August 21st, 2014 at 2:38 pm
Avik Roy Updates His ObamaCare Alternative
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Credit Avik Roy for being open-minded.

A week after unveiling his ambitious – and controversial – reform of ObamaCare, Roy, a well-respected health policy expert, is incorporating some of the best criticisms as amendments to his plan.

Most of the changes are highly technical, and not worth delving into in a short blog post. For readers interested in specifics, here is the link to Roy’s updates page.

What’s refreshing about Roy’s response to his fellow conservatives is his willingness to defend his ideas, but not to the point of brushing aside legitimate improvements.

As to the biggest concern – that preserving ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges makes it possible that Democrat congressional majorities in the future might use them as a springboard to a single-payer system – Roy replies, “No health-reform plan can singlehandedly prevent Democrats from doing whatever they want if they ever again have 2009-size, filibuster-proof majorities. But if that’s the standard for constructive GOP reform plans, well, let’s just call it a day.”

Roy’s point is well taken, but it highlights a central tension among conservatives whenever federal policymaking is considered – Which is more important: Market efficiency or federalism?

Policy wonks like Roy tend to favor efficiency as a way to lower spending and improve citizen-customer experiences. Constitutionalists like myself tend to favor federalism and the policy diversity that it affords. Of course, different regulatory regimes produce market inefficiencies. However, that just may be the price of freedom.

Roy should be applauded for trying to make his ObamaCare alternative as strong as possible. Time will tell whether conservatives will come to favor an efficient, federally-regulated national market, or continue to favor a system that lets states and their citizens decide what works best for them.


August 21st, 2014 at 1:38 pm
Judge Orders Release of Fast and Furious Documents
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Soon the American people may finally get some clarity about the Fast and Furious scandal.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the Department of Justice must provide a list of documents related to the gun-running scheme that it says are protected by executive privilege. The list will be turned over to investigators at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

Disclosing the list will allow House investigators to challenge DOJ’s privilege claim for shielding each document, a case-by-case process that will likely result in at least some transparency into the murky program that enabled Mexican drug cartels to kill a U.S. Border Agent and scores of Mexicans.

H/T: National Review Online


August 21st, 2014 at 1:23 pm
Ninth Circuit: IPAB Challenge Must Wait
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Uncharacteristically, a three judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has given constitutional conservatives a reason to smile.

The Ninth Circuit, a bastion of liberalism that gets routinely reversed by the Supreme Court, ruled that a constitutional challenge to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is not yet “ripe” for judicial review. Ripeness is the term judges use to denote when a case has a live issue that a court of law can decide. In the IPAB case, the agency hasn’t yet been created, so any challenges to the harm it might do must wait until they actually occur.

And make no mistake, there is much to fear from a fully functioning IPAB. For example, “IPAB is not dependent upon annual appropriations from Congress, need not follow traditional administrative processes, and is not subject to judicial review. As if that were not enough,” writes Jonathan Adler, “[ObamaCare] provides that Congress may dissolve IPAB only if it follows a specified procedure during a seven-month period in 2017 – a statutory provision even the Obama administration has acknowledged could not hold up in court.”

Each of the characteristics of IPAB cited by Adler above are intentionally designed to separate the agency from legislative, judicial and ultimately public control. This is dangerous because “IPAB is authorized to develop self-executing recommendations for limits on Medicare reimbursement rates and other cost controls should the rate of Medicare spending growth exceed a specified target.” That is, IPAB is empowered to ration care for Medicare beneficiaries without any oversight. If allowed to go into effect, IPAB could very well be the biggest step toward a European-style, centrally controlled nationalized health system.

So, how is a loss today really a win for the future? By dismissing the current challenge to IPAB for lack of ripeness, the Ninth Circuit panel is allowing those opposed to the agency to fight another day. At the trial level where this case began, the district judge was not so kind. He ruled against the challengers on the merits, foreclosing future attacks when IPAB actually gets going.

By allowing the challengers to refile later, the Ninth Circuit – at least for the time being – is leaving the door open to another, perhaps more successful assertion of constitutional principle.


August 20th, 2014 at 12:26 pm
Paul Ryan: Regulations Hurt the Poor
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Conservatives typically – and correctly – fault the regulatory state for increasing the cost of doing business and impeding job creation. But what about the argument that businesses don’t pay taxes (or regulatory fees), people do?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is making a powerful case that the two go together in a way that could reduce the government’s footprint and decrease poverty.

“The regulatory part of Ryan’s anti-poverty plan goes after ‘regressive’ federal rules – those that have an outsize economic impact on low-income households,” reports The Hill. “Supporters of his plan say regulations are ultimately borne by ordinary consumers and households who pay extra when new restrictions are piled on to the products and services they use. The poor end up spending a greater share of their income to cover the added expense.”

The argument that regulations are regressive – that they take a bigger bite out of a poor family’s budget than anyone else’s – is an especially attractive one to liberals such as Cass Sunstein, the former chief of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama White House.

In a recent column, Sunstein said Ryan’s regulatory reforms “point in helpful directions, and they suggest the possibility of bipartisan cooperation on some important questions.” Among these is taking into consideration the human cost of regulations on a segment of society that can least afford it.

