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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Time to overhaul foreign aid. | Single payer means single rationer. | Choice produces better citizens. | Kids don't get the First Amendment. | Price gouging in action.

The Daily Signal

September 23, 2017

U.S. foreign assistance has many masters; it's time for an overhaul. "Medicare for all" would mean government rationing of health care. Choice schools produce better citizens than public schools. Price gouging is helping Florida rebuild. Forty-four percent of college students think hate speech isn't protected by the First Amendment.

Does U.S. foreign assistance have a purpose? Actually it has over 400 of them. James Roberts and Brett Schaefer write:

"In 2008, the humanitarian nongovernmental organization (NGO) Oxfam contracted with a law firm to compile an inventory of all congressional directives in U.S. foreign assistance legislation. The result was a list of 400 legislative requirements, directives, or instructions that include promoting human rights, protecting and maintaining wildlife habitats, supporting agricultural research, and improving pediatric immunization and rehydration programs, reducing unemployment, encouraging free markets, combatting terrorism, and many more. Legislation since 2008 has continued the trend. In 2016, USAID published a 31-page memo on changes in law resulting from the fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations that listed nearly 100 new or amended congressional instructions as well as notification, reporting, and vetting requirements.https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1870/200sbt.pdf (accessed August 10, 2017).

"> [Internal citations omitted.] […]

"Although some of these legislative provisions are worthy, in general they infringe on the authority and discretion of the executive branch to conduct foreign policy, and impede the ability of the U.S. to allocate resources in a timely manner. Worse, these long laundry lists of earmarks, instructions, and priorities in legislation do not ensure that aid advances U.S. national interests, particularly when Congress fails to update and rationalize them regularly.

"Structurally, there is considerable overlap and redundancy among aid agencies and programs. The USAID website that tracks U.S. assistance allocations notes that some 30 U.S. government agencies implement foreign assistance.https://explorer.usaid.gov/about.html#tab-about (accessed August 10, 2017).

"> […]

"For instance, the United States provides food assistance through: (1) the Public Law 480 program (appropriated through the Department of Agriculture and overseen by USAID); (2) the International Disaster Assistance account overseen by USAID; and (3) through State Department contributions to international organizations, such as the World Food Program. Similarly, the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) funnels American foreign aid dollars to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)—but USAID also funds refugee programs directly and indirectly. Other State Department programs also double-track USAID, such as the Office of Global Food Security, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, and numerous offices in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor as well as in the State Department's regional bureaus."

Roberts and Schaefer recommend consolidating foreign assistance programs into "four distinct programs identified by their purpose—(1) humanitarian and health assistance, (2) development assistance, (3) political assistance, and (4) military and security assistance—with a clear lead agency identified for those programs." [The Heritage Foundation]


What could possibly go wrong with Medicare for all? Richard Epstein on Bernie Sanders's single-payer proposal:

"Sanders and his many acolytes never ask hard questions about what the term 'comprehensive' means. Many public healthcare plans, like that of Great Britain, wrestle with this challenge, knowing that aggregate demand for expensive medical services explodes whenever these are offered for free. The extra services demanded cannot be supplied from existing personnel and facilities, so finding additional resources is expensive, given the inevitable diseconomies of scale. It is only possible to survive the onslaught by defining protected benefits relatively narrowly.

"These systematic shortages are aggravated as the existing supply of medical goods and services shrinks, with the government imposing caps on salaries, drugs, and procedures. These shortages impose high costs as services are rationed by queuing, not money. These queues spawn intrigue: the rich (who under the Sanders plan would be barred from paying private providers of goods and services) go either overseas or into the black market in order to obtain vital goods and services that less fortunate individuals cannot afford.

"This grim picture is no idle abstraction. These incentive effects are so powerful that they will swamp any effort to improve national healthcare by government fiat. It is conceptually indefensible and politically naïve to assume that healthcare is somehow 'special' and therefore follows economic rules that don't apply to other markets. In housing, it has been known for decades that rent control only aggravates shortages by creating massive distortions in housing markets. In agriculture, ethanol subsidies for gasoline have wrecked the operation of both food and energy markets. In transportation, endless queues formed when price controls at the pump created systematic gasoline shortages. The lesson is that basic economic principles apply to all goods and services, no matter their elevated position in the social discourse." [Hoover Institution]


More school choice, better citizens. Corey DeAngelis:

"Over 90 percent of school-aged children in the U.S. attend public schools. While it is clear that government-run schools have a nearly perfect monopoly on education funding, they do not have a monopoly on producing tolerant citizens. In fact, it isn't even close. According to the ten experimental or quasi-experimental studies that exist on the topic, none find that public schools outperform private schools on increasing student tolerance or civic engagement. As discussed in a recent Cato Policy Forum, and shown in table 1 below, a majority of the findings reveal that private school choice programs improve civic outcomes."

[Cato Institute]


Flunking the Constitution. Robby Soave reports:  

"A new study conducted by the Brookings Institution's John Villasenor, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, asked 1,500 students at four-year universities about their views on the free speech, and the results are unsettling.

"The greatest number, 44 percent answered 'no' when asked if the First Amendment protects hate speech. Just 39 percent of students answered correctly and 16 percent answered 'don't know.'

"Men were more likely than women to say hate speech was protected (51 percent vs. 31 percent.) And while conservative students are often thought to be more in favor of free speech than their liberal counterparts—at least in the present campus censorship wars—the study suggests this reputation is undeserved. Just 44 percent of self-identified Republicans said that hate speech was protected by the First Amendment, compared with 39 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of independents." [Reason]

Thinking that hate speech isn't covered by speech rights is to miss whole point. The only speech that needs constitutional protection is speech that offends.


Price gouging is putting Florida back to together. Mark Perry shares a letter from a reader of his blog:

"Florida Power and Light, our power company, is employing thousands of line workers from as far away as Illinois to fix the power lines in the wake of Irma. These line workers are being paid double or triple their normal hourly wages, which provides them with the financial incentive to drive to Florida and work 12-16 hour shifts in sweltering heat. The economics is clear, but why do the press and public not accuse them of price-gouging for charging higher wages and exploiting the suffering masses of hurricane victims? Instead, they are regarded as hard-working heroes."

Perry adds:

"But if anti-price-gouging laws prevent the higher wages that are necessary to attract workers for rebuilding, the choice for many Texans and Floridians won't be between construction workers at $25 an hour vs. $50 an hour, but between construction workers who would have been available at $50 an hour and construction workers at $25 an hour who are now NOT available." [American Enterprise Institute]

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Friday, September 22, 2017

NR Daily: The Defense Sequester Has Got to Go

There is no better analyst of the national scene than Hugh Hewitt, and no more effective United States senator than Tom Cotton. The two get together frequently on Hewitt's radio show, and Hewitt recently interviewed Cotton on MSNBC. Among the subjects they covered was the defense sequester. Cotton summed up the issue in a nutshell, expressing the frustration that many of us feel: Hewitt: Putting aside the ups and downs of the defense act, authorization act, and all of the Budget Control Act maneuvering, are you confident that by the end of the year, the Budget Control Act will be no more, and thus the sequester of the Pentagon removed? Cotton: I certainly hope so, Hugh ...

September 22 2017


The Defense Sequester Has Got to Go

Jim Talent

There is no better analyst of the national scene than Hugh Hewitt, and no more effective United States senator than Tom Cotton. The two get together frequently on Hewitt's radio show, and Hewitt recently interviewed Cotton on MSNBC. Among the subjects they covered was the defense sequester. Cotton summed up the issue in...


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