Again…flood tide v. drought: The solution to the low information voter problem

Get a load of this one email from the Heritage Foundation. Note this (link) recent post by me. Then skim through a few months of the kind of articles I link on this website. Now — think about the fact that we have a nation of low information voters.

Here’s the Heritage email in its entirety. Our side produces so much good information that doesn’t see the light of day (and by that I mean reach enough low information voters).

 Updated daily, InsiderOnline ( is a compilation of publication abstracts, how-to essays , events, news, and analysis from around the conservative movement. The current edition of The INSIDER quarterly magazine is also on the site.

July 13, 2013

Latest Studies: 39 new items, including a Pioneer Institute report on Common Core’s threat to math achievement, and a Philanthropy Roundtable report on the role of the charitable deduction

Notes on the Week: As ObamaCare fails, it’s taking democratic accountability down with it, democracy is more than elections, do regulators know the benefit of Scotch? and more

To Do: Figure out state success and state failure

Latest Studies

Budget & Taxation
Asking the Tax Code to Do Less – Cato Institute
The Tax Collector vs. The Constitution – Hoover Institution
Defeating Fiscal Distress: A State Responsibility – Manhattan Institute
The Beholden State: California’s Lost Promise and How to Recapture It – Manhattan Institute

Economic and Political Thought
American Exceptionalism: An Experiment in History – American Enterprise Institute
Benjamin Franklin: The Sage of America – The Heritage Foundation
Are We Freer Than We Were Ten Years Ago? – Hudson Institute

Economic Growth
2013 Global Agenda for Economic Freedom – The Heritage Foundation

Taking Charge: A State-Level Agenda for Higher Education Reform – American Enterprise Institute
Common Core’s Cloudy Vision of College Readiness in Math – Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research

Elections, Transparency, & Accountability
In Defense of Citizens United – Hudson Institute
Mal-apportionment and the Miracle of Iowa – Public Interest Institute

Foreign Policy/International Affairs
Taiwan’s Crucial Role in the US Pivot to Asia – American Enterprise Institute
Egypt: A Way Forward After a Step Back – The Heritage Foundation
Winning Without Fighting: The Chinese Psychological Warfare Challenge – The Heritage Foundation
Obama’s Bluster Pulpit – Hoover Institution
Turkey Between Ataturk and Erdogan – Hoover Institution
Religious Minorities in Syria: Caught in the Middle – Hudson Institute
The War of Law: How New International Law Undermines Democratic Sovereignty – Hudson Institute
US Missile Defense: Closing the Gap – Hudson Institute

Health Care
The Obama Administration’s Delay of the Employer Mandate – American Enterprise Institute
How Much of Food Activism Is Nonsense? – Cato Institute
A New Moral Treatment – Manhattan Institute
Delaying the ACA Employer Mandate – Manhattan Institute
ObamaCare Is the Problem, Health Savings Accounts Are the Solution – National Center for Policy Analysis

International Trade/Finance
The Trade and Economic Benefits of Enhanced Intellectual Property Protection for Pharmaceuticals in Canada – Fraser Institute
Punitive Trade Sanctions on Bangladesh Not the Way to Improve Labor Conditions – The Heritage Foundation
The Perils of Protection – Hoover Institution

National Security
Afghanistan: Zero Troops Should Not Be an Option – The Heritage Foundation
Disarm Now, Ask Questions Later: Obama’s Nuclear Weapons Policy – The Heritage Foundation

Natural Resources, Energy, Environment, & Science
Reforming Texas Electricity Markets – Cato Institute

It’s About Freedom, Not Finances – Philanthropy Roundtable

Regulation & Deregulation
Benefit-Cost Analysis in the Chehalis Basin – Cato Institute
Food Safety: A Market Solution? – Cato Institute
Nashville’s Anti- Competitive ‘Black-Car’ Regulations – Cato Institute
OMB’s Reported Benefits of Regulation: Too Good to Be True? – Cato Institute
The Need for Retrospective Review of Regulations – Cato Institute
Government Regulation of Nicotine Products Could Cost Lives – Institute of Economic Affairs

The Constitution/Civil Liberties
United States v. Windsor and the Defense of Marriage Act – Alabama Policy Institute

Notes on the Week

As ObamaCare fails, it’s taking democratic accountability down with it. Last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that the verification systems needed to determine eligibility for ObamaCare subsidies would not be ready by October 1, and that the program would instead rely on self-reported data to determine eligibility. Shorter version: If you lie to the government, the government will give you a tax credit.

