July 21st, 2014 at 8:11 pm
Rick Perry to Send 1,000 National Guard Members to Border
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry announced today that he intends to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard members to the state’s southern border to reduce crime in areas teeming with illegal immigrants.

The decision came after several failed attempts to get similar assistance from the Obama administration.

If implemented, the decision will cost Texas taxpayers about $12 million a month. Though he could empower Guard members to arrest and detain illegal immigrants crossing into Texas, Perry has not committed to doing so.

Instead, the Guard is likely to play an assistance role to federal Border Patrol agents. “We think they’ll come to us and say, ‘Please take us to a Border Patrol station’ [for processing],” says the head of the Texas National Guard.

The move makes sense since Texas has absorbed many of the 57,000 unaccompanied minors that have crossed the border with Mexico since last October. The additional hands will, if nothing else, beef up the law enforcement presence in places where crime is on the rise, giving Border Patrol agents much needed assistance in steering and clearing the area.

Given the federal government’s duty to secure the border and the Obama administration’s failure to do so, this is probably the best Perry – or any other governor – can do for the time being.


July 18th, 2014 at 3:04 pm
Podcast: What Can and Should Be Done to Reign In Obama Admin’s Lawlessness?
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

CFIF Contributing Editor Ashton Ellis discusses why critics agree that President Obama is failing to uphold his oath of office, Sarah Palin’s premise that Obama is acting lawlessly with respect to America’s unsecured border crisis, and what, if anything, can and should be done about it.

Listen to the interview here.


July 18th, 2014 at 12:57 pm
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

July 18th, 2014 at 9:19 am
Video: The Media Grows a (Baby) Backbone
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the mainstream media’s treatment of the Obama administration and how important it is that the Fourth Estate begin to hold the administration accountable for its actions and policies.

 


July 17th, 2014 at 9:05 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Pawn
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

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


July 15th, 2014 at 11:36 am
Judiciary Could Force Obama to Work with Congress
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

John Fund documents the Supreme Court’s growing impatience with the Obama administration’s refusal to adhere to the letter of the law in a piece out today with National Review.

Citing Jonathan Adler, a conservative legal expert, Fund highlights several recent Supreme Court decisions that slap down the executive branch’s significant regulatory overreach. Justices on both sides of the ideological spectrum – from the liberal Kagan to the conservative Scalia – refuse to grant President Barack Obama and his bureaucratic lieutenants the authority to change statutory requirements on a whim to suit policy goals the underlying law does not allow.

This backdrop is important as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to hand down its decision in Halbig v. Burwell, a case that challenges an IRS interpretation of ObamaCare that, if overturned, could prohibit the subsidies most Americans need to pay for the law’s expensive insurance plans.

Weighing in the challengers’ favor are the 13 unanimous Supreme Court decisions that have invalidated moves by Obama executive agencies since he took office. In its reasoning the Court has consistently said that the president must adhere to the constitutional framework for making laws, which limits the executive to faithfully executing (i.e. carrying out) what Congress has actually passed as legislation.

In the ObamaCare context, that means striking down the IRS rule that explicitly ignores the prohibition on giving federal subsidies to users of the federal health insurance portal.

Making them available only on state exchanges was an enticement to get states to foot the bill for implementation. It has since backfired with 34 states declining the deal.

Does that complicate the Obama administration’s ability to call federal ObamaCare plans affordable? You betcha. But it also preserves the constitutional check on a president prone to act beyond his designated powers.

Though it might be unpleasant for the White House and its allies, the world will not end if Barack Obama is forced to negotiate with Congress. Another judicial reminder to respect the structure of the Constitution would be a public service by the D.C. Circuit – and the Supreme Court.


July 14th, 2014 at 4:42 pm
Illegal Immigration Cleanup Falls on Public Schools
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

“All politics is local,” goes the saying, and it looks like local public school districts will be the political entities dealing most directly with the surge in illegal immigration when classes begin.

“While politicians spend the summer fighting over how to turn back the tide, school leaders across the country are struggling to absorb a new student population the size of Newark, New Jersey,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “More than 40,000 children, many of them fresh from violent, harrowing journeys, have been released since October to stateside relatives as courts process their cases.”

