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August 3rd, 2015 at 9:56 am
New Poll: Americans Oppose Obama-Iran Accord By Over 2-to-1
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

There’s good news to begin the week from the public opinion front.

Despite – or perhaps because of – the Obama Administration’s desperate effort to sell a skeptical Congress and American electorate on its dangerous nuclear accord with Iran, a new Quinnipiac poll shows that the public opposes the deal by more than a two-to-one margin:

American voters oppose 57-28 percent, with only lukewarm support from Democrats and overwhelming opposition from Republicans and independent voters, the nuclear pact negotiated with Iran, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.  Voters say 58-30 percent the nuclear pact will make the world less safe, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds.”

That skepticism is matched by some in Congress, including Senator Tom Cotton (R – Arkansas) and Representative Mike Pompeo (R – Kansas).  In a Wall Street Journal commentary this morning, they highlight how secret side deals between Iran and third parties offer an additional reason to withhold support:

The response from the administration to questions about the side deals has brought little reassurance.  At first the administration refrained from acknowledging their existence.  Unable to sustain that position, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on July 22 during a White House press briefing that the administration ‘knows’ the ‘content’ of the arrangements and would brief Congress on it.  Yet the same day Secretary of State John Kerry, in a closed-door briefing with members of Congress, said he had not read the side deals.  And on July 29 when pressed in a Senate hearing, Mr. Kerry admitted that a member of his negotiating team ‘may’ have read the arrangements but he was not sure.

That person, Undersecretary of State and lead negotiator Wendy Sherman, on July 30 said in an interview on MSNBC, ‘I saw the pieces of paper but wasn’t allowed to keep them.  All of the members of the P5+1 did in Vienna, and so did some of my experts who certainly understand this even better than I do.’

A game of nuclear telephone and hearsay is simply not good enough, not for a decision as grave as this one.  The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act says Congress must have full access to all nuclear agreement documents – not unverifiable accounts from Ms. Sherman or others of what may or may not be in the secret side deals.  How else can Congress, in good conscience, vote on the overall deal?”

The simple answer is that it cannot.  The Obama Administration’s disastrous Iran proposal must be rejected, and we urge our supporters and activists to contact their elected representatives in both the Senate and House to demand opposition.

July 31st, 2015 at 10:01 am
Sticker Shock: Healthcare Spending Spikes As ObamaCare Takes Effect
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

For some time now, Barack Obama and his apologists have trumpeted slowing healthcare costs as somehow attributable to ObamaCare.  Never mind that the declines predated Obama’s election, and that even The Washington Post gave him three Pinocchios in its Fact Checker analysis of this claim on November 5 of last year:

Healthcare inflation has gone down every single year since the law [ObamaCare] passed, so that we now have the lowest increase in healthcare costs in 50 years – which is saving us about $180 billion in reduced overall costs to the federal government and in the Medicare program.”

To illustrate how he played the role of rooster taking credit for the sunrise, healthcare cost inflation reached 7% in 2003, but plummeted to approximately 2% before Obama even took office.

Regardless, but healthcare costs are spiking again as ObamaCare actually takes effect:

Growth in national health spending, which had dropped to historic lows in recent years, has snapped back and is set to continue at a faster pace over the next decade, federal actuaries said Tuesday…  The jump comes after five consecutive years of average spending growth of less than 4% annually – a rate touted by the Obama Administration as the lowest since the government began tracking health spending in the 1960s and a sign that the health law’s Medicare provisions were helping rein in health costs.”

Ooops.

Chalk up yet another failure of ObamaCare, which helps explain why it remains so unpopular among Americans as we “find out what’s in it” in the words of Nancy Pelosi.

July 28th, 2015 at 3:47 pm
Congress Should Oppose the So-Called “Local Radio Freedom Act”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Elementary concepts of fairness demand that musical artists and performers remain free to negotiate performance rights with broadcasters that seek to play their songs.  Indeed, current law allows artists to mutually bargain with satellite, Internet and cable stations.

The only exception:  traditional AM-FM radio stations, which are unfairly protected by federal law from having to negotiate with artists for performance rights.  This is precisely the sort of crony capitalism against which the American electorate is increasingly irate.

Unfortunately, rather than advocating market reform, some in Congress wish to cement the current protectionist status quo.  Under the so-called “Local Radio Freedom Act,” whose very name contradicts its real-world effect, terrestrial radio’s unjustifiable exemption from having to negotiate performance rights would be made more permanent.  The bill would foreclose bargained-for negotiation between artists and stations for compensation, perpetuating stations’ ability to earn billions by playing songs without paying for them.  And in an example of of supreme chutzpah, the same traditional radio stations benefiting from that loophole turn around and ask Congress to require cable and satellite providers to pay them for retransmission of television programs of stations they happen to own.

