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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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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.”


Pulling Back the Curtain on Sharpton’s Activism and Obama’s Regulations

The following post was written by National Center staff member Bethany Whitlock:

It seems that Al Sharpton and President Barack Obama’s true colors are coming out – revealing that neither of them are really who they have pretended to be.  As National Center executive director David Almasi said in a recent interview, however, “It’s not something we haven’t seen before” with others from the liberal wing of American politics.

David appeared during the first segment of the 1/5/14 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network.  Leading into the segment, Amato made an interesting comment: “Racism pays off.”

In his interview, David explained what Amato meant, saying:

The New York Post printed an article where they talked about how [Al Sharpton] was getting money from… a plethora of America companies, and sometimes there appears to be a quid pro quo – other times it seems that they’re paying him off to get the protests to stop.

While the intention behind the rallies, protests and other civil disobedience acts may have been for a real cause, the Post report indicated, the goal of Al Sharpton and his supporters differed. 

As Project 21 member Lawrence B. Jones said last December: “Al Sharpton seems to have one agenda, and that’s garnering money and influence for himself within the liberal establishment.”

Obama also seems to be showing the public who he really is when it comes to regulations.  As he approaches the end of his presidency, he told NPR that he sounded somewhat liberated from campaign duties and free from political obligation to colleagues seeking reelection during an interview with NPR.  As a result, it  appearsobvious that he plans to spend the next two years pursuing a policy of regulating, using his pen for executive orders and making phone calls in pursuit of policy regardless of Congress.

But David said this strategy may still come at a political price over the long-term for other liberal politicians.  He explained:

[Obama] can be the radical leftist that he’s always wanted to be, because he doesn’t have any politicians that he really feels beholden to anymore… He does that at his peril, at least for his political party, because someone’s going to be running in 2016 to replace him, [who] will have to deal with his legacy…

The new regulatory burdens that David noted include coal emissions, water and property rights, e-cigarettes and tobacco products and crude oil transported by train.  Ironically, Warren Buffett, one of Obama’s staunchest allies, has a substantial investment in the freight train industry. In 2010 Berkshire Hathaway bought out Burlington Northern Sante Fe LLC, the second largest railroad network in North America.

Unfortunately, 2015 is shaping up to be an expensive year for businesses in America, and a disappointing one for those true believers participating in Al Sharpton’s crusades.


Horace Cooper on Hannity, Speaking on Scalise Non-Scandal

Horace Cooper, the co-chairman of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network, said charges still being made against Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) — despite that initial reports of him speaking to a white supremacist group a dozen years ago are now very much in dispute — are part of a double standard in which liberal politicos made a “non-event” into something they can “exploit.”  At the same time, they overlook problems in their own ranks that make the Scalise story minor even under its worst interpretation.

In a debate with liberal commentator Leslie Marshall on Sean Hannity’s 1/5/15 radio show, Horace brought up how President Barack Obama never apologized for his association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright — a relationship Obama carried on for around 20 years despite Wright’s radical racial views.  He also brought up how Vice President Joe Biden was also given a pass for recently referring to Jews by the derogatory term “shylock.”


But Horace raised the long and controversial career of the late senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) to really make his point about the Scalise double standard.  He noted:

What I want to see is what is the record of Mr. Scalise.

Now, Bobby Byrd has the record and distinction of being the only United States senator who twice — when having the chance to vote for the first or the second black man on the Supreme Court — voted no both times.  Now, progressives give him a pass all the way up until his death.  His actions — filibustering the Civil Rights Act, filibustering the Voting Rights Act — all of these actions have been given a pass.  And he got to become Senate Majority Leader with his record.  Never repenting.  Never having a day [when] he stood up and said, “it was wrong of me to do what I did.”  He went to his grave without having to make that repentance.

I wanna understand why it’s OK for that standard to be held by the Democrats, and a minor event that was a non-issue that was only brought up just for the purpose of creating the very news story that it has is now, somehow, an important issue.


With New Technology, FBI Has "No Business" Snooping on Cell Phones without Warrants 

Law enforcement agencies have the capability to create fake cell phone towers that may then be used to listen into peoples’ calls, and the FBI apparently believes they can do so without a warrant.

Senators are asking the Obama Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to elaborate on what the actual policy is, who in law enforcement can use this technology and whom they can use it against.  In the meantime, Horace Cooper of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network — a former constitutional law professor and former congressional leadership staff member — discussed this issue and its constitutional implications with former Senate candidate Sharron Angle and lawyer Allen Bloom on the 1/2/15 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network.

Horace said he has a “nuanced view” about such government surveillance tactics as they are portrayed right now.  He explained:


On the one had, my big concern is that the FBI and DEA have no business using this kind of technology without a warrant.  The Supreme Court has long made it clear [that] if you’re surveilling people, and you’re getting their private information off of their phones, you’re gonna need a warrant.  If that’s not what this is for, and if it is for a national security function, then the FBI and the DEA shouldn’t be the ones implementing it.  A different part of the government ought to be handling that, and they ought to be working with the intelligence committees to make sure — if that is really what they’re doing.

