‘Fix’ Will Clarify Law Doesn’t Discriminate Against Gays, Indiana Governor Vows

Ken McIntyre /

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence moved Tuesday to put out a political wildfire over a new state law designed to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers.

“It’s a fix of a bill that through confusion has come to be greatly misunderstood.” —@GovPenceIN

At a press conference in Indianapolis, Pence said he is working with state legislative leaders on an amendment to “make it clear” that the law doesn’t allow businesses to discriminate against anyone, including gays and lesbians, for religious reasons.

“I believe this is a clarification but it’s also a fix,” he said. “It’s a fix of a bill that through mischaracterization and confusion has come to be greatly misunderstood.”

Pence, who signed the legislation into law only last week, said he also has been in discussions with corporations and other organizations that do business in Indiana and hopes to have an amendment on his desk by week’s end. His announcement appeared designed to prevent boycotts and other protests from gathering steam.

>>> Commentary: Apple CEO Is Wrong About Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law

Some opponents depict their fight as like the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. They argue the law would allow a restaurant owner, grocer or other merchant to refuse to serve gays or lesbians simply by citing a religious belief.

“That’s just completely false and baseless,” Pence said, adding: “This is about restraining government overreach.”

Such a “misperception,” “mischaracterization” and “smear,” he insisted, was the result of unnamed “advocates” as well as “sloppy,” “reckless” and “irresponsible” reporting by national news outlets that produced “deeply offensive” accusations Indiana gave a green light to discrimination.

I’m proud to stand with Gov. @mike_pence for religious liberty, and I urge Americans to do the same http://t.co/cWidDW2zpg

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 31, 2015

Pence, a former congressman, has not ruled out joining the race for the Republican nomination for president.

Democratic favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who announced last week, and several GOP politicians publicly pondering a 2016 run all weighed in on the Indiana law. So did Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who some liberal Democrats would like to see challenge Clinton, the former secretary of state.

On Monday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he thought Pence had “done the right thing” in signing the bill and Sen. Marco Rubio said on the Fox News show “The Five” that the Indiana law wouldn’t make it legal to deny service based on sexual orientation.

“This was not about discrimination,” former business executive Carly Fiorina, who call herself “more than 90 percent” likely to seek the GOP nomination, told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton was first lady when her husband, President Bill Clinton, signed federal religious freedom protections into law in 1993 with near-unanimous support in Congress.  A Supreme Court ruling in 1997 limiting the scope of that law spurred action at the state level to strengthen religious liberty considerations in state courts.

Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love #LGBT http://t.co/mDhpS18oEH — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 27, 2015

Pence said he doesn’t have specific language in mind. He said the amendment would clarify what Indiana and 19 other states intended in enacting similar statutes—generally known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, or RFRAs—mirroring the law signed by Clinton.

Simply put: Citizens who thought government had infringed on their religious liberty have recourse to state courts, which scrutinize whether officials had a “compelling reason” to do so and proceeded in the “least restrictive” way.

>>> These 19 States Have Religious Freedom Laws Similar to Indiana’s

The governor noted that President Obama—whose press secretary criticized Pence for his stance—supported similar legislation in neighboring Illinois when he was a state senator.

I stand with @mikepence4gov in defense of religious liberty and real tolerance. Will speak about this at GW tonight. http://t.co/TDPWHw91pL

— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) March 30, 2015

After speaking for just over six minutes, Pence took questions for a half hour.

His first questioner asked whether it is legal under the law for “a florist to deny services to a same-sex couple,” citing religious beliefs.

“This law does not give anyone a license to deny services to gay and lesbian couples,” Pence said.

However, reporters did not directly ask, nor did Pence say, what would happen if a business owner—perhaps a baker, florist or photographer —declined to provide services for a same-sex wedding out of a belief that it would be against his or her religion. Instead, Pence repeated more than a dozen times that the law did not give businesses a license to discriminate against, nor or a right to deny service to, “anybody.”

“I believe in my heart of hearts that no one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love or what they believe,” he said.

