Obama Administration Halts Export-Import Bank Deals With Russia

Melissa Quinn /

The Export-Import Bank announced today it would halt financing deals with Russia and Russian companies.

The Department of Treasury notified House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of the decision to include Export-Import Bank financing in President Obama’s latest round of sanctions against the country.

In a statement, the Texas Republican commended Obama for his decision:

The president made the right decision. There is no justifiable reason why the Export-Import Bank should be allowed to continue financing deals that benefit Russian companies, so I’m pleased the president took this action today that I suggested.

According to The Hill, the Export-Import Bank also immediately stopped all new deals with Russia because of an “expected increased risk that retaliatory actions and other anticipated events will materially affect reasonable assurance of repayments from legal entities in the Russian federation.” Politico reported the decision “won’t affect deals for which letters of credit have already been issued.”

Hensarling, who is leading the charge against reauthorizing the bank, sent a letter to Obama last week asking why his administration was still offering “sweetheart deals to Russian companies” in light of the growing conflict in Ukraine and downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

>>> Obama Faces Pressure Halt Export-Import Bank Deals With Russia

The Obama administration hit two state-owned Russian banks — Vnesheconombank and Gazprombank — with sanctions earlier this month. The firms benefited from $497 million and $22.6 million, respectively, in financing from Ex-Im.

Neither bank was affected by the initial round of sanctions.

Obama and the European Union expanded sanctions to Russia’s energy, arms and finance sectors today. The sanctions are in response to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down in Eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian separatists. The administration contends Russia provided the separatists with the missile.

Fired Export-Import Bank Official Pleads the Fifth at Hearing on Corruption, Fraud - Daily Signal

Fired Export-Import Bank Official Pleads the Fifth at Hearing on Corruption, Fraud

Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn /

An Export-Import Bank official who was fired on suspicion of taking cash in exchange for helping a Florida company obtain financing cited his Fifth Amendment right in declining to testify today during a House hearing examining corruption and fraud at the bank, a federal agency.

Johnny Gutierrez opted not to answer questions after being subpoenaed  to appear before a subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs, sought to question Gutierrez, who earlier had refused to appear voluntarily before the panel.

Jordan hoped not only to shed light on the reasons for Gutierrez’s firing but to provide Americans with a better understanding of the inner workings of the Export-Import Bank, an 80-year-old agency that provides taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign countries and companies. Its charter expires Sept. 30.

Jordan said:

“What better time to discuss real concerns at the Export-Import Bank than when we’re looking at the issue of reauthorization? I think this would be the appropriate time to have this kind of hearing and look at these very issues. … Given such massive government largess, the bank is a natural target for fraud and its employees are natural targets for bribery and corruption.”

Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., ordered the subpoena of Gutierrez. But as Jordan began questioning the former Ex-Im Bank official, he  cited his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.

Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg and Heritage Foundation research fellow Diane Katz testified before Jordan’s subcommittee on allegations of fraud and corruption at the agency.

At issue for Republicans on the panel was a June report in the Wall Street Journal exposing allegations of gifts and kickbacks as well as “attempts to steer federal contracts to favored companies” by four bank officials, one of whom was Gutierrez.

Gutierrez and two other bank employees were fired. The fourth was placed on administrative leave as Ex-Im officials investigate the charges.

The other three Ex-Im officials have not been identified, and Jordan today repeatedly pressed Hochberg for their names.

Darin Miller, a spokesman for Jordan, told The Daily Signal that the Ohio Republican was pointing out that Hochberg had chosen to obstruct a congressional investigation by withholding the officials’ identities. Neither the agency’s inspector general nor federal law prohibits the bank’s chairman from identifying the employees, he said.

Hochberg, who took over Ex-Im in 2009, said he is committed to running an agency with high ethical standards and pointed to Ex-Im’s ethics program as proof. The bank, he said, adheres to standards designed to quell corruption and fraud, including:

Hochberg said it was important for the bank maintain a commitment to ethics. He said:

“We operate at the public trust. We’re here to level the playing field and support jobs, so it’s important that everybody at the bank operate with the highest ethical standards. It starts with top management. It continues through the training we do and making sure we have a culture that when people see something that’s awry or suspicious, they alert the proper authorities so they can take a look at it.”

