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Gosnell Movie Makers Speak at Heritage About Raising Over $1 Million

April 20, 2014 - 6:23pm

Gosnell, a movie in the works about notorious abortionist Kermit Gosnell, has now raised over $1 million through a crowd funding campaign, making it the largest non-celebrity promoted film  of its kind. 

The film’s co-producers, Phelim McAleer and Magdelene Segieda, will speak at The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, April 22nd about the progress.

McAleer has said it will take $2.1 million to produce the film and fundraising continues on the Indigogo platform.

McAleer’s wife, Ann McElhinney, also a co-producer, said in the fundraising video, “Hollywood — which loves to make movies and TV programs about serial killers — also decided to ignore the story. That’s why we decided to crowdfund and it’s also why we have been the most successful project ever.”

Who:

  • Phelim McAleer ( @PhelimMcAleer)
  • Magdelena Segieda (@MSegieda)

What: The Blogger’s Briefing

When: Tuesday, April 22nd at 12-1pmET

Where: The Heritage Foundation

RSVP on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-bloggers-briefing-gosnell-movie-makers-speak-about-raising-over-1-million-tickets-11367724169

*Available online to watch here.

The post Gosnell Movie Makers Speak at Heritage About Raising Over $1 Million appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Market Pricing, Solving Problems

April 20, 2014 - 8:00am

Photo: Newscom

In medical care, you have to get the diagnosis correct. But if you want to solve the problem, you’ve also got to get the treatment right. At the Vox website recently, reporter Sarah Kliff posted a blog titled: “Our Health Spending Problem is All About Prices.” That diagnosis is only partially correct.

In Holland, notes Kliff, that you can get prescription Nexium for $23, while the average American pays more than $200. However, that differential is not the result of other countries “negotiating” lower prices. Rather, these countries impose price controls on drugs, and are willing to deny those drugs to their citizens if manufacturers won’t accept the lower price dictated to them by the government.

Drug companies are willing to put up with that behavior in small countries. But if the U.S., the world’s largest market for prescription drugs, did the same the result would be catastrophic: new drugs—for anybody—as drug companies would lose both the funding and the incentive to develop new medicines.

Furthermore, few Americans are actually forking over $200 per prescription. Indeed, over the last 20 years, pharmacy benefit management companies have become excellent at negotiating discounts with manufactures and creating incentives for physicians and patients to more appropriately prescribe and use medicines. The PBMs’ track record of cost control is especially notable in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, where they compete to offer plans directly to Medicare beneficiaries.

Yet, despite that success, liberals continue to propose replacing the competitive Medicare Part D market with direct government “negotiations” with drug makers for all Medicare beneficiaries. However, the Congressional Budget Office consistently (and correctly) scores such proposals as offering zero additional savings. What CBO understands is that the only way governments can reduce prices below the level negotiated in the market is by refusing to pay for the drugs if the manufacturers won’t play ball—thus denying those drugs to patients.

Kliff is on much firmer ground when she notes the differences in prices for medical procedures, such as her example of knee replacement surgery. Yet, she still misses the real source of the problem: For most Americans, a third party is actually paying the bills.

You wouldn’t buy a product or order a meal if you had no idea how much it would cost. Yet when you go to the hospital, you generally have no idea how much a test or procedure will cost you.

That’s because, for most Americans, a third party actually pays the medical bills. At the hospital, the patient may end up on the hook for a co-payment (a portion of the cost), but the prices listed on the hospital’s bill typically aren’t what either the patient or his insurance plan actually pays.

>>> Read More: Compelling Evidence Makes the Case for a Market-Driven Health Care System

This is a crucial flaw in the healthcare system. “Consumers are price sensitive in health care, just as they are in every other sector of the economy,” wrote Heritage Foundation analysts James Capretta and Kevin Dayaratna last year. Yet Obamacare does nothing to deliver price information.

In fact, it could soon make the problem worse. Obamacare establishes an Independent Payment Advisory Board that will be charged with bringing down federal spending on Medicare. Yet the only cuts it is allowed to make would be to providers’ reimbursements. Such price controls are no way to improve health care.

Kliff implies that the solution is more government “negotiation” or regulation of prices. But existing government price regulations (such as Medicare’s fees schedules) have made the problems worse and further distorted health care markets. Indeed, the federal government already pays for roughly half the health care in the U.S. Under Obamacare. that amount will only increase.

The real answer would be to put consumers in charge of more of their own health care decisions. That way, they would have incentives to demand more health care price transparency. Give them price information and they’ll act on it.

“Rising prices for goods encourage producers to find ways of supplying more, while guiding purchasers to switch to cheaper alternatives,” Heritage Foundation analyst Christopher Pope explains. “Thus, the price mechanism encourages the productive and careful employment of scarce resources and directs innovative efforts where they are most needed.”

We’ll begin solving the pricing problem only when we understand what the price actually is.

The post Market Pricing, Solving Problems appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

The Paycheck Fairness Act Will Harm, Not Help, Women

April 20, 2014 - 8:00am

Photo: BSIP/Newscom

As a working woman and mother of four young children, I strongly support fairness in the workplace. And that is why the Paycheck Fairness Act worries me. It would unintentionally harm working women by taking away some of the freedoms and choices we currently enjoy.

The Paycheck Fairness Act seeks to equalize wages. Under the Act, employers would have to prove that any wage differential results from a “business necessity” that cannot be remedied through any other means. In practice, this will make it more difficult for employers to pay workers according to their merit.

