May 21st, 2015 at 12:25 pm
More GOP Debate Improvements
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Add Daniel Henninger to the list of conservatives offering up new ideas to get the most out of the upcoming GOP presidential debates.

With as many as 19 Republicans possibly running for president, “something more is needed this time” than just a one-size-fits-all gabfest.

“In addition to the traditional debates, the candidates or their supporters should underwrite a series of smaller debates/conversations,” writes Henninger. “Divide the 19 into groups of four or five candidates, randomly selected. Pick the issues, and go at it. Give voters a chance to see who these mostly interesting people are and how their minds work outside the confines of a 60-second timer.”

In my column this week I lay out a proposal to randomly assign candidates into debating pairs so debaters can get more than the usual four to six minutes to speak. Henninger’s idea to put groups of four or five together may be more workable with such a large field. Either way, the key is to give every candidate sufficient time to make his or her case for the nomination.

There are several ideas for improving the quality of debate this go around. Let’s hope the people in charge of the process take some of them to heart.

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May 21st, 2015 at 11:40 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Mission Accomplished Redux
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


May 20th, 2015 at 3:11 pm
More Insurance, Less Health Care?
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

A new report says that the number of Americans who are ‘underinsured’ is 31 million people – double the figure from 2003.

Being underinsured means that a person has access to health insurance, but doesn’t use it to get healthy because the cost is too high.

ObamaCare – with the popularity of its high deductible insurance plans – may make the problem worse.

“The steady growth in the proliferation and size of deductibles threatens to increase underinsurance in the years ahead,” says the Commonwealth Fund report.

“People who have high deductibles do tend to skimp on healthcare,” Sara Collins, the study’s lead author, said to reporters.

That’s because a trip to the doctor’s office can generate thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses before the insurance company contributes a penny.

The Obama administration has claimed a lot of credit for lowering the uninsured population, but has been unsurprisingly mum about the uptick in the number of underinsured Americans. If this trend continues, millions of people will be forced to pay for a financial product they cannot afford to use, but dare not risk going without since the IRS has the power to penalize.

That sounds like a policy opportunity conservatives would do well to exploit.

H/T: The Hill


May 18th, 2015 at 6:13 pm
CMS Hush-Hush on New ‘Epic’ Medicaid Rules
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services won’t say what’s coming before it announces new rules for long-term managed care, the first in 13 years.

“The number of people enrolled roughly quadrupled, from 105,000 in 2004 to 389,000 in 2012,” reports National Journal. “And overall Medicaid spending on long-term care is projected to balloon from $60 billion annually to more than $100 billion in 2023, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated, as the baby boomers get older and require more care.”

Health care industry leaders are anxiously awaiting the new regulations without any indication of what’s coming. CMS has been working on the updated regulatory scheme for more than a year, and so far is keeping the people most effected in the dark.

“It’s a lot like the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao fight,” a representative of managed care plans is quoted as saying. “There’s lots and lots of hype around it, and it’s either going to be epic or it’s going to kind of fizzle.”

With President Barack Obama’s penchant for going big, it will be shocking if his administration opts for fizzle instead of epic. That nameless bureaucrats have this much control over major policy decisions says a lot about the real do-nothing tendencies of Congress. Rather than debate and deliberate over such a consequential matter, Members of Congress have outsourced their lawmaking function to an executive agency.

That’s not leadership. It’s a dereliction of duty.


May 15th, 2015 at 10:59 am
Video: Congress’ ObamaCare Fraud
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino demands accountability for the apparent fraud that took place enabling Members of Congress and their staff to circumvent clear rules under ObamaCare in order to keep their taxpayer-subsidized health insurance. 


May 14th, 2015 at 9:54 am
Bipartisan Support Growing to Repeal ObamaCare Medical Device Tax
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

A group of 18 House Democrats sent a letter recently to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) requesting “timely passage” of a bill to repeal perhaps the most unpopular ObamaCare tax.

The medical device tax levies a 2.3 percent fee on medical devices, and is credited with causing increased prices and a decline in jobs within the manufacturing industry. Much of the Democratic support for repeal comes from members representing states with large device making companies in Minnesota and Indiana.