The bill’s proponents advance the offensive claim that artists seeking payment should just shut up and appreciate that their works get played over the air, thereby providing them publicity and advertising.  But that’s not something that stations should dictate.  The creators and performers of those songs should be free to determine which market model they prefer – performance for payment or free of charge.  That’s how a free market works.

Accordingly, we at CFIF have joined an array of fellow free-market organizations in a letter to Congress stating our objections to this protectionist and crony capitalist proposed legislation:

We urge you to refrain from co-sponsoring the Local Radio Freedom Act, which sanctions the status quo, and has a chilling effect on the development of a forward-thinking policy that respects the rights of all music producers in all media.  The Constitution protects private property rights and specifically delegates to Congress the authority to protect creative works.  Unfortunately, LRFA closes the discussion about how to best protect property rights by resolving that terrestrial radio should never pay performance royalties on music broadcast on their stations used for raising advertising revenue.  This is not equitable treatment for any musical artist or music distribution service.”

Americans are justifiably fed up with the sort of protectionism and cronyism that this proposed legislation represents.  We accordingly urge Congress to reject it, and that our hundreds of thousands of supporters and activists across the country to contact their representatives in Congress and express their opposition as well.

July 27th, 2015 at 2:42 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:  Garland Tucker, historian and author - Conservative Heroes: Fourteen Leaders who Shaped America, from Jefferson to Reagan;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  David Williams, President of Taxpayers Protection Alliance – The Truth about the Solar Industry;

4:45 CDT/5:45 pm EDT:  Sarah Westwood, Investigative Reporter with the Washington Examiner – Presidential Candidates;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Tzvi Kahn, Senior Policy Analyst at The Foreign Policy Initiative – Iran; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Ben Boychuk, CFIF Contributing Editor and columnist – School Reform.

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

July 16th, 2015 at 10:49 am
Georgetown Study: FCC Title II Internet Regulation Will Reduce Internet Investment & Innovation Between 5% – 20%
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

As we at CFIF have discussed on numerous occasions, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) effort to reclassify Internet service under Depression-era Title II regulations meant for copper-wire telephone service is a toxic idea on legal, economic and technological grounds.

Now, a new study from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Center for Business and Public Policy provides additional intellectual heft and confirmation.  Entitled “Regulation and Investment:  A Note on Policy Evaluation Under Uncertainty, with an Application to FCC Title II Regulation of the Internet,” authors Kevin A. Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute and Robert J. Shapiro of the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy find that the FCC’s destructive maneuver will reduce Internet investment and innovation by an alarming 5% to 20%:

First, we showed that Title II regulation should be expected to increase costs, and therefore is the type of policy that should be expected to reduce investment.  Second, we reviewed the field-specific evidence that suggested that the scale of the negative effect would be quite large, from about 5.5 percent to as much as 20.8 percent.  Next, we documented that the ratio of investment to the capital stock would be expected to decline to roughly that extent if Title II regulation in the United States would be comparable to the regulatory framework of the OECD continental European countries in the first decade of the 21st century.  Next, we cited an analysis by a legal scholar that suggest that this analogy is reasonable.  Finally, we found that the negative effects on investment may well be significantly understated by these factors because the new regulation’s threshold effect will maximize the negative effects of uncertainty.”

The Internet has flourished to date, and become perhaps the most rapidly and profoundly transformative innovation in human history precisely because the federal government regulated with a light touch.  By reversing that regulatory stance that prevailed throughout both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, the Obama Administration FCC is placing continued innovation and investment at great risk.  This new study provides just the latest confirmation, and offers additional reason for Congress, the courts or even a future presidential administration to put a stop to it.

July 13th, 2015 at 1:14 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:  James Roberts, Research Fellow for Economic Freedom and Growth at The Heritage Foundation – Greece;

4:15 CDT/5:15 pm EDT:  Bob Dorigo Jones, Senior Fellow for the Center for America – Finalists in the 18th Annual Wacky Warning Labels Contest;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Logan Beirne, Lecturer in Law and Fellow, Information Society Project at Yale Law School – Treasury Department’s Seizure of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Profits;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs – Puerto Rico and Bankruptcy; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Sally Pipes, President, CEO and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute – Post SCOTUS ObamaCare Ruling.