The issues facing public school personnel include lack of immunizations, emotional distress caused by the trip north and an expected surge in non-English speaking students. The money and manpower required to meet these challenges is immense, but at least as far as local schools are concerned, also worthwhile. No one wants to perpetuate the trauma caused to the children who survive this experience.

It’s important to remember that each child is a person deserving of care and assistance, and one hopes that public officials will work with civil society organizations – including faith-based groups – to help each child heal.

That said, the fallout from the Obama administration’s deliberately poor management of the southern border is a profound object lesson in avoidable tragedy. As usual, the cleanup effort will be done by those that can least afford it.


July 14th, 2014 at 2:53 pm
“Operation Choke Point” – Rogue Obama Administration Program Faces House Scrutiny This Week
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Already mired in myriad scandals – the IRS, our southern border, Benghazi, etc. – one would presume the Obama Administration reluctant to run a legally and ethically dubious program named “Operation Choke Point.”  Yet that’s exactly what this tone-deaf administration has done.

Fortunately, the House of Representatives is paying close attention, and holding several important hearings on the matter this week.

For those still unfamiliar, Operation Choke Point is a program initiated by Eric Holder’s Department of Justice to interrupt – or “choke” – access to private financial resources by entirely legal industries such as firearms sales, ammunition sales, coin dealers and others.  If the administration can successfully pressure financial services like banks and third-party payment processors to refuse to do business with those industries, they obviously cannot survive for very long.  All the while, none of the targeted industries have even been shown to have violated any laws.  Accordingly, it’s a prototypical Obama Administration effort to demonize and target legal business that it happens to dislike.

This week, however, two House committees will bring cleansing public sunlight to this rogue operation.  On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., the House Financial Services Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled “The Department of Justice’s ‘Operation Choke Point,’” and at 2:00 p.m. the House Financial Services Financial Institution and Consumer Credit Subcommittee will hole its hearing entitled, “Examining Regulatory Relief Proposals for Community Financial Institutions, Part II.”  Then, on Thursday at 9:30 a.m., the House Judiciary Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law Subcommittee will hold its hearing entitled “Guilty Until Proven Innocent?  A Study of the Proprietary & Legal Authority for the Justice Department’s Operation Choke Point.”

As with other Justice Department and IRS campaigns, Operation Choke Point is characterized by abuse of due process, secrecy and dishonesty.  Thankfully, this week’s battery of House hearings will provide some much-needed public scrutiny, and hopefully help end this rogue scheme.


July 14th, 2014 at 1:42 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Show 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:  Aloysius Hogan, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute – Harris v. Quinn and Unions Targeting Women;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:   Evan Moore, Senior Policy Analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative – Unrest in the Middle East;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EDT:  Dakota Wood, Senior Research Fellow in Defense Programs at The Heritage Foundation – U.S. Inaction Creates Opportunities for our Enemies;

5:15 CST/6:15 pm EDT:  Ashton Ellis, CFIF Fellow and Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy – To Impeach or Not?;  and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Sally Pipes, President, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute – How ObamaCare Will Kill Job-Based Plans and Why Healthcare’s Problem is Not High Drug Prices.

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


July 14th, 2014 at 8:52 am
Podcast: The Growing Crisis in Iraq and the Middle East
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Robert Zarate, Policy Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, discusses why the collapse of Iraq would be a disaster for American interests and security in the Middle East and what America should do in Iraq.

Listen to the interview here.


July 10th, 2014 at 5:07 pm
Texas Not Turning Blue While Obama in State
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

President Barack Obama went to Texas this week, and all he got was a few million dollars in campaign donations amid a bipartisan smackdown.

Obama was in the Lone Star State to help fundraise for various liberal candidates and causes as part of a much larger effort to ‘Turn Texas Blue’ for Democrats.

But his performance outside the rubber chicken circuit angered officeholders across the political spectrum.

The issue is Obama’s refusal to visit Texas’ southern border where tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors are streaming into the country and causing a humanitarian crisis.

“I don’t know whether he heard what I said,” Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry told Sean Hannity. After being ignored by Obama for months, Perry finally got a brief face-to-face with the president aboard Marine One.

Perry urged Obama to deploy the National Guard to the border as a national security measure. Obama demurred. “A leader acts,” Perry said, “and what I haven’t seen out of this president are actions that make me think he understands what’s going on.”

