How the Sierra Club’s Lexus Liberals’ Agenda Hurts Poor Americans

Stephen Moore /

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and the whole gang of Democratic leaders claim that one of their highest priorities is to lift up the middle class and reduce the income gap between rich and poor.

That goal collides with what they admit is their very highest priority: stopping climate change. Their agenda is driven by the millionaire and billionaire Democratic donors who make the party possible. But the agenda also involves making energy, home heating, transportation and just about everything else less efficient and more expensive to the middle class and poor. The people who lose their jobs when the climate-change Stalinists prevail are the people at the bottom and the middle of the income ladder.

The billionaire club members don’t seem to mind this collateral damage. Last week billionaire Tom Steyer convened the uber-rich liberal donor base at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle—nice—to pontificate about how much they care about polar bears, the Arctic ice caps and rising sea levels.

As Politico reported earlier this week, Steyer had “his fingerprints are all over this week’s spring meeting of the Democracy Alliance—an indication that the influential coalition of liberal donors intends to spend big to elevate climate change, and that Steyer plans to be at the forefront.”

All of the major action items will hurt unions, reduce wages, drive up unemployment, and make the poor poorer. Steyer may as well be saying of America’s working class: Let them eat cake.

The agenda to stop climate change involves making energy, home heating, and transportation less efficient and more expensive to the middle class and poor.

For several years now, the environmental conferences in posh places like Aspen, Sun Valley and Rio become parking lots for private jets. Hillary Clinton requires a private plane when she gives her $200,000 speeches. She and her jolly green friends then opine about why the poor should do their part to help save the planet by giving up coal mining, trucking, welding, construction, pipe-fitting, drilling and other jobs that are vital to their very livelihoods. Farmers in California have to watch the browning of their state and the loss of their property to save salmon and trout. Some 42,000 fewer Americans have jobs thanks to Obama’s decision at the behest of the Environmental Defense Fund to kill the Keystone XL pipeline.

What humanitarians these people are. I had much more respect for this crowd when they were bleeding hearts. Though their policy ideas were often misguided, at least they cared about the less fortunate. Now they are willing to nail the poor to a cross of green.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/Newscom)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/Newscom)

Steyer and his pals like President Obama have been running around the country telling Americans that the greatest crisis in America today is global warming. But working-class people universally reject that notion. Nearly every poll of voters over the last several years consistently finds Americans rank jobs, incomes, terrorism, the national debt, schools and other such daily concerns at the top of the list of policy priorities. Global warming almost always ranks last or very near the bottom—which is amazing, given the billions that have been spent on this propaganda campaign.

A Gallup poll found in March 2015 that only 2 percent of Americans perceive the “environment/pollution” as the nation’s “most important problem.” And a Bloomberg poll last year specifically listing climate as a candidate for “most important issue” found only 5 percent of Americans concurring. Polls also show the richer Democrats are, the more they care about climate change. Maybe that’s because green policies hurt the poor and working class—starting most obviously with opposition to modern drilling techniques such as fracking, and with blocking infrastructure projects that would create tens of thousands of high-paying union jobs.

A recent Brookings study entitled “Welfare and Distributional Implications of Shale Gas,” finds that the 47 percent decline in natural gas prices due to the shale gas “fracking revolution” has meant the “residential consumer gas bills have dropped $13 billion per year from 2007-2013.” This has saved gas-consuming middle-class families an average of $200 per year, with some families saving nearly $500 a year.

Polls also show the richer Democrats are, the more they care about climate change.

Another study by John Harpole, president of Mercator Energy in Colorado, finds that because the poor spend far more on utility bills than do the rich as a share of their incomes, “the poor benefit far more than the rich from the shale oil and gas boom.” The savings to the poor have been multiple times larger than the value of the $1 billion a year the feds throw at the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Last month Obama pledged to cut America’s carbon dioxide emissions up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. Paul Driessen of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow calculates this would end up “taking us back to Civil War-era emission levels, 150 years ago.” He adds: “Poor, minority and blue-collar families will have to find thousands of dollars a year for soaring electricity, vehicle and appliance costs. Small businesses will have to find tens of thousands of dollars to keep the heat and lights on. Factories, malls, school districts, hospitals and cities will have to pay millions more.”

