Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Billion$ spent to fix failing schools; fail

original article: Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work
January 19, 2017 by Emma Brown

One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.

The Education Department published the findings on the website of its research division on Wednesday, hours before President Obama’s political appointees walked out the door.

“We’re talking about millions of kids who are assigned to these failing schools, and we just spent several billion dollars promising them things were going to get better,” said Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has long been skeptical that the Obama administration’s strategy would work. “Think of what all that money could have been spent on instead.”

The School Improvement Grants program has been around since the administration of President George W. Bush, but it received an enormous boost under Obama. The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015 — far exceeding the $4 billion it spent on Race to the Top grants.

The money went to states to distribute to their poorest-performing schools — those with exceedingly low graduation rates, or poor math and reading test scores, or both. Individual schools could receive up to $2 million per year for three years, on the condition that they adopt one of the Obama administration’s four preferred measures: replacing the principal and at least half the teachers, converting into a charter school, closing altogether, or undergoing a “transformation,” including hiring a new principal and adopting new instructional strategies, new teacher evaluations and a longer school day.

The Education Department did not track how the money was spent, other than to note which of the four strategies schools chose.

Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2016, said his aim was to turn around 1,000 schools every year for five years. “We could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children,” Duncan said in 2009.

Duncan often said that the administration’s school-improvement efforts did not get the attention they deserved, overshadowed by more-controversial efforts to encourage states to adopt new standards and teacher evaluations tied to tests.

The school turnaround effort, he told The Washington Post days before he left office in 2016, was arguably the administration’s “biggest bet.”

He and other administration officials sought to highlight individual schools that made dramatic improvements after receiving the money. But the new study released this week shows that, as a large-scale effort, School Improvement Grants failed.

Just a tiny fraction of schools chose the most dramatic measures, according to the new study. Three percent became charter schools, and 1 percent closed. Half the schools chose transformation, arguably the least intrusive option available to them.

“This outcome reminds us that turning around our lowest-performing schools is some of the hardest, most complex work in education and that we don’t yet have solid evidence on effective, replicable, comprehensive school improvement strategies,” said Dorie Nolt, an Education Department spokeswoman.

Nolt emphasized that the study focused on schools that received School Improvement Grants money between 2010 and 2013. The administration awarded a total of $3.5 billion to those schools, most of it stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “Since then,” she said, “the program has evolved toward greater flexibility in the selection of school improvement models and the use of evidence-based interventions.”

“Here in Massachusetts, it actually took several years to see real improvement in some areas,” Duncan said at the time. “Scores were flat or even down in some subjects and grades for a while. Many people questioned whether the state should hit the brakes on change. But you had the courage to stick with it, and the results are clear to all.”

Smarick said he had never seen such a huge investment produce zero results.

That could end up being a gift, he said, from Duncan to Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary and is a prominent proponent of taxpayer-supported vouchers for private and religious schools.

Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work, Smarick said: “I can imagine Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump saying this is exactly why kids need school choice.”

bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

Filed under: bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

A Closer Look At Why There Aren’t More Black Conservatives

In January of this year The American Conservative published “Why Aren’t There More Black Republicans” byMusa Al-Gharbi. I found some excellent and insightful points in Al-Gharbi’s piece. While there are also some legitimate grievances mentioned (which the GOP needs to take seriously) I believe many of these grievances are aimed in the wrong direction. I admit my perspective is not one of a political insider or policy wonk. I’m just a regular Joe trying to make a living. With that in mind, please consider the following.

Al-Gharbi makes the remarkable (and rare) point that the GOP has a positive historical record on civil rights and that Americans need to be reminded of this history. Al-Gharbi also touches on some important Democrat history of American politics and race. Can you imagine what campaigning would be like today if Americans were reminded of historical Democrat opposition to civil rights (including filibustering civil rights legislation in the 1960s)? For more eye opening info on this topic, Bruce Bartlett writes about the abysmal Democrat past on civil rights in his book Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party’s Buried Past. Dinesh D’Sousa’s movie “Hillary’s America” is another good place to look.

But when Al-Ghardi moves off of history and into the meat of his article there is a vital distinction between Republicans and Conservatives that is not mentioned – the difference between conservatives and RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). This distinction, I believe, would reshape many of his points. Another point I want to reexamine in Al-Gharbi’s article is what appears to be a left wing perspective on many issues.

Take, for instance, the argument on the supposed harm inflicted on black Americans “by advocating for voter ID laws, which disenfranchise primarily low-income and legal minority voters.” We can ask, in what way does a common sense (and internationally speaking, a very common) election security precaution disenfranchise anyone? The “widespread evidence” standard is a legitimate one, and I’d like to see widespread evidence that such abuse is inevitable in the implementation of voter id laws. For the liberal left it is standard procedure to ignore or downplay stories of various forms of election fraud, and we should not neglect the fact this fraud is so often in their favor. The numerous cases of voter fraud are often simply ignored or actively covered up by those who benefit from them (which should not be surprising). I humbly suggest the complaints of Voter ID laws should not be taken at face value.

EDITORIAL: North Carolina answers Democrats’ question ‘What vote fraud?’

N.C. proves multiple voting occurs and dead cast ballots

Voter Fraud: We’ve Got Proof It’s Easy

53,000 Dead Voters Found in Florida

If “widespread evidence” and “a single example of when such voting has actually turned an election” (criteria Al-Gharbi mentions) are the standard Voter ID proponents must measure up to, why not hold opponents of Voter ID to that same standard?

A couple examples of voter fraud come to my mind. A Philadelphia man gleefully admitted on live television he voted multiple times for Barack Obama. Imagine all the details that have to work together for this to occur. First, the only system innate in the voting process to prevent multiple voting is the poll workers. Unfortunately, the poll workers either don’t notice or don’t care that he voted more than once. And he feels so confident that nothing is wrong with this he is willing to admit on TV that he committed the crime. Some questions ought to naturally follow. Was this man charged? Did anyone in law enforcement follow up?