This decision, as Michael Cannon observes, “effectively expanded the eligibility criteria for ObamaCare’s new entitlements without so much as consulting Congress.” [ Cato-at-Liberty, July 9] And it follows the Department of Treasury’s announcement earlier last week that it was suspending the reporting requirements on which enforcement of the employer mandate depends, ostensibly because the reporting requirements were too complex for businesses to follow.

If employers don’t have to pay a penalty for not providing their workers qualifying health insurance, and individuals can get subsidized coverage—as well as avoid the tax penalty for not having qualifying health insurance—by fibbing about their incomes with no risk of getting caught, then more individuals are going to end up in the ObamaCare exchanges.

So was funneling more people into the exchanges the real purpose of these two decisions? Betsy McCaughey says it’s so: “The delay is the administration’s desperate strategy to prop up the health exchanges […] . The administration fears an under-enrollment crisis.” [, July 10]

If HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius isn’t desperate to figure out how to get people to sign up for the ObamaCare exchanges, she certainly seems concerned. The Secretary has been soliciting donations from private companies—in particular health insurers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and even tax preparer H&R Block—for the non-profit Enroll America, whose mission is to “fully address the ‘enrollment gap’.” (But who needs a tax preparer to get a health care tax credit now? Maybe H&R Block is rethinking its donation.) Sebelius also tried to recruit the National Basketball Association and the National Football League into a partnership to promote ObamaCare to the leagues’ younger fans.

Why wouldn’t everyone just want to sign up? By the lights of those who wrote the law, ObamaCare “fixes” health insurance by preventing insurers from charging different rates or turning people away based on health status, and by preventing insurers from offering inexpensive plans that provide limited coverage. The only way that set-up can happen without making premiums too high is to force the young and the healthy to participate, too. But, as Joseph Antos and Michael Strain explained back in July of last year, the ObamaCare individual mandate has no real teeth:

First, the tax (nee penalty) is too small to matter to the people who are its target. In 2014, the tax will be the larger of $95 or 1 percent of taxable income for an individual. By 2016 it rises to $695 or 2.5 percent of income. Young people would not want to pay a dollar if they could avoid it, but avoiding the tax means signing up for insurance that many do not think they need. That insurance is not free. Even with subsidies, they will pay at least 3 percent of their incomes for premiums and up to 6 percent of the cost of the insurance in deductibles and copayments. That adds up to a lot more than 95 bucks.

Second, the law counts on most of the scofflaws turning themselves in. If you do not have insurance and think you owe the tax, then you will be asked to check a box to that effect on your tax return. If you choose to ignore the mandate, you might also choose not to check the box. But even those who do confess that they do not have insurance may not be liable for the new tax. Illegal aliens, Native Americans, prisoners, those who are without insurance for less than 3 months, those who do not have to file an income tax return, anyone who faces a hardship or cannot find affordable coverage, and others are all exempt. […]

[E]ven if the IRS has determined that you owe the new tax, it has very limited ability to force you to pay it. Basically, the IRS has two options: To ask you for the money and to reduce the size of your tax refund. But the IRS cannot reduce your refund unless you overpay. Since taxpayers have great control over their withholding, a savvy taxpayer who does not want to buy insurance could easily work the system to ensure that the IRS could not hold back his refund to enforce the mandate tax. And half of American households do not owe any income tax to begin with, so good luck getting the money from them. [ The American, July 17, 2012]

Betsy McCaughey calculates that the total cost to taxpayers of covering the additional workers who get health insurance from an ObamaCare exchange instead of their employers will be $60 billion in 2014—and that’s not counting the cost of covering individuals who will obtain the subsidies fraudulently because the verification system isn’t ready. [, July 10]

And the Wall Street Journal points out that if the ObamaCare subsidies suffer just the same error rate as that of the Earned Income Tax Credit (21 percent to 25 percent), then ObamaCare will spend $250 billion in improper benefits in the first decade.

