The Daily Signal http://dailysignal.com/ Policy News, Conservative Analysis and Opinion Fri, 30 Sep 2016 23:46:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.1 http://dailysignal.com/wp-content/uploads/cropped-favicon-32x32.png The Daily Signal http://dailysignal.com/ 32 32 She Was Raped at 22. Now She Advocates for Women to Have Choice to Carry a Gun. http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/she-was-raped-at-22-now-she-advocates-for-women-to-have-choice-to-carry-a-gun/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/she-was-raped-at-22-now-she-advocates-for-women-to-have-choice-to-carry-a-gun/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 22:45:06 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289729 Amanda Collins had never planned on becoming a Second Amendment advocate. But on Oct. 22, 2007, when she was just 22 years old, her life... Read More

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Amanda Collins had never planned on becoming a Second Amendment advocate. But on Oct. 22, 2007, when she was just 22 years old, her life would change forever. “I lived through the worst fear that I had had up until that point,” Collins, who’s now a mother of three, told The Daily Signal. “What happened was that while I was a student at the University of Nevada Reno, I was brutally raped.”

At the time, Collins said she obtained her concealed carry permit, but wasn’t allowed to carry a gun on campus. Had she been carrying a firearm that day, Collins believes the outcome could have been different.

Nine years later, with Collins’ convicted rapist now sitting on death row for raping and killing another victim in Nevada, she advocates for women’s right to choose. But when Collins’ talks about “choice,” she isn’t referring to the issue of abortion. Instead, Collins is referring to the right to choose how to defend herself.

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Poll: Americans Split Evenly on Requiring Business Owners to Serve Same-Sex Weddings http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/poll-americans-split-evenly-on-requiring-business-owners-to-serve-same-sex-weddings/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/poll-americans-split-evenly-on-requiring-business-owners-to-serve-same-sex-weddings/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 22:36:31 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290381 Americans are closely divided on the question of being compelled to celebrate same-sex marriages, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. Those... Read More

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Americans are closely divided on the question of being compelled to celebrate same-sex marriages, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

Those surveyed split evenly on whether wedding-related businesses should be required to provide services to same-sex couples, regardless of religious objections the business owners might have.

A total of 49 percent agreed, while 48 percent disagreed.

Frequency of religious attendance was one significant factor in determining respondents’ views, according to the survey published Wednesday.

Sixty-three percent of weekly churchgoers, including 88 percent of white evangelicals, said business owners should be allowed to refuse service for same-sex weddings if they had religious objections.

“When there is significant difference of opinion on hot button issues, it is all the more important to protect religious freedom and religious accommodation.”
—@Heritage’s Roger Severino

Among less frequent churchgoers, just 42 percent believed the same, including 34 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans.

Those surveyed also were divided on the issue of which public bathrooms transgender individuals should be allowed to use.

Fifty-one percent agreed that transgender people should be allowed to use the public restroom for the gender they “currently identify” as, while 46 percent said they should use the bathroom that corresponds with their biological sex.

On birth control, the survey also found that 67 percent agreed employers with religious objections should be required to provide it in employee insurance plans.

However, Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, questioned the value of the findings.

“When there is significant difference of opinion on hot button issues, it is all the more important to protect religious freedom and religious accommodation,” Severino told The Daily Signal in an email. “But unfortunately, these polls are of limited value because the questions were subtly biased against religious liberty.”

Biased or leading questions can affect survey results drsatically, he said.

The question regarding provision of wedding-related services to same-sex couples asked:

[Should] businesses that provide wedding services, such as catering or flowers … be able to refuse those services to same-sex couples if the business owner has religious objections to homosexuality?

“The religious objections aren’t to homosexuality generally,” Severino said. “Rather, the conflict is limited just to the forced celebration of same-sex unions against a person’s beliefs.”

A question regarding employer coverage of contraception was worded as follows:

If you had to choose, which comes closest to your view?  Employers who have a religious objection to the use of birth control should be…

ABLE TO REFUSE to provide it in health insurance plans for their employees

REQUIRED TO PROVIDE it in health insurance plans for their employees, just as other employers are required to do?

“The question … implies that religious groups are seeking exemptions to requirements imposed on all employers, when in reality the coverage requirement does not apply to one third of all businesses and nearly 100 million people,” Severino said.

The Pew Research Center poll, taken in August and September, surveyed a randomly selected, nationally representative group of 4,538 adults. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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Arizona’s War on Barbers http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/arizonas-war-on-barbers/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/arizonas-war-on-barbers/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 22:27:26 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290400 “We can no longer tolerate this infraction.… We will no longer tolerate this behavior!!” A government-sponsored board in Arizona has posted this message on the... Read More

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“We can no longer tolerate this infraction.… We will no longer tolerate this behavior!!”

A government-sponsored board in Arizona has posted this message on the front page of its news column, under the heading “ATTENTION TO ALL SHOPS.” What is the intolerable crime in question? Unlicensed barbering.

“Break the law and pay the fine. Work fairly or pay dearly!!” The Arizona State Board of Barbers issued this “final warning” in response to reports that barber shops in the state were “allowing unlicensed individuals or students to work.” Oh, the horror! The message promises to levy swift and steep fines of $1,500 per unlicensed worker on any shop that dares employ those seeking work.

The Board of Barbers is concerned about the rampant outbreak of unlawful trimming, but Arizonans should be concerned about an entirely different kind of epidemic.

Nationwide, jobseekers  and business owners are dealing with the consequences of the massive expansion of unjustifiable occupational licensing schemes that have no connection to public health and safety.

Occupational licensing is part of a regulatory scheme that requires workers to attend classes, pass examinations, and pay sometimes exorbitant fees before entering certain professions. It is essentially a government permission slip for work, and Arizona, along with every other state, requires that barbers obtain such a license before they can ply their trade.

To become a barber in Arizona, one must pass the 10th grade or obtain a GED, spend 1,500 hours at a barber college, pay $100 to take written and practical tests, and pay an additional $40 license fee and $80 biannual renewal fees.

Moreover, Arizona has license reciprocity with only 28 states and charges $175 to applicants from those states seeking work in Arizona. If you are already a licensed barber from one of the other 21 states and you now want to ply your trade in Arizona, you have to start from square one.

Free-market economists have criticized unnecessary licensing requirements, pointing out that such requirements pose unreasonable barriers to those seeking to enter certain professions, resulting in fewer service providers and increased costs to consumers.

As Heritage Foundation research fellow James Sherk points out, on average, wages in regulated professions are inflated by 18 percent—gains made entirely at the expense of consumers.

Concern about excessive occupational licensing is not restricted to conservatives. A 2015 study conducted by the Brookings Institution suggested that “the restrictions from occupational licensing can result in up to 2.85 million fewer jobs nationwide, with an annual cost to consumers of $203 billion.”

Even the Obama administration stated in a 2015 study, “By making it harder to enter a profession, licensing can also reduce employment opportunities and lower wages for excluded workers, and increase costs for consumers.” That report also pointed out that nearly one-quarter of all workers in the United States are now employed in a state-licensed profession, a massive surge from just 5 percent of workers in the 1950s. Most of this growth is attributable to the expansion of licensing regimes, rather than a shift in the workforce toward historically licensed professions.

To become a barber in Arizona, one must pass the 10th grade or obtain a GED, spend 1,500 hours at a barber college, pay $100 to take written and practical tests, and pay an additional $40 license fee and $80 biannual renewal fees.

Those in favor of occupational licenses argue that they are necessary to ensure safety and quality within an industry. In some cases—like doctors and pilots, for example—they have a point. Fears of dangerous barbers and other low-risk professions are unfounded, however, as demonstrated .

Alabama was the last state to establish a board of barbers, passing its occupational licensing legislation in May 2013. Decades earlier, Alabama had actually eliminated its barbering board, and in the ensuing decades barbers were not regulated or inspected.

Oddly enough, one cannot find any reports of Alabama barbers abusing their customers or placing them at risk of anything other than a bad haircut, a problem that can easily be remedied through a series of one-star Yelp reviews.

If not for health and safety risks, why impose the licensing requirement? The short answer is protectionism. Entry barriers such as licensing requirements heavily favor those already employed in the licensed profession by reducing their competition, thereby allowing them to charge higher fares for their services.

In some cases, incumbents are exempt from the new rules altogether, thanks to generous grandfathering clauses that apply the new rules only to new workers. That is why, in many cases, those in a given profession argue for burdensome regulations—a seemingly counterintuitive phenomenon known as rent seeking.

One recent example of this is the taxi industry lobbying to regulate ride-hailing companies like Uber in virtually every city and state. For decades taxi companies have enjoyed the protection of anti-competitive licensing schemes and medallion systems that do not apply to rideshares.

Taxi companies have struggled to compete, in part because government bodies control virtually every aspect of their business. Yet taxi companies have universally been lobbying those in power to regulate their competitors, not to deregulate the taxi industry. They seem to be less concerned about satisfying consumers in a competitive market and more about protecting themselves from competition.

If Arizona lawmakers truly desire to provide a safe environment for consumers and increase the number of jobs available in their state, they should rescind these burdensome regulations. In their place, the government could implement a certification system, which would allow highly trained and skilled professionals to highlight their prowess by earning a certificate while not barring others from entering the profession.

Such an environment would permit individual barber shops to develop apprenticeship programs that could replace costly courses at barber college. Even better, the government could recognize that barbering is hardly a life-threatening activity and back out of the space altogether, allowing competition to flourish.

In either case, Arizona consumers would benefit from having to pay less for a trim and a shave, while having more options available to them. The self-imposed 2016 Arizona Barber Plague will surely continue until the government realizes it’s time to clear the path to employment at the barber shop.

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What Top Senators Want to Know About Obama’s Push to OK New Citizens to Vote http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/what-top-senators-want-to-know-about-obamas-push-to-ok-new-citizens-to-vote/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/what-top-senators-want-to-know-about-obamas-push-to-ok-new-citizens-to-vote/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 22:19:46 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290321 The branch manager for the Houston office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services seemed clear about the reason and timing for asking staff to work... Read More

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The branch manager for the Houston office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services seemed clear about the reason and timing for asking staff to work overtime to push through more citizenship applications.

“The field office due to the election year needs to process as many of their N-400 cases as possible between now and FY 2016,” the manager said in an email to staff dated July 21, 2016, and referring to applications for citizenship called N-400 forms.

The email message from the Customs and Immigration Services supervisor offered overtime, including weekends, as an incentive to process more applications:

If you have cases in this category or other pending, you are encouraged to take advantage of the OT if you can. This will be an opportunity to move your pending naturalization cases. If you have not volunteered for OT, please consider and let me know if you are interested.

In Congress, Republican lawmakers are concerned this is a rerun from 20 years ago. In 1996, congressional Republicans accused the Clinton administration of rushing through the citizenship process to register new voters, many likely to vote Democrat, as part of a program called Citizenship USA.

“USCIS anticipated that there would be a spike in applications this year, as we usually see in an election year,” @InouyeUSCIS says.

The manager’s email to Customs and Immigration Services employees was made public by the offices of Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

Such an apparent rush to citizenship is a particular concern to the senators because of a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general that found Customs and Immigration Services granted citizenship to almost 900 individuals with deportation orders who used false names.

Politics has nothing to do with increased processing of citizenship applications, according to Obama administration officials.

“USCIS’s goal is to process applications for naturalization within five to seven months, regardless of external events such as elections,” Department of Homeland Security spokesman Shin Inouye told The Daily Signal in an email, referring to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. Inouye added:

USCIS uses statistical forecasting models to plan for the potential increased volume of work. USCIS anticipated that there would be a spike in applications this year, as we usually see in an election year, but the increase in N-400 applications has exceeded expectations.

The agency “certainly encourages our naturalized citizens to be active participants in our democracy,” Inouye said. “However, like other citizens, no new U.S. citizen is required to register to vote, or participate in any election.”

More evidence is needed than a single email, but the matter warrants investigation, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Study, which advocates strong enforcement of immigration law.

“If you look at the whole country, these are not many votes,” Krikorian told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “But a few thousand can make a lot of difference.” He said:

[George W.] Bush won Florida with 500 votes [in 2000]. Al Franken won his Minnesota Senate seat by just a few hundred votes. If it’s close, a really small number of improper voters can make a big difference. Apart from that, there is the principle that there should be higher standards for citizenship.

The two Senate committee chairmen sent a letter Sept. 21 to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to inquire about what appeared to be a rush.  Grassley and Johnson write:

We write to express serious concern about an apparent push by your department to rush the adjudication of naturalization applications before the upcoming presidential election, presumably in an attempt to create as many new citizen voters as possible. …

Your department seems intent on approving as many naturalization cases as quickly as possible at a time when it should instead be putting on the brakes and reviewing past adjudications, especially in light of this week’s Office of Inspector General report that found USCIS granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals from “special interest” countries (i.e. countries that are of concern to the national security of the United States) or countries with high rates of immigration fraud, who had final deportation orders under another identity.

“We sincerely hope history is not repeating itself,” Grassley and Johnson write, noting the Clinton administration’s actions 20 years ago.

In 1996, congressional investigators found a letter from a Chicago alderman to the White House, saying its Citizenship USA program could “provide the Democrats with a strategic advantage” and that “people stuck in Chicago’s naturalization bottleneck represent thousands of potential voters.”

Helle Dale, an immigrant from Denmark, won her approval for citizenship in 1996, that same year. Dale recalls the time between her application and an interview was “insanely fast” under the Citizenship USA initiative overseen by then-Vice President Al Gore, and says she believes history is repeating itself.

Dale, a former journalist who is now a senior fellow for public diplomacy at The Heritage Foundation, says that politicizing the citizenship process would be highly unethical.

“It may not be illegal, but it is a national security concern,” Dale told The Daily Signal. “I really think, because of an election campaign, to rush through the citizenship process is unconscionable.”

It seems obvious that the Obama administration is trying to register more Democrats, said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, which advocates stronger enforcement of immigration laws.

“Naturalization as a U.S. citizen is not supposed to be used as a political tool,” Mehlman told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “Obviously, the administration wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t think it could make a positive difference for their party in some states.”

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Fighting the Good Fight Against Corruption in Nigeria http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/fighting-the-good-fight-against-corruption-in-nigeria/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/fighting-the-good-fight-against-corruption-in-nigeria/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:56:30 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290280 The Heritage Foundation was on the road in West Africa carrying the message of economic freedom. One of our stops was Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is... Read More

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The Heritage Foundation was on the road in West Africa carrying the message of economic freedom. One of our stops was Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is the largest city in Africa (its metro area population exceeds 20 million) and Nigeria has the largest population (by some estimates nearly 180 million) among the 54 countries on that continent.  It’s a big country any way you look at it.

Oil-rich Nigeria also has a really big problem with corruption.

The Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of Economic Freedom reports that job creation has been impeded in Nigeria by bureaucratic rigidity and corruption in the economy, causing increased frustration among underemployed youth. The government continues to investigate the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation after allegations that more than $20 billion in oil revenue has just “disappeared” in recent years.  But with the judicial system susceptible to political interference, the rule of law is weak.