In another example, this woman, (who was a poll worker at the time) admits voting for Obama multiple times and yet denies committing voter fraud. When the perpetrators of voter fraud don’t recognize or even deny their crime it makes sense there would be difficulty in finding “widespread evidence” for it. As an experiment, one could show these two examples of voter fraud to people who voted for Barack Obama and ask them if these incidents qualify as voter fraud, and subsequently discover why “widespread evidence” for this crime is so difficult to find. Many people are so enamored with the idea of the first black president, election laws seem to be irrelevant.

On the other hand, there was an article a few years back on how the current election system (regardless of voter IDs) may be designed to disenfranchise black voters by default. Could it be that requiring voter ID might help liberate the black community from this and other common election shenanigans which already disenfranchise them?

I would also ask for widespread evidence that “Republican legislators court Neo-Confederates and other ethnic nationalist movements” as Al-Gharbi states. There seems to be no concern for nuance here (such as the difference between groups reaching out to politicians and politicians actively courting organizations). Do we know such groups reach out to conservatives and not to RINOs? RINOs are more likely to get government involved and appeal to special interest groups because RINOs act more like Democrats than like conservatives.

But does it matter when questionable groups have ties to politicians? It apparently didn’t matter in regard to the late Democrat Senator Robert Byrd, as Bill Clinton explained Sen. Byrd was merely “trying to get elected” by being a member of the KKK. A lame excuse, sure, but it worked. Evidently it doesn’t matter that Robert Byrd spent half a century representing people for whom a “fleeting association” (full blown membership) with the KKK counted as an asset rather than a liability. As Al-Gharbi already mentioned, the liberal narrative would sugar coat and disregard this record with a racist hate group. Then, curiously, Republicans would be blamed for the evils committed by that group. Despite many theories, the reality of why Democrats and Republicans are treated so differently on matters of racism escapes me. Even the myth that the parties “switched sides” is losing its influence as more people learn the truth of the matter, yet Democrats often get a pass for overt racism. There are no more whites only water fountains, restrooms, lunch counters, etc. It is not incidental that Republicans dominate the American South during its LEAST racist era. Racism abounds throughout the country, we are constantly told, and the South is no longer the preeminent example of it.

On the matter of affirmative action, I don’t doubt there was a time for this sort of government intervention. But it has become a crutch for the black community. The left wing narrative constantly promotes the idea that black Americans cannot survive without Uncle Sam’s helping hand on a daily basis. This, of course, makes it easier to displace white people to make room for demographic quotas in various jobs (though I don’t see much effort to REDUCE counts of blacks among professional athletes (such as the NBA or NFL) to make the demographics more closely match those of the general population). This narrative is promoted largely by perpetuating the belief that there has been no progress in the battle against racism over the last half century, that racism still lurks around every corner. No one claims racism has been eliminated but it certainly sounds like Democrats infuse race into every discussion possible. Fear mongering and race hustling work for Democrats.

But what should we expect from people who, as Bob Parks put it, make money finding racism even when it isn’t there? The Duke Lacrosse scandal is one of the more prominent examples of how the ghost of racism is kept alive because the fear of racism is fuel for the fire – even if liberals have to lie about it. But let us not forget that manufactured racism and affirmative action both provide the same benefit for Democrats: a belief that the black community needs government, and that government can solve all of life’s problems.

We should question whether government can solve such problems. There is an astounding degree of blind faith in the magical powers of government. This faith is often supported by questionable data if not outright lies. The figures Al-Ghardi provides sound familiar, much like the feminist data constantly touted about the supposed wage gap. I’d like to see the data that show “Black families have, on average, 5 percent of the wealth of their white counterparts.” How do we know “blacks earn only 60 cents for every dollar that white people earn in salary and wages.”? (And if blacks did earn 60 cents for every dollar that whites earn, wouldn’t blacks have 60 percent of the wealth of their white counterparts?) Are these numbers produced in the same way the specious 77 cents wage gap figure was produced? And if the methods for producing the 77 cent or 60 cent figures are valid there are other questions we should put on the table; such as is it okay for Hillary Clinton to pay her female workers 72 cents for every dollar she pays a male?

Others have made good points in that the data show the black community was stronger and more likely to overcome the lingering effects of slavery and racism before government started trying to “help” in the 1960s. In fact, Dr. Thomas Sowell and others who have looked into this issue make a good case that the lingering effects of slavery and racism we see today are largely perpetuated by government intervention (meaning Democrats and RINOs).

In conservative thought, a nanny state government is an insatiable government. Every decision the government makes on our behalf is a decision we no longer have the right to make for ourselves. Every effort for the government to “help” people grows the power and influence of the state, which diminishes the autonomy and liberty of the individual. Over time this sort of help infantilizes people, who look to government more and more to take care of them, and they eventually become slaves to their own government. Conservatives expect other conservatives to accept this viewpoint. RINOs don’t really care about the size or fiscal appetite of government.

I appreciate the viewpoint diversity Al-Ghardi speaks of. I would like for viewpoint diversity to be valued among our increasingly closed minded, intolerant, progressive culture. Progressives are astoundingly judgemental and abusive to those expressing dissent. (Just as an experiment, find a moment to say out loud to a group of progressives “marriage is between one man and one woman” as if you actually believed that statement, and tell me how tolerant they are of a view they disagree with.)

On any number of issues you can find ample viewpoint diversity among conservatives, of any race. But on the fundamental issue of liberty vs. government influence, to veer away from this premise is to veer away from conservatism. Given there are relatively few people who subscribe to this belief, conservatives gladly embrace all who agree with this view regardless of race. It is one of the building blocks of all conservative thought.

