LA Times notes Obamacare’s impact on Californians seeking medical treatment

The Los Angeles Times reports on health care access in the Golden State under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Finding a doctor who takes Obamacare coverage could be just as frustrating for Californians in 2015 as the health-law expansion enters its second year.

The state’s largest health insurers are sticking with their often-criticized narrow networks of doctors, and in some cases they are cutting the number of physicians even more, according to a Times analysis of company data. And the state’s insurance exchange, Covered California, still has no comprehensive directory to help consumers match doctors with health plans.

This comes as insurers prepare to enroll hundreds of thousands of new patients this fall and get 1.2 million Californians to renew their policies under the Affordable Care Act.

Even as California’s enrollment grows, many patients continue to complain about being offered fewer choices of doctors and having no easy way to find the ones that are available.

Some consumers have been saddled with huge medical bills after insurers refused to pay for care deemed out of network. These complaints have sparked a state investigation and consumer lawsuits against two big insurers.

For more information about Obamacare’s impact nationally and closer to home, be sure to sign up for Katherine Restrepo’s Health Care Update newsletter.

The necessity of choice in education reform

Lawson Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute explains in a Human Events column why choice must play a critical role in education reform.

… [T]here is no One Way forward. Consider the rich variety in America’s education landscape.

There are the government school defenders whose focus isn’t so much on learning, but on the philosophical belief that public education is really about improving “citizenship.” But there are well performing government schools.

There are the teachers union supporters whose focus is on vocational preservation and political power rather than on achieving viable outcomes. But there are very good teachers who are union members.

There are home school advocates who can be isolationist in their championing the literal ownership of their children’s education. But they have forced higher education to take them seriously.

There are charter school supporters who work within the government school structure to strip out bureaucracy to create successful institutions, though they are susceptible to criticisms that they still take a certain “cream of the crop.”

There are private school-only elites for whom school reform is an esoteric question, but whose passions have created and funded institutions aimed at the most at-risk children.

Reforming education is ultimately about choice. But choice for all does not mean all get the same choice. We live in a society of disparate opportunities, talents, values, and consequences. Choice for all is free enterprise. All getting the same choice is socialism. If we are going to progress, we need to come to terms with the distinction. Unfortunately, that will be a non-starter for many.

We must stop the ideological tit-for-tat that dominates the right and left debate over education. You want reform? Recognize there is no one solution. Start by favoring any good educational setting, no matter what form it takes. And do away with any bad educational setting, in whatever form it takes.

Barone assesses the president’s response to American foreign policy traditions

Michael Barone‘s latest column for the Washington Examiner asserts that President Obama remains aloof from American foreign-policy traditions.

Whether Obama’s decision to launch air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Khorasan terrorists is a turning point, it was at least a move in the direction of a tradition in American foreign policy that has been conspicuously lacking in his administration.

That tradition was christened by Walter Russell Mead in his 2001 book Special Providence as the Jacksonian Impulse, one of four that have together shaped American foreign policy since the founding of the republic. The others, named after American leaders, are the Hamiltonian, Wilsonian and Jeffersonian traditions.

Jacksonians, like their namesake Andrew Jackson, are generally not much interested in foreign policy. But when Americans are attacked, the respond with righteous fury and a determination to utterly destroy the enemy. …

… That’s not Obama’s style. He came to office pledged to make nice with hostile Iran and unfriendly Russia. Even while announcing air strikes in Iraq and Syria, he made sure to say America needs allies and will not put boots on the ground.

Obama’s reluctance to take a Jacksonian stand is obvious, but ISIS’s beheadings of Americans were something he could not let pass unrebuked. Mead’s analysis in his American Interest blog was headlined, “A President Surrenders.”

Which of Mead’s other three traditions has Obama followed?

Certainly not the Hamiltonian tradition, named for Alexander Hamilton, which seeks to make the world safe for American commerce, accepts amoral concepts like national interest and balance of power and is willing to use force in morally ambiguous situations. …

… One might expect Obama to embrace a Wilsonian affection for international institutions and respect for international law. Many Democrats criticized George W. Bush for ignoring them. As a presidential candidate, Secretary of State John Kerry disparaged the “trumped up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted.”

But Bush’s coalition that went into Iraq included more than 30 nations, most of them democracies. Kerry’s and Obama’s coalition against the Islamic State includes maybe eight, mostly autocracies. On Iraq, unlike both Bushes, Obama has not sought authorization from Congress or the United Nations.

He was happy to pocket the Nobel Peace Prize. But unlike Woodrow Wilson, who sought to subordinate the United States to the League of Nations, Obama seeks only applause, not approval, from international organizations.

