Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

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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Harvard – look what happens when you give social justice warriors free rein

original article: Harvard’s anti-male committee wants to overturn campus democracy and a free press
February 28, 2017 by Greg Piper

When it became clear that faculty might vote to overturn Harvard’s punitive rules against members of single-sex organizations such as final clubs, the university created a faculty review committee rather than suffer an embarrassing defeat.

Some people thought it was purely “window dressing,” a way for Harvard to make professors feel like they had a say when they really didn’t.

The administration would still get what it wanted, the thinking went: the blacklisting of club members from elite fellowships (like the Rhodes) and leadership roles on athletic teams and student organizations.

But it looks like the faculty review committee might actually serve as a useful check on even worse recommendations coming from the implementation committee that made the original recommendations.

MORE: Harvard is ready to blacklist 1 in 4 students

The Harvard Crimson reports that the implementation committee now wants to ban fraternity, sorority and final-club members from “several more post-graduate fellowships,” not just those requiring the dean’s recommendation.

It’s also refusing to give out copies of the new recommendations, probably anticipating that they would go viral very quickly:

Implementation committee members did not receive copies of the report, developed over the course of last semester, according to several members of the body. Rather, committee co-chairs Douglas A. Melton and Kay K. Shelemay printed copies of the document and placed them in University Hall. Members traveled to the building at select times earlier this month to physically examine the report and offer feedback.

This is similar to the protocol by which members of Congress can review classified material, so you get a sense of how important this committee thinks it is.

MORE: Dean chickens out of blacklist on eve of risky faculty vote

But it’s not just post-graduate fellowships the committee wants to put off-limits:

In another section of the group’s final report, the implementation committee recommended that The Crimson and the Undergraduate Council be subject to the College’s policy, according to the three committee members. Such a step would aim to bar members of final clubs and Greek organizations from holding leadership positions on either The Crimson or the UC.

In other words: This big-headed committee is so determined to snuff out men and women spending time with their own kind, which is allegedly sexist and elitist, that it will destroy democracy and a free press on campus.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sounds the alarm on this “super-blacklist,” which validates Harvard’s earlier inclusion in the group’s “10 Worst Schools for Free Speech” list.

MORE: Harvard punishes men’s team for crude comments of prior team

In earlier eras Harvard tried to out gay men and communists, and now it’s using the same tactics against people who like the platonic company of their own sex, writes FIRE’s Ryne Weiss:

[W]e really wish we could stop covering this car wreck. Unfortunately, Harvard keeps driving towards the wall.

He also notes the classified hush-hush procedure, and muses how the committee would even enforce these proposed rules against final clubs:

Maybe by calling the programs and warning them that the student applying had committed the unforgivable crime of throwing a “Headbands for Hope” charity fundraiser with Kappa Kappa Gamma? …

What is more democratic than a secret, authoritarian body telling you who you can’t vote for? There’s nothing troubling about that at all!

MORE: Harvard designates ‘open forum’ off the record to stifle criticism

The committee’s new recommendations are also a slap in the face to Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, a tinpot dictator who nevertheless had earlier promised The Crimson – which is totally separate from Harvard – that its leaders wouldn’t be ensnared by the rules:

To sum it up: Harvard administrators would purport to dictate who could lead an independent student newspaper, who students could vote for in their student government, and who could hire graduates of the university.

Harvard’s erratic behavior over the past month – creating the faculty review committee only two days after the implementation committee gave its (secret) final report to Khurana – makes more sense now, Weiss says:

Harvard was afraid that the new sanctions-on-steroids regime would leak to faculty, students, the public, and FIRE, and profoundly damage the regime’s public support. Harvard calculated that if it could keep the details secret until the last possible minute, it would give students and faculty too little time to do anything about it. And Harvard administrators really, really do not like embarrassing leaks. We’re talking a “we’ll-inspect-faculty-members’-emails-without-their-knowledge” level of hating leaks. …

MORE: Harvard promises special treatment to women-only club

It seems extremely unlikely that Dean Khurana just coincidentally announced the new panel two days after he was handed these recommendations. He probably saw these recommendations, was aghast, realized the faculty vote was nigh and that they would never go for this, and got a new group.

