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Obama’s War on the Young

May 15, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

According to recent polls, younger Americans are increasingly disillusioned with government and cynical about the political process. Maybe they will finally realize that they are being played for patsies by the Obama administration. After all, on issue after issue, President Obama has fed younger voters a steady diet of high-minded rhetoric and then delivered policies that leave them holding the bag.

The most recent example is Obamacare.

For one, in order for the president’s health-care law to work properly, large numbers of young people will have to buy insurance. Those young and healthy individuals, with their low claims costs, are needed in the insurance pool in order to offset the expected inflow of sick people. The law prohibits insurers from denying coverage to people with “preexisting conditions,” that is, those who are already sick. Those newly enrolled sick will make the overall insurance pool more costly, and unless those costs are offset by an equal inflow of the young and healthy, we are likely to see an adverse-selection “death spiral,” in which sick people in the insurance pool drive up premiums, causing the healthiest members of the pool to drop out. The pool then becomes even sicker, leading to still higher premiums. The healthiest remaining participants drop out, and so on, until the entire market collapses.

As noxious as the individual and employer mandates are, the penalties — or taxes, according to Justice Roberts — are too low to force participation, which has the administration worried.

Republicans should seize an opportunity as his policies crush young people.”

As Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of Rahm, and one of the principal architects of the Affordable Care Act, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, if young people don’t participate in Obamacare in large numbers, it “could start the negative, downward spiral of exchanges full of the sick and elderly with not enough healthy people paying premiums.”

At the same time, Obamacare’s “community rating” provisions prohibit changing premiums based on health status and limit the degree to which insurers can charge based on age. Insurers cannot charge their oldest customer more than three times as much as their youngest, despite the fact that those older customers typically cost six times more in claims. Thus, premiums will rise more slowly or may even be lower for older and sicker individuals, but will shoot up for young people. In fact, a study in the American Academy of Actuaries’ …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Deja Vu? Abuse Allegations for a Second 'Sexual Assault Prevention Officer' in the Military

May 15, 2013 in Blogs

By Kristen Gwynne, AlterNet

Sound familiar? That's because almost the same exact thing happened last week.

You know there is a really serious sexual assault problem in the military when not one, but two soldiers assigned to monitor and prevent sexual assault are charged or investigated for sexual abuse in the span of just one week. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that an as-yet unnamed U.S. Army Sergeant First Class at the Army’s 3rd Corps headquarters in Fort Hood, Texas was “under investigation for ‘abusive sexual contact’ and other alleged misconduct and has been suspended from his duties.”  The equal opportunity adviser/ coordinator of a sexual harassment-assault prevention program, the AP said,  “is accused of pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates,” but no charges have been filed. USA Today states that  unnamed sources in Washington told them the sergeant was “forcing a subordinate into prostitution and sexually assaulting two others.”

It was just last Monday when Air Force Officer Lt. Col Jeff Krusinski, who was responsible for, yep, preventing sexual assault at a Virginia airbase, was arrested and charged with sexual battery. According to the Arlington County Police Report, on Sunday, “a drunken male subject approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks.” She managed to fight him off, and Krusinski was arrested, his beat-up-looking mugshot published.

One day after this Krusinski's arrest, the Pentagon released a new report that revealed sexual assault in the military was a growing problem. Last year, reported sexual assaults increased to 3,374, up 6 percent since 2011. But the vast majority of sexual assaults in the military are never reported. Last year,  26,000 members of the military  – 35% more than in 2010  – were sexually assaulted in unreported incidents. About 6% of female and 1% of male soldiers surveyed said they had been sexually assaulted but did not report it. According to the Defense Department, there are now more than 70 sexual assaults involving military personell every day.

According to a press release, Secretary of State Chuck Hagel  “is directing all the services to re-train, …read more


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Why People Keep Misunderstanding the 'Connection' between Race and IQ

May 15, 2013 in Economics

By Brink Lindsey

Brink Lindsey

Last week Heritage Foundation scholar Jason Richwine, coauthor of a hotly disputed new study on the fiscal costs of comprehensive immigration reform, resigned his position in a hail of controversy over his 2009 Harvard Ph.D. dissertation. In that dissertation Richwine had argued, among other things, that American “Hispanics” are less intelligent than native-born whites as evidenced by their lower average scores on IQ tests. Richwine then attributed Hispanics’ alleged intellectual inferiority at least partly to genetic factors.