To be sure, neither Ryan nor Sunstein advocate eliminating all regulations, and how they would implement such reforms would likely differ substantially. Still, the fact that a well-known, serious conservative and his liberal counterpart see common ground on pulling back government and lifting up the poor is a development worth watching.


August 19th, 2014 at 7:49 pm
Laughable Indictment Could Actually Help Perry in 2016
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Today, Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry had to suffer the indignity of turning himself into local law enforcement on absurd charges that he abused his office.

The upshot is that this whole politically motivated affair is very likely about to end without any further dents to Perry’s public image.

In fact, it might even help him.

The water cooler version is that the Democrat who runs the state’s Public Integrity Unit got mad that Perry vetoed funding after she served jail time for drunk driving and refused to resign. Apparently, an Austin-based grand jury thought that was enough to issue two felony indictments for abuse of power.

No serious person who has actually looked at Texas law thinks this will stand up in court. The case is so bad that even liberal pundits are taking the opportunity to defend a staunchly conservative Southern Republican.

As a matter of history, this is at least the third time a sitting Republican official has been the target of a politically motivated criminal prosecution, according to John Fund. The other two – U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay – were both eventually acquitted.

That’s a track record Perry can take comfort in, especially since Texas governors enjoy virtually unlimited discretion to veto appropriations bills. Knowing this, Perry can pledge to “fight this injustice with every fiber of my being” because he knows the prosecution doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on.

When the dust settles and the national media spotlight dissolves, Perry might actually be in a better situation politically than before. Already he’s gained a lot of renewed interest as a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate for his deft handling of the current border crisis. Add this martyr-making moment to the mix, and Perry might be ready to audition for the role of Comeback Kid.


August 19th, 2014 at 9:29 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Caught Between Iraq and a Hard Place
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.


August 18th, 2014 at 9:46 am
Hillary Inevitable in 2016? These Numbers Say “Not So Fast”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Since World War II, only one president has been so successful, his party’s brand name so enhanced during his two presidential terms, that his party’s subsequent nominee won a third consecutive presidency for his party:  Ronald Reagan.

According to the old adage, although history doesn’t always repeat itself, it does tend to rhyme.  Accordingly, that speaks to the steep uphill battle that the Democratic Party faces in winning the 2016 presidential election.  On that note, this morning’s commentary from Bill Kristol highlights a numerical headwind facing Hillary Clinton, whom some consider “inevitable” in 2016 (just as she supposedly was in 2008):

Speaking of 2016, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this summer had a couple of interesting findings on the question of who might be our next president.  The good news is that while 38 percent of respondents say they ‘probably’ or ‘almost certainly’ will vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, 37 percent say they ‘definitely’ will not vote for her.  This means that Clinton, the candidate with by far the highest name recognition and the longest résumé, starts off at about 50-50.  And while her approval numbers remain decent, they’re falling:   Today, 44 percent view her positively against 37 percent negatively.   Those numbers were once 48 percent positive, and only 32 percent negative.

By contrast, in the sixth year of the Bush administration, John McCain, the frontrunner and eventual nominee of the party in power, had a favorable rating in the mid-50s and an unfavorable number in the mid-20s.  And of course he lost.”

Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan by any meaningful measure, and there’s a reason that Hillary’s “inevitability” evaporated in 2008.  These numbers suggest that the “inevitability” narrative may prove just as ephemeral in 2016.


August 17th, 2014 at 11:46 am
Why We Shouldn’t Be Blind to the Barriers of Preventative Medicine
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Dr. Sunil Gupta, founder, chairman and chief medical officer of IRIS, discusses how barriers to medical care and access to the latest technologies are delaying preventative screening for Diabetic Retinopathy, a leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States in people 20 to 65 years of age.

Listen to the interview here.


August 15th, 2014 at 12:18 pm
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

August 15th, 2014 at 10:28 am
Video: Chaos at the CIA
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the current dysfunction at the CIA, Congress’ political showboating and the need for everyone in Washington to get a lot more serious.


August 15th, 2014 at 7:22 am
Podcast – Net Neutrality: A Solution in Search of a Problem
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Mike Wendy, director of Media Freedom, discusses how so-called “Net Neutrality” is a solution in search of a problem and why heavy-handed government regulations are not good for consumers or investment.

Listen to the interview here.


August 14th, 2014 at 8:35 pm
Indiana Jumps on the Halbig Bandwagon
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Add Indiana to the list of states arguing that ObamaCare’s subsidies can’t be used on Healthcare.gov, the federal exchange.

The challenge is the same mounted by other states contesting the IRS’s unilateral decision to go against the clear language of ObamaCare which makes subsidies available only on state-based exchanges, a restriction intended to induce states to shoulder the implementation costs for fear of angering residents by exposing them to ObamaCare’s real costs.

U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence will decide whether Indiana’s case has merit in October. Precedent from other circuits isn’t all that helpful, since the D.C. Circuit upheld the statutory scheme while the Fourth Circuit sided with the IRS.