With this huge embarrassment stemming from her own illiberal impulses, maybe Harvard President Drew Faust will finally decide to zip her lips on how freedom of association is just another way of saying Jim Crow.

MORE: Hanging out with other males is like stopping blacks from voting

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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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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.”

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Seattle’s Minimum Wage Hike Is Underway. Hiring Has Slowed Already

original article: Seattle’s Minimum Wage Hike Is Underway. A Damning Chart Shows How That’s Working Out…
October 26, 2015 by PARKER LEE

Since Seattle, Washington’s Minimum Wage Ordinance went into effect on April 1, many have looked to the city as a sort of litmus test, specifically how the local economy is able to bear the weight of a $15 minimum wage.

Though the ordinance allows for the changes to become fully implemented over the next 3 or 7 years, depending on the size of the business, it has already proven to be too much for some owners to handle.

Now, as financial experts get a look at the newest hiring data from Washington, it appears that one particular Seattle sector is feeling the pinch of the historic measure in an eye-catching way.

Image Credit: AEI

Image Credit: AEI

Using employment data from the last five years, the American Enterprise Institute found that Washington state as a whole has seen an increase of about 5,800 restaurant jobs thus far in 2015, while Seattle has seen a decrease of 700 in the same time period.

It’s worth noting that Washington has one of the highest state minimum wages at $9.47, though it’s still significantly lower than Seattle’s.

Proponents of Seattle’s ordinance argue that the move is the correct course of action to address income inequality and to make the city’s high cost of living more manageable. But business owners like Ritu Shah Burnham would be likely to disagree.

Burnham was forced to close the doors of her Z Pizza restaurant because she simply couldn’t afford to stay open, despite her best efforts:

“I’ve let one person go since April 1, I’ve cut hours since April 1, I’ve taken them myself because I don’t pay myself..

I’ve also raised my prices a little bit, there’s no other way to do it.”

Though it’s too early to make a definitive call on the data, it certainly seems telling that Seattle’s seeing a decline in restaurant employment in a state that appears to otherwise be experiencing an industry boom.

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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.

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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.

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If Common Core is state-based why is Uncle Sam pressuring states to accept it?

original article: Schools Threatened by Feds Over Massive Number of Common Core Opt-Outs
August 3, 2015 by REMSO MARTINEZ

From coast to coast, states throughout the country are trying to find any way possible to escape the widespread mess of Common Core. Recently, a large number of Long Island schools were at the center of attention when they reported having the highest number of Common Core opt-outs in the nation. Due to the immense number of students who refused to take place in the intrusive and cumbersome standardized tests, two schools in Long Island risk losing their prized national “Blue Ribbon” award for academic excellence nominations.

As of now, the two schools targeted by the Department of Education are George H. McVey and Quogue elementary schools, who earned their Blue Ribbon nominations based on scores from spring of 2014. However, the actual awards would be given to the schools nominated based on results from the following year’s score next April. This pressure to comply with the Common Core exams means that 12 of the 19 schools nominated for the prestigious award could be taken out of the running due to the opt-outs that have spread throughout the country.

This type of issue is only one piece in a larger part of the culture of corruption brought about by the heavy influence of not only Common Core pushers, but also the Department of Education. A recent Common Core related incident occurred in the past several weeks, where a Harlem principal committed suicide after fabricating the results of her students Common Core exams, all in order to maintain federal funding based on the achievement level of the students.

Parents, students, and even teachers against core curricula and its implementation are the reason so manystates are trying to escape this program. So what is left to do at this point? One path was to help strengthen the option for students to opt-out of the exams; Senator Mike Lee tried to do this at the federal level with an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, but that was shot down in the US Senate 32-64. However, a similar amendment authored by Rep. Matt Salmon to the Student Success Act passed the House.

