Category: Public Policy

Untitled-9One of the things I never learned in my U.S. government courses in high school was just how quickly government agencies and programs grow without undergoing Congressional vetting. For example, I recently discovered that there exists a federally-funded White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). When did that happen? How did that happen? In fact, a few days ago, the White House announced changes in the leadership of this initiative.

President Obama names two dynamic new leaders to head the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Dr. George Cooper will begin this week as the Initiative’s Executive Director, and Dr. Ivory Toldson will serve as Deputy Director. The task at hand for Dr. Cooper and Dr. Toldson is to lead a team, stretched across 32 federal agencies, corporate entities, and philanthropic organizations, to work together in strengthening the capacity of over 100 HBCUs, as they strive to shape this country’s next generation of leaders.

Since a large share of HBCUs are private schools, I am curious about why these schools deserve special attention from the President of the United States in ways that other historic coalitions of colleges do not. After looking at the Department of Education’s website for information I discovered that this is a tale of presidential executive orders.
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Blog author: abradley
Thursday, September 12, 2013
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NYC Mayoral Candidate Bill de Blasio Campaigns In BrooklynPeter Beinart at the Daily Beast writes a fascinating article about the way the “left” is currently being reshaped. It seems that young adults in the Democratic Party are far more radical than what America saw in the Clinton White House. In fact, as the article notes, Bill de Blasio’s Democratic Party nomination to run for New York City mayor is a signal of this new direction. If those who love liberty are not paying attention to this shift, they should: we are likely to see more and more of de Blasio’s platform at the local and state level. Here are just a few things de Blasio wants to accomplish in New York City if elected:
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choiceopportunityfront1Last week, as the country was remember MLK’s dream of children being judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, Attorney General Eric Holder was suing the state of Louisiana because he’s more worried, as the Wall Street Journal says, about the complexion of the schools’ student body than their manifest failure to educate.

Late last week, Justice asked a federal court to stop 34 school districts in the Pelican State from handing out private-school vouchers so kids can escape failing public schools. Mr. Holder’s lawyers claim the voucher program appears “to impede the desegregation progress” required under federal law. Justice provides little evidence to support this claim, but there couldn’t be a clearer expression of how the civil-rights establishment is locked in a 1950s time warp.

Passed in 2012, Louisiana’s state-wide program guarantees a voucher to students from families with incomes below 250% of poverty and who attend schools graded C or below. The point is to let kids escape the segregation of failed schools, and about 90% of the beneficiaries are black.

During the 2012-13 school year, about 10% of voucher recipients came from 22 districts that remain under desegregation orders from 50 or so years ago.
For example, says the complaint, in several of those 22 districts “the voucher recipients were in the racial minority at the public school they attended before receiving the voucher.” In other words, Justice is claiming that the voucher program may be illegal because minority kids made their failing public schools more white by leaving those schools to go to better private schools.

Read more . . .

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, September 9, 2013
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military-draftAs Congress decides whether to commit the U.S. to another war in the Middle East, Democratic Representative Charles Rangel of New York is proposing — yet again — that Congress reinstate the military draft. Rep. Rangel, a decorated veteran of the Korean War and the third-longest-serving member of Congress, has proposed reinstating the draft about a half dozen times over the past decade.

After he proposed the legislation in 2004, Congressional Republicans called his bluff and Rangel voted against his own bill. Rangel has never been accused of being a man of principle, but at least he has his priorities straight. “This is hypocrisy of the worst kind,” Rangel said. “I would not encourage any Democrat running for re-election to vote for this bill.”

Despite his theatrics, Rangel doesn’t really want to return a return to military conscription. And he’s not alone. While there are numerous reasons we aren’t likely to see a return to non-volunteer service, the main one is that almost no one wants to reinstate the useless relic.

In fact, there is only one group that likes the idea of conscription less than future draft dodgers: the current all-volunteer military. A draft would have such a detrimental affect on military readiness that the Pentagon would only consider the idea as an absolute last resort. The problems and headaches that came over the past decade with the mobilization of the reserve units would only be compounded exponentially by using untrained and unmotivated conscripts.

