Monday, March 31, 2014

Cruising the Web

The WSJ asks a pertinent question: Is ObamaCare a law?" With so many administrative changes to the original law, does it still exist? And what is the responsibility of the judicial branch to allow the administration to make unilateral changes that are contrary to the actual text of the law. That is the issue in the case heard last week in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case, Halbig v. Sebelius. This is the case concerning whether the federal government can subsidize the 36 exchanges set up by the federal government to cover those states that didn't set up their own exchanges even though the actual text of the law only covers those states that did set up exchanges.
This ought to be a straightforward matter of statutory construction. Democrats put conditions on the subsidies to pressure Governors to join ObamaCare on the familiar U.S. federal-state cooperative model, but they never anticipated lasting unpopularity and opposition. To resolve this political problem, the IRS brushed off the statute and expanded the subsidies to both types of exchanges.

Arguing before a three-judge panel, Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery pointed up "interpretive tension" among various complex provisions. But he also suggested that reading the text literally would undermine ObamaCare's purpose and structure of a nationwide system of subsidized health care. Try to parse that one: This is a law that its defenders argue will self-destruct if implemented as drafted by its architects.
In other words, the law was written in a way that makes it impossible to implement as written given that more states than expected refused to set up their own exchanges. So the administration is forced to plead with the courts to ignore the words written in the law.
That's pretty rich given that the White House has itself gutted the individual mandate for its political purposes. Mr. Carvin represents taxpayers and businesses who would be otherwise exempt from ObamaCare mandates if the subsidies were withheld in their states, and thus will suffer injuries under the unlawful IRS rule. Judge Edwards went on to angrily demand: "Who cares? What difference does it make who sets up the subsidy? . . . You have a provision that says the state'll do it, the feds'll do it—what difference does it make who does it?"

Well, the states care a great deal about their rights and responsibilities under dual sovereignty federalism. Taxpayers also have an interest in overturning an IRS rule that exposes them to tax liability harm.

But the larger "who cares?" question turns on fidelity to the law and what obligation if any judges have to salvage an unworkable or badly designed program created by the political branches. As Judge Thomas Griffith ruminated, "If we know a clear purpose of Congress, and they don't legislate clearly enough to achieve that purpose, is it our job to fix the problem?"

Democrats clearly had the grandiose "purpose" of national health care in mind, among hundreds of other motives in transforming one-sixth of the economy. But their sausage-making was also marbled with flaws, as its multiple administrative rewrites show. Their regrets over their own mistakes do not now entitle them to create statute-editing powers on the fly, which would be the result if the judiciary endorses a President's power to enforce only those parts of laws he likes....

The Administration's real argument in Halbig is that interpreting the law as written would be politically bad so an accurate, faithful interpretation of the statute is out of the question. Judges aren't supposed to lean on laws to produce partisan outcomes.

The "difference" it makes how Americans can access subsidies is between the faithful execution of the laws and anything-goes political and legal improvisation. As Chief Justice John Roberts famously wrote upholding the insurance purchase mandate, "It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices." It is also not their job to protect politicians from the consequences of their policy choices.

The contretemps b between Maryland and "House of Cards" may rival any plot twist from the Netflix show, but what it really displays is the dangers of an unchecked government. While the series is threatening to leave off broadcasting in the state if they don't continue to get generous tax credits, the legislature is voting to seize the company's property if they leave the state.
Responding to a threat that the "House of Cards" television series may leave Maryland if it doesn't get more tax credits, the House of Delegates adopted budget language Thursday requiring the state to seize the production company's property if it stops filming in the state.

Media Rights Capital, the Beverly Hills, Calif., company producing the popular Netflix show, wrote Gov. Martin O'Malley that it was putting off work on its third season until it could be assured that sufficient tax credits would be approved. If those weren't forthcoming, it said it would break down its film stage and move it to another state.