But to Democrats and liberals/progressives, to free people from a nanny state form of “help” is uncompassionate and even dangerous. Stoking racial strife is one of the most common ways for Democrats to promote their idea of benevolent government. Alan Keys, Herman Cain, and Ben Carson do not “downplay the significance of historical disadvantages or institutionalized racism” when they speak of the natural result of increasing government power, as Al-Gharbi suggests. Slavery is in fact the destination at the end of that road. Democrats, on the other hand, do downplay the significance such evils when they constantly accuse Republicans of racism, such as VP Joe Biden’s comment about putting black people back in chains.

As to alienating blacks, quite frankly it is not conservatives who do that. According to one of my favorite conservative commentators, Alfozo Rachel, it is the black community who alienates Republicans. And it is liberals who accuse black conservatives of being sell outs among other things. There is a concerted effort to marginalize black conservatives. Black conservatives often pay a huge price for coming out of the closet as conservatives.

RINOs do in fact offer the “top down” approach Al-Ghardi mentions, the same government-knows-best approach Democrats offer the American people. But RINOs and Democrats fail to understand something about economics that is common sense among conservatives: poor people don’t create jobs. On the other hand, somehow the American people have largely been convinced raising their taxes helps them.

One of the biggest lies in American politics is about taxes. So many people who claim to want “fairness” are led to believe “the rich” and “corporations” don’t pay their “fair share”. I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what “fair share” actually means. One question on this issue conservatives like to ask is “how much of other people’s stuff are you entitled to”? Many Americans are in fact “looking for government handouts” and they are “demanding wealth redistribution as a corrective for historical disenfranchisement”. It is not conservatives who are doing this, it is liberals/progressives. I see it in the black community, the hispanic community, the white community, etc. American culture, with the exception of conservatives, is largely infected with an entitlement mentality – an attitude of “somebody owes me something”.

Everyone claims to desire a “fair playing field, opportunity for social mobility” but many people will likewise demand government handouts without even noticing the contradiction. In fact, from what I’ve seen, when liberals say they want a fair playing field and opportunity for social mobility, they actually mean government regulations and handouts. Thankfully conservatives are pushing back against this distortion. Black conservatives are doing a lot of this pushback but they are often marginalized and ignored, or attacked with racial epithets by those favoring government handouts.

I don’t know anyone who actually opposes a social safety net that prevents people from sinking into total despondency (though I know many who are blithely accused of opposing any social safety net at all). The biggest objection I see to the current American social safety net is that it is corrupt and inefficient, and has a tendency to trap its recipients in poverty. As Bill Whittle put it, the food, housing, education, and even cell phones offered by the government are all crap, crumbs from Uncle Sam’s table. And human beings deserve better than that.

Sadly, crumbs are the best we can expect from a massive, corrupt government. This is what “micromanaging the poor” looks like – the government-run social safety net. It is not conservative Republicans who support the inefficient social safety net, it is RINOs and Democrats who support it. That’s why conservatives preach so much about freedom. Crumbs we can get easily but if we want more than crumbs we have to work for it. This is why conservatives are constantly talking about getting government out of our way – so people can live their own lives.

But that brings us to a core difference between the way conservatives and others see life. Conservatives don’t look at life from a perspective of helping people attain minimal survival, but from one where people should be allowed to thrive. We don’t seek a social safety net as the peak of civilization, we seek prosperity so that a social safety net does not overwhelm all of us (as is inevitable given the way Democrats and RINOs constantly seek to expand that net). These things require work, a lot of work. Smart work. Making good decisions is crucial to prospering in life.

Making good decisions is a challenge faced by us all, but it seems the black community is more challenged than any other group of Americans. We can tell ourselves this is a result of slavery and discrimination, but perhaps a closer look might shed further light on the matter. Unfortunately, this closer look could lead to some socially unacceptable observations, even if they are true.

In the black community there is very common disdain for education, especially among young males. And why shouldn’t this be the case? From decades of telling the black community they can’t succeed because of racism, and then forcing the black community into what is arguably the worst sector of American education (often riddled with a political agenda), why should the black community believe success is possible for them? Why shouldn’t they expect a life of government handouts? That’s an alarmingly common attitude among the general American population, not merely in the black community. Many times I’ve witnessed people share ideas on gaming the entitlement system, with the mentality of getting as many benefits as possible from the government. And that’s one result that can be traced back to slavery but perpetuated by government: dependency on a master.

Conservative Republicans want to set people free from this kind of misery. One major effort to achieve this freedom is school vouchers. School vouchers empower parents to decide what sort of education is best for their children. But school vouchers take this power away from a bureaucratic state, which is the lifeblood of progressivism today. Thus Democrats typically oppose school vouchers, and make people fear the freedom this would grant them by making that freedom look “raysiss”.

The same is true of government entitlement programs. These programs often trap people. Promoting liberation from a minimum standard is often viewed as “draconian restrictions” on the “assistance provided” by government. And this brings us from bad government programs back to good individual decisions.

Government handouts have made headlines for buying alcohol, drugs, and other entertainment. To the people whose resources were confiscated by government and then redistributed, these sorts of purchases look like a betrayal of trust. We have been lead to believe the social safety net is intended to prevent “people from sinking into total despondency.” Buying booze, drugs, porn, etc., make it seem some of the recipients of these benefits are not as poor as we’ve been lead to believe. Like anything else in life, the people who genuinely need the social safety net have to suffer consequences of others, of those who abuse or defraud the social safety net. Republicans don’t want to make “draconian restrictions” on those who actually need assistance but they do want to stop fraud and abuse of programs which spend other people’s money. Social trust is an important element for those being forced to pay the bill. As long as abuse and fraud occur conservatives will be offended by the waste of aid intended for those who really need it, and seek to prevent such waste. Wasting this aid harms those who really need it. Shouldn’t we all be offended by that?

But rather than simply cleaning up corruption in the system, conservatives want to move beyond merely talking about setting people free and actually set people free. This requires a total change from the predominant safety net paradigm.

