For almost a year, politicians in Washington have talked about the need to fix the problem of surprise medical billing. But, per usual, they haven’t done anything about it.
It shouldn’t be this hard. To review: the bidding – surprise billing, as people call it – occurs when a person with health insurance gets a bill they weren’t expecting from an out-of-network provider whose services they didn’t know upfront they’d engaged.
You might think you could plan for such events and avoid them. But it’s getting harder, thanks to hedge funds and insurance companies that are blurring the lines, some say deliberately. Surprise billing is becoming a medical cash cow in an era where profit margins are being slashed by regulatory efforts to bend the cost curve downward.
The proliferation of undisclosed out-of-network services during in-network procedures has allowed insurers to get from under what their customers believe are their contractual obligations to pay. It’s making doctors and investors rich while giving the Medicare-for-All crowd ample ammunition to move their idea forward.
Medicare-for-All and its ugly cousins all share a few things in common. One of them is the potential that rationing will eventually be used to keep costs from rising. Another is that they all rely on government-imposed cost controls to make the healthcare system work. And that, in case it’s not clear, is exactly the wrong way to go.
The Senate HELP Committee bill is not a good solution. It is bi-partisan and reflects a deal reached in 2019 by the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees. It would essentially ban providers from sending surprise bills and require insurers to pay them, based on the “average price” for the services provided.
It would be better for Congress to do nothing to address the issue than enact a regime that uses cost controls or benchmarking – as the HELP Committee proposal has been labeled – to bring down the price of healthcare. It’s an artifice that changes nothing to the good except a consumer’s perception of what services cost. Controls retard innovation, suppress investment, and create incentives for high-quality medical care to move offshore.
Yet two committees of the U.S. House of Representatives are moving in that very direction.
Proposals recently introduced include one in the Ways and Means Committee that establishes a mediation process for insurers and out-of-network providers when they can’t agree on a payment rate for services provided. A second, coming from the Energy and Commerce Committee last year and adapted this year by the Education and Labor Committee, would decide payment rates using a blend of both arbitration and a benchmark.
Both proposals amount to price-fixing no matter what it’s called. Maryland Republican Andy Harris, a medical doctor by training, put it this way: “By design, placing such price controls on purely private transactions would reduce access to care, increase the power of the federal government, and result in negative, unintended consequences.”
It’s easy, when writing about healthcare reform, to invoke the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors requiring them to put the interests of patients first. And it should be kept in mind when addressing the issue of surprise billing because it is about people and the care they receive, not just the bottom line.
Health insurers helped write the last round of reforms. They made money – and made sure there were bailouts built into the new system in case they didn’t. Consumers ended up with fewer choices, higher premiums, even higher deductibles, and plans that changed year after year. It wasn’t what they wanted. Some would say the cure ended up being worse than the sickness.
Now the big insurers are spending to position themselves to influence the pathway forward dealing with the surprise billing problem. They’re pursuing new laws and regulations to insulate them from their responsibilities to their customers, to protect them from liability, and to avoid paying for services using a variety of what can best be called coverage loopholes. “Price controls” and “government rate-setting” are a large part of what helped wreck the U.S. healthcare system in the first place.
Insurers need to own their responsibilities to their customers and level the playing field on their own.
Apparently, the majority of Democratic presidential contenders want to parade student debt sob stories around. These stories don't show the full picture.
Of all the pandering showcased during Democrats’ attempts to win back the presidency, wiping out student debt ranked at or near the top.
“I believe that education is the future for this country,” socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders barked during the first round of Democratic primary debates, explaining that’s why we must “eliminate student debt and we do that by placing a tax on Wall Street.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke similarly. “I can tell you this,” the Minnesota senator demagogued, “if billionaires can pay off their yachts, students should be able to pay off their student loans.”
There can be no serious discussion of this issue, however, in 60-second sound bites. So, beyond the soak-the-rich shtick that shades every Democratic economic debate point, the candidates resorted to two tactics: shock and sob stories.
The size of student debt provides the jolt necessary to peddle their plans to the American populace. “I got $100,000 in student loan debt myself,” California Rep. Eric Swalwell bemoaned. “College affordability is personal for us,” South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg shared, noting that his household has “six-figure student debt.” So, sure, “I believe in reducing student debt,” Buttigieg announced.
Next came the sob stories. Those student loans are suffocating a generation, the candidates suggested. After all, “40 million of us who can’t start a family,” the diaper-changing daddy Swalwell contradictorily proclaimed, adding that they “Can’t take a good idea and start a business and can’t buy our first home.”
“We can’t put people in a position where they aren’t able to go on and move on,” frontrunner Joe Biden agreed.