Remember that when Democrats start playing the class warfare card. No one on the left, least of all the donors who are funding the climate change scare campaign, seem to care about how the poor will cope with slow growth and higher costs. The Sierra Club’s Lexus liberals can afford a future with less growth, fewer jobs and higher costs for everything. The middle class can’t. Democrats have abandoned the financial interests of these Americans. Republicans really are the stupid party if they can’t win these disenchanted voters.

Originally published in The Washington Times 

 

 

Marriage Debate Marches Into Nation’s Capital Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The Daily Signal

Marriage Debate Marches Into Nation’s Capital Ahead of Supreme Court Case

Stephen Moore / Alex Anderson / Kelsey Harkness /

As the debate over same-sex marriage heats up across the country, advocates for traditional marriage gathered in the nation’s capitol to make their voices heard. With the U.S. Supreme Court taking on the issue in a landmark gay marriage case in the coming weeks, The Daily Signal asked attendees of the 2015 March for Marriage—and some protesting the event—what’s next.

>>> State Says Bakers Should Pay $135,000 for Refusing to Make Cake for Same-Sex Wedding

After Receiving Over $100K in Donations, Bakers’ Crowdfunding Page Shut Down - The Daily Signal

After Receiving Over $100K in Donations, Bakers’ Crowdfunding Page Shut Down

Stephen Moore / Alex Anderson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness /

Less than a day after a donation fund was set up for the Oregon bakers who the state recommended be fined $135,000 for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, the crowdfunding website, GoFundMe, has shut it down.

“The campaign entitled ‘Sweet Cakes by Melissa’ involves formal charges. As such, our team has determined that it was in violation of GoFundMe’s Terms and Conditions,” a spokesman for GoFundMe told The Daily Signal in a statement.

The fundraising page was launched Friday after an Oregon administrative law judge announced the fine. Supporters of Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Sandy, Ore., raised more than $109,000 before the page was removed.

>>> State Says Bakers Should Pay $135,000 for Refusing to Make Cake for Same-Sex Wedding

In response to being shut down, the Klein’s wrote on their Facebook page, “We have told GoFundMe that the money is simply going to be used to help our family, and there is no legitimate breach of their terms and conditions. We are working to get the account reinstated.”

On GoFundMe’s terms and conditions, which are available to the public, the company prohibits “campaigns in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes, including violent, hateful, or sexual acts.”

Anna Harmon, attorney for the Kleins, told The Daily Signal that what happened to the Kleins “is not a crime.”

“It was heard in an administrative court and there has been no opportunity or a jury or even a final order to be issued in the case yet,” she said.

Harmon added that Melissa and her five children, who all stand to benefit from the public’s donations, have been exonerated.

Melissa and her children were not present at the bakery at the time of the refusal.

GoFundMe said the money raised thus far “will still be made available for withdrawal,” which means the Kleins will be able to keep the donations. In the meantime, the family has set up a temporary donation page on Samaritan’s Purse.

“For all of you who gave to the GoFundMe account before it was shut down, we so appreciate your love and generosity,” the Kleins wrote on their Facebook page.

A similar donation page for Barronelle Stutzman, a Christian florist from Washington state who refused to make flower arrangements for a same-sex couple’s wedding, has been operating on GoFundMe for more than two months.

Stutzman, like Aaron Klein, is being held liable for violating the state’s anti-discrimination law.

So far, Stutzman’s page has raised more than $170,000 in donations.

Lindsey Graham on Radical Islam: ‘I’m Going to Stand Up to These Thugs’ - The Daily Signal

Lindsey Graham on Radical Islam: ‘I’m Going to Stand Up to These Thugs’

Stephen Moore / Alex Anderson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness / David Brody /

DES MOINES, Iowa—In an interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican says he’ll announce his intentions about a presidential campaign either next month or in June. But whenever he decides, Graham has a clear message for Iowa voters this weekend: “Security through strength.”

Graham has positioned himself to focus on foreign policy if he runs, a subject in his wheelhouse and one that is expected to dominate the 2016 presidential landscape.

In his visit to Iowa this weekend for the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference, expect Graham to talk tough when it comes to radical Islam. In his interview with The Daily Signal, he didn’t mince words.

