarettes, known as “vaping” for the vapor they emit, would undermine the very goal of this law.

First, it wouldn’t reduce exposure to environmental smoke, better known as second-hand smoke, because there is no smoke. There isn’t even any first-hand smoke.

More important, a ban on vaping in public places would damage public health because it would make e-cigarettes a less convenient alternative to cigarette smoking. It would also send the implicit (and incorrect) message that they are also equally dangerous, not only to the user, but to those exposed to the vapor.

An indoor air study conducted in 2011 by New York’s Clarkson University found “no significant risk for bystanders for cancer or non-cancer risk for either children or adults as a result of exposure to e-cigarette vapor.” Numerous studies since 2011 have confirmed these findings. Further, since 2011, product standards for the vast majority of products have improved exponentially.

It is critical to note that e-cigarettes are attractive alternatives to cigarettes, in part because, like the FDA-approved gum and patch, they provide nicotine. Nicotine, while highly addictive, is not particularly harmful at the levels at which it is consumed.

While nobody should initiate use of any nicotine products, be they pharmaceutical, e-cigarettes or certainly tobacco-burning cigarettes, Iowa legislators and the attorney general should know that it’s not the nicotine that makes cigarettes dangerous. It’s the burning tobacco that makes traditional cigarettes harmful to users and those exposed to the smoke. E-cigarettes contain no tobacco.

E-cigarettes are a product created by profit-driven private sector innovation that is doing what many hundreds of millions of dollars of government spending, costly litigation, addictive excise taxes, warning labels and punitive regulations have been unable to do: help cigarette smokers quit happily.

It is no wonder the likes of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have smoke coming out of their ears about e-cigarettes. They understand that in order to maintain not only their huge budgets, but their basis for authority to control personal decisions and private businesses, they must demonize, delegitimize and defeat e-cigarettes every step of the way. Treating them as equal to cigarettes would be a dangerous first step.

The attorney general has also asked the Legislature to consider an excise tax, or “sin” tax, on e-cigarettes over and above the state’s sales tax. The Legislature should proceed with caution. If Iowa taxes e-cigarettes on par with tobacco cigarettes, the state would be using the tax as an overly-blunt tool to treat products with drastically different risk profiles as if they were the same.

Using taxes to influence behavior is a bad idea. But if the state wanted to think creatively about using taxes to “nudge” behavior and improve public health, it should consider a zero excise tax and reducing the sales tax on e-cigarettes by half to encourage cigarette smokers to quit. Arguments that e-cigarettes should be taxed to discourage youth from purchasing them are bogus. The Legislature should simply ban the sale of e-cigarettes to youth.

Those who oppose e-cigarettes as a tool for harm reduction claim that the products are a “gateway” to smoking. However, preliminary studies, as well as empirical evidence, show that e-cigarettes are a major gateway away from smoking.

A study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in November looked at 1,300 college students, average age 19. Only 43 of those told researchers their first nicotine product was an e-cigarette, and only one of the 43 later switched to cigarettes. The vast majority of the 43 who tried an e-cigarette weren’t using nicotine or tobacco when researchers followed up.

“It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything,” said researcher Theodore Wagener, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

Critics also rely on the flimsy argument that vaping “normalizes” smoking because people may think vaping is smoking. That’s nonsense. Vaping normalizes not smoking.

When thinking about e-cigarette regulations, the Legislature should remember what doctors are taught: First, do no harm.

Tuesday
Jan282014

I Don't Trust President Obama to Mean What He Says

Can President Obama be trusted to try to keep the promises he makes in his State of the Union address? Does ObamaCare's HHS contraception and early abortion drug mandate harm women or the poor in some fashion, and if so, is it because they want these services or because they'd rather get paid in cash than contraceptives?

Democratic strategist Bob Weiner and I debated these and other questions on the Mainstreet Radio Network's Alan Nathan Show on 1/27/14.

I don't trust President Obama to mean what he says.

Not even on the things we all broadly agree with.

Take voting rights. At last year's State of the Union address, Obama complained about long lines to vote in Florida in 2012, and said he'd appoint a commission to find out went wrong. Well, he did appoint the commission, but the commission has since reported that some innocent screw-ups combined with a lack of resources caused the problems.

The U.S. has a federal agency set up to get Florida those resources.

Except.

Except the agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, has no commissioners.

Hasn't had any since 2011.

Possibly Bush's fault? Hmmm, probably not, him having left office in 2009 and all.

077

To be fair, President Obama appointed commissioners years ago, but they were too radical (and they really are radical) to get through the liberal Senate. And Obama has done nothing to get them through or to replace them with people who can get confirmed and get the issues in Florida straightened out before the next election. Which is pretty soon.

Maybe Obama doesn't care all that much about getting the polling places in Florida all fixed up after all.

And then there were President Obama's pledges at last year's SOTU to improve cybersecurity. (Edward Snowden, call your office. On second thought, stay the h*ll away from it; you've done enough damage already.)