>>> Commentary: Indiana Protects Religious Liberty. Why That’s Good Policy.

Advocates of religious liberty argue that Christians, Muslims, Jews and others with a deeply held belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman should not be forced by the government to contribute to the wedding of two men or two women. This is especially so, they reason, when commonly offered services for weddings are widely available in a free market.

They point to a variety of actions against Christian owners of wedding-related businesses across the nation.

“RFRA simply gives citizens whose religious freedom has been burdened their day in court, including those seeking relief from being coerced against their beliefs to offer their services for a same-sex wedding,” Jennifer A. Marshall, an authority on religious freedom at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. Marshall added:

It gives the courts a standard to weigh these citizens’ claims against government interests. The RFRA standard in federal law has served this country well for two decades. There is not a single instance of the kind of situation that opponents are suggesting, either as a result of the federal law or in the 19 other states with RFRA laws. The purpose of RFRA is to protect all faiths from government coercion.

Besides Indiana, those 20 states include others connected with Republican or Democratic presidential prospects:  Florida (Bush and Rubio), Kentucky (Rand Paul), Louisiana (Bobby Jindal), Pennsylvania (Rick Santorum), Texas (Rick Perry, Cruz, Bush and Paul) and Virginia (Jim Webb and Fiorina).

I stand with @GovPenceIN. Religious freedom is worth protecting. #RFRA — Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) March 31, 2015

Ten states where courts have bolstered RFRA-like provisions in their constitutions include Massachusetts (Elizabeth Warren), Ohio (John Kasich) and Wisconsin (Scott Walker). Among 16 states considering their own RFRAs are South Carolina (Lindsey Graham) and Arkansas (Mike Huckabee and Clinton).

Later Tuesday, Arkansas lawmakers gave final approval to that state’s own religious freedom measure amid protests and sent it to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, who has said he would sign it.

We must stand behind those who stand up for religious freedoms. Indiana’s law is the same that was supported and signed…

Posted by Mike Huckabee on Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 

The Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself the nation’s largest civil rights group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, on Monday supported Indiana legislation to include “LGBT Hoosiers” in existing prohibitions against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations as well as to clarify that the new law “cannot be used to allow discrimination prohibited under state or local laws.”

“Governor Pence keeps saying that equal protections for all Hoosiers are not on his agenda,” HRC President Chad Griffin said Tuesday, “but fair-minded people across his state are demanding that those protections get on his agenda, immediately.”

EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Ben Carson: ‘Absolutely Vital’ Americans Stand Up For Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law – Breitbart http://t.co/xAVqRQsd68

— Dr. Ben Carson (@RealBenCarson) March 30, 2015

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, released a statement praising Pence for correcting the record but said his own Christian organization can’t support the amendment without seeing it. Perkins said:

The governor addressed the complete falsehood that RFRA is about denying people a seat in a restaurant or a room at a hotel. Christians would never deny people these services but being forced to participate in a ceremony that violates religious beliefs is completely un-American and uncivil. … If the government punishes people for living their faith, there are no limits to what government can control.

Pence said the Indiana press generally had gotten Indiana’s RFRA law right, but “some of the national reporting on this has been ridiculous.”

What Gov. Pence is doing is dead wrong. #LGBT pic.twitter.com/Czi6N8SC77 — Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 31, 2015

Asked whether he expected the “backlash” of the past few days, Pence paused and replied:  “Did I expect this kind of backlash? Heavens, no.”

Later, he added: “I was taken aback, and I have to tell you that the gross mischaracterizations about this bill early on, and some of the reckless reporting by some in the media about what this bill was all about, was deeply disappointing to me and to millions of Hoosiers.”

There’s no license to discriminate in #RFRA. I abhor discrimination & don’t think ppl should be discrim against because of who they are/love

— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) March 31, 2015

Kate Scanlon, a news reporter for The Daily Signal, contributed to this article.

