Tag Archive for: taxes

Government Shouldn’t Decide Who Uses Which Bathroom by Doug Bandow

There’s Simply No Single Right Answer.

The North Carolina legislature voted in March to require that people use the bathroom designated for their biological sex. The state was criticized for violating gay and transgender rights. The Obama administration may cut federal education, housing, and transportation aid to North Carolina in response.

Bathroom use has been an issue in other states, including Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Dakota. Legislation proposed and passed differs by state on how to define gender — ranging from chromosomes to birth certificate to anatomical sex. Obviously, people can’t change their chromosomes. They can, however, change their gender identity and its associated physical traits, which is where the controversy begins.

The president’s position appears to be that people have a legal right to use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of their gender, however defined. With the club of federal funding, he is attempting to socially engineer America.

This is central planning run riot.

Good people should approach anyone in the midst of gender change with humility and compassion. For most of us, it is unimaginable what would cause someone to desire to shift genders. It is a personal issue of the most profound nature. It shouldn’t be debated and decided in the public square.

And politicians aren’t doing a good job addressing the question. It may not make sense to most people for someone who looks like a guy to use the ladies room, however he sees himself, but neither does it seem right to force someone who looks like a guy to use the ladies room because he was born female. And it certainly makes no sense to let one person or group of people force everyone else to comply with their preference, even when that group is a majority of voters.

Bathroom use shouldn’t be a question for bureaucrats, politicians, lawyers, or judges to answer.

Who should use which bathroom? If it’s in your home, you decide. Likewise, a private company or other private organization should set the rules for its building. What does the owner want? What do customers or members prefer? What is the best way to balance competing interests given the community’s dominant moral sense?

Most people in most places probably believe that people should use the bathroom that matches their physical characteristics, whether changed or not. And we know from the current debate that many (if not most) people prefer not to share a bathroom with someone who appears to be of the other sex, irrespective of the gender with which he or she identifies.

However, one can imagine a “progressive” individual, business owner, or group deciding otherwise. And whether that decision reflected special solicitude for vulnerable individuals or a desire to shape public attitudes, it would be no cause for complaint.

There’s simply no single right answer — and no justification for government to intervene in such intimate, private decisions.

What about bathrooms in public facilities, such as a government office, school, airport, or military base? These are all theoretically “owned” by everyone. Everyone has a stake in the issue — and thus a “right” of some sort — but there’s no accepted, overarching principle that determines with whom you must share a bathroom. A local majority may need to rule in such cases, but someone will always be unhappy with the result, especially if the relevant decision-makers are far away, protected from the consequences.

For Washington pols to insist that, say, teenage girls in a small town in downstate Illinois accept as a bathroom mate a child who appears to be a boy is an act of extraordinary chutzpah. The girls’ refusal to do so does not necessarily reflect malevolent discrimination; it may simply be an understandable reaction to basic biology. Politicians have no right to impose their particular agenda.

Of course, differing opinions don’t justify ignoring the interests of those in the midst of gender change, whether it involves surgery or not. Access to a bathroom is critical for almost everything people do — going to school, working outside your home, going shopping, and traveling. Some kind of accommodation should be made. But what kind?

Again, there’s no single solution that fits every public establishment, let alone private entity, across the country. Larger buildings could offer more options, such as separate bathrooms, like family-friendly single facilities. Communities and student bodies differ in attitudes and openness. Even those who are transgender may desire different outcomes in different circumstances.

Most important, all participants need to demonstrate understanding and sensitivity. No one of goodwill wants to add to the distress of someone changing gender. At the same time, those going through the process should not try to use government to impose their preference on schoolmates, neighbors, coworkers, and others. People should look for alternatives and compromises to work it out. Compromise, compassion, private property rights, and decentralized decision-making are enough to resolve this issue.

Politicians already control education, manage health care, provide social services, and underwrite businesses — and now they even decide who should use which bathroom. It’s time to return life’s most important decisions to the people. A good place to start would be keeping government out of our bathrooms.

Doug BandowDoug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

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New Democrat Party: The Red-Green-Rainbow Troika

What will happen when a Muslim girl showers with a male who thinks he’s a girl?

Three reasons why Trump’s support of transgender bathrooms is wrong

EDITORS NOTE: Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-District 16) did an email survey of constituents on the issue of transgender bathrooms. Here is the question and responses as of May 16th, 2016:

Do you support the new Obama administration directive requiring all public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice?
  • Strongly support
 23.16%
  • Somewhat support
  8.39%
  • Somewhat oppose
  5.59%
  • Strongly oppose
 62.84%

Why Is the United States Funding a Hamas-Linked Charity — Again?

The U.S. has given $270,000 to Islamic Relief Worldwide, a group which was banned in Israel for funding Hamas and in the UAE for Muslim Brotherhood links.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently gave a grant of $270,000 to a Muslim Brotherhood linked charity, according to The Daily Caller.

Islamic Relief Worldwide, a UK based charity and the largest Islamic Charity in the world, has been banned in Israel and the United Arab Emirates for dispersing funds to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Last month it received the money for its work in Kenya, specifically aimed at promoting “global health security as an international priority” as part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s global health security partner engagement initiative.

While the specific program the U.S. government is funding may be perfectly innocuous, the charity itself is not.

“The IRW is one of the sources of Hamas’s funding and a means for raising funds from various countries in the world” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said in July 2014. “We do not intend to allow it to function and abet terrorist activity against Israel.”

In 2006 Israel arrested and deported Iyaz Ali, IRW’s Gaza branch project director, for working “to transfer funds and assistance to various Hamas institutions and organizations.”

In 2014 Islamic Relief Worldwide announced they had conducted an independent audit which found no ties to terrorism whatsoever.

“Islamic Relief abhors terrorism in all its forms” the group said in a statement. “We are an impartial, independent, purely humanitarian organization whose sole focus is to alleviate poverty and suffering.” They refused to name the auditor due to “sensitivities in the region.”

Israel and the United Arab Emirates rejected the findings and stood by their designations. Israel charged that Islamic Relief Worldwide “funnels millions of dollars a year to Hamas institutions.”

This is not the first time the U.S. government has funded Islamic Relief Worldwide despite concerns being raised about the group’s links to terrorism.

In December 2015 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded a grant of $100,000, also for the organization’s work in Kenya.

By continuing to fund charities with ties to terrorism, the U.S. government is legitimizing all aspects of their work, not just those areas they are directly supporting.

There are plenty of underfunded and laudable projects around the world with no ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas.

Why isn’t the U.S. government funding them instead?

RELATED ARTICLE: USAID Gives Muslim Brotherhood Tied Charity $100,000

Will America Ever Have A ‘Wise And Frugal Government’ Again

Sometimes it is said that a man cannot be trusted with the government of himself.  Can he then be trusted with the government of others?  Recent history has proven that to be very true.  No one of with any measure of moral conscience will deny the recent history of government being shepherded toward oblivion by proponents of evil.  ­I hate to bring it up, but the Obama administration is perhaps the premier example of a man that cannot be trusted and should not be have been granted the privilege of governing our republic.  But unfortunately therein lies another problem that must be addressed as we engage perhaps the most important election in our nation’s history.

