Wednesday, April 24, 2019

NC Primaries, Citizens United, IEs and The Rise of Conservative Woman Candidates

Dr. Joan Perry, Candidate for Congress
NC3 Republican Primary
We are witnessing a revolution in modern American politics right before our very eyes here in North Carolina.

North Carolina is home to special elections for Congress to fill two vacant congressional seats almost simultaneously which has never happened before.  NC3, formerly represented by Congressman Walter Jones, runs from the Virginia border down east to north of Wilmington. NC9, which runs from Charlotte to Fayetteville, had to be re-run in the aftermath of the absentee ballot scandal uncovered in Bladen County in the 2018 elections.

State and local parties used to control who could or should run for any election because they held the purse-strings and had the networks that could go door-to-door and get people out to vote for their preferred candidate.

For such a special election in the past, 2, maybe 3 candidates might have filed to run to get the party’s nomination on either side. It made no sense to run without the backing of the party establishment because you wound up beating your head against a stone wall to no avail or good outcome.

Not any longer.  17 Republican candidates filed to run in NC3. 10 filed to run in the Republican primary for NC9.

What has happened to allow such an outbreak of democracy to occur?

One important factor was the McCain-Feingold bill of 2002. More specifically, the much-maligned and misunderstood Citizens United Supreme Court case handed down in 2010 which rendered parts of McCain-Feingold unconstitutional and opened campaign finance to the masses rather than the chosen few.

One of the things Citizens United helped create was the independent expenditure (IE) campaign which could fund issue advocacy and educational efforts through 501 c4 non-profit organizations.

The one major restriction was that IEs could not “coordinate” any explicit campaign activity with the direct campaign organization of the candidate, hence maintaining the “independent” status of both the IE and the campaign.

The NC3 and NC9 primaries are on fast tracks: The primary for NC3 is next Tuesday, April 30 and the primary for NC9 is May 14. If any candidate garners 30% of the primary vote, they win outright and go right to the general election on July 9 and September 10 respectively.

What Citizens United has done in both primaries is make it possible for first-time candidates to have a chance at winning outright on the first primary election night.

3 conservative women are the beneficiaries of such independent support in the two primaries. Dr. Joan Perry of Kinston, a personal friend and a graduate of The Institute for the Public Trust which I run, was the first in either primary to receive such an endorsement from the Susan B. Anthony List, the major pro-life advocacy group in America today, which amounted to $75,000 of support in NC3.

Leigh Brown, a realtor in Huntersville, was endorsed by the Realtors PAC in an independent expenditure effort in NC9 which appears to be in the neighborhood well in excess of $1 million based on public ad buy records.

Celeste Cairns, an accountant in Jacksonville also running in NC3, was endorsed by the Club for Growth which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2016 to help newcomer Ted Budd, another Institute graduate, win the NC13 primary and then the general election.

Without Citizens United, none of these newcomers would have been able to compete and possibly win. Since both special elections are being held at odd times for elections and the turnout is expected to be very low, a candidate who can garner perhaps as few as 6000 votes can win 30% of the primary vote and avoid a runoff.

If you like more democracy and more non-politicians running for election, you can thank the Supreme Court for ruling on the side of freedom of speech and expression in the political world.

Citizens United has opened up the world of election to outsiders and newcomers like never before.

(first published in North State Journal 4/24/19)

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Ever-Elusive Goal Of Universal Coverage

(This is a re-publish of an opinion piece that appeared in the North State Journal 4/17/19 that was co-written by a good friend of mine, Jim Capretta.

I thought it was important enough and so full of factual information that I would just forward it to you instead of trying to use his basic information and write a new piece.

I recommend you read this piece and memorize every fact in it and then forward the article to everyone you know so they can memorize these same facts. They are important in any debate on health care reform)

Talk of universal coverage is in the air. To a person, the Democratic candidates jockeying to take on Donald Trump are pledging allegiance to this seemingly elusive goal.

As Yogi Berra might have put it, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” It was only ten years ago that the country went through a raucous and exhausting national debate over enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Like today’s would-be Democratic candidates, Barack Obama ran on a platform of universal coverage, and he sold the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as making good on his campaign commitment.

