Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

The political left can’t tell the difference between fantasy and real life, and doesn’t care to

original article: The media doesn’t understand guns — and doesn’t want to
October 4, 2017 by Stephen L. Miller

The American political left and mainstream media pundits at large do not understand guns. They are not educated about them and they refuse to learn about them. They could not tell you the difference between an automatic or semi-automatic firearm. They don’t understand what a suppressor does or does not do. It’s safe to say most of them have not heard the term “bump stock” until this week.

What they are, however, is convinced that we need more laws to prevent mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas from happening ever again – and they will host guest after guest on their shows who are not experts in firearms, or firearm training, to lecture the American public at large about why this needs to happen.

If anyone out there on that side of the aisle is wondering why your pleas to “do something” are falling on mostly deaf ears,that would be why.

Democrats would be better off offering up legislation banning high-rise hotels in attempting to make a connection to the Las Vegas shooting than they would suppressors or background checks

It’s a largely one-sided debate happening on cable networks, and it is why those on the right – including everyday Americans and lawful gun owners not responsible for mass shootings or breaking gun laws – largely ignore what is blaring out at them from their televisions and social media.

Column after column is fired off about how much the National Rifle Association donates to congressional candidates (spoiler: it’s not much, about 200K a year). For every breathless declaration that the NRA has blood on their hands, it’s worth noting more journalists have committed mass shootings in this country than NRA members.

Firearm experts in media such as Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski (also an NRA-certified instructor), National Review Online Editor Charles Cooke and Federalist co-founder Sean Davis are sidelined from national cable news and Sunday show appearances in favor of guests who suggest suppressors are used by hunters to prevent deer from hearing a fired shot. Gutowski, Cooke and Davis will never be invited on Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert’s shows to clear up the falsehoods being spread to mass audiences or to defend the second amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Las Vegas narrative jumped to ludicrous speed shortly after the massacre ended when losing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton demanded that we “put politics aside” right before immediately politicizing the shooting in the same tweet. She then went on to state, “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.” Mrs. Clinton’s claim that firearm suppressors render guns “silent” was given three Pinnocchios by Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post. This of course didn’t matter. Kessler’s fact check went mostly ignored on social media. Clinton’s false tweet about firearm suppressors garnered more than 58,000 retweets on Twitter. Glenn Kessler’s fact check? Thirty.

Kimmel chastised Paul Ryan and the GOP Congress for not enforcing laws about guns that literally do not exist.

Within hours of the Las Vegas shooting, Senator Chuck Schumer was pushing the narrative that the GOP was ramming through legislation to de-regulate silencers. This was also a fabrication. Reporters began shouting questions at Paul Ryan about “Silencer” legislation. The 64-year-old shooter in Las Vegas did not use a suppressor but Democrats have found their shiny object to fixate on – much like the no-fly list post-Orlando – which had nothing to do with the actual tragedy at hand.

Democrats would be better off offering up legislation banning high-rise hotels in attempting to make a connection to the Las Vegas shooting than they would suppressors or background checks.

America’s foremost health care expert, Jimmy Kimmel, once again repeated long-debunked Democrat talking points in another tearful monologue (Las Vegas is his hometown so it’s hard to berate him for showing emotion). Kimmel chastised Paul Ryan and the GOP Congress (again) for not enforcing laws about guns that literally do not exist. These include the so called “gunshow loophole,” an online background check loophole and allowing mentally ill individuals (a move supported by the ACLU) from purchasing firearms. All of these claims have been debunked and yet are ignored by fact-checkers at mainstream outlets and cable news pundits. Stephen Paddock did not have a criminal background, prior record and no evaluations of suspect mental health. So what then?

New York Times Magazine’s Ana Marie Cox tweeted “Man, imagine if the right believed in unfettered access to the ballot box as much as they believed in the right to own guns.” Her sudden support of background checks and voter ID laws (two things needed to purchase a firearm in America) are a welcome surprise.

Politico reporter Dan Diamond tweeted out an email announcement from The American College of Physicians calling for a ban on all automatic and semiautomatic weapons. What Diamond did not reveal is a ban on semiautomatic weapons would include most handguns. I’m not sure members of media know this fact, and more importantly, have demonstrated zero willingness to learn. But sure, let’s put them in charge of the health care debate.

And this is where the credibility chasm exists in media as they continue to parrot Democrat narratives on guns. As the sun rose on Vegas the morning after, and before Americans could grasp the facts of what had happened, Democrat leaders including Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer and their celebrity Hollywood base were already pointing fingers and placing blame without facts and without knowledge.

Law-abiding, gun-owning Americans will not be lectured to about a national tragedy they had nothing to do with, and they certainly won’t be lectured by elitists in media who refuse to understand even a basic grasp or terminology about a sacred constitutional right.

And until they do, we will refuse to have that “conversation” the left and the media keep telling themselves needs to happen.

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What happens when no one asks whether insurance is really a good way to deal with health care costs?

original article: How Obamacare Hurts Millions Of Americans By Robbing Peter To Pay For Paul
May 10, 2017 by Scott Ehrlich

In my prior article, I tried to outline the pre-existing condition issue. I concluded the amount of people potentially affected by this issue ranged somewhere between 500,000 and 1.9 million and, due to political reasons, it is much likelier to be on the lower end of that spectrum.

So for this article, I will use 1 million people as my number. Based on this data from Avalere, it’s a pretty sensible estimate, if you only count states that are solely Republican-run and therefore likely to seek a waiver.

This 1 million people are adults covered by the individual market, at the moment largely through the federal exchanges. People on group insurance are not affected by pre-existing conditions laws, as those plans do not do individual underwriting. People in government insurance such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Tri-Care are guaranteed issue upon meeting certain conditions. Children under 19 who aren’t covered by Medicaid are covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has no pre-existing condition exclusions. Futher, people in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Washington have state laws that mandate guaranteed issue.

So our at-risk people are made up of the remaining 7 million or so people in the other 45 states who choose to self-insure, have pre-existing conditions that stop them from getting insurance, have states granted waivers under the American Health Care Act (AHCA, if it passes Congress in its current form), and have failed to keep continuous coverage.

Assuming your eyes glazed over a quarter of a way through that sentence, that shows just how many safety nets one has to fall through to be at risk of being denied coverage at the market rate, or any rate, for pre-existing conditions. Recall that just because someone has a pre-existing condition or is denied by an insurance company for one, doesn’t mean he will be denied by all. So that is why my numbers are lower than many others being reported.

Let’s Pin Down How Much These Folks’ Health Care Costs

So let’s go with that 1 million number, which is still a lot of people needing help. What can we do with them? That is the challenge. When enrolling a random assortment of 1 million Americans in a pool, theoretically about 27 percent could have some sort of ailment requiring immediate treatment. Depending on the mix of other people, it’s possible to make that pool actuarily sound.

But high-risk pools don’t work that way. In that pool, 100 percent of enrollees have pre-existing conditions. Therefore, it’s impossible to provide them insurance and keep a stable pool. You can’t insure someone for a condition he already has any more than you can insure a house that is already on fire or a car that has already crashed. There is no ability to pool risk.

So this group of people is very expensive to cover, as they are already sick and use a lot of health care. Average costs in the PCIP federal high-risk pool, the one the Affordable Care Act set up as a bridge to the exchanges, averaged more than $32,000 per enrollee per year. Based on those numbers, at 1 million enrollees, we’d be looking at more than $32 billion annually in costs for high-risk people. That $8 billion that got Rep. Fred Upton to vote yes on House Republicans’ Obamacare tweaks? That would cover only three months of expenses at full enrollment.