But many lawmakers fear the bank’s culture breeds corruption.

Ex-Im’s inspector general is investigating 40 complaints of possible fraud, Republicans on the panel noted. Hochberg, however, said the inquiries could involve companies that benefited from Ex-Im financing, not bank employees.

Jordan went on to point to 74 “administrative actions” taken by the inspector general as the result of integrity investigations, actions that Katz brought to light in her research and writing on the bank.

House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, is leading conservatives who are against reauthorizing the bank and would rather Congress not take action to extend its life. In a statement on today’s hearing, Hensarling said:

“The Export-Import Bank has a long and unfortunate history when it comes to ethical lapses and mismanagement, and today we shockingly learned there are 40 active and ongoing investigations of fraud at Ex-Im.

It’s important for every member of Congress to understand the full extent of Ex-Im corruption, mismanagement, and cronyism before deciding whether the bank should continue.  That’s why the Financial Services Committee will soon be requesting information and records from Ex-Im about these 40 active investigations of fraud at the bank.”

Hensarling and other critics argue that Ex-Im furthers corporate welfare and cronyism. Supporters, meanwhile, insist that the agency helps small businesses compete in the global market and creates jobs in the United States.

During today’s hearing, Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., praised the bank. He said:

“We have to level the playing field for our companies because other countries are putting their thumbs on the scale in favor of their own manufacturers. If we don’t level the playing field for our companies, our companies and our workers face an unfair disadvantage.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is expected to introduce a bill reauthorizing the bank for another five years.

Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., has floated the idea of introducing legislation to reauthorize Ex-Im with some reforms.

My Exchange with Two New York Times Writers on Marriage Equality and Civility - Daily Signal

My Exchange with Two New York Times Writers on Marriage Equality and Civility

Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson /

Can people respect each other and treat one another civilly even while disagreeing about marriage? No, according to New York Times domestic correspondent Josh Barro. As The Daily Signal reported, on viewpoints that Barro considers “anti-LGBT”, he thinks that “we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.”

The problem is that much of what Barro considers “anti-LGBT” is simply pro-marriage and pro-common-good.

Over the weekend, Barro replied to a tweet I sent out. Below are some of the exchanges. You can read all of them on my twitter page.

@RyanT_Anderson why would you expect me to be civil toward you? You devote your life to promoting anti-gay public policies.

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

@RyanT_Anderson it’s your right to do that, but it’s ridiculous for you to expect me to be nice about it.

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014
 

.@jbarro I think even in the midst of disagreement we should treat all people with respect. Apparently you don’t. sad. — Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

@RyanT_Anderson we should treat all people with respect? obviously not. should we treat segregationists with respect? — Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

.@jbarro Yes. believe it or not, you can respectfully disagree with people. — Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

@RyanT_Anderson obviously some policy views render people unworthy of respect. you just don’t like where I’m drawing the line. — Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

.@jbarro people are always worthy of respect, even if their policy views are misguided. Nothing renders “people unworthy of respect” wow. — Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

Leave aside the dismissive way he refers to policy arguments for why marriage should be the union of a man and woman as “anti-gay” (much like liberals deride pro-lifers as “anti-choice” and welfare reformers as “anti-poor”). The larger problem is that one of the country’s leading policy wonks and correspondent for The New York Times thinks that some people are “unworthy of respect.” Not that some ideas are unworthy of respect, but that the people are.

Next, consider how shallow Barro’s thinking about marriage policy is. Picking up the thread from the beginning but following a different branch:

@RyanT_Anderson why would you expect me to be civil toward you? You devote your life to promoting anti-gay public policies. — Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

.@jbarro um, actually, no, I don’t. We disagree about what marriage is and which policies will best serve the common good. — Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

@RyanT_Anderson yeah. I’m for equal rights and you’re for policies that disfavor gays and lesbians.

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

.@jbarro we’re all in favor of marriage equality. We just disagree about what a marriage is. That’s the debate. — Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

@RyanT_Anderson you really think I’m going to be impressed by you throwing doublespeak at me?

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

.@jbarro it’s not doublespeak, it’s the very nature of the debate. Did you read Alito’s opinion on this? I’m surprised you don’t understand. — Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

@RyanT_Anderson a marriage is whatever the government says it is.