Which brings us back to taxes. The current government structure rests on making people think someone else should pay more taxes. The brilliance of this progressive system is that most people don’t realize they are the “someone else”. Businesses “pay” business taxes because they first raise the prices we pay – we the people actually pay all taxes. We can call it corporate tax, or employment tax, or whatever the government wants. But it is we the people who pay. Raising taxes directly impacts we the people, hitting the poor the hardest. Rather than building a massive government scheme designed to control wealth (the progressive way), conservatives prefer to reduce government involvement to the minimum required (military, police, courts, roads, etc.). With minimal government control over wealth there is also minimal government appetite, and thus less government involvement, thus minimal burden on the people. Imagine the jobs that would naturally be created if even 10% of the wealth currently confiscated by the government were instead left to the people who generated that wealth in the first place. People who create wealth naturally put it back into the economy in the form of purchases and business expansion. But we are supposed to call this greed, and consider increased jobs a bad thing when businesses are allowed to create them rather than the government.

And that leads us to another difference between conservatives and others. The ability to freely exchange among our fellow Americans is hampered by over taxation and corrupt regulation. Making life more expensive works quite well for government as it feeds the perceived need for government intervention, thus making a self fulfilling prophesy. But it does not work so well for the people, particularly the poor. Government’s strength is greatest in the act of taking and controlling, but the market’s strength is greatest in offering goods and services for voluntary exchange.

Which brings us back to politics. Conservatives want to change the “getting help” paradigm (government intervention) to a paradigm of achievement (individual liberty). Conservatives also want to redirect the new cultural obsession with “fairness” and return to an obsession with liberty. It is possible. There are prominent black Americans showing us success is possible if people were simply free from an over burdensome government. But that’s the rub; to be free to live one’s own life also entails the responsibility of doing so. A very important question conservatives should ask is “do you want to be free, or do you want to be taken care of?”. It is alarming to see how many people say they want the former but act like they want the latter.

Blind faith in the power of a benevolent government does more harm than good, especially to those it is allegedly trying to help. Democrats have an unwavering faith in the myth. RINOs share this faith. RINOs betray the Republican identity by becoming nothing more than diet Democrat. Democrats and RINOs betray the American people by making false promises resulting merely in more expensive government control of people’s lives. Obamacare is a prime example, from lies about keeping your insurance, to lies about reduced costs, to lies about improved access to health care.

Conservatives should work harder to reach the culture rather than look to politics to solve life’s problems. The “if government doesn’t help, no one will get help” myth must be confronted. So should the lies told which make people think a nanny state government taking of them and making decisions for them is “empowering”. Democrats and RINOs have a vested interest in making people look to government to solve life’s problems. The American people have a vested interest in the truth. It is conservatives who must tell it.

capitalism, conservative, economy, freedom, funding, government, health care, ideology, nanny state, public policy, reform, Republicans, taxes, unintended consequences

Filed under: capitalism, conservative, economy, freedom, funding, government, health care, ideology, nanny state, public policy, reform, Republicans, taxes, unintended consequences

Republican lawmakers slam ‘diversion’ of ObamaCare funds from Treasury

original article: Republican lawmakers slam ‘diversion’ of ObamaCare funds from Treasury
March 11, 2016 by FoxNews

Republican critics say an ObamaCare program is breaking the law by shorting the U.S. Treasury — and therefore U.S. taxpayers– billions of dollars collected from the insurance industry.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., chairman of the health subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, called it “an illegal wealth transfer from hard-working taxpayers to (insurers).”

He recently joined Republican colleagues in grilling Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell about the shortfall of money  supposed to be flowing into Treasury coffers – as mandated in the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

They followed up that hearing by sending a letter this week seeking clarification from the administration, according to The Hill.

Under the law, money is collected each year from insurers for the ACA’s reinsurance program, which helps plans taking on higher costs associated with sicker enrollees.

While $10 billion was supposed to go back to the market to pay those costs in 2014, the first year, an additional $2 billion was supposed to go to the U.S. Treasury under the law. It never arrived.

That was because not enough money was brought in to cover both, so the administration prioritized. Then HHS published a new rule saying payments would be made to insurers first in the event of a shortfall.

The rule, set in 2014, was published publicly for comment and received no reaction at the time, Burwell told a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing when the matter was raised again by lawmakers last week.

According to health care law expert Tim Jost, a professor at Washington & Lee University School of Law, the reinsurance program is not permanent and was instituted as a way to shoulder some of the burden for the new costs connected with new, at-risk enrollees who weren’t able to get adequate coverage before ObamaCare.

The reinsurance program was to collect $10 billion from insurance companies in 2014, $6 billion in 2015, and $4 billion in 2016. The Treasury would get $2 billion in 2014 and 2015 and $1 billion in 2016.

In 2014, according to reports, only $9.7 billion was collected from the industry , and 2015 totals were expected to be short, as well.

Critics say the law is clear: the Treasury gets the money and it cannot be transferred elsewhere, even if that “elsewhere” is to the insurance companies for the reinsurance program.

According to The Hill, presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., teamed up with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R- Utah, to write a letter decrying the administration’s moves.

“The statute in question is unambiguous, and the HHS regulation and recent practice violates its clear directive,” the letter read.

Jost is not so sure. He says it all depends on how the mandate is interpreted. “(The administration’s) reading of the statute is, that the reason for adopting this program was to establish a reinsurance program, and therefore if there was a shortfall the money collected should first go to reinsurance,” and if more is collected, “only then would it go to the Treasury,” Jost told Foxnews.com. “(Republicans) say that reading is wrong.”