Everyone supports equal pay for equal work, but often things are not that simple. Shouldn’t the more efficient computer programmer receive more than the less efficient? Shouldn’t a worker who puts in extra hours on a major project be allowed to receive a bonus? Without such merit-based pay, both women and men who deserve higher compensation will be less apt to receive it.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would also send trial lawyers into overdrive by automatically including women in class-action lawsuits and allowing them to sue for unlimited damages. Effectively allowing lawyers to second-guess employers’ business calculations about the value of a worker, the prospects of facing frivolous class-action suits may well discourage business owners from selecting female job applicants, reducing women’s opportunities and choices in the workplace.

“Paycheck Fairness” is an appealing phrase, but in reality, there is no need for further legislation to ensure equal pay for equal work. Both the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect workers against a multitude of workplace discriminations. Notwithstanding these protections, economic reality creates natural penalties for employers who discriminate.

In today’s highly competitive, global economy, companies that practice pay-based discrimination will be at a competitive disadvantage compared to those who do not. Underpaid women can and will find new jobs that will pay them according to their worth. Companies that overpay men will be undercut by those that pay their workers efficiently, according to the value they produce.

So why, then, do women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men? That’s a statistic cited ad nauseam by proponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The short answer is: It’s a bogus number. It doesn’t take into account any differences in the jobs men and women choose, their years in the workforce, continuous service, etc. Factor in those real-world considerations and most of the “gender pay gap” disappears. A 2009 study by the Department of Labor found that all but five to seven cents of the pay gap between men and women could be explained by such differences as occupation, education, experience, and part-time versus full-time work. Part of the remaining gap is the result of individual choices made by men and women.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would place these individual choices at risk. By increasing the risk of lawsuits, it will encourage business owners to limit flexible work options that tend to benefit women more than men.

As a working mother, flexibility is a crucial component of my job. Sick days, doctor appointments, and snow days when school and daycare are closed all take time away from work. There are also accommodations and benefits such as teleworking, “pregnancy parking,” and paid maternity leave. The value I place on these benefits and my use of them is reflected in the paycheck I negotiated to receive. The Paycheck Fairness Act would restrict the availability of such personalized, flexible work arrangements for women and men alike.

Women have come a long way in the workplace, and there is still room for improvement. Yet the Paycheck Fairness Act would impede the freedom and personal choices of women and men alike.

Originally posted in The National Interest.

The post The Paycheck Fairness Act Will Harm, Not Help, Women appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Here's What We Can Do to Make Next April 15 Less Painful

April 20, 2014 - 7:41am

Photo: Getty Images

Historically speaking, April 15 has never been a day marked by good fortune.

The Titanic sank on that day in 1912 (after striking an iceberg shortly before midnight on April 14). Abraham Lincoln died after being mortally wounded the day before.

And, of course, there’s Tax Day.

“The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has,” Will Rogers once quipped. Actually, most Americans try hard to fill out their taxes properly. Unfortunately, the tax code has grown so mind-numbingly complex that it seems almost as if the system is rigged to make them fail.

It’s not, but it might as well be. The code is so long, notes House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, it’s 10 times the size of the Bible.

Even if you could easily grasp all the rules, they’re never the same from year to year. There have been more than 4,400 changes to the code in the past decade alone (about one a day), leaving even tax professionals scrambling to catch up every year.

What if we had a code that seemed as if it was designed on purpose, one that was simple, fair and easy to understand? Then Tax Day wouldn’t have to be such an annual nightmare.

Here are several ways that tax reform would benefit Americans:

Right now, the complexity of the tax code, with its many loopholes, deductions and credits, acts as a damper on the very kinds of activities that create a strong economy: working, saving, investing and taking on risk.

But if tax reform reduced the higher marginal rates that many Americans pay, the resulting increase in incentives would provide a much-needed boost to the economy. Families that earn more wouldn’t be punished for doing so. That would put the American Dream within reach of more taxpayers.

A tax reform that makes the code less Byzantine will naturally make it easier to understand and, therefore, easier to file your taxes. The 13 hours that the average taxpayer takes to gather receipts and other paperwork, read the rules and fill out all the necessary forms would be drastically reduced.

“There would be no need for pricey software, and only those families with the most complex financial arrangements would require paid tax preparers,” writes tax expert Curtis Dubay. “Highly skilled lawyers and accountants could put their considerable talents to more productive uses, which would further boost the economy.”

True tax reform would end the practice of the government picking winners and losers in the market, and seeking to reward or punish families that make certain economic decisions. There would be no more push, for example, to buy certain products deemed environmentally friendly, or to choose child care outside the home. Each family, and not the government, could make its own decision about what’s right for it.

Tax reform that reduces the number of deductions and credits, and that makes the code more transparent and understandable to all Americans, can’t help but make the system fairer.

Few government agencies are more vilified than the Internal Revenue Service. Most of the people who work at the IRS, however, are hard-working professionals tainted by the misdeeds of a few specific officials. Tax reform can help them.

Originally published in The Washington Times.

The post Here's What We Can Do to Make Next April 15 Less Painful appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Easter Sunday in Photos: Why America Is Exceptional

April 20, 2014 - 6:00am

People often say the United States is the best country in the world. But sometimes, it’s hard to remember why.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan offered this reminder, and his words still hold true today:

Throughout our history Americans have put their faith in God and no one can doubt that we have been blessed for it. The earliest settlers of this land came in search of religious freedom. Landing on a desolate shoreline, they established a spiritual foundation that has served us ever since.

Today is a special day because it’s a reminder to all Americans of why we’re blessed to live in a country rooted in freedom.