The Richwine affair is just the latest flap in a long-running dispute over the significance of IQ tests and group differences in IQ scores. It’s easy enough to shut down that debate with cries of racism, but stigmatizing a point of view as morally tainted isn’t the same thing as demonstrating that it’s untrue. Here I want to explain why Richwine’s position is intellectually as well as morally unsound.

Jason Richwine’s IQ-based argument that American Hispanics are less intelligent than native-born whites has been called racist. It’s also wrong.”

Let’s start with the fact that there is no such thing as a direct test of general mental ability. What IQ tests measure directly is the test-taker’s display of particular cognitive skills: size of vocabulary, degree of reading comprehension, facility with analogies, and so on. Any conclusions about general mental ability are inferences drawn from the test-taker’s relative mastery of those various skills.

How justified are such inferences? Well, it depends. Without a doubt, the skills assessed on modern IQ tests are widely applicable and highly valued in contemporary American society. Accordingly, considered just as a measure of skills rather than as a proxy for underlying ability, IQ scores clearly tell us something of genuine importance. They are a reasonably good predictor not only of performance in the classroom but of income, health, and other important life outcomes.

But what about innate mental ability? Does such a thing even exist? Evidence from IQ tests provides strong support that it does. First of all, scores on the various IQ subtests are highly correlated with each other, suggesting the presence of a general underlying factor. Furthermore, IQ scores tend to stabilize around age eight and are resistant to moving around much thereafter, in keeping with a relatively fixed level of innate intellectual capacity. And studies of twins and adoptees offer substantial evidence that this capacity has a strong genetic component. The …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Blame Campaign Finance Crusaders for IRS Mess

May 15, 2013 in Economics

By John Samples

John Samples

In early 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Citizens United, which prevents the federal government from suppressing speech by businesses and other groups. The decision freed up so-called “super PACs,” which are widely regarded as having had a pernicious influence on the last several political cycles.

Since Citizens United, “reformers” have demanded that the IRS “crack down” on “money in politics” by questioning the non-profit tax status of many political groups. The reformers got their wish.

The result: the huge and growing scandal in which the tax-collecting agency finds itself embroiled, with politicians on both sides of the aisle calling for investigations to be conducted and heads to roll.

The everyday suppression of speech should not be forgotten as we properly examine whether the IRS has gotten back into the business of helping a party keep its grip on power.”

In 2010, and more so in 2012, a quantity of political spending came through social welfare groups organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. These groups are not required to reveal their donors, but they are subject to the law in other ways. For example, the tax authorities say a (c)(4) group cannot have political engagement as its primary purpose. How much politics is too much, legally speaking, for such groups? Congress has not said, and the IRS has been reluctant to act on its own. Many election lawyers assume a group can spend almost half of its revenues on politics without risking its tax status.

Some people, known loosely as “the reform community,” have little time for such legal nuances. They are outraged that (c)(4)’s refuse to disclose their donors. Since Citizens United, these putative reformers have been demanding that the IRS target (c)(4) groups and remove their tax status. This whole IRS mess, in other words, came about when a powerful pressure group was demanding the agency go after groups engaged in political speech. Many of the groups reiterated their demand for IRS action after the agency’s actions became public.

The phrase “crack down” comes from reformist rhetoric. Consider the words. My dictionary defines “crack down” as “to suppress, prevent, put an end to, restrain, keep in control.” What is being suppressed and ended? Initially, only the use of a tax status. But there is more at stake. Much of the money raised by some (c)(4)’s goes toward political speech and related efforts like getting out the vote. In the first …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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At Last, Justice for Locked-in Juveniles?

May 15, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Thirty or so years ago, I reported from a New York state prison for juvenile delinquents as part of a national story on how American teenagers were being held behind bars without any consideration for their constitutional rights. To what extent has this changed in many states today?