Henry Cueller agrees. The Texas Democratic congressman says that Obama’s refusal to visit the border and get a firsthand account of the situation risks creating his own ‘Katrina moment;’ a reference to George W. Bush’s slow response to a hurricane disaster that quickly sunk his presidency.

Prior to this Texas Democrats had been gearing up to capture the state’s top political offices.  The 2014 election was supposed to be a milestone. But with Obama’s failed policies and lackluster performance hurting its credibility, it looks increasingly like a tombstone.


July 8th, 2014 at 5:33 pm
Keep an Eye on Mike Lee
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

If you want to see what the future of the Republican Party might look like consider Mike Lee’s social network.

The Utah Republican has an enviable number of connections to fellow U.S. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. Each is strategic. With Paul it’s teaming up on civil liberties issues like reining in the National Security Agency and prison reform. Few remember that it was Cruz and Lee who helped force the government shutdown to halt ObamaCare. And now Rubio is coming around to Lee’s push to make the tax code more family friendly.

As James Antle puts it in a terrific post, “You don’t have to agree with all of the aforementioned proposals to see how different the Republican Party would look if Lee’s policy entrepreneurship with Paul and Rubio gained traction: Less identified with war, wiretapping, and mandatory sentences; more identified with reforming government programs and cutting taxes for the non-rich.”

By influencing the policy platforms of three likely GOP presidential contenders in 2016, Mike Lee is also forging friendships that could make him one of the most powerful officeholders on Capitol Hill.

Keep an eye on Mike Lee. He just may be the most important Tea Party Senator not running for president.


July 8th, 2014 at 3:58 pm
What Economists Miss in the Patent Reform Debate
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Following up on our patent reform post last week, today’s Wall Street Journal includes an interesting viewpoint via letters to the editor.  Specifically, Paul Adams of Albuquerque, New Mexico notes that while some economists short-sightedly applaud the way in which weakening patent protections and encouraging copying can lower costs in the near-term, they ignore the longer-term incentive to invest and invent that strong patent protections provide:

It may satisfy economists that allowing copying by large corporations will drive down prices for consumers since there is no other way to compete.  But that does enhance technology.  In fact, one benefit of the patent system is the pressure on competitors to invent a different and likely better solution, thereby advancing the technology.  I have on many occasions assisted competitors in ‘designing around’ a patent creating a new product or service.  There are few patents of such broad scope that there is not an alternative.”

Opponents of strong patent protections often fancy themselves clear-sighted, dispassionate, economics-based observers, but their positions are more accurately penny-wise but pound-foolish, as Mr. Adams correctly notes.


July 7th, 2014 at 8:59 am
Podcast: The “Lost” IRS Emails
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Hans von Spakovsky, Manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, discusses Lois Lerner’s “lost” e-mails, how the Justice Department is not taking the IRS investigation seriously and other recent IRS scandals.

Listen to the interview here.


July 4th, 2014 at 4:58 pm
The Declaration as an Art of Liberty
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

If after reading yesterday’s post you’re looking for some refresher material on the Declaration of Independence (and other Founding documents), I encourage you to visit Arts of Liberty. (Full disclosure: Jeff Lehman, the founder and director of the project, is a friend of mine.)

There you’ll find a short study guide asking all the right questions. Chief among them this Independence Day:

What is the central message of the Declaration of Independence? Does it aim more at political innovation or restoration? To whom is it addressed, and what is the significance of the intended audience?

Read and grow wise.


July 3rd, 2014 at 7:14 pm
Does the Declaration Empower Govt as Much as Secure Rights?
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

An allegedly misplaced period is causing at least one liberal academic to argue that the Declaration of Independence is as concerned with empowering government as it is with securing individual rights.

The argument runs like this. On the official transcript of the Declaration housed in the National Archives a period appears after the familiar phrase, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” However, the period doesn’t appear on the earliest version of the document we have, nor does it occur on other reproductions.

Removing the period changes the fundamental balance of government, argues Danielle Allen.

“That errant spot of ink,” summarizes the New York Times, “she believes, makes a difference, contributing to what she calls a ‘routine but serious misunderstanding’ of the document.

“The period creates the impression that the list of self-evident truths ends with the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ she says. But as intended by Thomas Jefferson, she argues, what comes next is just as important: the essential role of governments – ‘instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed’ – in securing those rights.”