In celebration, we’re highlighting the many ways the nation spends this day.

For some Americans, it’s all about the hunt.

Some spend it in worship and reverence.

Others over good food and alongside family.

The smallest are focused on finding (and usually shaking) every single egg.

 

They debut their best Easter attire.

Some not always by choice.

Some families have been in celebration all week for Passover.

Others are spending the day following the same traditions their parents did.

A lot of Americans are cozy in their homes with close family and friends.


Others are learning to value the spirit of the season—no matter where they are.


Some people honor the day in a church.

Others through fellowship.

For some, it’s just a day for chocolate-filled eggs.

No matter what you’re celebrating today, it reminds us to be thankful to be Americans— thankful for freedom.

How are you celebrating today? What traditions does your family honor each year? Tell us in the comments.

All photos courtesy of Thinkstock. 

The post Easter Sunday in Photos: Why America Is Exceptional appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

3 Areas Where Government Needs to Get Out of the Way

April 19, 2014 - 2:41pm

Jim West/ZUMA Press/Newscom

America has a jobs problem. And we don’t need more economic “stimulus” packages or government solutions. We need Congress and the Obama administration to stop dragging their feet.

In a new report, Heritage’s Rachel Greszler says that “The problem with today’s labor market is not that too many people are being laid off but that too few people are being hired.…today’s labor market is plagued with a lack of new job creation.”

Here are three areas where government could get out of the way—and let Americans create more jobs.

1. Keystone XL Pipeline

The Obama administration’s newest delay on the Keystone XL pipeline is another example of holding back positive developments in the economy. President Obama has blocked the pipeline’s completion despite several reports confirming it would have little to no negative environmental impact.

The pipeline “can be built without the help of the taxpayer,” Heritage’s Nicolas Loris reminds us, and would add to America’s domestic energy resources.

2. Reduce Employers’ Costs

A new plan in Congress called the JOBS Act would repeal old wage rules that are adding millions to businesses’ costs. When employers’ costs go up, they can’t hire new workers. As Greszler points out, unlike the federal government, American businesses “cannot pull out unlimited credit cards or tap the incomes of their customers to pay for higher costs.”

3. Cut Regulation

“Since 2008, the percentage of businesses citing regulation as their single most important problem has doubled from less than 10 percent to 21 percent,” Greszler reports. “The mountain of often unnecessary and sometimes harmful regulations that exists today continues to weigh down—and sometimes completely prevent—business growth and entrepreneurship.”

LEARN MORE: Job Creation: Policies to Boost Employment and Economic Growth

 

The post 3 Areas Where Government Needs to Get Out of the Way appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

The Intolerance Wars

April 19, 2014 - 11:00am

Forget the Hunger Games. Welcome to the Intolerance Wars.

Every day, it seems, someone tries to silence someone else in the name of some higher cause. The forced resignation of Brendan Eich as CEO of the popular Web browser Mozilla Firefox is only the tip of the iceberg.

This goes beyond the familiar tit for tat of the culture wars. We are witnessing nothing less than a major shift in America’s political culture. Ideological opponents are no longer just wrong; they have no right to be heard. People who disagree with you are not just misguided; they have no right to make a living. In extreme cases, they deserve incarceration.

This is far worse than intolerance. It turns American liberalism on its head to become its opposite: illiberalism.

Illiberalism has a long history, infecting both the right and the left, from the Ku Klux Klan to the SDS. But today it is taking over a movement that once claimed to be its bitter enemy: American liberalism. People who call themselves liberals may think of themselves as open-minded moderates, but some of them increasingly champion the use of coercive methods, either by government muscle or public shaming, to shut down debate and deprive certain people of their constitutional rights.

Look at the popular culture. In academia, the media and Hollywood, it’s now acceptable (and even cool) to suppress dissent. Speech codes, “trigger warnings” and preventing people such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from speaking on campuses are by now old hat. But when media treat seriously actor Sean Penn’s suggestion that Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, be thrown into a mental institution, alarm bells should be ringing. Once-venerated liberal notions of free speech, pluralism and openness have been thrown out the window.

It’s happening in government too. The federal government stands accused of investigating political opponents and using its judicial powers to harass the press. The Obama administration routinely refuses to enforce laws it disagrees with and implements, by executive order, policies that were explicitly rejected by Congress. The courts throw out laws and referendums based on, at best, selective interpretations of the Constitution. Apparently America’s venerable checks-and-balances system, once a safeguard of its democratic liberal order, is now considered a roadblock to agendas rather than a protector of freedom. What is worse, some people apparently are more equal than others before the law.

Why is this happening? The rise of illiberalism in America represents the triumph of a countercultural liberalism that set out decades ago to overturn traditional progressivism.

It is often assumed that today’s liberals are the heirs of American progressivism. In reality, they are the sons and daughters of the new left of the 1960s, which set out to transform American progressivism. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John F. Kerry have much more in common with Betty Friedan and Tom Hayden than Woodrow Wilson or Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Progressivism always believed in big government, but up until the 1960s, it had an abiding respect for Holmes’ idea of free speech and Thomas Jefferson’s (and John Stuart Mill’s) veneration of individual conscience. No more. Those in power now regard dissent as a dirty word, a mere shield behind which bigots and haters supposedly lurk.

The illiberal temptation has long been part of the Western liberal tradition. From the French Revolution onward, the notion of creating absolute equality via coercion has attracted followers. But in America, that impulse was tempered by Holmes’ respect for freedom of speech and Jefferson’s belief in the sanctity of individual conscience.