More importantly, though, a draft should only even be considered an option of last resort — and perhaps not even then.
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Blog author: ehilton
Monday, September 9, 2013
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Crowded emergency room waiting area.The Obama Administration is counting down the days and rounding up “navigators” to get Obamacare off the ground. (Those navigators, by the way, will get $58 for each person they sign up, on top of their hourly pay.) The big question: Is Obamacare going to work? Will it deliver better health to Americans? There are a lot of skeptics, including Forbes’ Paul Howard. Howard’s concern is that Obamacare is using mid-20th century assumptions about health and insurance in a 21st century world.

Washington’s view of health care remains deeply entrenched in mid-century assumptions about health and illness.  Health care via industrial policy makes sense if illness is an Act of God to which all are equally vulnerable and a known quantity of health care can be delivered to everyone at a fixed price.   If these assumptions are true, the largest payer – the government – can set the rules of the road, from which all (or almost all) benefit.

That was a reasonable picture of medicine well into the 20th century…when infectious diseases dominated U.S. deaths.  But by 1950, heart disease and cancer had displaced infections as the nation’s most potent killers.  (“Diseases of early infancy” was still the fourth-leading cause of death in 1950. By 2010, they had dropped off the table entirely.)

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Boy-Scouts-of-AmericaCalifornia lawmakers are moving close to a final vote on a bill that could threaten the tax-exempt status of a variety of groups — ranging from the Boy Scouts to Little League — if their membership policies are found to differentiate on “gender identity,” “sexual orientation,” and other bases. As Alliance Defending Freedom explains, the proposed legislation also threatens religious liberties:

SB 323, which bans discrimination based on “religion” and “religious affiliation,” and which contains no exemption from these bans for religious organizations, would strip religious youth organizations of d1cir tax-exempt status if they continued to select leaders and other persons responsible for carrying out their missions based on a shared set of religious beliefs.

Like SB 323’s ban on religious discrimination, its ban on sexual orientation discrimination, which is designed to punish BSA over its membership and leadership policy, will also severely and negatively impact religious organizations. Most religious organizations, undoubtedly including many covered by SB 323, require their leaders and members to express and conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with their religious beliefs regarding sexual conduct. Under these types of policies, individuals who approve of or engage in conduct that contradicts a group’s religious teaching regarding sexual morality may be denied membership or leadership positions. Such policies likely conflict with SB 323. Thus, if passed, the bill will require religious organizations to choose between complying with the law and abandoning their religious convictions, or defying the law and losing their tax exemptions.

Religious organizations that select members and leaders who share their religious convictions to maintain a coherent religious identity and message are not engaging in invidious discrimination. Rather, they arc engaging in d1e most basic and fundamental exercise of religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Read more . . .

(Via: The Foundry)

Progressive-ObamaGiven the current slate of policy proposals that are popular today across the country, one could argue the Democratic Party could rename itself the “Progressive Democratic Party.” From the policies and public rhetoric of leaders in the Obama administration to New York mayorial candidate Bill de Blasio, we can see that progressivism is back in a new way.

According to the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University, progressivism is a term applied to a variety of responses to the economic and social problems that rapid industrialization introduced to America spanning from around 1890 to 1920. Progressivism began primarily as a social movement but later morphed into public policy initiatives and even into a political party in 1912. The early progressives rejected Social Darwinism, believing that “the problems society faced (poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare) could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change.”

Does this sound familiar? President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was not so much a platform for “liberals” as it was an introduction to America’s neo-progressivism. Today’s neo-progressivism has the same views of the role of elites to govern society, the role of government to run economies with a twist on social agendas, and so on. There are differences, however. The progressivism of old was explicitly racist at times and supported programs like eugenics to rid America of those who might impede national progress. In fact, Margaret Sanger helped to launch and systematize abortion as a progressivist weapon to that end. While the eugenicist abortion platform has been recast as a “women’s health” issue, today’s neo-progressivism comes with the consecration of minority groups as sacred and therefore justifies the use of government to guarantee them various special rights, protections, and privileges under the law. In the neo-progressivist era, every minority group deserves to have their lifestyles and choices enhanced and protected by the state.