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

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July 7th, 2015 at 10:21 am
New Gallup Poll on Confidence in Big Business Coincides with ObamaCare Merger Wave
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

A revealing commentary this week in The Wall Street Journal on reduced competition and insurance industry consolidation under ObamaCare coincides in an interesting manner with a new Gallup poll showing very low public confidence in big business.

In “How the Affordable Care Act Is Reducing Competition,” physician and American Enterprise Institute (AEI) resident fellow Scott Gottlieb lays out how ObamaCare by design requires industry consolidation to accommodate its massive regulatory burdens and higher operating costs:

To sustain themselves, insurers must spread fixed costs over a larger base of members.  The bigger they are, the easier it is to meet the government-imposed cap on their operating costs while cutting their way to profitability.  This pressure discourages new health plans from launching.  Startups often must channel more money into initial operating expenses.  But the caps largely prevent this, so the market stagnates…  ObamaCare’s architects saw these trends coming – and welcomed them.  They mistakenly believed that consolidation would be good for patients, on the theory that larger companies would have more capital to invest in innovations that are thought to improve coordination of medical care, such as electronic health records, integrated teams of medical providers and telemedicine.

This was a profound miscalculation.  The truth is that the greatest innovations in healthcare delivery haven’t come from federally contrived oligopolies or enormous hospital chains.  Novel concepts – whether practice-management companies, home healthcare or the first for-profit HMO – almost always have come from entrepreneurial firms, often backed by venture capital.  That venture capital has been drying up since ObamaCare was passed.”

Meanwhile, a new Gallup survey reveals that is precisely the sort of big-business favoritism that Americans distrust:

Americans are more than three times as likely to express confidence in small business as they are in big business.  Sixty-seven percent of U.S. adults report having a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in small business, far eclipsing the 21% who are similarly confident in big business.  Confidence in small business is up slightly from last year’s 62%, while confidence in big business is unchanged.”

This helps explain why, despite Barack Obama’s ongoing protestations and false assurances, the healthcare law bearing his name remains widely unpopular with Americans it affects.  Each week brings a fresh wave of bad news about ObamaCare, such as this week’s news of skyrocketing costs unanticipated only by those who supported the law.  Its unpopularity, along with the unpopularity of big government and big business more generally, provide optimism that Americans remain open to conservative and libertarian efforts toward replacement and reform.

July 2nd, 2015 at 2:43 pm
Forty Attorneys General and Broad Internet Safety Alliance Fight Google’s Attempt to Avoid Investigation of Alleged Illegal Behavior
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Last December, we detailed how Google sought to exploit last year’s cyberattack against Sony for its own self-interested purposes:

Instead of joining the rest of the responsible online community in addressing the important issues of cybersecurity and the way in which the Internet is increasingly exploited to invade privacy, commit theft, sabotage and even terrorize, Google seeks to malign a very serious investigation into its own questionable Internet conduct.  Specifically, it remains under scrutiny by federal and state authorities for years of alleged anticompetitive conduct and invasion of privacy, as well as for potentially facilitating theft, fraud, illicit sale of drugs and even human trafficking.  The allegations are obviously serious, and Google is even more obviously worried enough about them to exploit the Sony cyberattack for its benefit.”

Dating back to 2011, Google admitted to illegally facilitating and profiting from advertising by Canadian pharmacies unauthorized to sell to U.S. consumers.   The charges were so grave that Google agreed to pay a half-billion dollar settlement.  State-level investigations, however, continued.  But instead of cooperating with authorities and remedying its wrongdoing, Google utilized documents exposed by the North Korean cyberattack against Sony to ask a federal court to halt further investigation into possible violation of state consumer protection laws.  Specifically, Google sought injunction prohibiting Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood from looking into allegations that it advertised and provided access to such illegal products and services as false government IDs and even child prostitution.  A federal judge unreasonably accepted Google’s petition based upon a strained reading of a federal statute, the Communications Decency Act.

The baselessness of that injunction is vividly illustrated by the fact that some forty state attorneys general – a bipartisan alliance of 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats – petitioned the court this week to vacate the injunction.  Sustaining the ill-advised injunction, they emphasized, “would provide a roadmap for any potential wrongdoer subject to a legitimate state law enforcement investigation to attempt to thwart such an inquiry.”

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who has worked alongside CFIF in the past, captured the essence of the matter in a separate brief on behalf of the Digital Citizens Alliance:

The preliminary injunction entered below is the wrong remedy in the wrong court at the wrong time.  Google will enjoy ample opportunities to protect its rights if the Attorney General’s investigation is allowed to progress.  But if that investigation is halted before it begins in earnest, there will be no later opportunity to vindicate the public interest in seeing criminal misconduct investigated and stopped.  Because Google has no federal right to block a state investigation into its suspected wrongdoing, and because in any case the other relevant factors weigh unmistakably against a preliminary injunction, the decision below cannot stand.”

