This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in the King v. Burwell case. At issue were the subsidies for federal health insurance exchanges in states that had not set up their own. In a 6-3 decision upholding the law, the Court ruled that when Congress referenced an exchange “established by the State,” they actually meant “established by the State or the Federal Government.”
Predictably, the dissent—issued by Justice Scalia—pointed out the absurdity of this approach. “Words no longer have meaning,” he wrote, “if an Exchange that is not established by a State is ‘established by the State.'”
But these linguistic gymnastics are part and parcel of the nation’s highest court; calling a “penalty” a tax, as in another Obamacare suit, or claiming that commerce among the several states means any transaction—or potential transaction—by any single individual anywhere, is a drop in the ocean of awful and expansive jurisprudence that has, in its totality, given to Congress a default green light—a presumption of constitutionality for whatever it wants to do.
The degree to which the Court has become disconnected from the founding document it is supposed to interpret and uphold is especially evident in this King opinion, in which the majority opinion says this:
“[Medicaid expansion] you came into my heart
With a burning love
That stings like a bee”
-“Where Did Our Love Go,” The Supremes, 1964
The following is in response to a recent post that appeared on Utah Poverty News, entitled: “On the issue of Medicaid expansion, like so many things, we can’t go back to 1964.”
We appreciate the opportunity to respond to recent points and to clarify why Medicaid expansion is so worrisome a path for Utah to follow. In a humorous critique of our recent letter opposing Medicaid expansion, proponents of Medicaid expansion imply that our opposition is misplaced and that we would have to go back in time to 1964 when Medicaid was first started to fix our frustrations. This is not so. Medicaid expansion on its face represents significant federal micromanagement in state health care policy and has proved disastrous for many states. The line from The Supremes’ 1964 hit “Where did our love go,” referenced above, describes the problems already being felt by Medicaid expansion in some states. The promises from Washington were rosy and “tender” as they penetrated the “burning” hearts of state lawmakers around the country, but the result of implementation has, “like a bee,” stung state budgets and the truly needy.
At least 7 of the 29 expansion states have experienced cost overruns as enrollment projections were vastly under-predicted. More troubling is the way in which expansion has left state programs strapped for cash and unable to provide critical care to those most medically needy. Moreover, as more enrollees seek care from a limited pool of doctors that accept Medicaid, needy patients will find themselves further and further down the waiting list for actual care. While the temptations of rosy feelings of love for a program that promised so much for so little led states to expand, the fiscal and economic realities for these states have ruled supreme and couldn’t “get us” or “make us love” it in the end.
The benignly-named “Campaign for Accountability” has made a few waves this week for filing complaints against Representative Ken Ivory for “engaging in an illegal scheme to defraud local government officials out of taxpayer funds.”
Now that’s quite a lede.
It hinges, however, on this: the organization “alleges Rep. Ivory has solicited funds from local officials, falsely claiming the federal government can be forced to transfer public lands to the states.”
Clearly, Ivory’s organization is largely funded by taxpayers, with county governments paying large sums of money to support an effort their elected leaders wish to see succeed. This is not in dispute. So this issue really hinges only on the final part, namely, Ivory’s purportedly “false claims” that his effort to transfer public lands to state control is realistically possible.
Each summer, local media outlets produce stories about the level of per pupil spending in Utah, pointing out that Utah comes in last place across the country in per-pupil funding. These stories aren’t really news since Utah has been this way for years; perhaps the statistics are meant to scare Utahns into demanding that legislators allocate more of the taxation pie to the government education bureaucracy. If only it were that simple.
Utah is subject to some unique factors that yield relatively lower levels of available funds for education as compared to other states. Most notable are the larger families with more children. Other issues include the level of federal land ownership and lower income levels per pupil from which to draw. While the public education lobby, like any government bureaucracy, is diligent in advocating for its own growth, the issues underlying school finance in Utah are not remedied by simply throwing more tax dollars at them.
Few headlines about education spending point out the state’s efficiency when you compare academic achievement per dollar spent. This blind focus on total dollars as a supposedly important metric ignores the most central issue for government schools: are the children learning?
This morning, KSL alerted the public to an “indepth” segment they would be airing about Common Core in Utah:
— KSL NewsRadio (@kslnewsradio) May 26, 2015
The two minute segment (the length of which immediately suggests it’s not “in depth”) contains no analysis from KSL reporters or hosts. Rather, it features a series of audio clips from Rich Kendall, co-chair of a panel created by the Governor to review—and critics say, rubber stamp—the core standards he strongly supports. Kendall is heard discussing the results of an analysis done on the standards, including their quality and legality.
Here’s the audio:
You might believe that an in depth look into the issue would address criticisms, at least in an attempt to rebut them. However, this repurposed press release did not so much as mention any of the criticisms or concerns.
