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May 15th, 2023 at 3:10 pm
Image of the Day: The Record Biden Earnings Bust
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We recently referenced how Joe Biden seeks a 2024 job extension from American voters even while he has presided over a record 24 consecutive months of earnings declines (wages minus inflation), and our friend Stephen Moore offers an instructive illustration of the point:

Record Biden Earnings Bust

Record Biden Earnings Bust

 

April 26th, 2023 at 3:16 pm
CFIF Proudly Celebrates World Intellectual Property (IP) Day
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Today is World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, and CFIF is proud to join a broad coalition of conservative, libertarian and free-market organizations in celebrating a key element that not only drives worldwide innovation and prosperity, but also is the central component explaining American Exceptionalism in worldwide innovation, power and prosperity.

In that latter regard, nothing stands above our enduring legacy of protecting IP – patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets.  America throughout its history has protected IP like no other nation before or since.  Our Founding Fathers deliberately inserted text protecting IP rights into Article I of the Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall have the Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”  As James Madison explained in the Federalist Papers while advocating ratification of the Constitution, protecting IP respected the natural right of individuals to enjoy the fruits of their labors, while also serving the public good by encouraging innovation.

That assurance that one’s creations will enjoy legal protection in turn promotes creative activity, which is why patent holder Abraham Lincoln noted that America’s IP protections, “added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery and production of new and useful things.”

Consequently, no nation spanning the entirety of human history even approaches America’s record of patented invention, from the telephone to the airplane, from lifesaving pharmaceuticals like the polio vaccine to the internet.   No society remotely rivals our copyrighted artistic influence, whether in the form of motion pictures, television programming or popular music.  No nation’s trademarks stand recognized in the way that the Coca-Cola or Apple logos are instantly identified across the world.  A direct relationship exists between our tradition of IP protection and our unrivaled success in innovation and prosperity.

That’s precisely why CFIF is so pleased to join other organizations here in the U.S. and across the globe in celebrating World IP Day, highlighting IP’s critical importance:

On World IP Day, we celebrate the role intellectual property plays in bolstering entrepreneurship, innovation, economic growth and quality job creation…

The U.S IP system drives economic growth, accounting for $7.8 trillion in GDP (41% of total GDP) and more than 47 million jobs.  Direct and indirect employment in IP industries accounts for 44% of U.S. jobs.

IP-intensive industries create high-paying jobs.  Average weekly-wage earnings are 60% higher than earnings in other sectors.  Accelerating the growth rate of women who participate in IP-intensive industries means increasing their earning power and financial well-being.

Unfortunately, some politicians here in America and abroad fail to respect the role of IP in boosting innovation and wellbeing, and actively seek to undermine it with such misguided efforts as surrendering patent rights to Covid vaccines developed in the U.S.

We cannot let that occur, lest Americans and billions across the world suffer.  Accordingly, on this World Intellectual Property Day, we urge national governments, policymakers and other organizations around the world to promote policies that strengthen intellectual property protections and ensure that a healthy innovation environment can thrive.

April 20th, 2023 at 12:43 pm
CFPB, Like the IRS Before It, Suffers a “Major Breach” Affecting Over 250,000 Americans
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For years CFIF has highlighted how the IRS has not only targeted conservative and libertarian organizations for persecution, but also suffered security breaches allowing online extremists to release Americans’ sensitive data to the world.  Now, the equally abusive (and obviously misnamed) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has suffered a similar breach.  Specifically, the CFPB acknowledges that an employee breached and forwarded the data of over 250,000 Americans in what it labels a “major breach”:

The CFPB said an employee forwarded the personal information of more than a quarter-million consumers to a personal email account, an incident that the bureau described as a ‘major’ breach.  The employee, who was fired when the data breach came to light, sent spreadsheets with names and transaction-specific account numbers related to those 256,000 consumer accounts at a single institution, according to the bureau.”

Separately, and confirming our reference to CFPB abusiveness above, our friend John Berlau along with Stone Washington of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) write in today’s Wall Street Journal how the CFPB is suing and attempting to censor the owner of nonbank mortgage firm Townstone Financial for discussing out-of-control crime in the Chicago area on a radio show to general audiences.  You can’t make this up:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal bureaucracy with a vast jurisdiction, is testing a novel approach to crime and punishment.  In a lawsuit against Townstone Financial, a small Chicago-area nonbank mortgage firm, the CFPB is signaling that it may attempt to punish anyone who complains about neighborhood crime.