The silver lining: Whatever Lawrence and the appellate circuit decide will further fragment ObamaCare’s implementation, increasing the likelihood that the Supreme Court will weigh in.

Whenever that happens, hopefully there will still be five votes to uphold the plain meaning of the law.

H/T: Indianapolis Star


August 14th, 2014 at 3:25 pm
Like IRS, CMS Emails Go Missing
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

It looks like Lois Lerner – the former IRS manager at the center of the scandal targeting conservative groups – isn’t the only Obama administration official who lost emails subpoenaed by Congress.

Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is now believed to have deleted emails sought by congressional investigators trying to understand why Healthcare.gov had such a horrendous rollout.

“In order to stay below the agency’s Microsoft Outlook email size limit, Tavenner would regularly delete emails after copying or forwarding them to her staff for retention,” says the MSNBC report that broke the story. “However, Tavenner didn’t follow that procedure every time, meaning some emails never made it to her staff for safekeeping before being deleted.”

That could turn out to be a costly oversight for Tavenner.

As Jillian Kay Melchior points out, “Federal law tasks heads of all federal agencies with ‘mak[ing] and preserv[ing] records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency and designed to furnish the information necessary to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and of persons directly affected by the agency’s activities.’”

Unlike Lerner who claims her IRS computer crashed taking with it unrecoverable emails – a claim disputed by IT experts inside and outside the tax-gathering agency – Tavenner, at best, is pleading that she’s too busy to follow the law. At worst, she’s the latest Obama administration official caught skirting her legal obligations to hide inconvenient truths.

To my knowledge, Tavenner isn’t considered an overt Obama loyalist, so it’s possible that the missing emails are a genuine oversight by a busy administrator. The trouble is, Tavenner works in an administration seemingly filled with people who are unwilling to comply with the kind of document sharing necessary for the people – through Congress – to understand and judge what unelected bureaucrats are doing. One of the tragedies of bad behavior by some is the suspicion it casts on everyone else on the team.

So be it.

Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has already pledged to hold hearings on alleged wrongdoing by agency heads when Congress returns from its August recess.

Don’t be surprised to see a hearing scheduled to get the truth about Tavenner’s missing emails.


August 13th, 2014 at 3:10 pm
Ramirez Cartoon: Tax Inversion
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.


August 12th, 2014 at 6:06 pm
Signs Emerge that ObamaCare Enrollment Is Dropping
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

It looks like the Obama administration’s much celebrated achievement of 8 million ObamaCare enrollments is actually dropping over time.

“The nation’s third-largest health insurer [Aetna] had 720,000 people sign up for exchange coverage as of May 20,” writes Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily. “At the end of June, it had fewer than 600,000 paying customers. Aetna expects that to fall to ‘just over 500,000’ by the end of the year.”

While no other insurance company has publicly reported declines as steep as Aetna, many others have not denied it is happening during recent conference calls discussing earnings.

Some attrition in ObamaCare signups is to be expected since a number of major life events could cause a change in status. Getting a new job with health benefits, for example. But the Obama administration’s refusal to publicize monthly enrollment numbers makes it impossible to get a clear picture of how well the law is working.

Which may be precisely the goal.


August 11th, 2014 at 2:24 pm
HHS to Fund Coming ObamaCare Bailout of Insurance Companies
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

What makes conservatives so sure that the Obama administration will bailout insurance companies losing money under ObamaCare?

“According to a recent investigation conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Darrell Issa, insurers widely expect to receive funds from the bailout program,” writes U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “One large insurer recently filed financial statements claiming they expect part of their revenue to come from American taxpayers via the ObamaCare bailout ‘fund.’”

Thwarted by the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives who refuse to appropriate money for this part of ObamaCare, the Department of Health and Human Services “figured out a way to use general funds available through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay off health insurers,” says Rubio. “The effect is to circumvent Congress’ power of the purse for the purpose of bailing out health insurers with taxpayer funds.”

Whether it’s the CIA lying about spying on congressional investigators or IRS officials conveniently losing potentially damaging emails, executive branch officials in the Obama administration are destroying the ability of anybody outside their clique from being able to trust anything they say.


August 11th, 2014 at 2:11 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:  Lori Lowenthal Marcus, co-founder of Z STREET — Politicization of the IRS and Z STREETS lawsuit against IRS for First Amendment violations;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Mike Wendy, director of MediaFreedom — Net Neutrality;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EDT:  Dr. Sunil Gupta, founder, chairman and chief medical officer of IRIS — Barriers to Medical Care and Access to Latest Technologies; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Quin Hillyer, political commentator and contributing editor for National Review Online — An Early Look at Elections 2014.

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


August 11th, 2014 at 9:51 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Trampled Under Foot
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.


August 10th, 2014 at 10:03 am
Inversions and the Urgent Need for Corporate Tax Reform
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, David R. Burton, Senior Fellow in Economic Policy at the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation, discusses why the U.S. corporate tax rate makes it difficult for domestic companies to compete in the global economy, the Obama Administration’s efforts to stop companies from incorporating overseas and the urgent need for tax reform in the U.S.

 Listen to the interview here.


August 8th, 2014 at 11:00 am
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print