As “We the People” prepare to choose who will lead our republic, perhaps we should take a closer look at ourselves and refine our vision of what kind of America do we want going forward.  To aid in our search let us consider what do we want to leave for our children.  History will answer that question loud and clear with the results of our decisions.  If we do not reconnect with the Christian based values that were the foundational building blocks of our America we shall witness the completion of the destructive mission of the progressive enemies from within our population ranks.  Let us as Americans with courage and confidence pursue our own federal and republican principles.

As part of his 1801 Inaugural address, President Thomas Jefferson stated: Enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter.  With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? (I couldn’t help but pause here and ask this question.  Have you noticed how the further Americans are indoctrinated against the principles and beliefs that made the United States the  envy of the world, she is actually both less happy and prosperous?)

Still one thing more, fellow citizens—a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned…You should understand what I deem the essential principles of our government…. Equal and exact justice to all men, of, whatever state or persuasion, religious or political…the arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of a person under the protection of the habeas corpus and trial by jury impartially selected…

Unfortunately, our nation has succumbed to the lowest common denominator when it comes to morality, government function, individual liberties, as well as the economy and other relevant concerns.

If our republic is to reemerge as a beacon of light and liberty, to the teeming masses that would want to come to America legally to become Americans, our nation will first have to return to being the actual America that good and decent people around the world would want to be a part of.  Think about it, as our nation has become increasingly immoral, she has also degenerated from a land of liberty into a semi big government police state over every aspect of our lives.  In other words, the government takes over a people that don’t use self-control.

Without any effort, immorality replaces under utilized or untaught morality.  That is why the immoral from around the world are the majority of individuals now filing illegally into our nation with the permission of a corrupt government that appeases our enemies who want to come in and wreak havoc at taxpayer expense, just to add insult to injury.  That is why the Obama administration was ready to take Arizona to court and put a hurting on Texas for daring to protect the border with Mexico since the immoral federal government has gone loco.

Despite all of the negative developments over the past several decades that have culminated in the worst administration in our nation’s history and could potentially harm our nation beyond repair.  (After all, Obama did say he wanted to fundamentally change America.)  Obviously, his interpretation of changes could not have even been enacted before the turn of the century.  I believe that I have witnessed the real beginning of renewal in our country.  Many people of faith are finally becoming interested enough to learn about and care what happens to the United States of America.  Remember, it was an active, brave and intelligent church that was an integral part of the fight for independence and later against slavery.

Remembering the wise words of orator, author statesman, and abolitionist Frederick Douglas: The Declaration of Independence is the ringbolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it.  The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles.  Stand by them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and whatever cost.  I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Douglas.  America, if you are to be great again, you must first seek to be good, for it is then you shall make better decisions and take right actions that will recalibrate our destiny from utter disaster to undeniable recovery and greatness.

Can Socialist Monopoly compete with Capitalist Monopoly?

We all know how the game of Capitalist Monopoly works: one player wins and the rest lose, at least until the next round. But what if you are a permanent loser? That is unfair. The most obvious solution to this crisis is to remake the rules in your favor.

Brilliant minds among the loser community have made repeated attempts to make new rules that would allow them to become winners. They mostly ended up with appointing one of the players to be a dictator (usually themselves), who promises to redistribute everything on the board equally so that everyone wins. The dictator appoints assistants and together they become the government. For this plan to work, the government must forcibly take over all the property on the game board. Thus the government becomes a monopolist and the sole big winner. All the others become perpetual lesser winners: equal among themselves, but not equal to the government and its officials. Let’s broadly describe it as Socialist Monopoly.

But not all the state-run rental properties on the board are equal, so the game goes on. Now the selection of winners becomes wholly dependent on a player’s personal relationship with the government. Those who are not the relatives or good friends with the government, become losers. The latter can still stay in the game by participating in an intricate system of bribes, kickbacks, and exchange of favors. Those unwilling to play by these rules become the ultimate losers and are despised by everybody. Usually they are the people who would previously win in Capitalist Monopoly.

When all the redistribution has been completed, Socialist Monopoly becomes a really boring and tedious game. The government deflects the growing dissatisfaction by adding a new rule: all players must blame the former winners of Capitalist Monopoly for sabotage and obstructionism. After all the said former winners quit and leave the table, the interest in the game is sustained with the help of cheap vodka, which also helps to suppress mutual resentment and hatred. The game ends when all players, including the government, lose all motivation to go on, or fall under the table into a puddle of their own vomit, whichever comes first.

The most common explanation for the failures of Socialist Monopoly is that the brilliant minds of the loser community simply haven’t got it right yet. This gives everyone hope that someday there will appear a sharper, more brilliant loser who will get it right.

And so the dream lives on, about a game where everyone can be an equal winner while still being able to enjoy the game without ending up hating everyone else, sending the most successful players to jail, and falling under the table in a drunken stupor.

Thus, the efforts to reinvent Capitalist Monopoly never stop. Below are just some failed examples. Will you take the challenge and create a game of Socialist Monopoly that actually works?

Progressive Monopoly

Monopoly_Socialist.jpg
Communist Monopoly

Monopoly_Communist.jpg
Socialist Monopoly with lines – Polish style

Monopoly_Communist_Poland.jpgAnd so on…

EDITORS NOTE: This political satire originally appeared on The Peoples Cube.

Yes, Students Are Customers, but the Customer Isn’t Always Right by Kevin Currie-Knight & Steven Horwitz

“College students are not customers. That analogy needs to die. It needs to be drowned in the world’s largest bathtub. It needs a George R.R. Martin–esque bloodbath of a demise.”

These are the strong words of education writer Rebecca Schuman in response to Iowa’s recent attempt to pass a law tying professors’ job security to their teaching evaluations. Such laws, Schuman and others think, are based on the misguided idea that students are akin to customers.

OK, So College Isn’t Like a Restaurant

To an extent, we agree with Schuman, but we think she vastly oversimplifies. In one way, it is hard to deny that students are customers. They (or someone acting on their behalf) pay for a service and, like customers in any other market, students can take their tuition money elsewhere if they aren’t satisfied.

Whether the educational experience was to the student’s “liking” may not be a good measure of the quality of the university’s educational services. 

On the other hand, as Schuman points out, college education looks quite different from many other businesses. Unlike restaurant patrons, for example, students are buying a service (education) that isn’t geared toward customer enjoyment. A good college education may even push students in ways they don’t enjoy.

Whether the tilapia was prepared to the patron’s liking is a good measure of the restaurant’s food. Whether the educational experience was to the student’s “liking” may not be a good measure of the quality of the university’s educational services.

Rather than this distinction being evidence for Schuman’s claim, however, it actually points out one of its flaws. She overlooks the fact that not all customers have the same sort of relationship with a business as we see in the restaurant industry, which serves as the only basis of her customer analogy.

Yes, colleges certainly have a different relationship with students than restaurants have with patrons. Patrons are there to get what tastes good and satisfies them for that specific visit. Students are (presumably) there to receive a good education, which may not instantly please them and may sometimes have to “taste bad” to be effective. (Most people who go to the dentist don’t find it immediately pleasurable, either, but, in the long run, they are certainly glad they went.)

