Kids as consumer products

Anna Mussmann documents in a Federalist column a disturbing trend in the public approach toward parents and parenting.

… [W]e are witnessing a drastic erosion of public support for the idea that ordinary parents are the people most likely to know what is best for their children. We no longer trust the dad and mom next door. This leads to a culture that not only undervalues what parents do, but is also increasingly willing to take away their ability to do it.

Sadly, the belief that children must be protected from their families is difficult to combat. Why? It makes perfect sense in a cultural framework like ours that routinely encourages parents to objectify their own children.

Attempts to limit parental control of their children’s lives and upbringing are visible in many spheres. We’ve all heard about folks who call the authorities because a neighbor has allowed children to play in their own fenced-in back yard without adult supervision. More examples abound. For instance, if your child is older than 12, it is illegal for your child’s doctor to tell you if your child is receiving mental health care, being treated for drug or alcohol abuse, or being given contraception or an abortion, unless your child agrees to share this information with you. It is startling to realize that we assume children are more likely to be harmed by fear of parental interference than by making important decisions about mind and body-altering drugs without parental guidance.

In the realm of education, parents who want to control or at least influence the values taught to their children—especially in health and literature classes—often meet accusations of censorship and bigotry. Discussions of young adult literature regularly affirm the idea that parents must stop trying to protect their children from violent and sexually explicit material. The tension can even reach heights of comic proportion, as when the Idaho School Board Association issued a resolution plaintively calling on the state legislature to stop increasing “parental rights in regard to education,” lest parental demands interfere with schools’ attempts to comply with state and federal mandates.

Opponents of traditional parental rights claim the old ideas treat children as parental property instead of free human beings. The practical implication is that the state is a more trustworthy guardian than parents—or, at least, that state intervention can place parent and child on equal footing with each other. This is in stark contrast to a 1925 Supreme Court declaration that parents have the right to direct the education and upbringing of their offspring because children are not “the mere creature[s] of the state.”

Up, up, and away with your beautiful ballooning Obamacare rates

Paige Winfield Cunningham of the Washington Examiner focuses on the latest round of rate hikes associated with the Affordable Care Act.

Many states that have released Obamacare price information for next year are showing double-digit price hikes that are steeper than in years past.

More Obamacare rate increases will trickle out over the next few weeks, with the healthcare law’s fourth enrollment season set to begin Nov. 1. The Obama administration is expected to release the biggest rate increases sometime next month, after reviewing plan information insurers had to submit by Aug. 23.

Some of the heftiest price hikes so far are from smaller insurers who cover just a tiny fraction of people without employer-sponsored coverage who buy individual market plans. But in some states, the biggest insurers are massively increasing their prices, creating a much broader impact on consumers, especially those eligible for small federal subsidies or none at all.

Cunningham spotlights a handful of states.

1. Tennessee

Insurance regulators are allowing the state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plans to raise prices by 62 percent on average. The plans cover the vast majority of Tennessee’s Obamacare enrollees, with 83 percent individual market share.

2. Illinois

Health Care Services Corp., also a Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee, has a massive share of individual market enrollees, nearly 82 percent. The company is raising rates an average of 51 percent during the upcoming enrollment season.

3. Kentucky

A third Blues plan, this one called Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, will charge Kentucky customers 23 percent more on average. The company covers 78 percent of the state’s individual market enrollees.

4. Georgia

Twenty-seven percent of individual market shoppers in Georgia are covered by Humana plans. The company has been approved to hike rates an average of 67 percent next year.

Your tax dollars at work again

Elizabeth Harrington of the Washington Free Beacon details another questionable use of federal tax dollars.

The National Institutes of Health is spending nearly $1 million on a study of lesbian couples to see if stress makes them drink too much.

The grant awarded to Old Dominion University will involve lesbians filling out daily diaries about their romantic relationships to determine what causes them to drink.

“Sexual minority women (i.e., women who self-identify as lesbian and bisexual) report more heavy drinking, more alcohol-related problems, and higher rates of alcohol use disorders as compared to heterosexual women,” according to the grant for the study. “Young sexual minority women are particularly vulnerable.”

The researchers contend that no one has ever studied the relationships of lesbian couples and their drinking habits.

“Despite this awareness, no studies have examined how relationship factors and partners’ alcohol use contribute to hazardous drinking among female sexual minority couples,” the grant said.

The research will be grounded in “Minority Stress Theory,” which blames discrimination and stigma for “negative mental health outcomes.” The latest grant, awarded this year, is a follow up to previous work that found “minority stress is associated with alcohol use and related problems via negative affect among lesbians.”

“Extending our previous research, we propose to examine how person-level factors and daily interactions contribute to drinking among female same-sex couples,” the grant said.

The project will employ a “daily diary approach” where lesbians will discuss their alcohol consumption, relationship experiences, and “person-level factors,” such as “connection to the LGBT community” and “positive sexual identity.”

One hundred fifty lesbians will be recruited for the study online.

The federal government and natural disasters

Tevi Troy explains at National Review Online why the federal government is not the best place to turn first in times of natural disaster.

Beyond all the natural devastation, Katrina is perhaps best remembered as a politically devastating event, in particular for the Bush presidency. In his own memoir, George W. Bush wrote that, “The legacy of fall 2005 lingered for the rest of my time in office.” Indeed, one could argue the popular perception of Bush’s failed response to the tragedy lingers to this day.