So, if you don’t sign up, you’re just paying for somebody else’s insurance. The Obama administration, it seems, has created a system that makes you a sucker if you don’t lie. This set-up also insulates members of Congress from political accountability. Now they can all say: “That’s not the program we voted for.” And they would be telling the truth.

Suspending laws it dislikes isn’t a power that the executive branch has. The hurdle of standing would make it hard to challenge the Obama administration’s delay of the ObamaCare employer mandate in court. Nevertheless, “the president gets to do what he wants” isn’t really how government is supposed to work in a constitutional republic. As Michael McConnell points out, we elect a President, not a King:

Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution states that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This is a duty, not a discretionary power. While the president does have substantial discretion about how to enforce a law, he has no discretion about whether to do so.

This matter—the limits of executive power—has deep historical roots. During the period of royal absolutism, English monarchs asserted a right to dispense with parliamentary statutes they disliked. King James II’s use of the prerogative was a key grievance that lead to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The very first provision of the English Bill of Rights of 1689—the most important precursor to the U.S. Constitution—declared that “the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal.” […]

With the exception of Richard Nixon, whose refusals to spend money appropriated by Congress were struck down by the courts, no prior president has claimed the power to negate a law that is concededly constitutional.

In 1998, the Supreme Court struck down a congressional grant of line-item veto authority to the president to cancel spending items in appropriations. The reason? The only constitutional power the president has to suspend or repeal statutes is to veto a bill or propose new legislation. Writing for the court in Clinton v. City of New York , Justice John Paul Stevens noted: “There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes.” […]

As the Supreme Court said long ago (Kendall v. United States, 1838), allowing the president to refuse to enforce statutes passed by Congress “would be clothing the president with a power to control the legislation of congress, and paralyze the administration of justice.” [ Wall Street Journal, July 8]

What kind of compromise on immigration reform could be worth having, if President Obama can decide not to enforce the security provisions he does not like?

Gun rights spread. As of this week, Illinoisans can get a permit to carry a concealed firearm. The legislature overrode Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of legislation that had been passed to satisfy a court deadline to legalize gun ownership. That had been triggered by the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is an individual right that states must respect. From Jeff Dege at Radical Gun Nuttery ( h/t: Volokh Conspiracy), here is what the spread of gun rights since 1986 looks like (click on image to see the map change year by year):

Eugene Volokh: “In the same era that the top mainstream media stories about gun laws have been about gun control, the most practically significant movement on gun law has been this movement of (limited) gun decontrol.”

They say “coup” as if that’s a bad thing. Last week’s military coup in Egypt is really an opportunity for democracy to work again in that country, writes Michael Rubin:

Last November, just five months into his presidency and with deliberations over a new constitution deadlocked, [Mohammed] Morsi seized dictatorial power. As guardian of the revolution, he argued, his power should trump the judiciary. If the Egyptian people wanted constitutional order, his allies suggested, they should approve the constitution the Muslim Brotherhood drafted in the absence of any quorum.

The Egyptian people — forced to choose between a one-man dictatorship or a flawed constitutional order — narrowly approved the constitution, ending Morsi’s brief autocracy but giving him what he wanted even more: Imposition of the Brotherhood’s religious agenda on a population that wanted jobs, not Islamic law. One article, for example, charged the state with protecting public morality, which Morsi interpreted in the most conservative, religious manner. […]

Morsi trampled human rights and denied women and minorities equality. The public did participate, but not in the way Morsi hoped: 20 million Egyptians signed petitions calling for the president’s ouster. […]

Rather than punish the perpetrators, Obama should offer two cheers for Egypt’s generals and help Egyptians write a more democratic constitution to provide a sounder foundation for true democracy. [ New York Daily News, July 7]

Kim Holmes’s take:

According to Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act, the U.S. government is barred from giving “any assistance [to] the government of any country whose duly elected government is deposed by a military coup d’etat or decree.” That is pretty clear: If what happened in Cairo is a coup, then U.S. aid would eventually have to be cut off. It could be restored provided a new democratic government is elected. Mr. McCain is right: U.S. aid is in jeopardy.