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

.@jbarro well, no, by that logic government could never define marriage wrongly. The Q is “how should gov define it, based on what it is” — Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

@RyanT_Anderson a marriage is like a corporation or a patent. its legal terms are not ‘discovered’, they are set by lawmakers.

— Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014


.@jbarro That’s part of our disagreement. You think the state creates marriage, i think the state recognizes marriage, based on human nature — Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

 

@RyanT_Anderson you think the government *ought* to proclaim a kind of marriage, but I am right about what its actual powers are. — Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

.@jbarro government can define however it wants. the Q is “how ought government to define”. To answer we need to know what marriage is

— Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

The reference in the tweet above to Justice Samuel Alito is to the opinion he wrote in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case. As Alito explained there, and as I’ve explain in the book I co-authored (which Alito cited twice), in my Supreme Court amicus brief, and in various and sundry policy papers for Heritage, our current marriage debate is a debate over what marriage is, why marriage matters, and what the consequences will be if we redefine marriage. Appeals to equality get us nowhere unless we can answer the fundamental question.

Some people think marriage is primarily an emotional union of two (or more?) adults in a loving care-giving relationship. Others see marriage as a comprehensive union of sexually complementary spouses in a two-in-one-flesh bond, a union of man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother. Our debates are over which understanding is correct, which understanding best serves the political common good.

As I explained in my lecture at Stanford University, a comprehensive union capable of uniting children with their mom and dad is something only a man and a woman can form. So enacting same-sex marriage would not expand the institution of marriage, but redefine it. Finishing what policies like no-fault divorce began, it would finally replace the conjugal view with a revisionist view of marriage as fundamentally an emotional union. This would multiply the marriage revolution’s harms, making them harder than ever to reverse. This particular line of thought continued, with Barro’s New York Times colleague, the columnist Ross Douthat, joining in:

@baseballcrank a public policy defining marriage can be bad or undesirable but it cannot be false. — Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

@jbarro @baseballcrank Perhaps another way to put it is that it could be incoherent or unstable. — Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 26, 2014

@DouthatNYT what would be an example of an incoherent policy about marriage? — Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

@jbarro I believe that one of the arguments @RyanT_Anderson and his co-authors make is that the emerging definition is incoherent. — Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 26, 2014

@DouthatNYT is that incoherence? NYC suspends alternate side parking rules on holidays not clearly distinguished from others when it doesn’t — Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

@jbarro It is possible that coherence matters more for a central institution of civil society than it does for parking-meter policies. — Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) July 26, 2014

Indeed, if the law redefines marriage to say it is about consenting adult romance and caregiving, what principle would govern the contours of marriage policy? Can’t three people form such a union, so that if you sue for marriage equality for the same-sex couple, why would you deny such equality to the throuple? And how about those who desire a “wedlease” instead of “wedlock.” These are the sorts of consequences that result once you abandon the natural law understanding of what marriage is.

After these exchanges, Barro tweeted out a short sentence attacking the concept of natural law:

Natural law is the right’s version of critical theory. — Josh Barro (@jbarro) July 26, 2014

.@jbarro it is simply a 2,500 year old tradition of thinking that runs through Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas, Locke, Kant MLK

— Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

.@jbarro not to mention its essential to the American Founding and UN Declaration on Human Rights. Natural rights w/o natural law? good luck — Ryan T. Anderson (@RyanT_Anderson) July 26, 2014

Part of the genius, success, and justice of the American experiment is that we have overtime continually subjected our man-made laws to the standards of the natural law. We haven’t always gotten things right, but we have strived to passed just laws. I cited Augustine, Aquinas, and Martin Luther King Jr., among others, as examples of natural law thinkers. Here’s how King put it in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.” Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.

This helps to explain why Barro is on such weak ground when he says that “a marriage is whatever the government says it is.” It implies that government has no external standard of right. Imagine how this would apply in the civil rights context: “a person is whatever the government says it is”—we’ve been down that road before and it is unacceptable.

Can Higher Payroll Taxes Fix Social Security? - Daily Signal

Can Higher Payroll Taxes Fix Social Security?

Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson / Michael Sargent /

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed several different payroll tax proposals to shore up Social Security’s finances, and the results are not very appealing.