No Pain, No Gain

We can think of three alternative business analogies for the university-student relationship.

First is personal training or physical therapy. Like university education, they involve services that aren’t geared toward immediate consumer happiness. To help a client achieve good results, a trainer often has to make the workout difficult when the client might have wanted to go easier. And good physical therapy often involves putting the client through painful motions the client would rather not undergo.

Yet, these businesses see their clients as customers and probably take customer feedback quite seriously. Trainers need to push customers past where they want to go, but this doesn’t mean trainers dismiss negative feedback.

Credible Credentials

Second are certification services, firms that provide quality assurance for other firms. Such providers may find themselves at odds with their customers when they withhold certification, but if the firm asking for certification really wants an assurance of quality for its customers, that firm will understand why its unhappiness at being denied isn’t a reason for the certifying organization to just cave to whatever its customers want.

Schuman suggests that if students are customers, the university must be a profit-grubbing business.

For example, a manufacturer of commercial refrigerators might seek certification from Underwriters Laboratories to prove to restaurant owners that its appliances have been independently tested and proven to hold food at safe temperatures that won’t sicken customers. If tests reveal that the fridges aren’t getting cooler than 50 degrees — far above food safety guidelines — the fridges won’t get certified.

Any certifying bodies that give in to pressure to certify all paying customers will end up being punished by the market when someone (a competitor? a journalist?) reveals that the company’s certification doesn’t really certify anything. Protecting the quality of the certification process is in everyone’s interest, even if it makes some of a certifier’s customers unhappy with particular outcomes.

College students may well be like the firms seeking a certification of quality, with employers and graduate schools being the analogue of their customers, who will only hire or admit “certified” students.

The Cheapest Product at the Highest Price?

A third analogy is the nonprofit organization. Schuman suggests that if students are customers, the university must be a profit-grubbing business, and since a “business’s only goal is to succeed,” a customer-focused university will “purvey… the cheapest product it can at the highest price customers will pay.”

But does viewing the people one serves as customers necessarily turn one into a business whose concern is to sell poor products at a high price rather than to provide a good service? Credit unions, art museums, area transportation services, and, yes, private K–12 schools are often organizations that don’t operate for profit and yet provide services directly to paying customers.

Nonprofit museums charge admissions and nonprofit ride services charge for rides; therefore, they serve paying customers. But this does not mean they aim to make the maximum profit possible, or in fact any sort of profit, by providing the lowest quality at the highest price. (Of course, we would take issue with Schuman’s characterization of even more traditional profit-seeking firms as aiming to sell junk at high prices, but we can leave that to the side for our purposes here.)

Schuman is wrong to think that if universities see students as customers, this must turn them into profit-driven businesses in this narrow sense.

Is the Customer Always Right?

For all that, we sympathize with some of the basics of Schuman’s argument. As college professors, we understand her concern over putting too much stock in student evaluations of teacher performance. Even if students are customers, they surely aren’t customers in the same way the restaurant patron is a customer. And a restaurant will not automatically treat every customer comment card as equally influential in changing how it does business. Some restaurant customers have unrealistic expectations or don’t understand the food service business, and restaurants often have to decipher what feedback to take seriously and what to disregard.

We suspect that Schuman’s confusion may result from universities and professors thinking that they are selling something different from what students may think they are buying. Students generally want the degrees that come from education, with education being the process to get the degree. Universities (and professors) sell knowledge and skills, and the degree is simply the acknowledgement that students have obtained that knowledge.

Professors may think that they are selling something different from what students think they are buying.

Good learning may be difficult and, in the short run, unpleasant. But for students aiming for a degree, it would be better to go through classes that are agreeable and aren’t too difficult. If this is right, you can see why there’d be a mismatch between how students think their education is going and how it may actually be going, and why the former may not be the best gauge of the latter.

With a restaurant, the customer and the seller both agree on what the product is: a good meal (and good restaurateurs will generally defer to what the customer wants). With personal training, it may be that the trainer’s job involves pushing customers past where they’d go on their own, but the trainer and customer do still generally agree on the service: the trainer helps customers achieve their goal of fitness.

We appreciate and share Schuman’s concern that universities not over-rely on student evaluations and the degree to which students find their educations pleasurable in a narrow sense. But the issue isn’t as simple as saying that, because professors’ job security shouldn’t come down entirely to student evaluations, students aren’t customers.

Yes, there is a danger in treating students the way restaurateurs treat patrons. But there is also danger in the other extreme: if we stop viewing students as customers in some sense of the term, then instead of treating them with the respect we generally see in the personal training and certification industries and among nonprofits, we risk turning universities into something more like the DMV.

Kevin Currie-KnightKevin Currie-Knight

Kevin Currie-Knight teaches in East Carolina University’s Department of Special Education, Foundations, and Research. His website is KevinCK.net. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

 

Steven HorwitzSteven Horwitz

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

RELATED ARTICLE: This State Offered Free College Education. Here’s What Happened.

Have some fun at USA Spending.gov: $296 million went to Lutherans since Obama took office!

The other day I suggested that each and every one of you can be an investigative reporter, see that post by clicking here.

So here we are, a winter weekend, can’t do much outdoors, and maybe you aren’t into the Super Bowl, so how about having fun searching for how much of your hard earned tax dollars are going to charities—especially to ‘religious’ charities pretending to be doing the Lord’s work while spending your money!

USA Spending graphicI haven’t written about USA Spending.gov for awhile, so last night when a reader asked about a local Catholic Charity, I tried that government website again.  It is much improved because it now contains the sub-grants in addition to the amounts that are direct grants.  I think there was a grace period for grantees to get their information on sub-grants to USA Spending.gov, but they are there now.  (Here is a bit of information about how grantees need to be ready to provide sub-grant information.)

So back to the USA Spending.gov website I looked up the specific Catholic Charities my reader was interested in and was blown away when I saw the millions of dollars just one little local Catholic Charities was getting.

I then decided to just pick one of the nine federal refugee resettlement contractors (which have in the vicinity of 350 sub-grantees or sub-contractors), to see what the biggies were getting.  Here (below) is Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service which resettles refugees in your towns and cities and also agitates for amnesty for illegal aliens.

LIRS is lobbying (with your money!) as we speak for 100,000 Syrians to be admitted to the U.S. before Obama leaves office.

Prepare to be shocked!  Since August 2008, this one ‘religious’ non-profit received $296 MILLION dollars from you in 143 transactions with federal agencies.(And, I will bet you LIRS is not the wealthiest!)

Click here and see for yourself!  (Sorry the screenshot isn’t very clear!)

Screenshot (22)

I urge you all to try the website.  Unfortunately for PRO-Open Borders Catholic agencies, there are too many of them and they aren’t all in one place. So try your local Catholic Diocese first.  Then think of all the other non-profits that have their hands in your wallet and see how much and from where their grants are flowing.