Another source of corruption has risen as the Nigerian currency, the Naira, has devalued in the wake of ongoing low oil world prices. In response, the Nigerian government has steeply ramped up protectionism, both to try to conserve its reserves of foreign exchange and to force companies to produce products they sell in Nigeria instead of importing them.

The long list of protected items, including rice, palm oil, and tomatoes, has spurred more smuggling and opened up whole new areas of the economy to potential corruption and bribery when private companies go to government officials to seek exceptions.

But there is good news coming out of Nigeria, too.

The good news is that there are several citizen action groups in Nigeria, often started by the younger generation, that are fighting back against corruption.

One of them is the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis. Another one is a non-governmental organization called “BudgIT,” which celebrated the 5th anniversary of its founding this month.

Taking a cue from the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation, which conducts independent analysis of the U.S. federal budget, BudgIT’s analysts take publicly-available accounting data published by the Nigerian government and scrutinize it for inconsistencies. Their  TRACKA online tool provides a vital window for Nigerians on their government’s operations, and BudgIT analysts have discovered that vast amounts of spending by the Nigerian government either cannot be accounted for or has been wasted on shoddy work.

Other leaders in the fight against corruption in Nigeria include Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, a co-founder of Transparency International, a former minister with several portfolios in the Nigerian government, and the vice president of the World Bank’s Africa division from 2007 to 2012.

Another leader pushing to free his Nigerians from oppressively cronyist government is professor Pat Utomi, founder of a think tank in Lagos called the Centre for Values in Leadership.  Utomi is well-known among many U.S. conservatives as an ally for economic freedom.

With our presentations in Lagos of the Index of Economic Freedom, we are proud to have joined our voice with these  brave “little platoons” who are fighting the good fight against corruption and cronyism in Nigeria.

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No Budget? This Senator Says That Should Mean Pay Cuts for Politicians, Staff http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/no-budget-this-senator-says-that-should-mean-pay-cuts-for-politicians-staff/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/no-budget-this-senator-says-that-should-mean-pay-cuts-for-politicians-staff/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:47:13 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290354 After less than two years in Congress, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., thinks he’s figured out what’s needed to fix the cumbersome way lawmakers fund the... Read More

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After less than two years in Congress, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., thinks he’s figured out what’s needed to fix the cumbersome way lawmakers fund the federal government: teeth.

More specifically, the freshman senator from Georgia wants members of both the Senate and the House and their staff to suffer “severe consequences” if Congress fails to pass a budget. He proposes mandatory pay cuts and canceled recesses as a way to keep the lawmakers on track.

A successful businessman, Perdue admitted that a smaller paycheck probably wouldn’t hurt him or many of his wealthy Senate colleagues. But he told reporters Thursday that lawmakers “don’t want to see their staff blown up.”

That’s a harsh but necessary consequence for Congress as the nation faces a looming debt crisis, Perdue said as he released the broad strokes of his plan to overhaul the budget process.

A member of the Senate Budget Committee, Perdue says his proposal is more of a prerequisite than prescription for dealing with the nation’s $19 trillion in debt.

“Right now, we have a budget crisis,” he said. “Fixing the budget process will not solve the debt crisis, but we will not solve the debt crisis unless and until we address the dysfunction in our budget process.”      

Perdue would scrap the 1974 Budget Act—which he says has worked correctly only four times in over 42 years—by breaking down the wall between authorizing and appropriations committees.

That would mean merging appropriations subcommittees, which allocate funds, with committees that work on the policy.

Other proposed big changes include transforming the budget into a piece of legislation that must be signed into law. Currently the budget serves as a sort of spending blueprint that Congress agrees to but never sends to the president for his signature. As a result, the budget isn’t binding.

And Perdue’s plan would require Congress to add nondiscretionary spending—such as Social Security and Medicare—to the budget.

To deal with the increased workload, the plan would give lawmakers more time by moving the start of the fiscal year from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1.

The Daily Signal obtained a fact sheet of the proposed plan, though the text of the coming bill hasn’t been finalized.

Perdue’s office said the senator has been working on the plan for months with the blessing of Senate Budget Chairman Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., and the cooperation of House Budget Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga.

But the initial details were met with skepticism from some budget experts on personnel and policy grounds.

“I think Sen. Purdue is exactly right to call for reform and shift focus to the major spending categories on autopilot,” said Paul Winfree, director of the Thomas Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

“However, I worry that moving the budget year to coincide with the calendar year will only reduce transparency by shifting the annual appropriations debates to between Thanksgiving and Christmas for a procrastinating Congress,” Winfree said.

“It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible idea to think that you can somehow produce legislation by docking the pay of staff,” Jim Dyer, formerly the top Republican aide on the House Appropriations Committee, told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “What you will do is send the staff off looking for other jobs.”

Shortly after the Senate passed a stopgap spending measure known as a continuing resolution Wednesday afternoon, Perdue previewed the plan from the floor, followed by eight senators including Enzi and Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

“We really don’t have a budget process. I mean, to even call what we do a budget, per most human beings’ understanding of what a budget is, is obviously not realistic,” Corker said. “We have to, in essence, get a process in place that actually works. It’s impossible for the process we have today to work. Today is a perfect example of that, right?”

In the Senate, Perdue has tried to leverage his business acumen during the legislative process, regularly mentioning his commercial background.

A former Fortune 500 executive at Reebok and Dollar General, Perdue said that when developing the plan he looked to the examples of businesses, states, and foreign countries.

In a floor speech, Enzi said of Perdue:

I remember introducing him the first time we had a Budget Committee meeting, and I said, ‘Sen. Perdue knows how to balance a budget, he’s been working in the private sector.’  And he said, ‘No, in the private sector you have to show a little bit of a profit.’ Well, we’re going to have to show a little bit of profit around here if we’re ever going to get rid of the debt.

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How Native American Schools Can Be Revitalized With ESAs http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/how-bureau-of-indian-education-schools-can-be-revitalized-by-esas/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/how-bureau-of-indian-education-schools-can-be-revitalized-by-esas/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:07:42 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290222 “When you have a 50 percent graduation rate, you need to think outside the box,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared about his proposal to rehabilitate... Read More

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When you have a 50 percent graduation rate, you need to think outside the box,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared about his proposal to rehabilitate some of the poorest performing schools in the country.

McCain introduced the Native American Education Opportunity Act, which recently passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The proposal would allow students who attend Bureau of Indian Education schools in states with education savings account (ESA) options to access federal Bureau of Indian Education funding in the form of an ESA to pay for any school or educational resource of their parents’ choice.

Education savings accounts are currently in place in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Nevada. ESAs enable eligible children to access state funds that would have been spent on them in their assigned public school to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, textbooks, curricula, and a host of other education-related services and products. Families can even roll over unused funds from year to year.

The Native American Education Opportunity Act would enable the children who attend Bureau of Indian Education schools—deemed some of the worst schools in America—to have the ability to receive an ESA worth up to 90 percent of the amount that would have been spent on them at the Bureau of Indian Education-funded school.

Parents could then use those funds to pay tuition at a private school of choice, along with any other education services and products they might want for their child, such as private tutoring, textbooks, and curricula.

With graduation rates in the 50s and test scores trailing their peers by double digits, students who are assigned to Bureau of Indian Education schools lack the educational opportunities needed to reach their career and life goals. Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the bureau’s system “the epitome of broken.”

What’s more, the condition of the schools is something the government has known about for over eight decades. As Politico reported:

It took 50 years for the federal government to admit officially that the education it had promised to provide Indian children was so bad it qualified as abuse. ‘Grossly inadequate,’ wrote the authors of a scathing 1928 report. Forty years later, the feds were taking themselves to task again, in a report by Sen. Edward Kennedy that called the state of Indian education a ‘national tragedy.’

Flash forward 46 more years. The network of schools for Native American children run by an obscure agency of the Interior Department remains arguably the worst school system in the United States, a disgrace the government has known about for eight decades and never successfully reformed.

Pouring more money into the schools is not a solution to the problem. To educate the 48,000 students who attend these schools, the federal government spends over $830 million annually.

Allowing parents to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs is not only what students at Bureau of Indian Education schools need, but also what the parents want.

According to Arizona state Sen. Carlyle Begay, who is Navajo, “hundreds of families applied within a matter of weeks,” when the state ESA program expanded to Native American families who live on tribal lands.

These schools have been falling behind for far too long. Students attending these schools deserve the opportunity to find learning options that work for them. Repurposing federal Bureau of Indian Education funding to empower these families with ESAs would be a great step toward achieving that goal.

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2 Years After Airliner Downed, Eastern Ukraine Remains a De Facto No-Fly Zone http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/2-years-after-airliner-downed-eastern-ukraine-remains-a-de-facto-no-fly-zone/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/2-years-after-airliner-downed-eastern-ukraine-remains-a-de-facto-no-fly-zone/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:05:13 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290301 KYIV, Ukraine—More than two years after a Russian surface-to-air missile shot down a civilian airliner over eastern Ukraine, the embattled region remains a de facto... Read More

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KYIV, Ukraine—More than two years after a Russian surface-to-air missile shot down a civilian airliner over eastern Ukraine, the embattled region remains a de facto no-fly zone for both civilian and military aircraft.

On Wednesday, an international investigative team concluded there was “no doubt” the Buk missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 on board, was fired from within territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The missile’s mobile launch vehicle belonged to Russia’s 53rd Air Defense Brigade and was sent back to Russia the next day, the report said.

Moscow disputed the report. Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, called the findings “biased and politically motivated.”

Yet, according to Ukrainian, U.S., and independent civilian intelligence investigations, Russia continues to send surface-to-air missile systems into eastern Ukraine to support a combined force of approximately 35,000 pro-Russian separatists and as many as 6,000 Russian regulars.

On Aug. 20, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate reported that Russia had deployed a new mobile air defense unit to the Donbas—Ukraine’s embattled southeastern territory.

Russia’s 60th Mechanized Brigade, comprising 12 Tor-M2U short-range air defense missile systems and 170 personnel, redeployed from the Primorsky Krai province in the Pacific region to Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials.

On Sept. 17, the independent investigative website Inform Napalm published a database of Russian military equipment currently in the Donbas. It listed several surface-to-air missile systems, including the 9K330 Tor, 9K331 Tor M-1 and 9K332 Tor M-2, tactical surface-to-air missile systems, as well as the 96K6 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and gun system.

Russia continues to send surface-to-air missile systems into eastern Ukraine to support a combined force of approximately 35,000 pro-Russian separatists and as many as 6,000 Russian regulars.

The findings are based on open source intelligence, including satellite imagery, videos made by bystanders, and personal photos from the social media accounts of Russian mercenaries and military personnel.

Nick de Larrinaga, Europe editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, said there was not enough information available to determine what Russian air defenses remain in the Donbas. But, de Larrinaga said, IHS Jane’s previously has identified these Russian air defense systems in Ukrainian separatist territory:

  • 96K6 Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 “Greyhound”)
  • 9K37 Buk (SA-11 “Grizzly”)
  • 9K35 Strela-10 (SA-13 “Gopher”)
  • 9K32 Strela-2 (SA-7 “Grail”)
  • 9K38 Igla (SA-18 “Grouse”)
  • 9K338 Igla-S (SA-24 “Grinch”)
  • PZR Grom-2

“I believe there is still a surface-to-air threat to commercial aircraft over the conflict area in the Donbas,” de Larrinaga told The Daily Signal. “While it doesn’t seem that medium-range systems like the Buk that can hit high-flying airliners remain present in east Ukraine, they could be returned to the region with little or no warning.”

Off Limits

Underscoring the lingering threat to commercial aviation more than two years after MH17 was shot down, most airspace over eastern Ukraine remains off limits to civilian air traffic.

Ukraine’s air traffic control service has banned flights over the conflict area in the Donbas as well as over occupied Crimea.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, and air traffic agencies from multiple European countries, including France and the United Kingdom, also have issued restrictions on air traffic over eastern Ukraine.

According to an FAA Notice to Airmen updated in October 2015: “Pro-Russian separatists have access to a variety of anti-aircraft weapons, to include man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and possibly more advanced surface-to-air- missiles (SAMs) that have the capability to engage aircraft at higher altitudes.”

“The quantity and sophistication of the weaponry and equipment the SMM [Special Monitoring Mission] has reported in separatist-controlled territory can only be explained by Russian support.” —@danbbaer

U.S. defense officials speaking on background said that eastern Ukraine was at one time among the world’s most heavily defended airspaces. It is unclear, however, based on unclassified sources, how many of the Russian air defense systems in place at the height of the fighting in 2014 remain in the conflict area.

U.S. officials say the overall flow of Russian weapons into separatist territories has not let up.

“The buildup of Russian heavy weapons and personnel in eastern Ukraine continues,” Daniel Baer, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Sept. 7.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, is the multinational organization charged with monitoring the Ukrainian cease-fire.

“The quantity and sophistication of the weaponry and equipment the SMM [Special Monitoring Mission] has reported in separatist-controlled territory can only be explained by Russian support,” Baer said. “The Russian military provides command and control for the Russian-led separatist forces.”

Grounded

Ukrainian military aircraft stopped flying air support and medevac missions as a condition of the conflict’s first cease-fire, which went into effect in September 2014. Ukraine’s air forces remain excluded from the conflict.

In the opening months of the war, combined Russian-separatist forces—armed with Russian surface-to-air missiles and man-portable air defense systems—shot down Ukrainian helicopters, fighter jets, and transport aircraft at a devastating pace.

According to news reports, seven Ukrainian fighter and attack aircraft, three transport aircraft, and at least nine helicopters were lost prior to the cease-fire.

While Ukrainian air power is no longer a factor in the conflict, the airspace over the Donbas remains defended, and Russian-supplied air defenses still pose a threat to commercial aircraft.

The FAA issued its first conflict-related restriction on flights over Ukraine on April 25, 2014. Reports of conflicting air traffic control instructions from Ukrainian and Russian controllers spurred the measure.

At  the time, the conflict was evolving from small-unit skirmishes into larger battles comprising tanks, heavy artillery, and airstrikes. As Russian armor, artillery, troops, and air defense systems streamed into eastern Ukraine, the nature of the threat to civil aviation expanded.

On June 14, 2014, a Ukrainian Il-76 transport plane was shot down near the Luhansk airport in separatist-controlled territory, killing 49 soldiers and crew. A Ukrainian An-26 transport aircraft, flying at 21,000 feet southeast of Luhansk, was shot down on July 14, 2014. The crew survived.

After the An-26 downing, Ukrainian authorities required commercial aircraft to stay above 32,000 feet when flying over the conflict area—an increase from a July 1 advisory, which set the minimum altitude deck at 26,000 feet.

Most man-portable air defense systems top out at 15,000 feet. Yet, more advanced surface-to-air missiles have the capability to engage aircraft at higher altitudes.

Depending on the ground-based radar used in tandem with the missile, the Buk surface-to-air missile system can engage aircraft up to 87 miles away and up to 79,000 feet in altitude. The Tor missile system, which Ukrainian officials say Russia recently moved into eastern Ukraine, can hit targets up to about 32,000 feet.