In a divided Congress, repealing the medical device tax may be the best way demonstrate bipartisan opposition to ObamaCare. Last year, 79 Senators voted to repeal this tax though then Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) refused to bring it to a floor vote. With Republicans in control of the chamber, a vote is likely to occur.

Even if President Barack Obama vetoes the measure – which the White House has promised he will do unless Congress imposes another tax to offset the revenue loss – the mounting pressure to get rid of the medical device tax indicates that there are political victories to be had, if congressional leaders will push for them.


May 14th, 2015 at 7:18 am
Hawaii’s ObamaCare Exchange Out of Money
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Add Hawaii to the growing list of states that can’t afford to continue funding their financially unsustainable ObamaCare exchange.

“The state’s exchange is drowning in their own debt and is set to shut down by September 30,” writes Kristina Ribali of the Foundation for Government Accountability. “Administrators had been hoping to get a funding boost from state lawmakers, during their current legislative session, but that will not happen.”

Hawaii’s death spiral became clear in January when the federal government notified the state that it was out of compliance with ObamaCare’s performance benchmarks. By this year state exchanges have to prove their long term financial viability, and their IT systems must be integrated with the Medicaid database. The latter requirement ensures that applicants are correctly channeled to the appropriate government assistance program.

Hawaii – like Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont – isn’t generating enough revenue in enrollment fees to make its exchange solvent. Its failure to integrate IT systems is likely the final blow before the state hands over its exchange function to Healthcare.gov, the federal counterpart.

Like the other states just mentioned, Hawaii’s ObamaCare exchange failure has been expensive: $204.3 million.

And counting…


May 13th, 2015 at 8:03 pm
The Two Faces of T-Mobile
Posted by Jeff Mazzella Print

The recent release of the Apple Watch was a momentous occasion that has become routine for American consumers: another breakthrough mobile product hitting the marketplace. Whether new devices or continuous improvements to smartphones and other devices on which we all rely, almost all of us use gadgets that just ten years ago would have been considered science fiction.

Less well known to consumers is the technical foundation of the entire ecosystem upon which such devises operate. Specifically, wireless spectrum is the invisible infrastructure that carries data between devices and to the broader Internet. Wireless companies compete fiercely for this resource so that they can provide good service for their customers.
 
That’s why – despite the fact that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is auctioning off coveted broadcast spectrum next year, an eternity in tech terms – the jockeying between potential bidders has already started. Two of the major players in particular, Sprint and T-Mobile, have been ceaselessly calling for the FCC to create auction rules that benefit them at the expense of their competitors. Their latest request is for a larger set-aside to limit the amount of spectrum on which competitors AT&T and Verizon can bid. 

This isn’t the first time the two companies have made such a request.  The FCC didn’t accept it last time, and it shouldn’t now as the only change is that Sprint and T-Mobile now are pushing their shared agenda through the recently (and conveniently) formed “Save Wireless Choice” coalition.

This is a terrible idea for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Sprint and T-Mobile are dynamic companies that compete fiercely in the wireless industry. Don’t just take our word for it. On a recent call with Wall Street analysts, T-Mobile CEO John Legere bragged that T-Mobile has “a great spectrum portfolio. That’s allowed us to be smart and opportunistic,” and claimed that the company was “off to an incredible start to 2015 with the best customer growth in the industry fueled by disruptive Un-carrier moves and the network that continues to be America’s fastest.”  Similarly, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure asserted that he “couldn’t be more confident that now [Sprint has] the right plan to be successful” and acknowledged Sprint’s “rich spectrum portfolio.”
 
Legere and Claure’s comments to Wall Street make their plea to the FCC – that they cannot compete with AT&T and Verizon in the upcoming auction or in the industry long-term – completely disingenuous. Furthermore, Sprint chose to sit out of the recent AWS-3 auction, and it was DISH, not AT&T or Verizon, that outbid T-Mobile most on licenses it sought but didn’t win.
 
Indeed, it was DISH’s shady dealings during the AWS-3 auction that demonstrate the danger of rules that favor certain players over others in the marketplace. DISH used shell companies to take advantage of the FCC’s Designated Entity program, a program that is supposed to help small companies buy spectrum by giving them a discount.  That sleight of hand with DISH will cost taxpayers a stunning $3.3 billion unless the FCC investigates and rejects the taxpayer-funded discount.
 