Mr. Clement stands among the top legal minds in America, and he hits the bullseye on this count.  When such an overwhelming bipartisan group of attorneys general joins a broad alliance of Internet safety groups, the balance of justice on this question is even more clear.

June 30th, 2015 at 2:10 pm
Two-Face T-Mobile 2.0
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We recently described how T-Mobile was playing crony capitalist DC games and talking out of both sides of its mouth.  On one side, it told Wall Street that it’s in a great position.  On the other side, it pleaded with federal regulators in DC that it needs their help in order to remain competitive in the wireless marketplace.

The company CEO, whom The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins labeled “Potty-Mouth” Legere, is now doubling down on the company’s “Little Sisters of the Poor” message to DC and calling for a larger set-aside in the upcoming spectrum incentive auction.  The Obama Federal Communications Commission (FCC) already promised to set aside 30 MHz, but that just wasn’t enough for T-Mobile.  Now Mr. Legere and the Save Wireless Choice coalition – which conspicuously counts T-Mobile, Sprint, and DISH as members – are pushing for at least 40 MHz.

That set-aside proposal is a bad idea for several reasons.  First, T-Mobile wants the FCC to make it easier for it to get spectrum at below-market value without competing against AT&T and Verizon.  There’s no reason, however, to believe that T-Mobile can’t compete in a fair and open auction without federal bureaucrats tipping the scales in their favor.  Moreover, even if money were an issue, couldn’t T-Mobile’s multi-billion dollar parent company, Deutsche Telekom, come to its aid?

Consider the straightforward numbers:  Deutsche Telekom, a German company with a market cap over €70 billion, is a 66% stakeholder in T-Mobile.  Additionally, the German government maintains approximately a 1/3 stake in Deutsche Telekom.  Accordingly, offering T-Mobile an unjustified advantage translates into a giveaway to a foreign company and a foreign government.

But what about American consumers?  The set-aside could drive down auction revenue, which in turn means less money for the U.S. Treasury and less spectrum that’s sold and brought to market for the benefit of U.S. consumers.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently said that he thinks the set-aside should remain at 30 MHz and NOT get increased.  That’s a rare bit of moderately positive news, but if the FCC is really reviewing the set-aside in advance of its July 16th open meeting, it should eliminate this cronyist monstrosity entirely, and send Mr. Legere and his tin can packing.

June 29th, 2015 at 1:03 pm
Protectionist “Local Radio Freedom Act” Would Prevent Payment to Musicians for Songs
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Under current law, recording artists remain free to negotiate performance payment rights with Internet, cable and satellite stations.  Due to an unfair exception, however, artists cannot negotiate in the same manner with traditional AM-FM radio.  Unfortunately, proposed federal legislation backed by broadcasting interests would cement that anomaly.  Deceptively entitled the “Local Radio Freedom Act” (”LRFA”), the bill would stifle a potentially freer marketplace and foreclose future negotiation for payment to musicians for songs.

If successful, that would perpetuate terrestrial radio broadcasters’ ability to exploit a legal loophole allowing them to earn billions of dollars by playing songs whose artists would remain uncompensated.  Exacerbating matters, those same terrestrial broadcasters simultaneously ask Congress to require cable and satellite providers to pay them for retransmission of television programming from stations that they own.  That similarly violates straightforward concepts of fairness and intellectual consistency.

This past January, CFIF joined an array of other free-market organizations in a letter to Congress opposing the LRFA and setting forth the policy basis for our objection:

The Constitution protects private property rights and specifically delegates to Congress authority to protect creative works.  Unfortunately, LRFA closes the discussion about how best to protect property rights by resolving that terrestrial radio should never pay performance royalties on music broadcast on their stations used for raising advertising revenue.  That is not equitable treatment for any musical artist or music distribution service.”

Fortunately, there’s a superior alternative also before Congress.

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R – Tennessee), perhaps the most reliable advocate of property rights in Congress, has joined Representatives from both parties in introducing the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015.  This bill would correct the existing unfairness described above by finally requiring terrestrial broadcasters to negotiate with artists who seek compensation for broadcast of their creative works.

Advocates of LRFA claim that artists have no reason to complain when terrestrial radio plays their works without compensation, since that provides them publicity and free advertising.  But that’s something for artists and broadcasters to freely negotiate, rather than have broadcasters make that decision for them and deprive them of choice in the matter.  Some artists may indeed opt to allow their works to be broadcast for free.  But as Taylor Swift just illustrated in standing up for her rights, other artists have a right to disagree and negotiate payment for those playing their songs.