Tellingly, when not constrained by the debate format, these same politicians push the same narrative to garner support for bailing out student loans, all while the media provides the Democrats a free assist.
“With loans totaling more than $130,000,” Buttigieg’s household is “among the 43 million people in the United States who owe federal student loan debt,” the Associated Press reported last month, before highlighting the myriad plans to bail out student debt pushed by a cadre of presidential candidates. The AP then furthered the narrative by using statistics to shock the public into socialism:
The debtors are so numerous and the total debt so high—more than $1.447 trillion, according to federal statistics—that several of the Democratic candidates have made major policy proposals to address the crisis. Their ideas include wiping away debt, lowering interest rates, expanding programs that tie repayment terms to income and making college free or debt-free. Student loan debt is often discussed as an issue that mostly affects millennials, but it cuts across age groups. Federal statistics show that about 7.8 million people age 50 and older owe a combined $291.9 billion in student loans. People age 35 to 49, a group that covers older millennials such as Buttigieg as well as Generation X, owe $548.4 billion. That group includes more than 14 million people.
Then the sad tales continue the sales pitch for a government solution to student debt—a ploy that began well before the 2016 elections. Here’s one of myriad media examples.
“Shayna Pilnick, 28, would like to buy an apartment but can’t afford a mortgage. Jacqueline Mannino, 23, and her boyfriend, Benjamin Prowse, 26, want to get married. Jacob Childerson, 24, and his wife, Jennifer, 25, wish they could start a family, but they live with Jennifer’s parents,” is how USA Today opened its 2013 profile of millennials unable to obtain their dream life because they are “tethered” to “tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.”
There are many ways to counter these arguments, based on both economics and equity. But it’s hard to counter soundbites with sense, so instead, here are my inquiries for these politicians, the press, and all the students demanding relief from the burdens of their debt: Tell me your sob stories from age 12 on, not what you can’t do now, but what you couldn’t do then. Tell what you had to do then and through college to avoid what is now, to you, crushing student debt.
What time did you get up to deliver papers in junior high? How many hours a week did you work since 14 to save for college? How many toilets did you scrub? How many high school football games did you miss because you were working? What dream college did you forgo to avoid taking out student loans?
Which 8 a.m. class did you take so you could complete your major’s requirements and still work in the afternoon? Which bus line did you take to get to your job because you didn’t borrow to buy a car? What job did you work full-time while completing your MBA at night?
What did you do to afford college? What didn’t you do because of the cost of college? Were you getting tattoos and traveling your way through college? Were you pledging and partying? Did you go to your top-choice university? Maybe an out-of-state public university with higher tuition rates? Which spring break and study abroad destinations did you visit along the way?
Did you splurge on your fairytale wedding instead of paying down your student loans? What cars did you buy or lease? Where did you live? What electronics did you own? What clothing and other personal expenditures did you have? In short, show me the money and how you spent it!
None of my business? You’re right. Nor is your student debt my business or my problem.
Dear Majority Leader McConnell:
Many Americans share concern for the cost of medicine, particularly our country’s seniorcitizens. And President Trump has rightly called out “foreign freeloaders” whose government monopoly health systems drastically underpay for (American-developed) pharmaceuticals. However, most of the proposals go about addressing this matter not only in the wrong way, but in highly destructive ways.
Conservatives for Property Rights (CPR) is a coalition of organizations representing millions of Americans. CPR emphasizes the central importance of private property in all its forms — physical, personal, and intellectual. The right to private property ranks among the unalienable rights the Founders referenced in the Declaration of Independence, and patents and copyrights are the only rights for which the U.S. Constitution itself provides. As you appreciate, we should not harm our patent-centric research and development sectors by gutting their property rights.
While Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 3 is the most radical and destructive of the “drug pricing” legislation, CPR wants to make perfectly clear that the Senate Finance Committee’s Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act is also very harmful and destructive. In no way is S.2543 any sort of “compromise” or “middle-ground” alternative. This bill passed committee by a majority of liberal Democratic votes; fewer than half the majority Senators voted for it. Notably, S. 2543 does zero to remedy “foreign freeloading.” CPR regards S. 2543 as unacceptable and urges all Senators to oppose this bill.
Of this measure’s provisions harmful to America’s leadership in pharmaceutical innovation (and thus harmful to American patients), perhaps most egregious is the inflationary penalty price control mechanism. This price control would impose a confiscatory excise tax on earnings when a Medicare medication in Parts B or D exceeds the inflation rate. Such an unpredictable, disruptive government price control would wreak havoc in drug R&D, injecting much uncertainty into and causing significant loss of R&D funding from the pharmaceutical innovation process.
Conservatives for Property Rights strongly opposes the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Actand urges Senators to reject this counterproductive legislation.