At the end of the day, Sprint and T-Mobile are massive, competitive companies backed by large, foreign corporations, Softbank and Deutsch Telekom. Even if that were not the case, the recent experience with DISH should be a giant red flag about the unintended consequences of rules that favor certain companies.
 
In order for consumers to continue reaping the benefits of the wireless revolution, they need more spectrum to be allocated in the most efficient way possible. In the 2016 incentive auction, that means straightforward rules that treat all bidders equally. This principle has taken us to where we are right now, and it would be a mistake to jeopardize this progress by giving in to the self-serving pleading of two companies.


May 11th, 2015 at 3:01 pm
Resist the Nanny State with Private Citizen Defense Funds
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Charles Murray at AEI has a thought-provoking idea for pushing back against the Nanny State: private citizen defense funds.

“People don’t build tornado-proof houses; they buy house insurance,” Murray explains. “In the case of the regulatory state, let’s buy insurance that reimburses us for any fine that the government levies and that automatically triggers a proactive, tenacious legal defense against the government’s allegation even if – and this is crucial – we are technically guilty.”

Defending the technically guilty is designed to make overzealous regulators think twice before going after someone. The point is to concentrate enforcement resources on the worst offenders – not the weakest targets.

Murray suggests two ways of funding his citizen defense initiative. “The first would be a legal foundation functioning much as the Legal Services Corporation does for the poor, except that its money will come from private donors, not the government. It would be an altruistic endeavor, operating exclusively on behalf of the homeowner or small business being harassed by the regulators. The foundation would pick up all the legal costs of defense and pay the fines when possible.”

But wait, there’s more!

“The other framework would be occupational defense funds. Let’s take advantage of professional expertise and pride of vocation to drive standards of best practice,” says Murray. “For example, the American Dental Association could form Dental Shield, with dentists across America paying a small annual fee. The bargain: Dentists whose practices meet the ADA’s professional standards will be defended when accused of violating a regulation that the ADA has deemed to be pointless, stupid or tyrannical. The same kind of defense fund could be started by truckers, crafts unions, accountants, physicians, farmers or almost any other occupation.”

Though it would be nice if some of the great ideas touching on regulatory reform – for example, the REINS Act – are signed into law someday, the wonderful thing about Murray’s idea is that it could go into effect without any helping hand from government.

You can read the entire article at the Wall Street Journal.


May 11th, 2015 at 2:25 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Show Lineup
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT: Troy Senik, CFIF Fellow and Editor-in-Chief at Ricochet: Presidential Campaign 2016 Field Grows More Crowded;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT: Ashton Ellis, CFIF Contributing Editor, Author, and Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy: Latest on ObamaCare Subsidies;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EDT: Dr. Tom Stossel, Visiting Scholar at American Enterprise Institute: Medical Innovation and “Pharmaphobia: How the Conflict of Interest Myth Undermines American Medical Innovation”; and  

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT: Tzvi Kahn, Senior Policy Analyst for the Foreign Policy Initiative: Iran, nuclear weapons and terrorism on America’s shores.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.


May 8th, 2015 at 10:28 am
Why Congress Should Allow the Export-Import Bank to Expire
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Mac Zimmerman, Director of Policy at Americans for Prosperity, discusses why Congress must allow the Export-Import Bank to expire and how the bank unfairly hurts domestic companies and risks billions of taxpayer dollars.

Listen to the interview here.


May 5th, 2015 at 7:48 pm
Get ObamaCare Out of the Health Insurance Exchange Business
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Health insurance exchanges are a great idea – as long as the government isn’t the one running them.

“In a private exchange, an employer can make a defined contribution to a tax-free group plan chosen by the worker,” explains Robert Moffit. “If the worker purchases a less expensive plan, the worker can keep the difference in savings. A worker who wants a more expensive plan can top off the employer’s contribution with her own money.

“In a well-run private exchange, self-insured employers can offer greater flexibility in benefit design, allowing workers and their families choice among a variety of health plans offered by multiple carriers,” Moffit continues. “With cost calculators, plan and provider performance ratings, and easily accessible network and formulary information, workers are suddenly empowered to make well-informed health-care decisions. In the style of 401(k) pensions, the private exchange could emerge as the transformative platform for a revolution in health-care financing.”