CFIF believes that property rights, including intellectual property (IP) rights for artists and musicians, must be fiercely defended.  America’s foundation of strong IP protections is one reason we’re the most innovative and artistically productive nation in human history.  Accordingly, we encourage our supporters and activists to contact their representatives, demanding that they reject the dangerous LRFA and support Rep. Blackburn’s PRMA.

June 26th, 2015 at 4:12 pm
Senators Graham and Rubio Unwisely Reintroduce Nationwide Online Gaming Ban Legislation
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In our federalist system of government, individual states constitute laboratories of democracy and remain free to enact laws as they see fit, absent explicit federal power over a particular area.  That’s a fundamental value of conservatism and libertarianism, so it was disappointing this week to see that Senators Lindsey Graham (R – South Carolina) and Marco Rubio (R – Florida) were among those reintroducing proposed legislation that would impose a blanket, nationwide prohibition of online gaming.

Such a law would commandeer states’ historical and constitutional right to regulate gaming, never mind that it would mean yet another imposition of federal power into citizens’ entertainment choices and how they spend their own hard-earned dollars.

Stated simply, individual states across the nation have authorized online poker and various other forms of Internet wagering for citizens within their own borders, with many more considering similar moves. Unfortunately, the ill-advised new proposed federal legislation introduced by Senators Graham and Rubio would upend that state of affairs.  The so-called Restoration of America’s Wire Act of 2015, which wouldn’t “restore” the Wire Act to its original meaning but rather significantly expand its reach contrary to the Fifth Circuit and Justice Department rulings, aims to impose a de facto prohibition on online gaming in all 50 states and thereby increase federal regulatory power.  Proponents claim that the new bill would protect children and problem gamers, but the more realistic consequence would be shutting down existing law-abiding companies and driving commerce toward criminal sites and unaccountable overseas entities less interested in restricting minors or problem gamers.

The better option is to maintain existing law, which rewards law-abiding domestic companies and ensures greater safety and security.  And as noted above, the proposed legislation would grossly violate the concepts of state sovereignty, free-market principles and individual consumer freedom.  The last thing we need right now is even more federal regulation of states and legal commerce, particularly within the flourishing Internet sector.

Conservatives, libertarians and Americans of every other political persuasion should therefore oppose the so-called Restoration of America’s Wire Act, and contact their Senators and Representatives to demand the same.

June 19th, 2015 at 9:51 am
WSJ News Item Debunks Leftists’ Anti-Texas Myth
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Texas illustrates the real-world success of less government and free market principles, yet leftists like oft-discredited New York Times columnist Paul Krugman attempt to dismiss it as some sort of demographic or energy fluke.

A news feature this week in The Wall Street Journal, however, offers yet another objective refutation of their efforts.  Entitled “Texas’ Engine Keeps Revving,” the article details how jobs and population continue to grow despite the recent energy sector slump:

The continued economic success of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area, the nation’s fourth largest, with nearly seven million people, is one of the reasons Texas has so far managed to stave off a sharp downturn despite losing thousands of jobs in the oil patch and related industries.  The region lost more than 100,000 jobs during the recession, but it has added nearly four times that number since then…   Dallas isn’t the only Texas region that has diversified.  The San Antonio metro area, which has 2.3 million residents, now has a burgeoning biotech sector.  Austin, with its population of 1.9 million, had the lowest unemployment rate among the nation’s largest metro areas in April as it undergoes a hotel boom.”

That doesn’t happen by accident.  After all, California enjoys a higher population, better weather, diversified economic base and greater access to trade with its vast coastal area.  In other words, the sorts of things that Krugman offers as rationalizations for the Texas boom.  The reality is that Texas continues to flourish despite the rapid drop in oil prices because unlike states like California, Connecticut or Illinois, it opts for lower taxes, less regulation and freer markets.  Hopefully, that lesson will continue to sink in with the rest of the nation and our federal leaders.

June 16th, 2015 at 1:13 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:  Lawrence J. McQuillan, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute – “California Dreaming: Lessons on How to Resolve America’s Public Pension Crisis”;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Robert King, Healthcare Correspondent for the Washington Examiner – High Drug Prices, Bioterror and ObamaCare;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Mark Bauerlein, author and editor of “The State of the American Mind” – The Fall of Civics, a Profile of the American Mind and National Consequences; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Scott Blackburn, Research Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics – Get IRS Out of Speech Police Business.