James Edwards, Executive Director, Conservatives for Property Rights
Seton Motley, President, Less Government
George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom
Dick Patten, President, Campaign for Liberty
Jenny Beth Martin, Honorary Chairman, Tea Party Patriots Action
Jim Martin, Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association
Kevin L. Kearns, President, U.S. Business & Industry Council
C. Person Noell III, President, Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
Tom DeWeese, President, American Policy Center
Tim Andrews, Executive Director, Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Ed Martin, President, Phyllis Schlafly Eagles
Matthew Kandrach, President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy
Saulius “Saul” Anuzis, President, 60 Plus Association
Freelancers are rising up in opposition to the state’s new law regulating “gig workers.”
By City Journal•
Are California Democrats—responsible for the state’s new anti-gig-worker law, AB5—so out of touch that they’re not aware of the growing anger of their constituents? It appears so.
Since AB5 took effect on January 1, hundreds of thousands of Californians are finding their businesses in tatters. Musicians can’t join bands for a one-night gig, chefs can’t join forces with caterers, nurses can’t work at various hospitals, and writers must cap their submissions per media outlet to 35 per year. Under the law, these freelancers can no longer conduct the same business-to-business transactions they have for years or even decades. Clients with whom they fostered valuable relationships are gone—as are their successful careers and incomes. An overwhelming majority of professionals in fields affected by AB5 identify as liberals and have generally voted along the blue line. Today, however, many are so disillusioned with their representatives that they’re changing political loyalties.
When Gloria Rivera, a San Diego-based, Peruvian-born translator and interpreter, achieved U.S. citizenship, the first thing she did was register as a Democrat. “Now I’m seeing a lot of people like me who are either going Independent or Republican,” she says, “myself included. The Democrats are not listening to us.”
Lorena Gonzalez, the San Diego assembly member who authored AB5, faces public condemnation wherever she goes. Online and in person, independent contractors are confronting Gonzalez and demanding a repeal of the law. Her condescending response: independent contractors need the protection of union-driven labor laws. In a damning KUSI news interview, Gonzalez denied that AB5 has resulted in widespread income loss. Her dismissive attitude has fueled outrage against Democrats. “Lorena Gonzalez is doing a great job turning everybody red,” says Rivera.
Gonzalez deserves much of the blame for the AB5 train wreck, but she had plenty of support from her party: nearly every assembly member who approved AB5 is a Democrat, including Governor Gavin Newsom. Those opposed: Republicans and Independents. Senator Patricia Bates, a Republican state senator representing parts of Orange and San Diego counties, has been hearing from constituents who had no idea that they were swept up in the AB5 net. “They’re asking, ‘Who did this to me?’” says Bates. “I don’t like to make it partisan, but I have to tell them the majority party that runs the show did it. There’s a new awareness about the anti-business environment and how it affects their right to work, to be free.”
Independent contractors are entering new territory. Suddenly, a more conservative approach seems more attractive. “My entire political mindset has changed drastically following the enactment of AB5,” says Cathy Hertz, a freelance copyeditor of STM (science-technology-medicine) books, from Loma Linda. Hertz campaigned for Barack Obama cross-country at her own expense in 2008; she campaigned for him locally, in Los Angeles, in 2012. “Now I feel that the rights of entrepreneurs are being stifled, trampled upon, violated,” she says. “Free enterprise is one of the main pillars of modern democracy.”
Apparently oblivious to the reaction in California, congressional Democrats have passed HR 2474, a national version of AB5, known as the “Protecting the Right to Organize” or “PRO Act.” The PRO Act, designed to boost union membership, will put 57 million independent contractors across the country out of work if it becomes law. These enterprising professionals will be forced into low-paying jobs—if they can find them—with none of the autonomy, flexibility, or opportunity that they currently enjoy. When the Trump administration denounced the bill, people who normally hiss at mention of the president’s name found themselves in a peculiar position: feeling grateful.
As for Gonzalez, she’s up for reelection this year and is aiming for secretary of state in 2022. Her campaigns will be tougher than she likely imagines. The movement against her is ramping up.
“I see a revolution on the horizon,” says David Mills, a musician from Lake Elsinore who created the Facebook group Freelancers against PRO Act. “This may be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back. But I think it’s leading to something good. The American people on all sides are waking up. We’ve gotten too caught up in partisan support. Now we’re paying attention. There is a huge uprising. People had to lose their jobs to find out what it was.”