“Ronald Reagan said, ‘Peace through strength.’ You’ll never have peace with radical Islam. They will never accommodate our way of life because me and you have one thing in common they hate: We reject their way of worshipping God … they hate you because you won’t bend to their will. They want a master religion for the world like the Nazis wanted a master race and I’m going to stand up to these thugs.”

Regardless of How the Supreme Court Scrutinizes Man–Woman Marriage Laws, They Are Constitutional - The Daily Signal

Regardless of How the Supreme Court Scrutinizes Man–Woman Marriage Laws, They Are Constitutional

Stephen Moore / Alex Anderson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Gene Schaerr /

The amicus brief filed on behalf of Governor C. L. Otter of Idaho in the same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Court is remarkable for two reasons.  First, aside from Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and the governors who are named parties (and thus had no choice), he is the only sitting governor with the chutzpah to wade in before the Court on this controversial issue.

Second and more important, his brief establishes that state man–woman marriage laws pass any level of scrutiny the Court may throw at them.

The Court’s Three Levels of Scrutiny

Over the years, the Court has crafted three standards of review for laws subject to a claim of unconstitutionality under the Fourteenth Amendment. The most exacting standard—which applies, for example, to laws discriminating based on race or ethnicity—is called strict scrutiny, under which the Court will only uphold laws that help achieve a compelling government interest in the most narrowly tailored way. The government loses more often than it wins under this high constitutional bar.

Next is what is often called intermediate scrutiny, which the Court has applied to classifications based on sex. Here the Court will uphold laws that are substantially related to an important government interest.

The lowest level, which applies to other classifications, is whether the law is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. Laws almost always pass muster under this standard.

States’ Compelling Interest in Keeping the Man–Woman Definition of Marriage

The man–woman definition of marriage serves states and society in crucial ways.  Indeed, flowing from the institution of man–woman marriage are five social norms that especially benefit children, their mothers, society, and the state.

  1. Biological bonding and maintenance—that children deserve to be raised and supported by their biological parents—leads to a family structure that has been almost universally hailed as the gold standard for children’s flourishing.
  2. Gender diversity in parenting means a child will have a mother and a father, who together provide complementary but distinct benefits to a child’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.
  3. Procreation postponement emphasizes that children should not be conceived or brought into the world except within the stability of marriage.
  4. The norm affirming the social value of begetting and rearing children stems from the man–woman definition, which implicitly conveys the state’s encouragement of those procreation-related activities.
  5. Partner exclusivity encourages procreative sexual activity to occur only between spouses.

All of these norms are undergirded by a more general child-centricity norm that calls for parents to place their children’s needs and wants before their own.

The Consequences of Weakening or Destroying These Social Norms

Legally recognizing same-sex marriage sends a message from the state that dilutes or destroys these social norms and thus undermines their benefits to children and society. For instance, in moving to a genderless marriage regime where any two adults can marry, the law necessarily withdraws its endorsement of gender diverse parenting. The biological bonding norm is diminished since at least one if not both parents in a same-sex couple will not be the biological parent of the child.

The result will be fewer children raised in a home by their biological married mother and father. As social science has consistently demonstrated, this means more child poverty, poorer performance in school, more drug and alcohol abuse by youth, increased teen pregnancies and abortions, more behavioral and emotional problems, and more crime.

Not only will this lead to heartache and worse for these children and their families, but states will be left trying to pick up the pieces.  That is expensive.  And no number of programs or amount of spending can fix what is broken in the home.

In short, if a state does not have a compelling interest in preventing these problems and protecting children, there is no such thing as a compelling state interest.

Is Man–Woman Marriage Narrowly Tailored?

But a compelling interest isn’t enough under the Court’s tests of constitutionality. The law must also have a close fit to that interest, or, in the language of the law, be narrowly tailored. Same-sex marriage advocates have criticized man–woman marriage laws as not having this fit—largely because they allow infertile couples to marry.

But that’s just not a problem constitutionally. Allowing an infertile couple to marry still models man–woman marriage for the overwhelming percentage of couples who can procreate—thus strengthening, not undermining, the institution’s social norms.  Moreover, usually only one member of an “infertile couple” is infertile, so man–woman marriage still helps reduce extra-marital procreation. In any event, the “over-inclusiveness” point implicates only one of marriage’s social norms—procreation postponement—and has no effect on the others, all of which would be undermined by a genderless redefinition.