“It’s a disagreement on how to read the statute,” he added, “but I don’t think there is anything illegal, unconstitutional or immoral in respect to what the administration is doing.”

bureaucracy, congress, ethics, funding, government, health care, nanny state, politics, public policy, rationing, reform, regulation, spending

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Obamacare includes scrutiny, fines for charitable hospitals that treat uninsured people

original article: Obamacare installs new scrutiny, fines for charitable hospitals that treat uninsured people
August 8, 2013 by Patrick Howley

Charitable hospitals that treat uninsured Americans will be subjected to new levels of scrutiny of their nonprofit status and could face sizable new fines under Obamacare.

A new provision in Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code, which takes effect under Obamacare, sets new standards of review and installs new financial penalties for tax-exempt charitable hospitals, which devote a minimum amount of their expenses to treat uninsured poor people. Approximately 60 percent of American hospitals are currently nonprofit.

Charity for the uninsured is one of the factors that could discourage enrollment in Obamacare, which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or else face new taxes themselves from the IRS.

“It requires tax-exempt hospitals to do a community needs survey and file additional paperwork with the IRS every three years. This is to prove that the charitable hospital is still needed in their geographical area — ‘needed’ as defined by Obamacare and overseen by IRS bureaucrats,” said John Kartch, spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform.

“Failure to comply, or to prove this continuing need, could result in the loss of the hospital’s tax-exempt status. The hospital would then become a for-profit venture, paying income tax — hence the positive revenue score” for the federal government, Kartch said. “Obamacare advocates turned over every rock to find as much tax money as possible.”

Additionally, the rise in the number of insured Americans under Obamacare will make it more difficult for tax-exempt hospitals to continue meeting required thresholds for treating the uninsured, driving more hospitals into the for-profit category and yielding more taxable money for the federal government.

“The requirements generally apply to any section 501(c)(3) organization that operates at least one hospital facility,” according to a “Technical Explanation” report of new Obamacare provisions prepared by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) on March 21, 2010, the day Obamacare passed.

Obamacare’s new requirements could slam hospitals with massive $50,000 fines if they fail to meet bureaucrats’ standards.
“The hospital must disclose in its annual information report to the IRS (i.e., Form 990 and related schedules) how it is addressing the needs identified in the assessment and, if all identified needs are not addressed, the reasons why (e.g., lack of financial or human resources). Each hospital facility is required to make the assessment widely available. Failure to complete a community health needs assessment in any applicable three-year period results in a penalty on the organization of up to $50,000,” according to the JCT report.

The government is particularly interested in how and why hospitals will be providing discounted or free care to poor patients, requiring each of them to “adopt, implement, and widely publicize a written financial assistance policy” and explain the methods they use to screen applicants for assistance and how they calculate patients’ bills.

A delegate working under the Department of Health and Human Services must review the innumerable reports charitable hospitals file every three years, along with copies of their audited financial statements.

After sifting through this massive amount of information, the delegate and HHS secretary must attempt to identify trends in the hospitals’ spending and send in a comprehensive report of their findings to Congress by 2015, according to the JCT report.

Healthcare experts warn that the Obamacare’s new requirements make it almost impossible for charitable hospitals to navigate treacherous new waters.

“Nonprofit hospitals should be advised that the new PPACA requirements will play a significant role in how they operate and report, specifically when it comes to billing and collections for services provided to the uninsured. The new law leaves many gray areas and hospitals themselves will have to establish eligibility criteria for financial assistance. Following the new procedures as best they can will ensure the best chance of maintaining their tax exempt status,” wrote D. Douglas Metcalf, partner at the law firm Lewis and Roca, in a 2013 op-ed entitled “Will nonprofit hospitals disappear under Obamacare?”

The White House did not return a request for comment.

abuse, bureaucracy, corruption, elitism, funding, government, greed, health care, nanny state, oppression, politics, progressive, public policy, taxes

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This is how cronyism works

original article: New York’s Taxi King Is Going Down
October 26, 2015 by Jared Meyer

People don’t deserve to be millionaires because they can get government to let them pick people’s pockets.

Evgeny “Gene” Freidman is no fan of Uber. The increasing popularity of this vehicle-for-hire (or ridesharing) company has lost him millions of dollars. He has even asked New York City taxpayers for a bailout. As difficult as bailing out the big banks was to swallow, bailing out a taxi mogul—who at one point owned more than 1,000 New York City taxi medallions—is an even harder sell. A bailout would be especially outrageous considering that Freidman and his financial backers are actively working to make consumers pay more for fewer options.

Freidman reluctantly took over his father’s modest yellow taxi business as a young man. He brought his experience in Russian finance to the industry, and started to accumulate increasing numbers of taxi medallions using highly leveraged financing. Freidman expanded a company with just a few taxis into a conglomeration of three- to five-car mini-fleets.

As Freidman’s taxi empire grew, he expanded into other cities, including New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He gained control of hundreds more medallions that are also now in financial trouble. His willingness to bid on practically any medallion that came up for sale helped drive a rapid increase in medallion prices across the country.

Subprime Taxi Medallions

This model can work when times are good but, as the housing crisis showed, it has its dangers. It works until another technology emerges, consumers move on, and funding dries up.

This is where Uber comes in. Competition from Uber has left investors wondering how much the company will grow and what further effects its growth will have on taxis’ market share. While yellow taxi medallions were selling for $1.32 million as recently as May 2013, now they may be worth as little as $650,000.

This drastic drop in price has made the banks and credit unions that fund Freidman’s vast enterprise nervous. For example, his companies still owe around $750,000 for each medallion financed by Citibank. Without new loans to meet existing obligations and expand his fleet, Freidman’s companies became insolvent. This is why he sought the bailout and wants the government to support the medallion market by offering taxpayer-guaranteed loans.

Adding to this financing crunch, the lease rates Freidman now can charge taxi drivers who rent his cars have declined. Many taxi drivers switched to Uber, which offersincreased earning potential, flexible work schedules, and improved driver safety. Competition led Freidman to complain that he is no longer able to charge the city’s legal maximum lease rate. This is promising news for drivers, but problematic for Freidman’s income.