That respect and that belief were the higher cause of American liberalism, not some agenda that assumes history ends when opponents are silenced or jailed.

Originally published in The Washington Times.

The post The Intolerance Wars appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Congress Needs to Hit the 'Reset' Button on Public Diplomancy

April 19, 2014 - 7:32am

Photo: Joseph Sohm/Visions of America/Newscom

George Kennan knew a thing or two about how nations treat one another.

In 1946, while serving as deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Moscow, he penned “the long telegram.” That assessment of what motivated the Soviet Union shaped U.S. policy toward Moscow for decades.

Later, at the new National War College, Kennan explained how “grand strategy” works. When nations compete, he told his students, they employ “varieties of skullduggery.” These included “persuasion, intimidation, deceit, corruption, penetration, subversion, horsetrading, bluffing, psychological pressure, economic pressure, seduction, blackmail, theft, rape, battle, murder, and sudden death.

“Don’t mistake that for a complete list,” he added.

The U.S. needs to maintain effective countermeasures for all such skullduggery, especially when it comes to dealing with anti-American, totalitarian states.

One important tool for pushing back against propaganda, disinformation, and dirty tricks is public diplomacy — a government’s program for communicating directly with foreign publics. During Kennan’s time, public diplomacy was a major American initiative, spreading the gospel of freedom to people in trapped behind the Iron Curtain. But U.S. public diplomacy has been on the decline since the end of the Cold War. And it has continued to decline even as countries like Russia and China have ramped up their global outreach.

Much of the blame for America’s crumbling ability to tell its story may be laid at the doorstep of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which overseas almost all of our public diplomacy broadcast assets. By many accounts, it’s just plain dysfunctional.

Congress created the BBG as an independent body to keep politics out of public diplomacy. But the BBG has failed to tamp down partisanship even as it has made a hash of America’s ability to get its message out.

Membership on the board is by appointment. Four seats are reserved by Republican nominees, and four for Democratic nominees. (The Secretary of State reserves the authority to appoint a ninth member.) This arrangement was intended to promote non-partisanship. Instead, the board has split into partisan camps. The political infighting has, in turn, empowered permanent staff to play an increasingly powerful role in decision-making. This, in turn, has made the process by which the board reaches decisions increasingly opaque.

The board picks winners and losers in terms of which services and languages to offer, and the lack of transparency is troublesome. Increasingly, the BBG prefers the Internet and broadcast television over radio and shortwave. Yet the latter media are more accessible to many audiences in much of the world. The board has also been cutting off Balkan languages and other “niche” programming of strategic importance. Those decisions often leave the BBG scrambling when an unexpected crisis explodes somewhere in the world, like in Ukraine.

The board’s difficulty in managing effectively is predictable. After all, the “managers” often meet less than once a month to oversee an annual budget of more than $700 million. Yet the BBG firmly resists oversight from Congress, under the pretense that they are an “independent” body.

It’s time for Congress to hit the “reset” button on public diplomacy. One reform idea that’s gathering steam: abolish the BBG. The Voice of America would then be stood up as an independent organization, operating under a clear, concise charter and the direction of a long-serving nonpartisan CEO. Radio Free Europe and other BBG-managed services that operate mostly as independent contractors could be placed under the direction of the National Endowment for Democracy. The NED could then keep them focused on promoting democracy and freedom of expression.

Along with better oversight, our public diplomacy needs better investment strategies. Washington needs to stop cutting language services, radio and shortwave broadcasting and start acting like a serious superpower.

The post Congress Needs to Hit the 'Reset' Button on Public Diplomancy appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Chrysler Bankruptcy Still Affecting Economy

April 19, 2014 - 7:00am

Photo: Pete Souza

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the Chrysler bankruptcy. President Obama will doubtless mark the occasion by talking about how his intervention saved the auto company. More noteworthy, however, is how the lawlessness of that intervention created tremendous uncertainty, which still chills the economy today.

Todd Zywicki has written an excellent summary of President Obama’s actions in the Chrysler bailout.  A shorter version goes like this.

Starting under President Bush and continuing under President Obama, the federal government used TARP funds to keep Chrysler afloat.  This gave the government effective control over Chrysler. As a result, the Obama administration was able to call the shots when it put Chrysler through bankruptcy.

Under long-established bankruptcy rules, holders of “secured debt” are rightfully owed 100 percent of what they loaned the company.  However, the Administration decided it would not play by those rules.  Instead, it decreed, holders of secured debt would receive only 29 cents on the dollar. Meanwhile, it decreed that the United Auto Workers, which had no secured creditor rights, would get 40 cents on the dollar.

This arrangement knocked the notion of secured debt on its head.  Businesses offer creditors secured debt when they are struggling to maintain their operations. The assurance that they will get paid back first and in whole if the business declares bankruptcy is what makes lenders more to make such a risky loan.  In Chrysler’s case, most of its secured creditors were large financial institutions, but others taking the risk included Indiana state teacher and police pension funds.

When these creditors balked at accepting the Administration’s offer of less than a third of what they were rightfully owed, President Obama chastised them publicly, complaining that they refused to make sacrifices and work constructively, and were holding out for “an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout.” Since most of the financial institutions holding Chrysler secured debt also had accepted TARP funds, they ultimately yielded to White House pressure and the bankruptcy went through on the President’s law-breaking terms.

For businesses and investors, the process was highly disconcerting.  Both need to know that the rule of law will be upheld consistently.  It is the only way they can be certain that contracts and agreements mean anything. When they aren’t sure the law will recognize their rights, they reduce their activities until certainty returns.