The one of Mead’s four traditions that Obama comes closest to embracing is the Jeffersonian. Thomas Jefferson wanted to keep a pristine agricultural America apart from the evil European empires. Obama talks repeatedly about “nation building at home,” which appears to mean maintaining and expanding a tottering entitlement system and welfare state.

Jefferson did make accommodations to reality. He swallowed constitutional qualms and purchased Louisiana. He sent the Navy and Marines to quell the Barbary pirates. His successor, James Madison, accepted a Hamiltonian Bank of the United States.

Obama’s actions against the Islamic State, however limited, and his support for the Dodd-Frank Act, which props up the big banks, are in the same spirit.

But the impulse is different. Jeffersonians want to protect virtuous America from a vicious world. Obama has generally sought to keep a too-often vicious America from sullying a supposedly virtuous world.

Longtime Heritage chief examines the 50-year track record of the ‘War on Poverty’

Ed Feulner, who led the Heritage Foundation for 36 years, devotes a Daily Signal column to the impact of the federal government’s five-decade war on American poverty.

It’s been 50 years now since the federal government launched its “War on Poverty.” But the numbers just released by the Census Bureau suggest we’re in a losing battle.

The poverty rate now stands at 14.5 percent. That’s a drop from the previous rate of 15 percent. But don’t celebrate too quickly. The new rate is almost exactly the poverty rate we had in 1967, only three years after President Lyndon Johnson announced his war.

To put it in further perspective: The poverty rate in 1950 was 32.2 percent. It dropped steadily throughout the ’50s, and had been nearly cut in half before the War on Poverty began. After that, the rate declined slightly, then leveled out.

That was $22 trillion ago. That’s right, trillion with a “t.” A 22 with 12 zeros behind it. To understand how much that is, if you laid a trillion $1 bills end to end, they would reach the sun. Now multiply that by 22. That’s enough for 11 round trips.

In short, it’s a lot of money. Yet the poverty rate is essentially the same as it was 50 years ago.

Fixing Holder’s mess

Now that Eric Holder is out at the U.S. Department of Justice, Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation writes for the Daily Signal about the effort required to make up for Holder’s mistakes and misdeeds.

… [E]very time President Obama has broken, bent, ignored or changed the law, the person at his side advising him how to do it has been Eric Holder.

Mr. Holder is also responsible for spearheading an unprecedented politicization of the Justice Department, which should be of great concern to anyone who cares about the rule of law and the impartial administration of justice.

Why care about who runs the U.S. Justice Department? It matters because Justice is one of the most powerful executive branch agencies in the federal government. It has enormous discretionary power to pursue people accused of breaking the law and to exert major influence over social, economic and national security policies by the enforcement (or non-enforcement) choices made by its top officer.

Justice requires someone who understands that, while the attorney general is a political appointee, he (or she) has a sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and enforce the law in an objective, non-political manner. For the most part, Eric Holder failed in the execution of that duty.

Mr. Holder is the first attorney general in history to be held in contempt by the House of Representatives. He earned this dubious distinction by refusing to turn over documents related to what may be the most reckless law enforcement operation ever undertaken by the Justice Department: Operation Fast and Furious.

During his tenure, the Justice Department launched more investigations and prosecutions of leaks than all prior attorneys general combined, while studiously ignoring high-level “friendly leaks” by White House officials designed to make the president look tough in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Holder racialized the prosecution of federal anti-discrimination laws and led an unprecedented attack on election integrity laws, thus making it easier for people to commit voter fraud.

His handling of national security issues and his reinstitution of the Clinton-era criminal model for handling terrorists have endangered national security and the safety of the American public.

New Carolina Journal Online features

Michael Lowrey reports for Carolina Journal Online on a court ruling in a Charlotte rezoning dispute that could have statewide implications.

Roy Cordato’s Daily Journal reminds us that there’s been no global warming for nearly 18 years.

Puncturing projections of growth in N.C. convention center business

Government-owned convention centers tend to lose money, and they fall far short of meeting projected growth in nearby hotel business. The answer from convention center backers always involves spending more money — for a new hotel near the convention center, for an expanded convention center, or even for a new center.

Heywood Sanders, professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio, explained how that process has played out in Charlotte and Raleigh during a presentation for the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society. In the video clip below, Sanders pans a projection that an expanded Raleigh convention center would see large-scale increases in business.

2:30 p.m. update: Click play below to watch the full 1:02:43 event.

You’ll find other John Locke Foundation video presentations here.

Does government really need to boost tourism?

State and local governments spend lots of money in efforts to boost tourism to select destinations, but does this make any sense? Writing here, Bob Smith of Wilmington argues that it does not.

He’s right. Government should no more boost tourism, which means subsidizing a few people and businesses and the expense of the rest of us, than it should boost any other sort of enterprise. Reminds one of Bastiat’s saying that the state is the great fiction that everyone can live at the expense of everyone else.