Interestingly, enrollment in private health insurance exchanges is now at 6 million – double what it was in 2014. That’s almost equal to the 7+ million currently enrolled through Healthcare.gov, the federal ObamaCare exchange.

One way to move health insurance reform away from the top-down, government-run model of ObamaCare would be to grant vouchers to individuals and families that don’t get coverage from an employer. Government could then go back to what it does best – giving out money – while letting the private sector do its job – delivering services at an affordable price while still making a profit.

Best of all: Almost 20 fewer government bureaucracies.


May 4th, 2015 at 7:59 pm
ObamaCare Exchanges Are Losing Money
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

The reason 35 states chose not to build a local ObamaCare exchange – even though the federal government made billions of dollars available to do so – is pretty simple: After an initial burst of funding the a state must foot the bill to maintain it.

That’s turning out to be a very costly proposition.

Consider Oregon.

“The case of Oregon is the most extreme,” explains an editorial in the Washington Examiner. “After spending $200 million to develop its own health insurance exchange, the Beaver State was forced to abandon it altogether because of pervasive and intractable technical problems.”

It gets worse.

“Tiny Vermont spent roughly $4,000 for every uninsured Vermonter to develop its exchange – more than enough to buy a pre-ObamaCare policy for everyone for an entire year,” says the editorial. “And yet after spending so much, the Green Mountain State may soon follow Oregon’s lead in abandoning its creation. Minnesota faces a similar situation.”

Recall that ObamaCare’s upfront establishment grant money was designed to make it seem like the controversial health law didn’t add to the federal deficit by enticing states to take on the legacy costs of operating the exchanges. With Healthcare.gov becoming the de facto nationwide ObamaCare exchange, that gamble has backfired, but not before wasting lots of taxpayer money.


May 4th, 2015 at 3:11 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: In Hillary We Trust
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


April 30th, 2015 at 7:39 pm
California’s Drought Is a Failure of Water Storage to Keep Up with Population Growth
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

If you’re going to encourage massive immigration, you better build the infrastructure to sustain it.

That’s just one of the many insightful points in a new article by Victor Davis Hanson, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and a Central Valley farmer.

“A record one in four current Californians was not born in the United States, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California,” writes Hanson. “Whatever one’s view on immigration, it is ironic to encourage millions of newcomers to settle in the state without first making commensurately liberal investments for them in water supplies and infrastructure.”

Over the last forty years, California’s environmentalists – aided and abetted by once and current Governor Jerry Brown – have systematically opposed the construction of water storage facilities that would have kept pace with the state’s population boom. To make matters worse, millions of acre feet of water that should go to households instead is flushed down riverbeds and into the ocean to create more swimming space for endangered fish.

With California entering another year of drought, environmentalists are applauding Governor Brown’s decision to mandate 25 percent reductions in water usage. They claim we just don’t have the water. The truth is they refused to build the storage capacity, and now we get draconian measures.

New issue, same problem: Liberals want all the benefits of a permissive social policy, but they refuse to accept responsibility for the costs.


April 29th, 2015 at 5:58 pm
IG Warning: States May be Illegally Using ObamaCare Grants
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

At least 37 states have received a total of $4.8 billion to implement ObamaCare, but under the terms of the “establishment grants” those monies cannot be used to pay for overhead costs like rent, software maintenance, staffing and utilities.

That hasn’t stopped some states from trying, apparently.

“We have concerns that, without more detailed guidance from [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid], [State-based ObamaCare exchanges] might have used, and might continue to use, establishment grant funds for operating expenses after January 1, 2015, contrary to law,” writes the Inspector General at the Health and Human Services Department.

“In media reports and during our review of [states’] budget information, we have observed that some [states] face uncertain operating revenues in 2015 and future years. Because operating revenues are uncertain, there is a risk that [states] might use establishment grant funds to cover operational expenses,” warns the IG’s letter.

The IG points to evidence that the Rhode Island exchange does not have a dedicated funding source, and the Washington exchange is short $125 million unless the state legislature steps in.

In other words, ObamaCare gave seed money to start expensive new state agencies that are now supposed to be self-sustaining. At least two are not, and the tone of the IG’s letter implies that many more are suspect.

If an enterprising conservative committee chairman wants to protect taxpayers while exposing one of the failures of ObamaCare, following up on the IG’s warning letter with a detailed investigation would be a good strategy.