In a Jan. 1 editorial, The New York Times provided the answer: “The juvenile justice system in the United States is supposed to focus on rehabilitation for young offenders. But for generations, it has largely been a purgatory, failing to protect them or give them the help and counseling they need to become law-abiding adults.

“Children who end up in juvenile courts often do not get due process protections like written complaints presenting the charges against them … or meaningful assistance of counsel” (“Juvenile Court Reform in Tennessee,” The New York Times).

This editorial laggardly followed a vital story about Shelby County, Tenn., and the Department of Justice that was buried inside the Dec. 18, 2012, Times. The story should have been on the front page; it had almost been entirely ignored by the media in all its forms:

“The county and the Justice Department signed an extensive agreement to overhaul the county’s juvenile justice system” (“Deal Signed in Tennessee on Justice for Youths,” Kim Severson, The New York Times, Dec. 18, 2012).

I was glad to discover that the Justice Department does remember the actual meaning of its name, after its torture rationalizations under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and its agreement with Barack Obama’s personally directed “kill lists.”

This Dec. 17, 2012, agreement contained some “first of its kind” policies, as reported by the Times, that were the result of the Justice Department’s 2009 investigation into Shelby County’s juvenile justice system. Among the frightful distortions of the Constitution the department found:

“Black teenagers were twice as likely as white teenagers to be detained and were sent to adult criminal court for minor infractions far more often than whites.

“Black or white, teenagers locked up by the county attempted suicide at record rates and were sometimes strapped to deep, white restraint chairs and left alone up to five times longer than the law allowed.

“They languished over long weekends without proper hearings, were not read their Miranda rights and received crucial court documents just before hearings, if they received them at all …”

Tom Perez, an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department, told the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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U.S. Defense Cuts: An Ax Is Needed, Not a Scalpel

May 15, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Over the last decade America’s Republican Party put militarism before limited government. For months, GOP politicians have been denouncing the budget sequester for reducing military as well as domestic outlays.

However, conservative Republicans are beginning to acknowledge that the U.S. must take drastic steps to reign in government spending. Explained Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma: “Fiscal questions trump defense in a way they never would have after 9/11.”

The sequester is an inefficient and arbitrary way to cut outlays. However, the Defense Department (DOD), like the Federal Aviation Administration, played the usual Washington game of threatening to make ostentatiously unpopular reductions. Simply allowing the Pentagon to transfer money among accounts would moderate the impact.

Washington no longer can afford to play the role of global cop.”

Much money could be saved through better management. However, the far greater problem is over-ambitious DOD objectives. Defense is a core constitutional responsibility for the federal government, but that means protecting America, not the rest of the globe.

The Pentagon budget is the price of America’s foreign policy. If Washington hopes to run the world, it must maintain a large and expensive military. In real terms Washington has been spending more on the military than during the Cold War, Korean War, or Vietnam War, all out of proportion to the current threat environment.

Washington’s principal objective should be to defend the U.S. — its people, territory, and constitutional liberties. In some narrow circumstances America’s interest may warrant defending other states. But not today.

In fact, little of what the Department of “Defense” now does actually relates to America’s defense. Washington dominates the globe and is allied with every major industrialized state, save China and Russia. The U.S. mostly subsidizes the defense of its prosperous allies from anyone and everyone.

Terrorism, a vicious, monstrous crime, thankfully poses no existential threat to the U.S. With luck and facing an unprepared foe, terrorists killed 3,000 Americans more than a decade ago. But Osama bin Laden found a repeat performance to be impossible. Terrorism is not World War III.

Moreover, terrorism is not amenable to solution by America’s traditional military tools. In fact, the Bush administration’s promiscuous war making exacerbated terrorism by creating more enemies of America. A smaller international presence would reduce the size of the target on Americans’ backs.

Economic interests are real but rarely warrant war. Stability may be a geopolitical virtue, but does not justify a neo-imperial American global presence.

Nation-building reflects …read more

Source: OP-EDS