Kevin Kiley, a Republican assembly member representing a large swath of Sacramento and a vocal ally of independent contractors, agrees. In January, he led a rally on the steps of the state capitol against AB5 and introduced a bill to repeal it. “We have a capital that’s controlled by special interests, and the public good isn’t even considered,” says Kiley. “That disconnect is stark. I’m more motivated to change this law than anything I’ve ever worked on because it has such a direct and negative impact on peoples’ lives. I believe very deeply in economic freedom, the right to pursue your calling. AB5 is a grave moral offense. So if there’s a silver lining to all this, it’s giving a diverse range of people a window into the dysfunctional nature of politics in Sacramento. For those who are disenchanted with the political majority, there is now an opportunity for alternatives.”
Such alternatives are popping up around the state. Evan Wecksell, a comedian and tutor by trade, is running for state senate as a write-in candidate for District 25, which encompasses parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino county. He was registered as a Democrat until recently. Today, he’s a Libertarian.
“I definitely sense a change,” says Wecksell. “People who swore they would never vote for a Republican are doing it. We were not up to speed with knowing what was going on in Sacramento, but AB5 was a lesson and we’re learning from it. They’re taking away our natural human rights.”
Independent contractors are a unique bunch. Deeply committed to individual liberty, they’re becoming a unified group of fighters in California. They come from all walks of life and political persuasions, and if voting differently means that they can continue to run their businesses as they see fit, then so be it. Unless Democrats change course, the AB5 revolt may be the Brexit that the U.S. never saw coming. California certainly didn’t.
If you heard the Trump Administration Department of Labor was using legal theories developed under Barack Obama to sue some of the nation’s most successful companies, you’d probably presume it was some kind of “fake news.”
You’d be wrong. And what’s even more remarkable is that it appears to be going on without the approval of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia who, his admirers believe, has one of the sharpest minds in Trump’s Cabinet.
A little-known agency inside the department called the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) was created to promote affirmative action in federal contracting. Left-wing, anti-business progressives took it over under Obama and transformed it into a place that uses data collected from contractors to look for discrimination in hiring and promotion rather than complaints filed by employees.
This, say some who follow the agency’s actions closely represents a significant departure from past practices. Discrimination suits are being brought using data mined from government contractors on hiring and promotions, using statistical anomalies to manufacture discrimination claims.
This approach, which critics describe as unreliable, is nonetheless being used by the Trump administration to taint companies with bogus allegations, usually hinging on the idea a “pay gap” exists between women and men or between different racial categories. Romina Boccia of The Heritage Foundation wrote about this in 2017 saying, “The Department of Labor has sued several tech companies, including giants like Google and Oracle, for alleged gender discrimination in pay. Pay disparities reflect a wide number of variables that aren’t easily captured in overly simplistic government statistics.”
Boccia cites the fact “current research has limitations in what factors are included,” because it doesn’t include data on women’s “strong preference for in-kind benefits over cash wages” and “immeasurable components of compensation—such as flexible work schedules—likely account for the remaining gap.” The use of statistics alone without taking other mitigating factors into account is public policy malpractice that ignores the realities of the world and the workplace.
The United States Chamber of Commerce has targeted the agency as particularly hostile to businesses. In a 2017 report, it exposed OFCCP tactics like demanding employers “provide enormous amounts of data in a short time frame, rather than working with the employer to narrow the request to focus on data relating to a specific issue.” And it’s been found to have unilaterally set “dates and times for on-site investigations without an invitation to discuss legal issues or trying to work with the employer’s schedule.”
This may sound benign but these tactics amount to the bullying of business to settle unfair suits quickly rather than fight and potentially commit so-called process crimes while doing so.
The goal of the lawsuits brought by OFCCP has been to establish new legal precedent allowing for statistics alone to be the basis of a case of employment discrimination. Evidence of a hostile comment by an employer, email exchanges between hiring authorities evidencing discriminatory intent, and other direct evidence need not be provided.
This is a dangerous precedent, something a sharp and experienced attorney like Secretary Scalia would recognize immediately. It is inconsistent with the American legal doctrine that a person, or in this case a company, need not affirmatively prove they have done nothing wrong. Due process counts, as does the presumption of innocence. Liberal activists want to use case law to rewrite the statutes to shift the burden of proof to the employer based on a mere allegation. They should not be allowed to get away with this.
We already know how damaging an accusation can be, especially when it concerns issues related to racial or gender bias. Companies should not have to prove they are not guilty. The government should have to prove they are, using something more than a statistical model that paints a distorted picture of a company’s hiring or promotion policies. This sloppy legal practice should be put to an end immediately, and Secretary Scalia should make it a priority to see that this occurs.
Washington, DC — The race to the 5G generation of telecommunications technology is on. By 2035 it will be responsible for more than $13 trillion in global economic output.
