By Wayne Winegarden • Investor’s Business Daily
Gov. Jerry Brown and some California lawmakers are pushing Golden State drivers to the fast lane of an all-electric car future.
For example, San Francisco Democrat Phil Ting has introduced legislation to outlaw the sale of traditional gas-powered cars by the year 2040. My colleague Kerry Jackson has called this idea “a farce worthy of The Onion.”
But is there really a sufficient demand and marketplace to make an all-electric car future on the horizon a realistic possibility? Not if you look at sales trends. According to the most recent figures, non-hybrid electric cars are just 0.5% of the car market.
To artificially stimulate demand, lawmakers in Washington D.C., California, and many states are trying to play car salesman. They have offered lavish subsidies — paid for by Continue reading
By David French • National Review
Conservatives who enter progressive domains like the academy or elite media are quite familiar with the idea of tolerance. Such institutions place an enormous amount of emphasis on it, in fact, so much so that they reserve the right to be intolerant to preserve the tolerant ethos of the community, sometimes explicitly. In one of my favorite First Amendment cases, I sued a university that declared in no uncertain terms, “Acts of intolerance will not be tolerated.”
Yes, it used those exact words. Think for a moment — isn’t every act of enforcement a new violation that requires a new act of enforcement, triggering another violation? Ah, never mind. We know what the university wanted, a catch-all provision it could use to expel, punish, and silence anyone who ran afoul of the prevailing campus orthodoxy.
But I don’t want to focus on intolerance. Let’s talk about tolerance, instead. Earlier this week I read an old post by “Scott Alexander,” a pseudonymous psychiatrist who writes at the blog Slate Star Codex. Called “I can tolerate anything except the outgroup,” it blows up the notion that the kind of inclusion the Left claims it values bears any relationship at all to true tolerance. Continue reading
We keep hearing about how short-term health plans are “junk insurance.” Really? Compared to ObamaCare’s high-deductible HMOs, or Medicaid’s long and often deadly waits?
A new study finds that at least 21,900 people on Medicaid have died waiting for treatment in states that expanded Medicaid eligibility under ObamaCare.
The reason, the Foundation for Government Accountability report says, is that ObamaCare opened Medicaid up to millions of able-bodied non-poor adults. That created a surge in demand for scarce Medicaid resources, forcing the poor to wait longer for services.
An insurance plan that you can’t use? That’s junk insurance. Continue reading
By Rich Logis • The Federalist
Remember the famous garden scene in “The Godfather,” when Marlon Brando’s character, Don Vito Corleone, warns his son, Michael, played by Al Pacino, that someone close to the family will arrange a meeting where Michael will be assassinated?
The real-life political equivalent of that landmark cinematic moment is playing out before our very eyes, with the Republican National Committee and congressional Republicans. On the omnibus, on the Second Amendment, on border safety—almost every issue—the GOP continues to betray the family. Who is the family? The American people, that’s who.
In fairness, yes, Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, the president’s constitutionally bona fide federal judges, and tax reform were big wins in the last year. But we didn’t elect the biggest GOP majority in the modern era to take baby steps, did we? We colored the map red (even though guaranteed red states no longer exist) to take giant leaps, especially after eight years of mostly impotent GOP opposition to President Obama. And let’s be honest: 90 percent of the reason our map was red was because of President Trump. Continue reading
Thanks to a revived economy spinning out jobs, the number of people on food stamps dropped by 2 million people last year, according to a new report. That’s great news, both for those who are leaving food stamps and for taxpayers. And more can — and should — be done.
Those who get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits declined from 44.219 million in 2016 to 42.182 million by the end of last year, a drop of just over 2 million or about 4.6% in one year, the Washington Free Beacon reports. In a back of the envelope calculation, the Beacon estimates the decline will save U.S. taxpayers around $3 billion a year.