But is he right that aid should be terminated now? I think not. It would be better to wait until the situation is clearer before making that decision. The president has no official waiver authority, but he does have discretion and therefore time to consider the right course of action. It may be that the army will not call elections; or it may use excessive force against its opponents. If this happens, it will be difficult if not impossible to continue aid.

On the other hand, elections may be called, in which case it could be some time before we know whether democracy is established.

These complexities show that our aid policy is much too simplistic. It’s not just about coups or elections, but about whether a society is mature enough to create a stable democratic order. What Egypt needs is a prolonged period of political peace in which to plant the values and build the institutions of a representative democracy. If a new election produces yet another authoritarian ruler, no matter whether the vote is free or not, we should not bless that outcome by calling it “democratic.” Instead we should cut off aid.

At the same time we should start insisting that Egyptian parties take up the cause of economic reform. No one — most assuredly not the army — is talking about the reforms needed to turn Egypt’s economy around. Unless they do, our aid will be wasted. [ The Heritage Foundation, July 12]

Do regulators know the benefits of Scotch? It should surprise no one that the cost-benefit analyses produced by federal agencies always show their proposed regulations yield benefits that exceed costs. Writing in the latest issue of Cato’s Regulation magazine, Susan Dudley observes that, in the hands of regulators, cost-benefit analysis is a process of quantifying “every conceivable good thing that they can attribute to a decision to issue new regulations,” while counting only “the most obvious direct and intended costs of complying with the regulation.”

Dudley should know a few things about regulation from her days running the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for President George W. Bush. From her article, here are a few facts about federal regulations that may surprise you:

• More than half of the calculated benefits of federal regulations counted in the Office of Management and Budget’s annual report on the costs and benefits of economically significant regulations come from reductions in a single pollutant: fine particulate matter.

• For many regulations, much of the calculated benefits come from reductions in fine particulate matter—even though reducing fine particulate matter was not the purpose of those regulations. For four such regulations in 2010, 100 percent of the claimed benefits came from reducing fine particular matter.

• Estimates of the benefits of reducing fine particulate matter rest on six key assumptions—including that there actually is a causal relationship between mortality and levels of fine particulate matter and that the relationship exists even at low levels. If any of those assumptions are false “the benefits of reducing [fine particulate matter] would be less than estimated and perhaps even zero.”

• The method of assigning a value to mortality risk reduction assumes every beneficiary is a healthy, working-age person with a long life ahead of him, which obviously is not true.

• Beyond reducing fine particulate matter, the source of most of the rest of the calculated benefits of economically significant federal regulations is saving consumers money. Those savings are achieved by regulations that force consumer products to be more energy-efficient than they would otherwise be. That is to say, regulators are actually counting restrictions on consumer choice as a benefit. But nowhere do they count as a cost the loss to consumers of product features for which they are willing to pay. [“ OMB’s Reported Benefits of Regulation: Too Good to Be True?” by Susan Dudley, Regulation, Summer 2013.]

And that brings us to this bit of news: Environmental organizations such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the John Muir Trust have started a campaign to put Scotland’s peat off limits to commercial extraction by 2020. Peat, of course, isn’t just another fuel for heating your home. It’s what gives Scotch whisky its distinctive smoky character. [ Brisbane Times, July 12]

Scottish literary historian David Daiches tells us: “The proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of man’s determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which he has been endowed.”

So what is it to be? Continuity of culture or biodiversity? Toasting civilization or keeping a little more carbon in the ground? If you whisky drinkers aren’t sure about switching your habit for the sake of habitat, just wait till the regulators give you their numbers.

IMANI Center for Policy & Education: working for liberty in Ghana. The IMANI Center for Policy & Education was founded in 2004 in Ghana and is already one of the top think tanks in Africa. The University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program ranks it the eighth best think tank in sub-Saharan Africa (tops in Ghana), the 10th best think tank with an annual operating budget under $5 million, and 25th in think tanks with the most innovative policy ideas/proposals. We asked IMANI Founder and President Franklin Cudjoe a few questions about IMANI’s work:

InsiderOnline: When you first started up the IMANI Center for Policy & Education, how challenging was it to get policymakers to listen to your ideas?