The nation getting the best technology to market the quickest will enjoy an incredible competitive advantage. For America to produce the first fully functional 5G network involves many things that must happen. The development of the hardware that will make things happen and the writing of software to control it all is only part. Anything operating wirelessly, as many of these new applications will, needs enough clean spectrum to carry the load.
Without it, the U.S. will end behind the Chinese and others who are already clearing the midrange C-Band to deploy 5G. In the U.S, that space is occupied, allocated to satellite companies who are using it, putting the issue before the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which has regulatory authority over the spectrum.
The chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has been a real leader in the campaign to keep the government from doing anything stupid that would slow the evolution of the Internet or hamper the technological progress needed to support it. Late last week, he announced his proposal for dealing with the C-Band issue so the folks prepared to use it for the next level of what cyberspace can do can get it, and the folks who have it can be compensated adequately.
To remove the potential roadblock to progress, the companies who’ve already made investments in the C-Band space need to be compensated fairly and have their relocation costs addressed. We’re talking of course about a communal public asset regulated by the government, but that doesn’t mean the feds can just take it back because it wants it for something else. “It’s only fair,” Pai said while revealing his plan, “that every single reasonable cost should be covered. So, under my draft rules, the winning bidders in the C-band auction would be required to reimburse satellite operators for their reasonable relocation costs.”
Some in Congress are also trying to make sure compensation happens, but on the cheap. Louisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy’s SMART Act that would delay an FCC auction and, unintentionally to be sure, give the Chinese time to take a great leap forward on 5G faster than America can. His bill allocates just $5 billion in reimbursements to the companies involved as incentive to relocate to another part of the spectrum and grants them no more than a $1 billion share in the revenues the auction is sure to generate.
As an incentive to cooperate rather than sue, that’s not much. Even Kennedy admits the auction could generate $60 billion in revenues — and that’s probably a low estimate. A $5 or $6 billion buy-out of a 40-year, $50 billion investment in building out C-Band based businesses that currently provide content to 120 million U.S. households just won’t cut it.
Some folks say the push for a more realistic incentive is merely crony capitalism. That’s not so, and the people saying it is are trying to manipulate the opinions of President Donald Trump and his supporters. The SMART Act undermines U.S. technology innovation and investment because it signals to the marketplace that private companies cannot be sure their capital spending in government-regulated space is safe from federal confiscation sometime in the future if needs change or political winds shift.
The commission’s scheduled to take up Chairman Pai’s proposal on February 28. So far, under his leadership, it’s been doing a lot of good things. The Pai-led FCC has been protecting a huge percentage of the economic growth that’s occurred in the U.S. economy over the last several years. And we’ll all benefit if his colleagues stand with him regarding what’s to happen with the C-Band spectrum. Trillions in future economic growth are at stake. He’s found a way to thread the needle and keep everyone, the people to whom it is licensed and the people who want it, happy. If his proposal fails, or of the Kennedy plan is adopted by Congress, the whole thing almost surely ends up in litigation for years as someone else, probably the Chinese, take control of the world’s telecommunications sector.
We don’t have forever. We must move fast. We need the private sector to lead the way to U.S. dominance in 5G. The federal government can’t do it fast enough to beat the Chinese. President Trump and Chairman Pai need to offer a fair deal with real incentives from which the taxpayers will ultimately benefit because of the jobs and wealth a 5G global network led by America will produce for us.
Think of it as keeping America’s telecom sector great!
There are free market solutions for these issues waiting for GOP support
On most of the issues highlighting the 2020 campaign, the Republicans have a great story, especially the economy, law enforcement, foreign policy (including trade), national security, energy, and job creation. The Democrats have concentrated on three critical issues, however, which are nearly ignored by most Republicans: the wealth gap, health care, and climate change
These issues are currently owned by the Democrat candidates; they have not even been addressed directly by the Republicans. This silence is a tragic mistake because current polls show that these three issues are of critical importance to significant numbers of the American electorate. If Republican candidates continue to ignore these two issues, they will suffer in the only polls that really count – the votes in November.
Today’s topic is the wealth gap, with discussions of health care and climate change to follow in succeeding columns. I use the term, “wealth gap” in preference to “wage gap” and “income inequality” because “wealth” includes assets which are relatively long range as opposed to “wages” or “income” which may fluctuate from time to time.
The Republican response to the wealth gap is the “trickle-down” economic theory: prosperity for the wealthy means incremental income to the entire workforce because the wealthy will of necessity invest in an expanding economy thus benefiting the workers who actually produce new goods and services by which the economy is actually expanded. This is the argument prominently featured by President Trump in his famous rallies.