Moreover, once a few state judges began to interpret state constitutions to require same-sex marriage, states faced an all or nothing choice—either keep man–woman marriage with its host of benefits or risk having a genderless version that reduced or destroyed those benefits. For those states, then, expressly preserving the man–woman definition was their only, and best, option.

The Constitution Has No Qualms with the Man–Woman Definition of Marriage

Accordingly, however the Court wants to scrutinize man–woman marriage laws, they pass constitutional muster. The fact that in 2015 we are even having a debate as to whether the Constitution commands same-sex marriage is itself astounding. Fortunately, tradition, common sense, biology, social science, and the Constitution all agree that States can legitimately keep marriage to one man and one woman.

Media, Environmentalists Were Wrong: How the Gulf Coast Roared Back After Oil Spill - The Daily Signal

Media, Environmentalists Were Wrong: How the Gulf Coast Roared Back After Oil Spill

Stephen Moore / Alex Anderson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Gene Schaerr / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith /

Five years ago this week a blowout of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig 40 miles from the Gulf Coast tragically claimed 11 lives and spilled 3 million barrels of oil from the damaged wellhead into the Gulf. It’s hard to forget the video images of thick oil day after day gushing into the region’s waters.

It was a horrific accident that caused substantial damage to the ecology and commerce of the region. Gulf area wildlife, portions of the shoreline, tourism, fishers and shrimpers, and energy sector employment suffered large losses in the aftermath of the spill.

BP has paid close to $27 billion in penalties, payments to aggrieved parties, and clean up costs in one of the largest payouts for an accident in American history. This is enough money to hand every man, woman, boy, and girl in Chicago or Houston a $10,000 check. In addition, as the result of a court ruling last fall finding BP acted with willful misconduct and gross negligence leading up to the spill, BP could have to pay another $13.7 billion in Clean Water Act penalties.

But the good news on this fifth anniversary is that the lasting ecological damage from the spill that was originally feared, has not happened. The dire predictions by the media and the major environmental groups proved wildly off base.

Today, the Gulf region affected by the spill is enjoying a renaissance of energy production, booming tourism, and a healthy fishery industry. Scientific data and studies over the past five years show the Gulf environment is returning to its baseline condition. The remnants of the spill are hard to find.

A July 2011 report from the Coast Guard’s environmental assessment found that none of the dispersant constituents found in the thousands of water and sediment tests conducted exceeded the EPA’s chronic aquatic benchmarks. Five years later, wildlife populations have proven largely resilient. For instance, NOAA commercial fishery landings data show that after a drop off in the year of the spill, catch levels bounced back in 2011 to levels not seen in 11 years and they remain strong today.

Why has the damage been contained? First, thankfully, the vast majority of the 3.2 million barrels of crude leaked into the Gulf dispersed naturally, evaporating into literal thin air or biodegrading. Microbes, which already feast on the up to 1.4 million barrels of oil that scientists estimate seep naturally into the Gulf each year, increased in number following the spill—aiding greatly.

Today, the Gulf region affected by the spill is enjoying a renaissance of energy production, booming tourism, and a healthy fishery industry.

The massive $14 billion human clean-up response, with 100,000 personnel, 6,508 vessels, and 13.5 million feet on boom was unprecedented and effective. Dispersants successfully assisted natural dissolution by reducing the size of the oil compounds.

Some of the apocalyptic damage estimated proved to be mere propaganda. The National Center for Atmospheric Research predicted at the time that oil would enter the so-called “loop current”, reaching Florida’s Atlantic coast within a week. Synte Peacock, a NCAR scientist, warned “the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida.” Not to be outdone, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers breathlessly reported that “there will be tar balls all the way up the East Coast, all the way to Europe.”

But the oil didn’t make it to Tampa—let alone Europe as the requisite combination of winds and current failed to materialize. By the end of July, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco admitted that “For southern Florida, the Florida Keys, and the Eastern Seaboard, the coast remains clear … ”

And what of the long-term effects on the fishing and shrimping industries?