They will all say they help the poor with your money, but I repeat, they are also lobbying for more (poor) migrants to be admitted to the US!  Our founding fathers must be rolling in their graves to see the federal treasury used in this way.

Then you must get the information you learn out to others beyond your circle. Maybe take your facts and write a letter to the editor. Ask to write an Op-ed for your local paper. Go on talk radio. Write a blog!  Send what you learn to your elected officials and ask why on earth they are giving your money to Open Borders Leftwing organizations masquerading as religious charities.

Come to think of it, where is the ACLU on the separation of church and state?

And, while you are there, be sure to see yesterday’s post about Marco Rubio and his fan boy Grover Norquist (or is it the other way around?).

RELATED ARTICLES:

Australian Immigration Minister proposing stricter standards for some Muslim refugees

Alabama governor gets on wrong side of CAIR with comments about refugees

President Obama Wants You to Pay More for Oil

Apparently oil prices are too low, so President Barack Obama thinks it’s a good idea to slap on a $10 per barrel oil tax. Politico reports:

Obama aides told POLITICO that when he releases his final budget request next week, the president will propose more than $300 billion worth of investments over the next decade in mass transit, high-speed rail, self-driving cars, and other transportation approaches designed to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. To pay for it all, Obama will call for a $10 “fee” on every barrel of oil, a surcharge that would be paid by oil companies but would presumably be passed along to consumers.

Based on current prices, this would be a roughly 30% tax on a barrel of oil.

It’s disturbing that the president’s reaction to an industry slashing jobs and cutting investments in a tough business environment is to place a massive tax on the product they produce.

It’s also troubling to see that President Obama thinks of the tax as a quid pro quo for ending the oil export ban. (Something he opposed.)

“You’re allowed to export, but we’re also saying is that we’re going to impose a tax on a barrel of oil,”President Obama said at a press conference.

Thankfully this tax is already “dead on arrival” in Congress, said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

President Obama knows this, but doesn’t care. As Politico notes, “It’s mostly an effort to jump-start a conversation.” And it falls squarely with his mission to end fossil fuel use in the United States.

“It’s really about taxing the energy they don’t like to make President Obama’s favored energy sources,” said Institute for Energy Research President Thomas Pyle.

The president acknowledged this. When questioned by reporters, President Obama said if imposed, the tax “will have further weaned our economy off dirty fuels.”

But his sweeping plan runs straight up against reality. Americans will be using oil and other fossil fuels for decades to come. Until economically viable alternatives are developed that offer the same benefits (convenience, reliability, energy density), fossil fuels will be needed to keep America’s economy moving.

There’s no question we need more revenue to fix America’s broken roads and bridges, but the oil tax covers over the real intention behind the proposal: The radical transformation of America’s energy economy.

MORE ARTICLES ON: ENERGY

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of President Obama is by photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg.

Catching Up with some Common Core Profiteers: Beyond the Project Veritas Videos

The Big Government-Big Education alliance has also had positive trickle-down effects for professors, who have benefited with publishing contracts and grants for their institutions.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest funder of Common Core, continues to support universities that help in implementing their education initiatives.  Professors hopped on the Common Core gravy train at the get-go. There was the curious fact that Bill Ayers gave a keynote address at the 2009 convention of the Renaissance Group, “a national consortium of colleges, universities and professional organizations” dedicated to teaching and education.  Now if we could only learn how much Bill Ayers was paid for that keynote speech in Washington in 2009.

James O’Keefe’s undercover videos reveal what activists have been saying for years: Common Core is a set of standards written not for the benefit of students, but to enrich crony capitalists, such as mega-curriculum companies, Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt, Pearson, and National Geographic Education.

The latest, the fourth video, records former Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt executive Gilbert Garcia describing the constant “politicking” among school board members and superintendents, and former Pearson employee Kim Koerber describing how the 2013 $1.3 billion contract for supplying I-Pads to the Los Angeles school district was “written for Pearson to win.”  After an FBI investigation into bid-rigging, Pearson, in 2015, agreed to pay the district $6.4 million in a settlement.

Pearson issued a statement calling remarks in the videos “offensive,” asserting that they do not reflect the values of the company’s 40,000 employees.

But the Big Government-Big Education alliance has also had positive trickle-down effects for professors, who have benefited with publishing contracts and grants for their institutions.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest funder of Common Core, continues to support universities that help in implementing their education initiatives.  To name a few, in November, the Foundation announced a grant of $34.7 million for “transformation centers” to improve teacher preparation programs on the campuses of the University of Michigan, Texas Tech University, and the Relay Graduate School of Education, as well as at the National Center for Teacher Residencies, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  That same month, a grant of $1,799,710 was awarded to “support collaboration between Vanderbilt [University] and the Tennessee Department of Education in the area of education research and improvement,” and $764,553 was awarded to the University of Florida for “teacher leader fellows.”

Professors hopped on the Common Core gravy train at the get-go, as I described in 2012, in my report for Accuracy in Media, “Terrorist Professor Bill Ayers and Obama’s Federal School Curriculum.” There was the curious fact that Bill Ayers gave a keynote address at the 2009 convention of the Renaissance Group, “a national consortium of colleges, universities and professional organizations” dedicated to teaching and education.  Of course, I made no claim that Ayers wrote the standards; I just noted that he appeared at this conference in Washington with then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, his under secretary, and a representative from Achieve, the company that orchestrated Common Core.  Ayers’s close colleague, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, led Obama’s education transition team and oversaw one of the two national Common Core tests.

Less well-known professors, who had bristled at the imposition of “standards,” suddenly began embracing Common Core standards.  This was the case with education professor Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at Columbia Teachers College, Bill Ayers’s alma mater, long a bastion of anti-testing/anti-standards.  These professors began writing teacher guidebooks, and presenting talks and workshops.  Since co-authoring Pathways to the Common Core, Calkins continues to do work for the publisher, Heinemann, a part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Her “Units of Study” curriculum is described by the publisher as a bestseller.  She also writes performance assessments, including the Grade 1 “Units of Study” in “Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing.”  (Yes, students in first grade are expected to write op-eds.)  In a short video, Calkins explains her teaching philosophy that involves mini-lessons and group work.

In 2012, Marc Aronson, a lecturer in communications and information at Rutgers University, was advertising himself as a “Common Core Consultant,” speaker, and author.  Today, he describes himself on his personal website as an “author, professor, speaker, editor and publisher who believes that young people, especially pre-teens and teenagers, are smart, passionate, and capable of engaging with interesting ideas in interesting ways.”

Aronson apparently believes that pre-teens and teenagers are smart enough to weed out the lies in his Common Core-compliant middle school and high school textbook, Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies.  As I noted in my report, Aronson presents the KGB-fabricated lies about the FBI director’s homosexuality as probable.  For the benefit of 11-year-olds, he posits that photographs of Hoover with his friend Clyde Tolson “might be seen as lovers’ portraits.”  The book is filled with sexual innuendo and dwells on such irrelevant details in order to ascribe motives to Hoover for his presumably unfounded fears about the communist threat.  The accompanying discussion guide is a masterpiece of disguise: as ideological questions bearing their own answers.