And, measured by present and past metrics, it is true. A flourishing economy does indeed raise wages and job opportunities. When applied to a stagnant employment environment, the chief beneficiaries on a percentage basis are the lower wage workers – i.e. when a person goes from unemployed to employed, the percentage of improvement is 100%. This is, of course, a valuable trend.
The next step, however, poses an altogether different problem: in a tight labor market – which America is rapidly approaching – how does an employer retain an experienced worker? And an ancillary problem: how does the country avoid a steady inflation, as wages rise, and senior employees can seek and find ever higher wages?
There are free market solutions to both these questions. My answer may be considered by traditional economics a radical solution, namely profit-sharing. There are various ways to implement the concept of profit-sharing – e.g. stock grants or options, profit-based bonuses, or employee stock option plans (ESOP), among others.
The basic hedge against inflation is the fact that increases in income to the workers comes from profits rather than expenses, so prices do not have to increase. The operational result is that workers who have a stake in the performance of the company tend to work harder and more efficiently, and greater income leads to higher job satisfaction and loyalty.
There are other reasons to advocate profit-sharing, namely, redressing the imbalance in asset ownership in America, which currently shows that at least 80% of America’s wealth is controlled by 1% of the population. This is a frightening situation for a democracy which is founded on a prosperous middle class. Oligarchs are waiting to rule the nation (e.g. already three billionaires are running for president).
There is also a moral reason for profit-sharing which can be summarized as follows:
1) The increase in national wealth over the past 200 years is due primarily to increases in productivity, which in turn is due to new technologies.
2) The implementation of technological innovations involves a number of stakeholders – inventors, investors, managers, implementers and buyers.
3) The benefits of the new technologies are currently heavily weighted toward all the stakeholders expect the implementers – the workers who bring into actual being the ideas of the inventor – i.e. they design and build the machinery which produces the product, fabricate it, market and sell it, repair it and teach users. Without the implementors, there would be no technology – only ideas on paper.
4) All of the stakeholders should be rewarded when the product is sold; it is only fair, therefore, that each be rewarded in proportion to the value of their contribution to the success (or failure) of the product. This is called “profit-sharing”.
This idea is not as novel nor as radical as it may seem to traditionalists. In the first place, the entire history of free-market capitalism shows it ever evolving towards more and more recognition of the value of labor in the forward march of progress.
It is also true that the chief proponents of this march have historically been the organized labor movement – at least until the 1970’s. Since then American unions have shifted from ever advancing workers’ rights in the marketplace to attempting to achieve progress through government intervention, which has meant in practice an alliance with the Democrat Party and a slippery slope toward socialism.
The results have not been encouraging. We have seen the denuding of America’s manufacturing base, the disheartening imbalance of income between management and labor, and the gradual slipping of much of America’s middle class into poverty and desperation. The bureaucracy of American Labor has failed miserably in protecting and advancing the cause of America’s workers.
The most impressive advocacy for profit-sharing in today’s marketplace is called “Conscious Capitalism”. This is a rapidly growing group of companies who represent a new generation of free market businesses. It is both a movement and an organization.
As an organization, Conscious Capitalism, Inc. now numbers thousands of companies, millions of employees, with chapters in 41 countries, and a number of large firms including Federal Express, Southwest Airlines and Costco among others. (For more information, see www.ConsciousCapitalism.org).
As a movement, it counts Amazon as one of its colleagues along with many other companies, both large and small. While this group is not particularly fond of organized labor, I believe there is a place for Labor in this movement, unions which work with and not against management and represent workers who are both employees and recipients of prorated profits from their work.
The time for advancing workers’ rights is now – in the 2020 election campaign. To win back the workers of America, the GOP must move “Onward and Upward!”
Frontiers of Freedom expressed great alarm this week over the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) latest financial results which showed $748 million in losses during the first quarter of FY 2020.
George Landrith, President of Frontiers of Freedom, said:
“The U.S. Postal Service is hemorrhaging money! In the first quarter of FY 2020, they have already reported $748 million in losses. And it isn’t like 2019 was a good year. Last year, they lost an unbelievable $8.8 billion in FY2019. To put that into perspective, the Postal Service has posted 13 consecutive years with a net loss of a billion dollars or more, and its unfunded liabilities and debt now total more than $143 billion. It is extraordinarily difficult to lose that kind of money when you are operating a government-granted monopoly like the Postal Service has on First Class Mail.”
Frontiers of Freedom President George Landrith also called out the agency over its negligence and financials, stating:
“It is readily apparent that the current USPS business model is failing. It is up to Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and the new heads of the USPS Board of Governors to address the ongoing challenges. This includes ending nonsensical postal subsidies, trimming down the agency’s excessive costs, and complying with new laws impacting the USPS.”