There’s Not Much Argument for a Monopoly

Medallions commanded such astronomical prices in New York because yellow taxis had, and still do have, a monopoly on street hails in Manhattan south of the northern boundary of Central Park. Ubers come rapidly, but they are not street hails, because people summon them beforehand with a smartphone. In cities across the country that also use a medallion system, the same reasoning applies. Government restricts the supply of taxis below the level of demand, and medallion owners reap the profits—all at the expense of consumers.

It is not just Freidman’s companies that are in trouble. The banks and credit unions that funded him and other medallion owners are also worried. Just four credit unions hold security interests in over 5,300 medallions, for which they are on the hook for about $2.5 billion. In the face of greater potential losses, these companies have resorted to calling people who work in policy (myself included) to try and convince researchers that Uber is illegal and needs to be banned.

The credit union argument progresses as follows:

  1. Yellow taxi medallion owners were granted a monopoly on street hails.
  2. For-hire vehicles are only allowed to offer pre-arranged rides.
  3. Uber uses street hails, not pre-arranged rides, to connect riders with its driver partners.
  4. Therefore, Uber is illegally using street hails, and this infringes on yellow taxi medallion owners’ government-granted monopoly.

If the third premise is true, this argument could hold some rule-of-law water. It is not.

The law governing New York City’s street hails date back to the Haas Act of 1937. This law restricted the number of New York yellow taxi medallions to 16,900, which was lowered and now stands at 13,437—even though the city’s population has grown byover 20 percent since 1940.

The Haas Act also set the stage for other common carrier regulations that apply to the taxi industry. These regulations place substantial limits and requirements on taxi owners and drivers in exchange for their monopoly privileges. For example, the city’s Transportation and Limousine Commission sets fare prices, and fares cannot change with increased demand for rides. This is one of the main reasons it is so difficult to hail a taxi in the rain or at the beginning of rush hour.

Updating regulations takes time, but New York City taxis were finally granted the ability to accept ride requests from smartphones (e-hails) early this year. Once taxis were allowed to accept e-hails, something they needed to compete with new technologies, four credit unions argued that the technology was now off-limits for Uber—the company that had popularized e-hails. They sued New York City for infringing upon medallion holders’ monopoly privileges.

This makes no sense. How can a decades-old law covering street hails be construed to cover ride requests made through smartphones? Anyone who has tried to hail a taxi on the side of the road, and then used Uber, knows that the two experiences are vastly different. Simply put, holding your hand up is not the same as pressing a button on your phone.

How to Save Taxis Without Squeezing People

The path forward is not to ban ridesharing or bail medallion owners out. It is to make taxis more like Ubers. This takes more than simply allowing taxis to accept e-hails. Rather, the only ways to save taxis are greater flexibility in pricing and service and increased competition.

As Uber’s rise has made obvious, when the crucial aspect of competition is missing from markets, established companies do not have to worry about improving their services to attract and keep customers. Regulations need to be continually modified and updated in light of new technology.  There is no reason to require New York taxis to have expensive (and annoying) Taxi TVs. Pointless mandates such as this only increase the cost of taxi rides.

Even with a relaxed regulatory framework that embraces ridesharing and competition, taxis will still have an advantage. No one is talking about taking away New York City’s yellow taxi monopoly on street hails. Applying antiquated laws and regulations to new technology is what laid the groundwork for the rise of Uber and other ridesharing services in the first place.

Everyone Shouldn’t Pay for Some People’s Bad Bets

Credit unions oppose allowing Uber to grow because they want to protect their investments. The Queens County Supreme Court ruled against the credit unions last month. The court found that the credit unions did not have a cause of action against the city and its Transportation and Limousine Commission. This was a major win for Uber and consumers, but a death-knell for Freidman’s business and its financers.

The whole yellow taxi financing model is crashing, along with medallion prices. After the ruling, Montauk Credit Union, one of the plaintiffs, was seized by the New York State Department of Financial Services because of “unsafe and unsound conditions.” The day that New York City’s proposed cap on Uber’s growth was defeated, 22 of Freidman’s mini-fleet companies filed for bankruptcy.

Even if medallion holders such as Freidman lost a lot of money, it does not follow that the public should subsidize their losses. The returns from a yellow taxi medallion in cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, or New York far outpaced the stock market or gold for many years. The values of these medallions about doubled in each city from 2009 to 2013.

Investments carry risk, as Freidman knows from his background in finance. He made a poor calculation that the Manhattan yellow taxi street hail monopoly would continue to provide him enough future cash flow to satisfy bankers, who would loan him more money to expand his fleet. Freidman and his investors have no claim to a taxpayer-funded bailout to cover their poor business decisions. Perhaps they should consider investing in Uber instead.

bailout, corruption, cronyism, economics, funding, government, greed, hypocrisy, law, nanny state, public policy, regulation, taxes

Filed under: bailout, corruption, cronyism, economics, funding, government, greed, hypocrisy, law, nanny state, public policy, regulation, taxes

ACLU fights against school choice; is it because of anti-religious bias?

original article: ACLU Files Lawsuit to Block School Choice for Nevada Children
August 27, 2015 by Lindsey Burke

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has just filed a lawsuit intended to block students from participating in Nevada’s groundbreaking near-universal education savings account (ESA) option. The ESA option was signed into law this spring by Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., and began accepting applications a few weeks ago.

More than 2,200 parents have already applied to participate in the ESA option, which provides students with a portion (roughly $5,100 annually) of the funds that would have been spent on them in their public school in an ESA account that they can then use to pay for a variety of education-related services, products, and providers.

They can use their ESA to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, textbooks, curricula, and a host of other education-related expenditures. As the name implies, parents can also save unused funds, rolling dollars over from year-to-year to pay for future education costs.