How Private Exchanges Are Faring in Their Competition With HealthCare.gov - Daily Signal

How Private Exchanges Are Faring in Their Competition With HealthCare.gov

Ken McIntyre / Melissa Quinn /

California-based eHealth Insurance, a private health insurance exchange, announced it would be laying off 100 workers as a result of increased competition under the Affordable Care Act.

A second private exchange based in California, GetInsured, has seen its revenue grow substantially.

More than one year after the rollout of “Obamacare” the private exchanges competing with the Affordable Care Act’s federal insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov, are experiencing mixed successes.

Private health insurance exchanges have been in the business of selling health care coverage for many years. But the launch of HealthCare.gov—the Affordable Care Act’s federal insurance exchange—brought a public-sector competitor into the market.

Three private web brokers—eHealth Insurance, GetInsured and GoHealth—were awarded contracts from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before the law went into effect. The contracts allowed the companies to enroll consumers eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act in the 36 states using the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, by giving them access to the federal data hub.

Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that roughly 17 million consumers would be eligible for subsidies in 2014, and for private exchanges like eHealth, GetInsured and GoHealth, HealthCare.gov became their competition once the site launched.

According to the most recent estimates, the federal exchange cost taxpayers close to $2 billion.

140903_ObamacareContracts_Fleming

Now, 40 companies serve as web broker entities and have contracts with HealthCare.gov.

“In many ways we do compete with HealthCare.gov, and we’re also their partners,” Chini Krishnan, chief executive officer of GetInsured, said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “The way that we differentiate ourselves is we have an outstanding consumer experience, and we have invested a lot in giving consumers the tools they need.”

>>> Commentary: How King v. Burwell Decision Could Affect Obamacare Enrollees

150325_eHealthEMBED_Quinn

A Boon and a Bust for Private Exchanges

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ contract with eHealth proved to be a boon for the company—which bills itself as the “nation’s first and largest private health insurance exchange”—at first.

In March 2014, as the end of the first open enrollment period neared, eHealth’s stock was at a high of $51 per share, according to MarketWatch.

Additionally, when HealthCare.gov launched on Oct. 1, 2013, eHealth appeared to have the upper hand compared to the federal exchange.

HealthCare.gov crashed, and eHealth’s chief executive officer, Gary Lauer offered to let his company run HealthCare.gov’s enrollment process for free.

“Mr President, we are ready to help you get this program on track promptly, with the cooperation of the federal exchange, if you allow us to take over the shopping and enrollment process in all 36 federal exchange states—without the cost to the taxpayer,” he wrote in a letter to the president.

Though the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ultimately declined, eHealth also proved to have the upper hand on the government when it came to enrolling the millennial generation, or those between the ages of 18 and 34. That population was crucial to balancing the risk pool of enrollees and keeping premium costs low for HealthCare.gov consumers.

Of those who selected plans through eHealth from Jan. 1, 2014 to March 23, 2014, more than 45 percent were between 18 and 34 years old. Meanwhile, of those using HealthCare.gov, just 27 percent were young people.

GetInsured also experienced similar growth.

Krishnan told The Daily Signal the private exchange tripled its revenue and staff over the last three years. In between open enrollment periods, GetInsured employs roughly 350 people. During an open enrollment period—the company’s busiest time—they add 100 more workers.

Additionally, GetInsured served a majority of those who are eligible for subsidies. Of total GetInsured enrollees during the second open enrollment period, 90 percent qualified for tax credits.

HealthCare.gov sees similar margins.

“The Affordable Care Act has had a tremendous impact on our business,” Krishnan said. “It enabled us to take almost a decade of experience serving consumers and help them find insurance plans that fit their needs and their budget.”

“We were able to take all of that experience since 2005 and brought that into the public marketplace to help those who are eligible for tax credits and those who need health insurance to start enrolling,” he continued.

Though eHealth experienced gains from its partnership with CMS at first, the company saw drastic changes toward the end of 2014. And now, its stock sits at around $9.40 per share, according to MarketWatch.

Last month, Lauer announced eHealth would be working to reduce costs and laying off 15 percent of its workforce, or 160 positions. According to company documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, eHealth employed more than 1,000 people as of Dec. 31.