Frontiers of Freedom previously hailed the work of Congress and President Trump to address some of USPS’ major systemic flaws with the enactment of the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act in 2018. This bill was an essential step in requiring the Postal Service to meet industry standards in data collection and monitoring practices of packages that enter the U.S. from abroad.
Despite the required protocols to protect our communities from hazardous and criminal items, the Government Accountability Office reports that USPS continues to fall short on its requirements to provide Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with advanced electronic data (AED).
Failing to keep up with the directives of the STOP Act prompts further troublesome questions as the Department of Homeland Security embarks on robust initiatives to impede the flow of counterfeit and pirated goods. However, in assessing the Postal Service, DHS finds a “significant gap in the information CBP receives,” among numerous critiques and findings. Landrith remarked, “Ultimately, the work to intercept illicit drugs and contraband is an immense challenge, and there is simply no excuse for USPS to not do its part.”
On the USPS’ array of responsibilities, Landrith concluded:
“Americans should be greatly concerned about the USPS procrastinating on its priorities. Looking ahead, it is crucial for the board to install a new Postmaster General with well-qualified business expertise. The demands of stakeholders, legislators and citizens continue to go unanswered. The path to reform will be wide-ranging, and USPS leaders and lawmakers will need to act with urgency.”
Their bill won’t pass the Senate, but it tells us what’s coming the next time they’re in charge.
Writing about legislation often feels pointless under divided government, because no partisan bill is going to become law anyway. So it is with the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a labor bill that the Democratic House created and will vote on soon — and that most certainly will not pass the Republican Senate.
These fruitless exercises do give us a sense of what the parties will do when next they seize power, however, and it’s a slow news week, so let’s see what the Big Labor Left has on its mind these days. In short, this is an aggressive bill that doubles down on the coercive unionization system the U.S. already has in place.
A brief primer on that system: Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), private-sector unionization starts with a union trying to get workers to sign cards saying they’d like to join. If half of the workplace signs up, the employer can voluntarily recognize the union (via “card check”); or, far more likely, it can insist on a secret-ballot election. If the union wins, it becomes the workers’ exclusive representative — the business is legally required to negotiate with the union in good faith, and it is illegal for individual workers to negotiate their own deals with the business directly. The law also spells out various “unfair labor practices” ensuring that neither side does anything to interfere with the process. In states without right-to-work, employees unionized this way must support the organization through dues or fees, even if they voted against the union and don’t wish to join it.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the biggest proposed changes:
Bye-bye, right-to-work. Workers everywhere could be forced to financially support unions they don’t want to join, because right-to-work laws would be banned.
Agree to a contract or one shall be imposed upon you. In everyday life, when a contract negotiation fails, the result is that . . . there is no contract. Under the bill, failed negotiations would lead to the business being forced into mediation and eventually binding arbitration with the union.
“Stealth” card check. During the Obama administration, Democrats tried to end secret-ballot elections, so that card check would be the end of the process. This bill isn’t so brazen, but when a union loses an election, the National Labor Relations Board would be able to find the employer guilty of election interference and accept the results of the card check instead of the actual vote.
Better rules for me, worse rules for thee. Struggles between unions and management can get brutal, and much of labor law consists of ground rules for how the two sides fight it out. The bill would shift these rules fundamentally in unions’ favor. Businesses, for example, would face greater liability for their violations and could no longer require workers to sit through anti-union presentations during the workday. Unions, meanwhile, would see restrictions on their behavior lightened, especially regarding strikes: Businesses could no longer discourage strikes by hiring permanent replacement workers, and unions could conduct “secondary” or “sympathy” strikes and boycotts against businesses that aren’t even involved in the negotiations at issue.
Hope you liked Obama’s National Labor Relations Board: I’ve written previously about how the NLRA leaves too much to the discretion of the executive branch, and as a result labor law ping-pongs every time the White House changes hands. The bill would change that, naturally by writing numerous Obama-era rules into the law so no future administration could change them back. It would become harder for businesses to rely on independent contractors rather than full employees; unions could stage “ambush” elections so business owners wouldn’t have much time to make their case; franchise businesses such as McDonald’s would often be considered “joint employers” of people hired by individual franchises, and thus exposed to liability for labor-law violations; etc. I do wish Congress would negotiate an end to these issues and write a compromise into the law, but this is not that.
The time is ripe for a reimagining of labor law. The current system is obviously not serving its purpose, as seen in the enormous decline of private-sector unions in recent decades. There are ways we could make the system more flexible and less coercive (see here for a lot of ideas), giving unions an opportunity to regain a foothold without forcing workers to join. But Democrats appear stuck in the past.
Internal communications prove Google is lying about its censorship decisions while paying for leftist propaganda and relying on the leftwing SPLC for its decisions.
