Category: Public Policy

Referring to the Affordable Care Act, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D-Mont.) stated earlier this year, “Unless we implement this properly, it’s going to be a train wreck.”

And indeed, from looking at the Obamacare implementation timeline alone, the law seems to have gotten off to a shaky start. The implementation of the so-called employer mandate, which would require businesses with more than 50 workers to offer insurance to all full-time employees, or else pay a fine of $2,000 per worker, has been delayed until after the 2014 midterm elections. And in late June, the Obama Administration announced another delay when it pushed back the August 1, 2013 deadline of requiring religiously-affiliated non-profits to comply with the mandate to provide coverage of contraceptives, to the beginning of next year.

Time can prove valuable and as the impending “train wreck” of Obamacare gathers momentum, more and more good, free-market alternatives are beginning to take shape.

One such approach will soon be discussed in the Michigan Senate. Last week, the Senate Government Operations committee voted to send two pieces of legislation, which would create a free-market alternative to Medicaid expansion, to the full Senate for consideration by the Chamber. “Senate Bills (SB) 459 and 460, introduced by Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) and known as the Patient-Centered Care Act, would enact a patient-centered healthcare plan that expands access to quality care without expanding government,” according to a statement released last month. (more…)

13317570-indoor-crime-sceneEmily Badger at The Atlantic Wire posts a common sense story regarding the debate about whether or not the dispersing of poor people out of inner-city housing projects into suburban neighborhoods, through government housing voucher programs, increases crime rates. The article reflects recent research by Michael Lens, an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA.

A growing stack of research now supports [the] hypothesis that housing vouchers do not in fact lead to crime. Lens has just added another study to that literature, published in the journal Urban Studies. He looked at crime and housing data in 215 cities between 1997 and 2008 – controlling for national and regional crime trends, demographic and income variables, employment rates and more – and found “virtually no relationship” between the prevalence of Housing Choice Voucher Program households and higher crime at the city level or in the suburbs. In previous research, Lens and colleagues had investigated the same question at the neighborhood level.

“Although communities with a higher prevalence of voucher households appear to be higher in crime,” Lens writes, “there is no evidence that this is due to voucher households increasing crime.”

Lens’ findings should not sound too surprising given the fact that poverty does not cause criminal behavior in the first place. In fact, immoral behavior has never been a function of class but a matter of moral fortitude. Granted, poverty most certainly introduces particular temptations (Prov 30:8) but so does wealth (Prov 22:16). Poor people do not have more moral limitations than those who are wealthy. To assume such is make human dignity a function of class and once we cross that road, the poor find themselves the victims of patronizing oppression.

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Our health care system is broken. So why can’t we agree on how to fix it? The main problem is that disagreements about health care reform tend to be caused by a difference in values. Conservatives value personal choice and efficiency while progressives value coverage and affordability, says AEI’s Henry Olsen. But what if we could reform the healthcare system so that it recognized all these values?

What if we could design a health care system from scratch, what would we build, and why? AEI has produced several materials to help Americans think about how to answer that question.

foia-guidance-resources-picThere’s a new front in the struggle for religious liberty, says Brian Simboli: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

FOIA’s implementation is broken, and defenders of religious liberty ought to seek ways to fix it. . . .

t would be extraordinarily naïve to assume that threats to religious liberty are going to diminish in coming decades. Religious institutions will have to seek ways to check government power and seek bureaucratic accountability. Improving our FOIA system now will prove a boon to religious bodies and other counter-cultural groups years into the future.

Read more . . .

umcWhen the Obamacare legislation was rushed through Congress in 2010, Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops for The United Methodist Church (UMC), said he “rejoiced” at the passage of the bill because it aligns with the denomination’s values. But now, many Methodists bishops — and other Christian clergy — are wishing they hadn’t waited for the bill to pass to find out what was in it.

According to a statement released by the UMC’s General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, clergy and lay employees of United Methodist churches may soon lose their health care coverage due to some coming Obamacare provisions:

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Monsanto PlantWriting over at the Live58 blog, Catherine Sinclair describes her transition from uncertainty regarding GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) to outright opposition: “After doing some more research, I’ve come to the conclusion that we should avoid GMO as much as possible.” This a conclusion that we might think is counter-intuitive, to say the least, for an organization committed to ending the scourge of global hunger and poverty.