The Social Security trust fund ran a $71 billion deficit in 2013 that is on pace to quadruple by 2032. Some have called for a payroll tax increase, but CBO found that in order to balance the trust fund over 75 years, the payroll tax would have to be permanently increased from 12.4 percent to 15.9 percent—a nearly one-third increase—as soon as 2015. It’s hard to see how this would benefit most Americans in the long run, however:

All of this pain would be just to sustain current benefits—that extra $1,800 per year out of Americans’ paychecks would not increase the amount workers would receive when they retire. In essence, this proposal asks younger, poorer Americans to pay more so that Social Security can continue to subsidize decades of inflated retirement benefits, including for the richest Americans who do not need them.

So why not just eliminate the cap on income subject to the payroll tax (currently $117,000)?

This “fix” poses similarly prohibitive tax increases that would especially harm the self-employed and certain small businesses. If the cap were eliminated in 2014, someone earning $150,000 would experience a 26 percent payroll tax increase, amounting to an extra $1,900 on his or her tax bill. Someone earning $250,000 (not an extravagant sum for families in major metropolitan areas) would pay $8,100 more in payroll taxes—more than doubling their current payroll tax burden.

Keep in mind that this tax hike would come on top of income taxes, which already disproportionately tax high-income earners.

There are better optionsavailable than drastically increasing payroll taxes. Lawmakers could extend payroll-based private retirement accounts to many more Americans through proposals such as the auto-IRA. Indeed, fully 73 percent of millennials support private retirement accounts for Social Security.

Coupled with other reforms, such as scaling back benefits for the wealthiest beneficiaries and adjusting the retirement age to reflect improvements in life expectancy, a better approach would ensure the solvency of Social Security for those who truly need it while giving Americans of all incomes more control over their own retirement savings.

Ignore the New Obama Administration Report on Climate Change Action - Daily Signal

Ignore the New Obama Administration Report on Climate Change Action

Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson / Michael Sargent / Nicolas Loris /

The Obama administration released Tuesday a new report warning that with accelerating climate change comes accelerating costs: Costs will increase by 40 percent each decade of inaction on climate change. The report fails to mention, however, that the administration’s climate policies come with much steeper price tags. Nor is there any action that will actually mitigate temperatures even if climate change were a problem.

The new report warns that inaction will result in temperatures increases that will exacerbate economic damages associated with climate change by 0.9 percent of global output or $150 billion.  Let’s assume this is true.  Whether it be cap-and-trade, carbon tax or Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the climate change proposals will cost that annually.

For instance, Heritage Foundation economists modeled the effects of the Boxer-Sanders carbon tax legislation. The Boxer–Sanders bill calls for a tax on CO2 emissions that starts at $20 per metric ton in 2014. This tax rate rises by 5.6 percent per year, growing to $50 per metric ton by 2030 (after adjusting for inflation).  Since a carbon tax would drive up energy costs and squeeze production and consumption, it would not only result in higher taxes but also in less economic growth.

Heritage found that Boxer–Sanders would extract over $100 billion from the private sector in its very first year (2014) and over $200 billion in 2030 (after adjusting for inflation). The total revenue for the years 2014 through 2030 is nearly $3 trillion. The energy price shocks created by the Boxer–Sanders bill would reduce national income by $92 billion in 2020. This negative economic impact gets worse and cuts $146 billion from gross domestic product (GDP) in 2030.

What about the EPA’s war on coal?  Heritage modeled those costs as well, finding that a phasing out of coal over the 2015-2038 time period would decrease GDP by $2.23 trillion over the entire period of the analysis.

Again, let’s assume the climate report is accurate (a big assumption) in their calculation of the costs of $150 billion for a 3 degree Celsius increase as opposed to 2 degrees.  These costs would occur even with action because the climate policies would do nothing to significantly mitigate global temperatures. A high-end estimate of a $25-per-ton tax concludes that it would moderate global warming by 0.11 degrees Celsius by the end of the century – far short of the full 1 degree reduction the report says is necessary to avoid these costs.

The report is also predictably inaccurate in the actual assessment of the earth’s climate.  The report warns of rising sea levels and that “the rate of increase appears to be accelerating.” Yes, sea levels are rising but a March 2014 report in Nature shows that the rate of increase has declined so much so that climatologist Judith Curry said it “makes the 21st century of sea level rise projections seem like unjustified arm waving.”