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

June 15th, 2015 at 2:33 pm
Gallup: Other Than Military and Small Business, Americans’ Confidence in U.S. Institutions at Historic Lows
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

As an organization whose very name prizes individual freedom, it cannot escape notice that as liberty in all aspects of American life seems under siege, citizens’ confidence in major institutions reaches historic lows.  According to a Gallup survey released today, only the military and small business remain notable (and telling) exceptions:

Americans’ confidence in most major U.S. institutions remains below the historical average for each one.  Only the military (72%) and small business (67%) – the highest-rated institutions in this year’s poll – are currently rated higher than their historical norms, based on the percentage expressing ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in the institution…  From a broad perspective, Americans’ confidence in all institutions over the last two years has been the lowest since Gallup began systematic updates of a larger set of institutions in 1993.”

As the 2016 presidential race accelerates, this has important implications for the candidates and potential candidates.  That’s particularly ominous for Hillary Clinton, who in effect demands “Four more years!” from the American electorate in the face of historical fact that only once since World War II has a party been elected to a third consecutive White House term (George H.W. Bush in 1988).

June 5th, 2015 at 3:52 pm
Bipartisan Copyright Office Modernization Legislation Introduced in Congress
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The U.S. Copyright Office is in need of modernization, and this week brought positive news in that regard.

Congressman Thomas Marino (R – Pennsylvania) and Judy Chu (D – California) introduced draft legislation entitled the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy (CODE) Act to improve the way the office operates.  Although not typically in the headlines every day or in the forefront of public attention, the Copyright Office not only helps set policy as it relates to both domestic and international copyright matters, it administers broad aspects of existing laws.  Copyright-related industries – especially creative industries like entertainment that dominate the globe – constitute an estimated $1 trillion portion of the American economy, and account for an estimated 5.5 million jobs.  Moreover, it’s an export sector that continues to grow.  And with the constant transition to a digital world marketplace, the strain upon our Copyright Office only increases each day.

Among other things, the CODE Act would:  (1) establish the Copyright Office as an independent agency; (2) allow it to physically relocate from the Library of Congress into its own federal building;(3) transfer administrative functions and legal duties from the Library of Congress; (4) allow appointment of a director for one ten-year term following review by a bipartisan and bicameral commission and then consent of the Senate;  and (5) allow the Copyright Office to deliver any and all communications directly to Congress, free of mandatory White House review.

Given the enormous and growing importance of copyright industries, legislation to bring reform and modernization to the Copyright Office is to be welcomed.  The merits of the bill and its individual provisions must still be discussed and debated, but this is a positive first step.  To modernize the office would not only constitute a bipartisan accomplishment for Congress, it would amount to a victory for American consumers, creators and innovators.

June 5th, 2015 at 10:58 am
Additional Thoughts on Criminal Justice Reform
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

A couple of additional points on the need to tread carefully on criminal justice reform, the topic of my commentary this week.

First, Michael Barone, the dean of American politics, emphasizes that same theme in his column today:

Are we seeing a reversal of the 20-year decline in violent crime in America?  A new nationwide crime wave?  Heather MacDonald fears we are, and as a premier advocate and analyst of the policing strategy pioneered by Rudy Giuliani in New York City and copied and adapted throughout the country, she is to be taken seriously.  And the statistics she presented in an article in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal are truly alarming.

Gun violence is up 60 percent in Baltimore so far this year compared to 2014.  Homicides are up 180 percent in Milwaukee, 25 percent in St. Louis, 32 percent in Atlanta and 13 percent in New York in the same period.

Why is this happening?  MacDonald writes, ‘The most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months.’”

Barone concludes:

We must hope that the fire does not spread and dies down.  Perhaps it will if police resume the tactics that have proven so successful.  The alternative, for those of us who have witnessed the last half-century, is terrifying.”

Second, Rick Perry’s entry into the 2016 presidential race highlights another example of the danger of overzealous prosecution and overcriminalization.  Recall that Perry was preposterously charged with felonies for simply exercising his powers as governor.  Specifically, he merely threatened to veto funding for a state district attorney’s office unless one of its prosecutors who had been arrested for driving while intoxicated and behaving abusively toward officers – all captured on profane video – resigned or was fired.  As today’s Wall Street Journal notes, “Unlike many of President Obama’s actions, this was a constitutional exercise of executive power.”  The awful tale of the late Senator Ted Stevens (R – Alaska) is yet another example.  Stevens was convicted on the basis of prosecutorial corruption, he subsequently lost his reelection bid by an extremely narrow margin (which proved the decisive vote in passing ObamaCare), but then was cleared after his death and his prosecutors were themselves disciplined.