According to Professor Allen, “The logic moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights. You lose that connection when the period gets added.”

What we have here is a grammar czar masquerading as a political theorist.

Whether or not the period is included, the logic of Jefferson’s argument is the same: Individual rights precede the formation of government. In fact, the only reason governments are formed is to secure the enjoyment of these pre-existing rights; among these being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When a government becomes destructive of these ends, the people have the right to abolish the government and found a new one that will secure them. If Professor Allen and others will recall, the vast majority of the Declaration sets forth the reasons for dissolving the bonds between the British Empire and the American colonies before declaring the latter free, independent and self-governing.

Allen’s real project, though, is reading the Declaration as a collectivist document that empowers government to legislate equality. In a summary of her book Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, Allen tries to make the most out of her ink blot by arguing that “Its list of self-evident truths does not end, as so many think, with our individual right to the ‘pursuit of happiness’ but with the collective right of the people to reform government so it will ‘effect their Safety and Happiness.’ The sentence laying out the self-evident truths leads us from the individual to the community – from our individual rights to what we can achieve only together, as a community constituted by bonds of equality.”

It’s impossible to square Allen’s interpretation with anything we know about the Declaration and the Founding. The Lockean theory driving the document puts individuals ahead of the group, and government – the largest expression of a group – at the service of the rights-bearing human person. If the group violates a person’s God-given rights (i.e. the inalienable ones endowed by the Creator), the group loses.

Going forward, it would be better if Professor Allen sticks to answering the marginally interesting question of the Declaration’s intended punctuation. Doing more – like trying to inject of a political philosophy into a blank space – risks making her contribution seem less important.


July 2nd, 2014 at 6:22 pm
An Energy Policy that Creates Jobs and Prestige
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

“By boosting our energy production, the U.S. could restore its diminishing influence in the world without expending blood and treasure – in fact, we would reap major economic benefits,” writes Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

Nunes is an up-and-coming member of the House Ways and Means Committee and is known for thinking big on how to use tax reform as a means to reestablish American leadership in the global economy.

Rationalizing our energy policy would go a long way too.

Thanks to improvements in technology large, untapped domestic oil and natural gas reservoirs are now reachable. States like North Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma are moving to capitalize, while huge potential awaits enterprising politicians and businesses in California and Colorado.

The benefits are many. More energy production means more jobs in extracting, refining and shipping. For example, an entry-level rig worker in North Dakota averages about $66,000 a year, while the average oil industry job in the state was $112,462 as of 2012. That also means more jobs for people serving workers flush with disposal income.

There’s also a national security angle. With Iraq’s oil fields under siege by Islamic militants, Venezuela constantly swayed by demagogic collectivists and Russia threatening to cut off natural gas shipments, it’s time for the United States to take the steps necessary to ensure greater energy independence.

Unsurprisingly, Nunes wants President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as implement other measures to put the nation in a game-changing position. Of course, that isn’t happening unless Obama adopts Bill Clinton’s triangulation strategy.

Don’t hold your breath.

Still, Nunes makes a compelling case for using national energy policy as a way to improve both our domestic economy and global prestige.

It’s an angle that economically recessed, war-weary Americans might soon embrace.


July 2nd, 2014 at 5:05 pm
The Mythical “Patent Troll?”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

“Patent troll.”  The term has assumed prevalence amid discussion of broader patent law reform, which we at CFIF have supported in some incarnations.

The “patent troll” problem, however, is to a large degree a litigation problem more than a problem inherent in our patent system.  And in that vein, two prominent conservative/libertarian figures have penned a Wall Street Journal commentary entitled “The Myth of the Wicked Patent Troll.”  Author Stephen Haber is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Prosperity, while co-author Ross Levine is a business professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a senior fellow at the Milken Institute.  In other words, their intellectual and free-market credentials are well-established.

In their commentary, Mr. Haber and Mr. Levine substantively detail research showing that, “innovation rates have been strongest in exactly the industries that patent-reform advocates claim are suffering from ‘trolls’ and a broken patent system.”  They also correctly highlight the fact that, for whatever its flaws, our patent system is the world’s greatest:

Thanks in large part to the patent system we have, the current rate of invention in the U.S. might be the fastest in human history.  Where is the evidence that society would benefit from undertaking the risky process of reforming a patenting system that has been the envy of the world for more than two centuries?”