Advocacy groups such as the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s Jon Williams predicted the spill could last 40 years. CBS News Network’s Melanie Warner suggested that “this could mean a permanent end” to the Gulf’s seafood industry and that “ten years from now … there will very likely still be seafood—shrimp, bluefin tuna and maybe snapper and grouper—that are contaminated with BP’s oil.”

Not to be outdone on the contamination concerns, CNN correspondent David Mattingly worried about the “cascading effect on the entire food chain” from the spill.

Fewer than four months after the spill stopped, NOAA’s director of Sustainable Fisheries Science Center reported, “It appears so far that the impact on the larval population is relatively small.”

Data from NOAA confirm that post-spill Gulf fish populations are robust and that commercial seafood landings have generally been consistent with pre-spill ranges. And more than 10,000 government tests show it’s safe to eat.

The Audubon Society director Gregory Butcher warned the spill “could be the strikeout punch” for Louisiana’s state bird, the brown pelican. The executive director of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, Cecilia Riley, cautioned, “The disruption of the food web and lack of adequate food supplies could reduce avian productivity for several years.”

But in fact, Louisiana’s brown pelican population was still strong just a year after the spill, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

The effects of the spill were predicted to have long-term negative effects on tourism as well. The managing director of Oxford Economics USA opined, “History and current trends indicate a potential $22.7 billion economic loss to the travel economies of the Gulf Coast states over the next three years.”

In actuality, tourists have flocked to the Gulf every year since the spill, shattering records the summer immediately following the disaster in numerous locales, including Panama City and the Emerald Coast.

Big Green has tried to capitalize on the BP spill as the reason to block any further offshore drilling. And while there are critical caution signals from the accident, what is needed most is rational offsetting of costs versus tens of billions of benefits and hundreds of thousands of jobs, increased access to energy, community development and so on.

Most in the environmental movement portray the ecology of our planet as fragile and weak. No. The story of horrific accidents like this and natural ecological occurrences like Katrina, is that Mother Nature adapts and she has awesome healing powers.

The Gulf recovery has been swift and impressive and the doomsayers were thankfully wrong. When something like this happens, we should listen to the sage advice of the world’s most famous lawgiver, Moses, who warned us of false prophets: “If the thing does not come about or come true … the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deut. 18:22). Good advice when it comes to the Green Movement prophets of doom.

Originally published in the National Review 

How the Midwest Is Scaling Back Big Labor’s Special Privileges - The Daily Signal

How the Midwest Is Scaling Back Big Labor’s Special Privileges

Stephen Moore / Alex Anderson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Gene Schaerr / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / James Sherk /

Labor unions have traditionally been the 800-pound gorilla of special interest groups. They have secured handouts and subsidies that other organizations’ lobbyists could only dream about. But that may be changing.

This year a raft of Midwestern states have scaled back some of organized labor’s special privileges. States are starting to treat unions no differently from other private membership organizations.

Many politicians—of both parties—fear that crossing organized labor could cost them reelection. Unions use this clout to engage in massive “rent seeking”—pursuing legislation that transfers others’ wealth to them.

Most prominently, unions in half the country can force workers to pay dues, even if they do not want to join the union. The ACLU, the National Rifle Association, and other private organizations must persuade Americans to voluntarily join and donate. Not unions.

Once they organize a workplace, unions can (but need not) force workers to accept their representation. In 25 states they can also force workers to pay union dues. The other 25 states have “right-to-work” laws that make payment of union dues voluntary.

Unsurprisingly, unions prefer compulsion. They fight right-to-work tooth and nail, and their opposition usually blocks it. Between 1980 and 2010, only two states passed right-to-work laws.

Compulsory dues are just one union handout. Thirty-two states enforce “prevailing wage” laws that effectively require contractors to pay union wage scales on state or local government construction projects. This makes public construction projects a lot more expensive by insulating construction unions against competition from non-union workers.

Many state and local governments go even further by virtually mandating that their construction contractors use union labor. Government bodies often require construction companies to agree to “Project Labor Agreements” in order to bid on public-works projects. PLAs require contactors to use union wage scales and union work rules, and to hire all their workers through union hiring halls. This raises the cost of public construction projects by 12 to 18 percent. Few other organizations’ lobbyists can even dream of getting such special treatment.

Fortunately, all this is changing. Michigan and Indiana both passed right-to-work laws in 2012. At the time, unions promised electoral retribution, but a funny thing happened on the way to the voting booth: nothing.