In a statement announcing the layoffs, Lauer said the company had trouble enrolling individuals and families.

“While our current and projected unit economics for new sales of individual and family plans remain attractive, we recognize the need to adjust our fixed cost structure as the result of lower membership than we expected in our individual and family health insurance business,” he said.

EHealth renewed its contract with HealthCare.gov in 2014, but the company warned it would have trouble satisfying some of the contract’s conditions, hindering its ability to “compete” with the federal marketplace.

>>> Marco Rubio Marks Fifth Anniversary of Obamacare by Rolling Out Alternative Plan

150325_eHealthEMBED2_Quinn

Marketing Private Exchanges

To strengthen the online exchange, eHealth detailed plans to build brand awareness through public relations and marketing efforts.

Since HealthCare.gov’s launch, the private exchange has seen drastic increases to its marketing and advertising budgets.

In 2012, the company spent $57.7 million on such efforts. In 2013, its public relations budget grew to $71.6 million and dipped slightly the following year to $69.7 million. For 2015, eHealth reported increased spending on marketing and advertising because of the second open enrollment period.

During debate over the health care law in 2009, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., criticized the private sector for devoting a substantial portion of premiums to administrative costs.

“We need to ensure that the policy-holder’s premiums and the federal subsidies that are going into the purchase of private health insurance on the exchanges are used for actual medical care and not for the wasteful administrative spending and marketing and profits,” Nelson said.

However, the federal government spent more than $684 million in taxpayer dollars on marketing and advertising for HealthCare.gov in 2013, according to the Associated Press.

In the first three months of 2014 alone, the federal government spent $52 million on public relations efforts for the public exchange.

The Daily Signal requested information on how much money the federal government spent in 2014, but requests were not returned.

>>> Happy Birthday, Obamacare: 5 Years After Launch, Fact Checking the Law’s Promises

Building What Already Existed

To help raise awareness of private exchanges like eHealth, GetInsured and GoHealth, the three web brokers joined forces with Towers Watson—another web broker—to form the Association of Web-Based Health Insurance Brokers (AWHIB).

The group, formed officially in November, seeks to better educate policy makers, government technical staff and the public about how web brokers can enroll those previously uninsured.

“We are working together for a more seamless integration with government exchanges so private exchanges can use their expertise to scale subsidy-eligible enrollments, deliver high customer satisfaction and be a valuable partner to CMS,” Tom Tsao, executive vice president of eHealth and AWHIB’s vice president, said.

In an article in the Illinois Business Journal, Ed Haislmaier, health policy expert at The Heritage Foundation, advocated for a simplified tax credit design that eliminated the need for HealthCare.gov but allowed for consumers to purchase insurance through private exchanges.

“They could simply buy coverage directly from an insurer, or through a broker or website such as eHealthInsurance.com,” he said.

Meanwhile, when examining the construction of HealthCare.gov, Krishnan said he would’ve liked to have seen the federal government examine the role the private market could’ve played.

“I think it would’ve been wise to consider how the private market could have been the provider of what consumers need,” said Chini Krishnan, CEO of GetInsured.

“I think it would’ve been wise to consider how the private market could have been the provider of what consumers need,” he said. “I think it would’ve been wise to consider that early on and evaluate what kind of role the private market could play considering the consumer expertise we have. It would’ve been a great thing to consider.”

 

Twice Born: PBS Gives an ‘Intimate, Inside Look’ at Fetal Surgery - Daily Signal

Twice Born: PBS Gives an ‘Intimate, Inside Look’ at Fetal Surgery

Ken McIntyre / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon /

Twice Born, a new documentary series telling the stories of medical professionals and families’ experiences with fetal surgery, premieres Tuesday night on PBS.

On its website, Twice Born promises viewers “an intimate, inside look” into the Special Delivery Unit at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Fetal surgeries are rare and difficult procedures performed while a child is still inside their mother’s womb.

In a series this past December called “Life Pioneers”, The Daily Signal reported on the miracle of fixing birth defects before birth—the lifesaving technique known as fetal surgery.