But aside from Snowden and leaks, did the President really try to improve cybersecurity? It's hard to say he has, since the ObamaCare websites lack even the basic cybersecurity tools required by federal law. People working under his direction -- people who, he claims, were reporting to him on progress regularly -- were already working on the website when he gave last year's speech. Did he not question them about security issues?

Apparently cybersecurity was important enough to mention in the SOTU, but not important enough to ask a subordinate about.

These and numerous other examples give the public plenty of reasons to believe that whatever President Obama promises in the SOTU, he can't be trusted to keep those promises.

We really can't trust him to even try.

Last year, among many other things, he said he wanted to get a minimum wage increase through Congress, get more gun restrictions passed and have what he calls "comprehensive immigration reform" (as opposed to reform, I suppose).

The left has buzzed about the minimum wage a bit, especially over the last few weeks, but did anyone see President Obama making an effort to put together a coalition on the Hill to get the mandatory federal minimum wage increased? I sure didn't (not that it's a good idea).

The President stopped talking about new gun restrictions soon after it became clear getting them through Congress might be hard, too. (Again, I'm glad he failed, but he claimed he wanted it done and didn't really try.)

And the President knows how to get "comprehensive" immigration reform: Get the southern border closed. All kinds of people will support amnesty if that actually happens, and he knows it. But although he claims to support a closed border, does he take the steps necessary to get it close to that condition? Nope.

In the early years of our Republic, Presidents sent a written State of the Union report to Congress. No speech. Maybe we should return to those days. With no camera, and no microphone, the President just might limit his report to things he truly is committed to doing. And the rest of us can stop wasting our time watching him say things he doesn't really mean.

Tuesday
Jan282014

The Senate GOP's Cadillac And Honda Civic Plan Tax

Yesterday Republican Senators Orrin Hatch (UT), Richard Burr (NC) and Tom Coburn (OK) released a proposal for health-care reform. Some commentators are suggesting that Hatch-Burr-Coburn is an incremental approach in that while it “would not usher in a free market for health insurance,” it would “offer individuals more freedom than now exists under Obamacare.”

I’m all for incrementalism as long as it is in a direction of greater liberty.  Further, the plan does have some good parts such as capping Medicaid funds and giving states greater flexibility to experiment with Medicaid, and a tax credit for the purchase of health insurance (although the tax credit needs to apply to everyone, not just those at 300% of the federal poverty level or below.)  Hatch, Burr and Coburn should also be praised for providing examples (albeit hypothetical ones) about how their plan would impact individuals and families.  This “telling stories” is a crucial tactic in passing any piece of major legislation.  Democrats do it all the time, so it’s good to see the GOP finally trying to sell policy this way.

That said, their proposal has a big flaw, what might be called a “de facto Cadillac plan tax.”  Under ObamaCare, the Cadillac plan tax is an excise tax that applies to pricier insurance plans:

A 40 percent excise tax will be assessed, beginning in 2018, on the cost of coverage for health plans that exceed a certain annual limit ($10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for self and spouse or family coverage). Health insurance issuers and sponsors of self-funded group health plans must pay the tax of 40 percent of any dollar amount beyond the caps that is considered “excess” health spending.

The Hatch-Burr-Coburn plan goes beyond that.  It “caps the tax exclusion for employee’s health coverage at 65 percent of an average plan’s costs” (italics added).  In 2013 the average employer-based plan cost about $5,884 for an individual and $16,351 for a family (see page 2).  Under Hatch-Burr-Coburn, any individual would be taxed at the marginal income-tax rate on any dollar of his heath plan that exceeded $3,825 ($5,884 multiplied by 65%).  For a family, it would be any dollar that exceeded $10,628.

In short, this legislation doesn’t just hit “Cadillac” plans.   It also taxes Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla plans.  

I don’t see how this can be sold politically.  First, the ObamaCare Cadillac plan tax hasn’t proven popular, and it only hits a small percentage of plans, at least initially.  Legislation that taxes every health plan that’s above the average, and even many that are below, would be hugely unpopular.  “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan as long as you don’t mind paying new taxes on it,” isn’t a winning slogan.  Finally, recall that Obama hit McCain over the head in 2008 for offering a health care plan that, in effect, raised taxes on health benefits.  You can expect Democrats and liberals to launch a similar attack on the Hatch-Burr-Coburn plan should it ever become THE “Republican plan.”

In short, the Hatch-Burr-Coburn plan asks conservatives and libertarians to take incremental steps toward a free market, but then adds a 500 pound weight to our backs, thereby making it impossible to take any steps at all.  The GOP can do much better. 

UPDATE: After talking with some Senate staffers, it was clear I did not describe the tax portion correctly.  Here is a new post describing it with my thoughts.

Monday
Jan272014

Project 21's Nedd on Gay Grammys Wedding

At last night’s Grammy Awards, where the news was supposed to be about the year’s best musical performances, politics became performance art as 33 couples — many of them same-sex couples — were married at the awards ceremony.

The couples were married by Queen Latifah (who was authorized to do so by Los Angeles County officials) during the live performance of the song “Same Love” by Grammy nominees Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, accompanied by Madonna (who later sang her song “Open Your Heart”), Mary Lambert and Trombone Shorty.