If the entire amount appropriated in AHCA were applied to pre-existing conditions, a whopping $123 billion, we’d only have enough to make it through four years if that cost were accurate.

Luckily, That Cost Is Likely Overstated

Reading deeper into the report, you find that, fortunately, it may not be. Not all people with pre-existing conditions are created equally: “4.4 percent of PCIP enrollees accounted for over 50 percent of claims paid, while approximately two-thirds of enrollees experienced $5,000 or less in claims paid over the same period.” So while Avalere used the $32,000 figure, it probably vastly overstates the cost of a program like this. That’s because the people most likely to have been enrolled in PCIP would be the sickest, who need the most care immediately.

Someone with early-stage diabetes with no side effects, like myself, who may currently be tough to insure may ignore a high-risk pool like this since it costs more than I spend on treatment, while someone with advanced cancer requiring frequent doctor visits, expensive medication, and consistent chemotherapy would seek something like this out. Therefore, if the pool of 115,000 enrollees in PCIP were expanded to the 1 million people who have pre-existing conditions but couldn’t be insured, we’d likely see many more costing about $5,000 per year than the ones costing $100,000 and up.

Therefore, I prefer the number $12,000 as the cost per additional enrollee. This uses the average benefit used by a person enrolled in Medicare based on the total benefits paid divided by the total people covered. Since these people are older, sicker, or disabled and have high health utilization, I think it makes a good proxy for the sort of person likely to seek a high-risk pool who would not have jumped at the opportunity to sign up for PCIP.

Adding 900,000 people at that cost to the 100,000 people at $32,000 in PCIP gives us a total annual cost of $14 billion. That means if people in these pools were to cover about 10 percent of their own health-care expenses, the money AHCA appropriates could cover the entire affected population of the high-risk pools for the entire 10-year budget window.

This Is Still a Lot of Money

So now we’ve seen the numbers. About a million people may need help. Pooling them with the healthy has real costs to a lot of people to help a few. But we have decided as a society that we can’t just let those few suffer. Yet helping pay for their care will be staggeringly expensive. Even in my example, with this smaller pool and smaller assumed costs, we would burn through the entire pool of $123 billion in a decade. These people will still need help at the end of that decade. How do we take care of our sick population into the 2030s without busting our budget?

That is why people argue we should keep the Affordable Care Act provisions regarding pre-existing conditions, which are community rating and guaranteed issue. The benefits are obvious, as they have been blasted all over the media. People getting operations they might not otherwise have had, seeing doctors they couldn’t otherwise see, getting care they wouldn’t have otherwise received. Who would be so heartless as to take that away?

This is a classic example of concentrated and observable risk and diffuse and hard to see benefits. Remember what has happened to premiums since ACA was implemented. All these people were not covered without a cost. That cost comes out of the pockets of everyone else in the exchanges. While much harder to see, and much less heart-wrenching in a soundbite or a video or a tweet, those costs did make a difference.

Adding a few hundred dollars a month to health premiums can mean the difference between eating terrible food and eating healthy, not working out and a gym membership, scrimping and stressing over every dollar and rationing essentials which adds mental and physical health costs, or a budget that more comfortably covers your fixed expenses.

More severely, higher premiums for lower-quality policies may mean that some people who may have formerly been able to afford some form of insurance now are going without, causing exactly the sort of problem ACA was supposed to fix. To act like the days, weeks, months, and years taken off the lives of some people due to the costs ACA imposes to help others is without consequence is sadly mistaken.

When Compassion Is Cruel

Those realities aren’t purely speculative, either. Rates are rising year over year. Even with rising subsidies, the plans get more expensive to both buyers and the taxpayers. And there is no sign these rising rates will abate, as more people for whom insurance has a marginal value will choose to go without, leaving a sicker pool, causing not only rates to rise but insurance companies to lose more and more money on these policies.

That leads to insurers dropping out of markets entirely. This is why doing it the “compassionate” way has not only costs for people whose rates will rise, but also costs for those this is supposed to help, as this adverse selection will result in many of them also having no insurance options. Guaranteed issue and community rating do very little good if no one is willing to sell policies because the cost risk is too high.

That is why, whichever way you lean politically, both the ACA and AHCA seem to be just a band-aid. Neither are sustainable, needing significant federal money pumped into them to survive. ACA will need it to subsidize the cost of policies to get healthy people to sign up while also subsidizing the losses insurance companies suffer in an effort to keep them on the exchanges when they don’t.

AHCA will need massive continued subsidies to fund high-risk pools, all as health-care gets more individualized and potentially more expensive. This is in addition to the increasing burden Medicare will put on state and federal budgets as baby boomers retire and live to a ripe old age, while higher birth rates among poorer Americans, in addition to ACA expansion, should cause a massive increase in Medicaid spending.

This is why any comprehensive health insurance reform is doomed to fail. Americans want great quality care at cheap prices that is abundantly available. At best, we can get two of those three. At worst, we get very expensive plans that provide very little real health care for the most vulnerable while making things worse for everyone else. That is why our efforts should focus on ways to provide better health care for everyone, increasing the size of the pie of good-quality, available health care rather than locking in the worst parts of our current system and merely fighting about who should pay for them.

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No, GOP’s Obamacare Update Doesn’t Make Rape A Pre-Existing Condition

original article: No, GOP’s Obamacare Update Doesn’t Make Rape A Pre-Existing Condition
May 8, 2017 by Robert Tracinski

The American Left is finishing its sixth straight month of losing it. They have been pegged at “total freakout” for so long now that it is impossible to tell when anything they say is valid or wildly exaggerated.

Take the headline you undoubtedly saw, or had forwarded to you on social media if you interact much with people on the Left, which proclaimed that the American Health Care Act—House Republicans’ Obamacare tweaks—makes sexual assault a pre-existing condition.

AHCA_preexisting

What’s actually going on here? The House bill, which mostly just tinkers with Obamacare instead of actually repealing it, still contains a requirement that insurers have to cover people with pre-existing conditions. But a late addition, the MacArthur Amendment, gives states the ability to ask the federal government for a waiver that would allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions higher rates.

The amendment itself—and I had to search around for a while to find its actual text rather than somebody’s short-stroke summary of it—makes no mention of sexual assault or rape.

Ah, but somebody realized that rape victims sometimes suffer medical problems as a consequences of the assault and that these problems would count as “pre-existing conditions” under the law. They would count as such because they have always counted as pre-existing conditions. But so would any number of other conditions resulting from other tragic and unfortunate events. In other words, this headline is so misleading that even PolitiFact rates it as “Mostly False.”

The new law does not “make” sexual assault a pre-existing condition. The medical consequences of rape have always been considered a pre-existing condition, because that’s what the phrase “pre-existing condition” means. It refers to a condition that existed previously.

“Pre-existing condition” is not a value judgment. It does not imply that the pre-existing condition is the patient’s fault, or that this person is somehow unworthy of receiving medical treatment. It is a merely factual description, but one that has special relevance when talking about insurance. When you require insurance coverage for a pre-existing condition, it’s no longer insurance. Insurance is a financial mechanism for hedging against an unknown future risk, not a way of seeking compensation for damage that has already occurred.

If that seems like a nitpicking distinction, it’s one with very big real-world consequences. Telling insurance companies that they have to cover pre-existing conditions and can’t charge more for that coverage breaks the actuarial calculation behind insurance and contributes to the “death spiral” of escalating premiums, which we could already see under Obamacare. So you can understand why there’s a rational argument for not requiring pre-existing conditions of any kind to be covered under the heading of “insurance.”