Unjustified arm waving is an apt way to describe the administration’s climate push and it’s the climate policies that will cost Americans an arm and a leg.

 

EPA Climate Regulations Will Affect You—but Not the Climate - Daily Signal

EPA Climate Regulations Will Affect You—but Not the Climate

Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson / Michael Sargent / Nicolas Loris / Hillary Rosenjack /

Senators John Barrasso (R–WY), James Inhofe (R–OK), David Vitter (R–LA), and Roger Wicker (R–MS) rightly criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulations for new power plants at a congressional hearing last week.

The regulations for new plants, announced in June, set thresholds for CO2 output that would effectively eliminate new coal power plant construction. For the existing plant regulations, states will be forced to cut huge and widely varying portions of their emissions by 2030 based on a state-by-state formula created by the EPA.

More than 80 percent of America’s energy needs are met through carbon-emitting conventional fuels. Last year, coal and natural gas provided 66 percent of U.S. electricity generation.

While hardworking Americans have no say in whether this agency-sponsored rule will go into play, they will be personally affected. At the hearing, the opponents of the rule emphasized that the targets will increase energy prices, the costs of which will ripple through the economy, raising prices on all goods because of the increased input costs for businesses. In turn, this will cause people to spend a larger portion of their income on necessities. It will hit those on fixed incomes—especially the poor and the elderly—the hardest.

Even worse, jobs may be scarce even as wages have decreased. State governments, as they seek to lower emissions, will likely be forced to choose winners and losers among the energy providers, thus lowering consumer choice. According to Senator Wicker, for example, reaching the targets will require 100 percent of Mississippi’s coal production to be shut down, which makes up thousands of jobs and a huge portion of the state economy.

The opponents also spoke about how the rule possesses questionable legality and environmental impact. The EPA is regulating greenhouse gas emissions because of the alleged contribution to global warming that would result in harmful effects to human health and the environment. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted, these regulations would have no meaningful impact on climate change or temperature reduction. This means the loss of jobs, affordable energy, and innovation would all be for naught.

All in all, the regulations would without a doubt cost jobs and hurt the paychecks of hardworking Americans.

Hillary Rosenjack is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.

Russia Violated a Nuclear Treaty. What the U.S. Must Do. - Daily Signal

Russia Violated a Nuclear Treaty. What the U.S. Must Do.

Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson / Michael Sargent / Nicolas Loris / Hillary Rosenjack / Michaela Dodge /

Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty come as a surprise to only those who have not been paying attention to foreign policy in the last few decades.

In a recent National Review piece, Mark Schneider, senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy, and Keith B. Payne, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, point out that reports indicating Russian violations have been around since late 2007. Only yesterday did the Obama administration get around to notifying Russian president Vladimir Putin that Russia is in material breach of the treaty.

Observers of Russian history also know Russia has violated almost every major arms control agreement the U.S. has ever signed with it–and  largely gotten away with it. Although the administration’s admission of the Russian violations is admirable, it raises the question of why it waited years before raising the issue with the Russians. Even more strikingly, why did the State Department, which produces an annual report on compliance with treaties, failed to mention any problems related to the INF Treaty implementation in its 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 reports?

The most difficult part about arms control agreements is their enforcement and how to bring a non-compliant state into compliance with its arms control obligations. Here are some ways in which the U.S. can respond:

-          Modernize U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery platforms. The U.S. must continue to invest in its nuclear forces, including adequately funding the nuclear-certified bomber, submarine and warhead Life Extension Programs. Deterrence and allied assurance are the key tools in preventing a large-scale nuclear weapons conflict. The U.S. should extend the range of the existing tactical nuclear weapons systems.

-          Advance U.S. missile defense systems. The U.S. needs to build a comprehensive layered missile defense system that would protect its homeland, forward-deployed forces and allies from a ballistic missile threat. With Russia potentially advancing a new class of missiles, the U.S. and its allies, especially in Europe, should start seriously thinking about military implications of these systems.

-          Stop thinking Russia is no longer an adversary. Russia’s recent actions demonstrate it is willing to challenge the status quo in Europe and potentially threaten U.S. interests on the continent. The U.S. should treat Russia as a potential adversary and structure its posture–conventional and nuclear–accordingly.

-          Hold up U.S. implementation of arms control agreements, including the INF Treaty, until Russia is in compliance with its legal and political arms control obligations.