This is a good start, the result more than anything of good economic policies such as tax cuts and deregulation that make it easier for businesses to hire and for those using welfare services to go back to work. No question, we have economic tailwinds at our back. With this, comes the possibility of bigger, structural reforms to welfare. “Ending welfare as we know it,” as it used to be called. Continue reading
By Joey Wulfsohn • The Federalist
Hillary Clinton has gone global with her self-pity party.
At a speaking event in India, the failed presidential candidate extended her list as to why she lost the election and while doing so attacked all 63 million Trump voters.
Clinton began by explaining how on the electoral map, Donald Trump won “all that red in the middle” while she won the coasts and states like Illinois and Minnesota. But then she goes on to explain how she won in places that “represent two-thirds of America’s gross domestic product” and that are “optimistic” and “diverse.” In other words, urban cities.
She then said the following: “His whole campaign: ‘Make America Great Again’ was looking backwards. ‘You didn’t like black people getting rights? You don’t like women, you know, getting jobs? You don’t want to, you know, see that Indian American succeeding more than you are? Whatever your problem is, I’m going to solve it.’” Continue reading
By Douglas Murray • National Review
It’s much more comfortable for those in power to go after amorphous concepts than to address real-world issues.
At the start of January this year a new law came into effect in Germany. The “NetzDG” law allows an un-named and unknown collection of government agencies and tech companies to police the Internet and remove content deemed to be “hateful” or otherwise deemed to constitute “hate speech.” Around the world politicians from other nations are looking at these laws with envy.
Of course, the whole notion of “hate speech” should warrant far more suspicion and push-back than it has done recently. Incitement to violence is already illegal in most countries. As are credible threats to kill someone. But “hate speech” brings a high bar down several pegs. And the problem with it is not only that it attempts to read purpose and imagined consequences into words, but that it inevitably comes framed to give ideological protection to whoever wields power at a particular point in time.
The temptation is obvious. In Germany “hate speech” can include words that are true and which are accurately critical or even merely descriptive of terrible events that are going on: particularly events that have followed from Angela Merkel’s open-borders policy of 2015. Doubtless the crack-down on her online critics is comfortable for Merkel and the government she has finally managed to assemble. But you have to have a remarkably short political memory to think that banning words that accurately describe situations is a wise way to try to order society. Continue reading
By Holly Scheer • The Federalist
Hillary Clinton isn’t ready to let go of her election loss to President Trump. Clinton is in Mumbai, India, at the India Today Conclave, a “a meeting point for the best minds from India and around the world to map the geopolitical and economic future of the country.” But instead of keeping her focus on the complex and numerous problems facing India, Clinton took aim Monday at Americans who voted for Trump. Her patronizing and condescending words targeted voters in states that twice voted for Obama, and show she still doesn’t understand why Americans didn’t vote for her.
Clinton compared herself to the mother of the country, trying to enforce something wholesome that the children aren’t fond of. She said, “She ran the presidential campaign like a mother who was telling the kids to eat spinach because it was good for health while the other guy was asking them to go eat fast food and have ice-cream,” India Today reported. Clinton may not have realized it, but this also sheds a lot of light on how she sees the average American. She views them as short sighted, more interested in junk than substance, and in her words, they’re “backwards.” Continue reading
By Chuck DeVore • The Federalist
A California lawmaker recently came up with the bright idea that waiters who serve unrequested straws should go to jail for six months because … the environment. Another duo of lawmakers have proposed more than doubling California’s business tax under the theory that employers wouldn’t miss the cash, because the tax increase would only take about half of President Trump’s recent tax cut.
Lawmakers all over the nation introduce weird or controversial legislation. Most of these bills are harmless, as they’d never make it out of the legislature, much less be signed into law by a governor. In California, however, many such legislative proposals are taken seriously and often do get signed into law.
Why is this? Sure, California is a liberal state. But, one key governmental structural factor likely contributes to Golden State lawmakers’ seeming isolation from common sense: California lawmakers often make a career of full-time politics. Continue reading
By Drew Johnson • Fox News
Some activists are urging Congress to use a little-known procedural tool to overturn a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision called the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. This misguided approach would only handcuff the internet and saddle it with Depression-era rules that have been proven to hurt consumers.