The CFPB accuses Townstone owner Barry Sturner and others affiliated with the company of making ‘statements that would discourage African-American prospective applicants from applying for mortgage loans.’  The suit, filed in 2020, doesn’t provide any concrete examples of  consumers that Townstone has allegedly mistreated.  Rather, the CFPB points to a handful of statements Mr. Sturner and other company officials made over a four-year period on the Townstone Financial Show – a weekly radio program and podcast.”

And here’s the kicker:  Mr. Sturner was simply saying things similar to what soft-on-crime Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson has himself said about Chicago crime:

Among the statements highlighted in the lawsuit are Mr. Sturner’s descriptions of frequent weekend crime rampages on Chicago’s South Side as the work of ‘hoodlums’ and his claim that police are keeping the city from ‘turning into a real war zone.’  The CFPB also wags its finger at a host’s description of a Chicago suburb as an area in which ‘you drive very fast through’ and ‘you don’t look at anybody or lock on anybody’s eyes.’

The CFPB contends that these statements about majority-black communities would somehow ‘discourage prospective applicants from applying for mortgage loans.’  Yet the Townstone hosts’ candid comments about the crime epidemic in Chicago’s black neighborhoods are remarkably similar to recent statements of Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson.

Despite Mr. Johnson’s past association with the ‘defund the police’ movement, he spoke openly in his campaign about the effect of crime on Chicago’s neighborhoods.  In a March 16 debate with Paul Vallas, Mr. Johnson described Austin – his own West Side neighborhood – as ‘one of the most violent neighborhoods in the entire city.’  In his April 4 victory address Mr. Johnson said he’d shielded his children ‘from bullets that fly right outside our front door.'”

It all points to a bureaucratic abusiveness that we address this week regarding the vast federal administrative state, and shows the need for courts and elected officials to rein it in.  In the meantime, the CFPB should pay more attention to its own dangerous data breaches, and less what is said on radio shows.

 

 

April 5th, 2023 at 6:50 pm
Labor Department Must Address “Shared Savings Fees” to Boost Healthcare Transparency and Target Unnecessary Costs
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In our contentious national healthcare debate, there’s one point on which we can all find a rare point of consensus:  the benefit of achieving greater transparency in medical billing and fees.  

Unfortunately, the manner by which the Biden Administration has implemented the “No Surprises Act” that took effect on January 1 so far has failed to protect consumers from obscure and needless insurance costs.  Although the No Surprises Act aimed to reform the out-of-network reimbursement process, some insurance companies continue to exploit what are known as “shared savings fees,” which in turn keeps costs higher than necessary for both employers and their employees alike.  

The Department of Labor, however, can help rectify the problem by requiring greater transparency going forward.  

By way of background, “shared savings fees” derive from out-of-network medical claims, and more specifically refer to out-of-network cost-management fees.  They’re sold to health insurance plan sponsors, typically employers, as a form of protection against surprise medical bills charged to employees.  In other words, shared savings fees ostensibly provide a mechanism for employers to save money by lowering out-of-network healthcare costs when they arise.  

The problem is that in practice, they often impose hidden fees that result in higher premiums and dubious benefits for plan sponsors and covered employees, as we explained alongside a dozen other free-market organizations in a recent coalition letter to the U.S. Secretary of Labor:    

In some cases, shared savings fees exceed total administrative fees for many plan sponsors, and some may not even be aware of the total amount they are paying in those fees.  That is partly a function of a significant lack of transparency, since insurance companies do not routinely report their revenues from shares savings programs.  Unfortunately, the No Surprises Act does not directly address those fees, and we believe that insurers should more responsibly disclose the fees that plan sponsors are charged every year to help reduce healthcare prices for millions of American families.   

The No Surprises Act should’ve made shared savings fees unnecessary.  As long as shared savings fees continue to exist as “administrative fees,” the problem of higher healthcare costs and fewer choices for consumers will fester.  The Labor Department must therefore require higher transparency and full disclosure to employers and other health plan sponsors regarding shared savings fees to help resolve this outstanding and wholly unnecessary problem.  