When bankruptcy law is undermined, it’s particularly troubling.  Investing in financially challenged companies is especially risky. Investors need to know how much they stand to lose if the investment does go belly up. By undermining bankruptcy law, the Obama administration made it difficult for investors to gauge whether or not they can absorb such high-risk investments.

Five years on, it is clear the uncertainty is not only slowing investments in companies that could go bankrupt. Investors are providing financing to help businesses replace worn-out equipment and conduct other routine functions.  But they have not returned to taking on other types of riskier investments needed to restore economic growth to where it should be.

The lag in investment shows up clearly when comparing the growth of business investment in the current recovery to that after the similarly severe 1982-1983 recession. After the earlier recession ended, business investment was almost 27 percent greater than its pre-recession peak four years into the recovery. Four years following the end of the latest recession, business investment is just 5.5 percent above its pre-recession height.

Some might argue that the Chrysler bankruptcy was a unique situation and is unlikely to happen again. Therefore, it cannot possibly still be impairing the economy. That argument might hold weight if the Obama administration hadn’t continued to exhibit lawless behavior time and time again.  For example, it has unilaterally “amended” the Affordable Care Act 38 times and acted with similar imperiousness on issues ranging from energy to education to welfare policy.

Such behavior signals to businesses and investors that President Obama won’t hesitate to overturn the law again whenever it suits his interests. This has perpetuated the uncertainty originally created by the Chrysler bankruptcy, and there is no sign that it will abate any time soon.

Uncertainty is bound to persist as long as President Obama remains in the Oval Office, unless he has a change of heart and openly declares that he will steadfastly abide by the rule of law for the remainder of his presidency. Since that is profoundly unlikely, we are looking at a minimum of three more years of economy-slowing uncertainty.
That is a long time to wait, but such are the consequences of unsettling something as foundational to the economy as the rule of law.

Originally published in The Federalist.

The post Chrysler Bankruptcy Still Affecting Economy appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Ben Carson: ‘We’re Being Manipulated’ by Those ‘Trying to Divide Us’

April 18, 2014 - 10:17pm

Eric Draper/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Dr. Ben Carson slammed the culture of political correctness and partisan labels at a WPEC-TV town hall panel held Thursday at the station’s studio in West Palm Beach, Florida, arguing that it has stifled free expression in America—namely religious freedom.

“We’re being manipulated. We’re being played by those people who want to divide, conquer, and control,” Carson said, alluding to the labels attached to those who disagree with their liberal counterparts. (Carson’s comments begin at at the 19:08 mark on the second video, WPEC Town Hall Religion 2. Scroll down the page and the three videos of the event are on the right side).

“If you are pro-life, then you’re anti-woman. If you’re pro-traditional marriage, then you’re homophobic. If you’re a white person and you say something against a progressive black person, you’re a racist,” Carson explained, calling for Americans “to realize that we are not each other’s enemies. The enemies are those people who are trying to divide us up.”

The panel featured religious leaders and a representative of an atheist organization speaking about religious freedom in society, including prayer in schools and the roots of morality.

Carson noted that when it comes to religion in the public sphere, secular progressives “try to impose a code of silence upon those who believe differently than they do.”

He cited the role of the Founding Fathers in building America as “a very spiritual nation” despite the claims of those “who try to re-write history,” and spoke of his own faith throughout his life’s work in pediatric neurosurgery.

Commenting on the split between science and religion on human biological development, Carson said, “It requires an enormous amount of faith to believe that something came from nothing.”

This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.

The post Ben Carson: ‘We’re Being Manipulated’ by Those ‘Trying to Divide Us’ appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Response to Matt Yglesias: Heritage Tax Chart Isn’t Misleading

April 18, 2014 - 8:26pm

Matt Yglesias, now with Vox, finds this chart of ours misleading:

He admits that the data is correct and that what it shows—that the federal income tax is highly progressive—is also correct.

So what’s the problem?

Our chart looks exclusively at federal income taxes in the context of the current debate over whether the rich should pay more of that tax. Yglesias thinks that, when considering this issue, it is more appropriate to look at the progressivity of all taxes Americans pay, including federal income taxes, payroll taxes, and state and local taxes.

Just because this chart doesn’t account for those other taxes doesn’t make it misleading.

President Obama started the debate about raising the federal income tax on the rich way back when he was still a candidate for the presidency. And his support for higher income taxes on the wealthy continues today—check out his latest budget as an example. One of his arguments in favor of that policy was that the rich don’t pay enough income tax compared to lower earners.

In that context, it is highly appropriate to focus on data about the federal income tax. Before deciding if the rich should pay more of that tax, its only common sense to see how much they pay of it now.

Expanding the debate to include other taxes can add even more context to a complex issue. In fact, we often look at the total federal tax burden, which includes the payroll tax, corporate taxes, excise taxes, and others. Here is a good example as it pertains to President Obama’s infamous Buffett Rule.

It would’ve been more constructive if Ygelsias had offered the data he did in his post as a way to expand this sometimes contentious debate.

In that case, we would’ve been glad to engage further. And we wouldn’t have called him misleading.

The post Response to Matt Yglesias: Heritage Tax Chart Isn’t Misleading appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Indiana, Common Core, and a Great Opportunity to Reverse Course

April 18, 2014 - 3:07pm

Indiana has a great opportunity to implement education standards that are “written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high,” as Governor Mike Pence (R) wants to do. One option for doing this would be to re-adopt Indiana’s prior state standards.