So are Democrats making this claim about sexual assault because they want to lobby for free medical treatment for victims of sexual assault—a worthy cause they just discovered five minutes ago? No, they’re doing it because evoking sexual assault victims, as opposed to sufferers of any other kind of pre-existing condition, packs a special emotional wallop. Then when somebody responds by carefully and rationally explaining what’s really going on and why pre-existing conditions can’t be covered if health insurance is going to function properly—as I just did above—that person suddenly looks like a callous heel. How can he approach the issue with such cool logic? How can he be so insensitive to the victims?

In short, it’s a raw appeal to emotion, specifically designed to make rational analysis of the issues look not just inappropriate, but positively immoral.

The Appeal to Emotion is a fallacy that’s thousands of years old, but what makes this particular case a microcosm of today’s style of argument is one extra twist. If the purpose of the Appeal to Emotion is to make logical analysis seem insensitive, the purpose here is to make the user of logic seem insensitive specifically to women. This fits right in with the target audience’s prejudices. Of course those evil people on the Right, those old white men reveling in their patriarchal privilege, would be callously indifferent to the suffering of women. Of course they want women to bear the blame for their own sexual assaults. It’s just like “The Handmaid’s Tale.” We knew it all along!

That’s what makes the headline “too good to check” and ensures its entry into the natural life cycle of a “fake news” story: blaring viral headlines, followed by low-key, surreptitious corrections in the more reputable outlets, followed by the cementing of the headline as an established fact that will never be dislodged from the minds of its target audience. We’ll still be hearing about it 30 years from now.

This fits into a larger problem with how the Left tends to interact with everyone else while they’re in Perpetual Rage Mode. As someone who attempts to interact with the other side pretty regularly on social media—and not always just to score rhetorical points—I’ve begun to notice a distinct pattern. People on the Left will interact with someone on the Right just long enough to be able to find some sign, some slip of the tongue, some violation of accepted speech codes (like not being a prig about Cinco de Mayo) that allows them to dismiss that person as racist, sexist, homophobic, or just insensitive—which provides an excuse to ignore anything he has to say. The conclusion is always the same: all arguments from the Right can be dismissed without consideration because they come from bigots.

They need to stop doing this, and not for our sake—if you’re on the Right, you’re probably used to coping with an omnipresent background radiation of political hostility—but for their own sake. It is a spectacularly unconvincing method of argument that drives people back into their own social media “filter bubbles.” It doesn’t convince anyone. It just convinces them not to talk to you any more. Then you end up on an evening in November, stunned at the fact that so many people voted for a candidate whose sole political function is to stick a finger in your eye.

The Left is already paying the price for making “race, class, and gender” into a substitute for argument and persuasion. They might want to consider not digging that hole any deeper.

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Obamacare Premium Hikes Expected in 2017

original article: Get Ready for Huge Obamacare Premium Hikes in 2017
April 21, 2016 by Eric Painin

Amid rising drug and health care costs and roiling market dynamics, the spokesperson for the nation’s health insurers is predicting substantial increases next year in Obamacare premiums and related costs.

Without venturing a specific percentage increase, Marilyn Tavenner, the president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), said in an interview with Morning Consult that the culmination of market shifts and rising health care costs will force stark increases in health insurance rates in the coming year.

“I’ve been asked, what are the premiums going to look like?” she said. “I don’t know because it also varies by state, market, even within markets. But I think the overall trend is going to be higher than we saw previous years. That’s my big prediction.”

If Tavenner is right, Obamacare will jump dramatically—last year’s premium for the popular silver-level plan surged 11 percent on average. Although Tavenner didn’t mention deductibles, in 2016, some states saw jumps of 76 percent, while the average for a 27-year-old male on a silver plan was 8 percent.

The warning to consumers from Tavenner, the former administration official who headed the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and oversaw the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov, the Obamacare website, comes at a time of growing uncertainty about the evolving makeup of the Obamacare health insurance market. With many insurers struggling to find profitability in the program, the collapse of nearly half of the 23 Obamacare insurance co-ops and this week’s announcement that giant UnitedHealth Group intends to pull out of most Obamacare markets across the country, anticipating future premiums and copayments is largely risky guesswork.

Premiums for the current 2016 season rose on average by 8 percent over the previous year, with 12.7 million Americans enrolling for coverage and government subsidies, according to CMS. Federal officials stress that the average rate doesn’t tell the whole story, and that in many cases after consumers shop around for the best price and government subsidies are applied, the actual premium increase is lower.

The Department of Health and Human Services did a study looking at what consumers were estimated to pay based on initial filings compared to what they actually paid. The study found that last year, the average cost of Obamacare marketplace coverage for people receiving tax credits went from $102 a month to $106 per month, a 4 percent change — despite warning from some of double-digit hikes.

Tavenner’s prediction may well be an opening gambit in the negotiations between the industry and insurance regulators about the 2017 premiums. As Morning Consult noted, many insurers have begun submitting opening bids on raising their premium rates and copayments, which will then be reviewed by the government and finalized this fall.

With a major presidential and congressional election looming this fall, the administration is doing all that it can to tamp down fears of major hikes next year in Obamacare insurance premiums and related out-of-pocket costs. Benjamin Wakana, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson, said on Thursday that changes in health care insurance rates are “not a reliable indicator” of what typical consumers on average will pay. “Marketplace consumers would do well to put little stock in those initial numbers,” he said in an email.

But Tavenner outlined several factors that she could put considerable pressure on premium prices next year. Those include:

  • A general rise in the nation’s health care tab. Overall, U.S. health care spending grew by 5.3 percent in 2014 – reaching an historic level of $3 trillion, after years of relative cost stability. Medical costs rise from year to year and will certainly affect the next round of premium hikes.
  • Soaring prescription drug prices. Insurers as well as government health care programs have been struggling to keep pace with rising drug prices, especially newer specialty drugs to treat the Hepatitis-C virus and cancer. Pfizer Inc., Amgen Inc., Allergan PLC and other companies have raised U.S. prices for scores of branded drugs since late December, with many of the increases between 9 percent and 10 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal .
  • The combination of market forces and limitations imposed by the Affordable Care Act will put enormous pressure on insurers to up their premiums. Under the law, there is a cap on insurers’ profits, companies are obliged to insure anyone regardless of their general health or pre-existing conditions, and the insurance plans must be structured in a certain way that often lead to losses.
  • Finally, two of three federal “risk mitigation” programs created under Obamacare are due to expire in 2017. Those programs were set up to protect insurers from huge, unexpected losses from providing health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. UnitedHealth and other major insurers have found it difficult to accurately anticipate their costs in providing coverage to sicker or older Americans, and set premiums that were inadequate to cover their risks. Without those programs to fall back on, many companies likely will seek to jack up their premiums.

“It’s kind of a myriad of factors,” Tavenner said in predicting rising premium costs. “It’s not one factor.”

Clare Krusing, director of communications for AHIP, said in an interview on Thursday that health insurance companies “are working through” these factors right now in setting rates for the coming year and deciding whether to participate.

“Plans are just beginning to file their rates, and it’s a long process with state and federal regulators, until those are approved,” she added. “Certainly plans are going to evaluate market conditions and regulatory approvals, and that will all impact their participation overall” in Obamacare.

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Maybe you can’t keep your health care plan after all

original article: ObamaCare may force employers to pull the plug on millions of health plans, CBO report finds
March 28, 2016 by FoxNews

In the latest report to undercut President Obama’s “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” promise, the Congressional Budget Office projects millions of workers will leave employer-sponsored health plans over the next decade because of ObamaCare.