Despite the attacks on Ukrainian military aircraft, commercial air traffic continued to fly over Ukraine’s conflict area in the days prior to the MH17 shoot-down.

Air traffic decreased by about 25 percent in the three days after the 32,000-foot altitude restriction went into effect—with 61 different carriers from 32 countries flying on the same route as MH17.

De Facto No-Fly Zone

On July 17, 2014, a Russian Buk surface-to-air missile brought down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 jumbo jet, which was flying at 33,000 feet inside Ukraine just west of the Russian border.

Consequently, on July 18, 2014, the FAA issued a Notice to Airmen that prohibited U.S. air carriers, U.S. registered aircraft, and U.S. licensed pilots—with limited exceptions—from flying within the airspace region comprising the conflict.

“The FAA determined that the ongoing conflict in the region posed a significant threat to U.S. civil aviation operations,” the FAA said in the notice. “The use of weapons capable of targeting and shooting down aircraft flying on civil air routes at cruising altitudes posed a significantly dangerous threat to civil aircraft.”

The Notice to Airmen was renewed in October 2015 and is set to expire Oct 27. The FAA did not immediately respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment about whether the notice would be renewed for another year. According to the text of the existing notice, however, it appears the danger to commercial air traffic still exists.

“There is a continuing significant flight safety hazard to U.S. civil aviation from the ongoing risk of skirmishes in the area,” the FAA said in its October 2015 update to the Notice to Airmen prohibiting flights over eastern Ukraine.  The notice continued:

There is also a potential for larger-scale fighting in eastern Ukraine involving pro-Russian separatists, which could result in civil aircraft being misidentified as a threat and then intercepted or otherwise engaged, as demonstrated by the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014.

France and the United Kingdom also have issued warnings about overflying eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Aeronautical Information Service maintains a temporary restricted area over sections of eastern Ukraine and Crimea designated as conflict areas. Some air traffic routes in the airspace region on the periphery of the conflict have been reopened to air traffic.

Diversions

A real-time analysis of Ukrainian airspace on FlightAware, a website that tracks flights and plots them on a digital map, highlights how civilian air traffic avoids eastern Ukraine.

Rerouted aircraft consistently stack up in two places—a north-south airspace corridor just east of the Ukraine border inside Russia, and an east-west corridor south of Ukraine over Turkey and the Black Sea.

The restriction on commercial overflights of Ukraine has been a boon to neighboring countries, which charge airlines a fee for using their airspace.

“As peace appears elusive in the Donbas, I think it could be dangerous to lift restrictions on commercial air traffic in the area.” —@NickJDWEurope

According to Eurocontrol, a multinational air safety organization, Bulgaria’s December 2014 transit air traffic went up by 48.3 percent compared with December 2013.

Romania saw an overall 20.4 percent increase in transit flights in 2014, while Turkey’s number of transit flights jumped by more than 17 percent.

Before the MH17 crash, about 400 flights overflew Ukraine every day, 150 of which were international commercial flights. Ukrainian officials reported that revenue from transit flight fees decreased by about 160 million euros in 2014—a drop of roughly 80 percent.

Despite the financial cost, de Larrinaga of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly said, the Donbas should remain off limits to air traffic.

“As peace appears elusive in the Donbas, I think it could be dangerous to lift restrictions on commercial air traffic in the area,” he said.

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World Trade Projected to Grow at Lowest Rate Since 2009 http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/world-trade-projected-to-grow-at-lowest-rate-since-2009/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/world-trade-projected-to-grow-at-lowest-rate-since-2009/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 18:29:29 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290201 The World Trade Organization announced this week that it expects global trade to grow much slower than originally projected. WTO analysts, who projected global trade... Read More

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The World Trade Organization announced this week that it expects global trade to grow much slower than originally projected.

WTO analysts, who projected global trade would grow by 2.8 percent this year, now expect it to grow by 1.7 percent, the lowest rate since 2009.

Trade growth rates in North America contributed to the WTO’s revised projection. Analysts now expect the region’s imports to grow by 1.9 percentage points, a significant drop from the 6.5 percent growth rate in 2015.

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said this slow growth:

should serve as a wake-up call. It is particularly concerning in the context of growing anti-globalization sentiment. We need to make sure that this does not translate into misguided policies that could make the situation much worse, not only from the perspective of trade but also for job creation and economic growth and development which are so closely linked to an open trading system.

The benefits of trade are made clear each year in The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, echoing the World Trade Organization’s sentiments. Countries with greater trade freedom have higher per capita incomes and lower rates of poverty, and do a better job at protecting the environment.

The United States has an average tariff rate of 1.5 percent and currently is ranked 40th in the world for trade freedom. But the federal government still protects many sectors.

Special interest tariffs and nontariff barriers for domestic sugar producers, truck manufacturers, steelmakers, and footwear producers, just to name a few, hinder Americans’ freedom to trade. They are really just another tax on American consumers—just one more thing that makes it harder for average families to get by.

The United States should reject protectionism and embrace the principles of free trade, which expand economic opportunity for all Americans.

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Supreme Court Should Make Decision That Upholds That Congress, Not Agencies, Should Make Criminal Law http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/supreme-court-should-make-decision-that-upholds-that-congress-not-agencies-should-make-criminal-law/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/supreme-court-should-make-decision-that-upholds-that-congress-not-agencies-should-make-criminal-law/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 18:15:47 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290259 As the United States Supreme Court begins its new term next Monday, one of the first cases it will hear is Salman v. United States,... Read More

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As the United States Supreme Court begins its new term next Monday, one of the first cases it will hear is Salman v. United States, a significant criminal case involving insider trading, one of the murkiest areas of criminal law.

In 2004, Bassam Salman, a grocery wholesaler, received valuable inside information from his brother-in-law-to-be Michael Kara, who, in turn, had received the information from his brother Maher Kara (Maher Kara married Salman’s sister in 2005), an investment banker at Citigroup.

Although there was no allegation that Salman gave any money or goods to either Michael or Maher Kara, Salman was subsequently convicted of insider trading.

To obtain a conviction, prosecutors must prove that the insider (the tipper) received some personal benefit from the person to whom the information was given (the tippee). The Salman case asks whether strengthening a family bond by giving a “gift” of inside information to a relative is a legally sufficient benefit to the tipper to sustain the tippee’s conviction for insider trading.

What Is Insider Trading?

There can be no crime without law, and only Congress can enact federal criminal law; the Supreme Court has reiterated these principles time and again. Yet there is no federal statute that clearly defines and prohibits the federal crime of insider trading.

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 addresses one subspecies of the offense (the short-swing profit, a purchase and sale of stock within a six-month window by a “beneficial owner, director, or officer,” driven by nonpublic information).

Other demarcations between legal and illegal trading have not come from Congress, but rather have come from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the judiciary.

There is a federal law (15 U.S.C. § 78j(b)) that outlaws “any manipulative or deceptive device or contrivance in contravention of such rules and regulations” promulgated by the SEC. SEC Rule 10b-5 prohibits fraudulent or deceitful practices “in connection with the purchase or sale of any security.” Other regulations purport to flesh out the details, but they are clear as mud.

The Supreme Court has stepped in to demystify—in Congress’s stead—when insider trading is and is not a crime. In 1983, in Dirks v. SEC, the court held that insider trading by the recipient of nonpublic information is prohibited only when the corporate insider who discloses the information personally benefits from the disclosure and the recipient who trades on the information “knows or should know” that the disclosure constitutes a breach of the insider’s fiduciary duty to his corporation.

The court went on to state that “[a]bsent some personal gain, there has been no breach of duty to stockholders,” and therefore no crime has occurred. That leaves open the question of what exactly is and is not a personal gain or benefit to the tipper that will trigger liability. Although, the court said in dictum (a statement in a court opinion that is not necessary to resolve the legal issues in that particular case, and which, although perhaps persuasive, lacks the full force of binding precedent) in the Dirks case that one could be held liable “when an insider makes a gift of confidential information to a trading relative or friend.”

To clarify this concept, if an individual trades on information he innocently overhears from a CEO at a high school track meet, there is no tippee liability for insider trading because the tipper unwittingly disclosed the information without receiving a personal benefit.

While that seems an unlikely venue to get stock tips, legendary football coach Barry Switzer once benefitted from that precise scenario and was cleared of wrongdoing.

On the other hand, the classic example of insider trading occurs when a corporate employee tips insider information to a friend who then trades on that information and splits the profits with the employee. Here, the tipper received a clear, monetary benefit in exchange for providing the illicit information.

Yet, cases are often not so cut-and-dry as to what amounts to a personal benefit. Salman is expected to have far-reaching consequences on the scope of liability, depending on what the Supreme Court decides constitutes a “personal benefit” to an insider.

In 2012, a federal district court judge in New York City, Jed Rakoff, long considered a leading authority in both criminal law and securities law, wrote an opinion affirming an insider trading conviction, in which he stated that “the benefit does not need to be financial or tangible in nature; it could include, for example, maintaining a useful networking contact, improving the reputation or power within the company, obtaining future financial benefits, or just maintaining or furthering a friendship.” (Emphasis added.)

However, in 2014, in U.S. v. Newman, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals—which includes New York—held otherwise, proclaiming that the personal benefit requirement:

does not suggest that the Government may prove the receipt of a personal benefit by the mere fact of a friendship, particularly of a casual or social nature. If that were true, and the Government was allowed to meet its burden by proving that two individuals were alumni of the same school or attended the same church, the personal benefit requirement would be a nullity.

Newman gave the personal benefit requirement its bite back by requiring proof of “an exchange that is objective, consequential, and represents at least a potential gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.”

Under Newman, a tippee can no longer be held criminally liable for trading a tip received from a friend without there being a more tangible benefit passing to the tipper.

Ironically, the 9th Circuit’s opinion affirming Salman’s conviction was written by none other than Rakoff, who was sitting by designation on that court.  That opinion effectively reinstituted the pre-Newman, loose personal benefit standard, which concludes that a tipper who has a friendship or familial relationship with a tippee need not receive any more tangible benefit for passing on the information in order to subject the tippee to criminal liability.

Supreme Implications

Now, it is up to the Supreme Court to put its stamp of approval on either the 2nd Circuit’s more tangible personal benefit standard or the 9th Circuit’s looser standard.

The court should be reluctant to adopt the 9th Circuit’s standard. First, this definition would give prosecutors incredibly broad power, enabling them to prosecute tippees, even remote tippees, based on an intangible and somewhat amorphous “benefit” (if it can be called that) to the tipper.

As stated in an amicus brief filed on behalf of businessman Mark Cuban—who knows a thing or two about insider trading lawsuits—“any tip to a friend or relative could suffice to jail the tipper irrespective of any receipt of concrete benefit from the exchange” if the Supreme Court does not curtail the SEC’s attempt to expand the reach of insider trading law through litigation.

More fundamentally, however, while this case does not present an opportunity to the court to re-examine Dirks, which seems to be settled law, the Supreme Court should not go one step further—however opprobrious the tipper’s conduct was here, and it was—in criminalizing conduct that has not been clearly proscribed by Congress.

As stated above, the Supreme Court held as far back as 1812 in United States v. Hudson and Goodwin, and several times since then, that there are no federal common law offenses and that before someone can be punished as a criminal, his conduct must “plainly and unmistakably” run afoul of a federal criminal statute.

As the court has also stated, “because of the seriousness of criminal penalties, and because criminal punishment usually represents the moral condemnation of the community, legislatures, and not courts, should define criminal activity.”

The court deviated from this sound reasoning in Dirks, a move that has seemingly been tolerated by Congress. The court should not compound its error by going one step further, even if it seems like a small step. If Congress wishes to criminalize insider trading or expand the scope of current criminal liability, it can and should do so.

The court should send a signal to Congress in the Salman case that it needs to take back its authority to define criminal conduct; to provide greater direction to the courts, the SEC, the Department of Justice, and the public about what is and is not permissible; and to alleviate the concerns of parties who may be engaging in lawful trading, but who nonetheless fear the government may think otherwise.

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How Women Can Overcome Challenges in the 21st Century http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/how-women-can-overcome-challenges-in-the-21st-century/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/how-women-can-overcome-challenges-in-the-21st-century/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 17:39:30 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290192 What are the barriers women face in the economy today? A special congressional committee is addressing this question and getting to the heart of how... Read More

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What are the barriers women face in the economy today? A special congressional committee is addressing this question and getting to the heart of how women can succeed in the workforce and balance other life priorities.

On Sept.22, the Republican Policy Committee Working Group on Women in the 21st Century Workforce held its first hearing of many to understand the economic challenges and discrimination facing women.

Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who heads the working group, opened the hearing by declaring “our country is founded on the principle that we pick the best man for the job—even if she is a woman. It is time we made that idea a reality.”

The Obama administration has frequently touted that women are discriminated against, citing the statistic that women on average earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Witnesses at the hearing exposed this gender wage gap as a myth, by pointing out that this raw statistic is quite misleading.

It does not account for numerous relevant factors that relate to a worker’s salary—including education, experience, choice of industry and occupation, career interruptions, and hours worked. When accounting for these factors, the wage gap shrinks to about 3 to 7 cents.

However, this small remaining gap doesn’t measure discrimination either. Some of it can likely be explained by women more often choosing employers who provide more of their compensation in the form of valuable benefits instead of in wages.

According to a Pew Research Center poll, 70 percent of working mothers value a flexible schedule. Mothers are 10 percentage points less likely than working fathers to value a high-paying job. Many women make a conscious trade off of giving up higher wages to spend more time with their family. Women express this by often going into occupations conducive to flexibility like pharmacy or nursing.

The gender wage gap is in part a result of such choices and not necessarily indicative of gender-based discrimination in the workplace.

Real challenges women face in the 21st century include barriers to workplace flexibility, expensive child care, and biases introduced by well-intended but harmful government policies.

A regulation that hurts flexibility in the workforce includes the Fair Labor Standards Act’s provision that prohibits granting compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay to hourly workers. This policy deprives women of the valuable choice between higher wages and more time off.

Gig economy companies, like Uber and Airbnb, have led to an increase in flexible job opportunities since they allow women to set their own hours and to use capital assets like their car or home to earn extra cash. The government should not overregulate these companies.

The gig economy relies on independent contractors and self-employed individuals. Policies that discourage independent contractors should be repealed.

Independent contractor jobs provide women with the flexibility to set their own hours. An example of a public policy that discourages independent contracting is the Department of Labor’s 2015 Administrator’s Interpretation. The Administrator’s Interpretation broadly defines what an employee is under the Fair Labor Standards Act, leading to a decrease in workers who qualify as independent contractors.

Furthermore, child care costs have become increasingly more expensive. According to the The Wall Street Journal, “child care prices have risen nearly twice as fast as overall prices since … 2009.” These rising costs burden working mothers, especially single mothers.

