The "Bain" of the GOP, U.S. Falls in Economic Freedom Ranking, & Town Explores Private Policing
The Arkansas Project
David Kinkade writes about the Tax Foundation's report on sales tax burdens by zip code. Arkansas doesn't rank well in this category. Also, Kinkade reports on the "friend of the court" briefs filed by GOP U.S. House Members and Senators in support of the lawsuits against Obamacare. Arkansas' Rep. Tim Griffin and Sen. Boozman both signed on the briefs.
The Reorganization Man
The Washington rap on President Obama is that he's humorless, but that's unfair. He may not be Jay Leno funny, but his bit Friday on reforming and reducing government was great. This is a President who last year promised a review of all regulations while riding the greatest rule-making wave in American history. Now he's calling for leaner government without mentioning ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, which create so many new boards and commissions that government auditors (literally) can't even count them. We suspect many in the White House were laughing themselves when they came up with this one. Read more here from the Wall Street Journal.
The Truth About Bain and Jobs
Mitt Romney and his GOP rivals are engaged in a fruitless argument in South Carolina over whether private equity creates more jobs than it destroys. The debate is fruitless because voters and politicians don't believe jobs should ever be destroyed. The American voter is not about to become sophisticated about the place of private equity in American life. But the American voter can become inured to it. So let backers of Newt Gingrich's flaming candidacy run a "King of Bain" video savaging Mr. Romney's leveraged buyout career on South Carolina TV. Read more here from Holman W. Jenkins at the Wall Street Journal.
Another Way California Wastes Taxpayer Dollars
California legislators never have enough time, and always lack the vision, to deal appropriately with the state's pressing budget and infrastructure problems. But they are great at self-aggrandizement and at catering to the special-interest groups that assure their re-election. One would think, for instance, the Assembly Transportation Committee would be deeply concerned with the massive predicted cost overruns for the proposed High Speed Rail system, or with planning cost-effective ways to meet the transportation needs of a growing population. Yet the committee spends nearly a third of its time on a task that few readers would consider of vital importance: naming highways. Read more here from Steven Greenhut at Reason.
It Isn't Just the Mandate
Most people have heard that Obamacare is being challenged as unconstitutional because it contains an individual mandate forcing people to purchase health insurance. That challenge is due to be heard by the Supreme Court this year. But while the mandate is certainly problematic in a system that, at least notionally, is one of limited and enumerated powers, the mandate is not the worst part of this bill - not by a long shot. Read more here from Mona Charen at National Review.
We're Number Ten
Good news! On economic freedom, America is in the global Top 10. Bad news: America is No. 10 - one blond hair ahead of Denmark. According to the 18th annual Index of Economic Freedom, released Thursday by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong enjoys the earth's freest economy. Indeed, this is the fourth consecutive year in which the U.S. fell a notch. Out of a perfect score of 100, America declined 1.5 points to 76.3. Denmark, No. 11, scored 76.2. Read more about why the U.S. keeps falling here by Deroy Murdock at National Review.
5% Of Patients Account For Half Of Health Care Spending
Just 1% of Americans accounted for 22% of health care costs in 2009, according to a federal report released Wednesday. That's about $90,000 per person, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. U.S. residents spent $1.26 trillion that year on health care. Five percent accounted for 50% of health care costs, about $36,000 each, the report said. The report's findings can be used to predict which consumers are most likely to drive up health care costs and determine the best ways to save money, said Steven Cohen, the report's lead author. Read more about the report here at USA Today with Kelly Kennedy.
Ethanol Subsidies Are Gone, But Not Forgotten
The fact that Congress has finally put an end to the ethanol welfare program is a step in the right direction. On December 31, 2011, the $6 billion per-year Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) was allowed to expire, and the ethanol import tariff was slashed from the books. However, those hoping that 2012 would be a fresh start are bound to be disappointed, as VEETC and the tariff represent only one part of a greater effort to force consumers to use ethanol. Of much greater significance to the industry is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a mandate that requires a certain amount of ethanol be blended into gasoline every year at increasingly greater amounts. Read more here from Daniel Kish at U.S. News.