And part of the problem I have here is we don’t have these answers as to what is going on.  If this is really just a fishing-net exercise by the FBI and local law enforcement, I think it’s patently unconstitutional.  And that’s not gonna survive…

I want to make sure that what we don’t have is a situation where the FBI is piggybacking on the NSA or the CIA or other intelligence services.  If that’s happening, that’s not something that’s supposed to occur… I’m not bothered if we’re tapping into Osama bin Laden’s best friend’s phones, wherever they may be all across the planet.


Occupy Organizer Further Radicalizing Ferguson Protests 

It’s become known that at least one prominent radical affiliated with the Occupy movement has surfaced in Ferguson, Missouri with the obvious intention to train and further radicalize those people who are still protesting there.

There is little doubt that the intention by Occupy Wall Street veterans is to continue to pit the community against itself and to use the unrest for political gain.

Stacy Washington, a member of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network, said the Occupy organizers seem to be using their “most vicious” methods in order to co-opt and radicalize the Ferguson protests as well as seeking to create and control a narrative there that promotes a “drumbeat of victimization” that will continue to hurt police-community relations there and elsewhere and not help black Americans rise up the socio-economic ladder.

On the 12/23/14 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network, Stacy said about the appearance of Occupy radicals in Ferguson:

They’re in town to agitate and to remind white people that they’re guilty, remind white people that if black people die it’s their fault and to remind the cops that they are racists and they’re against blacks and they deserve to die and they deserve to have their families harassed and they deserve to not have their jobs and that they’re cowards for standing behind their badges.

And they’re here to remind blacks in Ferguson that they’re victims and that their ideas and their hard work doesn’t matter.  What matters is how many days in a row you can go protest, and how you can wear that as a badge of honor on Twitter and Facebook.

And that if you say something like “What do we want?  Dead cops!  When do we want them?  Now!” that that doesn’t have any meaning.  And that if cops later die, it’s not your fault because “guns, you know – scary.”


Project 21's Emmett Discusses Police-Black Community Relations

As political talk shows focus on police power and allegations of a dysfunctional relationship between cops and the communities they are charged with protecting, Project 21’s Shelby Emmett has been there to promote her views on the issue and her recommendations for rectifying the problem from a black conservative perspective.

After the recent murders of two police officers in New York City, Shelby laid a lot of the blame for anti-police hostility at the feet of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.  On the 12/29/14 edition of “The Rick Amato Show” on the One America News Network, host Rick Amato said Shelby made an “excellent point” he had not previously considered when she said people such as de Blasio “took a group of people – in this case, African-Americans – and is using us, like liberals do” by pitting people against each other.  She added: “I’m proud to say the police are standing up to this… [De Blasio is] just concerned with power.”

Furthermore, commenting on the assumption that cops are consciously targeting blacks to the degree that his own biracial son is at risk, Shelby said:

I find it reprehensible that [de Blasio] would automatically assume that every single black young man in this country has this problem [of undue police harassment].  And then to automatically line up his son to these credentials [is unfair].

Speaking about officers who expressed anger at de Blasio for playing such politics against their vocation, Shelby said the anger crossed racial lines among officers.  From her own experience with black officers who are friends of hers, and including at least one who attended the memorial service in New York for one of the slain officers, she said cops were “standing behind blue – not black or white or anything else… just to be there for a co-worker.”

Regarding the responsibilities of the community in all of this, Shelby said that blacks need to have an “honest conversation” about dealing with police that includes self-reflection about “personal responsibility” and “accountability.”  She said children in black communities should be raised to want to become cops rather than fear them.

On the 12/19/14 edition of “The Big Picture” on the RT network, Shelby said alleged police abuses seem to have a root cause in the fact that officers are given too much power to enforce too many laws.  She explained that “whenever you give any entity power… that people are human and they are going to take advantage of that power.”  In her opinion, Shelby said police should be “limit[ed in] what they’re able to do.”

Shelby said: “Police should be focused on major, serious crimes… They should stick to very limited goals.”  When challenged about a racial aspect of the controversy by host Thom Hartmann, she replied: “I don’t think it’s much more of a racial component as it is a power move” on the part of certain cops.


The Steve Scalise Double Standard

Project 21 member Nadra Enzi, a community activist in New Orleans, had this comment about the alleged controversy involving U.S. Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) having addressed members of a white separatist group 12 years ago while serving as a state legislator:

U.S. Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA), the third highest-ranking member of the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, made a 2002 speech that is coming back to bite him with a vengeance!  While a state legislator, he spoke to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO, get it) — a group affiliated with David Duke, a Louisianan steeped in racial controversy.


I view this alleged controversy minus the histrionics for a couple of reasons.  Chief among them is the double standard imposed on white conservatives.

We have a president who wasn’t disqualified from running or serving despite spending around 20 years as a congregant of Reverend Jeremiah Wright — whose race-baiting on a slow day puts to shame any of the allegedly dire implications of Scalise’s comments made to a fringe group about boring tax policy .