Some will opt to go on Medicaid, but others will be kicked off their company plans by employers who decide not to offer coverage anymore, according to a new CBO report titled,  “Federal Subsidies for Health Insurance Coverage for People Under Age 65: 2016 to 2026.”

“As a result of the ACA, between 4 million and 9 million fewer people are projected to have employment-based coverage each year from 2017 through 2026 than would have had such coverage if the ACA had never been enacted,” the report, released Thursday, said.

Employers now cover some 155 million people, about 57 percent of those under 65. That’s expected to decline to 152 million people in 2019. Ten years from now, employers will be covering about 54 percent of those under 65.

CBO said part of the shrinkage is attributable to the health care law: some workers may qualify for Medicaid, which is virtually free to them, and certain employers may decide not to offer coverage because a government-subsidized alternative is available.

Larger employers would face fines if they take that route.

But the agency also noted that employer coverage had been declining due to rising medical costs well before the health care law was passed, and that the trend continues.

The CBO also found that more people will enroll in Medicaid than previously predicted, though fewer will be covered through the public insurance marketplaces mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

The analysis underscores the view that the health care law is driving the nation’s gains in insurance coverage, which raises political risks for Republicans who would repeal it.

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Health Insurance Premiums Rising Faster Than Wages

original article: Health Insurance Premiums Rising Faster Than Wages
March 23, 2016 by Ali Meyer

Health insurance premiums have increased faster than wages and inflation in recent years, rising an average of 28 percent from 2009 to 2014 despite the enactment of Obamacare, according to a report from Freedom Partners.

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010, and Wednesday is the law’s sixth anniversary.

The Obama administration expressed concern in 2009 about skyrocketing health care premiums in a report entitled, “The Burden of Health Insurance Premium Increases on American Families.” They were concerned that premiums had increased by 5.5 percent from 2008 to 2009.

However, from 2010 to 2011 in the first year after Obamacare was enacted, premiums increased by 9.4 percent.

“In 2009, when the [Executive Office of the President] issued its report, states had seen premiums increase on average by 30 percent between 2004 and 2009,” states the Freedom Partners report. “But since 2009, health insurance premiums have continued to grow faster than wages in nearly every state, averaging a 28 percent increase from 2009 to 2014, resulting in a greater amount of disposable income being consumed by rising premiums.”

According to the report, while premiums increased by 28 percent from 2009 to 2014, wages increased by only 7.8 percent. From 2004 to 2009 when premiums increased by 30 percent, wages increased by only 12.2 percent.

The data also finds that health care costs have exceeded the rate of inflation. “The average annual cost of a family’s employer-sponsored health insurance policy was $17,545 in 2015, which marks a 4.2 percent increase from the 2014 average of $16,834, while the inflation rate remained low at 0.1 percent,” states the report. “With health care costs still rising faster than inflation six years after passage of the Affordable Care Act, it is clear that the law is not helping lower the burden of health care expenses for American families.”

Americans can expect their health care costs to rise again in 2017. According to Stephen Parente, a scholar at the University of Minnesota, each type of health care plan on the exchanges can expect to see an average premium increase of 7.3 percent for families and 11 percent for individuals.

“The Administration claimed the ACA would bend the cost curve, but our report shows it bent in the wrong direction—premiums didn’t slow down under the Affordable Care Act, they sped up,” said Nathan Nascimento, senior policy adviser at Freedom Partners. “No wonder the White House is trying to change the national conversation away from health care costs. By their own standards, the Affordable Care Act has failed.”

The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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LGBT Activist Group Announces Radical Agenda to Eliminate Religious Freedom Protections

original article: LGBT Activist Group Announces Radical Agenda to Eliminate Religious Freedom Protections
October 20, 2015 by Anna Pfaff

Following the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, LGBT activists have decided that they’re not finished. The largest organization working to advance the LGBT agenda recently announced its newest set of goals for the upcoming months—goals which, according to the Witherspoon Institute, include “the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed.”

At the 2015 Chicago gala last weekend, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin unveiled three new areas of focus: passing the Equality Act, stopping the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), and further “activating the LGBT vote.”

The Equality Act seeks to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to federal non-discrimination laws.  If it passes, its “sweeping effects on religious liberty, free speech, and freedom of conscience would be historic.” The act would essentially elevate sexual orientation and gender identity to the level of race, therefore equating any dissenters with racists and bigots. It creates a “new form of discrimination” by socially isolating those with a traditional belief in marriage and sexuality.

The Equality Act would also have a devastating effect on protections for individuals and businesses who find it a violation of conscience to provide services for wedding ceremonies. It would prohibit the denial of any good or service to persons on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity but makes no distinction between baking a cake for a birthday party and baking a cake for a wedding ceremony.

Moreover, the Equality Act would cut the legs out from under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, barring any individuals, businesses, educational institutions, or religious institutions from appealing to RFRA. The actual effects of the supposed “equality” in the act mean a great inequality at the expense of religious freedom.

To put the nail in the coffin on conscientious objectors, the HRC is also making it a goal to prevent the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against persons who still understand marriage as between one man and one woman.

In order to make all of this happen, the HRC is working to “activate the LGBT vote.” Griffin announced to the gala crowd that the 10 million LGBT voters is a higher number than the margin of victory in the past several presidential races.

“In other words,” Griffin said, “we have the power to decide elections.”

There is a real legislative battle on the horizon—our presidential candidates must show that they are ready.

anti-religion, bias, bigotry, bullies, bureaucracy, civil rights, culture, discrimination, diversity, elitism, extremism, government, hate crime, homosexuality, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, left wing, legislation, liberalism, oppression, political correctness, progressive, public policy, reform, regulation

Filed under: anti-religion, bias, bigotry, bullies, bureaucracy, civil rights, culture, discrimination, diversity, elitism, extremism, government, hate crime, homosexuality, hypocrisy, ideology, intolerance, left wing, legislation, liberalism, oppression, political correctness, progressive, public policy, reform, regulation

Obamacare supporters finding it harder to defend architect

White House basically lied to minimize Jonathan Gruber’s role in shaping Obamacare
June 22, 2015 by Ben Bullard

Controversial MIT economist Jonathan Gruber reportedly played key role in ObamaCare law
June 22, 2015 by Fox News

Editor says he owes GOP sources ‘an apology’ after new Gruber emails
June 24, 2015 by Fox News

Obfuscatedcare
by Snopes.com

It should be pointed out that although Gruber’s comments suggest the Obama administration relied on obfuscation, distortion, lies, and manipulations to pass the increasingly ironically named “Affordable Care Act” the reason you’ll find so many defenders of Obamacare treating this scandal like it’s no big deal is because that’s how legislation is normally passed in Congress every day. It’s not a big deal to the corrupt political machine in Washington, D.C. or to its ultra-left groupies in the news media.

bias, bureaucracy, congress, corruption, culture, Democrats, economy, energy, ethics, extremism, fraud, government, health care, ideology, left wing, legislation, liberalism, lies, nanny state, news media, pandering, politics, progressive, propaganda, public policy, relativism, scandal, taxes

Filed under: bias, bureaucracy, congress, corruption, culture, Democrats, economy, energy, ethics, extremism, fraud, government, health care, ideology, left wing, legislation, liberalism, lies, nanny state, news media, pandering, politics, progressive, propaganda, public policy, relativism, scandal, taxes

Can one support gay marriage and religious liberty at the same time?

note: I don’t support gay marriage like Lopez does, but I do support civil unions. Lopez is refreshingly open minded and honest in this piece, for someone who does support gay marriage.

original article: I Support Gay Marriage And Religious Freedom Laws
April 6, 2015 by Ramon Lopez

I strongly support gay marriage. Yet I also strongly support Indiana’s recent religious freedom law. Given that many in the media have characterized it as being “anti-gay,” causing state legislators to amend some of its protections away, this might seem like a contradiction. Therefore it’s important to clarify exactly what Indiana’s law says, does, and how it fits in with a vision of a tolerant and pluralistic society.