The ACLU’s lawsuit alleges that the ESA program “violates the Nevada Constitution’s prohibition against the use of public money for sectarian (religious) purposes.” Yet ESA funds go directly to parents, who can then choose from any education option that is right for their child.

The Foundation for Excellence in Education explains that the Arizona Court of Appeals noted in a similar case in 2013,

“The ESA does not result in an appropriation of public money to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion. Any aid to religious schools would be a result of the genuine and independent private choices of the parents. The parents are given numerous ways in which they can educate their children suited to the needs of each child with no preference given to religious or nonreligious schools or programs.”

The Institute for Justice, which will be defending the ESA option, is confident it does not violate the state’s constitution.

Tim Keller, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, declared that,

“Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) Program was enacted to help parents and children whose needs are not being met in their current public schools, and we will work with them to intervene in this lawsuit and defeat it.”

“The United States Supreme Court, as well as numerous state supreme courts, have already held that educational choice programs, like Nevada’s ESA Program, are constitutional. We expect the same from Nevada courts.”

Education director for the Goldwater Institute, Jonathan Butcher, had this to say,

“Every child deserves the chance at a great education and the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. Lawsuits such as this challenge parents’ ability to help their children succeed,”

“Nevada has a unique law that makes flexible learning options available to every child attending a public school and a treasurer that has committed his team to listening to public comments and designing a successful education savings account program. Opponents should give students the chance to succeed with these accounts.”

Education savings accounts are one of the most promising paths forward on choice in education. They enable families to direct every single dollar of their child’s state per-pupil funding that is deposited into their account to a wide variety of education options. Arizona became the first state, in 2011, to enact the ESA model.

Today, five states, including Arizona, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and Nevada have ESAs in place, with Nevada’s being notable because it will be available to every single child currently enrolled in a public school. It is the first program universally available to all public school students. Arizona, which has the longest-running ESA option, has had great success for participating families.

As Marc Ashton, father to Max Ashton who is legally blind and used the ESA prior to finishing high school explained,

“A blind student in Arizona gets about $21,000 a year. That $21,000 represents what Arizona spends to educate a student such as Max in the public-school system.”

“We took our 90 percent of that, paid for Max to get the best education in Arizona, plus all of his Braille, all of his technology, and then there was still money left over to put toward his college education,” Marc explains. “So he is going to be able to go on to Loyola Marymount University, because we were able to save money, even while sending him to the best school in Arizona, out of what the state would normally pay for him.”

That type of customization and innovation is what the ACLU is threatening now in Nevada. It’s a shame that special interest groups continue to threaten choice in education, when choice is what is needed so badly, for so many.

Do we need a separation between school and state?

anti-religion, bias, bigotry, bureaucracy, children, civil rights, discrimination, education, freedom, funding, government, ideology, innovation, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, litigation, nanny state, oppression, philosophy, political correctness, progressive, public policy, reform, relativism, spending, tragedy

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Federal watchdogs accused of stealing lunch money from needy kids

Federal watchdogs accused of stealing lunch money from needy kids
August 12, 2015 by Fox News

Five employees who work at a federal watchdog agency tasked with rooting out fraud and abuse were indicted Tuesday after investigators say they concocted a plan that stole lunch money from needy children.

Prosecutors say the employees, all working with the Government Accountability Office, as well as the spouse of a separate GAO worker, tried to illegally obtain reduced-price school lunches for their children. They did so by falsely reporting their incomes in order to qualify for the discounted government meals.

“There is no excuse for stealing funds intended to go to children whose parents cannot afford the school lunches,” Maryland’s Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said in a written statement announcing the news. “Their actions are made even worse by the fact that some of them claimed to have not just low income, but no income at all, even though they were working full-time jobs at the GAO.”

One of the accused is Lynette Mundey, a Prince George’s County school board member. Mundey, along with Barbara Rowley, Jamilah Reid, Tracy Williams, Charlene Savoy and James Pinkney, the spouse of a GAO employee, were charged with filing false applications, fraud and theft.

Federal officials say the group bilked the program designed to benefit needy children out of $13,000 over the course of five years. They did so by either under-reporting their income or in some cases, reporting that they had no income even though their actual salaries ranged from $55,000 to $78,000.

Children who are legally eligible for the reduced-cost lunch program must come from households with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level – or about $30,615 for a family of four.

A reduced-price lunch costs an elementary child 40 cents compared to $2.75 for a full-price meal, according to the Prince George’s County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services.

“This is a program for people who can’t afford it, but these are people who can,” John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office told The Washington Post in a statement.

Calls to Mundey as well as the Prince George’s County Board of Education were not immediately returned.

abuse, bureaucracy, children, corruption, criminal, ethics, fraud, funding, government, greed, nanny state, poverty, scandal, spending

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Planned Parenthood can’t even be honest about website maintenance

Planned Parenthood Fundraises Off ‘Extremist Attack.’ Then People Took a Closer Look…
July 30, 2015 by VICTORIA TAFT

Planned Parenthood claimed their website was hacked by anti-abortion “extremists” yet somehow the website was still able to solicit (and apparently process) donations from the public. It turns out PP implemented a “site down campaign” falsely purporting their website was attacked. Some people actually looked into the source code of the website to discover the fraud.

When the scam was made public PP tried to cover their tracks by claiming the site was under maintenance, and yet was still able to accept online financial donations. It seems the situation is worse that it originally looked – instead of a hack attack, it was a smear campaign designed to drum up sympathy for PP and make them look like the victim by fraudulently accusing their critics of committing a crime. Does this campaign in itself qualify as a crime?

read the full article

abortion, abuse, bias, campaign, corruption, cover up, criminal, extremism, false, fraud, funding, gaffe, greed, hate speech, hypocrisy, ideology, left wing, liberalism, lies, progressive, propaganda, scandal

Filed under: abortion, abuse, bias, campaign, corruption, cover up, criminal, extremism, false, fraud, funding, gaffe, greed, hate speech, hypocrisy, ideology, left wing, liberalism, lies, progressive, propaganda, scandal

Feds Gave Low-Income Housing to Millionaires

original article: Feds Gave Low-Income Housing to Millionaires
July 27, 2015 by Elizabeth Harrington

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave low-income housing to millionaires, according to a recent audit.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found over 25,000 families who earned too much to qualify for subsidized apartments, which will cost taxpayers $104.4 million this year.