California's High-Speed Rail To Nowhere
In announcing the appointment of a new economic adviser last summer, President Obama emphasized his commitment to fact-based policymaking. It's "more important than ever," he said, to get "recommendations not based on politics, not based on narrow interests, but based on the best evidence, based on what's going to do the most good for the most people in this country." If only the president and his political ally, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), would follow that advice regarding their pet project for the Golden State: high-speed rail. No matter how many times they tout the mega-project as the job-creating wave of the future, they can't change the mountain of evidence that high-speed rail is, in fact, a boondoggle. Read more here from Charles Lane at the Washington Post.
The Supreme Court Fails to Protect Economic Liberty, Again
On Monday, the Court declined to hear a powerful legal challenge filed by the Institute for Justice against the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' 2011 decision upholding Florida's requirement that all interior designers carry an occupational license from the state. Not only do 47 other states currently permit unlicensed interior design without any accompanying risk to innocent civilians, Florida's own attorney general's office even admitted in a joint pretrial stipulation that "neither the defendants nor the state of Florida have any evidence that the unregulated practice of interior design presents any bona fide public welfare concerns." This isn't unlicensed brain surgery, after all. Read more here from Damon W. Root at Reason.
The Force Is Not With You
A small Minnesota town is set to embark on a radical civic experiment: replacing cops with a private security force. The cost-saving move has triggered worry among some that town leaders may have gone too far, taking some life-or-death responsibilities out of the hands of those with the legal authority to enforce the law. While many cities and towns pay for private guard details to supplement the work of badge-carrying deputies and police, often within discrete institutions like schools and hospitals, Foley is the first town in Minnesota and one of a few nationally to try relying solely on private guards for street patrols. Read more here from Andrew Strickler at The Daily.
Why You Probably Can't Fire Your Health Insurance Provider
When Mitt Romney said that he likes "being able to fire people who provide services to me," he was talking primarily about health insurers. But there's a reason many people can't easily "fire" their health insurer: Their health insurance is attached to their job. About 45 percent of Americans get health insurance through their workplace, and they don't have many choices to pick from. Now, some employers offer a limited choice of plans and options, but even in those cases it's far from a wide-open marketplace. For the most part, employees are stuck with the health insurance their employer offers. Read more here from Peter Suderman at Reason.
Supreme Court Appears Sympathetic To Idaho Couple In Battle With EPA
Conservative members of the Supreme Court seemed outraged Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency's actions in a four-year battle with an Idaho couple who want to build a house on land the EPA says contains sensitive wetlands. Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared troubled by the EPA's position that Mike and Chantell Sackett do not have the right to go court to challenge the agency's wetlands decision. Read more here by Robert Barnes at the Washington Post.
Protecting Free Speech By Banning T-Shirts And Commerce?
Here is how debased the political culture of Los Angeles has become: In a city with persistent 12 percent unemployment, where the most popular storefront brand name is "For Lease," the City Council is cracking down-again!-on people who make a living by selling stuff to people who want to buy stuff. And it's actually much dumber than that. Read more here from Matt Welch at Reason.
Rick Santorum's Moral Delusions
Why is Rick Santorum running for president? Because America is in trouble and he knows why. America is a good place to judge the value of faith in promoting virtue. There is a great deal of variation among the 50 states in religious observance-and a great deal of variation in social ills. Steve Chapman from Reason argues that religiosity does not translate into good behavior, and disregard for religion does not go hand-in-hand with vice. Read Chapman's article here.
Why Does Keynesian Success Feel Like Failure?
The recession officially ended more than two years ago, in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. More important, Keynesian "equilibrium" was achieved last Christmas. Demand has been restored. The strengthening of the dollar and a threatened increase in the net saving rate have been, with vast and concerted public effort, averted. Interest rates are low or effectively negative. Deficit spending has more than doubled. And yet month after month the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment above 9 percent, higher than it was when the 2009 stimulus became law. Even allowing for the usual lag in post-recession job growth, the employment recovery is by far the most anemic since the end of World War II. Read more here from Tim Cavanaugh at Reason.