The Indiana religious freedom law is modeled after the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), passed in 1993 by a unanimous vote in the House, a 97-3 vote in the Senate, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton (there are two notable differences between the federal law and Indiana’s law that some critics have pointed out, and I’ll get to those differences in a bit). At the time, right-wing groups like the Christian Coalition joined with left-wing groups like the ACLU in support of the law, and it had remained a bipartisan commitment until recently.

The Historical and Legal Background of Religious Freedom Laws

To understand why RFRA was passed in the first place, we should review its historical and legal background. In 1963 the Supreme Court decided in Sherbert v. Verner that under the First Amendment religious objectors to facially neutral laws have a presumptive constitutional right to exemption. This means religious persons could sue for exemption from a law that compels them to violate their religious beliefs, even if that law did not specifically target their religion.

According to a 2006 study, governments meet strict scrutiny standards in nearly 60 percent of religious-liberty exemption cases.

If a law was passed that required all delis to serve pork, for example, conservative Muslim and Orthodox Jewish deli owners could apply for an exemption given their religious convictions. Although such a law may not be intentionally discriminatory, its effect would be burdensome to the practices of certain religious groups, as it would compel members of those faiths to violate their deeply held religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court determined that a “strict scrutiny” standard would be applied to laws that imposed a “substantial burden” on a person’s religious beliefs. Under this principle, religious objectors would be exempt from laws that burden their religious practices unless the law was the least-restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest.

A “compelling government interest” is typically understood to be an interest that is necessary, one that is an essential government function, not merely one that is preferable policy. It includes issues such as maintaining constitutional protections and preserving the lives, health, security, and rights of persons. To meet the “least restrictive means” standard, the state must show there is not a reasonable and possible alternative means to fulfill the compelling interest. Both before and after RFRA, the Supreme Court has kept religious-freedom exemptions narrow—members of a religion that forbids its members to pay taxes are not exempt from taxation, as the state can both demonstrate that such laws serve a compelling government interest and are the least restrictive means of serving that interest. According to a 2006 study, governments meet these standards in nearly 60 percent of religious-liberty exemption cases.

The Supreme Court Decision that Led to the Federal RFRA

In 1990, the court reversed itself in Employment Division v. Smith. Two members of the Native American Church had been fired for ingesting peyote, which some Native American religious groups use for religious purposes. Because they were fired for violating state drug laws, the former employees were unable to qualify for unemployment compensation. They sued, claiming that the state law prohibiting their use of peyote substantially burdened their religious practices, but in this case the Court determined that the First Amendment did not protect religious groups from facially neutral laws. Legislatures could carve out exemptions when passing laws that might substantially burden certain religious groups if they so chose, but religious persons would no longer have a presumptive right to exemption.

Since its passage, RFRA has disproportionately protected minority religious groups.

This resulted in a political backlash from all sides, culminating in the passage of RFRA, which reestablished the strict scrutiny standard. In 1997 the Supreme Court determined RFRA could not be applied to state laws—given that it went beyond the scope of Congress’s enforcement powers—but that it still applied to federal laws. Since 1997, 26 states have passed state-level RFRA legislation, with Indiana being the most recent, and another nine have constitutional religious-freedom provisions that state courts have interpreted to require the strict scrutiny standard.

Since its passage, RFRA has disproportionately protected minority religious groups—while Jewish, Muslim, and Native American religions only make up only 3 percent of the population, they make up 18 percent of RFRA cases. And while last year’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case grabbed headlines, earlier this year the court determined in Holt v. Hobbes that Arkansas’s policy prohibiting inmates from growing beards violated RFRA, as it substantially burdened a Muslim inmate from practicing his faith.

Three Objections to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law

There are then three main issues that are raised with Indiana’s RFRA law. The first is the more general question about whether a religious person should have a presumed right to exemption from a facially neutral law if it substantially burdens his or her religious practices. This issue not only applies to Indiana, but to every other state with a strict scrutiny standard, as well as the federal government.

As a pluralistic society, we ought to respect others’ religious beliefs, and make space for them to practice their values so long as it does not interfere with basic political requirements.

As a pluralistic society, we ought to respect others’ religious beliefs, and do what we can to make space for them to practice their values so long as it does not interfere with basic political requirements. America has a long and proud tradition of making such accommodations—Catholic churches were exempt from prohibition so they could serve wine as a part of the Eucharist, Quakers and other pacifist groups have historically been exempt from being drafted into the military in combat positions, and in the 1990s we further strengthened laws protecting peyote use by Native American religions in their ceremonies.

RFRA protections are particularly important when dealing with religious minorities. More widely represented and politically powerful religions may have the visibility and influence to ensure they are given legislative exemptions from facially neutral laws. But smaller and less influential religious groups, those without as much political clout, will have a harder time protecting their religious liberties and practices. When deciding between following a secular authority or a spiritual one, many people will choose the latter over the former. Giving space within the law to people of different faiths to practice their beliefs does not divide us, but makes us a more cohesive, open, and respectful society.

Many might agree that RFRA protections are important to maintain, but will argue that Indiana’s version went too far by legalizing these kinds of exemptions in private dealings. Unlike the federal version, Indiana’s law states, “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding” (italics mine). This is the second issue: Whether RFRA should allow religious persons to discriminate against private citizens.

Instead, Fight Job Loss for Being Gay

In this case, we should keep two things in mind. First, Indiana, like many states and the federal government, before adding its “fix” to its new RFRA had not listed sexual orientation as a protected status under civil-rights laws. Private businesses are prohibited from discriminating based on race, religion, gender, national origin, disability, etc., but in most states employers can legally fire someone for being gay. Even if Indiana’s religious-freedom law allowed for discrimination, it would be superfluous given that discrimination based on sexual orientation is already legal. That gay, lesbian, and transsexual persons are still subject to this kind of treatment is a national embarrassment, and all the energy many have expended on fighting RFRA would be better directed at expanding non-discrimination legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Even if Indiana’s religious-freedom law allowed for discrimination, it would be superfluous given that discrimination based on sexual orientation is already legal.

The second point is that although Indiana’s law goes further than the federal RFRA law in this respect, it would still not allow for widespread discrimination against homosexuals. If a restaurant banned gays from entering—and if sexual orientation were covered under civil rights protections—then the Supreme Court would easily find that the restaurant violated the Civil Rights Act. Preventing discrimination by private companies is a compelling government interest and there is no less restrictive way of preventing such discrimination than barring private companies from discriminating. Just as a religious objector is still required to pay taxes, given that there’s no way to collect tax revenue without actually taxing persons, so too would private businesses still be required to comply with non-discrimination protections. Religious liberty claims to discriminate have never survived judicial review under the strict scrutiny standard.

The purpose of the additional language is not to allow for widespread discrimination, but to protect the religious liberties of specific professionals who provide services to couples who are getting married—wedding photographers, florists, caterers, etc. This language was inspired by a case in New Mexico (among others), in which a wedding photographer was found in violation of the state’s Human Rights Act for refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding.