Conservatives expanded their legislative majorities in both states after the laws passed. Union bosses opposed voluntary dues, but the voters did not. In Michigan, just one legislator who voted for right-to-work lost reelection: a moderate state representative defeated in the primary by a Tea Party challenger. Unions turned out to have more bark than bite.

This victory has given more policymakers the courage to tackle labor reform. Now many Midwestern states have begun reining in unions’ coercive powers. Governor Scott Walker just signed legislation making Wisconsin the 25th state with workplace-freedom laws. Unions can no longer compel Badger State workers to pay their dues.

Missouri may soon follow suit. This year the state House passed right-to-work legislation for the first time in its history. The state Senate will probably do the same. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon has promised to veto it, but term limits will force him out of office in 2016. If the voters elect a conservative replacement, Missouri may soon become right-to-work.

In Kentucky, right-to-work stalled in the legislature, so local governments have taken matters into their own hands. A dozen Kentucky counties have used the “Home Rule” power the legislature delegated to them to pass local right-to-work laws.

Even Bruce Rauner, the newly elected moderate-Republican governor of Illinois, has embraced right-to-work. He has proposed local workplace-freedom zones and filed a lawsuit to block forced union dues for state employees.

The rent seeking rollback has gone far beyond union dues, however. The Indiana legislature just repealed the state’s prevailing wage law, which means Indiana no longer requires taxpayers to pay union rates for construction work. Similar bills have been introduced by high-profile legislators in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Now the Ohio House has also taken a small step toward reform. After the voters repealed SB 5, which placed limits on government unions, in 2011, the state legislature avoided labor issues—until now. With bold new leadership in the Ohio House, the new budget would prohibit state agencies from requiring PLAs on construction contracts. If it becomes law, unions will compete for those projects on an equal footing with everyone else.

Americans have every right to associate with unions, or not, as they choose, but the law should not give them special treatment. Many Midwestern states are finally taking steps to help return unions to membership in voluntary civil society.

Originally published in National Review.

How Lawmakers, Including Republicans, Just Hiked the Deficit (Again) - The Daily Signal

How Lawmakers, Including Republicans, Just Hiked the Deficit (Again)

Stephen Moore / Alex Anderson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Gene Schaerr / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / James Sherk / Robert Moffit /

The new Congress isn’t getting Washington’s crazy spending under control. In fact, it’s just made it worse. By enacting the Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2), lawmakers increased the nation’s deficits by $141 billion over the next ten years and guaranteed even larger debt beyond that. So much for their formal commitments and resolutions to secure a balanced budget in ten years!

As a fiscal matter, this bill is a disaster. First of all, it violates a long-standing precedent of paying for the doc fix. Since 2003, Congress has passed 17 short-term patches and paid for them 98 percent of the time. This bill provides a nine-year patch and offsets only a little more than a third of the cost.

The bill also violates both the recently passed House and Senate budget resolutions, which assumed that the doc fix would be fully paid for over the next ten years. As the House and Senate Budget Committees head to conference to resolve their budgetary differences, the conferees face the inconvenient truth that the doc fix is not funded as previously assumed. Furthermore, this exercise is a reflection of how unserious Republican leadership is about the budget process when it’s inconvenient. Republicans in Congress can have disagreements about policy. But not adding to the debt should be one position they can unify behind.

As for the Medicare payment policy, the bill is a marginal improvement over a very bad Medicare status quo. For doctors, the bill creates greater predictability in Medicare payments. It will end the annual Chinese fire drill in which members of Congress flail about in a desperate, eleventh-hour attempt to stop their own stupid Medicare payment formula from imposing some draconian Medicare payment cut.

This exercise is a reflection of how unserious Republican leadership is about the budget process when it’s inconvenient.

As Scott Gottlieb, M.D., of the American Enterprise Institute notes, Congress has missed an enormous opportunity to make a major conceptual breakthrough in Medicare policy. It leaves most of the ugly bureaucratic paraphernalia of Medicare’s administrative payment system in place, and it does not reverse the growing government supervision over the practice of medicine.