Before the advent of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Indiana staked out higher ground by adopting well-regarded math standards (2000). It resisted the pull felt by so many states to dumb down their expectations in order to meet the performance metrics associated with NCLB, adopting ambitious academic goals for K-12 Hoosier students in 2006 and then updating its math standards once again in 2009.

Those standards were widely praised, even by Common Core proponents.

Achieve, Inc., for example, said Indiana’s 2009 K-8 mathematics standards were “intellectually demanding” and would prepare students for “success in college and in their careers.” The Fordham Institute, a proponent of Common Core, gave Indiana’s prior English standards a grade of “A” and said that they “are clearly better than Common Core.” It noted that quality of the math standards, which they gave an “A,” were equal to that of Common Core:

Indiana’s [English] standards are clear, specific, and rigorous, and include nearly all of the critical content expected in a demanding, college-prep curriculum.… Indiana’s [math] standards are well organized and easy to read. They cover nearly all of the essential content in both elementary and high school with depth and rigor. They include examples throughout and offer excellent guidance to learning mathematics.

Regrettably, in 2010 the Indiana State Board of Education followed the crowd of many other states and jumped on board the Common Core bandwagon.

When Governor Pence came into office in 2013, he moved swiftly to bring control of Indiana’s standards and testing back to the state, calling for Hoosiers to pull out of Common Core.

Indiana has the chance to reclaim its position as having some of the most rigorous standards in the country by simply replacing Common Core with its excellent 2000 mathematics standards (which were updated in 2009) and its 2006 English language arts state standards.

Under Pence’s leadership, Indiana became a trailblazer, exiting the national standards push and showing other states that it’s possible. Re-adopting their prior math and English standards would ensure that Indiana has some of the highest standards in the country—standards that are state-driven and, most importantly, supported by teachers and parents.

The state has until July 1 to do it.

The post Indiana, Common Core, and a Great Opportunity to Reverse Course appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Al Gore in Hawaii: Carbon Polluters 'Immoral, Unethical, Despicable'

April 18, 2014 - 2:35pm

Al Gore was “fired up” at the University of Hawaii in sharing his message on climate change, according to a local TV news report of a speech in which the former vice president bashed unnamed “carbon polluters” as being ”immoral, unethical, and despicable.”

Gore, wearing a bright lei around his neck, proved a pumped-up keynote speaker at a “sustainability conference” held Tuesday at the Manoa campus.

A report by KITV News includes video of Gore saying:

 What some of the large carbon polluters are doing today, spending a billion dollars a year to try to fool people, to try to make fools of people, to say all this pollution is good for you? It is also immoral, unethical, and despicable, and we need to call them to account for it.”

A lengthy and positive account in Honolulu Civil Beat noted that Gore “graced Honolulu with his presence” and won “hearty applause” many times.

“Ultimately,” Gore said in one such utterance, “we are going to win this thing.”

The reception afforded Gore baffled David Kreutzer, who writes about related misconceptions and myths  as research fellow in energy economics and climate change at The Heritage Foundation. Kreutzer said:

Here we have a jet-setting, multi-mansion zillionaire going messianic on his plans to ensure continued poverty for the billions of people who have little or no access to modern energy.”

Ken McIntyre contributed to this story, which was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.

The post Al Gore in Hawaii: Carbon Polluters 'Immoral, Unethical, Despicable' appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Threat to School Choice in New Hampshire Continues

April 18, 2014 - 1:36pm

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The constitutionality of New Hampshire’s education tax credit program is being considered this week by the state’s supreme court. This is not the first time parental choice in education has been challenged in the Granite State.

The New Hampshire legislature passed the tax credit bill in 2012, overriding a veto by former Governor John Lynch (D). The program allows businesses to receive a tax credit for donating to nonprofits that provide scholarships for students to attend a private school of choice. Students who are eligible to receive a scholarship can use the funds toward private school tuition or homeschooling materials.

In 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed for injunctive relief with the Strafford County Superior Court, arguing that the New Hampshire program violates the New Hampshire state constitution. On June 17, 2013, the judge in that case granted the injunction, ruling: “[S]cholarship monies may not go to schools or institutions of any religious sect or denomination within the meaning of the No-Aid Clause.” The State of New Hampshire has appealed the ruling to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  The Institute for Justice (IJ), which is representing the scholarship families, has commented:

Education tax credit programs do not violate state constitutional provisions…because tax credit programs rely entirely on private funds.

While not binding on the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s interpretation of its own constitution, the 2002 United States Supreme Court case Zelman v. Simmons-Harris is informative. That case held that for the purposes of the First Amendment, government control of funds ends when the money is distributed to the parents since the money reaches a religious institution by way of the parent, not the state. In the case of tax-credit scholarships, money is awarded directly to the parents from private donations, placing the private sector in full control of the scholarship, not violating any constitutional provision—state or otherwise.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R)—no stranger to fights over school choice— also commented on the New Hampshire Supreme Court case:

The point isn’t that every child should attend a private school; rather, the point is that parents are the first and best educators and should be allowed to make the best decisions for their children. Every child learns differently; that is why choice and competition are so important in education.

Research shows that one of the greatest factors in educational success is parental involvement. Educational opportunity through school choice empowers parents with the ability to choose the best educational option for their children. Whether parents have that opportunity in New Hampshire is what the state supreme court is set to decide.

The post Threat to School Choice in New Hampshire Continues appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

‘Dumb Decision’ or Pro-Obamacare 'Conspiracy' at Census Bureau?