America is only a mere 50 years or so out of its own apartheid era, so it’s not surprising if folks are still afoot spouting “euro” or “afro” attitudes.  But if Al Sharpton’s ugly record of civil rights hoaxes as well as his seemingly anti-police, anti-white, anti-Jewish and anti-American rambling hasn’t barred him from over 70 known visits to the White House, how can liberals say the Scalise story is “a big deal” with a straight face?

I notice that the local Red Cross chapter, which also had a representative speak at the 2002 EURO event, hasn’t yet been thrown under the bus.  Nor has the local sheriff’s office.  Neither has the Best Western hotel chain been targeted for a boycott for allowing the event to take place on their premises.

Need I also recite the excesses, misstatements and questionable audiences chosen by white liberals that did not cost them high office nor esteem to further underscore the breadth of this double standard?

The other major reason this episode is a non-issue to me is that the timing is nakedly political.  It smacks of a desperate desire to upset the upcoming political landscape.  Becoming the number-three man in leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives earns one serious attention and obvious enemies.  Those enemies seem to want to blunt Scalise before he can do virtually anything in the job.

If Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a staunch Obama supporter, says he “do[es]n’t Steve Scalise has a racist bone in his body,” ‘nuff said as far as I’m concerned.


Project 21 Training Young Conservatives to Deal with Those Who Play the Race Card

Addressing some of the conservative leaders of tomorrow, Project 21 member Derryck Green counseled them on the importance of standing up for themselves at the inevitable moments when liberals are so desperately losing their arguments that they will find the race card played against them.

Derryck bluntly told his audience of high school and college students that “you’re not racist – you’re conservative.”  He explained that conservatives are all too often improperly maligned as racist and must immediately confront those who seek to discredit them on such false charges.

If they do not address and disarm the smear of racism, Derryck added, it may stick and unduly influence others despite being wholly invalid.

These words of wisdom came as Derryck when he spoke to dozens of young conservatives at the Reagan Ranch Center of the Young America’s Foundation in Santa Barbara, California on 11/15/14.  His remarks expanded on his recent Prager University lecture – “Who are the Real Racists: Liberals or Conservatives?” – that has been viewed over 263,000 times.

During his Young America’s Foundation talk, Derryck pointed out that anyone labeling conservatives as racist must be pressed to provide definitive proof of their allegation.  It is Derryck’s contention, derived from his journey toward acknowledging his own conservatism, that the policies of liberals are actually more condescending toward black Americans that any competing agenda promoted by conservatives.

For example, regarding racial preference policies for employment or school admissions, Derryck said affirmative action policies can actually be harmful to black students:

It robs them of an opportunity just so the school brochure can say “we’re diverse.”  I think that’s wrong.  I think that’s morally wrong.  But, most important, or maybe equally as important, is that it mismatches black students with institutions in which they’re just not prepared to succeed.

So, if we have a bunch of people who maybe have not have had the best education, but they applied to first-rate schools, just for diversity – well, we’re setting them up for failure because they haven’t been primed and they haven’t been exposed to the learning techniques and the speed at which they need to keep up to be successful.  So they’re going to more than likely drop out or fall behind.

If we’re going to have affirmative action that gets more students into schools, but the dropout rates are higher, what have we accomplished?

Derryck then talked about polling place protections to safeguard the will of American voters and voter ID requirements in particular.  Saying that the notion that blacks cannot obtain proper identification in “incongruent” with a respectful view of blacks, Derryck commented about voter ID laws:

They say it’s going to disfranchise blacks.  What does that mean, exactly?  “Well, blacks aren’t capable of getting ID.”  Why?  The majority of them have ID already.

Why are blacks singled out as the only group who cannot get an ID?  To me, that’s… that’s racist.  And, you know, it boils my blood… that we are singled out as incapable.  We don’t have the ingenuity.  We don’t have the tools – whether intrinsically or extrinsically – to be like everyone else.

But what really grinds my gears, in some fashion, is that blacks are running to use this defense – to say, “yes, we cannot do this.”

And I look at this and say: “Hey, wait a second.  You’re participating in your own condescension.”  And this is why people look down on black issues and don’t take black issues seriously.

School choice was Derryck’s third case in which he pointed out liberals are pursuing (actually opposing, in this case) a policy that would benefit black families.  He said:

I think that the idea of giving blacks the opportunity to pick what teachers teach their students, what schools their children go to, I think that should be given to every American.

For the President to send his two daughters to a school that costs over $37,000 a year per student, and doesn’t extend that freedom and liberty to many of his constituents – I think – is wrong.  And I don’t think he can defend that, morally…

I don’t want to conscript black children to poor education.  What do we do to these children that we say we are going to force [them] into these substandard schools.

To follow is Derryck’s full presentation and a lively question-and-answer session.


Unto You Is Born This Day

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Luke 2: 1-14

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

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