April 3rd, 2023 at 12:17 pm
Image of the Day: Voting With Their Feet, Americans Abandoned Blue States for Red States Over the Past Decade
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In our ongoing political debates, leftists can virtue signal all they want, but facts don’t lie.  In this case, the Census Bureau’s facts over the past decade relating to domestic migration illustrate whose policy model Americans prefer:

Facts Don't Lie, Leftists Do

Facts Don’t Lie, Leftists Do

 

March 14th, 2023 at 9:21 am
Image of the Day: Paying Their “Fair Share?”
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We recently highlighted the preposterousness of Joe Biden’s ceaseless talking point that wealthier Americans don’t pay their “fair share” of taxes, as well as the insanity of resting his tax and budgetary policy on that false claim.  In reality, wealthier Americans’ share of income taxes paid dwarfs their share of income earned, and the Tax Foundation offers a helpful comparison graph illustrating our point perfectly:

Paying Their

Paying Their “Fair Share?”

February 17th, 2023 at 4:57 pm
Big Labor Targets Tech Company findhelp
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Here at CFIF, we’ve written at length about how unionization rates in the United States have reached record lows. Despite talk of Big Labor’s resurgence, spurred by a pro-union White House and a federal government that tips the scales in unions’ favor, American workers are just not sold by the self-enrichment of union leadership and hostile negotiating practices that ultimately harm workers more than help them.

America’s growing tech sector, which typically maintains non-unionized workforces, perfectly illustrates today’s workforce realities.

A company named findhelp in Austin, Texas, however, suddenly finds itself at the center of an unwanted drama that threatens the company’s future courtesy of Big Labor.

By way of background, findhelp is a social care network to connect people with community services. It’s a “public benefit company” backed by private equity that employs approximately 250 workers.

On January 25, the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) announced that findhelp workers formally sought a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Naturally, deep-pocketed Big Labor groups like the AFL-CIO leapt at the announcement to claim it as some sort of watershed moment for workers in the tech sector.

Instead of a watershed moment, however, the reality appears to be Big Labor doing what it is notorious for doing: instigating worker unrest. This case offers a particularly chosen opportunity to Big Labor, as it desperately seeks to gain a foothold in the tech sector, and in a right-to-work state whose growing population and business prosperity are due in large part to the fact that it remains a refuge from the destructive public policies pushed by Big Labor.

At the center of the effort to unionize findhelp’s employees is the “findhelp Solidarity Network,” a glossy, public relations effort claiming employees at the company are “missing a voice at the table.” Parroting commonplace Big Labor Union slogans, it expresses a desire to “ensure that findhelp becomes, and stays, a place where all team members have a living wage, competitive benefits, and a respectful work culture.”

Those are curious charges against a tech start-up like findhelp, but ones that are all too recognizable for anyone familiar with Big Labor’s antics.

Meanwhile, on the popular company-review website Glassdoor, findhelp maintains an average rating of 3.4 out of 5. Companies like findhelp in early stages of development naturally experience growing pains, and complaints on Glassdoor by current and past employees like issues with “transparency,” “trust,” and management allegedly refusing to respond to employee feedback are commonplace at start-ups. An NLRB complaint charges findhelp with coercive actions, coercive rules and coercive statements, among other typical boilerplate union charges. Which raises the question of whether such commonplace complaints justify a full-blown union representation campaign threatening to drive a fledgling company into the ground through union representation.

It also makes for an odd irony, because many tech sector companies maintain left-leaning employee cultures, often at the encouragement of left-leaning executives themselves. Accordingly, one might expect them to welcome unionization, since in the abstract those same left-leaning cultures would favor Big Labor and its partisan agenda.

Tech sector employers, however, operate in an environment demanding fluid development and the ability to pivot on a moment’s notice. Unions, by their very nature, inhibit that sort of fluidity and flexibility.

It’s an issue of obvious concern for management, investors and even customers who may question the ability of a company with Big Labor’s bullseye on its back to function as effectively and efficiently as needed.

Unfortunately, all of this threatens to further embolden Big Labor, which may in turn have a substantial impact on startup companies across our economy, particularly in the tech sector.

In the meantime, all eyes will be watching findhelp and how it navigates this sudden and unwanted disruption.

February 13th, 2023 at 12:12 pm
Image of the Day: Joe Biden, Slashing American Wages Since Taking Office
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While Joe Biden simply repeats his claims to be building an economy “from the bottom up and the middle out,” and strangely brags about slight reductions in the rate of inflation that shot upward under him, our friend Stephen Moore provides yet another handy visual on how inflation has outpaced wage gains since Biden entered the White House:

Inflation Outpaces Wage Gains Undere Biden

Joe Biden the Wage Slayer

January 31st, 2023 at 4:20 pm
Gallup Poll Shows Americans’ Views on U.S. Healthcare Quality Turned Downward with ObamaCare and More Government Control
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Gallup just released a new survey summary under the sobering headline “Americans Sour on U.S. Healthcare Quality,” but what’s perhaps most notable is when the distinctive downturn began — as ObamaCare took effect and government control over our healthcare increased significantly:

 

January 23rd, 2023 at 9:58 am
Potential Appointment of Rep. Darrell Issa to IP Subcommittee Leadership Raises Concern
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Generally speaking and on a wide array of pressing issues, Congressman Darrell Issa (R – California) has proven a reliable leader who maintains solid support among conservatives and libertarians.