It is therefore not surprising that Aronson would now write an article in the School Library Journal casting a skeptical eye on O’Keefe’s undercover videos and asking readers to “consider the source,” as the subheading to the headline, “Is Common Core Just a Scam to Sell Books?” asks.  He distances himself from the sales executives but never directly names the “source” that one should “consider.”  (Innuendo seems to be his modus operandi.) The implication is O’Keefe.  Aronson admits, “As a nonfiction fan, author, and editor, I have a stake in this.”  He denies that his stake is in the rise in nonfiction sales that have come as Common Core standards have edged out literature in favor of “informational texts.”  No, Aronson fell “in love with the standards” when he first read them, “years before they had any impact on royalty statements.”

Aronson also claims to have served recently on the New Jersey team that evaluated that state’s English Language Arts (ELA) and Math standards.  Contrary to the executives’ statements captured in the videos, his “team” carefully examined the standards “one by one, grade by grade, and listened to extensive comments from teachers, administrators, parents, professionals, and business leaders.”  He claims that he saw “commitment, not greed.”

He presents a “guiding principle” that sounds very familiar to those of us whose eyes have glazed and brains have flopped like dying fish from the Common Core sales literature: “From the first, our guiding principle was this: What will someone awarded a high school diploma be ready for? The group looked at each educational stage and benchmark to consider what students would need to know to be ready for the next step, and the next, so that after graduation they would have the skill set to begin the next phase of their lives.”

Aronson’s team included comments by Amy Rominiecki, a Certified School Library Media Specialist, on behalf of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, in their report. (He links back to her statement when she testified in support of Common Core.)  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also funded studies for the American Library Association (the parent organization of the American Association of School Librarians) on such things as Technology Access, training, and participation in the federal E-rate program.

Aronson attributes the continuing low performance of 12th graders in math and reading to economic inequality, stating, “If more students had more resources (social, emotional, financial, cultural, and technological), more would be ready to meet the challenges and opportunities that follow after secondary education.”

Of course, this author and educational entrepreneur has only the purest motives: “the children.”  Money may be important, “yet, there is a role for standards to play.” To that end, “as educators and communities who care about our nation’s youth, it is necessary we establish a path that’s best for as many students.”

Such bromides bring big bucks in the education world.  I am reminded of words by Bill Ayers at an education conference in 2013, something about being finite creatures hurtling through infinite space.  Now if we could only learn how much Bill Ayers was paid for that keynote speech in Washington in 2009.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research website.

The Islamic State vs. the Laffer Curve by Daniel J. Mitchell

Based on my writings, some people may think I’m 100 percent against higher taxes.

But that’s not exactly true. In some cases, I like punitive taxation. Or, to be more precise, I sometimes take pleasure when punitive tax policy backfires on bad people.

Here’s an example. An interesting article in Slate, authored by Adam Chodorow of Arizona State University Law School, looks at how a terrorist group’s attempt to form a government is being stymied by an inability to collect taxes.

Revolution is easy. Governing is hard. And there are few things more difficult than taxes. Operating a country requires money, and that typically requires taxes. … 

The population in this area is estimated to be between 7 million and 8 million, about the same as the population of Washington state. While ISIS currently collects about $1 billion annually, countries of similar size collect about $16 billion, suggesting that ISIS has a long way to go if it wants to operate like a real state.

But the comparatively low levels of tax revenue are not because of a Hong Kong-type commitment to limited government.

Instead, the terror group is discovering that people don’t like giving their money to politicians and bureaucrats, even ones motivated by Islamic fundamentalism.

Taxes aren’t a great way to ingratiate oneself with the governed. … More than one government has fallen because of its tax policy. ISIS must face these challenges just as any emerging polity does… ISIS may have displayed prowess on the battlefield, but it has revealed that it is as stymied and constrained by the complexities of taxation as the rest of us. …

ISIS’s taxes appear to be … no more popular in the territory it controls than they would be here in the U.S. As the Times reported, ISIS’s taxes are now so onerous that large numbers of people, who were apparently willing to tolerate ISIS’s religious authoritarianism, are fleeing Syria and Iraq to escape them. At some point people will either rise up or leave, threatening ISIS’s internal revenue source.

So taxes are becoming so onerous that taxpayers (and taxable income) are escaping.

Hmm… excessive taxation leading to less taxable economic activity. That seems like a familiar concept — something I’ve written about one or two times. Or maybe 50 or 100 times.

Ah, yes, our old friend, the Laffer Curve!

ISIS is … constrained by a lack of administrative resources and the simple reality once sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin by the economist Arthur Laffer: that tax rates can only get so high before they actually drive down government revenues.

Given current conditions, ISIS may be near or at the limits of its ability to tax, even if it can recruit jihadi tax accountants to its cause. Thus … it’s not clear how much room the group has to grow internal revenues. More important, its efforts to do so may do more to damage its prospects than outside forces can accomplish.

This sounds like the tax equivalent of War of the Worlds, the H.G. Wells’ classic in which alien invaders wreak havoc on earth until they are felled by bacteria.

Tom Cruise was the star of a 2005 movie adaptation of this story, but I’m thinking I could rekindle my acting career and star in a movie of how the Laffer Curve thwarts ISIS!

But to have a happy ending, ISIS has to be defeated. And Professor Chodorow closes his article with a very helpful suggestion.

Rather than send in ground troops … view our tax code as a weapon of mass destruction. … We could make full use of it in the war on ISIS, perhaps by translating it into Arabic in the hopes that the group adopts it.

Sounds like the advice I once gave about threatening Assad with Obamacare.

A version of this post first appeared at Dan Mitchell’s blog International Liberty.

Daniel J. MitchellDaniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

Who Do Economic Profits Belong To? by Sandy Ikeda

Do we deserve to keep the profits that result from our actions?

Most libertarians would maintain that any economic profit — the residual of revenue over cost — that you earn from voluntary exchange is indeed moral and rightly belongs to you. The puzzling thing is that standard microeconomic theory, which libertarians as well-known as Milton Friedman have used to defend their free-market beliefs, is completely irrelevant in justifying that belief.

I attended a talk recently given by Professor Israel Kirzner in which he addressed the question of whether economics can tell us who does and doesn’t deserve profit. I won’t summarize the entire lecture here, which I expect Professor Kirzner intends to publish, but I will touch on an important and often-neglected point he made.

Specifically, it’s that because microeconomic theory is utterly useless in morally justifying economic profit, we need to look beyond one of the most cherished slogans of economics: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, or TANSTAAFL for short. Indeed, in order even to begin seeing economic profit as moral, you have to set TANSTAAFL aside. (I wrote on a related theme in “But There ARE Free Lunches!” in May 2011.) Now, how does that relate to the question of who, if anyone, deserves economic profit?

The Value of the Marginal Product

Let’s say you want to sell a new kind of musical instrument. You buy or hire every single ingredient you need to produce it: the various kinds of skilled labor and equipment, the working space, management and financial knowhow, and whatever computing and power needs you require. You also contribute to production as the owner of the firm, and your contribution includes the risk you take to start the business as well as your industriousness, tenacity, and courage.