Instead, lawmakers should ensure a free and vibrant internet through real legislation that permanently enshrines clear consumer protections, while respecting the more hands-off approach that has allowed the internet to flourish.
The FCC voted in December to repeal Title II regulations on the nation’s broadband networks, which were applied in 2015 under the Obama administration. Title II rules were created during the 1930s to regulate the telephone industry like a utility.
By Stephen Moore • Investor’s Business Daily
This has been a colder-than-usual winter in the Midwest and Northeast, so many Americans are facing high home heating and electric bills. In some areas, these bills can reach $1,000 a month.
Liberals, of course, charge that Donald Trump is the culprit. An AP story last week screamed: “Trump Once Again Wants to Cut Energy Assistance to the Poor.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders charged that if Trump has his way and eliminates the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, people might “freeze to death.”
But wait. Donald Trump is pro-American energy development. He isn’t the one who is making energy bills more expensive in the Northeast and the mountain states. It’s the liberal green groups and politicians such as Bernie Sanders, who accede to their anti-fossil fuel demands.
In my book Fueling Freedom, my co-author Kathleen Hartnett White and I discovered that the shale gas revolution lowered the price of natural gas by about Continue reading
By Todd Sheppard • Washington Free Beacon
A new paper rebuts claims by two Harvard professors that communications from ExxonMobil showed a pattern of the company deceiving the public and trying to spread doubt about the true extent and potential harm from climate change.
The original paper from Harvard researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes in August of 2017 concluded that, “documents show a discrepancy between what ExxonMobil’s scientists and executives discussed about climate change privately and in academic circles and what it presented to the general public.”
However, Dr. Kimberly Neuendorf of Cleveland State University produced an analysis of Supran and Oreskes’s work and found, “fundamental errors in their analysis,” adding that their Continue reading
Big Labor: The case of Janus v. AFSCME, now before the Supreme Court, pits an Illinois state employee against a giant government employees’ union in a fight over forcing nonunion workers to pay union fees. That U.S. law still lets states force public employees to surrender their constitutional rights in order to keep their jobs is as surprising as it is disappointing. It should have been overturned long ago.
And, in fact, it almost was. In 2016, in a similar case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the Supreme Court looked as if it would overturn the nearly 40-year-old precedent set in Abood v. Detroit, in which the 1970s court said that public employees could be forced to pay an “agency fee” to unions for collective bargaining.
The case for overturning the precedent looked like a slam-dunk. But following the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the court was left with just eight members. Instead of overturning Abood, the evenly split court deadlocked 4-4. The Friedrichs case was returned to the notoriously left-wing Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the pro-union, anti-worker law was — surprise! — upheld.
Now, two years later, comes Janus v. AFSCME. In it, Illinois child support specialist Mark Janus sued Continue reading
By Christopher Jacobs • The Federalist
The Center for American Progress proposed a plan for government-run health care Thursday, which the liberal think tank calls “Medicare Extra.”
Unlike Bernie Sanders’ single-payer system, which would abolish virtually all other forms of insurance, the plan would not ban employer coverage outright — at least not yet. In broad strokes, CAP would combine Medicaid and the individual insurance market into Medicare Extra, and allow individuals with other coverage, such as employer plans, traditional Medicare or VA coverage, to enroll in Medicare Extra instead.
Page 4 of the proposal makes it clear this plan is not moderate, and it would shift the health care market firmly into the government’s control: “Newborns and individuals turning age 65 would be automatically enrolled in Medicare Extra. This auto-enrollment ensures that Medicare Extra would continue to increase in enrollment over time. [Emphasis mine.]”
The goal of CAP’s plan is to grow government, and to grow dependence on government. The paper omits many important policies, such as how to pay for the new spending. Here are some of the major objectives and concerns.