But there is an important distinction between a restaurant discriminating against a gay customer and a wedding photographer refusing to participate in a same-sex wedding. In the first case, the restaurant is refusing to serve a person because of their sexual orientation. In the second case, the photographer is refusing to participate in a ceremony that would violate her religious beliefs. As was noted in her petition to the court, the photographer had photographed numerous gay couples in the past, and did not discriminate based on sexual orientation. While the government has an obligation to prevent discrimination, it goes beyond its scope when compelling religious persons to attend ceremonies or other proceedings they find religiously objectionable. So while Indiana’s RFRA would not allow for discrimination of gay customers simply because they are gay, it would have allowed religious objectors to exempt themselves from participating in private ceremonies that violate their religious beliefs. (Its “fix” changed this. Private businesses may no longer exempt themselves from religious ceremonies they find objectionable.)

Toleration is easy when we support or are neutral about the belief or practice in question.

There are important limits on this kind of religious-freedom protection. It’s an open question whether someone who provides a product or service but does not participate in the wedding itself—like a baker—would be covered under this provision. I find it to be unlikely, and don’t think the protection should extend that far, but it’s an issue for us as a society to debate. Additionally, if the wedding photographer were the only professional photographer in town it would be reasonable for the state to compel her to lend her services to the wedding ceremony, given that the gay couple would otherwise be burdened by not having access to that service at all due to their sexual orientation. But the point I’d like to emphasize here is that this is a complex question between legitimate competing values, and any decision we reach as a society should hopefully take both into account. Toleration is easy when we support or are neutral about the belief or practice in question. It’s far more difficult—but even more necessary—when concerning something we ourselves find objectionable.

Why Individual Rights Extend to Corporations

The third and perhaps most controversial issue surrounding the Indiana religious freedom law is its explicit extension of these protections to corporate entities. Critics argue that corporations cannot have religious beliefs, and that by extending religious protections to corporations Indiana opened the door to legalized discrimination. But the points raised when discussing issue two apply in this case as well: Corporations, like individuals, cannot violate civil-rights protections by appealing to RFRA because non-discrimination requirements meet the two standards needed to override a religious objection. While the federal RFRA does not explicitly protect corporations, in last year’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case the Supreme Court decided that the federal law applies to “closely held” corporations, meaning the difference between the two laws on this point is not as much as many have made it out to be.

Most churches and religious charities legally take a corporate form, and it would be strange if religious liberty protections applied to members of a church but not to the church itself.

While treating corporations as if they have religious beliefs might seem strange, we rightly extend a number of individual rights to corporations. The First Amendment’s protections on speech do not only apply to individual journalists, but to the corporation of which they are apart—The New York Times as an institution is protected by the First Amendment as much as its members.

Most churches and religious charities legally take a corporate form, and it would be strange if religious liberty protections applied to members of a church but not to the church itself. When an exemption was made for Catholics under prohibition, the exemption was not extended to specific members of the Catholic Church, but to the Catholic Church as a corporate institution.

We recognize that corporations are forms of association, and persons do not lose their rights—religious or otherwise—when acting as an association, when united in a corporate body. Corporations can also be held legally accountable, just as individuals—a company as a corporate person can be sued for violating some law, or for infringing on the rights of particular individuals or other corporations. Although corporate personhood has been a controversial issue since Citizens United v. FEC, corporations have long been legally treated as persons. There is more that could be said on this point, but debating the merits of corporate personhood would require its own article. However, the basic point is that even though Indiana’s RFRA extends to corporations, it still does not allow for legalized discrimination against gay persons.

Be Generous In Argument

These are hard questions. I don’t want to treat my positions on this matter as final—there are strong arguments on the other side. I may also be mistaken in my analysis, moral reasoning and intuitions, or understanding of the law. But as fellow citizens we should avoid the tendency to paint these issues in the blackest of blacks and whitest of whites. We’re all working through these difficult questions together, and we should do so with compassion and goodwill. We should work to educate each other, and be open to hearing from others with whom we disagree—especially when we don’t understand how anyone could disagree.

The principle of charity demands that we consider the best the other side has to offer and assume they are operating in good faith.

Given how homosexual people have been historically treated, both in the United States and elsewhere, it is no wonder that gay-rights groups are especially attuned to any perceived infringement. And with rapidly changing views on gay marriage, the gay rights movement finally feels like it has the wind at its back. But those of us who support gay rights should be careful with our rhetoric and with the battles we choose. Not everyone we disagree with is homophobic, and not every law proposed by opponents of gay marriage will damage the cause of gay rights.

Pushing for gay rights will be easier if religious objectors can be secure in the knowledge that the state will not be used to compel them to violate their religious beliefs. This does not mean gay persons should be discriminated against, but it does mean we should provide the space for people to not participate in religiously objectionable acts. As a tolerant and pluralistic society, it is incumbent upon us to provide this option, even if we strongly disagree with the moral stance of religious objectors.

We should keep one last important thing in mind when engaging in broader debates about gay rights. You don’t change minds by labeling everyone who disagrees with you a bigot. Plenty of the opposition to gay marriage may be rooted in homophobia, but there are a great number of kind and generous people who—due to religious beliefs, cultural norms, or (yes) rational arguments—still maintain the traditional definition of marriage. Criticizing those who disagree with us as morally ignorant is easy, but a healthy public discourse requires that we treat them fairly. The principle of charity demands that we consider the best the other side has to offer and assume they are operating in good faith.

This should apply to all political debates, but particularly to those contentious moral questions—gay marriage, abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, and all the intersecting issues around race and gender. If we wish to change others’ minds, we have to be open to changing ourselves. Public discourse, like tolerance, is a two-way street.

abuse, culture, first amendment, freedom, homosexuality, ideology, justice, legislation, news media, opinion, political correctness, politics, public policy, reform, religion, tolerance

Filed under: abuse, culture, first amendment, freedom, homosexuality, ideology, justice, legislation, news media, opinion, political correctness, politics, public policy, reform, religion, tolerance

Indiana’s RFRA ushers in the end – there is no such thing as tolerance anymore

original article: Indiana: A Religious Liberty Bellwether
March 30, 2015 by ROD DREHER

I spent the weekend reading as much as I could about the controversy over Indiana’s new religious freedom law. What it tells us is very bad, from a conservative perspective, especially a religious conservative perspective. Let me explain.

First, the Indiana law is not substantially different from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, nor is it substantially different from state RFRAs in place in most other states in the US. Indiana law professor Daniel O. Conkle, who supports gay rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular, also supports the Indiana law, and explains why here. Excerpts:

It’s because — despite all the rhetoric — the bill has little to do with same-sex marriage and everything to do with religious freedom.

The bill would establish a general legal standard, the “compelling interest” test, for evaluating laws and governmental practices that impose substantial burdens on the exercise of religion. This same test already governs federal law under the federal RFRA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. And some 30 states have adopted the same standard, either under state-law RFRAs or as a matter of state constitutional law.

Applying this test, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a Muslim prisoner was free to practice his faith by wearing a half-inch beard that posed no risk to prison security. Likewise, in a 2012 decision, a court ruled that the Pennsylvania RFRA protected the outreach ministry of a group of Philadelphia churches, ruling that the city could not bar them from feeding homeless individuals in the city parks.