You then pay each and every one of these factor owners, including yourself, its “marginal value product,” which is the revenue the business earns from selling what each input produces. You pay wages or rents to everyone and a return to yourself to compensate for the resources you bring. Economists since John Bates Clark have used the marginal value product and continue to do so to explain how income from production is distributed. But there’s a problem.

Suppose, after paying all the input owners including yourself, there’s still something left over. That something, the residual of all actual revenue over all actual costs, is economic profit.

Again, you’ve paid every factor owner all of what each has contributed to the value of the musical instruments produced. That means that the value of the marginal product, the central concept in the modern microeconomic theory of income distribution, cannot explain who deserves to keep the economic profit because it cannot explain profit.

It’s important to keep in mind that economic profit is not “earned” in the same sense that wages and rents are earned. It is what’s left over after all other earned income has been paid out according to the value of its marginal product.

To whom then does economic profit properly belong?

The Concept of Entrepreneurship Offers a Clue

For Kirzner and other economists working in the tradition of Austrian economics, the key to answering that question, though not the complete answer, begins with the concept of discovery.

There is knowledge that we don’t possess because we choose not to know it. If someone asked me for the phone number of a person whose name is drawn randomly out of the New York City telephone directory, the chances are very good that I won’t know it. Although I’m aware of the existence of the directory, I haven’t memorized it, simply because I haven’t deemed it worthwhile. I’ve chosen not to know.

But if I didn’t even know of the existence of such a directory and I needed to call a particular person, my learning about the directory would come as a revelation. Moreover, I would have found out that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know — what Professor Kirzner calls “sheer ignorance.” He then defines entrepreneurship as that aspect of human action that discovers, and thereby removes, sheer ignorance.

What does the discovery of sheer ignorance result in? Economic profit!

Why marshal all the resources to produce a new musical instrument? Because you believe you see what no one else sees. You believe that it offers a better investment for you than what you’re doing now. Why do you think that? Because you’ve realized — made the discovery — that after compensating all the factors of production with the value of their marginal product, there will still be a pure residual left over that you couldn’t have gotten doing anything else. If you’re right, you get that residual, the economic profit; if you’re wrong, you suffer the economic loss.

This means, of course, that TAANSTAFL is wrong. Opportunities to make economic profit do exist. There are free lunches. In fact, in a world of sheer ignorance, such as ours, free lunches are everywhere.

Toward an Answer

I haven’t mentioned how Professor Kirzner addresses the issue of whether economic profit is moral or deserved. To get a good sense of what he says in the remainder of that lecture, have a look at his 1989 book, Discovery, Capitalism, and Distributive Justice.

(Also, see this book review by FEE writer Charles W. Baird.)

A good economist needs to have a firm grasp on standard microeconomic theory: supply-and-demand analysis and all that. At the same time, it’s important for her to appreciate its limits, which are severe indeed on the question of the morality, or even the origin, of economic profit.

Sandy Ikeda
Sandy Ikeda

Sandy Ikeda is a professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

“Affordable Care”: Higher Premiums, Higher Deductibles, Worse Healthcare by Michael F. Cannon

Aside from one necessary clarification (see far below), it would be difficult to improve on what the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the enrollees they interview have to say about ObamaCare.

First, from yesterday’s New York Times article, “Many Say High Deductibles Make Their Health Law Insurance All but Useless”:

For many consumers, the sticker shock is coming not on the front end, when they purchase the plans, but on the back end when they get sick: sky-high deductibles that are leaving some newly insured feeling nearly as vulnerable as they were before they had coverage.

“The deductible, $3,000 a year, makes it impossible to actually go to the doctor,” said David R. Reines, 60, of Jefferson Township, N.J., a former hardware salesman with chronic knee pain. “We have insurance, but can’t afford to use it.” …

“We could not afford the deductible,” said Kevin Fanning, 59, who lives in North Texas, near Wichita Falls. “Basically I was paying for insurance I could not afford to use.”

He dropped his policy. …

“Our deductible is so high, we practically pay for all of our medical expenses out of pocket,” said Wendy Kaplan, 50, of Evanston, Ill. “So our policy is really there for emergencies only, and basic wellness appointments.”

Her family of four pays premiums of $1,200 a month for coverage with an annual deductible of $12,700. …

Alexis C. Phillips, 29, of Houston, is the kind of consumer federal officials would like to enroll this fall. But after reviewing the available plans, she said, she concluded: “The deductibles are ridiculously high. I will never be able to go over the deductible unless something catastrophic happened to me. I’m better off not purchasing that insurance and saving the money in case something bad happens.”

“While my premiums are affordable, the out-of-pocket expenses required to meet the deductible are not,” said [Karin] Rosner, who makes about $30,000 a year. …

“When they said affordable, I thought they really meant affordable,” [Anne Cornwell of Chattanooga, Tenn.,] said.

And from today’s Boston Globe article, “High-Deductible Health Plans Make Affordable Care Act ‘Unaffordable,’ Critics Say”:

“We can’t afford the Affordable Care Act, quite honestly,” said Cassaundra Anderson, whose family canvassed for Obama in their neighborhood, a Republican stronghold outside Cincinnati. “The intention is great, but there is so much wrong. . . . I’m mad.” …

The Andersons’ experience echoes that of hundreds of thousands of newly insured Americans facing sticker shock over out-of-pocket costs. …

“This will be an issue at least one more time in the 2016 election. It could absolutely still hurt Democrats,” said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Polls about the Affordable Care Act have a considerable amount of middle-income people who say either the program has done nothing for them or actually hurt them.” …

“Unfortunately, what we are headed toward now is universal crappy health insurance,” said Dr. Budd Shenkin, a California pediatrician. … “It’s just not a good deal for people,” he said.

“We’re in the process of looking at going without insurance,” [Cassaundra Anderson] said, calculating that the family will be better off financially just paying the $2,000 tax penalty for not abiding by the law’s mandate. “What am I even paying these insurance people for? Why should we reenroll?” …

“I cannot get anything with this insurance. Nothing,” said [Laura] Torres, who avoids seeking treatment for her thyroid condition and high blood pressure because of cost. “I just pay my monthly payments, try to take care of myself, go to work, and hope something serious doesn’t happen to me.” …

Amete Kahsay, 53, works as a temporary warehouse packer in Columbus. The Affordable Care marketplace is her only option for health insurance. She and her husband, an airport shuttle driver, pay $275 a month for a “bronze” plan with a $13,200 deductible.

Shortly after they signed up for insurance last year, her husband rushed her to the emergency room when she experienced dizziness. The visit, which included a CT scan of her brain, cost $1,700. She paid the charge from her savings, then returned to her native Ethiopia, where care is cheaper, to consult a neurologist and seek follow-up care.

“I support Obamacare. Without it, I wouldn’t have any type of insurance. But I’m not sure it’s worth the money,” said Kahsay, a US citizen who is registered as an independent voter. “Now, unless I get very, very sick, like only if it’s life-threatening, I won’t go to the doctor. I just lay down and take a rest.”

The necessary clarification is that these people are not complaining about high-deductibles in a market system. In a market system, consumers who choose high deductibles save money on their premiums and therefore have more resources to help them pay their out-of-pocket expenses.