If You Like Your Obamacare, Too Bad
After attacking Republicans for wanting to “taking away health insurance from millions,” CAP would … take away health insurance from millions. The plan would effectively eliminate Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, and all individual health insurance: “With the exception of employer-sponsored insurance, private insurance companies would be prohibited from duplicating Medicare Extra benefits, but they could offer complementary benefits during an open enrollment period.”
Other sections of the plan (discussed further below) suggest that private insurers could offer Medicare Choice coverage as one element of Medicare Extra. CAP indicates that persons purchasing coverage on the individual market would have a “choice of plans.” But didn’t Obamacare promise that already — and how’s that working out? For that matter, what happened to that whole “If you like your plan, you can keep it” concept?
Moreover, the plan would also “integrate” Medicaid into Medicare Extra, “with the federal government paying the costs.” CAP provides few details on how exactly that “integration” would work, but suffice it to say that the able-bodied adults covered by Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion could face some interesting transitions as a result of this plan.
Mandatory Health Insurance — And A $12,550 Tax
The plan reinstates a mandate to purchase health insurance: “Individuals who are not enrolled in other coverage would be automatically enrolled in Medicare Extra … Premiums for individuals who are not enrolled in other coverage would be automatically collected through tax withholding and on tax returns.”
While the plan says that those with incomes below the tax filing threshold “would not pay any premiums,” it excludes one important detail — the right to opt out of coverage. Therefore, the plan includes a mandate, enforced through the tax code, and with the full authority of the Internal Revenue Service. (Because you can’t spell “insurance” without I-R-S.) The plan indicates that for families with incomes between 150 and 500 percent of the poverty level, “caps on premiums would range from 0 percent to 10 percent of income. For families with income above 500 percent of [poverty], premiums would be capped at 10 percent of income.”
In 2018, the federal poverty level stands at $25,100 for a family of four, making 500 percent of poverty $125,500. If that family lacks employer coverage (remember, the plan prohibits individuals from buying any other form of private insurance), CAP would tax that family 10 percent of income — $12,550 — to pay for its Medicare Extra plan.
Moreover, the plan does not specify whether it caps the 10 percent threshold for families over 500 percent of poverty at the actual cost of premiums. (For instance, would a family with income of $200,000, but premium costs of $15,000, pay only their premium cost of $15,000, or $20,000 as 10 percent of their income?) If the latter, it would represent an even greater cost on middle-class families.
Wasteful Overpayments Controlled By Government Bureaucrats
As noted above, the plan would allow insurers to bid to offer Medicare Choice coverage, but with a catch: Payments provided to these plans “could be no more than 95 percent of the Medicare Extra premium.” CAP claims that “this competitive bidding structure would guarantee that plans are offering value that is comparable with Medicare Extra.”
It does no such thing. By paying private plans only 95 percent of the government-run plan’s costs, the bidding structure guarantees that private plans will provide better value than the government-run plan. Just as CAP decried “wasteful overpayments” to private insurers in Medicare Advantage, the CAP proposal will allow government bureaucrats to control billions of dollars in wasteful federal government spending on Medicare Extra.
Costs To States
As noted above, CAP envisions the federal government taking over Medicaid from the states, “given the continued refusal of many states to expand Medicaid and attempts to use federal waivers to undermine access to health care.”
Translation: “If you don’t do exactly what we demand, we will punish you.” For a similar reason, the paper notes that legislation implementing the plan should “leave little to no discretion to the Administration on policy matters” — because Congress doesn’t try to micro-manage enough of the federal government as it is.
But the plan also requires states to continue to make maintenance-of-effort payments even after the federal government takes Medicaid away from state jurisdiction. Moreover, the plan by its own admission “giv[es] a temporary discount [on the maintenance-of-effort provisions] to states that expanded their Medicaid programs” under Obamacare — effectively punishing states for a choice (i.e., to expand or not expand) that the Supreme Court made completely voluntary. And finally, it requires “states that currently provides benefits … not offered by Medicare Extra … to maintain those benefits,” leaving states perpetually on the hook for such spending.
Would Employer Coverage Really Remain?