Conkle points out — as have others in recent days — that the Indiana law is not a free pass to businesses to discriminate against gay customers. All it does is grant religious people the right to a court hearing in such matters, to determine if there is a way that the state can better achieve its aims than to compel the business owner to violate his conscience. That’s it. In other states that have RFRAs, Conkle says, courts have heard cases related to supposed anti-gay claims, and ruled against the religious plaintiff. More:

In any event, most religious freedom claims have nothing to do with same-sex marriage or discrimination. The proposed Indiana RFRA would provide valuable guidance to Indiana courts, directing them to balance religious freedom against competing interests under the same legal standard that applies throughout most of the land. It is anything but a “license to discriminate,” and it should not be mischaracterized or dismissed on that basis.

I repeat: this is the opinion of an actual law professor in Indiana, a professor who supports same-sex marriage and gay rights. Law professor Josh Blackman compares in detail the Indiana law and the federal RFRA, and says the Indiana law is essentially the same thing as the federal one. Excerpt:

I should stress–and this point was totally lost in the Indiana debate–that RFRA does not provide immunity. It only allows a defendant to raise a defense, which a finder of fact must consider, like any other defense that can be raised under Title VII or the ADA. RFRA is *not* a blank check to discriminate.

John McCormack has a helpful explainer about the Indiana law. Excerpts:

Is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act really a license to discriminate against gay people? 

No. Stanford law professor Michael McConnell, a former appellate court judge, tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD in an email: ”In the decades that states have had RFRA statutes, no business has been given the right to discriminate against gay customers, or anyone else.”

So what is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and what does it say? 

The first RFRA was a 1993 federal law that was signed into law by Democratic president Bill Clinton. It unanimously passed the House of Representatives, where it was sponsored by then-congressman Chuck Schumer, and sailed through the Senate on a 97-3 vote.

The law reestablished a balancing test for courts to apply in religious liberty cases (a standard had been used by the Supreme Court for decades). RFRA allows a person’s free exercise of religion to be “substantially burdened” by a law only if the law furthers a “compelling governmental interest” in the “least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

So the law doesn’t say that a person making a religious claim will always win. In the years since RFRA has been on the books, sometimes the courts have ruled in favor of religious exemptions, but many other times they haven’t.

Ryan T. Anderson:

Again, Religious Freedom Restoration Acts don’t allow individuals to do whatever they wish in the name of religion. There will be times when the government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression—to ensure public safety, for instance.

But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom. The way we’ve learned to live in a pluralistic society, with diverse religious and moral opinions, is to have a balancing test like the one the Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides.

A robust conception of religious liberty provides every person the freedom to seek the truth, form beliefs, and live according to the dictates of his or her conscience—whether at home, in worship or at work.

And on and on. The Indiana RFRA, then, is not only common in America, in practice is has little to do with gay issues, and when it does, it is no guarantee that the “anti-gay” side will prevail. That’s it. Garrett Epps, writing in The Atlantic, says that the RFRA in Indiana really is different. Here is the gist of his argument:

Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government. Why does this matter? Well, there’s a lot of evidence that the new wave of “religious freedom” legislation was impelled, at least in part, by a panic over a New Mexico state-court decision, Elane Photography v. WillockIn that case, a same-sex couple sued a professional photography studio that refused to photograph the couple’s wedding. New Mexico law bars discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation. The studio said that New Mexico’s RFRA nonetheless barred the suit; but the state’s Supreme Court held that the RFRA did not apply “because the government is not a party.”

Remarkably enough, soon after, language found its way into the Indiana statute to make sure that no Indiana court could ever make a similar decision.

That’s all he’s got? Of course the Indiana RFRA is tailored to a post-Elane legal environment. What did he expect? The Indiana law gives business owners recourse to the courts. That’s it. It does not guarantee that they will win. But Epps considers the possibility that the religious business owners might be due some consideration so horrifying that he is unable to tolerate it, and in fact — you knew this was coming — compares the whole thing to Jim Crow racism.

This total political and media freakout over the Indiana law is the real story. It’s a hysterical overreaction that, frankly, is scary as hell. Here is USA Today sports columnist Nancy Armour:

The NCAA should be applauded for swiftly and strongly expressing its disapproval of Indiana’s new law that cloaks discrimination in “religious freedom.”

But it can’t stop there.

It is too late to pull this year’s Final Four from Indianapolis, given it is next weekend and there’s no other city that would have an arena and several thousand hotel rooms available. But the NCAA can – and should – tell Indiana lawmakers that their prejudice and mean-spiritedness has cost the state the privilege of hosting any other collegiate sporting event.

The 2016 women’s Final Four currently scheduled to be held in Indianapolis? Not anymore.

The early-round games for the men’s tournament that Indianapolis is looking forward to hosting in 2017? They’ll be moved somewhere else.

The 2021 men’s Final Four that was awarded to Indianapolis last fall? That will be going to a more enlightened state, like Minnesota.

The NCAA is reconsidering its relationship with the state. NCAA chief Mark Emmert said the other day:

The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events.  We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.  We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.

Corporate titans have weighed in, with Apple leading a Silicon Valley group protesting the law.  Angie’s List is putting a business expansion on hold. And now, this is apparently Democratic Party orthodoxy, with presumed 2016 Democratic nominee, whose husband in 1993 signed the federal RFRA (which passed with overwhelming Democratic support), tweeting:

 

Patrick Deneen gets what’s really going on here:

 

Over the weekend, a reader wrote to say he had been talking with a thirtysomething “conservative-ish” Evangelical pastor who saw no possible religious-liberty justification for someone to withhold services from same-sex customers (e.g., Christian wedding photographers). The reader said that the pastor could not understand why anybody would have a religiously valid reason to refuse to participate in a commercial transaction with gays. The reader tried pointing out to him that he doesn’t have to agree with the religious person’s reasoning to recognize that their right to be wrong deserves respect, but the pastor could not grasp this.

My reader wrote me to report all this, and to say he’s been skeptical of my dire warnings about where religious liberty is headed in this gay-rights environment — and this is true, as I can tell you from his comments on the blog — but no more. The Law of Merited Impossibility is being validated every day now. Writes the reader: “I agree we’re in trouble.”

Father Dwight Longenecker, a Catholic priest who supports the Indiana RFRA, writes about why it will backfire:

This is because those who are campaigning for total sexual freedom will link the religious freedom laws with freedom to discriminate. It will confirm in their minds what they already feel at a gut level–that the religious people are the enemy. The religious people are the bigots.

They are already doing so, and doing so with violence–verbal and economic violence to start with, but be prepared for legislative violence and then punitive violence.

The “Restoring Religious Freedom” laws will therefore crystallize in people’s minds that religion is all about discrimination and the unthinking hordes will automatically conclude that if a person is religious (and especially Catholic) that they are homophobic bigots–and probably racists too.

The “Restoring Religious Freedom” laws will be portrayed as legalizing discrimination and religious people will be as marginalized as racists.

Yes, this is happening, and will continue to happen. And it’s going to happen because corporate America and the media are all-in to demonize religious conservatives. The pro-SSM libertarian David Harsanyi notes that many in the media — not op-ed media, but straight-news media — frame their reports as if there were no actual religious liberty issues at stake here. That it’s all made-up by right-wingers and theocrats. This is true:

And this is true too:

 

And this:

 

It seems to me that the media/elite freakout over the Indiana law is a moral panic analogous to the freakout over the UVA rape case. People rushed like lemmings to endorse as true something that turned out to be a hoax because it confirmed their prejudices about Bad Classes of People. This is why so many in the media are making no pretense to be fair in their reporting and commentary on the Indiana law. As Mollie Hemingway avers, the most interesting — and most worrying — aspect of all this is that religious liberty is not considered to be important at all to very many people in this country, especially the most powerful people.