The prospect of Rep. Issa leading the House Judiciary Committee’s Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee, however, has sparked significant opposition and pushback from intellectual property (IP) proponents.  And for sound reasons.

For example, in urging new House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R – Ohio) not to select Rep. Issa for the role, IPWatchdog’s Paul Morinville lists a litany of concerns based upon Issa’s record:

Issa is the wrong person for the job and has demonstrated that since he joined Congress.  He has sponsored and cosponsored numerous bills that harm small entities for the benefit of Big Tech and Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-controlled multinational corporations.  He was one of the key drivers of the passage of the America Invents Act (AIA), which created the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the entity that now invalidates 84% of the patents it fully adjudicates.  He has ignored other problems like eBay v. MercExchange, which highly restricted injunctive relief, and Alice V. CLS Bank, which unleashed a demon into the patent system called the ‘abstract idea.’  This trifecta of damage has radically reduced the funding of startups by devaluing the only asset capable of attracting investment: patents.

More broadly and equally troublingly, Rep. Issa conceptualizes IP and Congress’s role in protecting it in an agnostic and passive way, as reconfirmed recently by spokesman Jonathan Wilcox:

As long as there have been patents, there have been disputes about how to regulate them.  Congressman Issa believes from decades of experience the system has too many loopholes that allow litigation and lawsuit abuse to stifle innovation.  Every IP reform he has achieved is to make the system more fair to everyone.

The fact that Rep. Issa views his potential chairmanship as an opportunity to increase government regulation illustrates precisely why the prospect of him leading this important subcommittee has generated such considerable and unified pushback from the IP community.  Patents are a constitutional and natural right, not a platform for increasing government control.

Moreover, centuries of American experience and success tell a different story than he suggests.

Throughout our history, America’s system of strong IP protections has made us the most innovative, prosperous nation in human history, without any close competitor.  From Alexander Graham Bell to Thomas Edison to the Wright brothers, from the film industry to the music industry, from lifesaving pharmaceuticals to software, from the telephone to the television, no society parallels our astonishing record of innovation, influence and prosperity.

That occurred by design, not coincidence.

Namely, our Founding Fathers considered IP a natural right and specifically drafted the Constitution to protect IP in a robust manner.  Even before they drafted and ratified the Bill of Rights, they specifically included IP protection in the text of the Constitution.  Article I, Section 8 provides that, “Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

That obviously creates an active, affirmative Congressional duty, not some sort of passive or optional authority as suggested by advocates of weaker IP laws.

The Founders recognized that, as with every other type of property, protection of IP recognized individuals’ inherent right to the fruits of their own labor while also incentivizing productive activity.  As James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, emphasized, “The public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of individuals.”

Similarly, former patent attorney Abraham Lincoln observed that, “The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery and production of new and useful things.”

And as the Supreme Court confirmed a century after that, “encouragement of individual effort by personal gain is the best way to advance public welfare through the talents of authors and inventors,” while “sacrificial days devoted to such creative activities deserve rewards commensurate with the services rendered.”

Accordingly, America’s strong historical protection of IP rights reflects both the importance of economic incentives – the utilitarian angle – as well as the recognition that free people possess a natural right to the fruits of their labor and investment.

Today, the total estimated value of American IP measures approximately $6.6 trillion, which standing alone exceeds the economies of every other nation in the world.  Our IP industries also account for 52% of all U.S. exports, and employ nearly 50 million workers whose average annual earnings exceed non-IP workers’ wages by nearly 30%.

Both at home and abroad, however, our unparalleled system of strong IP rights remains under deliberate assault.

Overseas, nations with weaker IP laws seek to pressure the U.S. to surrender IP protections, such as with our world-leading Covid vaccines and treatments.

And here in the U.S., skeptics and special interests who seek to weaken IP rights claim that the Constitution’s IP protections are utilitarian in nature, as opposed to natural rights.

The obvious flaw in that claim is that utilitarianism obtained more widespread popular currency decades after the Founding Fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  They were steeped not in cold utilitarianism, but rather the natural rights theories of John Locke, who observed that, “a person rightly claims ownership in her works to the extent that her labor resulted in their existence.”