The INF violations are happening in the context of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, which includes providing the rebels with support and an air-defense system that recently shot down a Malaysian civilian airplane; increasing oppression and human rights violations in Russia itself; and extensive nuclear weapons and missile defense modernization. Geopolitically, Russia has been more aggressive vis-à-vis Europe, especially NATO members to the East. The U.S. would ignore these indications at its peril.

 

New Census Report: Unwed Births Remain at Historical High - Daily Signal

New Census Report: Unwed Births Remain at Historical High

Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson / Michael Sargent / Nicolas Loris / Hillary Rosenjack / Michaela Dodge / Christine Cooke /

The most recent Census Bureau report on fertility in the United States, published this month, shows an increase in both unwed first births and children born into poverty.

Over 40 percent of all children are born outside marriage today, a historical high. In 1994, only 30 percent of first births were to unmarried women. By 2005, that number had increased to 45 percent. Part of this is due to the increase in cohabiting relationships—couples living together outside marriage—a status which does not have the same benefits as marriage.

These trends don’t bode well for children. Children in single-parent homes are more than five times as likely to be poor compared to their peers with married parents. According to data from The Heritage Foundation’s new 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity, 40.9 percent of unmarried female-headed families with children were poor in 2012. This is partly because unmarried mothers are also less likely to have a high school degree and more likely to be unemployed than their married peers, as the Census Bureau report shows.

Unmarried childbearing also correlates with a number of negative outcomes for both the mother and child. Research cited in the report shows that women whose first birth is outside marriage are less likely to tie the knot in the first place and more likely to divorce if they do marry. Not only are women with unwed first births more likely to start motherhood with lower educational achievement than their married peers, they also tend to not catch up. Unsurprisingly, studies suggest that poverty and disadvantage are perpetuated by unwed births. In fact, 80 percent of long-term poverty occurs in single-parent homes. As Lawrence Mead of New York University explains, “Marriage, not money, now marks the chief dividing line between classes in America.”

The Census report shows that poverty is linked to lower academic performance and a greater likelihood of family instability. Even when taking these factors into account, though, children on average do best if raised by their married mother and father.

Of course, there is no simple solution to poverty, but any serious anti-poverty effort should aim to strengthen marriage. Many ignore the importance of marriage to a child’s well-being, choosing instead to view it as an optional institution affecting only adults. It’s time to change that.

Christine Cooke is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, pleaseclick here.

Photo Bomb: Santorum Begs to Differ With ‘Modern Family’ Star - Daily Signal

Photo Bomb: Santorum Begs to Differ With ‘Modern Family’ Star

Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson / Michael Sargent / Nicolas Loris / Hillary Rosenjack / Michaela Dodge / Christine Cooke / Kelsey Harkness /

Rick Santorum says he doesn’t recall the tense interaction with actor Eric Stonestreet that the “Modern Family” star describes as occurring at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

In an interview last week with “HuffPost Live,” Stonestreet said he was surprised when Santorum asked to take a picture with him at a pre-party.  On the ABC comedy “Modern Family,” the actor, who is heterosexual, portrays a gay man; co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who is gay, plays his partner.

Stonestreet said he refused the photo because of the former Pennsylvania senator’s opposition to same-sex marriage.  “It was at a time when [Santorum] was publicly saying, ‘Gay marriage, gay marriage’ and I’m like, ‘You know, I can’t do it,’ ” he  said.

Last night, though, after a screening at The Heritage Foundation of his new film, “One Generation Away,” Santorum didn’t have the same recollection of the evening in question.  This year’s dinner was held May 3. “Here’s what happened,” the former Republican presidential candidate told The Daily Signal:

I’ve never watched ‘Modern Family’ and I don’t know him. I’ve been to the White House Correspondents Dinner a couple of times and basically, I’m the photographer for my daughters. They go around and they recognize people, so I take their pictures with them. I had my picture taken with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — I thought that was sort of a cool thing, get your picture taken with a guy 7-foot-4. But other than that, I don’t think I had my picture taken. So he may have interpreted it that way, and that’s fine.