“Public housing authorities provided public housing assistance to as many as 25,226 families whose annual household income exceeded HUD’s 2014 program eligibility income limits,” according to the audit. “Most of these families had earned more than the qualifying amount for more than 1 year, were not participating in programs that would allow them to reside in public housing, and occupied units while many families were waiting for public housing assistance.”

“This condition occurred because HUD regulations require families to meet eligibility income limits only when they are admitted to the public housing program,” it said. “The regulations do not limit the length of time that families may reside in public housing.”

Of the 25,226 overincome families identified, 47 percent earned at least $10,000 more than the income limit, and 70 percent lived in subsidized housing for more than a year.

A millionaire in Oxford, Neb., has been able live in low-income housing since 2010. The monthly rent is $300.

“As of April 2014, the single-member household’s annual income was $65,007, while the low-income threshold was $33,500,” the OIG explained. “Also, this tenant had total assets valued at nearly $1.6 million, which included stock valued at $623,685, real estate valued at $470,600, a checking account with a balance of $334,637, and an individual retirement account with a balance of $123,445.”

HUD did not evict the millionaire because “the tenant was income eligible at admission and has not violated the lease agreement.”

The OIG identified a sample of 25 overincome families who either had more than $1 million in assets, or had income that was significantly greater than the income limits.

Another ineligible family paid only $1,091 a month to live in Los Angeles, even though their annual income was $204,784.

A family in New York City was also able to stay in housing that limited income at $67,100, event though they earned $497,911 annually, plus $790,534 in rental income between 2009 and 2013.

Many housing authorities cited by the OIG said they do not evict wealthy individuals and families from low-income housing because “its policy does not require it to terminate the tenancy or evict families solely because they are overincome.”

budget, bureaucracy, corruption, criminal, entitlements, ethics, fraud, funding, government, nanny state, oversight, public policy, scandal, wealthy, welfare

Filed under: budget, bureaucracy, corruption, criminal, entitlements, ethics, fraud, funding, government, nanny state, oversight, public policy, scandal, wealthy, welfare

Planned Parenthood gets paid for work it doesn’t do

original article: What These Pro-Life Groups Have to Say to Companies Donating to Planned Parenthood
July 24, 2015 by Kate Scanlon

On Tuesday, The Daily Signal published a list of companies that donate or have donated directly to Planned Parenthood, either through grants or through matching employee gifts. We used data from 2nd Vote, a website and app that tracks causes that corporations donate to.

We asked each company about its donations to the nation’s largest abortion provider.

Spokespersons for three of the companies—Coca-Cola, Ford and Xerox—objected to their inclusion on the list. When The Daily Signal provided the companies with a Planned Parenthood website listing them as donors, they said they would be contacting the organization to be removed.

Planned Parenthood later removed all corporate donors from the site.

Many of the companies acknowledged that they contribute to Planned Parenthood through their employee gift matching programs.

The Daily Signal reached out to pro-life groups to ask what they would tell consumers about these companies.

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, said that “this shows how badly Planned Parenthood is hurting.”

“A couple of years ago, businesses would have replied that they proudly supported Planned Parenthood or live in fear if they didn’t (remember what they did to the Komen Foundation?) but today they are the defense, rushing to say that they are not directly donating to Planned Parenthood but instead are giving their employees the option to donate—which is still giving money to the abortion giant,” Hawkins said.

“You can’t just donate to Planned Parenthood and say your donation is earmarked for utilities or staff or paper clips but not abortion.”

“The building and the staff and the utilities all contribute in some way to abortion and are involved [in] it,” Hawkins said. “Any money whatsoever going to Planned Parenthood in any way contributes to the more than 327,000 abortions they commit every year—and who knows what else they do behind closed doors, some of which is thankfully now being revealed because of the Center for Medical Progress videos.”

Rev. Clenard Childress of the Life Education and Resource Network said that he applauds companies who practice corporate responsibility, but that the companies on the list need to more carefully scrutinize “to whom they are writing checks.”

“The community should hold them accountable,” Childress said.

He criticized the companies who said they will donate to “any” organization their employees choose.

“Would you write a check to the Ku Klux Klan?” Childress asked.

Kristen Day, the executive director of Democrats for Life, said her organization has called for Planned Parenthood to be defunded because there “have always been concerns” about it.

She said that not only is Planned Parenthood allegedly selling fetal organs, but its employees also “changing their abortion procedure” to obtain them.

“We know, from history, that we cannot trust Planned Parenthood,” Day said.

“Just a few years ago, the Komen Foundation decided not to provide grants to organizations who do not actually perform mammograms. Planned Parenthood, who does not perform mammograms, embarked on a huge PR campaign to complain about Komen’s policy because their half a million dollar grant was pulled. PP raised over $3.3 million in 24 hours (6 times the grant they would have lost). Komen was hit hard by the smear campaign and lost millions of dollars at future fundraising events. Planned Parenthood’s grant for mammograms was restored, but they still do not perform mammograms. The grant would have paid for 50,000 mammograms for women.”

“American tax dollars should be allocated to companies we can trust, not to organizations that bring customers into their business, offer a procedure—abortion—and in turn benefit financially from their recommendation, selling hearts, lungs and livers,” Day added.

“American businesses should follow this same protocol.”

abortion, cover up, ethics, funding, greed, ideology, pro-life, protests, scandal

Filed under: abortion, cover up, ethics, funding, greed, ideology, pro-life, protests, scandal

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