In an interview with CFIF, Peter Roff, contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, discusses the Obama Administration’s use of the IRS to silence its critics by limiting the First Amendment rights of tax exempt groups.
In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the disturbing level of civic illiteracy in the United States and offers some advice on what all of us can do to help spread the word about the basic principles of American government and why it makes our country so special.
And it comes from the most unlikely of places, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Just over the AP wires from San Francisco:
A divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down California’s concealed weapons rules, saying they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was wrong to require applicants to show good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
“The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the majority.
Judge Sidney Thomas dissented, writing that the good cause requirement limited the number of people carrying concealed handguns in public to those legitimately in need.
This represents a massive shift in California, long home to some of the nation’s most restrictive gun control laws.
The Ninth Circuit’s ruling conflicts with those from three other federal appellate courts, which means this issue could eventually make its way to the Supreme Court . For today, anyway, Second Amendment rights are stronger in the Golden State than they have been at any time in recent memory.
In an interview with CFIF, Marc Scribner, Research Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, discusses “talking cars” and the significant challenges that remain to insure that security and privacy issues related to the technology have been addressed.
Do America’s copyright protections stifle artistic innovation?
Obviously, that question answers itself. After all, no nation in human history even approaches the United States in terms of sheer scale of musical, film and other creative innovation. And that’s due precisely to our strong copyright laws that reward creativity and incentivize more. Moreover, Americans’ ability to access a greater amount of artistic content, more easily, more cheaply and via more outlets increases daily.
Bizarrely, however, the contrary assertion remains regrettably fashionable even among some self-proclaimed “libertarian” and “conservative” circles. Fortunately, voices of reason rebut the pernicious anti-intellectual property (IP) movement’s myths, and bring clarity to the debate. One such voice of reason is Ben Sheffner, the MPAA’s Vice President of Legal Affairs. In this abbreviated and this full-length debate video recently released, Mr. Sheffner clarifies the realities and refutes the curious claim that copyright laws inhibit innovation. Quite the contrary, he makes clear, strong copyright laws not only preserve the fruits of creators’ labor, they incentivize the risk-taking and investment critical to spark additional creativity now and into the future.
Mr. Sheffner does an excellent job, and absolutely schools Derek Khanna multiple times on both the broader and finer points of intellectual property generally, and copyright more specifically.
Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) 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 (CST)/5:00 pm (EST): Marc Scribner, Research Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute: Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications;
4:30 (CST)/5:30 (EST): Leighton Steward, Chairman of Plants Need CO2: Global Warming and the Supreme Court;
5:00 (CST)/6:00 pm (EST): Slade O’Brien, Florida State Director of Americans for Prosperity: Why ObamaCare is Harming Florida; and
5:30 (CST)/6:30 pm (EST): Peter Roff, Contributing Editor at U.S. News & World Report: The IRS “Smidgeon” of Corruption Keeps Growing.
Listen live on the Internethere. Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.
Here in Southern California, the biggest development in recent weeks has been the announcement that hyper-liberal congressman Henry Waxman — who’s held a House seat from the Los Angeles area for 40 years — is finally stepping down at the end of the current session.
Given how long Waxman has dominated the politics of the area, it’s no surprise that there’s a long list of candidates lining up to succeed him. There’s another reason, however, for the glut of competition: this is an enormous district of wildly divergent communities. In my weekly column for the Orange County Register, I argue that this stems from a mistake in how we’ve organized the lower chamber for the past 85 years:
The physical distance between the northwestern edge of Waxman’s 33rd District, in Malibu, and its southeastern terminus, in San Pedro, is more than 40 miles. The cultural difference can only be measured in light years. The South Bay, the Westside, the Conejo Valley, and the coastal refuges of Pacific Palisades and Malibu are all worlds unto themselves, populated by citizens who view themselves as distinct from one another. The idea that they should all be represented by one person in Congress makes a mockery of the notion that House districts represent discrete, coherent communities.
That sort of absurdity is inevitable, however, given the fact that the House was severed from its original purpose 85 years ago, when Congress passed the Reapportionment Act of 1929. That law fixed the number of seats in the House of Representatives at 435, dictating that the available seats would be redistributed among the states based on population changes in each census, instead of adding new ones, which had been the historical practice (the House had grown to 435 from its original number of only 65). As a result, the average House district now consists of over 700,000 people – a far cry from the original system, where there was one representative for approximately 33,000 souls.
Whoever inherits Waxman’s seat will represent more people than the U.S. senators from the states of Wyoming or Vermont. Were the ratios employed by the founders still in use today, California’s 33rd Congressional District would actually be split into 21 discrete House seats.
Returning to that standard may be overkill; it would swell the ranks of the House of Representatives to over 9,500 members. Some expansion, however, is surely justified to create House districts small enough to actually represent something like the will of a coherent community. Until such changes are made, the notion of the House as the “people’s chamber” will be little more than a touch of historical nostalgia.
I’ll also note that having an enlarged House would (A) make it harder for special interests to capture critical masses of legislators and (b) have the practical effect of making it cheaper to run for Congress and allowing more true citizen-legislators to emerge. In short, it would make it harder to consolidate power in Congress—which is precisely why most sitting lawmakers won’t support it…and why it’s the right thing to do.
In an interview with CFIF, George C. Landrith, President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom, discusses how there is no benefit to red light cameras, the government’s reluctance to allow the use of drones in commercial settings, and whether drones or other security measures will enhance safety at major events like the Sochi Olympics.