April 18, 2014 - 1:03pm

Photo: EPA/MATTHEW CAVANAUGH

Some critics of Obamacare are up in arms about the Census Bureau’s intent to change questions it asks millions of Americans about health insurance. Others just think census officials have lousy timing.

The New York Times first reported on internal documents showing the agency’s changes to questions also will change the way Census Bureau officials calculate the number of uninsured Americans.

Because fewer health-related questions will be asked, the new method is expected to lower the estimated number of uninsured Americans, officials said, noting that it would be difficult to attribute any changes to Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

Politico noted that some Obamacare opponents, among them Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, said the move would give the public less transparency on the number of uninsured who become covered by the health law.

Although some conservative bloggers smelled a conspiracy in the works, American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Strain argued in a blog that the changes merely represent a dumb decision. “I would be shocked if any such thing was taking place,” Strain wrote, adding, “I see no evidence of a conspiracy here.”

Strain said the agency’s current insurance questions were badly designed and needed improvement, and that efforts to change the questions began years ago. Additionally, other data sources will help determine Obamacare’s effect on insurance coverage, the AEI scholar wrote.  He concluded:

None of this to say that the Census Bureau’s decision to change to a new methodology in the midst of Obamacare’s rollout isn’t a dumb decision. … Either the new methodology should be delayed, or the old and the new methodology should be employed concurrently to ensure comparability across years.”

At least five Republican lawmakers – three in the Senate and two in the House — yesterday urged the Census Bureau to keep the old questions as a way to track any shifts caused by Obamacare, Blake Neff reported in The Hill’s Healthwatch blog. Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), John Thune (S.D.), and Orrin Hatch (Utah) wrote to Director John H. Thompson, as did Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Blake Farenthold (Texas).

This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.

The post ‘Dumb Decision’ or Pro-Obamacare 'Conspiracy' at Census Bureau? appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

WSJ: Obama 'Regulator Without Peer'

April 18, 2014 - 1:00pm

Photo: Thinkstock

In an editorial appearing today, The Wall Street Journal examined one of the few areas of the economy enjoying an unabated boom: federal regulation.

Armed with numbers obtained from a forthcoming report by Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Journal’s editors outline the disturbing growth of the Federal Register, the government’s compendium of regulatory activity. Last year, President Obama’s regulators set at least one new record, issuing more pages of final rules—26,817—than ever before.  The total number of Federal Register pages hit 79,311, just short of the all-time high of 81,405 set in 2010.

The big problem, of course, isn’t the number of pages consumed by government rules—the unnecessary death of trees notwithstanding.  Rather, the number and cost of these rules is growing as well. This trend was documented in The Heritage Foundation’s latest “Red Tape Rising” report.

According to the report, since the start of the Obama Administration, 157 major new regulations, costing almost $73 billion each year, have been imposed on the American people. This is twice the number, and triple the cost, of rules adopted at the same point in the George W. Bush Administration. And, since the costs are based on estimates by the regulators themselves, the real costs are doubtless much higher. For a summary of the facts regarding this regulatory tide, check out our easy-to-read infographic.

No matter how you measure it, the rising sea of red tape is out of control. This is one part of the economy where a boom means a bust.

The post WSJ: Obama 'Regulator Without Peer' appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

‘Punished for Teaching Science’: Popular Teacher Suspended for ‘Research and Development of Imitation Weapons’

April 18, 2014 - 12:33pm

Photo credit: H. Lorren Au Jr/The Orange County Register/ZUMAPRESS.com

Greg Schiller’s classroom seems to be a fruitful learning environment. One of his students recently stated, “He’s a really great teacher, and he really cares, he really wants to teach and he loves teaching.” It’s no surprise that he’s such a popular science teacher. It is astonishing, however, that he’s now apparently being punished for making science fun.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Schiller, who teaches at the Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts, in Los Angeles, California, is in hot water because two of his students turned in science projects designed to shoot little projectiles. One of the projects used compressed air, the other consisted of a tube surrounded by a coil and was powered by a standard AA battery.

Sounds pretty cool, and very ingenious. But an unnamed school employee caught sight of one of these devices and “raised concerns.” Officials with the Los Angeles Unified School District then reportedly accused Schiller of “supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons.” And now he’s been suspended.

As the Times notes, President Obama not only supervised but actually operated a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow nearly 200 feet. Perhaps, he, too, should be reprimanded for corrupting the youth.

We’ve written before of children who have been suspended over “level 2 lookalike firearms” made with their own thumbs and forefingers. While these suspensions are ludicrous, Schiller’s is unique, not only because it involves a teacher, but also because the harm of Schiller’s suspension will impact his students as well. For example, students in Schiller’s classes, particularly those who would like to pass AP tests for college credit, are now left with a substitute teacher.

Fortunately, Schiller’s fellow teachers and the parents of his students aren’t standing for it. “As far as we can tell, he’s being punished for teaching science,” Warren Fletcher, president of the Los Angeles teachers union, told the Times. Schiller’s suspension is now a cause célèbre, prompting rallies drawing hundreds of parents and students, a petition drive, and a flurry of social media activity.

Perhaps there is more to this story. The Los Angeles Unified School District on Thursday published a statement saying that, while it does not comment on ongoing investigations, “We will always err on the side of protecting students.” While no one wants to see another school shooting, one wonders if the “concerns” voiced about Schiller’s students were driven less by the prospect of violence than by politically correct concerns about promoting a “gun free culture.”

Educators shouldn’t be punished for doing their jobs, nor should students’ education suffer because of political correctness. Barring the revelation of damning undisclosed facts, Schiller’s suspension should be lifted.