Another more practical and permanent solution would be to keep this issue within the borders of the individual states, since they brought this beast of a program on themselves, it would be best for them to keep it as an in-house issue. Lindsey Burke, a Will Skillman fellow in education policy at the Heritage Foundation, discussed how states could exit from Common Core back in an article for the Daily Signal last April; she stated three main points (for further details on her points, click here):

  1. Determine how the decision was made to cede the state’s standard-setting authority.
  2. Prohibit new spending for standards implementation.
  3. Determine how to reverse course.

Until state governments can come together and realize that the common curricula and excessive, intrusive testing is causing more harm than good, it will depend almost entirely on the grassroots to affect real change by bringing not only awareness, but solutions to the policy table.

Do we want compliance, or a separation between school and state?

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The Third Annual College Stupidity Awards

original article: The Daily Caller Presents: The Third Annual College Stupidity Awards
August 9, 2015 by Eric Owens

As the summer of 2015 winds down, it’s once again time to celebrate the stupidest and most outrageous events that occurred on campus during the last academic year with The Daily Caller’s Third Annual College Stupidity Awards.

original article: For the second annual College Stupidity Awards, by the way, look here.

Look here for the exciting inaugural College Stupidity ceremony.

For the 2014-15 version of cringe-worthy political correctness run amok, outrageous suffocation of free speech and ridiculous, fascist buffoonery on the part of bureaucrats, just keep scrolling. It’s all here as TheDC looks back on the academic year that was.
In April at the University of Michigan, a showing of the movie “American Sniper” was canceled because a few students complained it was “insensitive” to Muslim people. Michigan’s new football coach, Jim Harbaugh, protested the protest, tweeting “Proud of Chris Kyle & Proud to be an American & if that offends anybody then so be it!” The taxpayer-funded school first substituted “Paddington” for “American Sniper.” “Paddington” is a children’s movie about a talking, stuffed teddy bear and his series of adorable misadventures on the streets of London. Michigan students had the opportunity to watch both “American Sniper” and “Paddington.” (RELATED: University Cancels ‘American Sniper’ Because It’s ‘Racist’)

In April on the main campus of Pennsylvania State University, the editors of The Daily Collegian published a 433-word editorial arguing that Rolling Stone’s fabricated, completely retracted article, “A Rape on Campus”” demonstrates that “false accusations” of rape “are extremely unlikely.” In the bizarre, unsigned op-ed, The Daily Collegian lamented the fact that the Phi Kappa Psi chapter at the University of Virginia is now suing over damages caused by the Nov. 19 article by disgraced journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely. (RELATED: College Newspaper: False Rape Accusation Shows ‘False Accusations Are Extremely Unlikely’) Erdely’s bombshell article full of lies falsely accused seven Phi Psi members of brutally gang-raping a female student with the alias “Jackie” in September 2012. (RELATED: Here Are EIGHT Campus Rape Hoaxes Eerily Like The UVA Rape Story)

YouTube screenshot MOVIECLIPSThis spring, the University of Colorado Boulder proudly launched an on-campus spying campaign that encourages students to report incidents of “bias” to government officials at the school. The new and very extensive online “bias” reporting mechanism solicits nearly two dozen pieces of information about perpetrators of “bias” including their names, addresses, phone numbers and student ID numbers. The point of the “Bias Incident Reporting” scheme is to make the taxpayer-funded University of Colorado campus free of “demeaning and hurtful statements.” To advertise the scheme, the university created and paid for posters featuring demeaning and hurtful statements which denigrate various cultures and ethnic groups. “Go back to Africa, you don’t belong here,” one school-funded poster reads. “Your mom must be the janitor ’cause that’s the only job for dirty Mexicans,” declares another. Except for the school officials behind the “Bias Motivated Incident” poster campaign, there appears to be no evidence that anyone on the CU Boulder campus has ever said these things. (RELATED: University Of Colorado Combats ‘Bias’ With Huge Student Surveillance Scheme)

