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July 24th, 2014 at 2:20 pm
ObamaCare’s Eligibility Verification System Open to Abuse

The Government Accountability Office set up a sting operation to test whether ObamaCare’s eligibility verification system is open to abuse.

GAO discovered a resounding Yes.

“Fake applicants were able to get subsidized insurance coverage in 11 of 18 attempts,” reports National Journal.

Investigators had the most success when using ObamaCare’s online and telephone enrollment systems. These improper enrollments resulted in subsidies totaling $30,000 annually.

The findings of the sting operation bode ill for the controversial health reform law. The failure to correctly match applicants to subsidies indicates that ObamaCare’s expensive digital architecture is failing in one of its most basic tasks.

And the failure could be costly.

Assuming most ObamaCare applicants are not attempting to defraud taxpayers – but rather are just trying to comply with the law’s individual mandate – incorrectly receiving financial help this year could result in a heavier tax bill next year. That’s because the IRS is tasked with settling accounts on ObamaCare subsidies, with taxpayers required to pay back any subsidies they weren’t eligible for when calculating their income tax liability.

So far, the IRS hasn’t rewritten ObamaCare to cushion the blow from bad drafting – like it did when it made subsidies available to citizens in states without a state-based exchange.

Apparently, that kind of face-saving deference is only extended to government-growing ideologues; not every day Americans just trying to play by the rules.

July 24th, 2014 at 12:07 pm
For GOP, Successful 2014 Could Pave the Way for an Even Better 2016

There’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about a conservative ascendency on Capitol Hill this year.

Unless something unexpected happens, the House of Representatives looks safe to remain in Republican hands after the 2014 midterm elections.

The real question is whether the GOP can wrest control of the U.S. Senate. The party needs to pick up six seats – and defend all those it holds – to unite with the House against President Barack Obama’s liberal agenda.

How likely is it that Republicans can pull off the takeover?

“To win six or more Democratic seats, Republicans start with the best possible candidates in West Virginia (Rep. Sherry Moore Capito), South Dakota (former Gov. Mike Rounds), and Montana (Rep. Steve Daines),” writes Fred Barnes. “These open Democratic seats are regarded as near-certain GOP takeovers, but they wouldn’t be if Republicans were stuck with second-tier candidates or worse.”

In political jargon, first-tier candidates are people who can interact with the media well, raise money, avoid unnecessary errors and gaffes and generally present a likeable personality to voters.

In order to win control of the Senate, Republicans also need to compete in slightly more difficult races.

“Then there are the four red states with Democratic incumbents–Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Alaska,” says Barnes. “Once again, Republicans are blessed with able, attractive candidates. As a result, all five races are tossups or lean Republican.”

Controlling both legislative chambers would give Republicans the ability to show Americans a sharper contrast with Obama’s policies. For the first time since the president took office, the GOP – and in particular the conservative intellectual leadership that drives the party’s policy agenda – would be in a position to pass alternative solutions for job growth, health care, etc. Having two years to work out the details would be an excellent test drive for ideas ahead of the 2016 presidential contest when contenders could adopt the most popular proposals.

Come Election Night, we’ll see whether that process of refinement begins or is once again put on hold.

July 22nd, 2014 at 10:51 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Most Transparent Administration Ever
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.

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

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

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

“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

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

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

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?

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

“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.