The Public Policy

The Public Policy

A Clear-Eyed View of the Contact Lens Debate

By 4.14.16

Editor’s Note: Debra J. Saunders is off. The following column is by Veronique de Rugy.

The intensity with which some American companies try to use the government to trick or deceive consumers is astonishing. Yet the extent to which lawmakers seem content to cater to these crony pursuits never disappoints, either. Case in point: the current attempt to protect contact lens sellers from competition at the expense of consumers.

An estimated 40 million Americans wear contact lenses. That’s a $4 billion industry. Thanks to the heavy-handed government regulation of all things health care, contacts already cost more than they should. However, if an ongoing effort to reduce competition through government cronyism were to succeed, costs might soon rise even more.

The Public Policy

Government Dysfunction Costs Lives

By 4.7.16

Editor’s Note: Debra J. Saunders is off. The following column is by Betsy McCaughey.

Every year, more than half a million patients in the U.S. are unknowingly put at risk of contracting a superbug infection during a common medical procedure. A doctor threads a tube-like scope down your throat and into your digestive system to treat cancer and other problems. You assume the tube is clean. Think again.

The scope’s defective design allows bacteria to lurk within, even after rigorous cleaning between patients. The federal Food and Drug Administration has known about this problem since 2012, yet dawdled. Three months ago, the manufacturer of most of the scopes, Olympus, began recalling them.

But numerous hospitals are still using them, and patients are still getting infected and dying — eight more infections and two more deaths according to last month’s FDA data.

The Public Policy

Lifeline or Noose?

By 4.5.16

On April 2, Show-Me Institute Fellow and Senior Writer Andrew B. Wilson gave a speech on the Earnings Tax to the Missouri Progressive Action Group at the St. Louis County Library. These were his prepared remarks.

On Tuesday, April 5, St. Louis voters will decide whether to extend the city’s 1 percent earnings tax for five more years.

Without a doubt, this is a hugely important decision.

In inviting me to talk to you, Ron Zager (co-chairman of the Missouri Progressive Action Group), asked that I begin by presenting both sides of the argument — for and against the earnings tax.

I am happy to do so. It makes for an interesting — and even a startling — contrast.

Supporters cite three principal reasons for extending the earnings tax:

1. It is simple, fair, and easy to collect. Businesses withhold $1 out of every $100 from the paychecks of all of their employees and pay it directly to the city. They also pay a 1 percent tax on their net profits.

The Public Policy

Congress Remains on Standby

By 3.31.16

Thank goodness we don’t have to write on paper anymore, or the forests of entire continents would have been wiped out explaining the Donald Trump phenomenon.

One explanation that crops up consistently, though, is that voters elect Republicans to Congress, but then those Republicans don’t deliver the promised outcomes. Why not an outsider with little actual connection to the party to whip the leadership into shape and get some conservative legislation passed?

I don’t share the affinity for Trump, but I do understand the frustration with a congressional gang that simply can’t seem to shoot straight. It happened against last week with what should be non-controversial legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Public Policy

Jerry Brown’s Funky California Prison Blues

By 2.15.16

When he initially retired from the system in 2011, there were 173,000 inmates in the state’s prisons, California Secretary of Corrections and Rehabilitation Scott Kernan told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board at a meeting in Sacramento on Thursday. While Kernan was running his consulting business, the number of inmates dropped dramatically.

A panel of three federal judges had ordered California to reduce its prison population to alleviate overcrowding. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the three-judge fiat in 2011. Gov. Jerry Brown’s “realignment” plan shifted the burden of incarceration for nonviolent, nonserious, and nonsexual offenders from state prisons to county jails. In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, which downgraded many property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and took effect retroactively. Thousands of state inmates were released into the general population. There are now about 127,000 inmates in the state system, Kernan said, and the system is “ready to be changed.”

The Public Policy

Toxic Entitlements

By 2.9.16

During this election year, we are destined to hear many words that are toxic in the way they misrepresent reality and substitute fantasies that can win votes.

One of these words is “entitlement.” To hear some politicians tell it, we are all entitled to all sorts of things, ranging from “affordable housing” to “a living wage.”

But the reality is that the human race is not entitled to anything, not even the food we need to stay alive. If we don’t produce food, we are just going to starve. If we don’t build housing, then we are not going to have housing, “affordable” or otherwise.

Particular individuals or groups can be given many things, to which politicians say they are “entitled,” only if other people are forced by the government to provide those things to people who don’t need to lift a finger to earn them. All the fancy talk about “entitlement” means simply forcing some people to work to produce things for other people, who have no obligation to work.

It gets worse. If we are all “entitled” to things, irrespective of whether we produce anything ourselves, then the question becomes: Why are some people getting so much more than others?

The Public Policy

Don’t Fence Us In: Western States Seek Return of Land From D.C.

By 2.8.16

According to the United States Geological Survey, nearly half the land in the Western United States is owned by the federal government. This includes 84.9 percent of land in Nevada (hiding UFOs requires lots of space), 64.9 percent of Utah, 61.6 percent of Idaho, 61.2 percent of Alaska, 52.9 percent of Oregon, 48.1 percent of Wyoming, and 45.8 percent in California. Meanwhile, the federal government owns only about 5 percent of the land in states east of the Mississippi River. Altogether, Uncle Sam owns roughly 640 million acres of land.

The Public Policy

Perpetuating the Pay Equity Myth

By 2.2.16

On the Democrat presidential campaign trail, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been harping again on the so-called “war on women” and demanding pay equity. At a recent rally in a packed gym in Des Moines, Clinton framed the issue bluntly, “We have got to have equal pay for equal work.”

Working off his more “progressive” playbook, Sanders echoed Clinton’s message in his own inimitable way, “And, when we talk about decent and fair wages, there is another injustice we must address. I’m talking to the men now…stand with the women and demand pay equity for women workers!”

Late last week, in a transparent bid to energize the Democrat campaign on the pay equity issue, President Obama laid out new rules that would require every company with more than 100 employees to report salaries based on race, gender, and ethnicity, setting up the federal government to actively engage in a nation-wide fishing investigation for pay disparities. Armed with that data, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hopes to target companies for paying women less than their male counterparts with massive investigations and systemic discrimination lawsuits to follow.

The Public Policy

Buddy, Can You Spare $15 an Hour?

By 1.21.16

Two years ago, Thumbtack — a startup that connects consumers with local contractors — conducted a survey to see what they thought of proposals to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, as per President Obama’s bid “to give America a raise.” The survey found that that a plurality of the small businesses that used Thumbtack thought a wage hike would be good for the economy. Most thought that a minimum-wage increase would have no effect on their hiring or firing decisions. But what happens if Washington passes Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ proposal to more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour — or Californians pass a ballot measure to raise the state minimum wage to $15 from $10?

One piece of news this past weekend suggests a big minimum-wage hike could cost low-skilled workers their jobs.

The Public Policy

Sowing the Seeds of Discontent in the West

By 1.6.16

There are real and deeply serious issues underpinning the “standoff” at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon — both having to do with the idea that liberal appellate court judges, at the behest of federal prosecutors and agenda-driven bureaucrats, can send people back to jail after they have completed their initial sentences, and with the more general issue of the public policy problems surround federal ownership of massive amounts of public lands in the West.

It must be stipulated at the start, however, that the armed occupation of an empty federal facility is fundamentally unhelpful to the process of finding solutions to either, and, in fact, is nothing more than a distraction to serious discussions of those solutions. But solutions need to be found, since the problems surrounding the standoff (especially those pertaining to public lands) have been festering for decades.