Even accepting for the sake of argument, however, that America’s IP protections arose from solely utilitarian rather than natural rights ideals among the Founders, the simple fact is that one cannot identify an alternative IP system in the world today, or throughout human history, that has resulted in greater utility than our own.

That’s why IP matters, and why we must maintain and strengthen America’s system of IP protection, not undermine it.

It’s therefore important that new House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan take this to heart in determining who will lead the critical House subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.

January 12th, 2023 at 2:09 pm
Elizabeth Warren and Fellow Leftists Demand Government “March-In” on Critical Cancer Drug
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This week, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D – Massachusetts) and a group of fellow liberals submitted a letter to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) demanding that the federal government employ so-called “march-in” rights under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 to disregard private patent rights on the critical cancer drug Xtandi.

Here’s why that’s a terrible and potentially deadly idea that the HHS, other lawmakers and the American public must oppose.

Simply put, disregarding patent protections for pharmaceutical innovators will bring innovation to a halt and deprive Americans of lifesaving drugs.  America currently produces two-thirds of all new drugs worldwide, and that’s because our nation honors and protects patent rights, it doesn’t violate them.

It’s especially outrageous that Senator Warren and her cohorts seek to leverage the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 to facilitate their scheme.  The Bayh-Dole Act was passed in order to extend patent rights to universities and nonprofit research entities whose research was assisted by federal funds, not weaken them.  Prior to Bayh-Dole, very few innovations partially funded by federal dollars were ever commercially pursued – only 390 in the year prior to its passage.  Four decades later, however, that number approaches 7,500, with over 420,000 inventions and 13,000 new startup enterprises formed.

That explains why The Economist magazine labeled Bayh-Dole the most important bill of the past half-century:

Possibly the most inspired piece of legislation to be enacted in America over the past half-century was the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980.  Together with amendments in 1984 and augmentation in 1986, this unlocked all the inventions and discoveries that had been made in laboratories throughout the United States with taxpayers’ money.”

Alarmingly, however, this groups seeks to undermine patent rights for Xtandi by exploiting a “march-in” provision within Bayh-Dole to empower the federal government to commandeer new drugs and license the patents on inventions partially funded by federal dollars to third parties.   According to their flawed logic, the market prices of some drugs render them insufficiently available to the general public, and on that basis they encourage federal bureaucracies to forcibly license those drugs’ patent rights to other third parties for manufacture and sale.  That would constitute a frontal assault against private pharmaceutical innovators, disregarding their patent rights and the enormous investments they’ve made over years and decades to conceive, perfect, produce and distribute those drugs.  It would also contravene the statutory terms of Bayh-Dole itself.

Indeed, Senators Birch Bayh and Bob Dole themselves confirmed that the law bearing their names did not intend or allow cost to become a mechanism for imposition of de facto drug price controls:

Bayh-Dole did not intend that government set prices on resulting products.  The law makes no reference to a reasonable price that should be dictated by the government.  This omission was intentional;  the primary purpose of the act was to entice the private sector to seek public-private research collaboration rather than focusing on its own proprietary research.”

That’s precisely why the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has rejected every one of the “march-in” petitions that it has received during the Bayh-Dole Act’s existence.  It has consistently and correctly ruled that attempts to leverage price allegations to justify march-in would undermine the very goal of the act and ultimately harm American consumers.

People like Sen. Warren and her cohorts nevertheless claim that federal funding toward pharmaceutical research justify government march-in intrusion, falsely asserting that pharmaceutical innovators somehow enjoy a free ride at taxpayer expense.   That’s false.

Private funding for research and development actually dwarfs public funding.  According to the NIH itself, private sector R&D far exceeds NIH funding throughout recent years and decades.  In 2018, as another example, the NIH spent $3 billion on clinical trials involving new or existing drugs, compared to $102 billion in R&D by the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry.  Indeed, the pharmaceutical industry stands as the single largest source of business R&D funding in the U.S., accounting for 17.6% of all U.S. business R&D.  The next-closest counterpart is the software sector at 9.1%, with the automobile industry at 5.9% and the aerospace industry at 4.1%.

Senator Warren and her cosigners also allege that inflation somehow justifies their demand, but the fact is that drug prices significantly trail overall inflation.