How this new process will play out in practice is, of course, a genuine mystery. As John O’Shea, M.D., has warned, basing physician reimbursement on the quality and value of service rendered is going to be a mammoth practical challenge. Accurately measuring these things is far more problematic and demanding than President Obama and congressional leaders imagine, and well beyond facile and fashionable rhetoric about the need for “payment for quality over quantity.”

To offset a small portion of the bill’s costs, Congress authorized timid changes in Medigap policy (a slight limitation in first dollar coverage) and a means testing modification that is far less consequential than even President Obama’s budget proposal suggested. While adopting these tepid tweaks in the giant entitlement, lawmakers ignored robust Medicare proposals that have long attracted bipartisan support—even though these improvements would have yielded major savings, far more than enough to finance the SGR replacement bill.

The debate, nonetheless, showcased genuine Senate statesmanship. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, offered an amendment to spare Americans from the bill’s deficits, though his colleagues defeated the measure by a margin of fifty-eight to forty-two. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., raised a budget point of order against the bill for its long-term deficit increases. It was a valid objection. Nonetheless, seventy-one senators voted against Sessions’ motion. That the bill passed both House and Senate with overwhelming majorities should not impress ordinary Americans. Huge majorities are hardly evidence of rational deliberation or hard-but-necessary choices made.

Indeed, Congress took the easy way out (more red ink) just to get the broken Medicare SGR problem “off the table.” But in accomplishing that short-term goal, they have imposed hundreds of billions in additional deficit spending. By 2035, according to the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, their pricey doc fix will have saddled taxpayers with more than $500 billion in new debt. Those financial burdens can’t be so easily moved “off the table” in taxpaying households across the country.

Originally published in The National Interest

The Next Round of Net Neutrality Court Battles - The Daily Signal

The Next Round of Net Neutrality Court Battles

Stephen Moore / Alex Anderson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Gene Schaerr / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / James Sherk / Robert Moffit / James Gattuso /

Telecommunications policymaking has long been compared to a three-ring circus consisting of the Federal Communications Commission, the courts and Congress. Nowhere has that been truer than in the long-running debate over net neutrality regulation.

For the past year or so, all attention has been on the FCC, led by Chairman Tom Wheeler, as it drafted its plan to impose regulation on Internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T. Its goal was to require that all data carried by the ISPs be handled the same way, with no discounts or premium service offerings.

The approach it settled on—declaring ISPs to be public utilities under the 1934 Communications Act—startled even many supporters of neutrality regulation. In effect, Americans’ Internet access was to be provided under the same regulatory framework as their local water company. Adopted in February, the FCC’s decision was printed in the Federal Register last week.

This, however, was not the end of the show. The Federal Register notice cleared the way for action to begin in the second ring in this circus: the courts. Within days, a half-dozen lawsuits were filed challenging the FCC’s new rules. The plaintiffs were four trade associations representing ISPs, as well as two ISPs that sued on their own behalf—AT&T and Alamo Broadband, a small wireless provider.

This, of course, is not the first time the net neutrality issue has been in a courtroom. Twice before, the FCC has tried to impose restrictions on ISPs. Each time, the FCC’s action was decisively struck down, with courts finding—among other things—that the FCC had no authority to regulate firms that were not common carriers.

Will the plaintiffs win in court a third time? The FCC says no, pointing to the fact that, by reclassifying ISPs as common carriers, it has fixed its earlier problem. But the ISPs will argue that the FCC’s decision to reclassify them as common, or telecommunications carriers was arbitrary—a political decision aimed at expanding the agencies’ own power rather than a reasoned decision based on the statutory definition of the term “telecommunications carrier.”

President Obama added to the perception that this was merely a political decision by intervening in the FCC’s supposedly independent decision-making process just a few months before the commission’s vote. In an unusual and controversial move, the president openly and forcefully called on the FCC to declare ISPs to be common carriers. Until that time, Wheeler was opposed to such a reclassification

Under clear pressure from the White House, Wheeler abruptly reversed himself, saying—implausibly—that he had simply rethought the issue. There is nothing illegal about the president inserting himself into the process, but his actions may diminish the normal deference courts give regulators when they are making decisions like this.

Whatever the outcome in court, there is still a third ring to watch: Congress. Activity there is already underway, with bills by Republican Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Doug Collins of Georgia seeking to roll back the FCC’s decision. GOP leaders are also floating a compromise plan that they hope will attract Democratic support.