Del. William Frick, a Montgomery County Democrat, proposed the provision, which orders the state to use the right of eminent domain to buy or condemn the property of any company that has claimed $10 million or more credits against the state income tax. The provision would appear to apply only to the Netflix series, which has gotten the bulk of the state credits.
Think about that. The state has already given the company tax credits to lure a private company to do business in the state. It decides to exercise its right to decide to move elsewhere and the state retaliates with a threat of confiscate its property by misusing the power of eminent domain. While entertaining, that is actually quite scary. And Maryland legislators should ask themselves what such a precedent will do the next time they wish to attract a business to their state. As Timothy Carney reminds us, a government's use of eminent domain can break up communities and leave destroyed and barren land in its wake. And government might take a further lesson that granting tax credits to businesses might not be a as beneficial to their constituents as they might think.

Jonah Goldberg ponders the media accusation that wasn't heard barking in the night.
Leland Yee, a Democratic state senator and candidate for secretary of state in California, has been a longtime champion of gun control. This week he was arrested on numerous charges, including conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and conspiracy to illegally transport firearms. Yee, a prominent foe of assault weapons, allegedly took bribes to set up a meeting between an undercover agent and an international arms dealer to broker the sale of automatic weapons and shoulder-fired missiles. A lengthy FBI affidavit also describes Yee’s ties to a Chinese triad and his desire to help out Islamist militants.

In short, the story makes for what journalists call “good copy.”

And yet, so far no reporter has raised the possibility that Yee supported tighter restrictions on guns in order to keep gun prices high and his own services in demand.
And yet, as Goldberg points out, the media are happy to run with accusations that the Koch brothers are driven by financial gain. But those sorts of accusations of profit maximization just don't occur to journalists when liberals are involved.
I have no problem with journalistic skepticism or the search for ulterior motives. I just object to the idea that only Republicans might have them.

Al Gore reportedly left government with a net worth of less than $2 million; he’s now worth more than $200 million, in part by profiting from climate policies he lobbies for. Gore surely believes in those policies, but why does he get the benefit of the doubt? GE spent millions on politics in exchange for “green energy” policies that generate billions in profits that wouldn’t exist in a free market. Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon recently chronicled how George Soros and new liberal golden-boy fat cat Tom Steyer have financial interests at stake in their own preferred public policies. And yet they get glowing treatment from the press as idealists sacrificing profit for principles.

The irony is that it’d be in the media’s business interest to report on the seedy underbelly of liberal politics, too. But they don’t, because they actually do put their liberal principles before profits.

Did you ever wonder how long that final minute of a basketball game lasts? Well someone has run the numbers on the length of time the last minute of the game was taking in NCAA tournament. It's not a delusion about how long that last minute might last.
The longest final minute in the tournament so far happened in the Oregon-Wisconsin matchup, a game that entered the final 60 seconds with a two-point margin and emerged, 15 minutes and seven seconds later, with an eight-point Wisconsin win; more than 10 percent of the entire game's length, including halftime, was spent on the last minute of clock.
Don't be fooled by one quarter's good numbers for economic growth. Last year's GDP growth was a bare 1.9%. That is not the sort of growth we need to turn around this economy.

Karl Zinsmeister summarizes the amazingly fast success of charter schools that we've seen in the past decade. And as unsuccessful schools close and the model of the successful schools gets copied around the nation, we're starting to see even more impressive results.
Nationwide, 561 new charter schools opened last year, while 206 laggards were closed. Unlike conventional public schools, the charter system allows poorly performing schools to be squeezed out.

As charter operators have figured out how to succeed with children, they are doubling down on the best models. Successful charter schools have many distinctive features: longer school days and longer years, more flexibility and accountability for teachers and principals, higher expectations for students, more discipline and structure, more curricular innovation, more rigorous testing. Most charter growth today is coming from replication of the best schools. The rate of enrollment increase at high-performing networks is now 10 times what it is at single-campus "mom and pop" academies.