Let’s take just one of them to show how KSL’s “indepth” was anything but. In the review mentioned above, the Attorney General’s office attempted to address an allegation made in our lawsuit (which is pending a hearing in a few months)—namely, that the State Board of Education had not consulted with various constituencies around the state as they were statutorily required to do. Here is the relevant portion of the report:
In October 2013, our organization filed an open records request with the state of Utah’s Division of Administrative Services to determine what type of military gear was being requested and received by police agencies around Utah. Our request was denied, with the government essentially arguing that disclosure of this information would jeopardize the lives of the officers using the equipment if the citizens who employ them knew what it was.
We appealed and were able to obtain de-identified information—the list of assets in aggregate, without knowing which agencies possessed what. At the same time, Salt Lake Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle requested and received the information directly from the federal government. Throughout 2014, public interest in and opposition to this flow of military weaponry and goods created enough political pressure that culminated in the responsible agency ultimately providing the raw data regarding all items transferred.
Today, the White House announced a revision to the policy—no longer will local law enforcement agencies be given grenade launchers, tracked armored vehicles, armed aircraft, bayonets, and guns and ammunition of .50 caliber or higher. Other supplies, including wheeled armored vehicles, drones, helicopters, firearms and riot gear, will still be allowed but will have restrictions placed on their use. Police agencies desiring these forms of equipment will be required to provide a “clear and persuasive explanation” for their need, and will have to get approval from their local government.
A legislative audit released this morning notes that “accurate water use data is critical” for managing the state’s water resources, while concluding, after research, that the data relied upon by state planners “contains significant inaccuracies”—inaccuracies which were admitted to, and known by, these government officials.
In some cases, the reported usage of water by some cities did not match the numbers listed in internal city reports. In one case, a city reported water usage for 2012 that was actually the data from another city with the same name in the state of New York.
The gravity of this mangled data is significant when considering the taxpayer investments made in water infrastructure throughout the state. The executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, for example, told the Deseret News today that, “The Division of Water Resources has been using bad data to support billions of dollars in unnecessary spending for massive water projects.” These same water managers who have been providing incorrect data—regarding the very reason for which they are employed—project that the state will need to spend $33 billion over the next several decades to repair current systems and expand supply.
We have written previously regarding the recently successful legislative effort to reform Utah’s criminal justice system in Utah. While several aspects received more attention than others—including lowering certain drug possession penalties from a felony to a misdemeanor, and shifting offenders from punishment to treatment—one crucial aspect has not received as much attention as it should: the reduction of penalty enhancement “buffer zones.”
Previous to this change, which passed the legislature almost unanimously, Utah law created a number of zones in which a person alleged to be in violation controlled substance laws would have their penalty automatically increased by one degree—for example, raising the charge from a class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony.
The worst part of the law, as previously constituted, was its broad geographical coverage, sometimes including nearly an entire city. If a person in violation of Utah’s drug laws committed the offending act in the following locations, it triggered the penalty increase:
Libertas Institute has several summer research internships available for college students or recent graduates. Join our successful organization to help advance the cause of liberty in Utah!
We are in need of policy research assistance to prepare some of the legislative proposals Libertas will be advancing in the 2016 general session beginning in January. See here for an example of recent policies we worked on.
- Research assigned policies spanning a broad spectrum of subjects
- Compile, sort, and analyze data
- Prepare reports and summarize data
- Write articles on assigned topics
- Must be interested in and aware of the political process
- Understanding of, and passion for, liberty
- High attention to detail
- Excellent research and writing skills
- Social media experience
These are unpaid positions, though we will gladly work with your school to provide credit if that is an option. Any necessary expenditures related to assigned work will be reimbursed.
Interns will work in Lehi on a part-time basis, either a morning or afternoon shift.
Interested students should submit a resumé and two writing samples to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Research internship application” in the subject line.
President Obama visited Utah, arriving last night and departing this morning. He was ferried in a plane that costs taxpayers $179,750 per hour to operate. To provide security, he was accompanied by Secret Service agents. Local police barricaded roadways and helped secure the area, obstructing the natural flow of traffic and disrupting local economic activity in the process. All of these corollary consequences of Obama’s travel come with a significant cost.
Last night, the president met with local elected officials, leaders of the LDS Church, and others. This morning, he gave a seven-minute speech in front of an array of solar panels, touting the importance of this emergent industry. In his brief address, he focused on renewable energy and announced a goal to train 75,000 workers for solar energy jobs, focusing on veterans who are transitioning back into civilian life. He mentioned that “we” must be “relentless” in adding new jobs, claiming that some 129,000 were added to the economy in March.