Franklin Cudjoe: Very challenging. Getting noticed by policy makers happens when the media gives you a platform. Incidentally our media at the time could only help after a good run of publication of policy opinions. Another factor was the dominance of our competitors in the media space. Today IMANI’s “competitors” in Ghana are on average more than four times older, with extensive networks across governmental and corporate circles, and thus a pedigree borne of the privilege that such access endows. It is therefore quite fascinating that IMANI is frequently cited as being in the same league as the most prestigious of these institutions. Since May 2008, our media metrics have consistently shown IMANI to be number one among Ghanaian institutions for “web presence” and number two when it comes to citations in the print press. Its profile in the broadcast media has also improved dramatically in recent times.

IO: Nine years later, the Center, with only six full-time employees, is already ranked as one of the most influential think tanks in Africa. How did you manage to build the Center’s reputation so quickly?

FC: We knew we were not well endowed financially, so we focused on building expertise in designing specific and rigorous tools in applying free-market solutions to an array of complex social problems. Crisp, clear, compelling data—or what we also call evidence-based advocacy—we thought was the most useful tool to provide to any media outlet; and it’s easy for the media to use without interpretation.

IO: What are the three most important problems that Ghana needs to fix?

FC: 1. The presidency is too powerful. It has become the strategic hub for policy planning from a financial and technical point of view. Political accountability resides in the executive, and that is enough. For most strategic projects, the requisite expertise may be spread across multiple ministries, departments, and agencies. The Cabinet Office with professional staffers rather than political appointees should be strengthened and given powers that allow it to coordinate expertise across the civil service.

2. Education prospects have weakened: The Ghana Education Reform Project has now run for five years, but not without disruption. The change of government at the turn of 2009 saw the duration of the secondary education program reversed from four years to three years. Apart from this action no significant work has been done to review the trajectory of the reform. A good example of the dysfunction is the distribution of free computer hardware without a corresponding effort to develop and disseminate even more vital software learning tools and content.

3. Wasteful projects continue: Even though we all applauded the decision to go biometric in the 2012 election, every objective observer knew we have already collected biometric details of citizens for the following purposes: national passports, the e-Zwich payments platform, and the national identification system. It has been proposed that we do the same for voter ID cards, drivers’ licences, and National Health Insurance Scheme cards. A harmonised system means you may be able to use one card for multiple systems. We believe we can save $250 million harmonising these biometric ID systems.

To Do: Figure Out State Success and State Failure

Find out which states are doing well and which are not—and why. The Heritage Foundation will host Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams to talk about the American Legislative Exchange Council’s latest Rich States, Poor States report. The talk begins at noon on July 18.

• Learn what went wrong in California and how to fix it. The Pacific Research Institute and the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal will host a panel discussion featuring Stephen Malanga author of The Beholden State: California’s Lost Promise and How To Recapture It. The discussion begins at noon on July 18 at The City Club in San Francisco.

• Young professionals and interns, learn what you need to know about workplace etiquette. The America’s Future Foundation will host a panel on professional etiquette featuring Karin Agness of the Network of enlightened Women, Paul Teller of the Republican Study Committee, Peter Redpath of the Federalist Society, and Kristen Soltis Anderson of the Winston Group. The panel begins at 2 p.m. in 2322 Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.

• Nominate an outstanding publication for a $10,000 prize. The Atlas Foundation is now accepting nominations for the 2013 Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Award, which will recognize “outstanding publications produced by independent public policy research institutes that have made the greatest contributions to the public understanding of a free society.” Works published in 2012 or 2013 are eligible for the prize. To nominate a publication, submit by August 15 five copies of the publication along with a nomination letter to Atlas Network, c/o Gonzalo Schwarz, 1201 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20005. If you have questions about the award, email [email protected].

• Discover movies that have libertarian themes. The Cato Institute’s David Boaz reports that Miss Liberty’s Guide to Film: Movies for the Libertarian Millennium by Jon Osborne, which has been out of print for several years, is available again in e-book format.

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