>>>Elijah’s Story: A Life Saved Before Birth

Dr. N. Scott Adzick, the surgeon-in-chief of CHOP, told The Daily Signal that Twice Born is a “compelling” story, showing the perspectives of doctors, nurses and families.

Adzick, a pioneer in fetal surgery, is also the founder and director of the hospital’s Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. According to CHOP, the center is “the world’s largest fetal surgery program.” Since its founding 20 years ago, the hospital has performed over 1,250 fetal surgeries.

CHOP had previously only allowed retrospective portrayals of their patients undergoing fetal surgery. They were “leery” of allowing “vulnerable parents making a gut-wrenching decision to be portrayed in a sensationalized way.”

But Adzick says that because the fetal surgery field is now “established” and the procedures peer-reviewed, CHOP felt that with “strong and resilient” patients, the story could be told.

He said that having cameras around didn’t bother him “in the least.”

“In the operating room, I’m completely focused,” Adzick said. “I don’t even notice them there.”

He said that the documentary will help “spread awareness” of fetal surgery, and “generate interest” in the procedure.

“There’s new hope for a previously impossible field,” he said.

Monica Lange, the executive producer and director of Twice Born, told The Daily Signal that the story is a “parable of parental love” showing “what a parent will go through for their child.”

“I’ve been interested in fetal surgery for a while, and I was waiting for the right time to tell the story,” Lange said.

Lange determined that the new scientific field of fetal surgery had “matured” to the point where it was possible to do a film.

Thanks in part to a gift from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, she said, Twice Born became a reality.

>>>‘The Innocent Bystander’: A Mother’s Struggle After a Miracle Birth

Her team made a “huge commitment” by spending over a year at CHOP.

“We stayed there and told the stories of doctors and families all the way through,” Lange said.

Lange called the filming process “physically exhausting and emotionally draining, but extremely rewarding.”

After so much time spent with the families, Lange said, the filmmakers became friends with them, sharing in their “ups and downs.”

“I was going through this with friends,” Lange said. “You get very close to them.”

Fetal surgery is complex and difficult, and Lange cautioned that not every story has a happy outcome.

“It’s very emotional,” Lange said. “It’s a hankies story.”

Lange said she hopes viewers feel “engaged, astonished and connected to the characters.”

“This is a very fascinating field of medicine that people should know about that very few people do,” Lange said.

The three-part documentary premieres Tuesday night in most markets at 8:00 EST/7:00 CTl on PBS. The additional episodes will air on April 7 and 14. Check your local listings here.

MSNBC Cuts Ryan T. Anderson’s Mic as He Defends Indiana Law - Daily Signal

MSNBC Cuts Ryan T. Anderson’s Mic as He Defends Indiana Law

Ken McIntyre / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Video Team /

MSNBC host Ed Schultz cut Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson’s mic off during a heated discussion about Indiana’s religious freedom law.

Schultz did bring Anderson back for a second round to talk about businesses boycotting Indiana.

Iranian Nuclear Talks Miss Another Deadline. What’s Next for the Talks With the Obama Administration. - Daily Signal

Iranian Nuclear Talks Miss Another Deadline. What’s Next for the Talks With the Obama Administration.

Ken McIntyre / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / James Phillips /

It appears that the nuclear talks with Iran will miss another self-imposed deadline, for the third time in 18 months. The deadline to reach a framework agreement that would outline the final deal is 6 p.m. EST, or midnight in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the talks are being held.

U.S. government officials noted that the deadline was unlikely to be met, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the talks would continue another day “as long as the conversations continue to be productive.”

Diplomats said that this round of talks has been dominated by three issues: How quickly U.N. sanctions would be lifted, whether those sanctions would automatically be reinstated if Iran violates the deal and how freely Iran will be able to advance its nuclear technology in the last five years of the proposed 15-year agreement.

Now the administration is downgrading the importance of the March 30 deadline for a framework agreement and is settling for some sort of statement of an “understanding.” This essentially would be a punt to keep the talks going until the “final” June 30 deadline.