ObamaCare, on the other hand, manages to pair high deductibles with higher premiums, stripping many people of this benefit of high-deductible plans and leaving them unable to pay their medical bills.

Cross-posted from Cato.org.

Michael F. Cannon
Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon is the Cato Institute’s director of health policy studies.

The Legacy of Arne Duncan, Common Core and So Much More: College (Part 2)

As noted in my last post, outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has done his part to transform America through K-12 education.  This has happened through Common Core and by expanding the Department’s reach into younger and older cohorts.  Duncan got the promise for an additional $1 billion for preschool education.  As the Chronicle of Higher Education noted, Duncan is also leaving a “big imprint” on higher education.  His legacy is one of “innovation and regulation.”  College is put into a seamless web of K-16, or P-20, with an unprecedented federal role in admissions, placement, assessment, and financing.

The Chronicle notes that Duncan has deviated from the standard practice of Democratic secretaries who have just doled out money.  He has been “personally upbraid[ing] colleges over rising prices and low graduation rates, their handling of cases of sexual assault, their lax academic standards for athletes . . . , and their resistance to greater oversight.” Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, has become disillusioned with Duncan’s “top-down approach.” Institutions, like Yale University, get nervous about the Department’s investigations of “sexually hostile environments.”

The nonprofits, like the Lumina Foundation, that have been funding Common Core, however, give a positive assessment. Jamie Merisotis, President and Chief Executive, praises Duncan’s “strong leadership” in putting our higher-education system “a step closer to reflecting the needs of today’s increasingly diverse college students — and the changing meaning of ‘college’ to include all types of postsecondary learning.”  Competency-based programs that “measure learning” through demonstration of a skill set are among his many “innovations.”  Inside Higher Education calls it “new delivery model with the potential to improve degree completion, reduce costs to students, and improve transparency and alignment of learning outcomes to the needs of employers and society.”

Currently, over 600 colleges are designing, creating, or already have competency-based education programs. This number has grown from 52 last year. As with Common Core, it is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with “guidance” from the U.S. Department of Education.

The notion of “competency” changes the fundamental notion of education, taking it from learning for its own sake, with a knowledgeable, independent citizenry as an outcome, to producing workers with skill sets.  Colleges that have agreed to align financial aid to such tests have ceded their own power.

Funny, Arne Duncan, when he spoke at the 2013 meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA) and promised a “sea-change” in assessments for K-12 students, included “competency-based education,” as well as “non-cognitive skills.”  Others at that AERA meeting of academics and researchers working at universities, federal and state agencies, school systems, test companies, and non-profit agencies were Linda Darling-Hammond, who oversaw the development of the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) tests, one of the two Common Core tests, and her close colleague, Bill Ayers.

Many colleges are following the Department of Education in emphasizing non-cognitive, “social and emotional learning” skills.  Seventeen colleges have received funds from the Department’s “First in the World” grants to identify and help at-risk students through the aid of a tool called Diagnostic Assessment and Achievement of College Skills to measure such emotional attributes as “grit.”

Colleges have been targeted strategically.  Jacqueline King, director of Higher Collaboration at SBAC, has been working to “create greater academic alignment between K-12 and higher education.”  Common Core tests are determining placement in college courses.  In 2014, college faculty in Tennessee attended workshops to learn how to “synch up with Common Core,” in effect to teach grade 13.

I reported that the Department of Education had funded the 2013 working paper, “The Common Core State Standards: Implications for Community Colleges and Student Preparedness for College.”   It described the “Core to College” program in ten states: Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington.  Core to College is funded by the Lumina, the William and Flora Hewlett, the Bill and Melinda Gates, and other foundations.  Their report, “Making Good on the College-Ready Promise and Higher Education Engagement Core to College Alignment Director Convening, August 1-2, 2012,” provides a record of discussions by “alignment directors” and guest speakers on teaching “a new type of student, more prepared for college-level, discipline-specific work.”  (As a former college instructor I am skeptical: having “more prepared” students meant an easier time in teaching them—not the need for special workshops.)

The ten states are to serve as “bellwethers and models for the rest of the country.”  Among the strategies, directors suggested more data, outreach to other “stakeholders” and private colleges, and more meetings.  They are also looking beyond “the English and Math Departments” that receive Common Core-certified students.  Speakers proposed “engaging faculty in other disciplines that could be touched by Common Core implementation, such as history or the social sciences.”

WestEd, a major Common Core funder, is evaluating the initiative.

The push for new assessments (especially at community colleges) has been quickly followed by calls for free community college.  In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama cited Tennessee’s still-developing program as a model.  The American Association of Community Colleges welcomed the proposal.  This year, on September 9, Obama announced that the “College Promise Campaign” would be chaired by Second Lady Jill Biden.  AACC President Walter Bumphus and Trustee President J. Noah Brown will serve on the National Advisory Board.

Democratic front-runners, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, pushed free college in their first presidential debate on October 13, 2015.

To top it off, the federal government is providing a college “scorecard.”  Of course, those who continue to refuse federal aid, like Grove City College and Hillsdale College, will continue to be left off.

Students at these colleges will also find themselves at an increasing financial disadvantage. One of Obama’s first orders of business was to make the federal government the bank for student loans.  This “bank” practices “loan forgiveness,” by graduating payment to income and providing complete forgiveness through work in government jobs, such as in public schools or at Americorps, the federal agency.  Indiana University law professor Sheila Seuss Kennedy and Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce manager Matt Impink enthused about such a “tour of duty” that sounds like the “civilian corps” Obama put forth at the beginning of his presidency.

We are well on our way.  With schools producing graduates with competencies “align[ed] to the needs of employers and society,” and with Common Core spitting out high school graduates “college and career ready,” we will no longer worry about higher learning.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research website. The featured image is of President Obama announcing free community college with Vice President Joe Biden and Second Lady Jill Biden.

U.S. Muslim Migrant Resettlement: How to follow the money

So many of our readers are eager to start researching the resettlement contractors working near you, so here are a few places to start to learn about how they are financed (this is in no way meant to be an all inclusive list, because I don’t know every place to research myself!).

But, first, although off-topic, I want you to see what a one-woman blogger accomplished in Chicago (not a refugee issue, but one involving fraud in the Chicago school system!).  See here (hat tip: Judy).  It can be done!

I’m tech-impaired, but if I can find stuff, so can you.  It just takes a little patience!

Call or write the non-profit group:

Start with contacting the resettlement agency near you (a handy list is here).  As IRS designated 501(c)3 organizations they are NOT allowed to keep their financial documents from you—they are required to give anyone who calls a copy of their financial statement and their Form 990 (if they have one).  Legitimate churches are not required to file Form 990’s so some of the contractors are doing this federal work (resettling refugees) pretending to be churches only.

Go to Guidestar:

Find their IRS Form 990’s on Guidestar by going here and registering to use Guidestar.  It can get tricky because you have to use their exact name as they filed on their Form 990.  For example, you won’t find the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, but you will find its Form 990 by typing in HIAS, Inc.