A witness at the hearing, Samantha Tassone, president of GrowthFuel—a professional services organization focused on women’s leadership—interviewed a child care facility owner who explained his “expenses and costs [are] significantly affected by the regulatory agency … rising costs of minimum wage … [and] the Affordable Care Act.” The cost of government regulation is being passed on to parents in need of child care. These regulations should be repealed.

Another proposed policy, mandatory paid sick leave, would harm male and female workers. Mandatory paid sick leave lowers workers’ wages by forcing them to take time off in lieu of higher wages. This reduces workers’ choices. With women being more likely than men to use paid leave for caregiving responsibilities, this could further harm women on the job market.

Paid leave and minimum wage policies are perfect examples of government policies aimed at helping women, but have unintended, negative consequences. Government mandated one-size-fits-all policies destroy the choices and flexibility that women want.

Congress should instead remove costly employee mandates and regulations. This, along with tax reform and removing barriers to entry, will create a strong economy. A strong economy creates opportunities and choices that benefit all Americans, including women.

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Indian Strikes against Pakistani Terror Bases: U.S. Must Ensure No Further Escalation http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/india-strikes-across-line-of-control-to-neutralize-terrorist-bases-in-pakistan/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/india-strikes-across-line-of-control-to-neutralize-terrorist-bases-in-pakistan/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 13:33:46 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290153 Ten days after an attack on an Indian Army base in Kashmir, New Delhi launched surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides... Read More

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Ten days after an attack on an Indian Army base in Kashmir, New Delhi launched surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Indian and Pakistani Kashmir to neutralize terrorist bases and prevent future attacks against India. The Indian strikes represent the first time India has crossed the LoC to conduct attacks inside Pakistani territory since at least 1999, when the two sides fought a limited border war.

Pakistani Army officials denied that India had conducted cross-border strikes, saying, “The notion of surgical strikes linked to alleged terrorist bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects.” Likewise, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry issued a statement charging that “such falsified, concocted, and irresponsible statements can only escalate the fragile security situation in the region.” Instead, Pakistani officials claim Indian soldiers fired on Pakistani positions from their side of the LoC, something that occurs on a fairly regular basis.

Indian Director General of Military Operations, Lt. General Ranbir Singh, on the other hand, said Indian surgical strikes had hit seven terror “launch pads” two to three kilometers inside Pakistani territory, causing “significant casualties.” Indian media reports said the operation combined heliborne and ground forces and that Indian Special Forces had been para-dropped for the operation.

U.S. reaction to the news of the Indian strikes has been measured. White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest said on Thursday that India and Pakistan should avoid escalation and continue discussions aimed at defusing tensions. Before news of the strikes, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Wednesday had made a pointed statement in support of India, which called on Pakistan “to take effective action to combat and delegitimize United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates.”

The Indian strikes demonstrate the Modi government’s unwillingness to merely absorb Pakistani provocations. The attack in Uri on September 18 was the second major Pakistani provocation in the space of nine months. In early January, a Pakistan-based terrorist group, the Jaish-e-Mohammad, attacked the Indian air base at Pathankot, just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Pakistan by paying a goodwill visit to Lahore. The Uri attack appeared to show Pakistani willingness to up the ante in order to draw international attention to Kashmir at a time when civil protests had been wracking the region.

While the U.S. is concerned about military escalation between the nuclear-armed rivals, U.S. officials may be loath to criticize India for operations aimed at preventing future attacks on its territory. Washington’s own frustration with Islamabad’s failure to crack down on terrorist groups, like the Haqqani network that operates in Afghanistan, has piqued in the last six months. For the first time, in June of this year, the U.S. Department of Defense decided to block military funding in the amount $300 million for Pakistan due to its failure to crack down on Haqqani sanctuaries.

China’s reaction following the Indian strikes has also been muted. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said Beijing was communicating with both countries and hoped they would deal with their differences in a way that maintains peace and security.

Pakistani officials could be overestimating the level of support they will receive from China in times of high tension on the Subcontinent. For instance, on September 19, a prominent Chinese academic with close ties to the government strongly condemned the Uri attack and said that escalating India-Pakistan tensions would endanger plans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The issue of China and its role in the Indo-Pakistani dispute was raised in a panel discussion on Wednesday at The Heritage Foundation. In that discussion, I mentioned India’s concern that China’s promised $46 billion investment toward CPEC projects in Pakistan has boosted Islamabad’s confidence in its regional position and discouraged it from engaging in dialogue with New Delhi. I further noted that Washington must convince Beijing that if it wants to see the Islamist extremist threat diminished in South Asia, it must convince Islamabad to crack down on terrorist proxies that attack India.

U.S. officials almost certainly are working assiduously behind the scenes to calm tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. NSA Rice’s hardline statement against Pakistani support for terrorism on Wednesday may have been aimed at deterring Indian military retaliation for Uri. Today, however, we are in a different ballgame and the U.S. must call for restraint from all sides.

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To Protect Taxpayers From Funding Abortion, the Hyde Amendment Must Be Permanent http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/to-protect-taxpayers-from-funding-abortion-the-hyde-amendment-must-be-permanent/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/30/to-protect-taxpayers-from-funding-abortion-the-hyde-amendment-must-be-permanent/#respond Fri, 30 Sep 2016 13:03:05 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290142 In our Declaration of Independence, the Founders declared that everyone is endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including and especially life. Science has... Read More

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In our Declaration of Independence, the Founders declared that everyone is endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including and especially life. Science has revealed and affirmed the notion that an unborn child is human life with unique DNA. For more and more Americans, this fact of life is becoming more clear with each new scientific discovery.

I understand the issue of abortion is still controversial in America. But the issue of whether taxpayers should pay for it, even if they’re opposed to it, is not controversial.

Friday marks the 40th anniversary of an important policy that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion—the Hyde Amendment. This is an annual appropriations rider that does not allow direct taxpayer dollars to fund abortion coverage through government programs.

The late Rep. Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois, offered this amendment first in 1976. The House of Representatives adopted it on Sept. 30, 1976, by a 207-167 vote. In 1980, the Supreme Court upheld the Hyde Amendment in a 5-4 decision, recognizing that “abortion is inherently different than other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.”

Last summer’s revelations about Planned Parenthood’s organ harvesting operation opened the eyes of many Americans to the inhuman treatment of unborn children, which brought the taxpayer payment of abortion again to the national conversation.

It is past time for the Hyde Amendment to be made permanent and government-wide.

This is a sensitive topic for many. An abortion decision is an agonizing one for many who find themselves facing the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy. But it is common sense that we shouldn’t force taxpayers to assist in the harvesting of human organs or pay for the purposeful termination of a potential life.

Not only has this long-standing policy traditionally had bipartisan support, it is supported by a majority of Americans. A poll from this summer found that the majority of Americans oppose public funding for abortion, even among those who identify as pro-choice. About 51 percent of the respondents of a Knights of Columbus-Marist poll identified themselves as pro-choice; however, 62 percent said they oppose taxpayer funding for abortion.

But here’s the problem: the Hyde Amendment is not permanent. It is currently a policy that must be consistently renewed in annual appropriations bills. This uncertainty has opened the door to an emboldened pro-abortion group of advocates and politicians who have increased their calls for an end to the Hyde Amendment. They demand government-funded abortion at the taxpayers’ expense.

The late Rep. Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois, first offered his amendment to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion in 1976. (Photo: Chris Corder/UPI Photo Service/Newscom)

The late Rep. Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois, first offered his amendment to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion in 1976. (Photo: Chris Corder/UPI Photo Service/Newscom)

It is past time for the Hyde Amendment to be made permanent and government-wide. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act does this.

The bill has been introduced by Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey. Thankfully, the House passed it with bipartisan support in January 2015. The Senate should immediately take up this bill without delay.

It’s time to make it settled law that taxpayers should not be forced to fund an abortion.

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Obama Administration Promotes Student Aid as College Costs Remain High http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/obama-promotes-new-student-aid-as-college-costs-remain-high/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/obama-promotes-new-student-aid-as-college-costs-remain-high/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 22:24:48 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290054 President Barack Obama greatly increased financial assistance for college students since 2008, but the cost of higher education and student debt still climbs and graduation... Read More

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President Barack Obama greatly increased financial assistance for college students since 2008, but the cost of higher education and student debt still climbs and graduation rates have remained flat.

In the 2007-2008 academic year, the average combined tuition and fees for public four-year colleges and universities were $15,530, according to the College Board, a higher education survey group. By the 2015-2016 academic year, that price increased to $19,550.

“One of the biggest drivers for the increase in costs for students and families has been disinvestment by states in public higher education,” @JohnKingatED says.

For private colleges and universities, the price rose from an average of $36,660 in 2007-2008 to $43,920 in academic year 2015-2016.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said states deserve much of the blame for increasing costs.

“One of the biggest drivers for the increase in costs for students and families has been disinvestment by states in public higher education,” King told The Daily Signal during the White House press briefing Thursday, adding:

So if you look across the last 20 years, you see many states where investment levels in public higher education are flat or even going down. Those costs, of course, are passed along to students and families.

However, the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a conservative higher education think tank, contends the boost in financial assistance is an excuse and a disincentive for colleges to keep costs down. A 2014 study by the organization says:

They [federal subsidies] have significantly contributed to tuition price inflation, the proceeds of which have helped fund an unproductive and costly academic arms race …

By returning the programs to what they were early in their history—modest but useful financial support to truly needy students—it will moderate tuition price inflation and reverse the decline in academic standards. It will contribute to returning the nation to fiscal responsibility while improving the nation’s higher-education system.

Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, said the increase in loans and grants has certainly been a legacy of the Obama administration.

However, Vedder said, Obama is not entirely to blame because federal assistance to education has been on a steady increase since 1978—with generally poor results.

“Federal student loan programs lead to higher tuition and fees, and the benefit goes to the universities themselves more than students,” Vedder told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “Pell Grants have greatly expanded, and a large number of Pell Grants are not for poor students. They’re not going to rich students, but still to students well above the poverty line.”

The Obama administration raised the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,730 in 2014, about $1,000 higher than it was in 2008.

The number of Pell Grant recipients increased by about 50 percent, according to the White House. And the “Pay as You Earn” program allows about 1.6 million students to cap the repayment of student loans to 10 percent of their monthly income.

The White House also launched the “Race to the Top” program for college affordability that would tie federal aid to college efforts to keep tuition prices down.

Though critical of the Obama administration’s attempt to lower tuition costs, Vedder credits the Department of Education for instituting a “College Scorecard,” which provides information to aspiring students on a school’s graduation rates, job placement, and average pay in particular occupations.

Many colleges and universities added the most fees in the aftermath of the recession, to draw more revenue, Vedder said.

Even after the government takeover of the student loan industry, 43 percent of individuals with federal student loans this year—about 9.3 million—were in default, delinquent, or postponed payments, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year.

Fewer than 19 percent of full-time students attending public universities earn bachelor’s degrees in four years, while just 36 percent of students attending public, research-based institutions earn a degree in four years, according to a study by The Heritage Foundation.

The Heritage study cited research from Northwestern University that found most full-time students don’t take the needed 15 credits per semester to graduate in four years.

Obama was scheduled to speak Friday at Annandale High School in Annandale, Virginia, ahead of Oct. 1, which is the first opportunity for students to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the 2017-2018 academic year. However, he canceled the speech to attend the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

King was part of the White House’s daily press briefing, and talked about various education issues.

“One of the things we’ve tried to do to ensure college affordability and help people manage their debt is the president’s repay effort, where we use income-driven repayment so that your payments on student debt are capped at about 10 percent of your income,” King, Obama’s education secretary, told The Daily Signal. “We are seeing that having an effect on the number of folks defaulting. It is bringing down the number of defaults. So we are making progress there.”

The most recent government numbers, as of 2008, from the National Center for Education Statistics show that 60 percent of college students ultimately graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years or less.

“Certainly increasing college completion is part of solving the affordability puzzle,” King told The Daily Signal. “We know that folks who don’t finish school are dramatically more likely to default on their debt.”

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Report Confirms Russia’s Responsibility for Shooting Down Malaysian Airliner http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/report-confirms-russias-responsibility-for-shooting-down-mh17/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/report-confirms-russias-responsibility-for-shooting-down-mh17/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:53:47 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=290006 In interim findings, a team of investigators says Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from an area controlled by Russian-backed fighters... Read More

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In interim findings, a team of investigators says Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from an area controlled by Russian-backed fighters in eastern Ukraine.

The team, comprised of investigators from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, is conducting a criminal investigation into the downing of MH17 on July 17, 2014, which killed all 298 people on board.

The report says “the investigation also shows that the BUK-TELAR [surface-to-air missile system] was brought in from the territory of the Russian Federation and subsequently, after having shot down flight MH-17, was taken back to the Russian Federation.”

The report confirmed what has been known for some time. The day after the downing of the airliner, President Barack Obama said evidence indicated “the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.”

Obama also said Russia had supplied weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons, to Russian-backed forces in Ukraine. In October 2015, a report from the Dutch Safety Board concluded the plane was brought down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile.

The tragic loss of nearly 300 innocent lives over the skies of Ukraine over two years ago is emblematic of the cavalier and naked aggression Russia has undertaken against Ukraine.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2014, annexed Crimea a few weeks later, and continues to fight a war in the Donbas region against Ukrainian government forces. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has cost more than 9,600 lives and resulted in over 22,000 injuries since April 2014.

The shooting down of the civilian airliner in 2014 threatened to turn worldwide public opinion further against Russia. As a result, Russian propaganda conjured up a flurry of alternative absurd conspiracy theories mostly blaming Ukraine for the shoot-down.

Russia’s disinformation campaign and trolls have targeted investigators looking into MH17, and Russia is also believed to be behind a 2015 cyberattack of the Dutch Safety Board.

The interim report findings should serve as a reminder to Americans that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not a friend that can be bargained with, rather it is a brutal regime that has brought war back to Europe, a war which continues to this day and has cost thousands of innocent lives.

Furthermore, Russia’s reaction to the shooting down of MH17 and subsequent investigations into the tragedy are clear examples of how Russia uses propaganda, cyberattacks, and obfuscation to advance its narrative of events, even when irrefutable evidence exists to prove Russian disinformation incorrect.

Whoever takes over the White House in 2017 will face an aggressive, revanchist Russia that is a threat to the United States and our allies. No amount of wishful thinking can obscure this fact.

The U.S. must approach relations with Russia from a position of strength, reassure our allies, and implement a comprehensive strategy for dealing with Russia as it currently is. The U.S. should also continue to support Ukraine as it defends itself and continues to institute necessary political and economic reforms.

MH17 was a tragic incident brought about by Russia. American leaders must not view Putin and his regime through rose-colored glasses.

Let us hope that these latest findings help clarify any misunderstandings about the nature of the Russian regime and the deadly consequences of its actions.

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China’s Economy Is Headed for a Hard Landing http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/chinas-economy-is-headed-for-a-hard-landing/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/chinas-economy-is-headed-for-a-hard-landing/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:05:22 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289885 The world’s second-largest economy is going to make a hard landing one day, China watchers have speculated for several years. The fact is, though, the... Read More

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The world’s second-largest economy is going to make a hard landing one day, China watchers have speculated for several years. The fact is, though, the Middle Kingdom already is well on its way.