>>> Watch: Media All Out for Same-Sex Marriage? Let’s Ask These Guys

Stonestreet might have misinterpreted the situation, Santorum added:

We met a lot of people and very well could have gone up to him and [been] introduced to him with our daughters. He might have assumed that we all wanted a picture, but I was taking pictures of them;  I generally wasn’t getting my picture taken.

Asked if he would object to having a photograph taken of himself with someone with whom he disagreed, Santorum didn’t answer directly while acknowledging he gets the “toe the line” mentality:

I understand, now that I’m in the world of Hollywood somewhat, it’s an uncomfortable thing because there’s a certain level of expectation that you have to sort of toe the line. The more you can show you’re toeing the line, I guess the better it is for your career.

Rise of School Choice Could Place Education on the ‘Right Track’ - Daily Signal

Rise of School Choice Could Place Education on the ‘Right Track’

Melissa Quinn / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson / Michael Sargent / Nicolas Loris / Hillary Rosenjack / Michaela Dodge / Christine Cooke / Kelsey Harkness / Brittany Corona /

The growth of educational opportunity through school choice over the last ten years suggests American education is moving in the right direction.

Last week, The Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity released the first annual “Index for Culture and Opportunity,” tracking 31 leading social and economic indicators that reveal the state of America’s civil society. Each indicator is based on regularly updated national data and provides 5- and 10-year windows of reference to show whether indicators are headed down the “right track” or “wrong track.”

The research suggests many of the indicators in the Index are headed in the “wrong direction”—the marriage rate, poverty rate, fertility rate, food stamp participation and unemployment rate among them—but two of the eight measures that are improving involve expanding educational opportunity through school choice.

In the past 10 years, charter school enrollment has increased by 1,216,000 students.

coronachart1

 

Participation in private school choice options— such as vouchers, scholarship tax credits, individual tuition tax credits, and education savings accounts— has increased by 217,947 students.

coronachart2

 

“More than 300,000 children are attending private schools of their choosing thanks to options like vouchers, tax credit programs, and education savings accounts. When all school choice policy options are considered—for example, deductions for homeschooling expenses— more than one million children are benefitting from choice in education,” wrote Heritage fellow Virginia Walden Ford in a commentary to the indicator.

Currently, families in 24 states and the District of Columbia exercise private school choice. Research suggests this number will continue to expand—and grow more innovative.

For example, in 2011, Arizona became the first state to pass the most innovative educational option to date: education savings accounts. With an education savings account, parents of eligible students are able to fully customize their child’s education with 90 percent of the state allocated funds that would have followed their child to a public school. According to Heritage’s Will Skillman Fellow for Education Lindsey Lindsey Burke, in the first year of enactment 34 percent of ESA parents were fully customizing their child’s education through options such as private tutoring, private school, homeschool, curricula, therapies, and they were even able to rollover unused funds into a college savings account.

Arizona has expanded ESA eligibility every year, permitting more students the opportunity to have their educational regimen tailored to their needs. And this year, Florida became the second state to pass ESAs.

But although educational opportunity through school choice is on the rise, not all education indicators are moving in the right direction.

Despite $2 trillion dollars of federal education spending since 1970, reading proficiency among 17-year-olds has virtually stagnated. This year National Assessment for Educational Progress data reports only 38 percent of 12th grade students are proficient in reading.

coronachart3

 

The indicator for student loan debt also causes pause for concern. The average student loan debt held by graduates with loans increased by $4,612 between 2001-2011. Average student loan debt now stands at $26,500 (in 2012 dollars).

coronachart4

“Effective education is an important foundation for upward mobility,” wrote Burke and Stuart Butler, who is the former director of the Center for Policy Innovation at Heritage.

“Yet thousands of elementary and secondary schools across the country are underperforming to the extent that they have been deemed ‘dropout-factories.’ Meanwhile, higher education is increasingly important for economic advancement, but colleges suffer from a crisis of both quality and cost, strapping students with debt without guaranteeing they acquire the necessary skills or academic content mastery to prepare them for career success.”

The momentum behind parental empowerment through school choice contrasted with massive education spending and federal overreach into higher education demonstrates two distinct models of education in America. One model encourages opportunity by crafting educational offerings around the unique learning needs of each individual student. The other continues the last half-century of increased centralization and government spending, without meaningful results.

The education indicators in the Index for Culture and Opportunity are encouraging because, as Ford wrote, “as school choice spreads… so does hope.”