USA Spending.gov:

USA Spending.gov is a very handy site as long as you know the exact name of the entity you are searching for.  It also has the advantage of tracking across federal agencies and will give you grants and contracts!  Enter the name of the non-profit in the search window in upper right.

For example, you might find that a resettlement contractor is getting cashola, not just from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (in HHS), but from the US Justice Department from some voter registration grants.  If you don’t find the non-profit group listed, don’t give up right away, try to find the exact name it is using. I looked up a specific Catholic Charities this morning under its diocese name and nothing came up, but then I saw on their website that they had a slightly different name and found what I was looking for under that name.

Annual reports to Congress:

These are a treasure trove of information on grants and statistics on welfare use (among other things). I see here that they are late again.  FY2014 should have been released months ago.

Office of Refugee Resettlement:

Go here to programs and click on those of your choice to see who is getting all of the (your!) money!

Non-Profit Facts. com:

A reader sent me this website, which I have never used until today, so try it too by clicking here.  I did test it on the specific Catholic non-profit I searched at USA Spending.gov and was disappointed to see that this website did not mention the $140,000 HUD grant they had received in the last year.  However, there are still some useful bits of information here.  For example, I learned that this “church” group was not required to file a Form 990.

And, finally, you will need to check with your state and local governments about funding these ‘non-profit’ groups receive from you at that level.  This post is meant to address only federal money flowing to them.  You may have to use state public information laws to extract information from them.

Other suggestions that have worked for you?  Send them my way!

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Florida and Texas Win Again

The far Left’s actions with regard to tax policy rarely match up to their lingo. Whether it’s John Kerry’s tax savings by docking his boat in Rhode Island rather than Massachusetts to dodge the penalty, or the Clinton’s avoidance of a hefty real estate tax bill by using slick accounting, it’s clear that the far-left’s luminaries do not practice what they preach.

As I reported in August when I wrote about the mass exodus from high-tax states toward more profitable areas, a number of blue state residents are following the same “do as I say, not as I do” approach. To be fair, many of those fleeing blue states for more business-friendly environments are conservatives fed up with having their hard-earned money pilfered by the blue state tax-vacuum, but the laws of probability state this exodus cannot be comprised of conservatives alone.

With the release of a new batch of IRS tax migration data for the 2013-2014 filing year, the evidence keeps piling up that Americans are voting with their feet, and their feet are voting for lower-tax, business-friendly states.

With the release of a new batch of IRS tax migration data for the 2013-2014 filing year, the evidence keeps piling up that Americans are voting with their feet, and their feet are voting for lower-tax, business-friendly states. This data has to be devastating to tax-and-spend liberals who keep insisting that the economic arc of history bends in their direction, but when the IRS data—along with something as simple as market-based U-Haul rates—conclusively indicate otherwise, it’s time to reevaluate that approach.

So, who are the winners and who are the losers? Again, low-tax, business-friendly, Florida and Texas are the big winners, while the high-tax, big government states like New York, California, Illinois, and New Jersey are the big losers.

Recently released IRS tax migration data from the 2013-2014 year indicate that an astonishing 5.4 billion dollars in taxable income fled the state of New York alone, while 4.2 billion left California (hat tip to Jim Pettit, who has written frequently on this topic, for organizing the data). Where is the money going? Florida enjoyed an influx of 10.6 billion dollars in income and Texas gained 4.9 billion. This is in addition to the 17.5 billion, which flowed into the top four finishers, Florida, Texas, South Carolina and, North Carolina, in the 2012-2013 filing year.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that tax rates are the only reason that people are leaving blue states for lower-tax red states, but it defies common sense to insist that this isn’t a major contributing factor. I even had someone write to me that it’s “the weather” that best accounts for the shifts. Really, the weather? I’ve heard a number of complaints from Californians about things ranging from taxes to traffic, but I’ve rarely heard complaints about the weather.

Adding to this pervasive “do a I say, not as I do” phenomenon—in which liberals vote for higher taxes and then move away from regions where their policies have won the day—is that the migration is happening at the county level as well.

As reported by Andrew Blake in the Washington Times and congressional candidate Frank Howard, Washington D.C. and its surrounding suburbs, which overwhelmingly vote Democratic in local, state, and federal elections, witnessed nearly 2 billion dollars flee from the city and its surrounding bedtime communities.

I witnessed this firsthand during my campaign for Congress.

I witnessed this firsthand during my campaign for Congress. I would knock on doors in Frederick County, MD, a largely conservative county just north on I-270 from Montgomery County, a D.C. bedtime community, which has zero countywide elected Republicans. People in Frederick would tell me that they just moved in. When I inquired, “Where from?” they would often respond: “Montgomery County. You just can’t run a business there.”

There’s a crucial election cycle right around the corner. If you are running for office, or supporting someone who is, please do your future constituents a favor and tell them in a clear and well-thought out message why you are running, and why people are running away from tax-and-spend liberal governance.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review. FULL DISCLOSURE: Frank Howard, referenced herein, served as Dan Bongino’s campaign chairman for a brief period during his 2014 congressional campaign.

Muslim Refugee Resettlement Resistance Grows: Feds shifiting costs to State and Local Taxpayers

Fox News reporter, Melissa Jacobs, posted a very useful piece earlier this week entitled, ‘Obama’s refugee resettlement plan could stir battle with states.

Here is a bit that interested me (be sure to read the whole thing because she mentions several states and local communities resisting the resettlement of more refugees.  See if your city or state gets a mention!).

The Obama administration’s pledge to absorb thousands more Syrian and other refugees could run headlong into resistance from state and local officials worried about whether their communities can handle the influx.

[….]

“It’s a fiscal issue,” said Peter Steele, a spokesman for Maine Gov. Paul LePage. “You can only pay for what you can afford, and those funds should be going to the most needy citizens in our state.”

Don Barnett

Don Barnett, Center for Immigration Studies Fellow.

[….]

…. push back from the states could pose practical challenges.

According to a 1980 law, states can opt out of the program and need to be consulted in the process. However, Don Barnett, a fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies,describes refugee resettlement as a “secretive” and lucrative business for “non-profits” who operate with little coordination with state and local communities.

“In every encounter I’ve had with resettlement representatives, they will say if the locality doesn’t want it, we won’t resettle them — but this hasn’t been tested,” Barnett said.

Concern about the funding burden falling on local governments is hardly new.

The 1981 Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy noted, “Many state and local officials are concerned that the costs of resettlement assistance will continue beyond the period of federal reimbursement and that the burden of providing services will then fall upon their governments.”

“There is a complete cost shift to the states,” Barnett said.

Indeed, federal funding, extended for 36 months at the beginning of the program, dropped to the current eight-month period by 1991. The Heritage Foundation estimates the total lifetime cost of government benefits at $6.5 billion per 10,000 refugees.

See Julia Hahn at Breitbart, here, for more on the Heritage Foundation study.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Maryland Senators want more Syrians resettled in the state; seek to streamline security screening

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho newspaper confirms it: No refugees to be resettled in Northern Idaho (“right now”)

‘Refugee’ security screening Greek-style