Let’s first examine the “official” top-line numbers. In 2007, a year before the great global crisis, China’s real gross domestic product expanded at a 14.2 percent clip. Last year, it grew at 6.9 percent, representing a 50 percent decline.

The official GDP figures are increasingly suspect, however. China often releases its quarterly figures just two weeks after the end of the quarter.

This is remarkable, given a nation of 1.35 billion and the fact that the government doesn’t make any revisions. Growth estimates “conveniently” fall within Beijing’s target range.

Most importantly, credit growth continues to outpace real GDP growth by significant margins. In other words, China’s short-term growth is being pumped up by even more borrowing.

China’s aggregate debt (mostly corporate and government) is approximately 300 percent of GDP, a figure that surpasses that of the United States. Much of this debt is short term in nature and being used to roll over existing debt.

The corporate sector has experienced particular stress, with debt recently soaring as China has continued to prop up its state-owned enterprises. The percent of income used by China’s companies to service their debts has doubled since the 2008 global crisis.

The Bank for International Settlements, a collection of the world’s central banks, released data last week illustrating the explosion of Chinese debt. The bank stated that China’s credit-to-GDP gap stood at 30 percent, the highest of any country since it began collecting data in 1995.

Moreover, the current official GDP figures appear overstated, although the economy isn’t contracting given credit infusions. Growth in both industrial output and retail sales has slowed despite the credit stimulus.

Private investment has grown by only 2.1 percent year-to-date. It accounts for 60 percent of total domestic asset investment, the largest source of growth in the Chinese economy.

The biggest sign of the slowdown in China’s domestic growth: imports, which fell 12.5 percent in July. This definitively shows that domestic spending is shrinking quickly.

So how fast is the Chinese economy actually growing? It’s difficult to say, given the lack of transparency in the statistics. But it appears likely that growth is in the neighborhood of 4.5 to 5.5 percent.

Not quite a “hard landing” yet, but the makings of one seem well on the way.

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When Transgender Inclusion Moves From Bathrooms to Basketball Courts http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/when-transgender-inclusion-moves-from-bathrooms-to-basketball-courts/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/when-transgender-inclusion-moves-from-bathrooms-to-basketball-courts/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 18:49:27 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289654 North Carolina’s legislative body passed a bill mandating a statewide policy banning individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex,... Read More

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North Carolina’s legislative body passed a bill mandating a statewide policy banning individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex, as opposed to their opinion of their sex.

The law, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, means people must use bathrooms and other public facilities where occupants can be in various stages of undress according to whether their sex chromosomes are XX, in the case of females, or XY, in the case of males.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community claims that the use of biology to determine sex is oppressive and limits alternatives. I agree. I all but argued this in a column earlier this year titled “You Are What You Say You Are.”

Let’s look at some possible benefits of freeing oneself from the oppression of biological determinism.

Say that I am sentenced to a five-year prison term for bank fraud. Though confinement can never be pleasant, I’d find it far more tolerable if I could convince the judge that though biologically I have XY chromosomes, in my opinion I’m really a woman and thus my confinement should be in a female prison with a female cellmate.

For the court to fail to take my sexual opinion into consideration would violate our Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, I could say.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, the entire NCAA, and the NBA have threatened to remove important games and championships from North Carolina because of its law denying bathroom rights to males who feel as if they are females and females who feel as if they’re males.

I am wondering just how consistent they are.

Only a few college basketball players have the skills to make it onto a professional team, but most of these players have skills that exceed most players’ skills in the Women’s National Basketball Association.

What if a college basketball star were to claim to be transgender and go out for the WNBA? Would the self-righteous NBA leaders come out and support him if he were to be refused?

Aside from this gender question is the gross pay discrimination between the NBA and the WNBA.

NBA players such as LeBron James (nearly $23 million) and Carmelo Anthony (also close to $23 million) individually earn twice as much money annually than every single player in the WNBA combined. The WNBA minimum rookie salary is $37,950, and the top salary is $107,000.

I bet that if the NBA and WNBA were to permit transgenderism, salaries in women’s basketball would rise dramatically.

It’s not just basketball that would yield benefits for those with XY chromosomes. What about allowing transgender XY people to box women in the Women’s International Boxing Association?

Then there are the Olympics. The men’s fastest 100-meter speed is 9.58 seconds. The women’s record is 10.49. What about giving XY people a greater chance at winning the gold by permitting them to compete in the women’s event? They could qualify by just swearing that they feel womanish or have gender dysphoria.

President Barack Obama’s defense secretary, Ashton Carter, wants to promote sex equality in the nation’s military. I don’t think he’s serious.

The minimum fitness test requirement for 17- to 21-year-old males is to be able to do 35 pushups, 47 situps, and a 2-mile run in 16 minutes, 36 seconds or less.

A weak male soldier might simply claim that he feels feminine. That would mean he could pass the minimum fitness requirement by meeting the female minimums of 13 pushups, 47 situps, and a 19:42 2-mile run. To boot, he would get to reside in the women’s barracks and enjoy all the privileges attendant thereto.

For most of history, homosexuals were persecuted unfairly. They pleaded, “Get out of my bedroom. What consenting adults do is no one else’s business.”

I share that sentiment, and for the most part, homosexuals have won that objective. Had their early campaign against persecution included a demand that males be permitted to use women’s bathrooms, the persecution they suffered would have continued.

Distributed by Creators Syndicate

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Watch Mike Lee Tell Americans to ‘Expect More’ of Congress in Facebook Live Manifesto http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/watch-mike-lee-tell-americans-to-expect-more-of-congress-in-facebook-live-manifesto/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/watch-mike-lee-tell-americans-to-expect-more-of-congress-in-facebook-live-manifesto/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 17:36:31 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289960 Hours after the Senate passed a stopgap spending measure to keep the federal government running, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, logged onto Facebook to record a... Read More

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Hours after the Senate passed a stopgap spending measure to keep the federal government running, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, logged onto Facebook to record a video diatribe.

The short story behind Lee’s 12-minute selfie-video on Facebook Live: The Utah Republican voted against the measure and is frustrated with the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars.

Unable to fund the government through regular procedures and just three days before federal funding authority expired, the Senate and House both passed a short-term spending bill to prevent a government shutdown Oct. 1. Called a continuing resolution, the massive bill funds the government through Dec. 9.

“We have two people running the show, two people writing this continuing resolution, two people negotiating in private—in secret, if you will—what the bill is going to be,” Lee says in the video, referring to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

That last-minute scramble, Lee argues in the video, allows “a small handful of legislative leaders” to wield big influence on spending bills with little input from individual members of Congress.

“And at the end, the democratic process is thwarted, thwarted quite dramatically as a result of this,” Lee says. “That’s why I couldn’t vote for this.”  

Lee advocated for what lawmakers call regular order.

That procedure requires bringing 12 individual spending bills to the Senate floor for debate. Lee argues that would allow each member to help craft the bill rather than letting leaders from both parties negotiate its content in secret.

But in his video, Lee admits that wouldn’t happen until members of both houses refuse to vote on any stopgap spending measure again:

It will continue unless or until such time as we have more members willing to say, ‘No. Heck, no. I’m not voting for this on my watch, not ever. If you give me this sort of process I will vote no because my constituents demand more, they expect more, and they deserve better.’

The Senate approved the continuing resolution by a 72-26 vote Wednesday evening, followed by the House, which approved it by a vote of 342-85 at about 10 p.m.

Most of the House opposition came from members of the conservative Freedom Caucus and the larger Republican Study Committee.

One member who balked at the process and voted no, Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, sounded like an early adherent to Lee’s proposal.

“I intend to vote ‘no’ on the continuing resolution brought to the floor tonight,” Davidson said in a written statement. “It continues the trend of what I call ‘math denialism’—acting as though numbers don’t matter and that we can spend without consequences.”

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‘Voiceless’ Speaks for the Compassion Driving the Pro-Life Movement http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/voiceless-speaks-for-the-compassion-driving-the-pro-life-movement/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/voiceless-speaks-for-the-compassion-driving-the-pro-life-movement/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 17:25:09 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289549 The creator of the independent film “Voiceless” hopes to shift the national conversation about unplanned pregnancies by showing the impact one church can make through local... Read More

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The creator of the independent film “Voiceless” hopes to shift the national conversation about unplanned pregnancies by showing the impact one church can make through local outreach and pro-life advocacy.

“My struggle has always been with the church, as it has been having confrontation with the world,” says Pat Necerato, a street preacher turned filmmaker who wrote and directed “Voiceless.”

“I wanted to create a film to challenge the church to get involved in the public square,” Necerato says.

With a budget of nearly $1 million and slated for release Oct. 7 in hundreds of theaters, “Voiceless” aims higher than most faith-based films in terms of production quality.

But it’s the story and true-to-life script, born from Necerato’s own experiences, that make it uniquely suited to help move the pro-life cause out of cultural stalemate.

“Voiceless” will premiere Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C., at a most unlikely venue:  a large screen outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

Five Years in the Making

“You always write from personal experience,” Necerato, 46, says. “I was pretty much all of the characters in this movie at one point or another.”

“Voiceless” centers on Jesse Dean, an Army veteran who moves to Philadelphia with his wife to work at a local church. While his hands-on outreach gives him inroads into the community—teaching free boxing classes, for starters—it begins a series of increasingly tense conversations within the church.

Director Pat Necerato, right, and Executive Producer Stuart Migdon on set in Philadelphia. (Photo: Icon Media Group)

“Voiceless” director Pat Necerato, right, and executive producer Stuart Migdon on the streets of Philadelphia. (Photo: Icon Media Group)

“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard Christians, even pastors, say: ‘We need to be saving souls, not so much worried about confronting evil,'” recalls Necerato, echoing a key scene in the movie:

Those words never really jibed well with my theology that Christ is king, he can redeem any aspect of our world, and he has called Christians to be saved and be a part of it. That’s the big picture.

One of my favorite lines in the movie is when Jesse says, ‘We are saved for the world, not from the world.’ It encapsulates the theme of ‘Voiceless’ and it speaks to my personal background—urging the church to confront the evils of society.

“I was a street preacher, and I still am,” Necerato, who lives in Trenton, New Jersey, says. “Rather than some stereotype of a crazy guy screaming on the corner, being a public witness can be done in a God-honoring way. Where evil is being lifted up unchallenged, I believe we can go out and proclaim the Gospel there just as strong.”

Answering Hard Questions

While popular culture tends to present abortion as merely political, “Voiceless” reframes the issue in moral, cultural, and personal terms.

“What is right? What should we be doing—a mercy ministry? Should we be prioritizing individuals? Should we be confrontational?” Necerato asks. “I wanted to create a movie that could address some of those questions with a real-life guy in real-life situations.”

Jocelyn Cruz, the co-lead in “Voiceless,” has a personal connection to the film’s focus on lives in the womb.

Cruz, whose previous roles in the hit movies “Marriage Retreat” and “This Is Our Time” helped her land the part, points to how the abortion center in the film has a sign out front that states “empowering and protecting.”

Filmed in Philadelphia, "Voiceless" shows how one local church pursues community outreach. (Photo: Icon Media Group)

Filmed in Philadelphia, “Voiceless” shows how one local church pursues community outreach. (Photo: Icon Media Group)

“Empowering and protecting women, children, and families at large is one of my passions,” Cruz says. “I am a trained postpartum doula, so I work with families right after birth. I get to see and experience firsthand how important it is to have a community of people around you while raising a child.”

In a way that complements the director’s perspective, Cruz says other questions are also at the heart of “Voiceless.”

“How can we best empower [pregnant] women by helping them? How can we be there for them when they have the babies? How can we work with and support the family?” asks Cruz, whose character in the film plays a pivotal role rescuing women who are vulnerable to abortion.

“A mother can only give as much as she has, so I feel it’s of extreme importance to help them fill up their storehouse so they can best take care of their new child,” Cruz says.

Production Packs a Punch

With the script complete and budget secured, Necerato and his team sought out a location to shoot “Voiceless” while simultaneously beginning the casting process.

“I wanted it to have a gritty and gray working-class look to it. Choosing Philadelphia fit with that: the architecture, the L-train—the whole ‘Rocky’ feel of the city,” Necerato says, adding:

Metaphors are used throughout the story, with Jesse being a war veteran who was fighting for our country; then coming home, and now fighting to protect life and stop violence. He is a boxer who ends up teaching boxing. Shooting ‘Voiceless’  in Philly was really about the aesthetics of the film reflecting underlying themes.

Rusty Joiner portrays an Army veteran whose community outreach includes boxing classes. (Photo: Icon Media Group)

Rusty Joiner portrays an Army veteran whose community outreach includes boxing classes. (Photo: Icon Media Group)

For Cruz, filming on location in the City of Brotherly Love was an adventure.

“This was the first time I’ve shot a movie outside of California, so it was really fun getting to travel to Philadelphia and experience a different part of the country,” Cruz says.

The movie also stars Hollywood actors Rusty Joiner (“CSI: Miami,” “ER,” “Bones”), James Russo (“Beverly Hills Cop”), and Paul Rodriguez (“Ali”). But it also highlights locally based actors in key roles.

“I believe we were able to capture some of the best talent coming out of Philadelphia: Brian Wilson, who starred in ‘Creed,’ Christopher Mann from ‘House of Cards,’ Susan Moses, and many others,” Necerato says. “Our casting director Melanie Forchetti and I rolled up our sleeves and saw over 200 auditions to arrive at this exciting ensemble cast.”

At the Northeast Film Festival, “Voiceless” stars Joiner and Victoria Gates took home best actor and best supporting actor awards for their performances.  The pro-life indie movie also won best feature film.

With a national release on the horizon, the true accolades for cast and crew will be audiences connecting with the story.

Speaking Life Into Personal Pain

Necerato says he hopes his film will spark conversations.

“There are all kinds of reasons—political, spiritual, and emotional—that people avoid talking about abortion,” he says.

“Voiceless” addresses issues surrounding unexpected pregnancies in a holistic manner. Scenes of counseling and prayer outside an abortion center are paired with a heart-wrenching subplot: An African-American family is strapped for resources and unsure how to make room for another baby.

“I know some women personally who have had abortions,” Cruz says. “I can see there is still a lot of pain. Women feel trapped in a way and are scared to raise a child on their own. This is something most people don’t talk about, but it is very real.”

"Voiceless" reveals the issues surrounding unplanned pregnancies are complex. (Photo: Icon Media Group)

“Voiceless” reveals that issues surrounding unplanned pregnancies are complex. (Photo: Icon Media Group)

Stuart Migdon, executive producer for “Voiceless,” recalls how he and his girlfriend were pressured as teens by family members to have an abortion when they faced an unexpected pregnancy.

“Though we had no idea of how we were going to make it, we never thought about an abortion,” Migdon says in a recent interview. “We didn’t hesitate—we got married. We struggled for a while but pressed on. God knew what he was doing.”

Necerato brings up another personal aspect of the issue.