Following on Ashton’s post below (many of the themes of which appear in my column for this week), it’s crucial to note that the hazards presented by Obamacare’s incentives for lower-income Americans to stay out of the workforce are compounding a pre-existing problem. As noted by Mark Peters and David Wessel in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:
More than one in six men ages 25 to 54, prime working years, don’t have jobs—a total of 10.4 million. Some are looking for jobs; many aren’t…
… The trend has been building for decades, according to government data. In the early 1970s, just 6% of American men ages 25 to 54 were without jobs. By late 2007, it was 13%. In 2009, during the worst of the recession, nearly 20% didn’t have jobs.
To the crisis amongst men, we can add the crisis amongst youth. As noted earlier in the week by Zara Kessler at Bloomberg:
According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, 36 percent of the country’s 18- to 31-year-olds were living in their parents’ homes in 2012 — the highest proportion in at least 40 years. That number is inflated because college students residing in dorms were counted as living at home (in addition to those actually living at home while going to school). Still, 16 percent of 25- to 31-year-olds were crashing with mom and pop — up from about 14 percent in 2007 and 10 percent in 1968.In a Pew survey conducted in December 2011, 34 percent of adults aged 25 to 29 said that due to economic conditions they’d moved back home in recent years after having lived on their own.
Every trend line is pointing in the wrong direction. Yes, there are structural issues (technology, offshoring) that complicate the employment picture, but free markets generally resolve such issues given enough time. Markets can’t resolve, however, the pathologies imposed on the economy by government — whether Obamacare’s perverse incentives or the consistently anti-growth policies of the White House.
If nothing changes, the upshot will be the Europeanization of the American economy: fewer workers toiling to support a growing class of government beneficiaries.
Future generations may note the irony of Mitt Romney being so thoroughly pilloried during the 2012 election for his infamous 47 percent comment. While you can quibble with the statistics, the underlying theme is correct: we’re headed towards an economy with fewer makers and more takers. Changing that trajectory will be the responsibility of the next president — and it won’t be an easy one.
A new report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare) will cause up to 2 million lower-income workers to leave the labor force over the next decade because they will make more in government benefits than as a private employee.
“CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor – given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive,” the agency says in Appendix C, Labor Market Effects of the Affordable Care Act: Updated Estimates (pdf).
The incentive to drop out of the workforce is one’s eligibility for a government subsidy to help pay for an insurance plan bought through an Obamacare exchange. Since eligibility for a subsidy phases out as a person’s income rises, people who will receive subsidies will have to factor in whether to take a job that makes more money, but will likely reduce or eliminate eligibility. In this scenario, taking the job may actually result in a net loss of income as the person must now pay for the full cost of health insurance.
The disincentive to work also applies to those hanging between Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies. Eligibility for Medicaid means the cost to the beneficiary is nothing (at least not directly). In this scenario, qualifying for a subsidy increases one’s out-of-pocket expenses, making it financially smart (for the individual) to work less and stay on Medicaid.
It’s important to emphasize that deciding to work less to receive more in government benefits is a financially rational decision for individuals to make, and one that any economist would readily predict. My hunch is that at least some of Obamacare’s architects knew this and designed their programs accordingly.
The problem, of course, is that convincing millions of people not to work is not financially sustainable for the country as a whole.
CFIF’s Renee Giachino explains how President Obama’s push for higher taxes, bigger government and expanded welfare programs is the wrong approach to help the greatest number of people climb the economic ladder.
In his otherwise lackluster State of the Union address this week, President Obama stated to bipartisan applause that he’d like to lower America’s corporate tax rate and reduce the Byzantine array of loopholes in our code. That policy is actually supported by leaders in both parties, including Speaker John Boehner, and the Republican and Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees.
And as we recently noted, reform is necessary, given the complexity of America’s nearly three-decade old tax code. The problem remains that Congress has been too timid to take the hard steps necessary to lower America’s corporate tax rate to 25% from 35% – which is the highest rate amongst all OECD nations. Because of this anticompetitive rate, the United States is at a huge comparative disadvantage globally.
And CEOs have taken notice.
Several hundred corporations have unfortunately chosen to reincorporate abroad to dodge U.S. taxes in recent years. While the practice is technically legal, the opportunity costs for the United States are huge. Some 484 U.S. companies were bought by foreign companies in the first half of 2013, for a total of $43.6 billion, according to Thomson Reuters. That provides a wake-up call that action on corporate tax reform is absolutely crucial. President Obama called for a ‘year of action’ in this week’s address, and threatened to use his executive powers in a constitutionally dubious manner.
For tax reform, Congress needs to act swiftly to ride this rare bipartisan wave and introduce legislation that supports a fundamental overhaul of America’s tax code. American-owned businesses lead globally in innovation and economic growth, and our tax reform should support their success, not drive it overseas.
“Health economists worry that mergers could end up increasing what you pay. Hospital systems can often negotiate higher rates with insurers for the same care,” says a report at CNN Money.
The mergers in question are the result of an incentive structure within Obamacare that gives financial rewards to doctors and hospitals that create “Accountable Care Organizations” (ACOs) that, according to the report, “coordinate treatments with the goal of delivering quality care for less.”
In order to increase their eligibility for ACO benefits, hospitals across the country are scooping up individual and small group medical practices. The reason this may be bad for patients is that mergers allow hospitals to increase their market share, giving them greater leverage to negotiate higher rates with insurance companies. Cigna, a health insurance company, has seen bills for routine procedures spike 300 percent to 500 percent after a hospital acquires a practice.
Of course, those increased costs are passed on to patients, many of whom may not realize it until they get hit with a new “facility fee” that tacks on $75 to $150 for a routine visit.
One would think that a program designed to deliver “quality care for less” would pass on the savings to the patient. Instead, it looks like patients will pay more while the federal government rewards hospitals for cornering the market.