Google insists they have processes in place to prevent political bias from influencing their policies. Individual Google employees can’t just demonetize videos, Google tells the public.
Reality paints a different picture: Google tailors its demonetization decisions to keep liberal reporters and activists happy. In fact, in court documents filed on December 29, 2017, Google’s lawyers emphasized that “Decisions about which videos fall into that [demonetization] category are often complicated and may involve difficult, subjective judgment calls.” Indeed.
Internal documents I obtained show the extent to which Google’s public relations team quarterbacks the content-policing process. One email exchange shows a Google spokeswoman making snap decisions—in direct response to media inquiries—about which YouTube videos to demonetize and which channels to scrutinize.
The catalyst was an email from a reporter from The Guardian, a left-leaning British publication, asking about specific videos. The reporter’s inquiry was based in part on complaints from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a left-wing smear factory.
Among the videos the SPLC found problematic was one satirizing sex differences. The Google public relations representative forwarded the email to the censorship team and ordered it to review the videos, “making sure they are not monetized.” In other words, censorship decisions are viewed as public relations decisions, not as content decisions.
That’s not how the process is supposed to work—and it is certainly not how Google says the process works. Public relations representatives are supposed to explain the censorship process, not dictate it to please liberal reporters. The exchange also highlights how left-wing interest groups with an egregious track record of dishonesty (like the SPLC) partner with liberal reporters to pressure big tech to censor right-of-center voices.
The fact that Google maintains a pretense of neutrality while cracking down on right-of-center content is particularly dishonest, considering that Google funds, produces, and promotes left-wing propaganda through its “Creators for Change Program.” Google has spent millions of dollars on the program, which gives left-wing YouTubers a boost from the world’s most powerful company.
That includes left-wing writer Amani Al-Khatahtbeh. Google described her as “a rising voice in social, religious, and political issues” and noted that “Amani was invited by Michelle Obama to speak at the inaugural U.S. State of Women Summit.”
What YouTube didn’t mention is that Amani’s past work includes a video claiming the September 11, 2001, Islamist terrorist attacks were “an inside job.” While YouTube was cracking down on right-wing accounts in the name of fighting conspiracy theories, the company was funding a 9/11 “truther.”
Subhi Taha, a YouTube-sponsored “Creator for Change role model,” has similarly promoted anti-Israel boycotts. YouTube and Taha collaborated on a video about Palestinian refugees—who turned out to be family friends of Taha—that promoted an outrageously one-sided narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The video stated as fact that Israel has committed genocide against Palestinians, while leaving out any mention of the actions of Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas. In fact, to call the video one-sided would be generous. It was genuine anti-Israel propaganda funded, produced, and promoted by YouTube.
In addition to smearing Israel, YouTube spends money promoting open-borders propaganda. The tech giant partnered with Creators for Change “role model” Yasmany Del Real on a video opposing enforcement of U.S. border laws. “I had the opportunity to visit some migrant centers and heard many different stories but with only one goal: to achieve the American dream,” Del Real says in the video.
“Cesar is just one of many who shares the same goal,” he continues, before introducing Cesar: a Guatemalan illegal immigrant with a previous deportation on his record. “I would love for people to have a better sense of compassion towards us immigrants. We truly only want to work and to work hard. Many of us have multiple jobs. We work during the day and evenings,” Cesar says, in Spanish.
“Many of us only want temporary work, without aspiring to stay permanently in the U.S.A.,” Cesar adds, undermining the narrator’s assertion that every border crosser is only interested in pursuing the American dream and contributing to society.
“Cesar is from Guatemala, and this is his second time trying to immigrate to the United States. This time it took him one month to reach the border. Despite the fear and anguish of knowing he could be deported a second time, Cesar remains optimistic,” Del Real explains, as the video cuts to Cesar.
“The United States is a beautiful country, it is a great place to find employment,” Cesar says. In the background, a gospel-style singer croons an open-borders anthem: “Forgive me for trespassing on your lands/That’s not an intention of mine/Family and friends we have left behind/Poverty and destitution are my only crime.”
Maybe you agree with those messages; maybe you don’t. That’s not the point. These are the kind of videos you might expect from a left-wing advocacy group or media outlet. They are not the kind of videos that a politically neutral company produces.
If Google is going to sponsor and produce left-wing content, then they should publicly acknowledge that they’re an ideologically left-wing company that is promoting left-wing narratives. Indeed, that’s what Google is: an ideologically left-leaning company staffed by people who resent the right’s success on its massive video platform and are actively working to counter it.
At the end of the day, Google agrees with leftist activists that their side deserves a built-in advantage on its platform. But that doesn’t stop them from lying about it.