H/T: The Hill


April 29th, 2015 at 4:29 pm
Rep. Blackburn Introduces Important Property Rights Bill – The Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act (PRMA)
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R – Tennessee) is perhaps the most steadfast property rights advocate in Congress.  In that vein, she has joined Rep. Anna Eshoo (D – California) in introducing another important piece of proposed legislation:  the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act (PRMA).

Under current law, terrestrial radio broadcasters exploit a loophole that allows them to play songs without compensating artists who created and performed them.  That stands in contrast to other forms of radio transmission – including satellite and Internet radio – that justifiably pay the performers whose songs they play.  Terrestrial radio companies thus earn billions of dollars in advertising revenues largely on the basis of songs for which artists remain uncompensated, contrary to fairly straightforward concepts of fairness.

Ironically, some of the companies that own those terrestrial radio stations turn around and ask Congress to require cable and satellite providers to compensate them for retransmission of television programming of stations they own.  Fair enough that they be paid for such retransmission, but the same logic should in turn apply to their own radio programming.

Representative Blackburn’s proposed PRMA would correct that ongoing unfairness by requiring broadcasters to practice what they preach and pay performers for the works they’ve worked hard to create.

Importantly, the legislation would also interrupt broadcasters’ effort to force tech companies to include an analog FM radio chip in smartphones and other mobile devices.  If device manufacturers wish to include FM chips in their products, that’s all well and good.  Indeed, many already do.  And if consumers demand products that include them, then the market will respond accordingly.  But it’s simply not something the federal government should be dictating.

By the way, that FM chip mandate proposal is also a sneaky way for terrestrial broadcasters to expand their exploitation of playing songs without compensating artists.  After all, as noted above, Internet broadcasters must pay artists under current law.  But by asking the federal government to compel FM chip inclusion, terrestrial broadcasters would be able to expand their loophole to mobile devices.

That is the epitome of crony capitalism.

We at CFIF remain strong defenders of property rights, including intellectual property rights for artists and musicians.  Accordingly, we applaud Rep. Blackburn for her leadership on this issue, and encourage our supporters and activists to ask their own elected representatives to stand alongside her.


April 28th, 2015 at 7:37 pm
On Entitlement Reform, Are Republicans All in This Together?
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Recent statements by likely GOP presidential candidates indicate the answer may be no.

“Republican governors across the country, including several conservatives, couldn’t resist the siren song of federal dollars and chose to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare,” writes Stephen F. Hayes at The Weekly Standard. “The federal government promises to fully fund Medicaid expansion for three years, after which the federal dollars are phased out and states will be responsible for paying for the expanded program themselves.”

Those governors include John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey. Both argue they made the best of a bad policy situation. Former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas could also be added to the mix, since he has recently distanced himself from Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s entitlement reform package ahead of an anticipated presidential bid.

After three years of party unity – broadly speaking – on entitlement reform, Republican leaders seem to be charting different paths on how to tackle the issue. This can and should be a healthy exercise in deliberation and persuasion, precisely the kind of policy-centric debate so necessary in the primaries.

That is, if the conversation stays on topic. Kasich, for example, has already shown a willingness to demonize critics instead of responding with a better argument. To wit, when health policy expert Avik Roy asked Kasich how he could be against ObamaCare’s “top-down government” but support Medicaid’s version of the same, Kasich retorted, “Maybe you think we should put them [the poor] in prison. I don’t.”

Hillary Clinton’s attack machine couldn’t have said it better. For the good of the conservative movement, Kasich and the rest of the presumptive GOP presidential field should.


April 28th, 2015 at 9:42 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Cheshire Candidate
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


April 27th, 2015 at 2:29 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.”  Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CDT/5:00 pm EDT:  Peter Roff, Contributing Editor at U.S. News & World Report – Trade Promotion Authority;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Mac Zimmerman, Director of Policy at Americans for Prosperity – Why Congress Must Allow the Export-Import Bank to Expire;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  David Keating, President of the Center for Competitive Politics – Five Years After Citizens United, Wisconsin’s Attempt to Criminalize Political Speech, and Nevada Express Advocacy Case; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Quin Hillyer, Contributing Editor for National Review Online and Political Commentator  What Hillary Clinton’s Past Scandals May Mean for 2016.

Listen live on the Internet here.   Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.