During the “ceremony,” Latifah recited song lyrics that said: “Whatever god you believe in, we come from the same one.  Strip away the fear, underneath, it’s all the same love.”  Macklemore, from a fake altar, yelled: “No freedom till we’re equal.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of the homosexual activist group GLAAD, called it “the latest in a long line of signs that our nation not only accepts, but celebrates the love and commitment of gay couples today.”  The New York Times reported Grammy officials said that the mass wedding, broadcast on network television, was in keeping with “the show’s long history of addressing timely social issues through music.”

Project 21 member Council Nedd II, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Missionary Church, did not feel the event was appropriate — nor did he appreciate the common theme of comparing gay rights to the black civil rights struggle of the 20th century.

Bishop Nedd said:

The Devil has been clever in creating the idea that he does most of his work in a red suit with a pitchfork, and behind clouds of smoke.  Everyone knows to stay away from that.

However, when Macklemore & Lewis, Madonna and Queen Latifah put on a spectacle at the Grammys — with a song that twists scripture for its own purposes — it really doesn’t seem so bad.

When, during the next gay pride parade, the police and firemen show up and sic police dogs on the marchers and attack them with fire hoses and riot batons, then you can talk to me about black and gay being comparable.

Monday
Jan272014

If Administration Released ObamaCare Enrollment Data Early, It Must Be Good

Late last week the Obama Administration announced that 3 million people had enrolled* in private plans on the ObamaCare exchanges.  Although such data about January enrollment was supposed to be released in mid-February—Administration lackeys have previously said that data released prior to the middle of the month isn’t “reliable”—the Administration’s action fit a pattern as I’ve explained elsewhere:

Right now, the Administration treats information about the exchange in a manner that can be charitably described as “politically convenient.”  If the data reflects poorly on Obamacare, the Administration finds all sorts of barriers that prevent expediting its release.  It releases the data only when it can no longer afford not to and then releases as little as it can get away with.

Amazingly, those barriers vanish into thin air on the rare occurrence when the data can be used to put a positive spin on Obamacare.   In such instances, the Administration releases the numbers faster than you can complete the sentence, “If you like your health plan…”

When enrollment numbers were bad, as they were in October and November, they couldn’t be released until the middle of the following month, as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius emphasizes in the video below.  But when they hit 2.1 million in December and now 3 million, there was no problem releasing the data early.

The pattern shows that nothing this Administration says about enrollment data can be taken at face value.  It also means that the data that we still don’t havethe number of people who have had difficulty enrolling in coverage, how many enrollees have paid their first premium and how many times HHS has failed to transfer crucial information to insurance companies—probably don’t paint a pretty picture.  

The House of Representatives passed a bill that would force the White House to release such data.  Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.  For the time being, only pressure from Congress and the media will get the Administration to release more information about the exchanges.

*When the Administration uses the term “enrolled” it means “selected a plan.”  Insurers, on the other hand, mean “paid the first premium.”  As the Daily Caller notesAmericans are still in the dark about the number of people that have actually purchased [exchange] plans.”

Sunday
Jan262014

Either ObamaCare is Racist, or Voter ID Isn't

ID neededIs it racist to ask for an ID?

I admit that ObamaCare, voter ID and racism do not seem related at first glance, but hear me out.

The central selling premise (other than "if you like your doctor or health plan, you can keep them") of ObamaCare was its universality.

That is, we were told that if ObamaCare was adopted, everyone would have health insurance coverage.

Able-bodied adults under 65 would pay their own way (with lower rates!), except for a few unable or unwilling, who would receive financial help from other Americans (we'll be watching for the thank-you notes). Disabled and elderly would receive Medicare, and the poor would receive Medicaid.

What do all of these programs have in common? You have to sign up, and to do that - here's where the racism comes in - you have to prove who you are.

Moreover, to stamp out fraud, very many patients with ObamaCare-approved providers have to show an ID every time they go to the doctor.

Why I myself must show a photo ID every time I see my doctors, and they know what I look like (granted, they've seen me naked, so perhaps forced themselves to forget).

If ObamaCare is universal, then everyone can get enrolled. Which means that everyone can be expected to prove who they are. Just as they do with voter ID.

Either neither of them is racist, or they both are.

Saturday
Jan252014

Will ObamaCare's Disasters & Benghazi Affect Obama's Popularity in 2014? A Right-Left Radio Debate on the Alan Nathan Show

Will ObamaCare's disastrous rollout affect Obama's popularity in 2014? How about the Benghazi coverup? Can Obama help his poll numbers by discussing income inequality?

For those with an interest, here is an audio recording of my latest weekly debate with Democratic strategist Bob Weiner on the Main Street Radio Network's Alan Nathan Show.

As usual, the conversation had raucous moments, particularly (in my mind) after Bob tried to excuse cabinet- and presidential-level dishonesty on Benghazi by pivoting to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. No doubt Bob has beefs about a few of my points as well.

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