The plan gives employers theoretical options regarding their health coverage. Employers could continue to offer coverage themselves, subject to certain minimum requirements. Alternatively, they could enroll their employees in Medicare Extra, with three possible sources of employer funding: Paying 70 percent of workers’ premiums, making maintenance-of-effort payments equal to their spending in the year preceding enactment, adjusted for inflation, or “simpler aggregated payments in lieu of premium contributions,” ranging from 0 to 8 percent of payroll. (The plan would exempt employers with under 100 full-time equivalent workers from making any payments.)
Two questions linger over these options: First, would employer coverage remain? CAP obviously wishes that it would not in the long-term, while recognizing the political problems associated with an abrupt transition. Second, could employers game the system among the various contribution options? While details remain unclear, any plan that sets up two systems (let alone four) represents a classic arbitrage opportunity. If employers act rationally, they could end up reducing their own costs in a way that significantly increases the federal government’s obligations.
Higher Health Spending
CAP advertises its plan as providing “zero or low deductibles, free preventive care, free treatment for chronic disease” — the source of 75 percent of American health care spending — and “free generic drugs.” It would also expand coverage of long-term care services not covered by Medicare (and only partially covered by Medicaid). But all this “free” stuff won’t come cheap.
In analyzing Bernie Sanders’ health care plan, the liberal Urban Institute estimated that it would increase overall health spending by 22.1 percent. Notably, the Urban researchers estimated that Sanders’ plan would raise spending by people who currently have health insurance by almost the same amount, or 15.1 percent, because the lack of cost-sharing will encourage individuals to increase their consumption of care. With the CAP plan apparently proposing that government fully subsidize more than three quarters of health care spending, its proposal will increase health care costs almost as much as Sanders’.
The CAP plan proposes measures to lower costs — namely price controls (i.e., Medicare dictating prices to doctors, hospitals, and drug companies), with some token references to other policies like bundled payments and limiting the tax preference for employer-sponsored insurance. But if those proposals go the way of Obamacare’s “Cadillac tax” — potentially never implemented because politicians of both parties lack the discipline to control health care spending — then the plan will only raise health costs rather than lower them.
Something For Nothing
The plan proposes that families with incomes below 150 percent of poverty ($37,150 for a family of four this year) pay for their coverage the princely sum of … zero dollars. No premiums, no deductibles, no co-payments. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
And while CAP does not include specific ideas to pay for all the associated new spending, the concepts it does propose largely involve taxing “the rich” (which includes small businesses).
While it doesn’t work as it should — most people “get back” far more than they “pay in” — at least Medicare makes an attempt to have all individuals pay for coverage through the payroll tax. CAP’s plan amounts to a transfer of wealth from one group to another.
Even The New York Times this week highlighted dissent from middle-class families upset at the thought of having to pay for low-income individuals to receive “free” Medicaid. So, CAP might want to rethink what Bill Clinton called “the craziest thing in the world” — making middle-class families pay even more for mandatory insurance ($12,550, anyone?) while certain families contribute not so much as a dime for coverage — along with just about every other element of its health care plan.
By David Harsanyi • The Federalist
This week, CNN fact checked Donald Trump’s recent claim that he had been tougher on Russia than Barack Obama. “(No he wasn’t)” maintained the cheeky chyron. Though the network fancies itself the arbiter of truth in the Era of Trump — apples and bananas and all that — this particular contention is, at the very least, debatable. In fact, there’s a good case to be made that in nearly every way, save rhetoric, the president has been tougher on Russia than his predecessor.
This isn’t necessarily a heavy lift when we consider Obama spent most of his eight years placating Vladimir Putin and his allies in the Middle East. Much of the trouble we find ourselves in now can be directly traced to Obama’s feckless policies.
By the time Obama let Putin’s stooge Dmitry Medvedev know that the administration would have more “flexibility” on missile defense, the president had already canceled the sale of American missile-defense systems to our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic. This pleased Putin greatly. At the time, Obama and his allies were Continue reading