Accordingly, the facts show that strong U.S. patent protections and the Bayh-Dole law promote pharmaceutical R&D investment, and there’s simply no legal or logical basis for advocating march-in regarding Xtandi.  Pharmaceutical innovation demands billions of dollars in sunk costs of investment, not to mention potential product liability lawsuits for any errors.  Strong patent protections, which Bayh-Dole codifies, help ensure that those costs and risks will be fairly and sufficiently rewarded.  They provide innovators and investors the incentives to create pharmaceuticals that save millions and even billions of lives worldwide.

The demand by Senators Warren and her cosigners would dangerously jeopardize that.

January 10th, 2023 at 11:50 am
New Study: Government Restrictions Targeting Short-Term Lenders Only Bring More Pain to Working Americans
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As the global economy slows, inflation remains elevated and wages fail to keep pace, we continue to emphasize how government regulators targeting short-term lenders only end up hurting the people they claim to be helping.

Now, a stark new study just released by Gregory Elliehausen of the Federal Reserve among other authors hammers home that point.  Namely, new laws artificially capping interest rates resulted in surveyed borrowers themselves saying that borrowing money when they needed it only became more difficult.  “Disapprobation of high interest rates,” the study begins, “reflects a longstanding and widely held belief that lenders take advantage of needy individuals by charging high interest and imposing harsh terms.”  Their work clearly found, however, that government mandates manifesting that disapprobation inflicted even greater pain:

[W]e find that the interest-rate cap decreased the number of loans to subprime borrowers by 44 percent and increased the average loan size to subprime borrowers by 40 percent.  We examine the welfare effects of the loss of credit access using an online survey of short-term, small-dollar-credit borrowers in Illinois.  Most borrowers answer that they have been unable to borrow money when they needed it following the imposition of the interest rate cap.  Further, only 11 percent of the respondents answered that their financial well-being increased following the interest-rate cap, and 79 percent answered that they wanted the option to return to their previous lender.  Thus, the Illinois interest-rate cap of 36 percent significantly decreased the ability of small-dollar credit, particularly to subprime borrowers, and worsened the financial well-being of many consumers.”  (Emphasis added.)

Rather than harming the very working Americans they claim to be helping, government officials at the federal, state and local levels need to increase access to small-dollar credit by first doing no harm.

 

 

December 27th, 2022 at 11:23 am
Image of the Day: U.S. Census Bureau Shows Americans Fleeing Blue States for Red States
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One can’t accuse the U.S. Census Bureau of right-wing bias, and their visual regarding population shifts signals important things that a lot of leftists would prefer remain unsaid:

Americans Abandon Blue States for Red States

Americans Abandon Blue States for Red States

December 22nd, 2022 at 11:35 am
Image of the Day: Public Trust in Media Sinks to New Low
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In the wake of the outrageous and still-unfolding Twittergate revelations, one can’t intelligently contend that they haven’t earned their unpopularity, but according to a new I&I/TIPP survey that’s worth reading in its entirety, public trust in media has plummeted to a new record low:

Trust in Media Hits New Low

Trust in Media Hits New Low

December 16th, 2022 at 3:23 pm
Stacy Washington Warns Against So-Called “Safe Lending Act” in New Commentary
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Continuing our efforts to warn against the perils of federal, state, and local efforts to target short-term lenders while working families face increasing economic headwinds, Stacy Watson came out with a fantastic new commentary entitled “What’s the Fed Doing to Fight ‘She-Flation?”  She highlights the ways in which inflation can hit women particularly hard, and cautions against counterproductive legislation and regulation that will only make access to financing more difficult:

While the federal government is acting to tame inflation through legislation and monetary policy, there is more that can be done to ease the burdens of she-flation. For one, the government should increase access to liquidity for small businesses. That would incentivize and enable women to become entrepreneurs, seize control of their destinies, and, it is hoped, increase earning potential. Encouraging banks to partner with technology companies that serve underbanked consumers would open access to credit for many single moms and entrepreneurial women.   

Lawmakers should also take off the table legislation that would remove access to personal and small business credit, such as the recently reintroduced “Safe Lending Act.” Although the bill purports to protect consumers from deceptive lending practices, what it would actually do is gut access to credit for working-class families, minorities, and women.”

Bravo.

December 8th, 2022 at 10:55 am
Bipartisan Senators’ Letter to NLRB Opposes Destructive Proposed “Joint Employer Rule”
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Many claim to prefer bipartisanship out of leaders in Washington, D.C., and right now we’re witnessing an encouraging example of it.