The combination of weak charters closing and strong charters replicating is having powerful effects. The first major assessment of charter schools by Stanford's Center for Research on Educational Outcomes found their results to be extremely variable, and overall no better than conventional schools as of 2009. Its follow-up study several years later found that steady closures and their replacement by proven models had pushed charters ahead of conventional schools. In New York City, the average charter-school student now absorbs five months of extra learning a year in math, and one extra month in reading, compared with counterparts in conventional schools.
When, if ever, does a regular public school close when it fails to educate its student? And we can expect even more impressive results as the successful models grow and proliferate throughout the country.
Other reviews show similar results, and performance advantages will accelerate in the near future. Charter schools tend to start small and then add one additional grade each year. Thus many charters in New York and elsewhere are just getting started with many children. As the schools mature, and weak performers continue to be replaced, charters will become even more effective.

But the results top charter schools are achieving are already striking. At KIPP, the largest chain of charters, 86% of all students are low-income, and 95% are African-American or Latino, yet 83% go to college. In New York City, one of the academies Mr. de Blasio has denied additional space to is Harlem's highest-performing middle school, with its 97% minority fifth-graders ranking No. 1 in the state in math achievement. It and the 21 other schools in its charter network have passing rates on state math and reading tests more than twice the citywide average.
And such schools do this on a much tighter budget than the regular public schools.
Remarkably, charters do all this on the cheap. In a city where conventional public schools spend $19,770 per student, the New York City Department of Education funded its public charter schools at only $13,527 per pupil in the latest year. That's right around the average disparity nationwide, where urban charter schools get 72% of what conventional public schools receive for each child enrolled.
The success of charter schools is the most exciting thing to happen in education reform in decades. And it tell us something very ugly about the teachers unions and politicians who want to squelch such success because they can't stand to be shown up by dedicated teachers and school leaders achieving what they haven't been able to achieve in the schools they control.
When the next school year starts this fall, there will be nearly 7,000 charter schools in America, with the growth curve pointing sharply upward. Historians who look back at our era may describe charter schools as the most consequential social invention of this generation, with potent effects on economic mobility.

And chartering represents one of the great self-organizing movements of our age. It rose up in the face of strong resistance from the educational establishment. It has been powered by independent social entrepreneurs and local philanthropists. It is a response by men and women who refused to accept heartbreaking educational failures that the responsible government institutions showed no capacity to solve on their own.
Kevin Williamson has some advice for Republicans who are dissatisfied with some of the party's national leaders. He warns those disgruntled Republicans, "The differences among us are minor compared with the differences between us and them, which are fundamental." Exactly. You might not have like Mitt Romney, but is four more years of Barack Obama an improvement?
The three most important words in politics are: “Compared with what?” And I am more than a little sympathetic to conservatives’ complaints about the failures of elected Republicans in Washington, who consistently disappoint us even when they are in the majority. I am also sympathetic to the view that our situation may have deteriorated to the point that even a unified Republican government under the leadership of principled conservatives may not be enough to turn things around. And though I reject the notion that Mitt Romney wasn’t good enough for true-believing conservatives, let’s say, arguendo, that that was the case. Unless you are ready to give up entirely on the notion of advancing conservative principles through the ballot box, you might consider looking at things this way: Even if you do not think that it matters much whether Republicans win, it matters a great deal that Democrats lose.

The Democrat who called Bill Clinton "an unusually good liar" is at it again as he unloads what he really thinks about Barack Obama. Former governor and senator Bob Kerrey isn't pulling any punches.
The Nebraskan straight-talker told MailOnline in an exclusive interview that Obama isn't up to the job of bringing liberals and conservatives to the table to rescue America's slowly choking entitlement programs.
And Obama, he said Wednesday in his Manhattan office, knew full well he was lying when he promised that the Affordable Care Act would allow Americans to keep insurance plans they liked.

'He had to know he was misleading the audience,' Kerrey said quietly, recalling the newly minted president's countless promises as Congress and the public debated his signature health insurance overhaul.
Now he tells us.

There are some big questions about those numbers the administration is touting about the signups for Obamacare.