“We see abortion as a women’s issue, knowing how much women suffer physically and emotionally from it,” the director says. “But men also suffer from having these incidents in their past. We often try to sweep it under the carpet, doing anything we can to ease our conscience.”

Referring to how taxpayer dollars flow every year to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood, Cruz has her own idea of how funding should be prioritized.

“Family counseling and postpartum support are services that can absolutely be afforded with the amount of money some groups like Planned Parenthood alone receive in government subsidies,” she says.

From Belief to Strategies That Save Lives

Asked about the diverse spheres of the pro-life movement, Necerato says, “In the battle to save lives, there is no one absolute approach. But the common denominator is always compassion and a heart of love.”

He sees prayer at abortion centers as a vital front for pro-life advocacy:

We are fighting an extremely weighty spiritual battle. When I’m at an abortion clinic, there is a different spiritual heaviness. Unless you’re prayed up, people out there on the front lines are not going to be spiritually equipped to endure this.

We are called very clearly from scripture to pray unceasingly. We could win decisively in the legal arena or other battles, but without prayer it’s not going to have the force and power.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that “Voiceless” premieres just as 40 Days for Life ramps up its largest-ever national prayer campaign, while the pro-life organization Bound4LIFE marks 12 years praying at the Supreme Court.

Cruz and Necerato both emphasize how true convictions must be lived out with actions.

“We have to pray and go, pray and move, pray and act,” the director says.

“Voiceless” opens nationwide Oct. 7. Visit the official website for updated theater listings.

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We Need to Amend the Johnson Amendment So the IRS Will Allow Free Speech http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/we-need-to-amend-the-johnson-amendment-so-the-irs-will-allow-free-speech/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/we-need-to-amend-the-johnson-amendment-so-the-irs-will-allow-free-speech/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 15:15:48 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289688 Millions of Americans will go to the polls Nov. 8 and vote. These Americans are a cross section of society; they are diverse, with many... Read More

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Millions of Americans will go to the polls Nov. 8 and vote. These Americans are a cross section of society; they are diverse, with many different opinions, political views, areas of interest, and sources of knowledge that inspire their choices.

Such a robust civil society is part of what makes our country great. This civil society and the organizations that compose it should be allowed to inform their followers with expertise that could help them choose elected officials.

Who doesn’t want informed voters?

Yet for decades a provision of the tax code referred to as the Johnson Amendment has prevented these organizations from providing such information.

Section 501(c)3 bars “[c]orporations … organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes” from “participat[ing] in, or intervene[ing] in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

The amendment was introduced in 1954 by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, D-Texas, as a way to stop his political opponents. The future president never intended to bar advocacy organizations from mentioning elected officials, or pastors and churches from commenting on candidates.

Unfortunately, the Johnson Amendment certainly has been used in this way. Indeed, under current IRS guidance, it prevents a whole host of nonprofit organizations, religious and otherwise, from informing their followers in ways relevant to their own duty to vote.

This ban is at odds with our own history. Since the birth of our nation, pastors and churches have been at the forefront of shaping public debate and our choice of public servants.

For example, Martin Luther King Jr. was a clergyman, and the political involvement of African-American churches was integral to progress in the civil rights movement he helped lead in the 1950s and 1960s.

Where would we be now if such pastors had not made their voices heard on the political and social issues of their time?

Not all pastors will choose to address political issues and candidates in the same way. But just because some may not does not mean all should not have the right to do so.

Today, many pastors and churches have been intimidated into silence by guidance from the Internal Revenue Service that relies on the Johnson Amendment to repress speech from the pulpit. This is not right, and it must change.

One problem with the current IRS guidance is that it is incredibly vague. No one knows precisely what kind of spoken or written comment on a candidate will draw the attention of the IRS. Even the IRS itself does not clearly describe what would violate the law. Such vagueness chills free speech.

Another problem with the current law is that it is selectively enforced. The IRS targets certain nonprofit organizations while ignoring others that do the same thing.

For example, the IRS initiated an investigation of the NAACP after its chairman gave one speech including negative commentary on George W. Bush. While the IRS subsequently closed the investigation and refunded taxes it had imposed on the organization, the NAACP was dragged through a two-year process.

This is not fair and teaches a lack of respect for the law and the IRS throughout American society.

All 501(c)3 nonprofits, religious and otherwise, should be able to speak in these ways free from the threat of impending government prosecution.

So, how do we fix this?

We must amend Section 501(c)3 to permit statements regarding political campaigns (which may urge listeners to elect or defeat a candidate, or contribute to a candidate or a certain political organization) in the course of the nonprofit’s regular activities and to further its exempt purpose, as long as the nonprofit incurs no more than minimal costs in making the statement.

A bill introduced Wednesday by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., sets out to do that. It’s called the Free Speech Fairness Act (HR 6195).

Amending the Johnson Amendment in this way, and not simply repealing it entirely, relaxes the speech restrictions on all Section 501(c)3 nonprofit entities and allows them the breathing room to communicate how candidates have addressed their issues.

At the same time, the amended law still will prevent tax-exempt organizations from abusing their organizational purpose by financing a candidate or buying political advertisements to get them elected.

Under these amendments, a church could speak positively about a candidate focusing on the issues it cares about, a health organization could commend a politician who has been supportive of its work, and a prison reform group could warn against a candidate who has worked against its causes. And so on.

These amendments would extend the same speech protections to all tax-exempt entities (both religious and nonreligious), regardless of their organizational mission, on both sides of the political aisle.

Such reforms to the Johnson Amendment would be a win for all voters as we continue to educate ourselves and decide how best to run our country.

Pastors increasingly understand how the Johnson Amendment has been used to chill speech and suppress religious freedom. This is why on Oct. 2 pastors across the country will participate in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” a day for them to declare to their congregations that they should be accountable to God alone, not the IRS, for what they say behind the pulpit.

More free speech for organizations, which will increase voter awareness, has no downside. This is a policy change that should be eagerly embraced by those who truly want a robust civil society where the citizenry, not just wealthy special interests, is engaged.

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Obama’s New Death Tax Threatens Family Farms and Businesses http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/obamas-new-death-tax-threatens-family-farms-and-businesses/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/29/obamas-new-death-tax-threatens-family-farms-and-businesses/#respond Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:53:23 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289786 We all knew President Barack Obama’s lame-duck presidency would be bad, but for the millions of Americans who work at family farms and businesses, it’s... Read More

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We all knew President Barack Obama’s lame-duck presidency would be bad, but for the millions of Americans who work at family farms and businesses, it’s about to get a lot worse.

As Heritage Foundation tax expert Curtis Dubay wrote at The Daily Signal, Obama is trying to sneak in a tax hike in his twilight days. His Treasury Department unveiled midnight regulations that effectively would increase the death tax to 30 or 40 percent.

If Obama channeled his desire and creativity in raising taxes into cutting spending, we probably would have a budget surplus by now.

In this case, the president’s creativity involves tinkering with well-established “valuation discounts” that families use to calculate their death tax liability.

These valuation discounts are one reason family businesses have been able to accurately calculate the burden of the estate tax—popularly known as the death tax—so the business or farm itself can be passed from generation to generation.

If these valuation discounts didn’t exist, then every time an owner died, a business essentially would have to overvalue itself, and thus be subject to a higher effective tax bill than the law intends. Farms especially are affected by this issue, and the estate tax generally, because it is a lot harder to sell off 40 percent of your farm than 40 percent of stocks or other assets.

If that’s not too much of a burden, imagine being a partial owner of one of these farms.

If you own one-tenth of your grandfather’s farm, you don’t have enough say in the future of the business to decide whether you want to sell off the farm or pay the 40 percent tax to keep it.

Such partial owners are faced with a choice: Either sell off your share for much less than it is worth or pay the government 40 percent of its value. For family-owned businesses, built with the blood, sweat, and tears of ancestors, this is an immoral choice for the government to force on people.

This issue affects workers, too. In cutting costs and selling assets to pay the IRS, many family businesses facing a tragic death and an ensuing death tax are forced to downsize.

For the economy as a whole, this means that millions of people who work for small businesses could lose their jobs, just because the Internal Revenue Service wants an added piece of the action if a business owner dies.

What’s good for the economy is when businesses grow and innovate. They shouldn’t have to plan to liquidate their assets to pay the IRS bill whenever an owner dies.

Democrats are floating a plan for a 65 percent death tax in order to “level the playing field.” This is no more than socialist planning by elites to confiscate property from hardworking Americans to pay for failed government programs and spending that won’t improve standards of living.

For the mega-rich who have enough money to structure their assets, this works just fine. For hardworking Americans who put everything they own into creating jobs and building their business, this is not an option.

Regardless of the bad economics behind the death tax, the Obama administration is going about it in the wrong way.

Deciding tax policy is a power enumerated solely for Congress. This is something that should be decided in the open with a robust public debate. The Founding Fathers believed this too, which is why they gave Congress, and the House in particular (the “people’s House”), the power to initiate tax laws.

If Congress doesn’t do anything, this will mean an even greater increase of out-of-control executive authority.

That is why I introduced legislation, the Protect Family Farms and Businesses Act, to halt the Obama administration’s backdoor tax increase. It would prohibit the administration’s new rule, or any like it, from going into effect.

The bill already has more than 20 co-sponsors and the support of more than 100 organizations.

Too much is on the line for too many for Congress to stand idle. The jobs of millions of Americans are at stake.

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Shimon Peres’ Legacy of Statesmanship http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/shimon-peres-former-prime-minister-of-israel-passes-away-at-93/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/shimon-peres-former-prime-minister-of-israel-passes-away-at-93/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 23:00:53 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289867 Shimon Peres, the former prime minister and president of Israel, died Wednesday morning in a hospital in Tel Aviv. He was 93. His passing marks... Read More

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Shimon Peres, the former prime minister and president of Israel, died Wednesday morning in a hospital in Tel Aviv. He was 93. His passing marks the end of an era as the last of Israel’s founding generation of statesmen, and Israel’s loss will be felt around the world.

Peres had suffered a stroke Sept. 13.

At the time of Israel’s independence in 1948, Peres served as the head of the naval services. He rose quickly through the ranks and was promoted to the position of director general of the Defense Ministry when he was only 29 years old.

By the time he retired from the presidential office in 2014, Peres had spent more than two-thirds of his life in public service.

He was present in an active role for every major Israeli milestone: from the country’s independence to its emergence as the world’s suspected sixth nuclear power and a strong U.S. ally.

Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, in recognition of their efforts to negotiate the 1993 Oslo peace accords.

The failure of that agreement to bring a genuine peace, combined with continued Palestinian terrorist attacks, led many Israelis to conclude that his vision for a “New Middle East” was excessively optimistic.

Despite this, Peres produced remarkable achievements during his long government service in many fields.

His optimism and thirst for innovation encouraged Israel to seek peace when it could and protection when it couldn’t achieve it. In his early career as Israel’s minister of defense, and in his negotiations with France and Germany, Peres was instrumental in building Israel’s conventional and strategic military capabilities.

Under his guidance and leadership, Israel solidified its relationship with France, paving the way for the transfer of French warplanes that helped transform the nascent Israeli air force into the regional powerhouse it is today. Peres also played a pivotal role in attaining a nuclear reactor from France, which became the foundation of Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

His unwavering pursuit of peace, security, and prosperity for Israel endeared Peres to his people and garnered worldwide praise and respect.

Today, the international community joins in Israel’s sorrow over the loss of a champion of peace and security and looks to future generations to carry his legacy and his country into the future.

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GOP-Controlled Senate Passes Spending Bill Without Conservative Policy Riders http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/gop-controlled-senate-passes-spending-bill-without-conservative-policy-riders/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/gop-controlled-senate-passes-spending-bill-without-conservative-policy-riders/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 22:18:56 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289843 Three days before the federal government’s spending authority expired, the Senate advanced a 10-week continuing resolution by a 72-26 vote, putting spending on autopilot and... Read More

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Three days before the federal government’s spending authority expired, the Senate advanced a 10-week continuing resolution by a 72-26 vote, putting spending on autopilot and avoiding a looming government shutdown.

The makeshift spending agreement allows lawmakers in the upper chamber to skip Capitol Hill for the campaign trail with barely a month before the November elections.  

The package was scheduled for a 1 a.m. vote Thursday morning in the House and was expected to pass with Democrat support.

The stopgap measure freezes spending at the current $1.07 trillion level for 69 days until Dec. 9. That requires Congress to revisit the issue after the November election but before the next Congress convenes, during the so-called lame-duck session.

Though heralded by Senate leadership as a “clean” continuing resolution, the bill includes a $1.1 billion Zika aid package that would make Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, eligible for federal funding.

“This [continuing resolution] has plenty of so-called ‘policy riders,’ but only those that received the blessing of the select few who wrote the legislation,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said in a statement.

“So it includes a provision that will give Planned Parenthood a raise, but contains nothing to delay President Obama’s reckless plan to give countries like China, Russia, and Iran more control over the internet,” the Utah senator added, referring to the fact that the bill does not prevent the end of U.S. oversight of the internet, set for Oct. 1.

Earlier in the summer, Democrats thwarted three Republican efforts to pass Zika relief packages that prohibited Planned Parenthood from receiving funds. To appease the left and avoid a shutdown, Republicans stripped that language from the bill.

The bill amounts to an across-the-board loss for conservatives in both chambers who have called for lower spending levels and a number of policy riders for over a year.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores, R-Texas, and Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, originally opposed any funding bill that exceeded the $1.04 trillion spending limits established in the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Both conservatives conceded on that point, telling leadership they could swallow the higher $1.07 trillion spending level in exchange for policy riders that would require additional screening for Syrian refugees and prevent the White House from relinquishing control of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Neither policy rider was included in the Senate version of the spending bill.

“I understand that you can’t always get everything you want in a spending bill, but this CR [continuing resolution] ignores several essential issues,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told The Daily Signal Wednesday afternoon.

The legislation almost didn’t come to fruition though.

Tuesday afternoon Senate Democrats blocked similar legislation because it didn’t include emergency relief for Flint, the Michigan city with lead-poisoned water. Failing to win the 60 votes needed to pass, the bill fell 45-55, raising the possibility of a government shutdown.  

But Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reached a deal in the House that saved the Senate legislation by tabling the Flint issue until after the election.

The deal requires the House to move an amendment to an infrastructure bill that authorizes $170 million in emergency spending to help relieve the city that’s endured lead in its drinking water since January 2016.

The promised vote on the Flint measure will come after the election.

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3 Reasons New Flint Spending Will Make Things Worse http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/3-reasons-new-flint-spending-will-make-things-worse/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/3-reasons-new-flint-spending-will-make-things-worse/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 21:33:08 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289756 Liberal lawmakers held a liberal spending bill hostage this week until the Republican-controlled Congress agreed to even more big government priorities. Here’s what happened: For... Read More

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Liberal lawmakers held a liberal spending bill hostage this week until the Republican-controlled Congress agreed to even more big government priorities.

Here’s what happened: For the past few weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., worked with Democrats to propose a 10-week government funding bill, commonly referred to as a continuing resolution.