Specifically, Senators Mike Braun (R – Indiana), Joe Manchin (D – West Virginia), Angus King (I – Maine), James Lankford (R – Oklahoma), Kyrsten Sinema (D – Arizona), and Susan Collins (R – Maine) have written National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chairman Lauren McFerran seeking reconsideration of the NLRB’s proposed “Joint Employer Rule” that they correctly warn “would have negative effects on workers and businesses during a time that many are already struggling following the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For years we at CFIF have sounded the alarm on the Joint Employer Rule that the Senators target, because it would dangerously reverse decades of established labor law by holding businesses liable and responsible for employees of franchisees whom they didn’t hire and over whom they exercise no control:

Under longstanding court precedent and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) interpretation, an ’employer’ for purposes of applying the nation’s labor laws was generally defined to include only those businesses that determined the essential terms and conditions of employment.

As a textbook illustration, imagine a franchise arrangement whereby the franchisee determines whom to hire, whom to fire, wages and other everyday working conditions.  The distant franchisor, in contrast, obviously doesn’t fly every potential franchisee employee in for an interview at corporate headquarters or micromanage its franchisees’ working conditions.

On that logic, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in NLRB v. Browning-Ferris Industries (1982) that the appropriate standard for defining an employer with regard to a particular set of employees was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Boire v. Greyhound Corp. (1964).  It held that only businesses exercising control over ‘those matters governing the essential terms and conditions of employment’ were subject to collective bargaining requirements and liabilities.

Two years later, the NLRB formally adopted that standard, ruling in separate cases that ‘there must be a showing that the employer meaningfully affects matters relating to the employment such as hiring, firing, discipline, supervision and direction.’  In other words, an ’employer’ for purposes of labor law mandates required direct and immediate control over the terms and conditions of employment.

That stands to reason, since it makes no sense to impose legal liability upon employers that don’t actually control a bargaining unit’s employment conditions.

In August 2015, however, Obama’s NLRB suddenly and needlessly upended that established legal standard by redefining what’s known as the ‘Joint Employer Doctrine.’  Essentially, the Joint Employer Doctrine now allows multiple businesses to be held legally liable for the same set of employees.

Thus, in the infinite wisdom of the Obama NLRB, even employers with indirect or even merely potential ability to affect employment terms could suddenly find themselves subject to federal labor laws.”

In their letter, the Senators highlight the potential harm of the proposed rule.  They note that in the United States, nearly 775,000 franchises employ 8.2 million workers and provide $800 billion of economic output, which is projected to grow in 2022 to nearly 800,000 franchises.   As they further note, the International Franchise Association (IFA) found that the proposed rule could “cost franchise businesses $33.3 billion per year, resulting in 376,000 lost job opportunities, and led to a 93% increase in lawsuits.”

These Senators demonstrate welcome bipartisan leadership, and Americans should contact their Senators to make their support clear.

December 5th, 2022 at 10:56 am
Image of the Day: Sure Enough, Credit Card Balances Are Exploding
Posted by Print

As misguided politicians and regulators continue to target short-term lenders, which provide American consumers with vital financial lifelines when the only alternatives are skipping payments, bouncing checks, running up credit card debts or even going to dangerous loansharks, we’ve consistently noted how short-term lenders’ role becomes increasingly important as the U.S. economy deteriorates and credit card reliance skyrockets.  Sure enough, the New York Fed numbers provide an alarming illustration:

Credit Card Debt Skyrocketing

Credit Card Debt Skyrocketing

All the more reason to protect consumers’ access to legal, reliant, efficient short-term lending rather than irrationally target it.

November 17th, 2022 at 11:48 am
Stat of the Day: Thanksgiving Costs Up a Record 20%, but Prescription Drug Prices Decline
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As we approach Thanksgiving, you may have heard (or personally experienced) that the cost of Thanksgiving dinner this year is up a record 20%.

Meanwhile, guess what’s actually declined in price, according to the federal government itself.  That would be prescription drug prices, which declined 0.1% last month alone.

Perhaps the Biden Administration should focus on helping everyday Americans afford Thanksgiving, rather than artificially imposing innovation-killing government price controls on lifesaving drugs, which are actually declining in price and nowhere near the inflation rate afflicting other consumer costs.

November 4th, 2022 at 11:12 am
USC Healthcare Fellow: Biden’s “Inflation Reduction Act” Already Killing Potential Pharmaceutical Cures
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We at CFIF often warn how attempts at “drug price controls” will only succeed in killing lifesaving drug innovation, in which the U.S. leads the world without a close second.