The emerging details of the proposed agreement indicate that the Obama administration has abandoned efforts to permanently halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but will settle for a cosmetic solution that will only slow the pace of Iran’s nuclear march temporarily.

The administration has accepted Iran’s self-proclaimed “right” to enrich uranium despite six U.N. Security Council Resolutions that called for a halt in its enrichment efforts.

Increasingly alarmed U.S. allies have concluded that the Obama administration’s desperate push for a questionable agreement with Iran has become the biggest threat in the region.

Iran is not required to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure. Particularly worrisome are the continued operations of its illicit uranium enrichment facilities at Fordow and Natanz, as well as the heavy water reactor at Arak that has been described as a plutonium bomb factory. All of these facilities, which were built covertly by Iran in violation of its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments, would now be legitimized by the agreement.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will be responsible for verifying Iranian compliance, despite the fact that Iran has consistently stonewalled the agency’s efforts to investigate possible military dimensions of its nuclear program, as it repeatedly promised it would, including in the 2013 interim agreement.

U.S. allies, including Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have expressed alarm at the prospects for a deal that only slows but does not halt Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.

They also are concerned that the Obama administration has focused narrowly on Iran’s nuclear challenge while turning a blind eye to its ballistic missile buildup, support for terrorism and efforts to gain regional hegemony. They worry that the Iran nuclear negotiations will accelerate the U.S. withdrawal from the region, or worse yet, yield an Iranian-American rapprochement at their expense.

The Obama administration’s passivity prompted Saudi Arabia to lead a ten nation coalition to intervene in Yemen on behalf of the Yemeni government, which was overthrown by Houthi rebels allied with Iran.

But the administration’s eye is on a different prize.  One administration official proclaimed: “The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what everyone agrees is the biggest threat to the region.”

That official may want to touch base with increasingly alarmed U.S. allies, who have concluded that the Obama administration’s desperate push for a questionable agreement with Iran has become the biggest threat in the region.

>>> The Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Understanding Key Issues

Most Americans Say It’s Time to Update the Tax System - Daily Signal

Most Americans Say It’s Time to Update the Tax System

Ken McIntyre / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / James Phillips / Matthew Streit /

The last major update to the U.S. tax system was in 1986—over 29 years ago.

Think about how much has changed since then. In 1985, Microsoft Windows was released. Since then, Microsoft has released more than 20 updates to the operating system.

Updating the tax system is one of the perennial policy issues politicians enjoy talking about, and has the potential to be a key policy debate in 2015 and 2016.

But whether all the talk, hand-wringing and head-nodding will actually result in change is yet to be seen.

While Washington has consensus that tax reform needs to happen, there’s significant disagreement on how to reform it.

A recent study on American attitudes and support for tax reform conducted by the American Perceptions Initiative, a project of The Heritage Foundation, found that only a slight majority of Americans support tax reform (52 percent), in part, due to limited familiarity with what “tax reform” actually means.

However, once respondents gained more familiarity with the current tax system and the possibility of alternate approaches, the level of support for tax reform among Americans jumped significantly to 71 percent. Only 5 percent believe the system is work­ing just fine.

streitgraphic1

Americans are uncertain about what reform could mean, how it would impact them and whether they trust Washington to tackle the problem.

A majority of Americans (75 percent) want to “keep taxes as low as possible to stimulate investment and growth.” And their desire to fix the current tax system is built on the concerns that it’s “unfair, corrupt, and too complex.”

Everyone agrees the tax system should be fair. Americans currently feel “some people are getting away with not paying their fair share.” Similarly, a majority of Americans agree the current system encourages cronyism, gives government too much power to pick winners and losers and is too complex.

But it’s not clear that they trust Washington to be able to fix it: Seventy-nine percent say Washington is incompetent and corrupt and cannot be trusted.

streitgraphic2

When asked about what “fairness” means, 56 percent  of Americans believe fairness means everyone pays an equal share or percentage. Those that make more will ultimately pay more—25 percent of a million-dollar salary is obviously more than 25 percent of a $50K salary. Forty-four percent believe fairness means those with more should pay more (that is, a higher percentage).