Katrina, in its power and ferocity, is the single greatest reminder of the limitations of government. State and local reactions were abysmal. The delays in evacuating the city were extremely costly. Officials lacked the means to communicate with one another in emergencies, and basic tasks typically assigned to state and local officials were left to federal responders. To make matters worse, both Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin – later sentenced to ten years in prison for accepting bribes from city contractors – were clearly out of their depth.

The basic failures at the state and local level during Katrina and its aftermath placed a heavier burden on the federal government. Federal officials evacuated hundreds of thousands of residents, but it was not nearly enough. The decision to allow federal troops was late in coming, and once citizens were whisked to safer ground, the logistical support and basic humanitarian comforts they needed were glaringly lacking.

Was anything learned? Today, over a decade later, we are seeing a much more resilient Louisiana react to recent flooding that has killed at least 13 people and displaced tens of thousands from their homes. To be sure, President Obama has declared disaster zones, freeing up federal-response money for people in the affected area. And, when done with his vacation, he did visit the area. The visit also took place only after Donald Trump seized the limelight by visiting first, garnering rare positive media attention for the GOP nominee.

But the federal response is not the focus of attention in the current crisis, because state and local leaders appear to have learned some important lessons over the course of the last decade. Republican representative Garret Graves has praised local communities who are “filling the void” in their response to the flood. Federal action, he noted, is only a “complement [to] some of the efforts our community is doing, our local and state governments.”

Trump and the immigration ‘hawks’

Eliana Johnson explains at National Review Online why Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s changed rhetoric on immigration might not cost him votes among his most strident supporters.

Many believe that it was Trump’s firm stance on immigration that propelled him to victory in the Republican primaries. Since his entrance into the race in June 2015, the real-estate mogul has ignited crowds with promises to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and to deport the approximately 11 million Americans currently in the country illegally. Immigration hawks who have long been frustrated with the Republican party’s standard-bearers, from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney, agreed to support him despite other misgivings about his candidacy.

So when Trump appeared on Sean Hannity’s television show on Wednesday evening and did an about-face on immigration, unleashing a word salad of policy jargon and telling the Fox News host that he would consider a “softening” of his position on deportation and a number of measures that would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country,, one would have predicted an outpouring of recrimination from the immigration hawks who have pledged their support for him.

But there has been very little of that. Instead, many immigration hawks are defining success downward, and they remain confident that Trump will land on a sensible immigration policy.

“Trump has not substantially deviated from his core position,” says Daniel Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates reductions in both legal and illegal immigration. “What fundamentally matters is two things: Is this a president who is going to carry out the law the way it’s written? And is this a president who is going to work to stop illegal immigration?”

New Carolina Journal Online features

Barry Smith reports for Carolina Journal Online on a pilot program in North Carolina designed to address “food deserts.”

Andy Taylor’s Daily Journal warns against learning the wrong lessons from the recent Brexit vote and the populist support for Donald Trump.

Clip-and-file talk radio quotes

“I’m a radio guy. I do a radio program. And my success here is defined by radio and broadcast business metrics, not political. It never has been defined by political metrics. I’ve never wanted it to be.” — Rush Limbaugh

“I think the conservative media is the worst thing that has ever happened to the Republican Party on a national level.” — John Ziegler

“How can DOJ’s lawyers look themselves in the mirror?”

Legal scholar Michael Greve has a few acerbic things to say about recent developments in Texas v. United States — a case in which more than a dozen plaintiffs have challenged Obama adminsitration rules regarding access to restrooms, locker rooms, and showers:

Last week, in a case brought by the State of Texas and several other states and state agencies, a U.S. District Court (Judge Reed O’Connor, Northern District, Texas) issued a preliminary injunction against the feds’ rule … regarding bathroom, locker room, and shower access for transgendered individuals…. The ruling is just one brief episode in the transgender bathroom saga, whose trajectory points to yet another Supreme Court determination on conflicts between the Constitution’s Meaning of Life Clause and the rule of law as we thought we knew it. (Said conflict is resolved by the proposition that a right-minded administration gets to do what it wants.) But the decision is still worth a few remarks….

In 38 double-spaced pages, including the summary of the background and legal standards and the signature page, the judge disposes of the government’s multiple defenses to the highly unusual remedy of a preliminary injunction….

Can a court dispose of a half-dozen fairly complicated questions in an opinion you can write in an idle afternoon, over a six-pack of Coors? In this case, any of my AdLaw students could…. These defenses … were either cranked up by a moron or else, in bad faith. Judge Reed’s opinion rests not on some abstruse theory but on rote citations, directly on point….

In response to the ruling, the DOJ said it was “disappointed.” It was not: it knew it was coming. They’re not idiots; they’re strategists. The strategy is to do the thing you want to do even if it’s obviously illegal; to hammer the nearest target (North Carolina), in a legal setting where the defenses are attenuated and the defendants look obstinate or worse; and to bet that the media drumbeat will carry you through.

The amazing thing about Judge Reed’s ruling is not the result but its anodyne tone: how does a district court confronted with this stuff keep its cool? That question in turn begets others: how can DOJ’s lawyers look themselves in the mirror, and how can a rule-of-law country live with lawyers who can?