Joe Biden’s so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” constitutes a perfect illustration, and in a Wall Street Journal piece entitled “The Inflation Reduction Act Is Already Killing Potential Cures,” USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics fellow Joe Grogan shows how “we’re already getting signs of the damage”:

One poorly crafted provision is driving companies away from research into treating rare diseases.  In its Oct. 27 earnings statement, Alnylam announced it is suspending development of a treatment for Stargardt disease, a rare eye disorder, because of the company’s need ‘to evaluate impact of the Inflation Reduction Act.’  Alnylam’s decision turns on a provision in the Democrats’ bill that exempts from price-setting negotiations drugs that treat only one rare disease.  The company’s drug is currently marketed as treating only amyloidosis, and thus is exempt from Medicare’s price setting.  If Alnylam proceeded with research into treating Stargardt, it would lose its exemption.”

And that’s not even the end of it.  Earlier this week, Eli Lilly announced termination of a blood cancer drug because, “In light of the Inflation Reduction Act, this program no longer met our threshold for continued investment.”

Mr. Grogan proceeds to offer a must-read primer on how and why this is happening, then concludes by admonishing the next Congress convening in January to abandon this instant disaster and promote innovation instead of cheap Biden Administration talking point schemes:

The Democrats may have achieved a short-term talking point for the midterm elections, but in the long term this partisan healthcare bill will prevent patients from receiving innovative, lifesaving treatments.  A new Congress would serve Americans well by replacing the Inflation Reduction Act with an approach that recognizes the need for economic incentives to bring new treatments to patients.”

Good advice.

October 28th, 2022 at 3:15 pm
Anti-Patent Group Seeks to Weaken U.S. Pharmaceutical Innovation and Intellectual Property Advantage
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When pondering the origins of American Exceptionalism, and what makes us the most innovative, prosperous nation in human history, look first to our tradition of protecting intellectual property (IP) – patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret property rights.

After all, other nations match or even exceed the U.S. in free market rankings (24 nations in the latest annual Index of Economic Freedom, in fact).  No nation, however, can match us for sheer innovation.  America accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population, and even with the world’s largest economy we account for under 25% of the global economy.  In contrast, no nation can match our scientific innovation, from flight to space exploration to the internet.  Nor can any nation match our artistic leadership, from the film industry to television to music, or claim as many instantly recognizable trademarks, from Coca-Cola to Apple.

Year after year, that’s why the U.S. leads global rankings of IP protection.

Perhaps most conspicuously, the U.S. accounts for fully two-thirds of all new lifesaving pharmaceuticals introduced to the world each year.  In an era increasingly reliant on pharmaceutical treatments for everything from Covid to cancer to Alzheimer’s, that is a leadership of which we should remain both proud and protective.

Inexplicably, however, some voices seek to undermine that IP leadership position.  A group called I-MAK offers the latest assault, with a “study” entitled “Overpatented, Overpriced,” which attempts to show “how excessive pharmaceutical patenting is extending monopolies and driving up drug prices.”  We employ scare quotes around the term “study” because I-MAK’s work has been previously debunked and exposed by leading IP scholars like George Mason University and Antonin Scalia Law School Professor Adam Mossoff and Senator Thom Tillis (R – North Carolina) for using defective and non-transparent supporting data.

Indeed, we highlighted earlier this year how drug prices have remained far, far below overall inflation.  Efforts like I-MAK’s would only end up suffocating drug innovation, not reducing prices, as we’ve also highlighted:

Of all new cancer drugs developed worldwide between 2011 and 2018, 96% were available to American consumers.  Meanwhile, only 56% of those drugs became available in Canada, 50% in Japan, and just 11% in Greece, as just three examples.  Patients in nations imposing drug price controls simply don’t receive access to new pharmaceuticals as quickly as Americans, if they ever receive them at all.”

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges that overseas consumers’ lower access to pharmaceutical innovations stems from their governments’ imposition of price control regimes:

‘Every time one country demands a lower price, it leads to lower price reference used by other countries.  Such price controls, combined with the threat of market lockout or intellectual property infringement, prevent drug companies from charging market rates for their products, while delaying the availability of new cures to patients living in countries implementing those policies.’”

The irrefutable reality is that U.S. patent protections explain why we produce the overwhelming share of new drugs worldwide, including the Covid vaccines.  Efforts like I-MAK’s latest “study” continue a bizarre ongoing affront to property rights, the rule of law and IP.  If successful, they would only mean fewer future vaccines and treatments, and must be flatly rejected.