After the law passed, Democrats lost control of the House in the 2010 mid-term election. Most Democrats at the time said the political price was worth it because the ACA was the culmination of a decades-long quest.

But that was then. The Census Bureau reports that, in 2017, there were 28 million people in the United States who were not enrolled in health insurance, down from 42 million in 2013. When Democrats say they want universal coverage, they apparently mean that official statistics need to show 100 percent enrollment in some form of health insurance.

It’s certainly within their rights to say the goal must be zero uninsured, but the reasons the ACA couldn’t hit that mark are likely to hinder a new effort too.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, today’s uninsured fall into five categories.

First, 15 million people without coverage — or half of the total — are already eligible for publicly-subsidized insurance, in the form of Medicaid, the children’s health insurance program, or a private plan that would be financed in part with federally-provided premium credits. These “eligible but unenrolled” individuals remain uninsured either because they are unaware of what is available to them, or because they haven’t taken the steps necessary to sign up. It is common and expected for a public program to fall short of 100 percent participation.

Second, 3.8 million people are uninsured because they fail to enroll in the employer-sponsored plan that is offered to them, or their spouses, at work.

Third, 1.9 million people are ineligible for employer coverage and for premium credits under the ACA because their incomes exceed 400 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL), or $103,000 for a family of four in 2019.

Fourth, 4.1 million people are uninsured because they are immigrants residing in the U.S. without proper documentation. The ACA explicitly excluded this population from subsidized coverage.

Finally, 2.5 million people reside in states that have not expanded Medicaid and have incomes that are too high to qualify for that program. They also have incomes below 100 percent of FPL (federal poverty line), which makes them ineligible for premium assistance for private coverage under the ACA.

In summary, about 90 percent of the 323 million people in the U.S. in 2017 had health insurance. Of the 28 million people without coverage, more than 90 percent were eligible to enroll in some kind of plan or had incomes that would seem sufficient to purchase insurance protection.

Only 2.5 million people — or less than 1 percent of the total population — were in the U.S. legally, had low incomes, and did not have ready access to an insurance plan.

There’s also reason to believe the Census survey overstates the problem altogether. Some respondents have coverage under Medicaid but mistakenly identify themselves as uninsured. Improving how the uninsured rate is measured would likely reduce the reported number by a few million people.

Further, many of those deemed uninsured will get coverage automatically if they need extensive medical attention and present themselves at a hospital. States are required to allow hospitals to conduct presumptive eligibility determinations for Medicaid.

Expanding insurance enrollment does not require upending today’s system.

Congress could entice the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid to do so by allowing them to go to 100 percent of FPL instead of 138 percent, as called for in the ACA. Closing this coverage gap would provide insurance to the 2.5 million low-income people who do not have a good coverage option today.

Congress could also make insurance enrollment as automatic as possible for the people who are already eligible for coverage. Automatic enrollment has worked to boost participation in retirement plans, and it could help increase health insurance enrollment too.

Many Democrats would like the U.S. to have a completely different system of insurance.  Perhaps there are good arguments for that point of view. But that would require disrupting coverage for the hundreds of millions of people who are in stable insurance today.

A safer bet is to leave those who have insurance alone and develop a plan focused on expanding coverage to the remaining uninsured. The result would not be as dramatic as Medicare for All, but such a proposal would be far likelier to get the approval of most Americans.

Joseph Antos is the Wilson H. Taylor scholar in retirement and health policy at the American Enterprise Institute. James C. Capretta is a RealClearPolicy Contributor and Resident Fellow at AEI.

(A version of the article was first published by RealClearPolicy)

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Gift of Religious Freedom

Thomas Jefferson Letter to Danbury Baptists
The week of Passover and Easter is a good time to reflect on what a gift our founders gave us in America when it comes to freedom of religion.

Before America, people in a nation had to believe the same religion as the ruling authorities or risk being ostracized. Or worse.

Socrates of ancient Athens was sentenced for misleading the youth of Athens. He was offered exile or suicide by drinking hemlock poison.

His crime? He believed in a single God which threatened the polytheistic belief in the Olympian Gods by the Athenians.

He chose the hemlock. Leaving the city he loved was worse than death to Socrates.

Martin Luther risked being burned at the stake when he famously hung his “95 Theses” on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church on October 31, 1517.  He questioned the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church and took dead aim at the practice of indulgences whereby people could essentially “purchase” the salvation of loved ones into heaven.