With this as a backdrop, any attempt at tax reform should focus on the con­cerns of fairness, corruption and complexity. An updated tax system that would garner the most support would:

While voters are not very familiar with alterna­tive systems, there are clearly appealing aspects to them. In fact, after learning just a little bit about three alternatives—National Sales Tax, Business Transfer Tax, Flat Tax—only one in five (20 percent) would want to continue with our current federal income tax system. Eighty percent would prefer one of the other alternatives.

Americans are ready to support changes to the tax system. In order to build that support, the language of reform is important.  Highlighting the top concerns and problems with the current system heightens the demand for change.

Conservatives would be wise to put forward a plan to update the tax system that treats everyone fairly, is simple and straightforward, rewards hard work and savings, and eliminates special privileges.

The Problems With Obama’s Plan to Slash US Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Nearly 30 Percent - Daily Signal

The Problems With Obama’s Plan to Slash US Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Nearly 30 Percent

Ken McIntyre / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / James Phillips / Matthew Streit / Katie Tubb /

The Obama administration announced Tuesday its plans to commit the U.S. to greenhouse gas emissions of 26-28 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2025 as part of a United Nations climate agreement set for this December in Paris.

The announcement is being heralded as America’s stepping up to “lead the way.” The Paris agreement is to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. rejected.

Obama’s commitment, which was initially laid out in a lopsided agreement with China last November, doesn’t stop with cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025. The Obama administration’s submission to the U.N. is meant to set up a “pathway from 2020 to deep, economy-wide emission reductions of 80 percent or more by 2050. The target is part of a longer range, collective effort to transition to a low-carbon global economy as rapidly as possible.”

To achieve the goal, the Obama administration proposed a package of regulations which it is already well underway in implementing: fuel efficiency mandates for cars and trucks, energy efficiency mandates for everything from buildings to kitchen appliances, methane emissions regulations, an executive order to cut emissions and energy use by the federal government, and the capstone Clean Power Plan regulating state carbon dioxide emissions.

President Obama has spoken openly about his intentions to work around legislators if they did not act on climate change. His administration has dared Congress to try to stop the Clean Power Plan.

Obama’s offer to the U.N.:

Obama has often been accused of leading from behind on important issues. In this case, however, he is leading headlong in exactly the wrong direction.

Former Mexican President Has a Message for 2016 US Presidential Hopefuls - Daily Signal

Former Mexican President Has a Message for 2016 US Presidential Hopefuls

Ken McIntyre / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / James Phillips / Matthew Streit / Katie Tubb / Jamie Jackson /

Vicente Fox served as Mexico’s president for six years, taking office in December 2000 and forging a strong bond with President George W. Bush. Today, during a visit to Washington, D.C., Fox offered advice to the 2016 crop of candidates about the importance of a close relationship with Mexico.

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Fox said candidates running for president should focus on what he described as income inequality in the United States, making NAFTA work better and having a strong foreign policy.

The former Mexican president also talked about how the United States handles immigration challenges with Mexico and what he believes should be done.

And finally, on the Obama administration’s controversial move to ease diplomatic relations with Cuba, Fox weighed in on the communist nation’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Religious Freedom Laws Are About Tolerance, Which Is Exactly Why the Left Doesn’t Like Them - Daily Signal

Religious Freedom Laws Are About Tolerance, Which Is Exactly Why the Left Doesn’t Like Them

Ken McIntyre / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / James Phillips / Matthew Streit / Katie Tubb / Jamie Jackson / Genevieve Wood /

Discrimination is going on all right but not against the groups many on the Left are claiming. Here’s the bottom line: many people who support abortion or who support same-sex marriage don’t just want those rights for themselves.  They want society at large to approve of their actions.  And they will fight any law or movement that they believe undermines that goal.  Religious freedom laws, like the one coming under fire in Indiana, are needed because it is increasingly people of faith who are being persecuted.