The post ‘Punished for Teaching Science’: Popular Teacher Suspended for ‘Research and Development of Imitation Weapons’ appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Are Sugar Tariffs Raising the Cost of Your Easter Basket?

April 18, 2014 - 11:50am

Easter has arrived, and so has everyone’s favorite bunny rabbit. While kids are excited about their chocolate bunnies, Peeps, and jelly beans, parents continue to pay more than they should, and the U.S. government is to blame. Since the Great Depression, import quotas, tariffs, and subsidies for domestic sugar producers have made the price of sugar in the U.S. higher than the average world price.

Each year the government establishes import quotas to prevent the U.S. from importing “too much” sugar from other countries. After the quota is met, refined sugar imports are penalized with a tariff of 16.21 cents per pound. This means that box of Peeps the Easter Bunny left—along with everything else that contains sugar—actually costs more than it should. Because the quota drives up the price of sugar, extra money goes into the pockets of U.S. sugar producers at your expense.

U.S. sugar in general is more expensive than sugar bought around the world. The 2013 average world price for refined sugar was 23 cents per pound, while in the U.S. the price of refined sugar was 29 cents per pound, an increase of 26 percent. U.S. sugar producers use government programs to keep prices high and protect themselves from foreign competition. Since the turn of the century, the government has maintained sugar prices at an average of 79 percent higher than the rest of the world.

How has the sugar industry managed to throttle parents and the Easter Bunny with these higher prices? Crony capitalism. With the extra money they take out of consumers’ pockets, “sugar producers fund 55 percent of crop-related political action committee (PAC) donations and 34.2 percent of crop-related lobbying expenses,” according to Heritage’s Bryan Riley. These policies cost U.S. consumers between $2.4 billion and $3.5 billion per year.

Sorry Mom and Dad, but it looks like our baskets of candy aren’t as sweet as we thought.

Tori Whiting and Michael F. Mo are currently members of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.

The post Are Sugar Tariffs Raising the Cost of Your Easter Basket? appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

U.S. Should Not Give Russia More Insight into Its National Security Activities

April 18, 2014 - 11:32am

House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R–MI) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reject a request by Russian President Vladimir Putin to upgrade Russia’s technical capability for observational flights of U.S. and NATO countries by airplane.

Signed in 1992 by 34 counties, the Open Skies Treaty allows “unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants” in order to ensure compliance with arms control agreements. In its original state, Open Skies included restrictions on the types of sensors permitted as well as a quota on the number of observational flights. After a review of the treaty in 2010, all signatories reaffirmed their commitment to it. However, Russia currently seeks to enhance the reconnaissance capabilities of its observation aircraft.

President Obama should listen to his intelligence and defense officials, who advise against such a concession.

While verification is an essential aspect of any arms treaty, Russian initiative on this issue is highly suspect. First of all, the United States has a stellar record regarding arms treaty compliances. Evidently, the Russians want to gain a better insight into our capabilities, and it would be folly to comply. A review of Russia’s own compliance with various arms treaties with the U.S. reveals a startling amount of violations. If anyone should be asking for an increase of verification measures, it should be the White House.

Notably, Russia has openly violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Regardless of the verification system set up in the INF treaty, Russia has found means to manufacture prohibited weapons.

As recent actions in Ukraine reveal, Russia has by no means become a compliant or responsible international partner.

The United States should not submit to additional Russian oversight. Moscow’s actions have not warranted such a privilege.

The post U.S. Should Not Give Russia More Insight into Its National Security Activities appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

Iran: Nuclear Challenge Should Not Eclipse Concerns on Terrorism and Human Rights

April 18, 2014 - 11:20am

The Heritage Foundation hosted a distinguished panel on Wednesday to discuss current affairs in Iran. The purpose of the event was to discuss not only Iran’s nuclear program but ways in which the Iranian regime continues to undermine the rights of their own people and support global terrorist networks.

Ken Katzman, PhD, specialist in Middle East affairs for the Congressional Research Service, assessed the prospects for a nuclear agreement with Tehran. Katzman highlighted that “Iran has about 18,000 installed centrifuges right now, enriching uranium. Reports are the U.S. wants to perhaps agree to a final settlement that will allow Iran to run maybe 3,000 or 4,000.” Tehran has been reluctant in the past to cooperate with P5 + 1, so President Hassan Rouhani may ultimately reject the West’s proposal.

Next, Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, claimed that Iranian human rights abuses continue to be neglected by the United States and other Western governments. “[I]n this town, the only thing that political analysts are interested in is the nuclear issue.… [B]ut when it comes to human rights in Iran, we do not see the same degree of interest among the political elites.” Given Iran’s continued human rights abuses, greater focus and external pressure are needed.

Speaking last, David Crist, PhD, author of The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran, outlined Tehran’s involvement in building a global terrorist network spanning from Hezbollah in Lebanon to South America. “Iran’s real threat to American security interest lies in a broad-based, adaptive, unconventional network that exploits areas of instability.” The U.S. remains a potential target of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as well as Hezbollah.

The event was hosted by Heritage senior fellow James Phillips, who warned that concerns about Iran’s nuclear program should not eclipse concerns over its export of terrorism and human rights abuses.

Watch the event webcast here.

See also: Top Five Foreign Policy Priorities for 2014

RELATED POSTS:

Iran’s New U.N. Ambassador Exploited American Hostages

Q&A on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Iran Gains Sanctions Relief from the Obama Administration

Kyle Bevers is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.

The post Iran: Nuclear Challenge Should Not Eclipse Concerns on Terrorism and Human Rights appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation.

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