What does poisoning a goldfish to get revenge on a cheating spouse have to do with the President’s power to make treaties? The constitutionally correct answer is: Nothing at all. Unfortunately, that’s not how the Obama Administration sees it. The Administration is claiming power to get into a domestic dispute under the authority of a chemical weapons treaty. And it is aggressively advancing the proposition that Congress’s power is essentially unlimited when based on the treaty power.
The federal government has been prosecuting Carol Anne Bond for causing minor burns to the fingers of her husband’s girlfriend after spreading a caustic chemical used in developing photographs around her home. Ms. Bond has fought the prosecution by arguing that the Constitution gives power over such domestic disputes to the States. According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Congress implemented a chemical weapons treaty by enacting a law that expands the treaty’s purpose and turns “each kitchen cupboard and cleaning cabinet in America into a potential chemical weapons cache.” In an earlier phase of the litigation, Justice Samuel Alito asked, “Suppose that the Petitioner in this case decided to retaliate against her former friend by pouring a bottle of vinegar in the friend's goldfish bowl. As I read this statute, that would be a violation of this statute, potentially punishable by life imprisonment, wouldn't it?”
In support of Ms. Bond’s argument that the federal government has overstepped its constitutional powers, the Goldwater Institute today filed an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in Bond v. United States of America. Our brief warns that if courts allow Congress to implement treaties without respecting the Tenth Amendment’s limitation on federal power, there is nothing to stop the federal government from using international agreements and legislation to displace other constitutional guarantees. This is because the vertical separation of powers between the states and the federal government is not a second-class constitutional protection. Allowing a treaty to undermine the Tenth Amendment opens the door to Congress enacting treaties that violate all constitutional protections – including the freedom of the press and the right to due process. That is why the Court must draw a bright line at kitchen cupboards and cleaning cabinets.
Ms. Bond won the first round when the Supreme Court reinstated her Tenth Amendment defense after the lower court rejected it on procedural grounds. Her case then returned to the lower courts, only to result in the Third Circuit rejecting her defense on the merits. Now the Supreme Court gets the last word. Hopefully, the Court will hold the line.
Recently the very fashionable turned out to bet on their favorites in the Kentucky Derby. But betting on horseraces – economic horseraces – has been all the rage in legislatures across the country for decades. Unfortunately, legislators are more like problem gamblers than successful high-dollar poker stars.
The Arizona House recently approved letting state government play venture capitalist with taxpayer money. At the moment, the measure is languishing in the Senate Rules committee. The bill would authorize the Arizona Commerce Authority to use insurance premium tax revenue to fund high-tech start-ups.
Not surprisingly, all House Democrats voted for it, while nearly 40 percent of the Republican caucus opposed.
The Senate would do well to let this bill die. Studies of all types of government investment programs show that government has a terrible track record of making good bets. The programs that purport to encourage investment and job growth always seem to, at worst, end badly and, at best, have no effect – all at taxpayer expense. One of the most comprehensive surveys of the research on state-based economic development policies appeared in the Journal of the American Planning Association in 2004. The authors concluded that “The most fundamental problem is that many public officials appear to believe that they can influence the course of their state and local economies through incentives and subsidies to a degree far beyond anything supported by even the most optimistic evidence.”
The best formula is instead to maintain a level-playing field and not favor some companies over others. To put it in horse racing terms, state government really needs to be in the business of making sure the starting gates don’t jam and that the track is well-maintained. They shouldn’t be rushing to the betting window.
Goldwater Institute – Government: A lousy venture capitalist
Inside Tucson Business – Tech Council pushes for high tech investment fund
Mackinac Center – Review of literature on economic development incentives
Phoenix and New York City are separated by 2,500 miles, but the distance between them in terms of education innovation can only be measured in light years.
Last week, the Arizona Republic ran a story titled, “How school choice has reshaped Arizona,” looking at open enrollment policies, the number of charter schools, and education savings accounts, the most innovative education solution in the country. And don’t forget tax credit scholarships, virtual schools, and a homeschool law. With all these options for parents, “districts from the southwest valley to Paradise Valley have poured money into specialty programs that cater to niche interests in their communities” and “Arizona students can learn to speak Mandarin, study dance, become young engineers or delve into the medical sciences.”
Traditional schools, charter schools, and private schools try to attract parents and their children by out-doing one another through challenging programs. What an amazing place to live, where schools are watching where parents are going and trying to offer classes and programs that get their attention.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent in New York City, the New York Times ran a story titled “The Get-Into-School-Card,” referring to a family’s address. “Moving to a particular neighborhood in order to land a seat at a coveted public school has long been the middle-class modus operandi for obtaining a high-quality education in New York, where placement in many elementary schools is determined by home address.”
Unfortunately, New York families are finding out after they move that overcrowding in good schools is causing them to be re-zoned into boundaries for other schools. Parents wind up putting children on charter school waiting lists or resort to an “outright lie by borrowing an address from a friend or relative to get their children into a school.”
For parents looking for a great opportunity for their child, Arizona has told parents they have choices, and traditional districts are “inspire[d]…to improve options.”
In New York, parents without a good neighborhood school have to do it the old fashioned way: Move.
Goldwater Institute: School Choice Catalogue
Arizona Republic: How school choice has reshaped Arizona
New York Times: The Get-Into-School-Card
In the debate over expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income Arizonans, we are being told that the costs for uncompensated care at Arizona hospitals are soaring, making Medicaid expansion necessary to prevent financial disaster from befalling our hospitals. A closer look reveals that this claim is simply untrue.
Uncompensated care is made up of two things: charity care and bad debt.
Charity care is free or discounted care hospitals provide to people below a certain income level, usually 150-200 percent of the federal poverty level. The nonprofit Banner Health hospital network netted a very healthy $296 million in 2011, while charity care composed a mere 2.8 percent of their expenses in 2011. At Yavapai Regional, another non-profit hospital which increased its net revenues by over $17 million between 2010 and 2011, charity care represented only .5 percent of total expenses. Charity care is far from breaking the bank.
Bad debt, by far the largest portion of uncompensated care, is when a patient does not qualify for charity care because they are above the income threshold but they fail to pay their bill. It encompasses uninsured patients but also insured patients who fail to pay their co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance. Bad debt will be unaffected by Medicaid expansion because the people in this category will still not be eligible for Medicaid coverage because they will be above the income limit. Furthermore, hospitals report bad debt at their “charge rates” rather than their actual cost, which effectively hides millions, or in the case of giants like Banner hundreds of millions, in additional net profit by making their uncompensated care costs appear much higher than they actually are.
In inflating uncompensated care numbers, hospitals point to “unreimbursed Medicaid,” the difference between the cost of providing care to Medicaid patients and the reimbursement rate from the government, which hospitals constantly say is too low. This number will only increase under the proposed Medicaid expansion because hospitals will claim additional unreimbursed Medicaid for each Medicaid patient they treat. As the number of people on the Medicaid rolls grows, so will the claim of unreimbursed Medicaid. Don’t be surprised if this leads to a plea from the industry for an increase in reimbursement rates, an increase that taxpayers would have to cover.
Experience shows that even if Arizona did expand Medicaid, hospitals would still report increasing uncompensated care numbers. In 2009, the Arizona Hospital and Health Care Association commissioned a report which found that during the first eight years of the Prop. 204 Medicaid expansion, uncompensated care increased by an average of 9 percent per year. We must ask hospitals why they expect a different result this time around.
In truth, hospital profits are more than healthy. This is not an industry that needs more taxpayer dollars. The legislature should be wary of the story hospitals are selling.
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