Sinclair’s main indictment of GMOs comes down to the agribusiness giant Monsanto: “Because they are companies seeking profit, seed developers like Monsanto do whatever they can to control the agricultural industry.”

It’s important to distinguish the theoretical and ethical basis for genetic modification from the actual behavior and practice of corporations like Monsanto. Too often the two are conflated. In my new book, Get Your Hands Dirty, I have an updated discussion of a theological framework for evaluating GM foods. As I caution at the conclusion of my examination of GM foods, “nothing in this framework presumes any particular policy outcome in the realm of law, and so, for instance, concerns about the use of property rights as a means to tyrannize or monopolize particular industries ought to be considered.”

Making such a distinction allows an approach that is more nuanced and responsible than simply identifying Monsanto with GMOs in general. So, for instance, a self-identified “hippie” writes in Slate:

I think Monsanto is evil, that patenting seeds and suing farmers is unethical, and that some GMO crops (like Roundup Ready Soybeans) lend themselves to irresponsible herbicide and pesticide use and cross-contamination.

But I’m also not going to let my anti-corporate sentiments get in the way of a diverse and promising field of research. (emphasis added)

Genetic modification and the cronyism that is so endemic to big agribusiness simply aren’t identical. That distinction strikes me as a helpful starting point for responsible discussion of GMOs.

For a critical but balanced examination of GMOs in theological context, check out Brad Littlejohn’s treatment of his “inner Luddite” at Mere Orthodoxy.

city-journal-hirschOne of the core principles of the Acton Institute is commitment to wealth creation since material impoverishment undermines the conditions that allow humans to flourish. We consider helping our fellow citizens to escape material deprivation to be one of the most morally significant economic concerns of our age. But how to do we gauge whether our neighbors are able to improve their economic security? A key metric that is often used is income or social mobility, the ability of an individual to improve their economic status over time.

Last month I noted a study that highlighted four broad factors that appear to affect income mobility:

1. The size and dispersion of the local middle class,
2. Two-parent households,
3. Better elementary schools and high schools, and
4. Civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.

Saying that schools should be “better” is unhelpfully vague. But a recent article in City Journal by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., explains just what qualitative factor is most important: The key to increasing upward mobility is expanding vocabulary.

Hirsch’s article is one of the most important essays on education published this year — perhaps even of the decade. I highly encourage you to read the entire feature. But if you only have time for a bullet-point presentation, here are ten key facts and recommendations from Hirsch’s brilliant article:

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, August 1, 2013
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nature_1The central thesis of philosopher Roger Scruton case for an environmental conservatism, says Leah Kostamo, is that the primary motivation for care for the earth is oikophilia—a love of home.

Oikophilia, Scruton argues, is what emboldens people to make sacrifices for their surrounding environment and neighbour. Scruton spends many pages tracing the history of oikophilia, particularly in his native Britain, and howoikophilia has been destroyed by internationalism and big-government subsidies and regulations.

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Welcome_to_ClevelandAnthony Dent has a clever plan to improve economic mobility: move strategically unimportant federal departments and agencies to economically impoverished cities and towns across America.

Republicans would support it because, well, they hate DC and favor “real” America. Democrats would support it because their cities and states would benefit disproportionately (think Atlanta, Michigan, or Illinois).

Call it the Cleveland Plan after the city that exemplifies America’s decline. Not only does Cleveland routinely rank as one of America’s fastest-dying cities, but Clevelanders also had the indignity of watching the man who spurned them turn around and win the 2012 (and 2013) NBA Finals (not to mention they still claim Dennis Kucinich as a favorite son). Plop the Department of Energy HQ in Public Square and you suddenly have thousands of jobs that aren’t going anywhere.

Why is the Department of Agriculture on the National Mall when it could be in Kansas, which devotes 90.1 percent of its land to agriculture (compared to DC’s 0)? Shouldn’t government be close to the people it serves? In the same vein, perhaps one of the many blighted urban areas across the country could welcome the Department of Housing and Urban Development (hello, Detroit!). The Department of Education could even set up a roving headquarters in one of the nation’s worst performing school systems (scratch that—it’s already been done—ahem, DC).

Read more . . .

This case has been made that government attempts to manage economies through regulation, laws, and taxes discourage entrepreneurs entering into the marketplace. I recently asked Michael, a young entrepreneur in his 20s, what were some of his fears about being a entrepreneur in America. We’re not using his full name to protect his identity but this is what he had to say:

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