That bill failed to include countless conservative priorities. It failed to keep spending levels within the reasonable levels set by the Budget Control Act. It failed to protect life by opening the door for more taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood. And it failed to do anything positive through the addition of conservative policy riders like stopping the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers transfer in the interest of protecting internet freedom, requiring a more stringent vetting process for refugees, or blocking the Labor Department’s new overtime rule.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his fellow Senate Democrats defeated a key procedural vote on this continuing resolution because it was not liberal enough—it did not include federal taxpayer money for the water problems in the city of Flint, Michigan.

With government funding set to expire at midnight Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed to add $170 million in federal aid for Flint’s water issues in a water infrastructure bill that was under consideration in the House.

There are three major problems with the Flint spending bill:

  1. It uses federal tax dollars for something that should be appropriated at the state level.
  2. It authorizes federal dollars at a time when the nation is nearly $20 trillion in debt.
  3. It sets the precedent of allowing liberal lawmakers to take bad spending bills hostage until they receive even more.

State, Not Federal Funding

State, not federal, funds and resources should be used to solve Flint’s crisis. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, made this point repeatedly when objecting to the inclusion of Flint spending in an earlier version of the Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act, speaking to The Daily Signal:

If we create a precedent that suggests any time there’s a significant problem with a locally operated utility that operates entirely intrastate, I would ask, where’s the stopping point? What’s the limit?

Unnecessarily Additions to National Debt

America’s spending is out of control. Every penny counts when our nation is nearly $20 trillion in debt. Earlier this year President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for Flint, authorizing more than $80 million in aid to help in the cleanup effort.

There are additional funds built into the state budget to help provide for local clean up and rehabilitation. Flint has already squandered federal funding sources, as The Daily Signal reported earlier this year: “Michigan has squirreled away $386 million in an emergency fund and collected a $575 million surplus in 2015. Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, has already requested $200 million in relief funds from the state legislature for Flint.”

Bad Precedent for Capitulation

After Senate Democrats blocked the liberal continuing resolution, the Republican-controlled Congress could have moved forward with a conservative bill. Instead, Republican leaders looked at Reid, Pelosi, and Obama and asked which additional bad funding provisions should be added.

If these lawmakers won’t stand up for the principles of their constituents before an election, we shouldn’t expect them to in a post-election lame-duck session, either.

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GOP Lawmakers Pressure Administration Over Obamacare ‘Bailout’ for Insurers http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/gop-lawmakers-pressure-administration-over-obamacare-bailout-for-insurers/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/gop-lawmakers-pressure-administration-over-obamacare-bailout-for-insurers/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 21:30:54 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289723 GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate are pressuring the Obama administration for additional information on whether it plans to settle with insurance companies suing the government... Read More

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GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate are pressuring the Obama administration for additional information on whether it plans to settle with insurance companies suing the government over a program written into Obamacare, which they warn would serve as a “multibillion dollar bailout” of those insurers.

Republicans in the House and Senate sent separate letters to top officials with the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services raising concerns over the possibility of the Justice Department tapping into the Judgment Fund to settle lawsuits filed by insurance companies over Obamacare’s risk corridor program.

The risk corridor program was written into the Affordable Care Act and designed to provide insurers with stability during the first few years of the law’s implementation.

“This program was originally intended to be implemented in a budget neutral manner,” Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska wrote in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, and Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Andy Slavitt.

“This intention was confirmed when Congress passed, with presidential approval, two separate provisions of appropriations law confirming its budget neutrality,” the letter continued. “It now appears the administration is preparing to circumvent these actions.”

The Republican senators said they have “grave concerns” about the potential for settlements with insurers.

Insurance companies filed lawsuits earlier this year after learning they would receive a small fraction of the money requested from the risk corridor program.

But Rubio and Senate Republicans included an amendment in 2015 and 2016 government spending bills prohibiting the government from using any taxpayer dollars to fund payments requested by insurers through the program. Under Rubio’s provision, the federal government could only use money collected from insurers to make those payments.

Because of those restrictions, insurance companies participating in Obamacare’s exchanges received just 12.6 percent of the money they intended to get from the risk corridor program—a collective $2.5 billion less than originally anticipated.

Many smaller insurers, including at least four of 23 consumer operated and oriented plans, ended up closing their doors because of lower-than-expected risk corridor payments.

Congressional Republicans began to sound the alarm over use of the Judgment Fund after insurers filed the lawsuit. Settling with insurers, they warned, would give the White House a way to provide the companies with their full risk corridor payments, effectively circumventing Congress.

“Any attempt to settle these cases out of court as a backdoor way to direct taxpayer dollars to insurance companies through the Judgment Fund will be met with the strictest scrutiny from Congress,” more than 40 GOP lawmakers wrote in one of the letters, sent to Burwell last week.

The Republicans go on to signal they would be willing to file their own lawsuit against the administration.

“Should the administration seek to make settlements in any pending lawsuit regarding risk corridor payments, we remain committed to exhausting all legislative and judicial options to ensure the power of the purse vested in Congress under the Constitution is respected and maintained,” the letter continues.

Republicans further stepped up their pressure on the Obama administration regarding potential use of the Judgment Fund following the release of a Sept. 9 memo from the Department of Health and Human Services on risk corridor payments for the 2015 benefit year.

In its memo, the agency addressed the lawsuit filed by insurers over the risk corridor payments for 2014 and said it would be “open to discussing resolution of those claims.”

Then, in a hearing before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee earlier this month, Slavitt indicated officials from his agency had discussed with the Justice Department a potential settlement with insurers over the risk corridor program.

Nicole Navas, spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said the agency declines to comment because of pending litigation.

Health Republic Insurance of Oregon, a co-op, filed the first lawsuit against the Obama administration over the risk corridor program in February. The nonprofit is seeking class-action status.

Highmark Inc. and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina followed, filing their own individual lawsuits in May and June, respectively.

The insurers allege that the federal government violated the Affordable Care Act and the risk corridor payment obligations outlined in the health care law.

Though the Obama administration has signaled it would be willing to use the Judgment Fund to settle insurers lawsuits against the government, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service issued two separate memorandums to Rubio and Barrasso on the legality of the use of the Judgment Fund.

In a memo sent to Rubio in January, the Congressional Research Service said the administration wouldn’t be able to use the Judgment Fund to award payments to insurers who filed suit.

Congress, the memo concluded, would have to appropriate additional funds for “any payment to satisfy a judgment secured by plaintiffs seeking recovery of amounts owed under the risk corridors program.”

In a separate memo to Barrasso, the Congressional Research Service said that even if the insurance companies won their case, either insurers would need to pay additional money into the risk corridor program or Congress would need to appropriate additional money for companies involved in the litigation to recover additional funds.

“Consequently, it would be inappropriate for the Judgment Fund to be used to settle any litigation stemming from the risk corridor program,” the letter from Barrasso, Lee, Rubio, and Sasse continues.

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Why This Virginia Tech Student Went on a Hunger Strike for Gun Rights http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/why-this-virginia-tech-student-went-on-a-hunger-strike-for-gun-rights/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/why-this-virginia-tech-student-went-on-a-hunger-strike-for-gun-rights/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 21:22:05 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289697 A Virginia Tech student, currently on a hunger strike advocating for the allowance of concealed weapons on campus, wants the right of self-defense abided by... Read More

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A Virginia Tech student, currently on a hunger strike advocating for the allowance of concealed weapons on campus, wants the right of self-defense abided by on his college campus.

“I am advocating for Virginia concealed gun permit holders to be able to carry concealed on campus and in buildings and in the classrooms,” Ryan James Martin, a fifth-year senior studying English and biological sciences at the Virginia university, told The Daily Signal in a phone conversation. “The hunger strike aspect of it was really designed to call attention to the issue.”

Martin, 22, started his hunger strike Sept. 25 at 11:59 p.m. and plans to carry the strike through Friday, Sept. 30, at the conclusion of University President Timothy Sands’ first State of the University Address set to start at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

The Virginia Tech campus is a gun-free zone.

Martin, a concealed carry permit holder in the state of Virginia, said that on his campus no one is allowed to carry Nerf guns or even pepper spray.

“The only legal weapon we’re really allowed to have is a less than four-inch pocket knife and our fists,” he said.

Martin said he has graduated from Virginia Tech’s student police academy, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office’s citizen’s police academy, and is currently in the Blacksburg Police Department’s citizens police academy program.

“Just because I have a gun on me does not make me an evil assailant,” Martin said.

“Just because I have a gun on me does not make me an evil assailant.” —Ryan James Martin, a Virginia Tech student

Martin said he has had his concealed carry permit for a little over a year and said he has passed state and federal background checks multiple times and is also a firearms instructor.

“I take [students] to our local firearm range free of charge and teach them how to shoot safely and effectively,” Martin said.

Martin said that in January he requested a meeting with Sands, the university president, and the university’s Board of Visitors to discuss concealed carry on campus. The meeting was never granted, he said.

Martin sent an email on Sept. 23 to Sands, college deans, community leaders, and local media explaining the hunger strike.

“Our campus is not immune to the ever-increasing acts of violence and terror that happen every day,” Martin wrote in the email to The Daily Signal. “We should know best—it has been 3,447 days since we inherited the title of deadliest college campus in the nation, yet students are still forbidden from even carrying pepper spray as per university regulation.” His email added:

Further, I will be on the steps of Burruss Hall every morning, and every other chance I am able next week, to read aloud the Constitution and Bill of Rights which seem to be ignored on my campus.

“Virginia Tech respects any student’s right to civil protest, provided that person abides by our Principles of Community and incurs no harm to self or others,” Mark Owczarski, assistant vice president for university relations at Virginia Tech, wrote in an email to The Daily Signal.

“All matters related to the university policy on weapons would be directed to our vice president of administration, Dr. Sherwood Wilson,” Owczarski said in an email regarding Martin’s request to meet with Sands. “The student did in fact meet with Dr. Wilson. His claim a meeting was never granted is disingenuous.”

In April 2007, 32 students and staff were killed by a gunman in the Virginia Tech massacre in Blacksburg, Virginia.

“What we saw on April 16, 2007, almost 10 years ago, is that 32 students and faculty members were killed, many others shot while they waited for a little over 10 minutes for law enforcement to arrive and the threat was neutralized,” Martin said.

“I truly believe that if one of those individuals had legally possessed a concealed firearm, we’d have less than 32 memorial stones on the Drillfield today,” he said, adding:

I’ve been called many names for claiming that, but in all honestly we’ll never know because they weren’t allowed self-defense that day and we saw what happened. It’s a tough issue. It is sensitive, but we need to talk about it. We need to find some solutions to the problems we face as a campus of 30,000 students.

In Virginia, along with 22 other states, a college or university makes the decision whether to ban or allow concealed carry on campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Eight states—Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin—have provisions allowing concealed weapons to be carried by students on public higher education campuses.

To obtain a concealed carry handgun permit in Virginia, a person must be 21 years of age or older or a member of the military.

Employees, students, volunteers, and visitors at Virginia Tech “reported or discovered to possess a firearm or weapon on university property will be asked to remove it immediately,” the university’s policy on weapons states. “Failure to comply may result in a student conduct referral and/or arrest, or an employee disciplinary action and/or arrest.”

Exemptions from the policy include certified and sworn police officers or when participating in programs sponsored by the on-campus police department such as the police academy.

This week, Martin said he has limited his hunger strike diet to consist of liquid intake and regular medicine and multivitamins.

Over 34 hours into his strike, “at this point, I’m surprisingly not even hungry,” Martin told The Daily Signal Tuesday morning.

Martin said he possibly will strike longer than Friday if Sands does not contact him, but already considers the hunger strike a success because he’s “got the conversation on campus going.”

This article has been updated to add Virginia Tech’s response to Martin’s assertion that his request to meet with University President Timothy Sands and the Board of Visitors was denied.

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The FDA’s Rule on E-Cigarettes Will Hurt Public Health http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/the-fdas-rule-on-e-cigarettes-will-hurt-public-health/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/the-fdas-rule-on-e-cigarettes-will-hurt-public-health/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 20:58:42 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289708 Many people have been impacted by the harm that can be caused by cigarette smoking, including the loss of family members. The market has found... Read More

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Many people have been impacted by the harm that can be caused by cigarette smoking, including the loss of family members.

The market has found a solution to this major public health problem. The federal government is about to crush that solution.

Recent technological innovations, such as vaping products (e.g. e-cigarettes), have provided an alternative for those seeking to stop smoking cigarettes.

There’s a problem though.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a rule that will, in effect, prohibit the sale of many of these products beginning in August 2018.

The FDA’s new rule would require companies—if they can—to show that their e-cigarettes are “substantially equivalent” to a tobacco product that was on the market as of Feb. 15, 2007.

E-cigarettes though, in general, didn’t exist on this 2007 date. Therefore, a company introducing a new e-cigarette product couldn’t use this substantial equivalent standard because there was nothing that was substantially equivalent.

Instead, these companies would have to go through the costly and burdensome pre-market tobacco application process. The FDA itself acknowledges this burdensome process could cost as much as $466,000 per product. There are other estimates that getting approval could cost over $1 million.

Also, vaping product manufacturers will have to complete many applications because even minor product variations such as different flavors or bottle sizes will constitute a “new tobacco product.”

For smaller companies, and maybe even larger companies, the process may be infeasible, making it unlikely their products will be available after August 2018. Making matters worse, this pre-market tobacco application process would apply to existing e-cigarette and vaping products on the market, not just future products

The FDA admits that it expects most of these promising public health solutions will have to go through this burdensome process: “The FDA expects that most ENDS [Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems] products that companies submit for market authorization will utilize the PMTA [Pre-Market Tobacco Application process] pathway.”

Regardless of whether the FDA is misapplying the law or whether there’s just a technical flaw in the Tobacco Control Act passed in 2009 that gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products, Congress needs to take immediate action to make it unambiguously clear that these potentially life-saving innovations won’t be subject to regulatory obstacles that may keep them off the market.

Ideally, Congress would make it clear that vaping products aren’t “tobacco products” under the 2009 Tobacco Control Act (pending lawsuits are addressing this issue and many other issues), and thus wouldn’t be subject to regulation by the FDA.

In the interim though, this “grandfather date” issue needs to be addressed immediately so that vaping products won’t have to go through this overly burdensome regulatory process.

The FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2015, for example, would achieve this objective by clarifying that the “grandfather date” would be the effective date of the FDA’s regulations, not the current and arbitrary grandfather date of Feb. 15, 2007.

To address any possible concerns, legislation addressing this grandfather date could clarify that it has no impact on whether the FDA has authority to regulate these products or other aspects of the FDA’s rule, such as regulations connected to the sale of vaping products to minors.

If this problem isn’t addressed, how many lives will be harmed because many people won’t have access to vaping products? This isn’t just a public health issue, but a moral issue. The incredible benefits of these products greatly outweigh any questionable harm.

While more research on vaping may be warranted, there’s significant evidence that e-cigarettes are helping many people.  Further, there’s strong evidence that nonsmokers, including children, aren’t choosing to use e-cigarettes.