For now, however, all of this is just preview. Given the president’s investment in the issue, no FCC-reversing net neutrality bill can conceivably be enacted into law as long as Obama wields the veto pen.

Congress’ turn in the spotlight will come after Obama leaves the stage. This, coincidentally, should be about the same time that the courts decide on the issue—sending the losers, whoever they may be, straight to Capitol Hill for redress.

At this point, there is no telling how or when the net neutrality battle will end. But one thing is clear: The current law’s opaque and ambiguous terminology reduces predictability and accountability in the online communications system. That only feeds the three-ring circus, and that’s unfortunate. Washington has more than enough clowns already.

Originally published in The Washington Times 

 

Congress Passed 800 Pages of Legislation. Agencies Proposed, Adopted 80,000 Pages of Regulations. - The Daily Signal

Congress Passed 800 Pages of Legislation. Agencies Proposed, Adopted 80,000 Pages of Regulations.

Stephen Moore / Alex Anderson / Kelsey Harkness / Kelsey Harkness / David Brody / Gene Schaerr / Stephen Moore / Joel Griffith / James Sherk / Robert Moffit / James Gattuso / Ed Feulner /

Finding Americans fed up with governmental abuses isn’t hard. They wonder why we have politicians who spend too much, bureaucrats who regulate too much, and officials who limit our freedom at almost every turn.

The answer, I believe, is mostly rooted in ignorance. They’ve either forgotten what they once knew about the U.S. Constitution and the clear, necessary limits that it places on government—or they never really knew it in the first place.

This ignorance is at the heart of many of the policy debates that dominate the news cycle week in and week out. They nearly all boil down to a fundamental disagreement over what the Constitution says or means.

Which is remarkable, really. Our elected officials swear an oath before God and all of us to preserve, protect and defend that Constitution. How can they do that if they don’t know what they’re upholding?

There is, of course, another option: They know what the Constitution says, but deliberately work around it, confident that few of their constituents know it any better than they do. Or if those constituents do know, they’re too busy to notice or too apathetic to do anything about it.

Whatever the cause, our nation’s future depends on a serious course correction—a return to the constitutional principles that made it great.

If you don’t think the problem is that serious, let me acquaint you with the two piles of documents that sit in Mike Lee’s office. Lee, a Republican senator from Utah, writes about them in his new book, “Our Lost Constitution.” They really illustrate how deeply unmoored we’ve become—how far we’ve moved from our constitutional roots.

One of those piles contains all the legislation Congress passed in 2013. It contains about 800 pages and stands a few inches tall. The other holds all the rules and regulations that federal agencies proposed or adopted that same year. It contains 80,000 pages and stands 11 feet tall.

There’s the problem in a nutshell. If you think you’re governed by the men and women you elect to office—individuals whom you hold accountable at the ballot box—think again. You’re governed by nameless, faceless bureaucrats you’ll probably never meet. They may mean well, but they certainly aren’t worried about displeasing people who have no say in whether or not they’ll keep their jobs.

Lee’s book focuses on a few key parts of the Constitution to help us better understand the forces at work behind certain modern debates. Take the great compromise that made the Constitution possible: the origination clause.

That dull-sounding name actually masks a hotly contested debate that almost sunk the Constitution as it was being hammered out in 1787. Why do we have a Senate with equal representation for each state, and a House with proportional representation? It was a compromise between small states that wanted the former, and large states that wanted the latter.

But the linchpin of that compromise was something Ben Franklin proposed: All tax bills would originate in the House, not the Senate.

Why does that matter today? Because in 2009, when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was trying to raise the money for Obamacare, he did it by successfully proposing an amendment that turned a House tax bill into a health care reform bill—in plain violation (at least in spirit) of the origination clause.

Just think, Lee says, if President Obama and Reid hadn’t flouted this clause. Americans wouldn’t have lost health plans they wanted. “The economy would be stronger,” he adds. “Taxes would be lower. Health care would be better.”

Things would be better still if the Constitution was treated as a reliable guide by honorable leaders, not as an unfortunate roadblock by opportunistic politicians. Don’t like how things are going? Read it. Reread it. And insist on electing leaders who do the same—and actually live by it.

Originally published in The Washington Times