 

At the University of North Texas, a school that pays its newly appointed vice president of diversity and inclusion a sweet salary that is more than any governor in any state makes, students petitioned school officials to replace Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as the keynote speaker at the 2015 spring commencement ceremony. The petition focused on the fact that some students have political disagreements with Abbott, a Republican. “Governor Abbott is an advocate for immigration reform, border patrol, and anti-equal marriage laws,” it read. The petition did not suggest a replacement graduation speaker with views aligning with those of the 36,168-student commuter school. (RELATED: Handicapped Governor ‘Does Not Represent Diversity’ For University Of North Texas Grads)

confederate flag public domainChancellor R. Bowen Loftinthe highest-ranking official at the University of Missouri, became pathetically unglued in July and threatened to hunt down students and alumni over a photograph from 2012 of some people holding a Confederate flag. In an official statement, Loftin suggested that students could feel physically threatened by the three-year-old photo’s appearance on Twitter. The three-year old image which caused Loftin to lose his composure appeared on Twitter on July 12 at a Twitter account called Frat Scenery. In all likelihood, the people holding the flag were fans of the University of Georgia football team in town to watch the Bulldogs absolutely throttle Mizzou by a score of 41-20. (RELATED: Mizzou Chancellor FREAKS OUT Over This 3-Year-Old Confederate Flag Photo)

photo by Clare Booth Luce InstituteHilariously, officials at Georgetown University put pressure on an off-campus group to edit an April 17 lecture posted on YouTube because parts of the video show the militant feminist student protestors and other students. The lecture entitled “What’s Right (and Badly Wrong) with Feminism?” was part of the Luce Lecture series. The featured speaker was resident American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers. One of the militant feminist students described Sommers — 5’7″ and about 130 lbs. — as “an extremist anti-feminist speaker that dismisses and denies survivors of sexual assault and the real harm of rape culture.” A handful of feminist students demanded “trigger warnings” prior to the speech by Sommers. Lauren Gagliardi, Georgetown’s assistant director for the center for student engagement, informed the campus College Republicans via email that the school would “step in” if Luce, an independent conservative women’s organization, refuses to edit the YouTube video. It remains unclear exactly what special legal power Gagliardi believes she or Georgetown possesses. (RELATED: Off-Campus Conservative Women’s Group Under Censorship Pressure From Georgetown U.)

YouTube screenshot Sofia Metal QueenOver the course of this academic year, George Washington University — America’s lyingest, cheatingest college — bizarrely contemplated a ban on a sacred Hindu symbol because it resembles a Nazi swastika. The administration at the fancypants $62,485-per-year school in Washington, D.C. also left open the option of expelling a Jewish student who brought the symbol, a Sanskrit svastika [with a ‘v’], to campus. John Banzhaf, a famed public interest law professor at the GW Law School, took up the cause of the embattled student. “It’s like banning the 6-pointed Jewish Star of David because some people might mistake it for the pentagram symbol and human sacrifice, or expelling a student for using the word ‘niggardly’ because other students may mistake it for a racist word and get upset,” Banzhaf analogized. (RELATED: George Washington U. Emulates Satan-Fearing West Texas School District With Religious Symbol Ban)

YouTube screenshot Sofia AdamsIn May, a group of slouchy, overwhelmingly white and comfortably well-fed students at Tufts University very briefly went on a hunger strike on behalf of 20 janitors laid off by the administration. The hunger strike went on for about a week. The students involved ended the stunt out of concerns for their own health and went back to their normal lives on the marginally prestigious, $61,277-per-year Boston-area campus. One student striker, Zoe Jeka quit her hunger strike on Friday when her blood pressure dropped. Also, Jeka presumably had tools on hand to measure her blood pressure. The custodians remain laid off. (RELATED: Fancypants College Students End Brief Hunger Strike, Get Back To Being Rich And Well-Fed)

LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM is an actual acronym that exists in the real world populated by actual human being thanks to Wesleyan University. The acronym — for student housing — is an attempt to include every conceivable kink and gender identity (except heterosexual) in the already-long acronym LGBTQ. In its alphabet soup, the fancypants private college in Connecticut recognized Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission and Sadism/Masochism. (RELATED: Wesleyan University Adds Yet More Letters To LGBTQ Acronym)

Officials at Marquette University suspended tenured political science professor John McAdams in December because he wrote a blog post criticizing a colleague’s refusal to let a conservative student debate gay marriage during a philosophy lecture. The philosophy professor, Cheryl Abbate, had allegedly called the student’s concerns about gay marriage “homophobic.” “Everybody agrees on this,” Abbate said according to the student, “and there is no need to discuss it.” The Catholic university relieved McAdams of all teaching duties. (RELATED: Prof Suspended For Criticizing Liberal Colleague Who Quashed Gay Rights Debate)

Word came out this summer that the University of New Hampshire had a Bias-Free Language Guide advising students not to use the word “American” because it is “problematic.” Other “problematic” terms in the ultra-politically-correct guide included “illegal alien,” “foreigners” “mothering,” “fathering” and “homosexual.” According to the university’s website. Once news of the Orwellian guide spread nationally, the taxpayer-funded school’s president quickly made it disappear. (RELATED: Public University’s Bias-Free Language Guide Calls The Word American’ ‘PROBLEMATIC’)

Officials at Dixie State University in Utah banned libertarian students from stapling fliers on school bulletins in March. The reason? The bureaucrats concluded that the fliers “disparaged” two American presidents and a dead communist revolutionary. Specifically, the fliers — created by the university’s chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty as advertisement for the group’s info session — depicted Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Che Guevara in a negative light. Backed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the students have since sued the public, taxpayer-funded school on free speech grounds. (RELATED: Dixie State University Slammed With Lawsuit For Poster Censorship)

Mumia Abu-Jamal Getty Images Lisa TerryAt Goddard College, an obscure private school in Vermont, former Black Panther Party member and convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal was scheduled to be the fall commencement speaker this year. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1982. He has been serving a life sentence ever since. Abu-Jamal earned a bachelor’s degree from Goddard in 1996. He “returned” to campus via a pre-recorded speech that was broadcast to graduates and ceremony guests. (RELATED: Goddard College Invites Convicted COP KILLER As Commencement Speaker)

New Jersey’s publicly funded Kean University attempted to fill the position of “specialist for residence life” at its satellite campus in China this year. There’s just one hitch: You should be a member of the Communist party if you want to snag the job. The still-extant job posting explicitly declares: “Membership in Chinese Communist Party is preferred.” Applicants must also state their height and birthplace. Known as Wenzhau-Kean University, Kean’s China campus is a jointly Chinese-American institution offering dual degrees to English-speaking students. (RELATED: Taxpayer-Funded Kean U. Seeks Communist Party Members For Jobs On China Campus) 

How long will we let this silliness go on? We need a separation between school and state.

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Higher Ed has become anti-MLK

original article: College Codes Make ‘Color Blindness’ a Microaggression
August 5, 2015 by Brendan O’Neill

The worst thing about college speech codes is how they incite hyper racial consciousness.

There are many mad and worrying things about the speech codes spreading across campuses like a contagious brain funk. There’s their treatment of even everyday words as “problematic” terms of abuse. There’s the branding of the most anodyne forms of friendly banter as “aggressive” (apparently it is a microaggression to say to a Latino or Native American, “We want to know what you think”). And there’s the idea that even static objects can commit acts of violence against students: one university bemoans “environmental microaggressions,” which can include a college in which all the buildings are “named after white heterosexual upper class males.” What these codes add up to is a demand that everyone be permanently on edge, constantly reevaluating their every thought before uttering it. It’s an invitation to social paralysis.

But perhaps the worst thing about these tongue-clamping rules is how they incite hyper racial-consciousness. Indeed, some college speech codes chastise students who refuse to think racially, who balk at the idea that they should always be actively mindful of their own and everyone else’s racial make-up.