He was brought to trial before the Diet of Worms (pronounced “Varmes”) where he said these famous words in his final defense: “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

Somehow he avoided the burning stake and the Reformation began.

In England, Henry VIII famously and incongruously took over control of the Catholic Church because they wouldn’t grant him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn. He ordered her head chopped off 3 years later.

The King of England was thereafter the Supreme Authority of the Anglican Church in addition to being monarch.

Talk about the need for a true “separation of church and state”. Can anyone imagine President Barack Obama or Donald Trump also being the “Supreme Authority of All Things Religious in America”?

When English people migrated to colonial Virginia to escape such abuse of power, they reverted to the norm and set up the Anglican Church of Virginia which received support from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Taxpayer money was used to support the Anglican Church of Virginia for much of their colonial era.

Virginia was so Anglican that a Baptist or Methodist could not hold public office. Only Anglicans could file to run for election.

Ever heard of the word “antidisestablishmentarianism”, the longest word in the English language? It came from the debate over whether or not to “dis-establish” the Anglican Church from the government of Virginia.

On the tombstone of Thomas Jefferson is a list of the 3 things for which he wished to be remembered: Author of the Declaration of Independence, Founder of the University of Virginia and Author of the Virginia Statutes of Religious Freedom of 1786.

Those statutes led to the inclusion of freedom of religion in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The Virginia statutes and the First Amendment guarantee your freedom to worship any religious deity you choose. It also guarantees your freedom not to worship anything if you so desire.

Nothing in the First Amendment guarantees the “separation of church and state”. Those words came from a letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist congregation in Connecticut in 1801 who worried that President Jefferson might institute a national government-sponsored religion. 

The First Amendment and Mr. Jefferson guaranteed that the Danbury Baptists had nothing to worry about because it was not going to happen again.

As you celebrate Passover or Easter this week, or Ramadan in May, or nothing every day of the year, give the Founders of this country full credit for freeing us from elected officials with the coercive 
power of government at their disposal telling you what to believe and when to believe it.

Freedom of worship is one of the greatest freedoms mankind has ever had. If we can keep it, that is.

(first published in North State Journal 4/17/19)

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Modern Monetary Theory of the Progressive Uber-Left

The Progressive Uber-Left is currently pushing MMT or Modern Monetary Theory which basically says budget deficits don’t matter and are actually beneficial to the economy. 

Therefore, elect them so they can run massive annual deficits and pay for Medicare for All among other centralized government programs they would control from Washington, DC and never worry about balancing budgets or paying down our national debt.

MMT is another name for an early 20th century concept, chartalism, which viewed money as having value solely because the government entity that created it deemed it as having value, not as a spontaneous means of trade to replace basic barter between individuals. It fits the socialist view of governance that all power derives from bureaucrats running government who bestow benefits among the people since they know best how to spend your money, not you.

Since all money is issued by the government, the government has a “monopoly” on all currency. All the government has to do is digitize more money supply through the Fed whenever bureaucrats in charge deem necessary such as when the Fed expanded its balance sheet by $4 trillion during the 2008-09 Crash.

Government can issue more digitized debt at any time to push money into the economy and, through taxation, can take it out of the economy when inflation ticks up.

Deborah Desouza in a February 28, 2019 article explained MMT this way:
“The central idea of MMT is that governments with a fiat currency system can and should print (or create with a few keystrokes in today's digital age) as much money as they need to spend because they cannot go broke or be insolvent unless a political decision to do so is taken.
MMT theorists explain that debt is simply money the government put into the economy and didn't tax back. They also argue that comparing a government's budgets to that of an average household is a mistake”.
If that is the case, why not run a $100 trillion national debt overnight and solve all the world’s ills with a Super Massive Omnibus Government Bill to Obliterate More Bills (SMOGBOMB)? Make every American citizen and non-citizen a billionaire by giving them newly digitized currency and all our troubles will go away forever.

If MMT is such a “great idea” that works, then why hasn’t every nation since 1900 adopted it already?

The “only” thing MMT proponents hedge their bets on is the threat of inflation. If the government digitizes too much electronic currency and it chases too few workers or resources, then inflation can be ignited.