Notre Dame’s Pat Deneen wrote this weekend on Facebook that law school friends tell him of plans underway now by progressive law profs to “Bob Jones” churches and religious institutions that have policies they consider discriminatory against LGBT people. That is, they want to campaign to take away tax exempt status from all religious entities that have traditional views and practices related to homosexuality. This is the next frontier. Many churches and religious entities operate so close to the margins, budget-wise, that they will not be able to survive this.

This is coming. Remember when they told us that SSM would not affect the rest of us? Do you now see that this was a lie? As I have been saying:

The Law Of Merited Impossibility is an epistemological construct governing the paradoxical way overclass opinion makers frame the discourse about the clash between religious liberty and gay civil rights. It is best summed up by the phrase, “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.”

If the Indiana witch hunt doesn’t convince you of the truth of the Law of Merited Impossibility, you are deluded.

A couple of years ago, Ross Douthat commented on the bizarre fact that so many otherwise intelligent people defending gay marriage write as if the idea that procreation has anything to do with marriage is some weirdo right-wing Christian idea that theocons only came up recently with to thwart gays. In fact, as Douthat easily showed, it has been embedded in marriage law for centuries. Here’s why that matters, according to Douthat:

That so many people find this claim credible or even self-evident is a small but potent example of exactly the two phenomena that my column’s conclusion discussed: First, the way that gay marriage inevitably has widening cultural ripple effects, in this case revising not only the law itself but also the stories people tell about where those laws came from and what they’re meant to do; and second, the way that some of these ripple effects are making it almost impossible for liberals to show magnanimity in victory, and accept the continued existence of people and institutions that still take the older view of what marriage is and means. After all, if that supposedly “older” view was just invented by Clinton or Bush-era homophobes when their Bible-thumping stopped working, then what’s to respect or even tolerate? Once you’ve rewritten the past to make your opponents look worse, then you’re well on your way to justifying writing them out of the future entirely.

He wrote that two years ago. It was prophetic. This is happening now. The media, academia, and big business are all of one mind. It is a juggernaut that is going to roll over religious liberty.

The overreaction, especially the blatant lies and completely invented controversy, in which the media and big business have engaged in the past few days about Indiana and religious liberty, has been a shock to my system — this, even though I am by now used to just about anything from that side. Because religious liberty is the most important political issue to me, it is hard to imagine sitting out the 2016 presidential election, as I have done the past two times because I couldn’t stomach the Republican nominee. It is impossible to imagine voting Democratic in 2016, because the Democrats are actively committed to legislating contempt for traditional Christians like me. If even mild attempts to give minimal protection to religious dissenters is condemned as Jim Crow redux by the Democrats, it genuinely frightens me to think about what a Supreme Court dominated by Obama-Clinton justices would do.

Voting Republican is no guarantee that religious liberty would be strengthened in SCOTUS rulings in the future, but there is some hope that a GOP president would nominate justices sympathetic to religious liberty concerns. With President Hillary Clinton, or any conceivable Democrat, there is no hope at all.

Je suis le First Amendment. Indiana shows why for social and religious conservatives, 2016 is all about the Supreme Court and religious liberty. The past few days have made someone like me, a conservative independent who has little use for either party, realize that I cannot afford to be on the sidelines in 2016. Religious conservative voters must be focused like a laser on religious liberty, right now. It’s that important.

UPDATE: A commenter on Facebook, whom I’ll identify once I verify that this was on a public post, [UPDATE: It’s Larry Chapp] writes:

I do not trust the Republicans to stand by their rhetoric on issues like abortion, gay marriage, the family and so on. And they actively work against things I believe are very, very pro-family like extended maternity leave laws and a raise in the minimum wage. All that said, as jaded as I have become to our current political situation, and as disgusted as I have become with both parties, I have been jolted to my core by the deliberate lies and distortions that have been put forward by the media and the Democrats concerning Indiana’s new religious freedom law. It is now blatantly clear and there should be ABSOLUTELY no doubt in our minds: the Democratic party, in collusion with media and entertainment elites, are anti-Christian in deeply ideological ways. And this anti-Christian stance is now “out of the closet” with the gloves off and all pretense to it being anything other than a hatred for the Christian faith dropped. For this law, which 19 other states also have, and which is, like all of the others, modeled after the Federal law sponsored by Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Bill Clinton in 1993, and which passed a Democratically controlled Senate in 1993 97-3, to be characterized in CNN and NYT’s headlines as the “anti-Gay bill” is beyond irresponsible and reprehensible. And most of these articles, if you dig into them, never clarify the headline and never put the law in context, and continue to repeat the lie that the law will “allow businesses to discriminate against Gays on ‘religious’ grounds’”. It does nothing of the sort. Gays are never mentioned in the law. And the law has never been used in any state or by the Feds to discriminate against gays. Notice too how almost all of the headlines put the words “religious liberty” in scare quotes, implying that any concern with religious freedom is utterly bogus and false and intolerable if it even hints at the curtailment of a single homosexual entitlement. So in the context of this thread here is my point: I will still not vote for either Republicans or Democrats since, in my view, they are exactly the same party and owned by exactly the same people. But … that will change in favor of the Republicans depending on how they respond to this Indiana controversy. If they run for cover and repudiate the law then to hell with them. They will have confirmed my suspicions that they are insouciant liars on the social issues. However, if they develop a spine and some common sense and defend the law then I will start to vote Republican on the basis of the single issue of religious freedom. I am a devout and practicing Catholic. My Polish and Italian relatives, living and dead, have been proud, life long Democrats of the old-fashioned Catholic/immigrant/labor, variety. But if the Democrats want to spit openly in the face of my faith, my loved ones, and my friends, then quite frankly, they can kiss my a**.

He continues:

And to add to my screed above, I think the thing that has most gotten my attention about this Indiana law and its haters is that it signals a very significant tectonic shift in the tone and rhetoric concerning people of traditional religious faith. A mere ten years ago such laws were being passed in state after state with good support from Democrats. But since then, the Obama revolution has happened … and there has been a noticeable empowerment of the nihilist, pelvic, Left. And the language of the pelvic Left was adopted by the mass media creating a sea change in perception that is truly Orwellian: what is called “tolerance” is, in fact, cultural fascism and what is called “diversity” is in fact a monochrome jello. And its effects have been devastating. The HHS mandate, which is a clear violation of the Federal RFRA of 1993, and a clear violation of religious liberty, was turned on its head in the public rhetoric in such a way that the Church was adroitly cast as the villain of freedom and of women, when all it was doing was asking not be forced to pay for something. The Church objected to being forced to pay for something and yet they were vilified as the ones doing the forcing. Likewise, a gay couple, who could easily go to 37 other bakeries, decide to sue a single bakery, owned by an elderly Christian couple who have run the store for 30 years. And rather than the gays being viewed as litigious bullies who cannot just “live and let live”, they are held up as heroes of freedom and the bakers as the reincarnation of the KKK. What this signals is something dangerous for those of us of traditional faith and not in just a passing way. What the nonsense and lies over the Indiana law shows is that what is now playing out is that ANY LAW that is viewed as favorable toward people of traditional religious faith will be opposed with the full force these people can muster. The issue is NOT that they are lying in order to force the gay agenda on everyone, although that is part of it. The issue is deeper. The issue is that they want the destruction of the faith. They want people like us ruined. They want the kingdom of nihilist, pelvic Lefties to reign without opposition.

That rhetoric is sometimes shrill, but his essential point is right on: ANY LAW that is viewed as favorable toward people of traditional religious faith will be opposed with the full force these people can muster.

Life in post-Christian America, people.

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