The “problematization” of students who refuse to think and behave racially is best captured in a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) guide to “Recognizing Microaggressions.” In keeping with other campus speech codes, the guide treats as dicey everything from simple questions (such as asking someone “Where were you born?”) to expressions of faith in meritocracy (like saying “America is the land of opportunity”). But even more perniciously, it warns students and faculty members against being non-racial, telling them they must always “acknowledge” other people’s race.

UCLA says “Color Blindness,” the idea we shouldn’t obsess over people’s race, is a microaggression. If you refuse to treat an individual as a “racial/cultural being,” then you’re being aggressive. This is a profound perversion of what has been considered the reasoned, liberal approach for decades—that treating people as “racial/cultural beings” is wrong and dehumanizing.

UCLA offers the following examples as “color blind” utterances that count as microaggressions:

“When I look at you, I don’t see color.”

“There is only one race: the human race.”

“I don’t believe in race.”

Apparently such comments deny individuals’ “racial and ethnic experience.” But on a campus like UCLA a few decades ago, refusing to treat individuals as “cultural beings” would have been the right and good thing. Now, in an eye-swivelling reversal, the polar opposite is the case: to demonstrate your politically correct virtue you must acknowledge the skin color of everyone you meet.

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point similarly advises that color blindness is a racial microaggression. It lists “America is a melting pot” as an aggressive phrase. It brands as problematic any comment by a white person that suggests he or she “does not want to acknowledge race.” Anyone who claims to be “immune to races”—that is, who prefers not to think about people as racial beings—is viewed as aggressive.

At the University of Missouri, the guide to “inclusive terminology” lists color-blindness as a form of prejudice, even as it recognizes that this term “originated from civil-rights legislation.” Once, color-blindness was considered cool, but now we know it can be “disempowering for people whose racial identity is an important part of who they are,” says the school.

And in the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) barmy guide to “bias-free language”—brilliantly mocked by Reason’s Robby Soave at The Daily Beast, and now disowned by UNH’s president—students are expected to take account of a person’s skin color, age, and heritage before engaging with them. Whether they’re being told that using “American” to refer to people born in the U.S. is wrong, that they should call Arabs “Western Asians” (what?), the message to students is clear: judge your acquaintance’s skin color, consider his or her cultural origins, and then decide what to say. Think racially, always.

Gwendolyn R.Y. Miller, a diversity consultant who advises educational institutions on how to tackle racial microaggressions, says being color blind is a “microinvalidation,” since it serves to “exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of certain groups.” She says the phrase “We all bleed red when we’re cut” is a microaggression. (Perhaps Shakespeare was being microaggressive to Jews (and others) when he wrote his great, humanistic line: “If you prick us, do we not bleed?”) Miller says the claim that “character, not color, is what counts with me” is a racial microaggression too.

If that line sounds familiar, that’s because it is almost exactly what Martin Luther King said in his “I have a dream” speech. But American colleges in the 21st century demonize those who follow the King approach of judging people by “the content of their character” rather than by the color of their skin. Today, MLK would be viewed as naive at best and suspect at worst, conspiring to deny the primacy of our selves as “racial/cultural beings.”

But here’s the thing: King—like many other postwar radicals, liberals, and progressives—waschallenging the idea that people should be engaged with and judged as “racial / cultural beings.” He, and others, preferred to treat people as people, not as products or expressions of “culture.” Now, 50 years on, the regressive, racial politics of identity has won out over that old humanistic dream of a post-race society, to such an extent that anyone who refuses to think of whites and blacks as different is treated as problematic.

New college speech codes don’t only infantilize students and stymie open, frank discussion. They also point to the creeping re-racialisation of society, and to the rebranding of universalism itself as a form of racism. Call me microaggressive all you like but, as a humanist, I will not treat my fellow citizens as “racial/cultural beings.”

It’s time for a separation between school and state.

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