U.S. History.org explains the development of progressivism this way:

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food_desert_1As politicians continue their surrogate decision-making in the lives of the underclass, Washington, D.C. city politics remain a laboratory for repeated public policy failures. The Washington, D.C. city council recently approved a measure that would create a living wage for workers in the city who are employed by large retailers. Sometimes, you have to wonder if the city’s leaders have considered the long-term consequences of decisions like this. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray took about a week to decide whether to veto or sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act, according to the Washington Times. The newspaper explains what the city is up to:

Part of the Gray administration’s five-year plan to boost the number of jobs in the city includes creating a “retail-friendly environment” in the District. But retailers have argued that the bill the mayor is considering unfairly targets certain employers — specifically those without union labor that occupy in excess of 75,000 square feet and whose parent companies gross $1 billion or more.

It would force those retailers to provide pay and benefits worth $12.50 an hour — a so-called “living wage” for workers — but could potentially curtail retail expansion in the District as affected businesses that oppose the law locate elsewhere. The current minimum wage is $8.25 an hour.

The bill applies only to large retailers with stores of 75,000 square feet or larger with annual corporate sales of at least $1 billion. Stores like Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Toys-R-Us, and the like are the targets of this part of the legislation. Walmart has already threatened to dissolve plans to build three stores in D.C. if the law passes. Can you blame them? How can politicians accurately discern how much Walmart should pay a cashier or someone who stocks shelves? How do politicians know how much any single job should be worth at a large retailer?

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In an early morning raid last week, a SWAT team stormed a residence in residence near Darmstadt, Germany. “I looked through a window and saw many people, police, and special agents, all armed,” says Dirk Wunderlich. “They told me they wanted to come in to speak with me. I tried to ask questions, but within seconds, three police officers brought a battering ram and were about to break the door in, so I opened it.”

Wuncherlichs_Farris_GHEC2012_1“The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first,” added Wunderlich. “It was chaotic as they told me they had an order to take the children. At my slightest movement the agents would grab me, as if I were a terrorist. You would never expect anything like this to happen in our calm, peaceful village. It was like a scene out of a science fiction movie. Our neighbors and children have been traumatized by this invasion.”

Social workers forcibly removed four children, aged 7 to 14, from the home and put them in state custody. “When I went outside, our neighbor was crying as she watched,” said Wunderlich. “I turned around to see my daughter being escorted as if she were a criminal by two big policemen. They weren’t being nice at all. When my wife tried to give my daughter a kiss and a hug goodbye, one of the special agents roughly elbowed her out of the way and said—‘It’s too late for that.’ What kind of government acts like this?”

The Wunderlich children were taken away because their parents committed a serious crime in Germany: homeschooling.

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Adam CartwrightIn this week’s Acton Commentary, I adapt a section from my latest book focusing on an instance of “cowboy compassion” we find in an episode of Bonanza. I focus on the example of Adam Cartwright, who helps out an economically-depressed family faced with the tyranny of a greedy scrooge, Jedediah Milbank.

There are many reasons to appreciate Bonanza, even if it is a product of its times, as in the stereotypical portrayal of Hop Sing, for instance. I also mention another favorite western of mine, Have Gun–Will Travel, in which Paladin functions as a kind of one-man A-Team. But this show, too, traffics a bit in the well-worn caricature of Asians, as the only other semi-regular appearing character is a Chinese bellhop known as “Hey Boy” (as in, “Hey, boy, come over here and pick up this suitcase.”).

But we have something to learn from such shows, warts and all. In the case of Bonanza, I think we have a kind of libertarian-cowboy in black, who no doubt wore “the black for the poor and the beaten down,” a man firmly committed to wedding together liberty and love.

As I conclude, “We can get our hands dirty by grubbing for money,” or as in the case of Adam Cartwright, “we can get them dirty by helping fix a broken well.”

Read more in Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) and “The ‘Cowboy Compassion’ of the Cartwrights.”