Using a precautionary principle approach (i.e. prove something isn’t harmful before allowing it) is both dangerous and immoral when millions of people have the chance to move away from the known and severe harms of smoking cigarettes. People now using e-cigarettes may even move back to smoking if this FDA’s rule isn’t addressed.

The vaping choices that will be offered will be greatly reduced. The options that help most people now and best meet their specific needs may not be available after August 2018, nor will the number of innovations be nearly as great. Congress just needs to fix an unintended consequence of the Tobacco Control Act. One simple technical correction could play a role in helping to save many lives.

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Why Consumers May Be Feeling the Increasing Costs of Drugs More Today http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/why-consumers-may-be-feeling-the-increasing-costs-of-drugs-more-today/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/why-consumers-may-be-feeling-the-increasing-costs-of-drugs-more-today/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 20:22:00 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289663 Consumers may be in for sticker shock when they head to pharmacy counters not only because of across-the-board increases in the prices of prescription drugs,... Read More

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Consumers may be in for sticker shock when they head to pharmacy counters not only because of across-the-board increases in the prices of prescription drugs, but also because of increasing deductibles, a trend that has been occurring for several years.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill and health policy experts brought the debate over the rising prices of drugs to the forefront last month after Mylan, the company that manufactures the EpiPen, increased the price of a package of two epinephrine auto-injecting devices to more than $600. The EpiPen is typically used to counteract dangerous allergic reactions.

But the controversy surrounding Mylan and pricing for the EpiPen was the result of what Michael Rea, CEO of Rx Savings Solutions, called a “perfect storm.”

The lifespan of the auto-injector is one year, and as many parents prepared to send their children back to school, many purchased new packages of the devices, only to learn that the list price of a package of two EpiPens had risen to more than $608.

Much of the controversy surrounding Mylan has centered around the rising cost of prescription drugs and the factors that led the pharmaceutical company to raise the price of the EpiPen more than 500 percent over a seven-year span.

But experts say that a shift in the nature of health insurance—to plans with higher deductibles and more out-of-pocket costs—have caused consumers to feel the impact of rising drug prices more today than they have in the past.

“It’s more and more an up-front burden in terms of out-of-pocket costs falling back onto the consumer,” Rea, who is also a pharmacist, told The Daily Signal. “Part of that is because of high deductibles. Part of it is because of high out-of-pocket costs.”

“They’re not reaching that out-of-pocket max or that discounted phase as quickly as maybe they have in the past, and so in the case of EpiPen, there was also that time of year in why it sparked at the time it did,” he continued.

Kansas-based Rx Savings Solutions helps to educate consumers and employers on ways to reduce the price of prescription drugs.

At issue for consumers is the yearslong trend of increasing deductibles, the effects of which mean that patients may be forced to pay full price for medications like the EpiPen when they haven’t in the past.

A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Education Trust released earlier this month found that deductibles are increasing nearly six times faster than workers’ earnings.

Additionally, deductibles increased 12 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the survey of employer health benefits—an increase that is four times faster than increases in premiums.

More than 150 million Americans are enrolled in employer-sponsored health insurance, and the increase in deductibles is especially prevalent among those working for firms with less than 200 people, the Kaiser Family Foundation found.

Among those employers, 65 percent of their workers are enrolled in high-deductible plans, with the average deductible at $2,000, Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, wrote in The Wall Street Journal last week.

“People with high deductibles are vulnerable to sharp increases in drug prices, such as those for EpiPen that have been in the news recently,” Altman wrote.

In the wake of Mylan’s decision to raise the price of the EpiPen, the company pointed to the rise in high-deductible plans as one reason why consumers were hit hard.

“With the current changes in the health care insurance landscape, an increasing number of people and families have enrolled in high-deductible health plans, and deductible amounts continue to rise,” the company said in a statement on its website last month.

“This current and ongoing shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and now they are bearing more of the cost,” Mylan continued.

The insurance industry, however, bucked Mylan’s reasoning.

Clare Krusing, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group that represents the insurance industry, told Consumer Reports that Mylan was attempting to “distract from the company’s price increase.”

Krusing did not return The Daily Signal’s request for comment.

Still, experts say the shift to higher deductible plans has been occurring for several years and has been compounded by a change in the tiers for drug benefits.

Daniel Klein, CEO of the Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation, said that in the past, drug benefits that were part of a health insurance plan were broken up into one or two tiers.

Today, however, there may be four or five tiers, with each one representing an increase in the amount a consumer must share in the cost.

Drugs that fall into the first tier—typically generics—require less in out-of-pocket costs from the consumer, while those that fall into the fifth tier—specialty drugs—now require a patient to pay more.

An EpiPen, for example, wouldn’t fall into the first tier, but a generic version of the auto-injector may.

“The steady increase in cost-sharing and, in particular, that tiering of the drug benefits has been responsible for people feeling a lot more pain, if you will, in terms of out-of-pocket costs,” Klein told The Daily Signal. “People who were traditionally insured and thought everything was fine and dandy are now finding they’re insured, but everything is not so easy anymore.”

The PAN Foundation assists the underinsured with paying out-of-pocket costs for prescription medicines, and Klein said his organization has seen a 10-fold increase in the number of grants they award to patients.

In 2011, the PAN Foundation awarded less than 25,000 grants to applicants needing assistance with out-of-pocket costs. In 2015, the organization allocated more than 350,000 grant awards.

Klein said the increase in grants can be attributed to an increase in the funding available to help more people, but is also a reflection of growing demand.

“People are experiencing more out-of-pocket costs for specialty drugs,” he said. “People with chronic illnesses and rare diseases, those folks are probably feeling the impact disproportionately, instead of people with a simple illness.”

In response to the backlash Mylan faced after raising the list price of EpiPens, the company announced it would be offering coupons to lower the cost for consumers to roughly $300. The pharmaceutical company also said it would develop a generic with a price half that of a package of two EpiPens.

But Rea, the CEO of Rx Savings Solutions, said the coupon is simply a Band-Aid, and he emboldened consumers to explore all options for prescription drugs.

“For 70 years, if you back up and look at the way benefits were introduced in this country, consumers were taken out of the equation,” he said. “What’s happened over time is we’ve been really passive. ‘Why do I care? It’s only $10. Why do I care? It’s only a $25 copay.’

“Now, we’ve completely flipped that upside down and now that that’s changed, we have to act like consumers.”

The post Why Consumers May Be Feeling the Increasing Costs of Drugs More Today appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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5 Statements From Top Military Brass That Should Concern You http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/5-statements-from-top-military-brass-that-should-concern-you/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/5-statements-from-top-military-brass-that-should-concern-you/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 16:47:19 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289575 Four of America’s top military officers recently testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on long-term budget challenges facing the military. While the hearing didn’t... Read More

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Four of America’s top military officers recently testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on long-term budget challenges facing the military. While the hearing didn’t grab many headlines, some of the statements from these leaders should make all Americans concerned about the status of our military.

Ultimately, these four officers (the chiefs of staff of the Army and Air Force, the chief of naval operations, and the commandant of the Marine Corps) stressed the dire and potentially deadly effects of inadequate funding on military readiness.

Here are five statements during the Sept. 15 hearing from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and two of the three other chiefs that should be particularly concerning:

1. Milley: “We’re mortgaging future [combat] readiness for current readiness.”

Milley explained that the current underfunding of the Army, along with an eight-year reliance on stopgap funding bills, particularly jeopardized the Army’s ability to be ready for future threats.

All four chiefs noted that the military has felt the strain of funding cuts, which led to a less capable, less experienced military. Milley stressed that the Army isn’t investing for the future, raising the potential that our adversaries will be better equipped.

2. Milley: “What we want is to deter … and the only thing more expensive than deterrence is actually fighting a war, and the only thing more expensive than fighting a war is fighting one and losing one. … It’s an investment that’s worth every nickel.”

Just as President Ronald Reagan talked about “peace through strength,” Milley argued that combat readiness is required to ensure that the U.S. doesn’t have to fight a war in the first place.

Although the chiefs recognize that a strong military isn’t cheap, they maintain that being unready would prove more costly in the end. They say Congress should fund readiness now to avoid a more expensive war later.

3. Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff: “Pilots who don’t fly, maintainers who don’t maintain, controllers who don’t control, will walk … if we don’t give them the resources. … Where we have low readiness, we have our lowest morale.”

Goldfein argues that if airmen aren’t given adequate, modern equipment and sufficient opportunity to train with it, then they are more likely to leave the military.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., raised a similar concern by highlighting that U.S. military pilots fly fewer hours per month than their Russian and Chinese counterparts.

The best men and women in uniform stay because they want to do the mission. When they aren’t allowed to do their jobs, they’ll go elsewhere.

4. Milley: “Sequestration will take the rug out from underneath us.”

While each of the military chiefs expressed frustration regarding the current defense budget, they painted an even darker picture for the military if Congress doesn’t change course.

If lower budget caps return, what Milley called sequestration, the military would lack essential funding to carry out its mission.

5. Gen. Robert Neller, Marine Corps commandant: “We’re making it now on the backs of those sergeants and staff sergeants out there that have to do work twice.”

Neller noted the ultimate burden of inadequate funding falls on the men and women in uniform. When the military lacks adequate resources, the troops themselves ultimately have to figure out ways to cope with the shortfalls.

This situation puts unnecessary strain on enlisted leaders, the backbone of our military, who are forced to cope with the gaps so that they can carry out their missions.

And finally, if those five statements weren’t sufficient to cause grave concern, a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., brought out the surprising news that President Barack Obama has not been talking with his most senior military officers about these issues.

“Have you had a conversation with the commander in chief telling him what you just told us?” Graham asked, putting the four chiefs on the spot.

The current state of the military after budget cuts should be of the utmost concern to the president, of course. Each chief answered Graham’s question with a “no.”

If politicians in Congress and the White House do not listen to the concerns of military leaders, they run the risk of threatening military readiness.

Overall, the chiefs agreed that the defense budget must be increased to enable the military to work toward adequate levels of combat readiness. The problems they outlined parallel those identified in The Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength.

Congress and the president should work together to begin rebuilding the military, because a strong national defense is not a partisan issue.

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The Sneaky Way Public Unions Are Getting Tax Dollars for Union Activities http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/the-sneaky-way-public-unions-are-getting-tax-dollars-for-union-activities/ http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/28/the-sneaky-way-public-unions-are-getting-tax-dollars-for-union-activities/#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2016 16:14:23 +0000 http://dailysignal.com/?p=289558 Taxpayers expect their government to spend tax dollars wisely, on activities that benefit the public. But across the country, governments at all levels give away... Read More

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Taxpayers expect their government to spend tax dollars wisely, on activities that benefit the public. But across the country, governments at all levels give away tax dollars to the exclusive benefit of public unions without getting anything in return.

This subsidy, known as union release time, has flown under the radar for decades, but now state free-market groups are starting to do something about it.

The practice of union release time allows government employees to conduct union business on the taxpayer’s dime. You heard that right. All over the country, taxpayers foot the bill for union agents to negotiate contracts, participate in grievance procedures, attend union conventions, and other activity entirely unrelated to any public purpose.

In essence, union release time treats taxpayers the same as nonunion members who are compelled to pay agency fees, which are forced union dues payments.

Fortunately, 47 of 50 states’ constitutions contain a provision known as the “gift clause” that bans government subsidies primarily benefitting private entities.

In other words, the gift clause prohibits states and municipalities from giving away the public’s money unless it primarily serves a public purpose or the government receives adequate consideration. Since union release time serves the private interests of unions and fails to provide any value to the public, the gift clause can be used to eliminate the subsidy.

In some states, public policy organizations are attempting to do just that. Most recently, on Sept. 7 the Goldwater Institute and Texas Public Policy Foundation filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin and the Austin Firefighters Association Local 975. They are challenging that the collective bargaining agreement between the city and union, which grants release time, violates Texas’ gift clause.

The release time that the International Association of Firefighters receives is not a trivial amount. According to public record requests submitted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in Austin, the city’s police department, fire department, and emergency medical services were granted 10,857 hours of release time in fiscal year 2012 and 16,963 in fiscal year 2013, a cumulative total of 27,821.14.

For the salaries made available, the cost of union release time to Austin taxpayers was $227,530 and $593,783 in fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2013, respectively. These costs do not include pension benefits.

“I’ve been fighting to be put back to work at our fire department.” —Firefighters Association Local 975 President Bob Nicks.

On top of the considerable costs of release time, the activity performed on the public’s dime can be absurd. While the bulk of release time activity conducted by the firefighters union is spent attending union conventions, union conference meetings, grievances and bargaining, other events include a “retirement BBQ” and “fishing tournament.”

Those who support fiscal responsibility are not the only ones who think union release time is a waste of money. “I’ve been fighting to be put back to work at our fire department,” Austin Firefighters Association Local 975 President Bob Nicks told FoxNews.com. “The chief wouldn’t allow it. How much they have fought against me was crazy.”

Interestingly, in Texas, this is not the first time that release time has been under scrutiny. In 1979, Texas Attorney General Mark White weighed in on the legality of release time. He was asked to determine whether the Fort Worth Independent School District’s union release time policy violated the state constitution’s gift clause. The policy gave several teachers unions nine days of union release time for every 100 members and allowed the unions to determine what activity could be conducted on release time.

White determined that “A policy of the Fort Worth Independent School District, which permits teachers to work for professional organizations while being paid salaries by the school district, constitutes an unconditional grant of public funds to a private organization and therefore unconstitutional.”

Other lawsuits are pending around the country.

In Idaho, the Idaho Freedom Foundation is challenging release time at the Boise Independent School District, which pays $35,932 of the Boise Education Association’s president’s salary and benefits, despite the fact he exclusively performs union activity.

In Pennsylvania, the Fairness Center, a public interest law firm, filed a lawsuit against the Allentown School District and the Allentown Education Association. According to the Fairness Center, the cost of release time to the taxpayers since 2003 is over $1 million.

Since 2009, the current Allentown Education Association president, Debra Tretter, has exclusively conducted union business and not taught even one class. While on the yearslong hiatus from teaching, the Allentown Education Association president continues to receive her salary, insurance, benefits, and is allowed to keep her seniority. The lawsuit, filed on Feb. 24 in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, is still in preliminary stages.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, the Goldwater Institute had initial success in court to halt the practice of release time. In 2015, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that release time is an unconstitutional public expenditure.

The city of Phoenix had been granting the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association release time to the tune of nearly $1 million annually. But the Arizona Supreme Court this month reversed that decision, saying that police officers performing union business instead of protecting the public somehow constitutes a public purpose and that paying public servants not to work for the taxpayer provided Phoenix with adequate consideration from the union.

That can’t be right. At a time when so many people are struggling to make ends meet and government services are stretched thin, elected representatives owe it to citizens to take a hard look at what’s being funded and cut activities that do not advance a public purpose.

Under union release time, the government pays unions to lobby for higher member compensation, and thereby take as many resources from the taxpayers as possible. This is clearly unjust and unfair to all the people who work hard and pay taxes.

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