The real problem, they say, is large corporations seeking to leverage government power in pursuit of their own self-interest:

There is one basic reason behind the attacks on trolls:  Big Money.  Many patent-intensive products — the smartphone in your pocket, the laptop computer in your briefcase — are produced by big corporations that license many patents.  The iPhone is a classic example:  It contains thousands of patented components, but Apple does not own many of the key ones.  It must negotiate for the right to use them.  These corporations can make higher profits the less they pay to use patented technology they do not own, and higher profits still by paying nothing at all.  The battle over the ‘right price’ for patented technologies takes many forms, one of which is political.  Indeed, some corporations are looking to gain a competitive edge by changing the rules of the game.  The strategy is to pass patent-reform legislation that weakens the negotiating position of patent holders.  Corporations that pay large sums for patented technologies will point to lawsuits, trolls and anything else that will encourage lawmakers to pass such reforms.”

Agree or disagree, their piece brings an important and under-discussed perspective to the ongoing patent reform debate.


July 2nd, 2014 at 9:01 am
Public Ranks Obama Worst President in 70 Years
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Americans have apparently not taken total leave of their senses. A new poll released by Quinnipiac University shows that a plurality of voters — 33 percent — rank Barack Obama as America’s worst president since World War II. Now, a poll’s only as good as its respondents and there’s always a danger in asking people to compare current political figures with historical ones, because the contemporary personalities absorb such a disproportionate amount of their attention (it’s salient that George W. Bush came in second the poll). Still, I think these results just about get it right.

The only two presidents in the post-WWII era that could arguably compete with Obama are Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. Nixon is really sui generis though because of Watergate. Without the scandal, it’s unlikely that he’d be held in such low esteem; Nixon was accused a lot of things, but incompetence was never one of them.

As for Carter, traditionally the measuring rod that those of us on the right have used for hapless chief executives, Obama actually makes him look good by comparison. Whereas virtually every instinct Obama has on domestic policy is wrong, at least Carter can be credited with starting some of the push towards deregulation that really flowered under the Reagan Administration. And while Carter is Obama’s closest analogue on foreign policy fecklessness, there is one key distinction — Carter eventually learned from his mistakes, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan convincing him that a more robust foreign policy was a practical necessity. Judged in a vacuum that’s pretty thin gruel — but it’s fairly impressive by comparison with Obama.

Two other interesting points from the results: a narrow plurality of voters now say that Obama is a worse president than George W. Bush, something that would have been unthinkable to liberals five years ago. Also, by a 45-38 margin, respondents said the country would be better off if Mitt Romney had defeated Obama in 2012. It’s a bit frustrating that it’s taken this long for eyes to open … but better late than never.

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July 1st, 2014 at 4:23 pm
Yesterday’s OTHER Supreme Court Ruling
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Lost in all of the media hyperventilation about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision yesterday (where the left is truly embarrassing itself over an extremely narrowly tailored decision) is the equally good news that came out of the case of Harris v. Quinn, which challenged Illinois’ requirement that home care workers had to contribute dues to the SEIU even if they didn’t want to join (an arrangement that was set up through a back room deal with now-imprisoned former Governor Rod Blagojevich). From The Hill:

The Supreme Court on Monday chipped away at the power of organized labor by ruling that some state workers cannot be forced to pay union fees.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices struck down a requirement that home care workers in Illinois contribute to a branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), even if they choose not to join.

“A state may not force every person who benefits from this [union's] efforts to make payments to the [union],” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority’s decision.

It’s always the same story with big labor: their supposed benevolence relies on coercion. If people don’t want to join the union, by what right should they still be forced to pay them? And if the unions think the lack of dues leaves them vulnerable to free riding, then why not limit the terms of collective bargaining only to those workers who are actual members? The answer, of course, is that labor negotiates deals far better than they could receive in a competitive market, leading them to attempt to lock out anyone who might be willing to work for a lesser rate.

Expect to see the same outcome in Illinois that you did in Wisconsin when workers there got out from the unions’ thumbs: dues payers rushing for the exits. If big labor wants a viable future, they’ll have to start standing on their own two feet. The days when they can live off of others are quickly coming to a close.