How King v. Burwell Decision Could Affect Obamacare Enrollees - Daily Signal

How King v. Burwell Decision Could Affect Obamacare Enrollees

Ken McIntyre / Melissa Quinn / Kate Scanlon / Video Team / James Phillips / Matthew Streit / Katie Tubb / Jamie Jackson / Genevieve Wood / Edmund Haislmaier /

Obamacare has been confusing since day one. So it’s not surprising that conflicting claims and some misinformation are circulating about what the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell could mean for the several million Americans who may be directly affected.

It’s important to realize that a loss in subsidies does not mean a loss of coverage, as this new Heritage Foundation paper helps to clarify.

The law sets as one of the conditions for getting Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies that the coverage is purchased “through an Exchange established by [a] State.” The Court is being asked to decide if, given that phrase, the Obama administration has authority to also pay those subsidies to people who signed up for coverage through Healthcare.gov—the exchange run by the federal government for the 34 states that did not set up their own exchanges.

However, it is important to note that eligibility for insurance subsidies (which is what’s at stake in King v. Burwell) is not the same as eligibility for insurance coverage. While the Court’s decision might mean some people could no longer get subsidies, they would still be able to get health insurance.

Their continued access to health insurance is guaranteed by protections in federal law, including ones enacted nearly two decades before Obamacare. Those consumer protections also require that they be given the opportunity to pick a different plan, including a less expensive one.

Here’s how the relevant Obamacare regulations work:

Obamacare allows eligible individuals to sign-up for coverage during annual open enrollment periods, such as the one for 2015 that ended in February. It also allows them to get, or change, coverage at other times during the year in certain circumstances, such as if someone gets married, has a baby or moves to another state.

Another special circumstance is if an enrollee becomes ineligible for Obamacare’s insurance subsidies—exactly the situation that could result from the Court’s ruling. If the Supreme Court finds that subsidies cannot be paid to Healthcare.gov enrollees, those individuals would automatically have the right to pick a different plan.

Federal regulations also state that an enrollee must be allowed to choose any other plan—at any coverage level and from any insurer—offered in his state through the exchange.

But what would happen if some insurers responded to the Court’s ruling by dropping out of Healthcare.gov? Speculation about that scenario has been fueled by language the government added to its 2015 contracts with the insurers offering coverage on Healthcare.gov, stating that the government “acknowledges” that insurers “could have cause to terminate” their contracts if the subsidies can no longer be paid.

However, as with any contract, it’s important to check the fine print. In this instance, the contract language also says that termination by an insurer would be “subject to applicable state and federal law.”

That’s where the other set of, pre-Obamacare, consumer protections would kick in—making it unlikely that those insurers will actually discontinue coverage. Here’s how those provisions work.

Under earlier federal law, if an insurer discontinues a plan it must give those enrolled in the plan 90 days (three months) notice and the choice of any other plan that it offers in that state’s individual market. Those options would be in addition to the plans offered by other insurers for that state through Healthcare.gov.

If the insurer offers no other plan in a state’s individual market, then the law bars the insurer for five years from offering individual market coverage in that state. Should an insurer actually exit the market in this way, it must give those enrolled in the plan 180 days (six months) notice, and anyone losing coverage would be allowed to choose replacement coverage from among the other plans offered by the other insurers in that state’s individual market—regardless of whether those plans are offered inside or outside the exchange.

The bottom line? Anyone affected by the Court’s ruling will have options for maintaining coverage or choosing a different plan.

Clarity about this question of access to health insurance will also begin to help in resolving concerns about affordability. Consumer protections allow those who would be affected to choose more affordable plans. Unfortunately, Obamacare’s regulatory burden has made insurance more pricey than it needs to be.

Congress should take this opportunity to begin sweeping away Obamacare’s failed policies. It can start by removing the mandates and regulations that drove up insurance premiums and disrupted coverage in the first place for millions of Americans, including those not getting subsidies.

From there, a new conversation about health care reform can start.