They say higher taxation will take care of that by taking money out of a possibly overheating economy.

Has anyone noticed “how easy” it is to tax an already over-taxed populace in America in the last 60 years? Taxpayers will resist and rebel at the ballot box whether there is a gold standard backed-currency or one created by bits and bytes.

800 years of history have shown what happens when sovereign nations have put into practice what MMT or chartalism proposes. The Weimar Republic in Germany and the current socialist government of Venezuela are empirical points of reference refuting the claim that sovereign governments can spend all they want and not suffer the consequences of such massive fiscal mismanagement and financial folly.

Once the Hounds from Inflation Hell are unleashed, they destroy economies and take out the most vulnerable people first: the poor and the retired poor. Inflation in the US was 13.5% in 1980 when many Boomers were in their first job looking to buy their first house with a 18.5% mortgage rate.

It can happen again. It probably will.

Perhaps you would like to take a spin on the President Bernie Sanders Magical Mystery Wheel of Fortune to find out if MMT works or not.

Count us out.

(first published in North State Journal 4/10/19)

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

"I Hate For Us To Have The Reputation of Being Stupid"

On January 17, 1984, former Governor and then-Duke President Terry Sanford gave his Duke students a life lesson about their behavior during basketball games that should resonate today for all of us on both sides who engage in public discourse and politics.

Duke always has had raucous fans dating back to the early 1960s. When they were great and going to Final Fours, the fans were secondary to the action on the basketball court.

When Duke’s fortunes went south in the 1970s, so did the nasty vitriol towards the opposition.

Duke returned to the national championship game in 1978 against Goose Givens and Kentucky. In 1980, despite having been ranked #1 for much of the season, Duke lost in the Elite Eight on March 15 to Joe Barry Carroll and the Purdue Boilermakers.

Immediately after the loss, then-head coach Bill Foster bolted for South Carolina, rumor being that Duke AD Tom Butters had refused to pave the dirt parking lot behind Cameron Indoor Stadium as Foster requested among other things.

Three days later, Butters announced the hiring of a head coach from Army, of all places, with the impossible-to-pronounce name of Mike Krzyzewski, to replace Foster.

The Blue Devils were not very good in the first 3 years of Coach K’s reign.  Duke fans thought they were horrible. They lost to Wagner. At home. In Cameron Indoor Stadium.

When people lack talent, they tend to use brute force or anger to lash out at everyone.

Duke students resorted to vulgarity.

After years of steadily deteriorating behavior, the final straw came in a January 1984 game at Cameron when condoms were thrown at Maryland’s Herman Veal who had been charged with sexual assault.

President Sanford sat down to pen what became known as his “Avuncular Letter” which had even Duke students scurrying to their dictionaries to figure out what he was talking about.

His bottom-line message?

"I hate for us to have the reputation of being stupid".

What “Uncle Terry” wrote to his students then should serve as a reproach, a reprimand and an exhortation to all of us who engage in politics today.
“It is generally assumed that a person resorting in conversation to profanity and obscenities is short of an adequate vocabulary. That is doubly true in public utterances.
Resorting to the use of obscenities in cheers and chants at ball games indicates a lack of vocabulary, a lack of cleverness, a lack of ideas, a lack of class, and a lack of respect for other people.

I hope you will discipline yourselves and your fellow students…It should not be up to me to enforce proper behavior that signifies the intelligence of Duke students. You should do it. Reprove those who make us all look bad. Shape up your own language”.

Today’s toxic level of public discourse is just as bad as those Cameron Crazies back then. Or worse.

Have you found yourself thinking out loud or writing that someone is “stupid”? Stop it. Don’t ever do it again. It makes you look “stupid” in the eyes of everyone who sees or hears you say it in public.

It makes your team and your cause look “stupid” as well.

Calling someone “stupid” and expecting them to agree with you is self-defeating and by definition “stupid”. I have never supported anyone who called me “stupid” even if I agreed with them 95% of the time.

Mark Twain is oft-misattributed as saying the following which doesn’t make it any less true: “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”

If calling other people “stupid” makes you feel better about yourself, go ahead and do it. Just know you are making a complete and utter fool of yourself and not making one iota of progress towards winning a political argument.

(first published in North State Journal 4/3/19)

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