Barone’s piece and those two additional examples help confirm that we need criminal justice reform, but that we must do so carefully.

June 4th, 2015 at 3:19 pm
New Study: The Economic Case for Crude Oil Exports is Clear
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

This week, Dr. Margo Thorning, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), and William Shughart, former Federal Trade Commission (FTC) economist and professor of economics at the Jon. M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, convincingly set out the economic case for finally allowing the export of U.S crude oil in a study entitled, “The Economic Case for Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban.”

In their paper, the two notable economists analyze multiple macroeconomic studies by highly-respected public policy think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, IHS, the Aspen Institute and ICF International.  All reached the same conclusion:  Removing the crude oil export ban will bring measurable economic advantages to our economy and our nation.

And what are those economic advantages?  First, allowing oil exports will  create high-paying jobs, increased economic investment, higher gross domestic product (GDP) and downward pressure on fuel prices.  Specifically, the Brookings Institution study analyzed by Thorning and Shughart found that lifting the ban will reduce unemployment by an annual average of 200,000-400,000 jobs between 2015 and 2020. For its part, ICF predicted gains of up to 300,000 new jobs by 2020.

Accordingly, continuing to observe our outdated and restrictive crude export policy, we are demonstrating a blatant disregard for economic growth and expansion, particularly in the jobs sector.

Along with the significant economic benefits, we also possess an opportunity to strengthen ties with our trading partners in the global market, upholding the very free trade principles we encourage other countries to practice.

Additionally, the new paper highlights the contradictory nature of the U.S. prohibiting crude oil exports while professing to the world that we practice free trade. Crude oil is no different than other domestically produced products bought and sold daily in the global economy, and removing the ban and instituting a more truly free market boosts our credibility as a nation that practices capitalism and open trade.

Simply put, changing our outdated energy policy on crude exports would be a sound economic approach that takes advantage of our current domestic energy abundance. The U.S. would benefit on the economic front and position ourselves to become a top player in the global energy market while more truly embracing a free trade doctrine.

That’s a win-win for our economy and the American people.

June 1st, 2015 at 9:39 am
Bankruptcy for Puerto Rico? Bad Idea
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Puerto Rico’s years of fiscal mismanagement, cronyism and corruption have come to a head.  The island territory is at least $73 billion in debt, and guess who Congressional Democrats think should pick up the tab:  American taxpayers, savers and seniors.

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierliusi and Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla are working with fellow Democrats to lure Republicans into passing a bill (H.R. 870) that would give Puerto Rico a bailout, and allow Puerto Rico to walk away from its debts.

We at CFIF are concerned that some Republicans in Congress are receptive to this taxpayer bailout.  Representative Goodlatte of Virginia, who chairs the House Judiciary, recently visited Puerto Rico to explore pursuing Chapter 9 having set the legislative process in motion when he consented to having a public hearing on the proposal back in February.

Chapter 9would hurt thousands of hardworking Americans on the mainland and in Puerto Rico who have invested savings in Puerto Rican bonds.  And longer-term, it would do nothing to reform a broken Island.  Furthermore, a Chapter 9 bailout flies in the face of principles for which Republicans are supposed to stand:  limited government, fiscal responsibility and the rule of law.  Some Puerto Rican apologists have even suggested that if Puerto Rico is not granted Chapter 9, the Island will just come calling for a bailout.  But that is a false choice, and a stick-up by San Juan and their cronies.

Fortunately, better alternatives exist.

For example, the Puerto Rican Government could actually pay the hundreds of millions of dollars it owes to the power authority (PREPA) or Congress could also impose greater oversight over Puerto Rico. Remember, a financial control board was effective in reforming the District of Columbia’s finances 20 years ago, accomplished on a bipartisan basis by a Republican Congress and a Democratic President.  Ultimately, that might be the way to put in place comprehensive, structural reforms so that Puerto Rico never again spirals out of control.

This brings us back to the Republican Congress, specifically Rep. Goodlatte.  At a minimum, holding a hearing signals openness to the bill.  Yet, this changes the rules in the middle of game and can have economic consequences, which Rep. Goodlatte has acknowledged.

Now that Rep. Goodlatte has met in Puerto Rico with its leaders, fellow conservatives are looking to him to put the brakes on this bailout.  As Jay Marts of the Virginia Northern Shenandoah Tea Party writes, “H.R 870 is not a conservative solution,” but “a gift to the Democrats.”

American taxpayers should not be saddled with yet another bailout and force Americans saving for retirement to take a financial hit.  Instead, Congressional Republicans should guide Puerto Rico into doing the right thing:  trim spending and taxes, stand up to unions and undertake badly-needed governing reforms.  The time is right for a control board.

May 29th, 2015 at 11:03 am
Pass Free Trade Legislation, But Ignore Calls to Insert “Fair Use” Provisions That Weaken American IP Protections
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We at CFIF strongly advocate both free trade and intellectual property (IP) protection.  Although typically distinct policy questions, they are currently intertwined as Congress finally and fortunately moves toward passing free trade legislation.

The pending legislation rightly demands that trading partners recognize American IP rights, but that has naturally drawn fire from some of the usual suspects (e.g., Google, the Internet Association, et al.) who tend to oppose stronger IP rights because those protections tend to run contrary to their own particular business interests.  Specifically, those interests seek to include copyright limitations in free trade bills, including mandatory “Fair Use” exceptions.

That would be a bad idea.

Among other problems, those voices misstate domestic law in suggesting that “generally, an Internet company in the U.S. is not held liable for the conduct or content of third parties who use its platform.”  While existing law provides a level of immunity for Internet companies, such immunity is limited and does not excuse violations in numerous circumstances, including:  (1) when the interactive computer service materially contributes to the illegal content; (2) when the interactive computer service itself engages in fraud/misrepresentation; (3) when the interactive computer service engages in, or aids and abets, criminal activity; or (4) if the illegal activity violates IP laws.  Accordingly, omitting discussion of an Internet company’s liability for copyright infringement is particularly and intentionally misleading.  American law regarding the liability of intermediaries is infinitely more complicated, and intermediaries may face liability under a variety of circumstances, including where they induce the infringement of third persons (the Grokster standard), and in other circumstances in which they meet the standards of contributory infringement or vicarious liability.  Additionally, “safe harbors” under applicable law remain conditioned on a number of affirmative acts on the part of intermediaries, such as promptly taking action once they learn of infringing content (rather than merely upon receiving formal notice), maintaining policies with regard to repeat violators and adoption of standard technical measures designed to prevent infringement.

Thus, domestic law does not extend some blanket, general exemption from liability for Internet companies with regard to the conduct of third parties, and the scope of liability in the U.S. continues to evolve, both from a judicial standpoint and a legislative one.  Furthermore, Congress is presently considering the appropriate contours of the safe harbors established in the 20-year-old DMCA, with many members expressing concerns about the levels of piracy that prevail, and the fact that “notice and takedown” has been largely ineffective in reducing piracy levels, with a particularly devastating impact on individual creators and actors who can ill afford to pursue takedowns only to have the same content immediately re-uploaded.  Accordingly, it remains unclear exactly what liability regime the US should be seeking to export.  But it’s absolutely clear that American interest in foreign markets remains primarily in promoting greater discipline and accountability to reduce piracy levels that deprive the US billions of dollars in earnings.

Furthermore, U.S. trade agreements already include provisions relating to exceptions and limitations.  They also already recite the relevant provisions of international law that define the scope of permissible exceptions and limitations.  Those binding provisions are contained in a variety of agreements, including the Berne Convention, TRIPS, the WIPO Treaties (WCT and WPPT), and each of our free trade agreements.  Other nations have employed different means to achieve what they believe is a proper balance between protection and limitations, but remain they bound by the provisions of international law.  A particularly wide variance exists in how common law and civil law nations approach exceptions and limitations.  More specifically, courts in civil law countries are not permitted to interpret general provisions, and legal standards that require the weighing of different factors are a poor fit.  As a result, legal provisions such as Fair Use are ill-suited to the jurisprudence of most countries across the globe.

Moreover, as the world’s leading producer and exporter of copyright protected materials, the U.S. maintains a tremendous economic interest in ensuring the effective protection of copyright works.  While all parties strongly endorse balanced copyright protection that both protects works and provides reasonable flexibility, the biggest problem in foreign markets is lack of discipline, and not overboard protection.

It is critical that Congress passes free trade legislation currently on its agenda, and those who seek to exploit it as a device to weaken American IP protections must be rejected.

May 26th, 2015 at 3:05 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:  Robert Pondiscio, Senior Fellow and Vice President for External Affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute – Lessons from the Opt Out Debate;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Florida Senator Don Gaetz – 2015 Legislative Session Continues;

5:00 CDT/6:00 pm EDT:  Steven Bucci, Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation – ISIS;

5:15 CDT/6:15 pm EDT:  Daniel Allott, Deputy Commentary Editor at the Washington Examiner – The GOP Field Grows; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs – Current News Regarding the FCC, ISIS and other Issues.

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